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TVeifschke He/for/ch Go-Hhard vor? 







SATISFACTION that an English translation of Heinrich von Treit- 
schke's monumental " History of Germany in the Nineteenth 
Century " is at last to appear in English, even though thirty-six 
years have passed since the appearance of the first and twenty- 
one years since the appearance of the final volume, will be tempered 
in many minds by a feeling of regret and almost of shame that this 
just tribute to a great literary achievement should have been 
delayed so long. It cannot be pleaded in explanation of past 
neglect that the History is a work for scholars only, for no famous 
history appeals more strongly, in virtue alike of its contents and 
its literary style, to the suffrages of the great public. 

Year by year German works of ephemeral value are reproduced 
in English by the score and the hundred, in response to an ever- 
insistent demand for the latest in caprice or sensation, yet in this 
country and America this literary masterpiece, one of the fore- 
most contributions of German scholarship to historical science, has 
hitherto enjoyed little more than a library reputation, and has 
remained inaccessible to most readers unable or unwilling to make 
acquaintance with Treitschke in the original. The reception given 
to a translated edition of the History will help to decide how far 
this strange disregard of Treitschke has been merely the acci- 
dental result of a lack of commercial enterprise on the part of 
publishers, or due to a genuine want of public appreciation. 

An Introduction to a standard work of so established a repu- 
tation as this can only be redeemed from impertinence by perti- 
nence. Inasmuch as the translation will introduce Treitschke to 
a new circle of readers, the title to pertinence may perhaps be 
conceded if in these preliminary words an attempt be made to give 
to those readers some indication of what the History is and what 
it has to offer them. 

The History was neither begun nor ended as Treitschke 
originally intended. While still engaged in his preparatory spade 
work, Treitschke found the plan, as he had conceived it, expanding 
beneath his hands. His first idea was to write only the history of 


History of Germany 

the Germanic Federation, created by the Congress of Vienna in 
1815, on the ruins of the Holy Roman Empire of the German 
Nation, which Napoleon had impiously destroyed nine years before. 
What scholarship and literature would have lost had he adhered 
to that first design may be imagined. The spectacle of Treitschke 
exhausting himself in the endless task of writing the dreary, unin- 
spiring, unheroic annals of the Deutscher Bund, suggests the hardly 
less congruous spectacle of a Velasquez passing his days in painting 
Dutch interiors in either case a fate comparable to the rigours 
which might have been reserved in a tenth Circle for men of 
genius who had misused their talents. Treitschke, as the special 
historian of the Bund, might have done the work better than 
anyone else, but there were other men able to do it well enough. 

It was not, however, the unattractiveness of the task that led 
him to abandon the idea of concentrating upon the history of the 
Bund. He tells us that he had not been long at work before he 
recognised that a History of the Germanic Federation would be a 
history for students and specialists. It was not his ambition 
to write such a work, but to write German history for the German 
nation. Hence he found it necessary to carry his researches both 
further back and further forward. As the plan developed he came 
to fix on the Peace of Westphalia as his starting point. That land- 
mark gave him just the wide perspective which his scheme, as it 
had now taken shape, required, for it enabled him to survey in all 
essential features the beginnings of modern Germany and above 
all to do full justice to the romantic story of the growth of the 
Prussian State. It was his intention to bring the narrative down 
to his own day. 

Of the History, five portly volumes were published, carrying 
the story to the revolutionary movements of 1848. The History 
had not to win its way laboriously into favour like many great 
works, for it was born famous. Edition after edition has been 
published, and its place in the estimation one might almost say 
the reverence of the German nation is perhaps greater to-day than 
ever. Nor is there any great mystery about this. The immense 
amount of research and the stores of erudition embodied in the 
History, the writer's weighty authority alike as professor, publicist, 
and parliamentarian, and the fascination of his literary style would 
alone have assured a brilliant success. Yet these were not the 
recommendations which gave to Treitschke and the History their 
immense influence over the minds of modern Germany. 

Two facts, I think, contributed in a special degree to bring 



about this result. The first was the fact that Treitschke wrote 
for the most part of events which were part of the living tradition 
of his day, events many of which fell within the memory and even 
the experience of a large section of his contemporaries. The period 
between 1871, when the present Empire was established, back 
to the time when Napoleon's power was at its zenith, spanned 
barely two generations, yet what a powerful drama had been 
played in Germany during that short period ! When it opened 
Prussia still lay humbled and abased beneath a foreign yoke, 
exhausted in body, impoverished in spirit, atrophied in will ; 
between Jena and Leipzig she lived through a passion as bitter 
as ever befell a nation ; in that ordeal her worth and right to 
live were put to the test of supreme endurance and sacrifice. 
Redeemed by her own efforts, Prussia came out of the trial victo- 
rious, and stood again erect, secure henceforth against the enemies 
of her unity within no less than against those which might 
threaten from without. Moreover, with Prussia's stripes the rest 
of Germany was healed. 

After the fall of Napoleon, the history of Germany for fifty 
years was mainly one of slow internal reorganisation and develop- 
ment ; there was the inevitable sway of the pendulum from a sense 
of buoyant freedom to apathy and reaction, followed in turn, 
however, by the painful emergence of the German States one by 
one from the twilight of absolutism into the day-dawn of constitu- 
tional government. Then came the bitter " conflict " between 
Crown and Parliament in Prussia, in which the old system and the 
new fought with desperate tenacity, without decisive victory on 
either side, a struggle carrying for both the moral and the warning 
" Thus far and no farther ! " which has been the jealous watch- 
word of Prussian parliamentary life from that day to this. And all 
through this period of change and transition that pompous mockery 
the Bund continued its futile Diet, cumbered about many things 
and persistently refusing to recognise that only one thing really 
mattered, the question whether the future of Germany was to lie 
with Austria or Prussia. After vainly trying to settle this question 
by diplomatic wrangling, the rivals fought it out in the two cam- 
paigns of 1864 and 1866, of which the natural if not necessary 
sequel was the gigantic war of 1870, when the diapason of the 
century's longing and endeavour ended full in national unity and 
a New Empire, with all that the rebirth meant for the political, 
intellectual, and material development of the German peoples. 

It was to this epoch of German history that Treitschke devoted 


History of Germany 

himself, and it was to contemporaries who had lived through or 
in it, and to whom, therefore, its events and vicissitudes were 
intensely real, that his History was addressed. A nation still in 
the first enthusiasm of military and political triumph, still dazzled 
by its successes, and revelling in the consciousness of proved 
strength and yet greater latent power, could not fail to respond 
to the appeal of a historian whose eloquent periods breathed a 
patriotic fervour even greater than its own. 

Yet even here the secret and the significance of Treitschke's 
influence are not exhausted. From the German standpoint it is 
his supreme merit that he voiced the new life and self-consciousness 
of modern Germany in a way that no other man no statesman, 
no writer of any kind, and certainly no historian had done before. 
At last there stood forth a man, like to that earlier patriot-historian 
of Bonn, Ernst Moritz Arndt, the " deutschester Mann " of his 
time, as he was called, who was able and determined to do justice 
not only to the past of the German nation, but to its present and 
future, to assert its claims and rights, to formulate its aims and 
ambitions, and to interpret to the world its individuality and out- 
look. For two generations the Great Powers had regarded Germany 
as for practical purposes blotted out of the map of Europe. Ger- 
many had seemed to accept her fate, hardly venturing to assert 
a right to recognition, apologising that she dared to stand in the 
light of her haughty neighbours. Even after the national revival 
had set in, and the disunited tribes had become a nation, the old 
attitude of disregard and contumely continued ; to the older 
states, which had so long monopolised the seats of the mighty, 
the German Empire was still an upstart and an outsider. For the 
slights from which Germany suffered, Treitschke gravely blamed 
Germany herself. In the past there had been too much apology. 
Treitschke went to the other extreme. With a defiant pride and a 
high disdain he struck the word apology out of the German vocabu- 
lary ; his rdle and his mission were to be those of his country's 

Not only was the History to be a vindication of Germany's 
right to be a united nation and to have her own place in the sun ; 
it was also intended to justify Prussia's historical right to lead 
Germany to the promised land of her desires and to be the completer 
of her appointed and just destiny. That Germany was ordained, 
by some dispensation unsuspected by ordinary men, to direct the 
world in progress, as Germany understood it, and Prussia to be her 
spokesman and interpreter, was to Treitschke so obvious as hardly 



to need argument. This Ptolemaic view of history, which regards 
Germanism as the centre of civilisation, runs through all his political 
writings, and the invective of which he was a master was specially 
reserved for those nations which stubbornly refused to adopt this 
novel order of ideas. What made this attitude and advocacy of 
Treitschke the more remarkable was the fact that his ancestors 
were not Germans at all, and that he himself, until he changed his 
citizenship, was not a Prussian but a Saxon. 

" I write for Germans." " No nation has greater cause than we 
to hold in honour the memory of our hard-struggling fathers, or 
recalls so seldom how through their blood and tears, their sweat of 
brain and of hand, the blessing of its unity has been won." " The 
narrator of German history only half achieves his task if he merely 
indicates the causality of events and speaks his mind with courage. 
He should in addition feel himself, and create in the hearts of his 
readers, joy in the fatherland." 

In passages like these, we may find the key both to Treitschke 's 
presentation of history and to his singular hold upon the admira- 
tion and the attachment of his countrymen. His History is what 
he meant it to be a clarion call to national consciousness and 
an inspiration to national devotion. He stung the national spirit 
of his countrymen into new and virile life, made pride of race a 
passion, patriotism a religion, and loyalty an act of worship. 

This emphasis of nationality and the national standpoint 
caused him to set at defiance some of the most cherished canons 
of historical science, for it made detachment and objectivity impos- 
sible, led him into partisanship and special advocacy, and tempted 
the free play of prejudice. He says in one place, indeed, that it 
has been his aim to "speak definitely without harshness, justly 
without vagueness." That was a counsel of perfection which he 
may for formality's sake have pinned to his inkstand, like a new 
year's resolution, to be kept as long as possible, but he more often 
ignored than observed it. For moderation was not his special grace, 
nor was a judicial temperament his special gift. Impartiality and 
equanimity are not the only virtues, but they belong to the virtues 
which are looked for in a historian, and when they are lacking, 
the greatest work falls short of perfection. Treitschke 's History 
must be read and valued and praised subject to this reservation. 

" There are many ways of writing history, and each is justified 
so long as the style adopted is adhered to consistently and severely." 
To this dictum, which Treitschke laid down for his own guidance, 
the History is faithful. The examination of his sources must have 


History of Germany 

entailed prodigious research in divers fields, but there is no sugges- 
tion of the antiquary in his pages. For him history was some- 
thing more and greater than a recital of facts and completed 
events, if, indeed, in the seamless web of human life any single 
event can be said to be completed. Regarding history as life, 
he strove to recreate the national drama ; he put the actors upon 
the stage again, and made them play over their parts, not as 
marionettes, but as living men and women. In so doing, he at 
times made heroes out of commonplace men and the heroes he 
turned into demigods, but that was part of his deliberate plan, 
which was the glorification of his country. The ground covered 
by the History was not new, but drawing from fuller materials 
than had been accessible before, he was able to throw new light 
upon known facts, to bring these facts into new relations, to discuss 
them from fresh and original points of view, to challenge established 
verdicts, and thus to invest the most hackneyed episodes with fresh 

If Treitschke's temper as a historian has received much adverse 
criticism, his literary style has received no less praise, and deser- 
vedly so. There is something Byzantine in the structure of the 
History, in the conjunction of massiveness with a bewildering 
wealth and variety of ornament, of strength with splendour, gran- 
deur with dignity, severity with grace. The flow of language is 
easy and rhythmical ; often it is impetuous ; only when the nervous 
pen responds to the impulses of an imagination fired by passion, 
does the stream break bounds. Stung into anger or indignation 
Treitschke's declamations are at times torrential and overwhelm- 
ing. Yet the effect is never spoiled by any suggestion of forced 
rhetoric ; the passion may seem to be extravagant or even 
misplaced, but it is sincere, and free from artifice. The literary 
purist will rightly find fault with occasional lapses of taste due to 
his ardent temperament without doubt a part, and not the least 
precious part, of his Slavic inheritance and to his inability to keep 
prejudice under control, but these sunspots detract little if at all 
from the brilliancy of the total effect. 

It was Treitschke's poignant regret, when the shadow of pre- 
mature death fell upon him, that he was leaving the great work 
of his life incomplete. He was cut off at the age of sixty-two and 
in his intellectual prime, having scarcely brought the story of 
Germany in the nineteenth century to the end of the 'forties. The 
History ceases, therefore, at a point which to him must have been 
specially distressing ; for he had not left behind the revolutionary 



movements of 1848, an episode which he regarded as amongst the 
most humiliating and hateful in German and particularly in 
Prussian history. Not only, therefore, did the drama which he 
was reconstructing remain unfinished, but the still unplayed acts 
were, for a passionate patriot, amongst the most fascinating of all 
above all, the wars of 1864 and 1866, which gave to Prussia a 
series of new provinces, and put that Power and Austria in their 
rightful places, Prussia at the head of Germany, Austria thrust 
out of the imperial heritage ; the formation of the North German 
Confederation ; and finally the war of 1870, which destroyed one 
empire and created another, set New Germany on a path of unex- 
ampled progress and prosperity, yet also, as events have proved, 
sowed seeds of infinite coming mischief. So far as it was com- 
pleted, however, the History will be seen to leave no essential 
phase of the national life unregarded. The political history of the 
period ' naturally occupies Treitschke's principal attention, but 
he also passes in review the economic movements which were of 
such great importance for the country's later development, the 
intellectual awakening, and the special tendencies which came to 
the front in philosophy and literature, in science and art. 

It is one of the greater ironies of literary history that the 
last and crowning part of Treitschke's task was left undone. 
His treatment of the events which ushered in the Empire 
would not have been faultless or final, but his narrative would 
have been an epic worthy of the master-pieces of historical 
literature. "Who will finish my History?" he asked pathetically 
of his friend and later biographer Hausrath. In putting the 
question he himself gave the answer. His History no one else 
could complete. Many other German writers of eminence have 
described the final episodes in the inspiring story of national 
unity, some with a knowledge and erudition, others with an 
intellectual grasp, a conscientiousness, or an earnestness of 
purpose not unworthy of his own. 

Well as they have written, however, they have only supple- 
mented and have not replaced Treitschke. For he, while uniting 
all these traits, added to them another, and it is this trait which 
gives to the History its uniqueness. It is the intimate personal 
element in his work, due to the close identification of the writer 
with his subject, of his own life with the life of his country. 
Therefore it is that so much of the History is the faithful reflex 
and utterance of his own soul. Because he felt deeply, he wrote 
intensely and often passionately. If often he was prejudiced, at 


History of Germany 

a difficult disputed problem, how often I have had to ponder every 
word, so that I could speak definitely without harshness, justly with- 
out vagueness. The undertaking was all the bolder in that we 
already possess a comprehensive account of the last decades of the 
Holy Empire in Hausser's History of Germany, a book whose appear- 
ance had the significance of a political achievement, and which 
will always remain an ornament of our historical literature. But 
since the death of this ever-memorable man, our knowledge of the 
Napoleonic epoch has been notably enlarged, and not least by your 
own works. Moreover, the standpoint of historical criticism has 
changed. He who to-day desires to further the understanding of 
the present through a description of that epoch, must place in the 
foreground of his narration the internal development of the 
Prussian state, and the great transformations of spiritual life. 

In the introductory book I have made no attempt to relate 
new facts. Nor have I been afraid to repeat from time to time 
what is already well known, for if the historian attempts always 
and everywhere to relate novelties he will certainly depart from 
truth. It has been my endeavour to extract from the confusion 
of events the most important points of view ; to bring vigorously 
forward the men and the institutions, the ideas and the changes 
of destiny, which have created our new nationality. Hence the 
internal affairs of the minor German states are dealt with very 
briefly. I propose in the second volume, when I come to the 
description of the South German constitutional struggles, to deal 
with these relationships in fuller detail. I trust that you, and 
other indulgent judges, will find that my survey gives an 
approximately just idea of the great contrasts which destroyed 
the state structure of our middle ages, and levelled the ground 
for the secular political formations of the new century. Within 
such narrow limits it was impossible to give more than the outlines 
of the picture. 

After the destruction of the Old Empire, the description 
becomes gradually more detailed, and with the days of the first 
Peace of Paris begins the thorough narration of history which in 
the second volume I hope to carry forward to the year 1830. For 
this period, with the permission of the Chancellor and of Baron 
von Roggenbach, I have utilised the Berlin archives and the archives 
of the ministry of foreign affairs in Karlsruhe. I cannot express 
sufficient gratitude for the willingness with which I have always 
been furnished facilities by the present administration of the 
archives, at first under your own leadership and subsequently under 


Dedicatory Preface 

that of Heinrich von Sybel. I have never misused this confidence, 
because it was impossible to do so. In the history of Prussia there 
is nothing to cloak, nothing to conceal. What errors and sins 
there have been in the history of this state, have long been known 
to all the world, thanks to the ill-favour of our neighbours and 
thanks to the fault-finding spirit of our own people ; honourable 
research leads in most cases to tl\e recognition that even in times 
of weakness, Prussian statecraft was better than its reputation. 

There are many ways of writing history, and each is justified so 
long as the style adopted is adhered to consistently and strictly. The 
aim of this book is simply to relate and to judge. If the represen- 
tation is not to remain altogether formless, I must give to the 
readers no more than the completed results of the enquiry, without 
showing them the entire machinery of investigation, or burdening 
them with polemic disquisitions. 

When I survey the century and a half which this volume 
attempts to describe, I feel once more, as I have so often felt 
when writing it, the wealth and the simple greatness of the history 
of our fatherland. No nation has greater cause than we to 
hold in honour the memory of its struggling fathers, or recalls 
so seldom how through their blood and tears, their labour of brain 
and of hand, the blessing of its unity has been achieved. You, my 
dear friend, have already, in the Paulskirche, dreamed the dream 
of the Prussian empire of German nationality, and have in heart 
remained younger than many of the precocious younger generation ; 
for you know how bearable seem the troubles of the present when 
compared with the distresses of the old days when there was no 
empire . You will not blame me because now and then, out of the 
equable peace of historic discourse there sounds a louder tone 
The narrator of German history fulfils but half his task when he 
indicates the connection of events and expresses his opinion with 
frankness ; he should also himself feel and should know how to 
awaken in the hearts of his readers what many of our country- 
men have already forgotten in the disputes and vexations of the 
moment a delight in the fatherland. 


February loth, 1879. 



ALTHOUGH Max Duncker has in the interim passed away, I retain 
this dedication in grateful memory. During the revision of this 
volume, I have utilised the abundant literature of recent years 
in order to attain to an independent judgment concerning the 
beginnings of the War of Liberation, based upon new researches 
into the archives. The emendations and additions due to this 

cause are, however, not extensive. 



September 2$th, 1894. 






i. The Imperial Constitution 3 

2. The Prussian State - 28 

3. The New Literature - 99 


i. The Revolutionary War to the Peace of Basle - 120 
2. Frederick William III. The Principal Resolu- 
tion of the Diet of Deputation. Classical 
Poetry - 169 

3. Dissolution of the Empire. The War of 1806 - 246 


i. Stein. Scharnhorst. The New Germany - - 313 

2. The Altenstein Ministry. The War of 1809 - 375 
3. The Confederation of the Rhine. Hardenberg's 

Administration. The Russian War - 413 


i. Its Preparation - 477 

2. The Spring Campaign. The Truce - 528 

3. The Period of Victories - - 553 


i. Liberation of the West. Plans of Campaign - 598 

2 The Winter Campaign 628 

3. Peace and the Return Home 649 







DESPITE the antiquity of her history, Germany is the youngest 
of the great nations of Europe. Twice has she been granted a 
period of youth, twice has she been through the struggle for the 
principles of national power and free civilisation. It is a thousand 
years since she created for herself the glorious kingdom of the 
Germans ; eight hundred years later she found it necessary to 
re-establish the state upon an entirely new foundation ; first in 
our own days did she as a unified power resume her place in the 
ranks of the nations. 

Long ago, forced by the overwhelming power of events, she 
united with her own the imperial crown of Christendom, she adorned 
her life with all the charms of knightly art and culture, she shrank 
from neither risk nor sacrifice in order to maintain the leadership 
of the western world. In the world-wide campaigns of her great 
emperors the power of the German monarchy passed away. Upon 
the ruins of the old kingdom there immediately grew up a new 
structure of territorial dominions : spiritual and temporal princes, 
free cities, counts and knights a formless medley of inchoate 
state-structures, but full of marvellous vital energy. Amid the 
decline of the imperial glory, the princes of Lower Saxony, the 
knights of the Teutonic Order, and the burghers of the Hanseatic 
League, completed with sword and plough the greatest work of 
colonisation which the world had seen since the days of the Romans. 
The lands between the Elbe and the Niemen were conquered and 
settled ; for centuries to come the Scandinavian and Slav peoples 
were subordinated to German commerce and to German culture. 
But princes and nobles, burghers and peasants, went their separate 
ways ; the reciprocal hatred of the estates rendered nugatory every 
attempt to effect the political organisation of the nation's super- 
abundant creative energy, to restore in federal form the lost unity 
of the state. 

History of Germany 

Then came Martin Luther, to unite once more for great ends 
talented men drawn from all sections of our divided people. 
Through the earnestness of the German spirit, the secularised 
Church was led back into the lofty simplicity of Protestant Chris- 
tianity, and in that spirit there burgeoned the idea of freeing the 
State from the dominion of the Church. For the second time 
our people attained to one of the summits of its civilisation 
and entered straightway upon the most venturesome revolution 
ever attempted. In other Teutonic lands, the universal work of 
Protestantism was to strengthen the authority of the national 
state, to put an end to the multiplex dominion of the Middle Ages. 
In the land of its birth it effected merely the dissolution of the 
old order. During those days of joyful expectation, a foreigner 
wore our crown, and this was decisive in its influence upon the 
whole future of the German monarchy ; for the nation hailed the 
Monk of Wittenberg with shouts of exultation, and, moved to the 
depths of its being, awaited an entire transformation of the empire. 
The imperial power, which should have been the leader of the 
Germans in their struggle with the Papacy, renounced at once 
ecclesiastical and political reform. The empire of the Haps- 
burgs chose the Catholic side, led the Latin peoples of Southern 
Europe into the field against the German heretics, and remained 
henceforward, until its inglorious fall, the enemy of all that was 
truly German. 

Protestantism turned for help to the temporal rulers. These 
territorial princes justified their right to existence by their work 
as protectors of the German faith. But the nation was unable 
to secure the universal victory on German soil of its own especial 
work, the Reformation, and was likewise unable to rejuvenate its 
own national state in accordance with the temporal ideas of the 
new time. The German spirit, inclined, as always, to excessive 
idealism, was alienated from the struggles of political life by the 
profundities of the new theology ; impassioned Lutheranism did 
not understand how to avail itself of the fortunate hour for the 
work of liberation. Germany so powerful in arms, was ignomini- 
ously beaten in the Schmalkaldian War, and had for the first time 
to submit to a foreign yoke. Then came the wild uprising of 
Maurice of Saxony to rescue German Protestantism and to destroy 
the Spanish dominion, but to destroy also the ultimate bonds of 
monarchical order which still served to unite Germany, and the 
freedom of the estates of the realm assumed henceforward the form 
of boundless licence. After a rapid succession of partial victories 

Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

and partial defeats, the wearied factions concluded the premature 
religious peace of Augsburg. Thereupon ensued the most deplorable 
period of German history. The empire voluntarily quitted the 
circle of the great powers and renounced all share in European 
politics. The amorphous mass of Catholic, Lutheran, and Calvinistic 
principalities, immobile and yet unreconciled, passed two genera- 
tions in idle dreams, whilst at our very gates the armies of the 
Catholic world-empire were fighting to rob the heretics of the 
Netherlands of the freedom of belief, and its navies were disputing 
the command of the sea. 

Then at length the last and decisive war of the epoch, the war 
of the religions, broke out. The home of Protestantism became also 
its battle-ground. All the powers of Europe took part in the war. 
The scum of all nations was heaped up on German soil. In a 
disturbance without parallel, the old Germany passed away. Those 
who had once aimed at world-dominion were now, by the pitiless 
justice of histoty, placed under the feet of the stranger. The Rhine 
and the Ems, the Elbe and the Weser, the Oder and the Vistula, 
all the ways to the sea, became " captives of foreign nations " ; 
on the Upper Rhine were established the outposts of French 
rule, while the south-east became subject to the dominion of 
the Hapsburgs and of the Jesuits. Two-thirds of the entire 
nation were involved in this dreadful war ; the people, degenerating 
into savagery, carrying on a burdened life amid dirt and poverty, 
no longer displayed the old greatness of the German character, were 
no longer animated by the free-spirited and serene heroism of then- 
ancestors. The dominion of an ancient civilisation, that civilisa- 
tion which alone adorns and ennobles existence, had disappeared 
into oblivion ; forgotten were even the craft-secrets of the guilds. 
The nation, which once had sung of Kriemhild's revenge, and which 
had fortified its heart by the heroic strains of Luther's hymns, 
now embellished its impoverished speech with foreign tinsel, and 
those who still remained capable of profound thought wrote French 
or Latin. The entire life of Germany lay open without defence 
to the influence of the superior civilisation of the foreigner. Under 
the urgency of the Swedish distresses, amid the petty sorrows of 
poverty-stricken everyday life, the very memory of the glories of 
the wonderful centuries of old disappeared from the minds of the 
masses ; in the transformed world, the ancient cathedrals, wit- 
nesses to the former magnificence of German burghership, seemed 
strange and unfriendly. Not till a century and a half had elapsed 
were the treasures of ancient German poetry recovered by the 


History of Germany 

laborious research of learned investigators, so that all were 
astonished at the wealth of the former treasure-house. Never was 
any other nation so forcibly estranged from itself and from its own 
past ; not even modern France is separated by so profound a 
chasm from the days of the old regime. 

This horrible confusion seemed to foreshadow the destruction 
of the German name, and yet it proved the beginning of a new life. 
In those days of misery, hi the time of the Peace of Westphalia, 
our new history begins. It is to two forces that we owe the restora- 
tion of our declining nation, which since those days has trans- 
formed its life politically and economically, in faith, in art, and in 
science, to make that life ever richer and ever wider in its scope : 
the force of religious freedom, and the force of the Prussian state. 

Through the sorrows and struggles of the Thirty Years' War, 
Germany secured the future of Protestantism in the western world, 
and at the same time established upon an indestructible basis the 
characteristics of her own civilisation. The extreme south adhered 
to the Catholic world of the Romans ; the northern marches 
touched the hard Lutheranism of Scandinavia ; but the central 
regions of Germany remained the common ground of three con- 
fessions. Of all the great nations, Germany was the only one in 
which these different creeds competed on equal terms, and Ger- 
many was therefore compelled to establish in her homes and her 
schools, throughout her political and social life, that ecclesiastical 
peace which had been attained through a long, fierce, and bloody 
struggle. In earlier days, when the Roman Church was still the 
Church Universal, bearing in its bosom no more than the germs 
of Protestantism, it was Catholicism which had trained our people 
for civilisation, and which had provided the abundant ground- 
work of art and science. But when Catholicism expelled from 
herself these powers of freedom, and when, with the assistance of 
the Latin peoples, she became transformed into a closely knit 
ecclesiastical party, she was enabled, it is true, through the 
talent for dominion of the House of Hapsburg, to reconquer for 
herself a portion of Germany ; but the spirit of our people remained 
ever hostile to the Jesuitic faith. The rich spiritual forces of the 
Neo-Roman Church flourished in their Latin homelands ; but they 
could strike no root upon this foreign German soil, hi this nation 
of born heretics. Here sang no Tasso or Calderon, here painted 
no Rubens or Murillo. Hardly one among the slothful German 
monks was found to compete in zeal for learning with the diligent 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

fathers of the Maurist Congregation. Among the Germans, the 
Society of Jesus educated many pious priests and many able states- 
men ; it produced also many ponderous zealots, who, like Father 
Busenbaum, with uncouth German bluntness disclosed to the world 
the secret that the end justifies the means. But the entire culture of 
the Society of Jesus was the work of Roman brains, and Roman 
also were the stultifying educational methods of the Jesuits. In 
Germany, the new Catholicism worked only to hinder and con- 
fuse ; the spiritual possessions of Catholicism contrasted with the 
thought-world of Protestantism much as the barren scholasticism 
of our first Jesuit, Canisius, contrasted with the straightforward 
wisdom of the works of Luther. Despite all the wholesale 
conversions of the Counter- Reformation, Germany remained, as 
Rome well knew, the citadel of heresy. The central fibre of our 
spirit was Protestant. 

Dearly-bought ecclesiastical tolerance prepared the towns for 
a restrained freedom, a circumspect boldness of thought, which 
could never have thrived under the uncontrolled dominion of 
any single Church. Upon such a soil, so soon as the exhausted 
people was once more able to produce men of genius, there flourished 
our new science and poetry, the most vigorous literature of modern 
history, essentially Protestant, and yet with the freedom and gentle- 
ness of the secular spirit. Upon our troubled nation this literature 
once more bestowed the gift of a powerful speech, restored the 
ideals of humanism, and reawakened self-confidence. Thus for 
our people even the defeats of the Reformation ultimately proved a 
blessing. Constrained to carry in one bosom all the great contrasts 
of European life, Germany became enabled to understand them 
all, and to control them with the might of thought. Humanity 
resounded from every breath of her spirit. Her classical litera- 
ture became more various, bolder, and freer, than that produced 
by the earlier ripened culture of her neighbours. A century 
and a half after the decline of the ancient German civilisation it 
was possible for Holderlin thus to apostrophise the new Germany : 

"O sacred heart of the peoples, O Fatherland I j 
All-patient, thou, like our silent Mother Earth, 
And misunderstood, although now from thy depths 
Strangers draw all that they have of the best." 

Simultaneously there awakened the state-constructive powers 
of the nation. Amid the disintegration of outworn imperial forms 
and undeveloped territories, the young Prussian state raised its 


History of Germany 

head ; and in Prussia, henceforward, centred the political life of 
Germany. Just as nearly a thousand years before, the crown of 
Wessex had united all the Saxon kingdoms to form the English 
state, and just as the Kingdom of the Franks, starting from the Isle 
de France, continued to enlarge throughout the Middle Ages until 
it had conquered and united the isolated baronies and communes, so 
also out of the sundered fragments of the German nation did the 
monarchy of the Brandenburg-Prussian Mark create once more a 
Fatherland. It is, as a rule, only the virile formative energy 
of youthful peoples that achieves success in the fierce struggle 
for the beginnings of national unity ; but here the change was 
effected in the clear noonday light of the new time, against the 
opposition of the whole of Europe, in a contest with the legitimate 
authority of the Holy Empire, and with the countless opposing 
forces of the complex German life, hardened and concreted by 
long historical tradition. This was the most arduous movement 
towards national unity which Europe has ever known, and nothing 
but the ultimate, complete, and brilliant success of that unity has 
finally compelled an unwilling world to believe in the reality of 
the work which had often before been so vainly attempted. 

It was impossible that the reconstitution of the German 
state should now be effected by the emperor and the empire. 
With the rise of Protestantism, the imperial constitution, which 
had for long been in an extremely fragile condition, became a hateful 
lie. The ultimate consequences of all great human actions remain 
concealed from the doer. Just as Martin Luther, when he broke 
loose from the mediaeval Church, was unaware that he was opening 
the road for the secular science of our days, which would have 
been a scandal to his piety, so also, when he freed the state 
from the rule of the Church, did he lay an axe to the roots of that 
Roman imperialism of which he was himself a faithful subject. As 
soon as the majority of the nation had adhered to the Protestant 
doctrine, the theocratic office of the emperor became as 
untenable as was its principal prop, the support of the spiritual 
princes. The crowned guardian, and the bishops of the Old 
Church, could not rule a heretical nation. In the first years of 
the Reformation, in the Reichstag of 1525, the demand made itself 
audible that the spiritual prerogatives should pass under the control 
of the temporal princes ; and at all' subsequent great turning- 
points of the policy of the realm the necessary idea of secularisa- 
tion continually recurred, springing from the very nature of things. 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

But the unsatisfactory balance of forces and counter-forces which 
interfered with every movement of the empire rendered nugatory 
even this irrefutable consequence of the Reformation. The majority 
of the spiritual princes retained their prerogatives, and the fantastic 
claims to dominion of the Sacra Cesarea Majestas were also retained, 
although the German kingship in which was invested this Roman 
imperial crown had long been devoid of all authority, and although 
all the prerogatives of the ancient monarchy had long since passed 
into the hands of the territorial princes. 

Outside the limits of the imperial heritage two-thirds of the 
German people became Protestant, and Protestant also became 
all the great princely houses, with the exception of the Wittelsbachs 
and the Albertines. Official Germany, however, remained Catholic. 
Adherents of the ancient creed retained the majority in the Council 
of Electors and in the Council of the Princes, and the imperial 
dominion continued to preserve its semi-priestly character. In 
virtue of his coronation, the emperor became " Participator in 
Our Spiritual Office " and made common cause with the Pope and 
the Church to testify his gratitude for the appropriate ecclesiastical 
honours ; ex officio, he was prebend of several Catholic foundations, 
and therefore received Holy Communion hi both kinds. Under this 
Roman theocracy, heresy could not legally exist. The first great 
political act of the German Lutherans was the Protest of Spires, 
which gave the new faith its name ; herein it was stated in set 
terms that the Protestants would not submit to the majority in 
the empire. In the struggle with the empire which was thus 
begun Protestantism maintained itself henceforward as an element 
of continuous sedition. Protestantism enforced the religious 
peace treaties, which were in flat contradiction with the ancient 
imperial oath and with the fundamental ideas of the Holy Roman 
Empire, and constituted a state within the state in order to safe- 
guard the dearly gained religious freedom against the majority in 
the Reichstag. The Corpus Evangelicorum, though somewhat 
milder in form than the Confederations of the Polish Nobles' 
Republic, was, like these, an anarchistic makeshift utterly opposed 
to the conception of the state. 

Nothing but a revolutionary change, nothing but a trans- 
formation of the Holy Empire into a federation of temporal states, 
could rescue the nation from such a falsification of its political 
life ; nothing but a national authority which honourably recog- 
nised its own temporal character could furnish justice alike for 
Catholics and Protestants on the common ground of the law. 

9 B 

History of Germany 

This conviction forced itself upon both the great publicists of seven- 
teenth century Germany ; the spokesman of the Swedish party, 
Hippolytus a Lapide, was a passionate advocate of a war of anni- 
hilation against the imperial rule ; the judicious Samuel Puffendorf 
regarded the realm as hastening " with the certainty of a rolling 
stone " towards its transformation into a confederation of states. 
Even official Germany had an obscure perception how senseless 
the old forms had become in the new time. The religious peace 
treaties only pretended to be truces, and encouraged the nation 
to hope for better times, for " by God's grace a union shall 
be effected in matters of belief." The Peace of Westphalia 
commissioned the next Reichstag to effect a comprehensive 
revision of the constitution, whereby the newly acquired powers 
of the estates of the empire should be harmonised with the ancient 
rights of the imperial crown. But here also the House of Austria 
hindered attempts at reform. The Imperial Assembly of 1654 
broke up without effecting a settlement, and since the next Reichs- 
tag continued to meet in Ratisbon for a century and a half without 
ever attempting its most important duty, the German state 
remained in actuality without a constitution. In its public law 
were embodied the wreckage of three fundamentally diverse 
constitutional forms, which existed side by side and uncombined : 
the shadowy vestiges of the ancient monarchical unity ; the im- 
perfect beginnings of a new confederation of states ; and, finally, 
and endowed with far more vitality than either of these, the par- 
ticularism of the territorial powers. 

Throughout all changes, the imperial dominion maintained 
its ancient claims to autocracy, and would never admit that an 
imperial law could limit the prerogatives of the emperor. The 
imperial suzerain continued to receive the homage of his kneeling 
subjects, the estates of the empire, himself seated the while, and 
with covered head. As far as his arm could reach, he continued 
to exercise judicial authority through the Aulic Council of the 
Empire, as if he had still hi reality remained what he had once 
been in the days of the Sachsenspiegel the supreme judge con- 
cerning property, fiefs, and life and death. At the corona- 
tion, the herald continued to brandish the imperial sword towards 
the four winds of heaven, because the whole of Christendom was 
subordinate to the double eagle. The imperial law continued to 
speak solemnly of the fiefs of the empire as extending along the 
Riviera past Genoa and far into Tuscany ; the three chancellor- 
ships for Germany, Italy, and the Arelate were still in existence ; 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

Nomeny and Bisanz, and numerous other estates which had long 
passed to strangers, were still summoned to vote in the Reichstag ; 
the Duke of Savoy was regarded as the imperial vicar in Walsch- 
land (Italy) ; and no one could say where stood the boundary- 
stones of the Holy Empire. To the poetic vision of the youthful 
Goethe it seemed that in the ancient Prankish pageant of the 
imperial coronation the richly coloured glories of the old empire 
were recalled to life ; but to one who looked at the matter with 
the cool vision of the man of the world, like the Ritter von Lang, 
this imperialism of effete memories and boundless claims seemed 
a preposterous mummery, as ludicrous and absurd as the sword 
of Charlemagne, which bore the Bohemian lion on its blade, or 
as the choir-boys of St. Bartholomew's, whose clear-toned fiat! 
resounding from the chancel acclaimed in the name of the German 
nation the choice of the ruler of the world. 

The transformation of the ancient Teutonic electoral monarchy 
into a hereditary monarchy secured national unity for most of the 
peoples of Western Europe. Germany, however, remained an 
electoral realm, and the union of its crown with the House of Austria 
during three centuries served only to arouse new forces of disinte- 
gration and discord, since for our people the imperial rule of the 
Hapsburgs was a foreign dominion. The Old German South- 
eastern Mark, separated from Middle Germany by the powerful 
Slav realm of Bohemia, went its own way early in the Middle Ages, 
and became perforce involved hi the confused political life of the 
Hungarian-Slav- Wallachian racial compost of the Lower Danubian 
lands. By the House of Hapsburg, this area was made the nucleus 
of a powerful polyglot empire, absolved by means of privileges, 
false and true, of all serious duties towards the German realm. 
As early as the sixteenth century it had acquired so secure an 
independence that the Hapsburgs were enabled to entertain the 
idea of a union of these remoter regions with then: German heritage 
to form a kingdom of Austria. Amid the throng of foreign peoples, 
the valiant tribes of the Alps and the Upper Danube faithfully 
preserved then- German type, and with then* fresh and vigorous 
disposition took a notable part in the intellectual creative work 
of our Middle Age. The art of chivalry nourished at the cheerful 
court of the Babenbergs ; hi the days of the Hohenstaufen 
emperors, the greatest poet of the time was a son of the Tyrolese 
Alps ; the beautiful market-halls of St. Stefan and of St. Marien-am- 
Stiegen bore witness to the pride and the artistic diligence of the 
German burghers of Lower Austria. In this region also, the German 


History of Germany 

spirit now allied itself to the joyful awakening of the reformed 
doctrine; in Bohemia, the Hussites again became active; and at 
the opening of the century of the Reformation the greater part 
of the German-Austrian crown lands adhered to the faith of our 
people. Thereupon the religious bigotry of the imperial house 
let loose over Austria all the horrors of national murder, and amid 
frightful atrocities the dominion of the Roman Church was restored 
by the imperial saviours. Those of truly German spirit, those 
who would not bow their necks beneath the foreign yoke, the best 
of the Bohemians, left their country by hundreds of thousands 
to find a new home in the lands of the Protestant princes. 
Those who remained, lost in the school of the Jesuits the vital 
energy of the German spirit, lost their bold conscientiousness, lost 
their moral idealism. By ecclesiastical oppression, the profoundest 
roots of the national life were destroyed. The bright gaiety of 
Austrian Teutondom declined into a thoughtless hedonism, and the 
frivolous people soon habituated itself to the false bonhomie of a 
priestly rule which knew well how to conceal its cold contempt for 
humanity beneath agreeably indulgent forms. 

The Peace of Westphalia gave a legal sanction to this last 
great victory of the Counter-Reformation. The emperor gave his 
assent to the equality of the three confessions, only on condition 
that this equality should not exist in his own hereditary dominion. 
From that day Austria has remained apart from the community 
of German life. The one thing that still gave meaning and reality 
to the tattered imperial constitution, the secure freedom of religious 
belief, did not exist in the Hapsburg lands ; and at the very time 
when Germany was displaying in flaunting peace-festivals its 
rejoicing over the final attainment of religious harmony, the emperor 
was affixing to the church-doors in Vienna and Prague, in Graz and 
Innsbruck, the Papal Bull which condemned the conclusion of 
peace. After the peace, the imperial house continued to work 
unceasingly for the eradication of heresy. For a hundred years 
after this date, until the death of Charles VI, the waves of Protes- 
tant emigration from Austria towards the German north con- 
tinued to flow, though becoming ever smaller as the years elapsed, 
until all the hereditary dominions of the empire had passed into 
the death-slumber of religious unity. At the beginning of the Thirty 
Years' War, the Bohemian County of Glatz was Protestant through- 
out, except for one single Catholic commune. When the grenadiers 
of King Frederick entered this region the people were Catholic 
to a man, and in the centre of the freshly proselytised country there 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

reared its head the gracious pilgrimage-church of Albendori, a 
monument of victory for the battle of the White Mountain. Hence- 
forward the German-Austrian lands pursued a life apart, alienated 
from then- Catholic neighbours in Bavaria by tribal hatred and 
ancient political hostility, and jealously shut off from all contact 
with the North German heresy. Intercourse between Bohemia 
and the Lower Elbe, which in the Middle Ages was so lively that 
the Emperor Charles IV could hope to establish a great Elbe empire 
extending from Prague to Tangermunde, came to an end ; all the 
old fruitful interchange of influences between north-eastern and 
south-eastern Germany utterly ceased ; and at the frontier between 
Saxony and Bohemia there gradually became manifest a sharp 
division of nationalities, a fundamental contrast of ideas and of 
customs. Into this separate world of the south, hardly a murmur 
made its way of the spiritual strains of the reawakening German 
poetry, or of the free discourse of our youthful science. While 
the young people of Germany were weeping over the sorrows of 
Werther, and while they were feeling with Robber Moor a fierce 
contempt for the poverty in action displayed by their quill-driving 
age, pleasure-loving Vienna was glorifying the dull caricatures of 
Blumauer's travesty of the iEneid. The works of the great 
Austrian composers were the only things serving to show that 
the creative energy of the German spirit was not yet utterly extinct 
in the beautiful home of Walther von der Vogelweide. Not until 
the nineteenth century did the isolated Germans of the South- 
eastern Mark once more find the power enabling them to follow with 
a lively understanding all the work of modern German civilisation. 

In this way the policy of the Danubian land, inspired by its 
Catholic unity of faith, was for long utterly foreign to the aims of 
our people. This policy cleft the old empire asunder, creating 
the much-deplored German dualism. So long as the Germans 
remained true to themselves it was impossible for them ever to 
abandon their resistance to the foreign dominion of the Haps- 
burgs. As the centuries passed, the House of Austria became so 
closely associated with the Roman imperial crown that in the 
popular estimation the two seemed almost inseparable. The one 
man to hold the imperial title during recent centuries who was not 
an Austrian, Charles VII, seemed to his contemporaries almost an 
anti-emperor. A profound inner kinship united the degermanised 
emperorship with the Papal See, its opponent of former days. 
The policy of Vienna, like that of Rome, exhibits that char- 
acteristic of hypocritical unction which makes theocracy the most 

History of Germany 

immoral of all forms of government. In Vienna, as in Rome, 
there was the like incapacity to understand the rights of an oppo- 
nent. All the Hapsburgs, Maria Theresa with her serene amia- 
bility no less than Leopold I, with his dull-witted pride, endured 
the assaults of fate in the firm conviction that their line was under 
the special favour of God, and that only wicked and godless men 
could resist the pious Archducal House of Austria. Everywhere 
and always they displayed the same rigid immobility amid the 
storms of the centuries. Every ignominious peace which the might 
of history forced upon the ancient imperial house was subscribed by 
the Hapsburgs with a tacit reservation that when the hour should 
come the inalienable rights of the imperial authority would be 
fully restored. Everywhere and at all times there was the same 
audacious weaving of myths and distortion of right. Whilst 
Maria Theresa was rising against the rightful emperor, Charles VII, 
she herself displayed the moral indignation of injured imperial 
majesty ; when, thereupon, King Frederick anticipated her 
threatened attack, her husband, who up to now had lived at her 
court as a simple private individual, assumed the imperial sceptre, 
and condemned the enemy of the Queen of Hungary as an enemy 
of the emperor and of the empire ; confidently, and as if it were a 
matter of course, the little House of Lorraine then revived all the 
claims to dominion that had been made by the ancient imperial 
race ; and just as the Popes, according to their own fable, sit upon 
the throne of the chief of the Apostles, so did the Lorrainers behave 
as if the Hapsburgs had never died out. In Vienna, just as in 
Rome, the welfare of the people was ignored with the same courtly 
cold-bloodedness ; and as soon as religious unity had been firmly 
established and the passive obedience of the subjects had been 
assured, the whole might of Austria was directed to without. The 
life of the state was concentred in European politics, whilst at 
home the old-established administration pursued its leisurely course 
in accordance with its outworn forms. Nothing was done for the 
development of an orderly system of government, nothing for 
the general well-being or for general culture ; no attempt was 
made to undertake those inconspicuous but arduous duties of in- 
ternal politics which form the most secure foundation for the life 
of a healthy secular state. During centuries, the history of Austria, 
while it tells us of many capable diplomatists and military com- 
manders, has no word to say of a single great administrator. First 
under Maria Theresa did the crown recall to mind the primary duties 
of the monarchy- 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

None the less, even in the confused compost of the Hapsburg- 
Burgundian heritage, the leaven of the state-constructive energy 
of modern history, pressing everywhere towards the consolidation 
of dominion, began to work. Under Leopold I, Hungary was 
conquered, and the crown of St. Stephen became a hereditary 
appanage of the House of Austria. Therewith begins the history 
of modern Austria as a great power, just as contemporaneously 
modern German history begins with the Great Elector. The 
Hapsburg possessions became a geographical unity, and the Danu- 
bian empire found the focus of its military power in the warlike 
peoples of Hungary. Henceforward strong economic and political 
interests associated Germany with the thronged peoples of this 
south German world, in which Germandom was able only with 
difficulty to maintain a spiritual preponderance. In the course of 
the long and glorious Turkish War, a sentiment of community 
became established between the German, Hungarian, and Slav 
companions-in-arms. The conquest of Hungary completed that 
which the policy of the Counter-Reformation had begun, the 
severance of Austria from Germany. As long as the Turkish 
pashas were massed upon the Konigsburg of Buda, Austria was 
contending with the eastern barbarians on behalf of German 
civilisation ; it was only with the help of Germany, with the aid 
of the good swords of the men of the Mark, of Saxony, of Bavaria, 
that the Turks were driven out of Hungary. But when the Porte 
declined into weakness, this last bond which had still united our 
nation to the Austrian imperialism, the bond of a common danger, 
was torn asunder. Germany and Austria were henceforward two 
independent realms, connected only in an artificial union by the 
forms of public law. For many decades to come, the destruction 
of these false forms remained the chief task of German history. 

Step by step the national unity of the new Austria became 
more firmly established. By the Pragmatic Sanction was pro- 
claimed the indissolubility of the imperial dominions. Thereupon 
the greatest of all the Hapsburg rulers bestowed upon the Hapsburg 
heritage, hitherto united only by the imperial house, the clergy, 
the nobility, and the army, a scanty common constitution. Maria 
Theresa founded the system of the Austro-Hungarian dualism. 
She established the Bohemian-Austrian chancellorship as supreme 
authority in the Cisleithan crown-lands, whilst the dominions 
under the crown of St. Stephen preserved their old-established legal 
rights. Thus with a sure hand were designed the forms which 
alone could hold together these areas of excessive national contrasts. 

History of Germany 

After many vain attempts to form a unified state or a federation of 
states, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy has always returned to 
the ideas of the empress. The stresses and the glories of the 
Theresan days served also to give stability to the state. During 
eight years of fierce fighting the brave Hapsburg empress, vigor- 
ously supported by her faithful subjects, maintained the heritage 
of her house against a powerful coalition. During the Seven 
Years' War, however brightly might shine the star of King Frederick, 
compelling the admiration even of the conquered, the imperial 
army nevertheless bore away the palm of victory at Kolin and 
Hochkirch, rejoiced over the heroic greatness of its Loudon, and 
came out of the mighty struggle with a well-justified sense of 
satisfaction. Long before there existed an Austrian empire, it 
was customary in Europe to speak of the Austrian state and the 
Austrian army. 

The possessorship of the crown of St. Stephen made it im- 
possible for the imperial house to pursue a consistent aim in Euro- 
pean policy. The conqueror of Hungary, Eugene of Savoy, showed 
to the state the road of promise towards the Black Sea. It now 
became the natural aim of the Danubian empire to press onward 
towards the mouth of the great river, and to subordinate to its own 
predominant civilisation the Slav-Wallachian peoples of either bank. 
Distant Belgium, which continually threatened to involve the state 
in the affairs of Western Europe, now became an inconvenient 
burden ; as early as the days of the Silesian War began the attempts, 
thenceforward continually repeated, to exchange for some nearer 
province this untenable and remote area of occupation. Yet 
the imperial house never learned, in a mood of wise concentration, 
to turn its united powers against the south-east. In this realm of 
conflicting nationalities, a national policy was simply impossible ; 
never, and least of all in that despotic epoch, has public opinion 
exercised any influence upon Austrian diplomacy. The conduct of 
Austria in European affairs has invariably been determined by the 
personal preferences of its rulers. The power of the house was 
originally based upon a bold and cunning family policy, greedily 
seeking extended influence in all directions, but without definite 
plan and without question as to the peculiarities or the position 
in the world of the conquered areas. The notions of this dynastic 
statecraft and the glorious memories of imperial world-dominion 
long remained active in the new Danubian realm. The Austrian 
court clung firmly to its dominant position in the German empire ; 
it endeavoured, by the conquest of Bavaria, to connect the upper 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

Austrian possessions on the Rhine with the nuclear regions of the 
monarchy ; from the days of Charles VI onward it revived the 
Italian policy of the Spanish Hapsburgs, endeavouring to maintain 
its ascendancy on the further side of the Alps, conducting all the 
while a rapid succession of rash onslaughts on the Poles and the 
Turks this excessive and ill-conceived lust of dominion leading 
the powerful state from defeat to defeat. 

Thus the imperial power was hostile to the Protestant-German 
culture, was indifferent to the European tasks of German policy, 
and regarded with the aloofness of a midland country the com- 
mercial interests of our coasts. The ill-defined authority of the 
imperial rule was for the Hapsburg-Lorrainers simply a welcome 
means for the forcible exploitation of the fighting strength of the 
German nation in pursuit of the aims of the House of Austria, and 
for the attainment of their own aggrandisement by the misuse 
of the forms of the imperial law. The time-honoured imperial juris- 
diction became the playground of pettifogging arts, and Germany's 
foreign policy an incalculable game. The empire, now exposed by 
the court to foreign attacks, and now involved in un-German 
quarrels, had ever to pay the price for Austria's defeats. Mainly 
through the fault of the Hapsburgs, Holland and Switzerland, 
Schleswig-Holstein, Pomerania and the Ordensland, Alsace and 
Lorraine, were lost to Germany. These were irreparable losses, less 
shameful for the semi-foreign power which was unable to combine 
its imperial duty with the interests of its own house, than for the 
German nation, which failed always after such disasters to find 
energy to tear up its pact with Austria. 

The imperial dominion was rooted in a lost past, and therefore 
found its natural opponents in the secular princes, whose energies 
were on the increase, while its adherents were drawn from the rotten 
and degenerate portions of the empire. " Ecclesiastically endowed 
Germany " constituted the kernel of the Austrian party that 
luxuriantly flourishing spiritual province of German life which, 
having been restored to the Roman Church through the victories 
of the Counter-Reformation, henceforward led an easy life under 
the lax rule of the crozier, rejoicing in nepotism and sensuality. 
These Catholic regions, surrounded and subdivided by Protestant 
areas, could not remain so utterly estranged from the national 
life as were the hereditary dominions of the imperial house. To 
many a gentle-spirited and learned prince of the Church, the ideas 
of the age of enlightenment were welcome. But the political 
energy of the spiritual states remained lost beyond hope of rescue ; 

History of Germany 

and in Cologne, Mainz, and Treves the mass of the people were so 
untouched by the thought of the new century that the subsequent 
loss of the left bank of the Rhine seemed to cause hardly a per- 
ceptible wound to the spiritual life of Germany. The powerful 
Catholic nobility likewise adhered to the emperor, exercising control 
through its prince-bishoprics over three of the electorates and a num- 
ber of the princely thrones of the empire, and finding in the service of 
the Archducal House of Austria comfortable sinecures for its sons. 
Even the diets of the temporal principalities looked for help to the 
emperor when they wished to defend their own individual privileges 
against the common rights of the new monarchy. Unquestionably 
the Catholic majority turned a favourable eye towards the imperial 
court, what time the factions of the realm were tearing one another 
to pieces, and while their mutual suspicions were stifling all possi- 
bilities of reform, and while every power that might threaten the 
imperial rule was held in check by other opposing forces. The 
traditional reverence of the smaller princes for the Archducal House 
of Austria, their mutual envies, the influence of the father-con- 
fessors upon the numerous princely converts, and the abundance 
of honours and privileges with which the Hofburg rewarded the 
faithful, secured support at this epoch even from the Protestant 
courts ; in many of the princedoms the chancellor was simul- 
taneously an imperial minister entrusted with the task of attending 
to Austrian interests in his own court. So extensive a use of 
these indirect means for the control of the German nobility was made 
by a power regardless of the laws of the empire and the duties of 
German policy, that an able partisan of the imperial house, Baron 
von Gemmingen, wrote in an unguarded moment : " The House 
of Austria must either be the ruler or the enemy of the German 

Side by side with these ruins of a declining monarchical 
authority used to further foreign ends, the imperial constitution also 
contained the beginnings of a federal order. These were an inherit- 
ance from that great period of reform when Berthold of Mainz, 
Frederick of Saxony, and Eitelfritz of Zollern, as leaders of the 
state of princes, had made a bold attempt to transform the German 
community into a powerful federal state. From this time date the 
organisation of local government, and also the imperial chamber 
or federal court of justice formed by the estates of the empire. But 
as the emperor weakened the efficiency of this tribunal of the 
estates by the competitive authority of his own monarchical 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

aulic council, the majority of the more powerful princes of the 
empire were able to withdraw their domains from the jurisdiction of 
the federal court of justice. In Swabia, Franconia, and on the Rhine, 
where a crowd of bishops and imperial knights, of princes and free 
cities, of abbots and counts, were massed together in extraor- 
dinary complexity, respect for the prefects and for the provincial 
assemblies still sufficed at times to maintain a degree of order, 
and to unite the pigmy military contingents of the estates into 
larger units. In the north and the east, however, the change 
of administration never became firmly rooted. Here, since the 
Peace of Westphalia, the spiritual privileges had been almost 
entirely destroyed, and the powerful temporal princes were suffi- 
cient unto themselves. As out of an enlightened modern world, the 
North German looked boldly over the confused medley of little 
states in the south-west, of which he spoke mockingly as " the 
empire." All that was young and vigorous in Old Germany was 
in revolt against the constricting forms of the imperial constitution. 
The particularism of the temporal princes remained, however, 
the most vigorous political force in the realm. The Holy Empire 
was, in fact, what Frederick the Great termed it the illustrious 
republic of the German princes. From the time of the Peace of 
Westphalia onward, its estates possessed the power of contracting 
alliances, and wielded a real sovereignty alike in spiritual and in 
temporal affairs. Only the name of sovereignty was lacking. 
The princes disregarded the imperial authority just as life dis- 
regards death. Not one of the temporal states which had arisen 
upon the ruins of the ancient tribal dukedoms comprised a well- 
rounded area, not one of them represented a self-contained German 
tribe ; they all owed their existence to dynastic political arts 
which, by war and marriage, by purchase and exchange, by services 
and treasons, had assembled isolated fragments of the disintegrated 
empire and knew how to retain these in a firm grip. This domestic 
policy was a necessary outcome of the imperial constitution. The 
nation was mediatised, only the master-castes were directly repre- 
sented in the empire ; at the Reichstag it was not the states 
but the princely houses that were represented ; it was the 
creed of the princely house and not that of the people which deter- 
mined whether an estate of the empire should be reckoned Protes- 
tant or Catholic ; in a word, the imperial law knew nothing of 
states, but recognised only the land and the scions of princely 
houses. The changing events of a tumultuous history had led to 
an extraordinary confusion of territorial boundaries, and had 


History of Germany 

destroyed in the members of the German princely order, all brotherly 
sense of justice and all respect for the possessions of their fellows. 
Each coveted his neighbour's land, and was always ready to seize 
it with the help of foreign power. The land-hunger and the dynastic 
pride of the great princely houses threatened the utter destruction 
of the empire. Long did Saxony and Bavaria strive to attain the 
kingly crown ; the Palatinate desired to raise to the dignity of a 
Kingdom of the Rhine its dominions on the Lower Rhine, and thus 
to obtain supremacy in the empire. 

Nevertheless, in the life of these temporal princedoms there 
was comprised almost all which we denote to-day by the name of 
German statecraft. It remains the historic glory of our great 
nobility that the princes of Germany did not, as did the Polish 
magnates, use the power they had snatched from the national 
monarchy solely to increase the renown of their own houses, but 
expressly endeavoured to fulfil, within the limits of their narrow 
opportunities, the political duties which the empire had failed to 
undertake. The imperial house pursued its European schemes, and 
the Reichstag quarrelled about empty forms, but in the territorial 
areas there was governorship. Here alone were found care and 
protection for the laws, for the well-being, and for the culture of the 
German people. In their struggle with the House of Hapsburg 
our princes had formerly saved the treasure of German spiritual 
freedom. In the subsequent prolonged period of inglorious peace, 
there flourished that faithful electoral policy which, devoid of all 
great ideas, and anxiously shrinking from the hazards of the Euro- 
pean struggle, devoted its benevolent attention to the prosperity of 
its own narrow area of domestic rule. The territorial fragments, 
pieced together by miraculous chances, gradually grew to form an 
exiguous political community. The territories became states. In 
the narrows of their separate lives a new particularism came into 
being. The subjects of the Elector of Saxony, the inhabitants of 
the Palatinate, the Brunswick-Liineburgers, adhered faithfully 
to their respective princely houses, which so long had shared joy 
and sorrow with their little peoples. Their own happiness and that 
of their children was in the hands of their prince, while the great 
fatherland became to them no more than an obscure saga. After 
the Thirty Years' War it was, once more, not the emperor and 
the empire that helped the burghers and the peasants to reconstruct 
their devastated habitations and to save out of the great destruc- 
tion scanty fragments of their ancient well-being ; it was to their 
own Karl Ludwig that the Palatiners owed the return of happier 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

days. The temporal princedom, whose unrestrained egoism 
threatened the destruction of all the bonds of national unity, yet 
remained an active and efficient element in the life of the nation. 
If a reconstruction of united Germany were to be at all possible it 
must be on the foundation of these territorial authorities. 

In this chaos of contradictions every institution of the empire 
had lost its meaning and every law had lost its safeguards. The 
imperial house pursued its own aggrandisement at the cost of 
Germany. The honourable office of the imperial chancellorship, 
whose holders had formerly been the natural leaders of the nation in 
every constitutional struggle, gradually became hi the hands of the 
Archbishops of Mainz a pliable instrument of Austrian Catholic 
party policy. The electoral capitulations, originally designed to 
check any dynastic misuse of the imperial authority, now served 
to free from all restraint the dynastic ambitions of the territorial 
chiefs. Like the States General of the Netherlands, the Reichstag 
had effected its own transformation from an assembly of the estates 
into a Bundestag or federal diet, but never proved itself able, as did 
the States General, to construct a healthy federal life. Everywhere 
the forms of law were in conflict with the living power of history. 
The imperial constitution bestowed the right of the majority upon 
the weakest estates and forced upon the more powerful the convic- 
tion that what was given to the empire was taken from their own 
freedom. A thick fog of phrases and lies enveloped the Gothic 
ornamentation of the ancient imperial structure ; hi no state of 
the modern world was there so much pertinacious and solemn 
falsehood. The pious imperial and fatherly intimations of the 
degermanised imperial majesty, the ardent patriotic asseverations 
of the estates of the empire at a tune when they were leagued 
with the foreigner, the boastful talk of German liberty and of the 
unbowed neck of the nation everything in this activity at Ratisbon 
seems to us a colossal lie. 

After those weary days following the Peace of Augsburg, in 
which the ancient German pride was transformed into a timorous 
philistinism, there made itself manifest in our people a mean- 
spirited tendency to seek consolation for the intolerable and the 
painful, and German patience did not disdain to provide scientific 
explanation and justification even for the absurdity of this imperial 
constitution. Vainly did Samuel Puffendorf raise his warning 
voice and describe the empire truthfully as apolitical monstrosity. 
As the passions of the wars of religions gradually subsided, and the 


History of Germany 

falsity of the theocratic imperial forms ceased to be felt to any 
considerable extent in daily life, there was no disturbance in the 
passively obedient spirit of learned legalism. Certain Cesarians of 
the school of Reinkingk continued to maintain that the Holy 
Empire was an absolute monarchy and that its emperor was the 
true successor of the divine Augustus. Others, again, regarded 
with favour the weakness of the empire and the undisciplined state 
of its members as the Palladium of German freedom. The majority 
considered happy Germany to be the realisation of the ideal of the 
composite state, combining all the advantages of other constitu- 
tional forms. Not even a Leibnitz could free himself from the 
dominion of this world of dreams. 

In the sloth of a national life of this character the well-grounded 
sense of proportion, characteristic of the national genius, had begun 
to disappear. An epoch of intolerable troubles had broken the 
courage of the burghers and had accustomed the common man 
to prostrate himself before the powerful. Our free-spirited tongue 
learned to decline into a slavish obedience, and adopted that cring- 
ing phraseology which has not to this day been entirely discarded. 
The unprincipled raison d'etat of the age exercised its pernicious 
influence even on civic life. A people greedy of money competed, 
in corruption and intrigue, to secure the favour of the great ; 
hardly even in the quiet of domestic life were there preserved any 
traces of true-hearted kindliness. The nobleman, who was no longer 
able in the diet to maintain his influence against the rising power 
of the monarchy, endeavoured to secure it in other ways by 
influence at court and by misuse of the common people. Never 
in our history was the nobility more powerful, and never was it 
more injurious to the life of the nation. The conspicuous example 
of the Bourbon kingship had befooled the senses of our petty terri- 
torial chiefs, so that the estate of princes forgot its ancient 
fatherly care for the common people. The larger courts mis- 
employed the newly acquired right of forming alliances ; they 
became involved in European intrigues ; they founded splendid 
armies with marshals and generals ; and distinguished among them 
was the Elector Palatine, who was able to have an admiral upon 
his revenue-boats on the Rhine. All of them, great or small, 
endeavoured to vie in splendour with the Grand Monarque ; the 
poorest country of Western Europe soon outshone all its neigh- 
bours hi the multitude of its flaunting princely castles. There was not 
a count of the empire who could get on without his Versailles, his 
Trianon ; in the castle-garden at Weikersheim the entrance to the 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

seat of the realm of Hohenlohe was guarded by statues of the con- 
querors of the world Ninus, Cyrus, Alexander, and Csesar. Neither 
a sense of duty towards the monarchy, nor a spirit of responsibility 
towards their own order, could impose moral restraints upon the 
German princelings. Many of them regarded their empty and 
purposeless existence as a curse, and many dissipated their energies 
in unrestrained license. 

There was no place in the Old German state for a co-operation 
between the nobles and the commons, for an English Lower House. 
The Hansa League had fallen as soon as the unified national powers 
of the peoples of the west had conquered the two Indies ; the 
glorious flag which in the Middle Ages had waved victoriously over 
all the northern seas was hardly to be seen among the fleets of the 
new transatlantic traffic. The nation was as completely estranged 
from the ocean as was its imperial house. Among all the German 
writers of the eighteenth century there is but one, Eustace Moser, 
who voices the love of the sea and who knows how to prize the 
liberating power of that commerce which binds the nations to- 
gether. In the motionless atmosphere of our quiet midland life the 
joyful sea-proverb which was still to be read on the Navigation House 
in Bremen, "Navigare necesse est, vivere non necesse," sounded 
like a mockery. Colonial wares were brought up the Elbe and the 
Rhine in English and Dutch bottoms, and almost the only German 
goods in the world-market were linen and metal wares. None of 
the anciently celebrated imperial cities could maintain their historic 
position. The waters of the Trave lay idle, the overland trade came 
to an end, the history of Liibeck architecture ceased with the decline 
of Gothic, that of Augsburg architecture with the epoch of the 
Renaissance. Only in a few younger trade centres, such as Ham- 
burg and Leipzig, did a new commerce slowly become established. 
The old imperial towns shut themselves up within their walls, 
anxiously cherishing their municipal privileges and their guild 
customs, not venturing to express their views in the Reichstag, full of 
alarm at the increasing power of their princely neighbours. During 
long decades we find hardly an intimation in our history that these 
once proud communities were still alive. In the servile atmosphere 
of the new princely residences civic pride could not thrive, and 
for this reason the country, whose Hanseatic heroes had once had in 
their gift the kingly crowns of Scandinavia, now grew proverbial for 
all that was petty and poor-spirited. Germany became the spec- 
tacle, previously unknown in history, of "an ancient nation without 
a capital city. Nowhere was there a focus of the national life such 


History of Germany 

as was possessed by the neighbouring nations in London, Paris, 
Madrid, and even in Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Amsterdam. 
Nowhere was there a site upon which the party struggles of a state- 
guiding nobility and the culture and wealth of a self-conscious 
burgherdom could come into contact with a reciprocally fertilising 
influence. The energies of the nation were dispersed in endless 
subdivisions, breaking up like the German River into a thousand 
petty channels : each estate, each city, each territorial area was a 
world by itself. 

The full disgrace of this subdivision was manifested in the 
defencelessness of the realm. In the days of her greatness Germany 
had encircled her threatened eastern frontier with the iron girdle 
of the marches ever ready for war. Now, when attack was ever 
imminent from the west, the weakest, because the unarmed regions 
of the empire, lay within the grasp of the greedy hands of France. 
All along this " priests' quarter " of the Rhine, from Munster and 
Osnabriick below to Constance above, was a confusion of petty states, 
unfitted for any serious military preparation, forced into treason by 
the recognition of their own weakness. Almost all the courts of the 
Rhineland were pensioners of Versailles ; the first Rhenish federa- 
tion of 1658 was esteemed by inspired patriots a glorious under- 
taking for the safeguarding of German freedom. An area of nearly 
three thousand six hundred square miles was composed of these 
tiny states, not one of which extended over more than one 
hundred and thirty square miles. The popular wit made a 
mock of the soldiers of Cologne, who knitted their own 
stockings, and of the fierce warriors of the Bishop of Hildesheim, 
whose hats bore the inscription, " Give peace in our time, O 
Lord ! " This region of Germany a third of the land, and its 
richest portion was simply a burden in the wars of the empire. It 
remains a striking testimony to the valour of Germany that, despite 
this self-mutilation, the nation was never completely overthrown by 
the rulers of France or of Sweden. But the German realm as a 
whole hardly took a place in the second rank of the powers ; whilst 
its own limbs, more powerful than itself, were playing independent 
parts on the stage of European politics. 

The imperial constitution has the aspect of a carefully con- 
ceived system especially designed to enchain the energies of the 
most warlike of all the nations. This unnatural state of affairs 
was, in fact, only maintained hi its integrity by the watchful care of 
the entire Continent. As once by reason of its strength, so now 
by reason of its weakness, the Holy Empire remained the centre and 

Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

the foundation of the European system of states. Upon the 
impotence of Germany and Italy were established the new powers 
of Austria, France, Sweden, Denmark, and Poland ; thereupon were 
grounded also the British command of the sea and the independence 
of Switzerland and the Netherlands. The centre of the Continent 
was kept enchained by a tacit conspiracy of all the other nations. 
Foreigners made a mock of les querelles allemandes and of la mislre 
allemande, and the Frenchman Bouhours asked scornfully whether 
it were possible for a German to be a man of spirit. Never before 
had the nation been so profoundly despised by its neighbours ; it 
was only the ancient renown of the German warriors which could 
not be disputed. The political state, however, which was respon- 
sible for this general contempt of Germany was everywhere regarded 
as the essential safeguard of European peace ; and our people, 
whose reputation for national arrogance had once been as bad as is 
that of the British to-day, repeated in parrot phrases the accusa- 
tions of their jealous neighbours, and accustomed themselves 
to look upon their fatherland with the eyes of the stranger. The 
German political science of the eighteenth century enriched the old 
illusions of German freedom with the new rallying cry of the free- 
dom of Europe. All our publicists, not excepting Putter and 
Johannes Miiller, warn the peace-loving world of the destructive 
power of German unity, and conclude their praise of the Holy 
Empire with the zealous exhortation : Woe to the freedom of this 
quarter of the world if the hundreds of thousands of German 
bayonets should ever learn to obey a single master ! 

A dispensation unsearchable in its wisdom chastises the nations 
by those very gifts which they have so scandalously misused. 
From very early days a many-sided and cosmopolitan broad- 
mindedness was secured for our people by its position in the world, 
by its inborn disposition, and by the course of history. The German 
nation was endowed with a natural understanding of the Latin 
world ; the Romance nationalities were established by German 
conquerors upon the ruins of Roman civilisation ; the Germans 
were closely akin by blood to the English and to the Scandinavians, 
and had been from of old made intimately acquainted with the 
Slavs by war and commerce ; during the Middle Ages, as a midland 
people, they received civilisation from the south and the west, 
and handed it on to the north and the east. Thus the Germans 
became the most cosmopolitan of all the nations, even more recep- 
tive of foreign ideas than their companions in fate, the Italians. 
The impulse towards what was afar off became for us a destiny, 

25 c 

History of Germany 

wherein lay at once the curse and the greatness of German life. The 
centuries of plans for German world-dominion were succeeded by 
an epoch of passive cosmopolitanism. The midland people received 
the commands of all the world. As estates of the empire, or as 
sponsors of peace, the great princes of Europe belonged to the 
German empire and thus controlled its life. But the nation, becom- 
ing familiarised with foreign dominion, cleaved with German fidelity 
to the foreign flags. Particularist obscurity, a preference for the 
foreign neighbour over the neighbour who was akin by blood, 
flourished nowhere so luxuriantly as in the German provinces 
belonging to foreign princes. The Holsteiner prided himself upon 
his Danebrog ; the Stralsunder rejoiced in the glory of the three 
crowns, and compassionated the Pomeranian of Brandenburg whose 
ruler wore a mere electoral hat ; the successors of the conquerors 
of the Vistula region, the proud families of the Huttens, the Oppens, 
and the Rosenbergs, took Polish names, and, rejoicing in the freedom 
of the Sarmatian nobility, ridiculed the marchland despotism of the 
Prussian Duchy. 

The old adventurous love of wandering remained, however, 
unconquerable hi our active-minded race. For fully three cen- 
turies, so long as the employment of mercenary troops continued, 
a stream of German soldiers flowed into every country. The noise 
of German blows was heard on every battle-field of Europe, before 
the walls of Athens no less than in the green isle of Erin. The 
flags of France, Sweden, and Holland, and the hardly less un- 
Germaii imperial service, were regarded as more honourable than 
the dull uniformity of garrison life at home : on his death-bed the 
trusty old blade adjured his son to gain glory for his house and riches 
for himself in the service of foreign crowns. The German regiments 
of Bernard of Weimar formed the nucleus of the unconquerable 
armies which were led to victory by Turenne and Conde; it 
was in the German school that our neighbours learned how to 
fight us. To foreign climes, also, was withdrawn a long series of 
German statesmen, physicians, merchants, and men of learning 
vigorous offshoots of the German stock, lost for ever to the father- 
land. A spectacle at once dismal and imposing was this titanic 
excess of energy of a people given over to the stranger. Every 
attempt to write our history must remain altogether defective if it 
fails to do justice to these workings of the German spirit and of 
the German arms that were dispersed throughout the world. At 
the very time when France was conquering the western marches 
of the Holy Empire, Peter the Great was creating the new Russian 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

state with the aid of German energies. Even the princely houses 
were seized by the national migratory impulse ; every ambitious 
German court sought to establish itself on some foreign throne, 
and the imperial house favoured this tendency in order to promote 
the removal of troublesome rivals from within the empire. Ulti- 
mately all the crowns of Europe, except those of Piedmont and the 
Bourbon states, fell into the hands of princes of German stock ; 
but the acquirement of this masterful position by the leaders of 
our nobility served only to strengthen the centrifugal tendencies 
within the realm, to enslave the German state all the more firmly 
to the will of the outer world. 

Over this decayed life of the community there was spread the 
glamour of a history dating back from a thousand years. A tradi- 
tion, never once interrupted, connected to-day with yesterday. 
Anyone well versed in the history of the empire was a skilful counsel 
in the lawsuits of his own day ; when the young lawyer Wolfgang 
Goethe was gaining from Datt's folios scientific instruction con- 
cerning the public peace and the legal procedure of the empire, he 
could see the honest figure of the Ritter Goetz von Berlichingen, 
seated sturdily upon the penitent's bench. Always the imperial 
constitution remained the one and only bond of political unity for 
our disintegrated people. In the very last year of the effective 
life of that constitution, the Hamburg publicist Gaspari wrote : 
" Through the emperor alone we are free ; without him we should 
no longer be Germans." Through its unwieldy forms there con- 
tinued to find expression that ancient Teutonic idea of the state 
which even in the very earliest days of our history had manifested 
the moral earnestness and the love of freedom of the Germans : 
the imperial authority was protector of the common peace, and was 
thus honourable even in its decay. The people could never com- 
pletely lose a sense of unity so long as they continued to live under 
a common law, and so long as the national community of spirit was 
displayed at once in the science of jurisprudence and in the practice 
of the courts. Even when the common law became gradually over- 
grown by particularist legal forms, the national form of legal 
procedure remained established, and the empire secured for the 
nation the independence and high position of the judges. Every 
right in the empire ultimately rested upon the rights of the em- 
peror ; one who resisted the imperial majesty had the ground cut 
from under his feet. " If I hold to the emperor, I shall remain 
elector, and my son will be elector after me ! " such were the 
words with which the temporising George William of Brandenburg 


History of Germany 

rejected the advances of Gustavus Adolphus. Throughout the 
following century the same consideration stood in the way of every 
bold resolution, whenever a revolutionary will declared itself, 
whenever there was manifest a desire to cut new paths through 
this overgrown wilderness of imperial law, at once so natural 
and so unnatural. The policy of foreign nations and that of the 
House of Austria, the self-interest and the mutual jealousies of the 
smaller courts, the balance of political forces and the interests of 
a social order hastening to destruction, cosmopolitanism and dreams 
of German freedom, the legalist spirit and ancient custom, the 
force of sloth and German fidelity all these things combined 
to maintain the established order. In the middle of the eighteenth 
century, in the general opinion of the world, the Holy Empire was 
secure for a future of which no one could foresee the end. 


Upon the foundation of this imperial law and of its structure 
of territorial states, and yet in sharp contrast with both, the Prus- 
sian state came into existence. The vigorous will of the North 
German tribes gave them from the earliest times a superiority 
in state-constructive energy over the softer and wealthier popula- 
tion of High Germany. Only so long as the crown was in Saxon 
hands did the German monarchy remain a vigorous kingship ; its 
power declined in the hands of the Franconians and of the Swabians, 
chiefly in consequence of the haughty disobedience of the Saxon 
princes. Then there arose in Low Germany the two powerful 
political creations of the later Middle Ages the Hansa League and 
the Order of Teutonic Knights, both independent of the imperial 
authority and often at enmity with it. The north was the cradle 
of the Reformation. It was against the resistance of the North 
Germans that the Spanish dominion shattered itself ; and, after the 
un-German policy of the Hapsburgs had evoked dualism in the 
empire, the north was the chief home of the German opposition. 
In the course of the seventeenth century the leadership of this 
opposition passed to the Hohenzollerns from the unready hands of 
the Wettins. The centre of gravity of German politics moved to 
the north-east. 

There, in the marches beyond the Elbe, a new North German 
tribe had come into existence, consisting in part of the conquering 
Lower Saxon stock, in part of immigrants from all the German- 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

speaking lands, but containing also a slight admixture of the 
blood of the old Wendish indigenes. Hard were they, and 
weather-proof, steeled by toil on a niggardly land, fortified 
too by the unceasing combats of a frontier life, able and 
independent after the manner of colonists, accustomed to regard 
their Slav neighbours with the contempt of a dominant race, 
as rugged and incisive as was compatible with the genial and 
jovial solidity of the Low German character. Three times had 
this sorely tried land begun the rough journeyman's work of 
civilisation : first of all, when the Ascanian conquerors cleared 
the pine-forests around the lakes of the Havel and built their 
towns, fortresses, and monasteries in the lands of the Wends ; 
next, at the beginning of the fifteenth century, when the first of the 
Hohenzollerns laboriously re-established the peace and well-being 
that had been destroyed by the Bavario-Lutzelburg dominion ; 
and now once again had Brandenburg suffered from the horrors 
of the Thirty Years' War, suffered more severely than the rest of 
Germany, so that it was necessary to begin the work of civilisation 

Throughout the Middle Ages the rough customs of this needy 
frontier-land gave it an evil reputation in the empire. The sands 
of the marches have provided never a saint for the Roman Calen- 
dar ; very rarely did a minnesong make itself heard in the rude 
courts of the Ascanian Margraves. The industrious Cistercians of 
Lehnin laboured rather to acquire the reputation of diligent farmers 
than to win fame in art and learning ; the sturdy burghers in the 
towns of the Mark passed their lives in rough and homely toil, and 
it was only the men of Prenzlau who could compare their Marien- 
kirche with the fine buildings of the rich towns on the Baltic. It 
was solely in warlike energy and vigorous ambition that the state 
of the Brandenburgs was pre-eminent over its neighbours ; even 
in the days of the Ascanians and of the Lutzenburgers, plans were 
several times conceived for the foundation of a great north-eastern 
power in this favourable position between the Elbe and the Oder, 
between the petty states of Mecklenburg, Pomerania, and Silesia. 
Still more exalted seemed the prospects of the Mark when the 
burgraves of Nuremberg received the electoral hat ; Frederick I 
was the leader of the German princes in the reform movement 
in empire and Church, Albrecht Achill the admired leader of the 
knightly nobility in their struggles with the towns. At the same 
time within the state there began a bold and firm monarchical policy. 
The Mark received, at the hand of Frederick I, the gift of public 


History of Germany 

peace, and enjoyed it before the Holy Empire; in the Mark earlier 
than in other lands of the empire the indivisibility of the state 
received legal expression in the laws of Albrecht Achill. The 
nobility and the towns bowed their stubborn necks before the will 
of the three first Hohenzollerns. But the early promises were not 
fulfilled in the immediate sequel. The successors of these heroes 
of lofty aims soon relapsed into the narrow comfort of German 
electoral policy. They lost the barely acquired sovereign authority, 
which for the most part passed once more to the diet ; for good or 
for ill they made terms with their overbearing territorial nobles ; 
like all the more powerful princes of the empire they endeavoured 
to safeguard their administration and the legal rights of their 
country against every onslaught of the imperial authority, remain- 
ing the while well disposed and loyal to the imperial house ; late 
and with hesitation did they enter the Lutheran Church, preferring 
to abandon the leadership of the Protestant parties to the Electorates 
of Saxony and of the Palatinate. 

With good reason does King Frederick remark in the memoirs 
of his house, that, just as a river first becomes of value when it is 
navigable, so does the history of Brandenburg first become pro- 
foundly significant towards the beginning of the seventeenth cen- 
tury. Not until the days of the Elector John Sigismund were 
three things effected which assured for the Mark a great future, a 
development differing fundamentally from the life of the other 
lands of the empire : the union with Brandenburg of the secularised 
Teutonic Ordensland; the adhesion of the princely house to the 
Reformed Church ; and, finally, the acquirement of the frontier 
regions of the Lower Rhine. 

Other princes of the empire, Catholics as well as Protestants, 
had indeed enlarged their power by acquiring the possessions of the 
ancient Church. But in the Ordensland the policy of the German 
Protestants made its boldest seizure ; on the advice of Luther, 
Albrecht Hohenzollern snatched from the Roman Church the 
greatest of its ecclesiastical territories. The whole area of the new 
Duchy of Prussia was spoil taken from the Church ; the rebellious 
princes who effected this rape incurred the ban of the Pope and 
of the emperor. The seizure never received the recognition of 
the Roman See. When the Hohenzollerns of the Mark united the 
ducal crown of their Prussian cousins with their own electoral hat 
they broke for ever with the Roman Church ; henceforward their 
state must stand or fall with Protestantism. At the same time 
John Sigismund made his personal adhesion to the reformed faith 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

He thus laid the foundation for the subsequent union of his house 
with the heroic race of Orange, emerging from the deplorable sloth 
of a torpid Lutheranism into the fellowship of that Church which 
alone pursued with warlike courage the political ideas of the Refor- 
mation. In the Mark the Calvinistic ruler held sway over a 
stubborn Lutheran people ; in Prussia Lutherans and Catholics, 
and hi the lands of the Lower Rhine the adherents of all three of 
the great Churches of Germany, lived in a variegated assembly. 
Threatened by the religious hatred of its own subjects, the princely 
house was constrained to extend an equal tolerance to all the 
ecclesiastical parties. Thus originated the peculiar duplex atti- 
tude of the Hohenzollerns towards our ecclesiastical life : with 
the fall of the power of the Palatinate they became the leaders of 
militant Protestantism in the empire, but had also to represent the 
fundamental idea of the new German civilisation freedom of 
religious belief. As early as the days of John Sigismund some of 
the imperial statesmen declared, with the keen insight of hatred, 
that it was greatly to be dreaded that the Brandenburgs would 
now become the leaders of the whole Protestant party. 

Together with the Prussian ducal crown the House of Hohen- 
zollern acquired that proud colony of united Germany which had 
been watered with the blood of all the German tribes even more 
richly than the Mark, and which could boast a greater and more 
heroic history than any other territorial region in the empire ; here, 
in the " New Germany," the Teutonic knights had once built up 
the Baltic great power of the Middle Ages. This remote frontier- 
land, continually threatened by the enmity of the Polish nobles 
and by that of its Scandinavian and Muscovite neighbours, involved 
the state of the Hohenzollerns in the confused struggles of the 
northern territorial systems. Thus when John Sigismund planted 
his foot firmly on the shores of the Baltic, he simultaneously 
acquired the Duchy of Cleves as well as the counties of Mark and 
Ravensberg, a region of trifling extent, but one of great import- 
ance alike to the internal development and to the foreign policy of 
the state. These were regions of ancient and faithfully guarded 
yeoman and city freedoms, wealthier and more highly civilised 
than the needy colonies of the east, invaluable frontier posts on the 
weakest border of Germany. In Vienna and in Madrid it was 
regarded as a serious reverse that a new Protestant power should 
establish itself upon the Lower Rhine where the Spaniards and 
the Netherlander were fighting for the existence or non-existence 
of Protestantism should establish itself under the very gates of 

Cologne, the central stronghold of Romanism in the empire. Ir 
its fifteen hundred square miles the young state included almosi 
all the ecclesiastical, territorial, and feudal contrasts which fillec 
the Holy Empire with open strife : with legs wide-straddled 
like the Colossus of Rhodes, this state stood over the Germar 
lands, its feet planted on the threatened frontiers of the Rhine anc 
of the Niemen. 

A power in such a situation could no longer remain confinec 
within the narrow circle of German territorial policy. It wa; 
constrained to attempt to round off its dispersed provinces int< 
a more tenable shape ; it was compelled to negotiate and to figh 
on behalf of the empire, for every attack upon German soil mad< 
by the foreigner involved a wound of its own flesh. And yei 
towards the imperial authority this state, ruling over Germai 
land alone, occupied a position of fortunate independence. Fo: 
those estates of the empire, whose dominions were entirely com 
prised within the frontiers of the empire, it was always a matte: 
of difficulty to conduct an independent European policy. Othe: 
princely houses, whose acquirement of foreign crowns had with- 
drawn them from the shackles of the imperial constitution, wen 
lost to German life. The House of Brandenburg, too, received 
many alluring appeals from distant lands : opportunities foi 
dominion in Sweden, in Poland, in the Netherlands, in England; 
seemed to offer. The force of circumstances, however, in ever> 
case led the reasonable discretion of the princely house to with- 
stand these dangerous temptations. A fortunate Providence 
(for to the serious mind this cannot seem a matter of chance) com- 
pelled the Hohenzollerns to remain in Germany. They had no need 
of foreign crowns, for they owed their independent position in the 
community of states to the possession of the Duchy of Prussia, a 
German region to the core, bound to the motherland by all the roots 
of its life, and at the same time outside the legal union of the empire, 
Thus with one foot in the empire and the other outside, the Prus- 
sian state acquired the right of conducting a foreign policy which 
could pursue none but German ends. This state could take 
thought for Germany without troubling about the empire and its 
outworn forms. 

It is not permissible to the historian to deduce the present 
from the past, the future from the present, after the simple manner 
of the natural philosopher. Man makes history. The advantages 
of the situation become effective in the national life only through 
the conscious will of those who know how to avail themselves ol 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

these advantages. Once more the state of the Hohenzollerns fell 
from its hardly acquired position of power ; it moved towards 
disaster so long as George William, the successor of John Sigis- 
mund, looked sleepily over the world out of his heavy eyes. It 
appeared as if this new attempt at the upbuilding of a German state 
was again to end in the pettiness of particularism, as had happened 
before, in the case of the Guelphs, the Wettins, the Palatiners, 
whose power had seemed to establish itself under far more favour- 
able auspices. Then came the Elector Frederick William, a landless 
prince, the greatest German of his day, thrusting himself with a 
vigorous impetus into the desert of German life, to inspire the 
slumbering forces of his state with the might of his will. Never 
since that time has the strength of the purposive monarchical will 
of the developing German power known any decline. We can 
conceive English history without William III, we can conceive 
French history without Richelieu ; the Prussian state is the work of 
its princes. There are few other countries in which monarchy has 
so continually preserved the two virtues upon which its greatness 
depends : a bold and far-seeing idealism which sacrifices the con- 
venience of to-day to the greatness of to-morrow ; and that strong 
sense of justice which ever constrains self-interest in the service 
of the whole. It was only the wide vision of the monarchy that 
could recognise in these poverty-stricken territorial fragments the 
foundation-stones of a new great power. It was only in the sense 
of duty to the crown, in the idea of the monarchical state, that the 
mutually hostile tribes and estates, parties and churches, which 
were comprised within this microcosm of German life, could find 
protection and peace. 

Even in the earliest j*ears of the Great Elector the peculiarities 
of the new German power became plainly manifest. The nephew 
of Gustavus Adolphus, who led his young army to battle with the 
ancient Protestant warcry " With God," took over the ecclesias- 
tical policy of his uncle. He was the first to find the saving solu- 
tion for the quarrels of the Churches, demanding a general and 
unconditional amnesty for all three confessions. This was the 
programme of the Peace of Westphalia. But the toleration ex- 
tended by the Hohenzollerns in the interior of their own dominion 
went far beyond the prescriptions of this Peace. In accordance 
with the imperial law Brandenburg was recognised as a Protes- 
tant estate, and yet this was the first state in Europe in which 
complete religious freedom was secured. In the Netherlands the 
multiplicity of unassociated sects was dependent simply upon 


History of Germany 

anarchy, upon the weakness of the state ; but here freedom of 
conscience rested upon the laws of a powerful state-organisation 
which would not allow itself to be deprived of its right to super- 
vise the Churches. In the other territories of Germany there 
still everywhere existed one dominant Church, whose power 
was restricted only in so far as it was unable altogether to forbid 
the other creeds to hold religious services ; in Brandenburg the 
throne stood free above all the Churches and protected their 
equality. While Austria was forcibly expelling its best Germans, 
an unparalleled hospitality threw open the frontiers of Branden- 
burg to the toleration of every belief. How many thousand times 
in the Mark was uplifted the hymn of gratitude of the Bohemian 
exiles : 

" Thy people, else in darkness, by error quite surrounded, 
Finds here abundant house-room, secure, on freedom grounded 1 " 

When Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, the Lord of 
Brandenburg, as spokesman of the Protestant world, set himself 
in bold opposition, and in his Edict of Potsdam offered protection 
and shelter to the children of the martyr-Church. Wherever the 
flames of the ancient religious hatred weie still raging among the 
German people, the work of the Hohenzollerns was one of guar- 
dianship and reconciliation. They summoned to the Spree the 
Jewry of Vienna ; via facti, and without asking the leave of the 
empire, they secured the Protestants of Heidelberg in the pos- 
session of their churches ; for the Protestants of Salzburg they 
provided a new home in East Prussia. Thus into the unpeopled 
eastern Mark there streamed year after year an abundance of young 
life ; the German blood which the Hapsburgs rejected fertilised 
the land of their rival. At the death of Frederick II about one- 
third of the population of the state was made up of the offspring 
of immigrants who had found their way into the country since the 
days of the Great Elector. 

It was this Church policy of the Hohenzollerns which closed the 
epoch of the religious wars, ultimately compelling the best of the 
temporal princes to follow in Brandenburg's footsteps, and at the 
same time depriving the spiritual estates of the last justification 
for existence for why should there be any more spiritual princes 
of the empire now that freedom was assured to the Catholic Church 
beneath the wings of the Prussian eagle ? By the Peace of 
Westphalia Frederick William acquired the great foundations of 
Magdeburg, Halberstadt, Minden, and Kammin. No other state in 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

Germany was so greatly enriched by the goods of the Roman Church ; 
yet the seizure was justified, for therewith were also taken over the 
great tasks of civilisation which the Church of the Middle Ages 
had of old performed for the immature state the duty of providing 
for the poor and the work of popular education. The same need 
for self-preservation which compelled the Hohenzollerns to main- 
tain peace between Catholics and Protestants, forced them also 
to mediate between the antagonisms within the Protestant 
Church. From the time when John Sigismund first forbade the 
Lutheran zealots to fulminate against the Calvinists, the idea of 
Protestant union became characteristic of the Prussian state ; 
and what had been begun simply from necessity became ulti- 
mately a political tradition, became a matter of principle with the 
princely house. 

Just as the Prussian state secured for the Germans peace 
between the Churches and enabled Germany to take part once 
more in the activities of the civilised nations, so also did Prussia 
restore what had been lacking since the opening of the days of 
religious discord a coherent will against the foreign world. 
Throughout Germany abundant energies were failing to find an 
outlet in the narrow spheres that were open to them, so that 
anyone with lofty ambitions hastened to some foreign country ; 
then came Frederick William to grasp in his resolute hand the 
scanty resources of the poorest region in Germany, compelling 
his people to serve their own homeland, and showing Europe once 
more the might of the German sword. The empire lived upon 
ancient memories, preserving in the new Europe the political 
forms of the Middle Ages ; but this North German power was 
firmly rooted in the modern world; its vigorous state-authority 
rose above the ruins of the old ecclesiastical dominion and above 
the ancient rights of the estates ; it lived through the troubles of 
the present with eyes fixed on schemes for a great future. 
With a single blow, Frederick William made for his despised little 
territory a place in the ranks of the European powers, so that, after 
the battle of Warsaw, Brandenburg could stand side by side with 
the ancient military states. This strongly -unified and warlike power 
appeared to rise suddenly, like a new-made volcanic island, out of 
the raging sea of conflicting sovereignties in Germany, and before 
the wondering gaze of a people which had long ceased to believe 
in rapid resolve and high endeavour. So vigorously blew the fresh 
breeze of purposive political will through the history of the new 
Prussian state, so tensely and vigorously were all the muscles of 


History of Germany 

its people turned to work, so gross appeared the disproportion 
between ambition and means, that to friend and foe alike it seemed 
for a century and a half that Prussia could be no more than an 
artificial venture. The world regarded as the chance creation of 
a few favourites of fortune, what was in reality the necessary 
reconstruction of the ancient national state of the Germans. 

In the great struggles for power of the European world, no less 
than in the contests between the creeds within the German borders, 
Prussia maintained a difficult intermediate position. So long as 
Protestant Germany had remained prostrate and lacked the will 
to arise, Europe consisted of two distinct state-systems which 
rarely came into contact. The powers of the south and the west 
were fighting for the dominion of Italy and for the Rhenish Bur- 
gundian lands, while the powers of the north and the east disputed 
for the ruined fragments of the Teutonic Ordensland, and for the 
command of the Baltic Sea, the legacy of the Hanseatic League. 
There was only one desire that was common to the east and to the 
west, and this was to keep ever open the terrible abyss that yawned 
in the middle of the Continent. Now uprose the youngest power of 
Germany, greatly mocked as " the realm of the long borders." 
Belonging to the European system, its dispersed provinces touched 
the boundaries of all the great powers of the Continent. As soon 
as Prussia began to move with an independent will the powers 
of the west were involved in the affairs of the east, and the interests 
of the two state-systems became ever more frequently and closely 

The born opponent of the old order of Europe, established 
upon Germany's weakness, Prussia stood in a world of enemies, 
whose jealousies were her only salvation stood without a single 
natural ally, for elsewhere in the German nation there was as yet 
no understanding of the significance of this young force. This, 
too, was in the time of that hard statecraft in which the state was 
the mere incorporation of power, regarding the destruction of its 
neighbours as a natural duty. Just as the House of Savoy won 
through against the preponderant power of the Hapsburgs and the 
Bourbons, so also, but in far more difficult circumstances, must 
Prussia cut a way for herself between Austria and France, between 
Sweden and Poland, between the sea-powers and the inert mass 
of the German empire, availing herself of all the means furnished by 
a reckless egoism, ever ready for a change of front, ever with two 
strings to her bow. 

To its very marrow, electoral Brandenburg came to realise 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

the extent to which foreign elements had eaten their way into 
Germany. All the unbridled forces of feudal licence which strove 
against the strict rule of the new monarchy looked for support 
to foreign aid. Dutch garrisons were established along the Lower 
Rhine and favoured the struggle of the estates of Cleves against 
the German suzerain ; the diets of Magdeburg and of the Electoral 
Mark looked for help to Austria ; the nobles of Konigsberg, Polish 
in their sympathies, appealed to the Polish overlord for help against 
the despotism of the Mark. In the struggle against foreign 
dominion, the national unity of these dispersed provinces and 
the repute of their ruler became established. Frederick William 
destroyed the barrier of the Netherlands in the German north- 
west, and drove the Dutch troops out of Cleves and East Frisia ; 
he liberated Old Prussia from the Polish feudal suzerainty, and 
forced the diet of Konigsberg to accept his own lordship. Then 
he made his appeal to the deaf nation in the words, " Remember 
that you are German!", and endeavoured to expel the Swedes 
from the realm. Twice the disfavour of France and Austria served 
to deprive the Brandenburger of the reward of his victories and to 
cheat him of his dominion in Pomerania ; but none could rob 
him of the glory of the day of Fehrbellin. At length, after long 
decades of shame, there came a brilliant triumph of German arms 
over the first military power of the age, and the world learned that 
Germany could once more dare to assert her rights. The inheritor 
of the^German ecclesiastical policy of Gustavus Adolphus, destroyed 
the daring structure of the Scandinavian Baltic Empire which 
had been established by the sword of the King of Sweden. 
The two artificial powers of the seventeenth century, Sweden and 
Holland, began to withdraw within their natural borders, and the 
new state which arose in their place displayed neither the licentious 
lust of conquest of the Swedish military power nor the monopoly- 
seeking mercantile spirit of the Netherlands. It was German ; it 
was satisfied to protect its own domain ; and to the plans of the 
Bourbon for world-dominion it opposed the ideas of the Euro- 
pean balance of power and of freedom for the nations. When the 
Republic of the Netherlands seemed likely to succumb before the 
onslaught of Louis XIV, Brandenburg boldly attacked the con- 
queror. Frederick William conducted the one serious campaign 
ventured by the empire for the reconquest of Alsace ; and on 
his death-bed he concerted with his nephew of Orange the plan 
for the rescue of Protestant and parliamentary England from the 
arbitrary rule of the Stuarts, the vassals of Louis. Wherever this 


History of Germany 

young power stood alone its campaigns were victorious, but it was 
everywhere unfortunate when Prussia was forced to involve itself 
in the confusions of the imperial army. 

Thus in its very inception the new structure of the state 
showed itself a European necessity. At length Germany had again 
found one who could extend the empire. With the rise of Prussia 
there began the long and bloody task of the liberation of Germany 
from foreign dominion. Despoiled by its neighbours for centuries 
past, the empire now saw for the first time the foreign powers yield- 
ing back a few fragments of German ground. In this single state 
of Prussia there reawakened, though still but half-conscious and 
as if drunken from prolonged slumber, the ancient stout-hearted 
pride in the fatherland. The faithful landsfolk of the County 
Mark began the little war against the French ; the peasants 
of East Prussia put the Swedes to headlong flight. When the 
peasant Landwehr of the Altmark, guarding the Elbe-dike against 
the Swedes, wrote upon their flags, " We are peasants of little 
wealth, and serve our gracious elector and prince with goods 
and blood," the disjointed words breathed the same heroic spirit 
as that which of old, in days of greater freedom, was voiced by 
the warcry, " With God for King and Fatherland." 

Whilst the power of the Hapsburgs was extending beyond the 
limits of Germany, by the continuous control of destiny the state 
of the Hohenzollerns pressed ever deeper into the inner current 
of German life, at times against the will of its chief. Frederick 
William never ceased to regret his inability to maintain, against the 
opposition of Austria and Sweden, his hereditary Pomeranian claims 
in the Peace of Westphalia. As King of the Vandals he hoped to 
rule the Baltic from the harbour of Stettin, but was forced to content 
himself with the Saxon- Westphalian Church lands as a substitute 
for the mouths of the Oder. Yet this diplomatic reverse was in 
reality advantageous to the state, which was thus preserved from a 
half-German separate life on the Baltic, so that its central posi- 
tion was strengthened, and it was forced to take part in all the 
negotiations of internal German policy. Moreover, the whole of 
North Germany was overlaid with a network of agreements respect- 
ing hereditary claims which had been concluded during past 
centuries by the far-seeing House of Hohenzollern. Any day 
the fortune of death might bring some new enlargement to the 
ambitious power. 

The House of Hapsburg recognised, even earlier than the 
Hohenzollerns themselves, how dangerous to the ancient consti- 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

tution of the Holy Empire was the growth of this modern North 
German state. Although electoral Saxony still bore the title of 
Director Corporis Evangelicorum, Prussia was the real leader of 
German Protestantism; its monarchical order threatened the 
whole structure of feudal and theocratic institutions which supported 
the imperial crown ; its powerful army and its independent appear- 
ance in the community of states, threatened the traditional system 
of imperial domestic policy. In Silesia, in Pomerania, in the 
dispute about the Jiilich-Cleves inheritance everywhere, filled 
with misgivings, Austria encountered this dangerous rival. All the 
imperial princes regarded with as much suspicion as was felt by 
the court of Vienna, this restless state which threatened to 
embrace the whole of the German north. Whenever a bold venture 
was undertaken there arose throughout Germany a cry of alarm 
concerning " the Brandenburg dominion thrusting itself yet 
further into the realm." When the great Elector expelled the 
Swedes from Diippel and Alsen, the princes of the west combined 
with the crown of France to constitute the first Confederation of the 
Rhine, for the protection of the Swedish realm. Since the imperial 
house still exercised through the Breisgau and Upper Swabia a 
military control over the whole of Southern Germany, in the South 
German courts the dread of Austria's land-hunger was at times 
greater than anxiety regarding distant Brandenburg ; but ulti- 
mately all the smaller princes came to consider the imperial 
court a great conservative force, whereas this newcomer in the 
north was separated from the ancient order of German affairs by 
a profound and irreconcilable opposition. 

Thus the nation regarded the rise of the state of the Hohen- 
zollerns with a hatred and alarm similar to that which had of 
old been inspired in the Italian tribes by the conquests of Rome. 
The free spirits of the time were already beginning to turn towards 
the ideas of modern absolutism ; but the mass of the people still 
cleaved to the ancient and traditional feudal forms which it was 
the mission of the House of Brandenburg to abolish. Some of the 
warlike deeds of Frederick William aroused, indeed, the admiration 
of his contemporaries ; after his bold march from the Rhine to the 
Rhyn he was greeted for the first time by the name of " the Great " 
in the Alsatian folk-song. But such exalted moods were of brief 
duration. The arrogant member that set itself up against the 
empire, and yet was unable to cffer the nation a substitute for the 
crumbling ancient order, was regarded with rage and hatred ; 
Leibnitz, the inspired imperial patriot, declared, in an eloquent 


History of Germany 

memoir, that the Brandenburger must be punished by his peers 
because he had led his army single-handed against the French for 
the rescue of Holland. In this race, that was still lacking true 
political insight, no one perceived that the leadership of sundered 
peoples necessarily falls to that section among them which takes 
upon itself the duties of the whole. All the more distressing, 
therefore, became the vague foreboding that this active power must 
be destroyed if it were not to expand to the detriment of the rest ; 
and even as in the Middle Ages the popular wit was always directed 
against that German tribe which happened to be inspired by the 
thought of national unity, so now particularist anxiety and parti- 
cularist self-complacence displayed their ridicule against the Marks. 

The people mocked the poverty of the " sandbox " of a Holy 
Empire, mocked the Brandenburg despotism ; the burghers of Stettin 
fought desperately to preserve for their good town the advantages 
of Swedish freedom, and to protect it from the yoke of the men of 
blood from the Mark. The particularism of all the estates and of all 
the provinces learned with horror that the Great Elector forced 
his subjects to live as " members of one body," that he imposed 
upon the dispersed dominion of the diets the commands of the 
supreme central authority, and that he based his throne upon 
the two pillars of monarchical dominion, the miles perpetuus and 
permanent taxation. In the popular view, troops and taxes still 
seemed extraordinary burdens, for days of special need. Frederick 
William made the army a permanent institution, and weakened 
the power of the separate estates of his realm by the introduction 
of two taxes of general application : a general land tax in the 
country and an excise in the towns, a manifold system of small 
direct and indirect contributions, adapted to the poverty of the 
exhausted national economy, and impinging upon the taxable 
capacity to the widest possible extent. Throughout the empire 
there was one common voice of disapprobation against these 
first beginnings of the modern military and fiscal systems. 
From the first days of its independent history, Prussia was the 
best-hated of all the German states ; the imperial lands which 
passed under the control of this princely house entered the new 
community of states in almost every case amid loud complaints 
and violent resistance, and yet all of them soon congratulated 
themselves on their new lot. 

The terrible and hopeless confusion of German conditions, the 
hereditary respect of the Hohenzollerns for the imperial house, and 
the domestic needs of their own state, surrounded as it was by 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

powerful enemies, made it impossible for many decades for the old 
and the new Germany to come into open conflict each with the other. 
Frederick William lived and worked in the hope of imperial reform. 
With all the fiery impetuosity of his heroic nature, at the first 
Reichstag after the Peace of Westphalia, he pressed for that redraft- 
ing of the imperial constitution which had been promised at Osna- 
briick. When this plan came to nothing, George Frederick of 
Waldeck conceived the venturesome idea, that the Hohenzollern 
himself should impose a new order upon the empire. He sug- 
gested that there should be constituted a league of German 
princes under the hegemony of the enlarged Brandenburg state. 
The times, however, were not yet ripe. The Elector left his bold 
adviser in the lurch, for he was forced to meet a more immediate 
need, and to form an alliance with the emperor against the Swedes ; 
subsequently he even abandoned the long-cherished plan of the 
conquest of Silesia because he needed the help of Austria in his 
struggle with France. Yet the way had been disclosed, and every 
new disturbance of German life led the Prussian state back to 
the twofold idea of the enlargement of its own dominion and of 
a federal hegemony. 

Frederick William's successor brought to his house with the 
kingly crown a worthy place in the society of the European powers, 
and he gave to his people the common name of Prussians. It was 
only the need and the hope of Prussia's armed help that decided 
the imperial court to accede the new honour to its rival. A 
shudder went through the theocratic world : electoral Mainz 
protested, the Teutonic Order demanded the restoration of the 
ancient possession which now gave its name to the heretic king- 
dom, and, for a century yet to come, the Papal Almanack continued 
to recognise nothing more than the " Margrave " of Brandenburg. 
To the grandson of Frederick I, the possession of a kingly crown, 
with all the claims necessarily attaching to this position, seemed 
a serious warning of the need for increasing the power and inde- 
pendence of his state. But the weak spirit of the first king knew 
little of such pride. A loyal imperial prince, he served the imperial 
house, and fought in knightly fashion on the Rhine, in the artless 
hope that the emperor would recover the fortress of Strasburg ; 
he helped the Hapsburgs to beat the Turks, allowed his army for 
a scanty pay to fight as an accessory force of Austria, and permitted 
his naval forces to take part in the war of the Spanish succession. 
It was then that the French first learned to dread the Prussian 
infantry as the nucleus of the German army ; but the Berlin court 

41 D 

History of Germany 

played no part in the political conduct of the war. While the brave 
soldiers of Prussia were gaining fruitless renown in the campaigns 
of Hungary, the Netherlands, High Germany, and Italy, Sweden 
was carrying on a struggle of despair against the powers of the 
north ; but Prussia failed to take advantage of its central position, 
and thus to bring the northern war to a decisive conclusion by a bold 
diversion of its forces from the Rhine to the Oder. Laboriously 
must Frederick William I subsequently pay for his father's mis- 
takes in order, out of the shipwreck of the Swedish empire, to 
save for Germany at least the mouths of the Oder. 

From of old the Hohenzollerns, in accordance with the sound 
custom of the German princes, had paid careful attention to the 
ideal aims of the life of the state ; it was they who founded the 
universities of Frankfort and Konigsberg, and re-established that 
of Duisburg. And now, under the tolerant rule of the free-handed 
Frederick and his philosophical queen, it seemed as if the re- 
awakening art and science of Germany were finding their home in 
rude Brandenburg. The four great reforming thinkers of the age, 
Leibnitz, Puffendorf, Thomasius, and Spener turned towards the 
Prussian state. The new university at Halle became the centre 
of free investigation, assuming for several decades the leadership 
of Protestant science, and filling the gap which had been left by 
the destruction of the old university of Heidelberg. The poverty- 
stricken capital became adorned with the gorgeous architectural 
work of Schliitcr ; the court, greedy of fame as a patron of the arts, 
endeavoured to outshine the hated Bourbons. Yet the frivolous 
self-glorification of courtly despotism remained ever foreign to the 
House of Hohenzollern ; the luxury of Frederick I lagged far 
behind the reckless extravagance of the Saxon Augustus. The 
charms of sin were not felt by the heavy North German nature ; 
again and again, and often in ludicrous contrast, the earnest and 
sober northern characteristics broke through the artificial forms 
imported from Versailles. Even as it was, the expenditure of the 
court threatened to exhaust the means of a poor country ; 
for a community the force of whose will had pushed it into 
a situation beyond the scope of its natural powers, nothing 
was harder to endure than a tame mediocrity. It was well for 
Germany that the close-fist of Frederick William I brought to 
a speedy close the pleasures and the glories of these early days 
of kingship. 

The immature state contained the germs of a many-sided life, 
and yet with its inconsiderable powers it was hardly ever able to 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

fulfil its tasks adequately ; rarely have its princes directly carried 
on the work of their fathers ; the successor, while entering the 
breach which his predecessor had opened, turned his own best 
energies to departments of the national life which that predecessor 
had neglected. The Great Elector had to struggle throughout his 
life with the pressure of hostile neighbours. In the great projects 
of European policy he never lost that strong domestic sense which 
had characterised most of his ancestors, and which even in the early 
days of his house had brought to many of its chiefs the cognomen 
of ceconomus ; he did all in his power to restore well-being to his 
country, nurtured the roots of a monarchical officialdom, and began 
to effect the transformation of the national economy in accordance 
with the needs of the modern monetary system. But in the storms 
of this war-filled regime it was impossible to effect a thorough 
reform of the administration ; the shapeless bundle of territories 
was with difficulty held together by the personal repute of the 
ruler and by the unwieldy and antiquated authority of the privy 
council. It was by the grandson of the Great Elector that the 
ancient state-system was finally abolished. 

The fundamental ideas of the internal order of the Prussian 
state were so irrevocably fixed by King Frederick William I 
that even the laws of Stein and Scharnhorst and the reforms of 
our own days could serve only to develop and not to destroy 
the work of the founder. He was the creator of the new 
German administration, of our officialdom and our military caste ; 
his inconspicuous and laborious activity was not less fruitful for 
German life than were the deeds at arms of his grandfather, for it 
was he who introduced into our history a new form of government, 
the circumscribed national unity of the modern monarchy. He gave 
meaning and content to the new name of Prussia, united his people 
in a community for the fulfilment of political duty, and stamped 
for all tune upon the consciousness of this state the notion of duty. 
Only one who is familiar with the gnarly growth, with the hard 
edges and angles of the Low German national character, will under- 
stand this rigid disciplinarian, will understand his breathless and 
stormy passage through life the scorn and the terror of his con- 
temporaries, rough and rude, scolding and quarrelsome, ever at 
work, forcing his people and himself to labour, a sterling old German, 
essentially German hi his childish frankness, his goodness of heart, 
his profound sense of duty, and not less so in his terrible fits of 
hasty anger and in his formless and unconquered solidity. In this 
royal burgher, the ancient hatred of the North German people for 


History of Germany 

the modish refinements of Gallic manners, as expressed in Laurem- 
berg's Low German satirical poems, became incorporated in flesh 
and blood ; his severity towards wife and child showed him also 
the true son of the classic age of German domestic tyranny an 
age in which, owing to the enslavement of public life, the energies 
of the men could find vent only within the narrow limits of the 
household. Severe, joyless, terribly restricted, did life become 
under the close-fisted rule of this rigid disciplinarian. The hard 
one-sidedness of his spirit could value those simple moral and 
economic forces alone, which served as internal bonds of national 
union ; with the whole energy of his masterful will he threw him- 
self into the province of administration, displaying here the primi- 
tive force of a creative spirit. Firmly and consistently, as of old 
William the Conqueror in overthrown England, did Frederick 
William I piece together the structure of a unified state out of the 
dispersed fragments of his territories. But not to him, as to 
William the Norman, did the unified state appear as a mere appanage 
of his own house. Rather, in the mind of the unlettered prince, 
was there conceived, clearly and vividly, a notion of the state that 
was accordant with the new doctrine of natural law : the notion 
that the state exists for the good of all, and that the king is placed 
at its head to administer with unbiassed justice over all the estates 
of the realm, to pursue the public weal regardless of all private 
privileges and preferences. To the development of this idea he 
devoted his unceasing activities ; and if, when he placed his heavy 
foot on the loose immorality of the paternal court he also stamped 
upon the germs of a more abundant culture which had begun to 
develop under Frederick I, he yet did but what he had to do. 
The firm and manly discipline of a fighting and industrious people 
was of greater importance for Prussia's high destiny than were 
the premature blossoms of art and science. 

A gentler hand than his could never have succeeded in bringing 
the ancient feudal licence under the control of the majesty of the 
common law ; milder natures than Frederick William and Leopold 
von Dessau would never have been able to stand against the storm- 
wind which then blew from the Gallic quarter over the German 
courts. Among all the statesmen of modern history, two only 
can be compared as organisers of administration with this soldier 
king : Bonaparte and von Stein. He united to the daring of the 
innovator, the painfully exact sense of order of the economical 
householder, who measured the black and white threads with which 
the official documents were tied and counted the buttons on the 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

gaiters of his grenadiers ; he conceived audacious plans whose 
realisation has become possible only in the nineteenth century, and 
yet retained in all his negotiations a secure grasp of the limits 
of the possible. His prosaic sense, directed towards that which 
was practically useful and could be immediately grasped, adopted 
other measures than those characteristic of his heroic grandfather, 
and yet, hi the midst of his care for that which was very small and 
very near, he always remained conscious of the lofty destiny of his 
state ; he was well aware that he was collecting and forming 
the energies of his people for the decisive hours of a great future, 
and he often said, " I know perfectly well that in Vienna and 
Dresden they call me a penny-wise pedant, but my grandchildren 
will reap the benefit ! " 

It was by the army that Prussia was raised to the rank of a 
European power, and it was by the army that tjie first breach was 
made in the old administrative system of the state. For the 
management of the new taxes which he had introduced to finance 
his military establishment, the Great Elector had established a 
number of intermediate boards, the war-commissariats ; thus for 
some decades the tax-economy of the developing modern state 
existed side by side with the administration of the crown lands, 
the last fragments of the natural economy of the Middle Ages. 
Frederick William I put an end to this dualism. In the general 
directory he created a supreme authority, and hi the war-chambers 
and domain-chambers intermediate authorities for the whole 
administration, and also endowed these bodies with judicial authority 
in questions of public law. The variegated and manifold charac- 
teristics of the area he controlled forced the king to establish an 
institution to intermediate between the provincial-system and the 
real-system ; at the head of the subdivisions of the general 
directory he placed provincial ministers, who had also to conduct 
certain branches of the administration on behalf of the state as a 
whole. Speaking generally, however, a centralised administration 
was here earlier established than elsewhere on the Continent. 
Whatever still remained of the ancient feudal authorities, was either 
abolished or else subjected to the control of the officials of the 
monarchy ; an unpitying current of reform swept through the 
profoundly corrupt administration of the towns, did away with 
the nepotism of the magistrature, forcibly imposed a new and 
juster system of taxation ; threw the three towns of Konigsberg 
into one, united into a single municipality the two communes of 
Brandenburg that were separated by the Havel, and placed the 


History of Germany 

entire system of municipal administration under the keen super- 
vision of royal war councillors. 

Everywhere the particularism of the estates, of the territorial 
areas, and of the communes, presented a hostile front to the new 
and generally applicable order. The nobles murmured against 
the authority of the bourgeois officials. The proud East Prussians 
complained of the infringement of ancient charters, now that 
Pomeranians and Rhinelanders could take office in the Duchy. 
The law-courts, too, were still living in the circle of ideas of the 
old feudal state, and, just like the French parliaments, almost 
invariably took the side of the decaying rights of the parts against 
the vigorously living right of the whole. It was in the victorious 
struggle to secure national unity and equality before the law, that 
Prussia's new ruling class of officials under the crown obtained 
its schooling. From that homeless race of servants, which 
during the seventeenth century had flitted from court to court, 
there was gradually constructed a class of Prussians whose members 
devoted their lives to the service of the monarch, who found their 
honour in his, who were vigorous, active, and conscientious like 
their king. They did not, as had done the feudal lords of the old 
time, allow their energies to atrophy within the limited fields of 
territorial interest and nepotism ; they belonged to the nation, 
they learned to feel no less at home in Cleves than in Konigsberg ; 
and in the class struggles of society maintained against high and 
against low the law of the land. By an established order of 
precedence, and by an assured position, the king secured for 
his officials a respected status in bourgeois life ; he demanded, 
from every candidate for office, proof of scientific knowledge, 
and thus founded an aristocracy of culture side by side 
with the old aristocracy of birth. The result showed how justly 
he had esteemed the living energies of German society ; the best 
intelligences of the nobility and of the bourgeoisie streamed to join 
the new ruling class. Prussian officialdom was for long years the 
firm support of the German national idea, just as in former days 
the jurists of Philip the Fair had been the pioneers of French 
national unity. 

The Great Elector had imposed upon his subjects the general 
liability to taxation ; to this Frederick William I added the 
obligations of universal military service and compulsory education, 
thus establishing the threefold group of general civic duties by 
which the people of Prussia have been trained in an active love for 
the fatherland. In his mind, powerful for all its limitations, the 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

road was unconsciously prepared for a strong national sentiment 
akin to the citizen-sense of antiquity. In the eastern march of 
Germany, ever accustomed to battle, the ancient German idea of 
military service for all physically fit men had never completely 
disappeared, even during the epoch of mercenary armies. In East 
Prussia there lasted on into the eighteenth century the vestiges 
of the old Polish Landwehr, and Frederick I undertook to con- 
stitute a territorial militia for the unified state. In the soldier 
eye of his son such attempts at an unregulated arming of the people 
found no favour. King Frederick William understood the superi- 
ority of well-disciplined standing armies ; he saw that his state 
could survive only through the tense employment of all its energies, 
and yet was unable to effect a permanent provision for the cost 
of his levies. Since with him every other consideration was sub- 
ordinated to the demands of political duty, he came to the bold 
resolve that all Prussians should pass through the school of the 
standing army. In recent centuries there had been but two political 
thinkers, Machiavelli and Spinoza, who had ventured to defend 
the simple and great idea of universal military service ; both these 
thinkers revived this idea from the history of classical antiquity, 
and both failed to find understanding among their contemporaries. 
The needs of domestic economy and an instinctive recognition of 
the nature of his state now led the rough, practical man who occu- 
pied the throne of Prussia to adopt the same view, little as he 
recked of the moral force of a national army. First among the 
statesmen of the new Europe did he give expression to the principle : 
" Every subject is born to bear arms." To construct an army of 
the children of his country was his life-long ideal. The cantonal 
regulation of 1733 announced the duty of universal military 

It was but the establishment of a principle. The notion was 
still unripe, for it was flatly contradicted by the long term of military 
service then customary. The poverty of the country and the force 
of adverse prejudice, compelled the king to make numerous excep- 
tions, so that the burden of compulsory service was imposed, in 
actual fact, upon the shoulders of the country-folk alone ; and, even 
thus limited, the duty of bearing arms could not be fully enforced. 
Unconquerable remained the tacit resistance to the unheard-of 
novelty, the detestation of the people for the long and severe term 
of duty. It was seldom possible to make up more than half 
of the army with homebred cantonists, and the deficiency was 
made up by voluntary enlistment. Many of the masterless German 


History of Germany 

soldiers of fortune who had hitherto marketed their skins in Venice 
and the Netherlands, in France and Sweden, now found a home under 
the flag of the North German power ; the south and the west of 
the empire were the most fertile recruiting grounds of the Prussian 
regiments. By such a wonderful and devious route has our nation 
risen to power and unity. That unarmed third of the German 
people whose state authorities hardly raised a finger for the defence 
of the empire paid the blood-tax to the fatherland in the persons 
of the thousands of its lost sons who fought as mercenaries in the 
armies of Prussia ; the petty princes of Swabia and the Rhine, 
who regarded Prussia as their most dreaded opponent, helped to 
increase the fighting strength of their enemy. As soon as the 
Prussian army came into existence the empire gradually ceased to 
be a general recruiting ground ; and, as that army gathered strength, 
it came to pass that Germany was no longer the battle-field of all 
other nations. 

In the army the king found the means to reconcile the 
territorial nobility with the monarchical order. The repute of the 
war-lord had risen greatly since the rude days of the Great Elector, 
but it was his grandson who succeeded in bringing under his 
immediate control the nomination of all the officers, and in thus 
constituting the first truly monarchical corps of modern history. 
His sense of organisation, always understanding how to adapt 
political reform to the given social conditions, led him to perceive 
at once that the hardy sons of the numerous impoverished noble 
families of the east were the natural leaders of the peasant lads 
liable for military service. He placed the officers' corps, as a closed 
aristocracy, at the head of the rank and file ; created in the house 
of cadets a training school for the officers ; threw open to all who 
wore epaulettes the way to the highest offices in the army ; kept a 
strict watch over the honour of the military order ; and endeavoured 
in every possible way to win the nobles for this knightly caste, 
whilst preferring to direct the cultured members of the bourgeoisie 
into the civil service of the administration. How often, with prayers 
and threats, did he warn the arrogant nobility of East Prussia to 
provide for their rude sons the discipline of the house of cadets, 
and, practising his own precept, he made all his own boys serve 
in the army. Moser refers with admiration to this " hereditary 
maxim of the Prussian house to accustom the nobles to the military 
and financial system of the crown." By these means he succeeded 
in creating out of the semi-savage junkers a brave and loyal mon- 
archical nobility, ready to conquer and to die for the [fatherland, 

Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

and as firmly associated with the life of the state as the parlia- 
mentary nobility of England. Everywhere else throughout the 
high aristocratic world of the Baltic regions feudal anarchy con- 
tinued to flourish in Sweden, Swedish Pomerania, Mecklenburg, 
Polish Prussia, and Livonia ; it was only in Prussia that the 
nobles were won for the duties of the modern state. The army 
seemed as if it were a state within the state, with its own courts, 
churches, and schools ; the burgher regarded with disgust the 
iron strictness of the inhuman military discipline by which the 
rough masses of the rank and file were forcibly held together ; he 
bore unwillingly the blustering arrogance of the lieutenants and 
their centaurian hatred for the quill-driver's pretensions to learn- 
ing a hatred which had been manifest hi the officers' circles since 
the days of the fiery Prince Karl Emil and hi the berserker rough- 
ness of the Old Dessauer. And yet this army was not merely the 
best-trained and best-equipped military force of the time, but was 
also, of all the great armies of the modern nations, the most highly 
endowed with the civic spirit, the only one which never broke 
faith with its war-lords and never endeavoured (after the Pretorian 
model) to set the laws of the land at defiance. 

No less uncongenial than the army organisation, appeared, to 
the Germans, the Prussian system of compulsory education ; the 
ignorance of the masses was still regarded by the ruling classes as 
the great safeguard of public order. King Frederick William, 
however, like his grandfather, admired the Protestant Netherlands 
as the chosen land of civic welfare ; he had there learned to appre- 
ciate the moral and economic blessings of a comprehensive system 
of school education, and he felt obscurely that the vital energy of 
Protestant civilisation sprang from the elementary school. Con- 
vinced that the oppressed and brutalised masses of the north-east 
could have their native roughnesses removed only by the com- 
pulsion of the state, he decisively anticipated, in this respect also, 
the legislation of all the other great powers ; and by the educa- 
tional law of 1717 he directly imposed upon all heads of families 
the duty of sending their children to school. Very slowly, upon 
the foundation of this law, the Prussian school system became 
established. The difficulties attendant upon its development were 
in part due to the poverty and inertness of the people ; but were 
in part also the king's own fault, for all popular culture must rest 
upon the prosperity of independent research and of creative art, 
and for these ideal activities Frederick William felt a character- 
istically barbarian contempt. 


History of Germany 

Thus through the community of arduous civic duties, through 
the unity of the officialdom and of the military system, the men 
of Magdeburg and Pomerania, of the Mark and of Westphalia, 
were welded together into a single Prussian people ; and when 
Frederick II extended to all his subjects the Prussian nationality 
he did no more than give a legal sanction to his father's work. 
However roughly and masterfully the Prussian kingship might 
manifest its sovereignty against all disloyal opposition, the work 
of unification yet proceeded far more considerately than did, in the 
adjoining country, the forcible " levelling of the French soil." The 
state could not give the lie to its own Teutonic nature ; it was 
permeated throughout by a powerful element of historical piety. 
Just as it had endeavoured to reconcile the ecclesiastical differences, 
so was it compelled in political life to adopt an intermediate posi- 
tion in order to counteract the excess of centrifugal tendencies. 
Towards the ancient traditions of the territorial areas a tolerant 
respect was everywhere exhibited ; even to-day the double eagle 
of Austria may be seen displayed in the market place of almost 
every Silesian town, and the patron saint of Bohemia still looks 
out from the citadel of Glatz over the beautiful surrounding country. 
The arrogant lords who wished to forbid the Great Elector to bury 
his father with Calvinistic rites were finally, after a severe struggle, 
reduced to the common position of subjects. The diets lost their 
ancient rights of government and were deprived of all influence 
in financial and military affairs ; but were permitted to retain a 
semblance of life as soon as these necessary changes had been 

Until the extinction of the Holy Empire there were only three 
occasions on which, throughout all the territorial areas which 
gradually accrued to the crown of Prussia, a local constitution was 
formally abolished. This occurred in Silesia, in West Prussia, 
and in Miinster, for here the estates became the nucleus of a party 
hostile to the central government, seriously threatening its pre- 
dominance. Everywhere else the diets lived on into the new 
time, remarkable vestiges of that ancient epoch hi which the 
German north still consisted of numerous petty territories. They 
were the fragments of eggshell that the eaglet still carried on its 
head : they represented the past of the state ; whereas the crown, 
officialdom, the army, represented the present. They represented 
particularism and feudal privilege, as opposed to the national 
unity and to the common law ; their power still sufficed, at times, 
to render difficult the great progress of monarchical legislation, 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

but they were no longer able to arrest that progress completely. 
The diets remained competent to allot certain taxes and to admin- 
ister the territorial debts ; in this narrow sphere there persisted 
unchanged the nepotism, the routine, and the empty formalism of 
the old feudal order ; and the nobleman of the Mark still preferred 
to speak of his Brandenburg as an independent state under the 
crown of Prussia. Nor was the feudal office of Landrat abolished, 
but a place was found for it in the order of monarchical officialdom ; 
the Landrat, nominated by the crown after being proposed by the 
estates, was at the same time representative of the knighthood ; 
and a royal official subordinated to the war-chamber and to the 
domain-chamber. The king cherished a thoroughly citizen mis- 
trust of the overbearing disposition of his junkers, but he needed 
the cordial support of the nobility for the establishment of his new 
military constitution. He therefore sought to appease the dis- 
affected by honours and dignities, leaving to the landed proprietors 
a portion of their old privileges of taxation and of their other 
seignorial rights, but always under the supervision of the royal 

It was this prudent and tolerant policy which rendered it 
possible for the king to carry into execution his great economic 
reforms. He founded that peculiar system of monarchical organi- 
sation which for two generations harmonised the traditional 
organisation of classes with the new tasks of the nation. Every 
province and every class was made to undertake certain 
branches of economic and political work on behalf of the crown. 
In addition to agriculture (which was the principal industry of the 
entire monarchy), in the electoral Mark and the Westphalian pro- 
vinces, manufactures, in the coastlands, commerce, and in the 
Magdeburg districts, mining, must be carried on. The nobles 
remained the sole great landed proprietors, and had an almost ex- 
clusive right to become officers in the army ; the peasantry 
undertook the work of agriculture and must serve in the 
ranks ; the burghers engaged in commerce and industry, and 
must bear the chief burden of taxation. 

It was regarded as a primary duty of the royal justice to 
secure these territorial rights and class privileges against all possible 
attack, and nowhere was the fulfilment of this duty so difficult as 
upon the old colonial soil where the excessive powers of the terri- 
torial chiefs was a danger alike to the crown and to the civic peace. 
The most human of all royal duties, the protection of the poor 
and of the oppressed, was for the Hohenzollerns a primary need of 


History of Germany 

self-preservation ; they bore with pride the name " Kings of 
the Beggars," which had been assigned to them in mockery by 
France. The crown forbade the purchase of the peasants' lands 
which in Mecklenburg and Swedish Pomerania had given the 
nobility the absolute dominion of the countryside, thus saving the 
agricultural middle class from destruction ; and, from the days 
of Frederick William I onwards, a carefully considered agrarian 
legislation aimed at promoting the enfranchisement of the agricul- 
turists. It was the desire of the king to abolish hereditary serf- 
dom, and to transform all peasant property into free ownership 
of the land ; as early as 1719 he said : " What a fine thing it would 
be if my subjects were free instead of being serfs, so that they 
could better enjoy what is their own, could carry on their affairs 
with so much more zeal and diligence because they would be dealing 
with their own property." For long, indeed, it was impossible for 
the crown to carry this desire into effect. Not only had there to 
be faced the passionate opposition of the powerful nobles, already 
rendered antagonistic by the abolition of feudalism, but there must 
also be reckoned with the passive resistance of the rude peasantry 
themselves, who regarded with suspicion every change in the 
traditional order. Continually, however, and without pause, the 
king drew nearer to his goal. His " whipping decree " protected 
the serf from maltreatment ; the services and dues that could be 
demanded from the peasantry were lightened ; a commencement 
was made in the subdivision of the communal lands to form separate 
sections of real estate ; everywhere the way was opened for the 
liberation of the land and of the working powers of the labourer. 
The reforms of Stein and Hardenberg could achieve their striking 
success only because they came when preparation for them had 
been made by the legislation of three generations. In the official- 
dom of the crown the small man found protection against the 
arrogance of the nobles, found expert advice, and found also in- 
exorably strict supervision ; to the thrifty king no sacrifice seemed 
too great that was for the good of his peasant-folk ; the entire 
revenue of a year was devoted to the restoration of civilisation 
in East Prussia, devastated by pestilence and war, and to the 
repeopling with diligent workers of the wide deserts on the Niemen 
and the Pregel. 

It was to their faithful care for the well-being of the masses, 
and not to their renown in war, that the Hohenzollerns owed the 
unshakable confidence which, through all need and all temptation, 
was felt by the people in the crown. Periods of torpor and exhaus- 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

tion occurred in the Prussian state as elsewhere ; indeed, such 
periods seemed in Prussian history more conspicuous and more 
deplorable than in other lands, because Prussia was ever regarded 
by a thousand hostile eyes eager to search out its weaknesses and 
to detect influences that might destroy it without any effort on the 
part of its enemies. Yet none who take a tranquil view of a con- 
siderable period of time can fail to recognise the steady progress of 
the monarchy towards national unity and towards the institution 
of equality before the law. The portraits of the Hohenzollerns do 
not display the spiritless and monotonous uniformity that we see 
in the Hapsburg princes, but they show, nevertheless, an unmis- 
takable family likeness ; and the same family likeness is seen also 
in their political activity. Whether strong or weak, whether in- 
telligent or the reverse, they almost all displayed a sober under- 
standing of the hard realities of life ; not disdaining to be great 
in little things, and all taking a high view of their princely duty. 

The mood of the first Hohenzollern of the Mark, who termed 
himself " God's simple officer in the princedom," prevailed in all 
his descendants ; we find it once more in the motto of the Great 
Elector : " For God and the people " ; we find it in the feverish zeal 
for service displayed by the soldier-king, who never ceased to be 
conscious that he must answer with his own soul's salvation for 
the well-being of his people ; we find it, finally, given profounder 
and freer expression in the words of Frederick the Great : 
" The King is the first servant of the state." Many of the Hohen- 
zollerns have failed in their task through an over-scientific dread 
of the game of hazard which is war, but very few through an un- 
ready lust of battle ; the traditional policy of the house sought to 
establish the glory of the ruler in the maintenance of the law and in 
the culture of the works of peace ; it was but occasionally, in great 
moments of history, that they directed the carefully fostered 
energies of the state towards an enemy without in this respect, 
as in all others, offering an absolute contrast to the Hapsburgs, 
whose statesmanship was wholly concerned with European ques- 
tions. Long ago, like the old Frankish kings, the dynasty had 
relinquished its domestic possessions to the state ; it lived solely 
for the good of all. Whilst almost all other territories of the empire 
bore the name and the arms of their princely house, the banners 
of the Hohenzollerns displayed the ancient imperial eagle of the 
Hohenstaufen, that flag which had for centuries defended the 
distant eastern marches, and bore the colours of the Teutonic 
Knights. This severe political kingship educated a maltreated and 


History of Germany 

brutalised people in the rights and duties of citizenship. Wherever 
we may contemplate the condition of the German territories, 
comparing their condition before and after their entrance into the 
Prussian state, be it in Pomerania, in East Prussia, in Cleves, or in 
the County Mark, everywhere the roll of the Prussian drums had 
brought freedom to the Germans, had signalised enfranchisement 
from foreign authority and from the tyranny of feudal polyarchy. 
Upon the foundation of the common law there was then erected, 
with severe struggles it is .true, but in accordance with a natural 
and necessary development, a new and riper form of political free- 
dom, involving the orderly participation of the citizens in the 
conduct of the state. It was not genius but character and firm 
discipline which gave this state its moral greatness ; and its power 
depended, not upon the wealth of its resources, but upon their 
orderliness and upon their readiness for immediate use. 

Now, however, was least of all the moment in which the German 
nation was ready to understand the strange phenomenon of this 
state armed and ready to strike, youthful and immature, tough 
in bone and sinew, full of vigour and fire, but ungainly, its bones 
ill-clothed, lacking grace and nobility of aspect. The old hostility 
of the Germans for the upstart Brandenburg was increased to a 
passionate hatred by the Boeotian roughness of Frederick William I. 
It does not become the historian to tone down the painfully crude 
colours of our modern history ; it is not true that this profound 
hatred was merely a dissembled love. At this time there 
originated in the general mind that view of the nature of the Prus- 
sian state, that view strangely compounded of true and false, which 
for a hundred years yet to come was to remain dominant through- 
out the half-cultured circles of Germany, and which even now has 
the upper hand in German history as written by the foreigner. 
This land under arms seemed to the Germans no more than a 
magnified barrack. All the sounds that found their way into the 
rest of the empire from out the weary silence of this great prison- 
house were merely the threatening and steady tramp of the giant 
Guards of Potsdam, the harsh words of command of the officers, 
and the cry of distress of the deserters hunted through the streets ; 
of the blessings which the grateful Lithuanian peasant called down 
from heaven upon his severe king, Germany heard nothing. In 
the empire the nobles had fallen upon golden days. In Hanover, 
now that their elector passed his days in distant England, the 
dominion of the territorial chiefs was unrestricted ; the junkerdom 
of Saxony took advantage of their Polish king's conversion to the 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

Roman Church to struggle for new feudal privileges, and passed 
their days in licentious living at the shameless court of a ruler 
engaged in the ruin of his country. With mixed anger and con- 
tempt the proud races of the neighbouring lands contemplated 
the citizen-soldier despotism of the Hohenzollern, by which the 
joyful days of the rule of the nobles had been so forcibly disturbed. 

Nor did the townsman regard the Prussian system with a 
cordial eye. He viewed, now with ironical sympathy, and now with 
dread, the iron industry and the inflexible severity of the Prussian 
official ; it seemed to him that all the sacredness of the law was 
threatened when he saw the new administration, ever at war with 
the old courts, taking its way remorselessly across the ancient 
charters of the territories and the communes ; and he could not 
grasp that the old life which was here being trampled down was 
only the teeming life of corruption. The hostility of the men ol 
education was better founded. The whole academic world felt a 
sense of shameful injury when the rough king played his clownish 
tricks with the valiant J. J. Moser and the Frankfort professors. 
The effect produced upon rich artist natures by the contemplation 
of the stiff and dry military order is manifested by the excess of 
hatred which the greatest Prussian of those days exhibited towards 
his fatherland. Yearningly did Winckelmann seek to escape from 
the heavy and suffocating air of the accursed land, and when he 
finally shook from off his feet the dust of the schoolroom of Alt- 
mark and revelled with intoxicated joy hi the paintings of the 
Dresden gallery, he continued, with the artlessness of a great Pagan, 
to send his curses back to the homeland : "I think with loathing 
of this country, which groans under the greatest despotism that the 
world has ever known. It is better to be a circumcised Turk than a 
Prussian. In such a country as Sparta [an extremely ideal descrip- 
tion of the regime of the corporal's stick !] the arts cannot possibly 
thrive, and degenerate perforce." So widely divergent were then 
the two creative energies which in unconscious union have made 
the new Germany. The lesser people of the empire detested the 
King of Prussia on account of the universal nuisance of his enlist- 
ments. " Don't grow too tall, or the recruiters will get hold of 
you," said the Swabian mother anxiously to her son. Everyone 
along the Rhine could recount a hundred terrible tales of the inn 
in Frankfort which was the head-quarters of the Prussian recruiting 
officers ; there was no possible devilry that they failed to ascribe 
to these savage brutes. 

All this force and cunning, all the enormous expenditure on 


History of Germany 

the army which swallowed up fully four-fifths of the Prussian 
revenue, served merely such was the view in the empire for the 
purposeless playing-at-soldiers of a thick-headed tyrant. A whole 
generation had passed away since the heroic struggle of Cassano, 
when the blood of the grenadiers from the Mark reddened the 
waters of the Ritorto, and the grateful Lombards first greeted the 
brave prussiani with the exhilarating tones of the Dessauer march ; 
when the wild and stimulating strain was now heard upon a peace- 
ful drill-ground, the Germans laughed scornfully at the " Prussian 
bluster." The reign of Frederick William came in the poverty- 
stricken time of the Peace of Utrecht, a period barren of ideas ; 
the petty arts of Fleury, Alberoni, and Walpole dominated Euro- 
pean politics. Perplexed was the simple-minded prince amid the 
crafty intrigues of diplomacy. He adhered to his emperor with 
ancient German fidelity ; he wished to put sabre and pistols in his 
children's cradles that they might help in expelling foreign nations 
from the imperial soil ; how often with the beer-tankard of the 
fatherland in his hand did he not raise his resounding shout : 
" Vivat Germania teutscher Nation ! " Now must the guileless 
man learn how the court of Vienna, in conjunction with his two 
ambitious neighbours of Hanover and Saxony, was secretly planning 
the partition of Prussia, and must witness their helping the Alber- 
tiners to the Polish crown, and their surrender of Lorraine to the 
French ; he must witness their attempts to sow discord in his own 
household between father and son ; must finally experience their 
perfidious attempts to deprive him of his sound hereditary right 
to Berg and East Frisia. Thus throughout his life he was pushed 
to and fro between open opponents and false friends ; not until the 
close of his days did he see through Austria's cunning and conjure 
his son to avenge the tricks played upon the father. At the foreign 
courts it was currently said, that the King of Prussia always stood 
on watch with his gun at full cock, but would never pull the trigger ; 
and when, within the empire, the other Germans were sometimes 
anxious about the Potsdam military parades, they consoled 
themselves by saying, " After all, the Prussians are very slow to 
shoot ! " 

The joke missed fire when Prussia found a ruler who com- 
bined with the sense of the practicable and with the fortunate 
sobriety characteristic of the Hohenzollerns, the boldness and the 
insight of genius. The clear sunshine of youth was diffused over 
the beginnings of the Frederician epoch, when at length, after so 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

prolonged an arrest, the inert mass of the German world was once 
more set in motion, and when the powerful opposing forces which 
Germany contained within its bosom broke into inevitable conflict. 
Since the days of the Lion of the North, Germany had not again 
seen a heroic figure upon which the whole nation could gaze with 
wondering admiration. But the figure which in proud freedom, 
like that of Gustavus Adolphus of old, strode among the great 
powers and forced the Germans to believe once again hi the wonders 
of the heroic age, was now that of a German. 

The central characteristic of this powerful nature was his 
pitiless and cruel German realism. . Frederick presents himself as 
he is, and sees things as they are. Just as in the long series of his 
letters and writings we find not a single line wherein he endeavours 
to glorify his own actions or to adorn his own image for the benefit 
of posterity, so also do we find in his statesmanship, even though he 
did not despise the petty arts and cunning of the age as means to 
his ends, the stamp of his royal frankness. Whenever he takes the 
sword in hand he explains with unmistakable definiteness what he 
demands from the opponent, and does not lay down his weapon 
until he has attained his end. As soon as he awakens to self- 
consciousness he is filled with pride and rejoicing to be the son of a 
free century, which is using the torch of reason to illumine the dusty 
corners of a world of ancient prejudices and exanimate traditions ; 
on the ceiling of his bright hall at Rheinsberg was painted a picture 
of the sun-god, rising victoriously through the clouds of dawn. 
It is with the self-confident assurance of the disciple of enlighten- 
ment that he approaches the phenomena of history, examining 
them each by each with the judgment of his keen understanding. 
In the struggles for power among the states he concerns himself 
only about what is really alive, cares only for the power that can 
speedily and wisely find expression hi effective action. "Nego- 
tiations without weapons are like music without instruments," he 
says frankly. When he is informed of the death of the last Haps- 
burg he says to his councillors, " I give you a problem to solve ; 
if one has an advantage in one's hand, should one make use of it 
or not ? " Never did anyone exhibit a prouder contempt for that 
boastful powerlessness that pretends to possess power, that im- 
moral privilege which bases itself upon the sacredness of historic 
right, that dread of action which conceals its helplessness behind 
an empty respect for forms ; and never did this implacable realism 
exercise so cleansing, so destructive, so revolutionary an influence 
as in that great world of fable which was the Holy Empire. Nothing 

57 E 

History of Germany 

was more remorseless than Frederick's scorn for the sacred majesty 
of the Emperor Francis, tied to his wife's apron-strings, a worthy 
king of Jerusalem, occupied in lucrative commissariat-negotiations 
for the armies of the Queen of Hungary ; nothing could be more 
cruel than his mockery of the " phantom " of the imperial army, 
his scorn of the obscure nonentity of the petty courts, of the formal 
commercial spirit " of these accursed periwig-pates of Hanover," 
of the vain pride of the landless junkers of Saxony and Mecklen- 
burg, of " this whole race of princes and people of Austria." He 
that bends the knee before the great ones of this world " is one who 
does not know them." 

With an assured sense of superiority he opposes to the shadow- 
pictures of the imperial law the healthy reality of his modern state ; 
a fierce love of mischief speaks out of his letters when he brings 
home to " the pedants of Ratisbon " the iron necessity of war. 
Frederick effected in action that which the disputatious publicists 
of the previous century, Hippolytus and Severinus, had attempted 
in words alone ; he held up a mirror before the " disagreeable and 
corpse-like countenance of Germany," proving to all the world 
the hopeless corruption of the Holy Empire. Well-meaning con- 
temporaries blamed him because he thus exposed to laughter the 
anciently venerable community, but posterity thanks him, in that he 
restored truth to a place of honour in German statecraft, as of old 
had done Martin Luther in the spheres of German thought and 

Frederick adopted early in life that strict Protestant view of 
German history and imperial policy which, since the days of Puffen- 
dorf and Thomasius, had dominated the freer spirits of Prussia ; 
amid the embittering experiences of his joyless youth he had re- 
moulded this view with a keen independence. In the Schmalkald 
rising, in the Thirty Years' War, in all the confused happenings 
of the last two centuries, he sees nothing but the unceasing struggle 
of German freedom against the despotism of the House of Austria, 
that house which " with a rod of iron " ruled the weak princes of 
the empire like slaves, and allowed only the strong ones to do as 
they liked. Not without personal satisfaction does he interpret 
the facts of history in accordance with such a one-sided view, 
for to direct this one-sidedness towards the light and towards life 
seems to him the privilege of the creative hero, and he regards it 
as the task of the Prussian state to lead this ancient struggle to 
victory. In his earlier years he remained faithful to Protestantism ; 
he esteemed it the glorious duty of the House of Brandenburg " to 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

work on behalf of the Protestant religion throughout the German 
empire and Europe," and he contemplated Heidelberg with uneasi- 
ness, seeing that here in the old leading centre of our Church the 
monks and the priests of Rome were once more vigorously at work. 
Even at a later date, when he had become estranged from religious 
belief, and when from the altitude of his independent philosophical 
enlightenment he passed a hostile judgment upon the mediocre 
parson-natures of Luther and Calvin, he remained actively conscious 
that his state must continue ever rooted in the Protestant world. 
He knew how all the accomplices of the Holy See were secretly 
working for the destruction of the new Protestant great power ; 
he knew that his human ideal of freedom of belief, of the right 
of all to seek salvation after their own fashion, was attainable only 
on the soil of Protestantism ; he understood that in new and 
secular forms he was himself carrying on the struggles of the six- 
teenth century ; and to his latest work, the plan for the League 
of German Princes, he attached the significant superscription, 
" Drawn up after the example of the League of Schmalkald." 

The earliest of Frederick's political writings which has come 
down to us shows the glance of the youth of eighteen already 
directed towards that region of national life upon which he was to 
exercise the greatest and most individual forces of his genius the 
great questions of statecraft. The crown prince contemplates 
the position of his nation in the world, finds the situation of its 
dispersed areas an extremely dangerous one, and draws up, still 
half in jest, daring plans for the rounding off of the remoter pro- 
vinces, so that they may no longer remain in isolation. It is not 
long before these immature youthful proposals reappear as pro- 
found and powerful ideas ; three years before his ascent to the 
throne the great path of his life is perceived with a wonderful 
prophetic clearness. " It seems," he writes, " that heaven has 
predestined the king to make all those preparations which a wise 
foresight undertakes before the beginning of a war. Who can tell 
whether it may not be reserved for me to make a glorious use of 
the opportunities thus provided, and to employ these materials 
of war in the realisation of the designs for which my father's pre- 
vision intended them ! " He observes how his state vacillates in 
an untenable position between the petty territories and the great 
powers, and is resolved to put an end to this vacillation (decider 
cet etre}. To enlarge the national area, corriger la figure de la Prusse, 
has become a necessity if Prussia is to stand on her own feet and to 
do credit to the name of her king. 


History of Germany 

From generation to generation his ancestors had paid faithful 
service to the House of Austria, conscientiously refraining from 
turning to their own advantage the difficulties of their neighbour, 
but rewarded always with ingratitude, treachery, and contempt. 
Frederick himself, in the distressing period of his misused youth, 
had found it hard to endure " the arrogance, the presumption, the 
overbearing insolence, of the court of Vienna"; his heart was 
cankered with hatred " for the imperial band " which with its 
tricks and its lies had alienated his father's heart. His untamable 
pride was in revolt when at his father's court there was lacking 
the correct tone of cold refusal for the exacting demands of Austria ; 
he wrote angrily that a King of Prussia should resemble the noble 
palm-tree, of which the poet says, " If you wish to fell it, it rears 
its proud head the higher." With watchful eye he followed the 
varying fortunes of the European system of states, and came to 
the conclusion that the old policy of the balance of power was 
altogether outworn. After the victories of the war of the Spanish 
succession the time was over for fighting the Bourbon in alliance 
with Austria and England ; now the moment had come for the 
new German state " by the terror of its arms " to raise itself to 
such a height of power as would enable it to maintain its own 
freedom of will against all its neighbours and against the imperial 

Thus in the mouth of Frederick, the old and greatly misused 
expression " German freedom," acquired a new and nobler meaning. 
It was no longer to signify that dishonourable policy of the petty 
princes which called hi the foreigner to help them against the 
emperor, and which betrayed the marches of the realm into foreign 
hands ; it was to signify the formation of a great German power 
which should defend the fatherland with the strong hand in the 
east and in the west ; and which should do this of its own will, 
independently of the imperial authority. For hundreds of years 
it had been the rule that whoever was not a good Austrian must 
be a good Swede (like Hippolytus a Lapide), or a good Frenchman 
(like the princes of the Confederation of the Rhine), or a good Eng- 
lishman (like the scions of the Guelphs). Even the Great Elector, 
in the press between neighbours of predominant power, was able 
only at intervals to maintain an independent position. It was the 
work of Frederick, avoiding on either hand the destructive tendencies 
to the acceptance of concealed or manifest foreign dominion, to 
institute a third tendency, a policy that was Prussian, and Prussian 
only. To this policy belonged Germany's future. 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

It was not the way of this hater of phrases to talk much of 
the fatherland ; and yet his soul was animated by a vigorous 
national pride inseparably associated with his keen sense of personal 
independence and with his princely sentiment. It seemed to him 
to touch his honour that foreign nations should play the masters 
upon German soil ; that this should be, was a discredit to his 
illustrious blood, for which the philosophic king, with the naive 
inconsistency of genius, had a very high respect. When the in- 
extricable confusion of German affairs forced him at times to form 
an alliance with the foreigner, he never alienated an acre of German 
soil, and never allowed his state to be misused for foreign purposes. 
All his life through he was exposed to the accusation of faithless 
cunning, for no treaty and no alliance could ever make him renounce 
the right of free self-determination. All the courts of Europe 
spoke angrily of travailler pour le roi de Prusse ; accustomed from 
of old to dominate German life they found it hardly possible to 
grasp the new situation and understand that now at length the 
resolute egoism of an independent German state was able to set 
itself in successful opposition to their will. Voltaire's royal disciple 
began for the German states the same work of liberation that Vol- 
taire's opponent, Lessing, effected for our poetry. Even in his 
youthful writings, Frederick strongly condemns the weakness of 
the Holy Empire, which had thrown open to the foreigner its Ther- 
mopylae, Alsace ; he rages against the court of Vienna for its 
surrender of Lorraine to France ; he can never forgive the Queen 
of Hungary for having turned loose upon the German empire the 
savage mob of " those Graces of the east," the Jazyges, the Croats, 
and the Tolpatsches, and for having for the first time induced 
the barbarians of Muscovy to take part in the internal affairs of 
Germany. During the Seven Years' War his German pride and 
hatred often found vent in grim and scornful words. To the 
Russians, who have plundered his peasants of Neumark, he sends 
the greeting : " Oh ! that with one leap they could sink themselves 
in the Black Sea, so that they and all memory of them might 
pass away for ever." When the French overran Rhineland he 
composed (in French, it is true) an ode which recalls to our minds 
the strains of the War of Liberation : 

"To its uttermost sources 
Spumes the ancient Rhine with hate. 
Cursing the shame, that its waters 
Must bear a foreign yoke ! " 

History of Germany 

" Prudence teaches us how to guard what we already possess 
but through intrepidity alone do we learn how to increase ou 
possessions " such are the words with which Frederick, in hi 
Rheinsberg days, already betrays how his inmost nature urges hin 
to rash resolution, to tempestuous daring. It appears to him th< 
first duty of the statesman to avoid half measures ; and of al 
conceivable resolutions the worst of all seems to him to resolv 
to do nothing. Yet in this also he displays his German blood 
that from the first he knows how to control his ardent love of actioi 
by cool and sober consideration. One who felt within himsel 
the heroic force of an Alexander determined to work for permanen 
ends within the narrow circle in which destiny had placed him 
In war, sometimes, his fiery spirit leads him beyond the bounds o 
prudence ; he demands the impossible from his troops, and fail 
through a proud under-estimation of his enemy ; but as a statesma: 
he always preserves a perfect moderation, a wise limitation, whic] 
leads him to reject at once any too adventurous design. He i 
never for a moment befooled by the thought of cutting his owi 
state loose from the fallen German community ; his position i] 
the empire does not impair his freedom of action in European 
policy, while it gives him the right to intervene in the destin; 
of the empire itself, and for this reason he wishes to keep his foo 
in the stirrup of the German steed. Still less does he dream o 
aspiring to the imperial crown. Since the days of the prophecie 
of the court astrologers of the Great Elector there had alway 
persisted in Hohenzollern circles the obscure premonition that th 
house was destined to bear the sword and sceptre of the Hoi; 
Empire ; and the Hotspurs, Winterfeldt and Leopold of Dessau 
sometimes ventured to greet their royal hero as the Germai 
Augustus. But Frederick knew that his temporal state coul< 
not carry the Roman crown, that the attempt to assume it woul< 
involve the newcomer among the powers in interminable intrigues 
and said drily, " For us it would be no more than a fetter." 

Hardly had he mounted the throne when there arrived tha 
great crisis in German destiny which the seer's vision of Puffendoi 
had already indicated as likely to furnish the only possible mean 
of thorough-going imperial reform. The old imperial house die< 
out, and before the ardent eyes of the young king, in whose hand 
was the only well-ordered fighting force of Germany, there openei 
a world of alluring prospects, which must have led astray int 
overbearing dreams a spirit less profound and less firmly collected 
Frederick felt the earnestness of the hour. " Day and night, 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

he wrote, " the fate of the empire monopolises my thoughts, and 
to me alone is given the will and the power to secure it." He felt 
assured that this great moment must not be allowed to pass without 
bringing to the Prussian state complete freedom of movement, 
and without providing it with a place in the council of the great 
powers ; and yet he also recognised how incalculably confused 
would become the situation of Germany owing to the greed of its 
foreign neighbours, and owing to the hopeless internal dissensions 
of the empire, as soon as the Hapsburg monarchy fell in ruins. 
For this reason he desired to protect Austria, and was satisfied, 
out of the mass of the carefully considered ancient claims of his 
house, to put forward the most important alone. Single-handed, 
and without a word to the watching foreign powers, he broke upon 
Silesia in an overwhelming storm. Germany, accustomed to the 
solemn considerations and counter-considerations of its imperial 
jurists, received with astonishment and horror the doctrine that 
the rights of the state can be maintained by living force alone. 
The conqueror offered the imperial crown to the spouse of Maria 
Theresa and undertook to fight France on behalf of Austria. It 
was the resistance of the Hofburg that urged him on to compre- 
hensive plans of imperial reform, which remind us of the daring 
dreams of Waldeck. 

It was not Frederick who created German dualism, although 
he was reproached with this by his contemporaries and by pos- 
terity; dualism had existed since the days of Charles V, and 
Frederick was the first who seriously attempted to destroy it. As 
soon as he found it impossible to come to an understanding with 
the Viennese court, the king conceived the bold idea of removing 
the imperial crown for ever from the House of Austria, and thus 
severing the last bond which still connected this dynasty with 
Germany. He approached the Bavarian Wittelsbachs, the only 
one among the more powerful princely races of Germany which 
resembled the Hohenzollerns in ruling over German lands alone, 
and who, like the Hohenzollerns, regarded Austria as their natural 
enemy ; he was the first to establish that alliance between the two 
greatest of the purely German states which has since then been 
so often renewed, and always for the good of the fatherland. The 
Elector of Bavaria received the imperial dignity, and it was the 
hope of Frederick that this new emperorship, which he himself 
spoke of as " my work," would secure a firm support for the crown 
of Bohemia. 

Forthwith there reawakened in Berlin and in Munich that 


History of Germany 

saving idea of secularisation which sprang to life whenever a healing 
hand was laid upon the sick body of the empire. The aim was to 
strengthen the power of the great temporal estates of the realm, 
which in Frederick's view were the sole really living members of 
the empire, at the expense of the theocratic and republican terri- 
tories ; a purely temporal art of statesmanship devoted itself to 
the realisation of the political ideas of the Reformation. Certain 
spiritual provinces of High Germany were to be secularised, and 
several of the imperial towns were to be annexed to the adjoining 
princely domains. With good reason did Austria complain that this 
Bavarian emperorship under Prussian tutelage threatened grave 
injury to the nobility and to the Church. Should these inchoate 
ideas be realised, German dualism would be practically done away 
with, and the imperial constitution, even should it persist in form, 
would be profoundly modified in substance ; Germany would 
become a confederation of temporal princes under the dominant 
influence of Prussia ; the spiritual states, the imperial towns, the 
crowd of petty counts and barons, deprived of the support of the 
Hapsburgs, would go down to destruction, and the German bulwark 
in the heart of the empire, the crown of Bohemia, would be con- 
quered for Teutonic civilisation. Thus Germany could have effected 
spontaneously and by her own powers that necessary revolution 
which two generations later was shamefully forced upon her by the 
might of the foreigner. But the House of Wittelsbach, already 
estranged from German life by its hereditary association with France 
as well as by the rigidity of Catholic unity, displayed a distressing 
incapacity in face of this great opportunity ; the nation failed 
to understand the significant fortune of the moment. In a tour 
through the empire the king gained so disheartening an insight 
into the dissensions, the greed of gain, and the slavish anxiety 
of the petty courts, that he learned to lay aside for ever his hopes 
for Germany ; moreover, his own power did not yet suffice to over- 
come the valiant resistance of the Queen of Hungary. Notwith- 
standing the triumphs of Hohenfriedberg and Kesselsdorf , the second 
Silesian War ended in the restoration of the Austrian emperorship. 
The empire remained in its state of unconstitutional confusion, 
Francis of Lorraine ascended the imperial throne after the death 
of Charles VII, and there was reconstituted the old alliance between 
Austria and the Catholic majority in the Reichstag. 

The attempt to do away with German dualism miscarried ; 
sharper, more hostile than ever before, was the separation of parties 
in the empire. Yet one permanent gain had been secured by the 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

king the establishment of Prussia's position as a great power. 
He had saved Bavaria from destruction, had increased the strength 
of his own land by more than a third ; with a hardy stroke he had 
broken the long chain of Hapsburg-Wettin territorial areas which 
shut hi the Prussian state to the south and east ; and for the first 
time the proud imperial house had suffered profound humiliation 
at the hands of one of the princes of the empire. It was solely his 
own energy that he had to thank for his victories, and he presented 
so brave a front in face of all the old powers, that Horace Walpole 
was forced to admit that this King of Prussia now held in his hands 
the control of the European balance. Saxony, Bavaria, Hanover, 
all the central states, which up till now had remained rivals of the 
crown of Prussia, were by the Silesian Wars permanently reduced 
to the second rank. High above the innumerable petty opposi- 
tions that flourished within the empire there arose the one dominant 
question : Prussia or Austria ? The problem of the future of 
Germany had been stated. From a free altitude the king now 
looked down upon the turmoil of the estates of the German empire, 
and to all insulting demands could jestingly reply, that those who 
made them must take him for a Duke of Gotha or for a Prince of 
the Rhine ! In relation to his smaller neighbours he was now 
able to assume that role of benevolent patron and protector which, 
in his Anti-Machiavel, he had pointed out as the sublime duty 
of the stronger ; already in the Reichstag there was forming the 
nucleus of a Prussian party, and the North German courts were 
beginning to send then- sons to serve in the king's army. 

Meanwhile, with astonishing rapidity, the new acquisitions 
became fused with the monarchy. For the first time upon any 
considerable area did the state exhibit that strong force of attrac- 
tion and that formative energy which it has since then everywhere 
displayed in German and half -German lands. The new energies 
of the modern world made their way into the neglected province, 
the victim of feudal and ecclesiastical oppression ; the officialdom 
of the monarchy overthrew the dominion of the nobles, the strength 
of law put an end to nepotism, toleration replaced restraint in 
matters of conscience, and the German school-system superseded 
the profound spiritual slumber of priestly education. The sluggish 
and servile peasant learned once again to hope for the morrow, 
and his king forbade him to abase himself before the officials by 
kneeling to kiss the hem of their garments. 

In that century of struggles for power there was no other 
state whose working imposed such manifold and widely human 


History of Germany 

tasks. It was the peaceful labour of administration which first 
gave a moral justification to the conquest of Silesia, and furnished 
the proof that this widely censured act of daring was a genuinely 
German deed. By the Prussian rule there was restored to the 
German nation this magnificent frontier-land which had already 
been half-overwhelmed by foreign influences. Silesia was the 
only one of the German-Austrian hereditary dominions in which 
the policy of religious unity had been unable to effect a complete 
victory. In the valleys of the Riesengebirge the calm and easy- 
going German stock had withstood with insuperable tenacity the 
violent deeds of the Lichtenstein dragoons and the oratorical arts 
of the Jesuits. The majority of the Germans remained true to 
the Protestant faith. The Protestant Church, oppressed and 
despised, despoiled of its goods, continued a poverty-stricken exist- 
ence ; only the threats of the crown of Sweden secured for this 
Church, in addition to the small number of God's houses which still 
remained to it, the possession of a few sanctuary churches. The 
Catholic Poles of Upper Silesia and the Czech colonists whom the 
imperial court had summoned into the land to carry on the struggle 
against the German heretics, were the props of the imperial 
dominion. With the entry of the Prussian army the German 
elements once more gladly raised their heads ; joyfully there 
resounded through the sanctuary churches praise to the Lord, Who 
after showing severity to His people had now at length displayed 
a banner for them to follow. Under the protection of Prussian 
toleration, Protestantism soon regained its consciousness of 
spiritual superiority, the Polish elements visibly lost ground, and 
after a few decades the Prussian Silesians, in ideas and customs, 
resembled their North German neighbours more closely than they 
resembled the Silesians across the border. The Protestant con- 
queror, however, left the Roman Church in undisturbed possession 
of almost all the Church property of the Protestants, and whilst 
England was constraining its Irish Catholics to pay taxes in sup- 
port of the Anglican State Church, in Silesia, the Protestant must 
continue now as formerly to pay taxes on behalf of the Catholic 
Church. It was only the treasonable practices of the Roman clergy 
during the Seven Years' War that forced the king to abandon this 
excess of toleration, which had involved injustice towards the 
Protestants ; and even then the situation of the Catholic Church 
in Prussian Silesia remained a more favourable one than in any 
other Protestant state. 

The flourishing development of Silesia under Prussian rule 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

sufficed to show that the new province had found its natural master, 
and that the change in the destiny of the German east was un- 
alterably established. The Viennese court, however, continued to 
cherish the hope of securing revenge for the past shame, and of 
reducing the conqueror of Silesia once again to the mediocre situa- 
tion of the ordinary German prince, just as had been possible in 
the case of those presumptuous ones who had formerly ventured 
to raise their hands against the imperial authority. King Frederick 
knew, moreover, that the final and decisive appeal to arms still 
lay before him. He attempted on one occasion during the brief 
years of peace to exclude the son of Maria Theresa from the imperial 
dignity, so that for the future at least the empire should be separated 
from the House of Austria, but the scheme was wrecked by the 
hostility of the Catholic courts. The irreconcilable opposition 
between the two leading powers of Germany determined for a 
lengthy period the course of European politics and deprived the 
Holy Empire of its last vestiges of vital energy. In painful anticipa- 
tion the nation seemed to foresee the approach of a new Thirty 
Years' War. That which had been slowly prepared by the quiet 
labours of toilsome decades appeared to the next generation merely 
as a wonderful chance, as the fortunate adventure of a talented 
spirit. Quite isolated in the diplomatic correspondence of the 
epoch is the far-seeing utterance of the Dane, Bernstorff, who 
in the year 1759 wrote sadly to Choiseul : " All that you are 
endeavouring to-day in the hope of preventing the uprise in central 
Germany of a warlike monarchy whose iron arm will soon crush 
the petty princes it is all lost labour ! " The neighbouring powers 
in the east and in the west vented their anger against the lucky 
one who, out of the turmoil of the war of the Austrian succession, 
had alone drawn the prize of victory ; nor was it simply the 
personal hatred of powerful women that was weaving the web of 
the great conspiracy which now threatened to enmesh Frederick. 
It was the general feeling of Europe that the ancient and traditional 
structure of the comity of states was imperilled as soon as any 
victorious great power became established in the centre of the 
Continent. The Roman See was deeply concerned that the detested 
home of heresy should be once again enabled to give expression 
to its own independent will ; it was only in consequence of the 
co-operation of Rome that it became possible for the two ancient 
enemies, the two great Catholic powers of Austria and of France, 
to unite against Prussia. The aim was to render the impotence of 
Germany eternal. 


History of Germany 

By a daring onslaught the king saved his crown from certain 
destruction, and when, after seven terrible years, he had defended 
his German state on the Rhine and on the Pregel, on the Peene and 
in the Riesengebirge, against foreign and semi-foreign armies, and 
in concluding peace had maintained the extent of his power over 
the last village, Prussia seemed to stand once more in the same 
position as at the outset of the murderous campaign. Not a hand's 
breadth more German soil had been added to its domain, half the 
country lay desolate, the abundant work of peace of three genera- 
tions had been almost completely destroyed, in the unhappy Neu- 
mark the work of civilisation had to be begun at the beginning 
for the fourth time. The king himself could never think without 
bitterness of these dreadful days, when evil fortune had heaped 
upon his shoulders all the distresses which a man can bear, and 
even more ; what he then suffered seemed to him the senseless 
and evil caprice of a mocking fate, a tragedy without justice and 
without definite aim. Nevertheless there was a colossal success 
acquired as the outcome of this struggle, in appearance so fruit- 
less ; the new order of German affairs, which had begun with the 
foundation of the Prussian power, had proved itself an irrevocable 
necessity, and this in face of the severest test conceivable. A hun- 
dred years earlier Germany had been able to free herself from the 
Hapsburg dominion only by the struggles of an entire generation, 
and even to effect this had been forced to pay shameful subsidies 
to her foreign allies ; now the poorest region of the empire was 
competent within seven years to repel the attacks of a world in 
arms, and the victory was gained by German force alone, for the 
sole foreign power which had come to the help of the king betrayed 
him in the hour of need. Germany's star was once again in the 
ascendant ; for the Germans those were true words which were 
uttered in joyful thanksgiving in all the churches of Prussia : 
" Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth : Yet 
they have not prevailed against me." 

At the opening of the second campaign it had been the proud 
hope of Frederick to fight a battle of Pharsalia against the House 
of Austria, and to dictate terms of peace beneath the walls of 
Vienna, for this teeming time displayed everywhere the embryonic 
germs of the great new formations of a distant future, and plans 
were already on foot for an alliance between Prussia and Piedmont, 
Austria's other rival. But the battle of Kolin once morerplunged 
the king in despair, and he fought now only for the existence of 
his state. The attempts he made to summon a counter-Reichstag 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

to oppose a North German union to the imperial league were 
nullified by the unconquerable jealousy of the smaller courts, and 
above all by the arrogant opposition of his Guelph allies. The 
hour was not yet come for the abolition of German dualism, for 
the reconstitution of the empire ; but by the terrible reality of this 
war the obsolete ancient formalisms of the German community were 
morally annihilated, and the ultimate veil was stripped from the 
colossal lie of the Holy Empire. Never before had any emperor 
played so brainlessly with the fatherland as did this Loraine- 
Augustus, who threw open all the gates of Germany to foreign 
plunderers, surrendered the Netherlands to the Bourbons, and the 
eastern marches to the Muscovites. And while the emperor thus 
trampled his oath under foot, and himself deprived his house of all 
right to the German crown, there was played at Ratisbon the 
impudent farce of an appeal to the disciplinary powers of the 
imperial law. The Reichstag summoned the conqueror of Silesia 
in its antiquated formula, " By these presents must he, the said 
Elector, be guided " ; the Brandenburg envoy kicked the mes- 
senger of the illustrious assembly downstairs ; the eager but miser- 
able imperial army assembled under the banner of the Bourbon 
enemy of the empire, to be instantly dispersed like chaff before the 
wind by the cavalry squadrons of Seydlitz. But the German nation 
loudly acclaimed the victor of Rossbach, the rebel against the 
emperor and the empire. With this barren satirical comedy the 
great tragedy of imperial history came in truth to its close ; what 
still remained of the old German community barely preserved 
henceforward even the semblance of life. 

The victor, however, who amid the thunder of the battles 
had overthrown the ancient theocratic forms, was the official 
protector of Protestantism. However effete in this epoch of 
enlightenment might seem the ecclesiastical oppositions, Frederick 
nevertheless recognised that the essential content of the Peace 
of Westphalia, the equality of religious beliefs in the empire, would 
become untenable as soon as the two Catholic great powers should 
triumph ; the common cause of Protestantism afforded him the 
only stimulus with which he could urge the hesitating petty princes 
into the struggle against Austria. With a watchful eye, he 
followed the underground intrigues of the " pretraille " at the Pro- 
testant courts ; it was his word of power that protected the free- 
dom of the Protestant Church in Wiirtemberg and Hesse when in 
these states the successors to the crown went over to Rome. His 
smaller North German allies recognised even more clearly than did 


History of Germany 

Frederick himself the religious significance of the war. In the 
letters of F. A. von Hardenberg, minister of Hesse, the allies of 
Prussia were always spoken of plainly as the " Protestant Estates," 
and it is esteemed the natural policy of all the Protestant states 
of the empire to give their firm support to the Prussian party. 
The Prussian grenadier went into battle to the strains of Lutheran 
hymns ; the Protestant soldiers of the Swabian region dispersed 
with execrations, refusing to fight against their co-religionists; in 
the conventicles of the English dissenters, godly ministers prayed on 
behalf of the Maccabeus of Holy Writ Frederick, the free-thinker. 
The Pope, on the other hand, bestowed upon the empress's 
field-marshal a consecrated hat and sword, and every fresh news 
of Prussian victory aroused in the Vatican a storm of anti- 
pathy and fear. How crushed and fallen had the Protestant world 
lain before the feet of Rome a hundred and twenty years earlier, 
when the banners of Wallenstein were waving on the shores of the 
Baltic and when the Stuarts were endeavouring to subject parlia- 
ment to their Romish kingcraft. Now it was a Protestant great 
power which gave to the Holy Empire the death-blow, and by 
the battles on the Ohio and on the Ganges it was decided for all 
time that the dominion of the ocean and the colonies should 
belong to the Protestant Teutons. 

The struggle for the existence of Prussia was the first truly 
European War ; it created the unity of the new comity of states 
and gave to that comity the aristocratic form of a pentarchy. When 
the new central European great power forced recognition from its 
neighbours the two ancient state-systems of the east and of the 
west were fused into an inseparable whole, and at the same time 
there was a decline in the importance of the less powerful states, 
which had formerly, at times, by their accession to a coalition, been 
able to decide the issue of a great war, but which were no longer 
competent to meet the demands of the new and more grandiose 
methods of war-making ; the states of the second rank must be 
satisfied henceforward to leave the conduct of European affairs to 
the great powers of land and sea. Of these five dominant powers, 
two were Protestant, and one was schismatic, so that it now remained 
unthinkable that Europe should ever pass back beneath the rule 
of the crowned priest. The establishment of the Protestant- 
German great power was the most serious reverse that the Roman 
See had experienced since the rise of Martin Luther. King Frederick 
had in truth, as the English ambassador Mitchell phrased it, been 
fighting for the freedom of the human race. 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

In the school of sorrows and of struggles the people of Prussia 
acquired a vivid sense of nationality, so that the king was justified 
in speaking of his nation prussienne. Before this time, to be a 
Prussian had been an arduous duty, but it now became an honour. 
The idea of the state, of the fatherland, arose in a million hearts 
to stimulate and to strengthen. Even the oppressed spirit of the 
common man could appreciate a flavour of the classical citizen- 
sense that was expressed in the blunt words of the king : " It is not 
necessary that I should live, but it is necessary that I should do 
my duty to the country and fight for the fatherland." Through- 
out Prussia, beneath the stiff forms of the absolute monarchy, 
there flourished the self-sacrifice and the great passion of the people's 
war. The army which fought Frederick's last battles was a national 
army ; the exigencies of the time had forbidden recruiting hi 
foreign lands. The estates of the Mark voluntarily entered those 
regiments which saved for the nation the fortresses of Magdeburg, 
Stettin, and Kiistrin ; the seamen of Pomerania assembled with 
their little fleet to hold the mouths of the Oder against Sweden. 
During six years the officials received no pay, and quietly went on 
with their work as if it were a matter of course. In zealous com- 
petition, all the provinces did their sworn duty and fulfilled their 
sworn obligations, as it was expressed in the new Prussian manner 
of speech all, from the brave peasants of the Rhenish County 
Mors on the one side, to the unhappy East Prussians on the other, 
who opposed to the Russian conqueror their tough and passive 
resistance, and whose loyalty was undisturbed even when the pitiless 
king accused them of treachery and loaded them with proofs of his 

It was the nation-building power of war which first reawakened 
in these North German tribes that stubborn pride which had of old 
animated the German invaders of the Roman empire and the 
mediaeval conquerors of the Slavs ; the active self-satisfaction of the 
Prussians contrasted strangely with the harmless and amiable 
modesty of the other Germans. Confidently Count Hertzberg refutes 
Montesquieu's doctrine of republican virtue. Where, he asks, in 
any republic can you find a finer and more thriving civic virtue than 
here under the steely skies of the north, in the offspring of those 
heroic nations of the Goths and Vandals who long ago shattered 
the Roman empire ? The same sentiment animated the mass 
of the people, shown now hi arrant boasting, in the thousand 
mocking anecdotes that were current of imperial stupidity and 
Prussian military cunning, and now in the moving lineaments of 

History of Germany 

conscientious loyalty. The young seaman Joachim Nettelbeck comes 
to Danzig and is hired to row the King of Poland across the har- 
bour ; there is placed upon his head a hat, bearing the monogram 
of King Augustus ; for a long time he refuses to put it on, for it 
seems to him treason to his Prussian king to bear the sign of the 
foreign ruler ; finally he yields, but the ducat that he earns seems to 
burn his hand, and directly he gets back to Pomerania he gives 
away the wages of sin to the first Prussian wounded soldier he 
encounters. So sensitive had now become the political pride of this 
people who a few decades before were utterly absorbed in their 
petty household cares. 

It was impossible to ignore that to the two great captains of 
history, to Caesar and Alexander, a companion must now be added, 
and that this companion was a Prussian. In the temperament of 
the North German people we find side by side with a remarkable 
staying-power a trait of inconsiderate rashness, which leads them 
to love playing with danger, and the Prussians found this char- 
acteristic of their own magnified to genius in their commander 
Frederick. They noted how, after a hard apprenticeship, having 
rapidly become a master-craftsman, he threw on one side the 
careful rules of the laborious ancient art of war, and himself 
"dictated the laws of war" to the enemy, always ready to seek 
decision in open battle. They noted how he restored cavalry, the 
rashest of all the arms, to its old position, proper to the great 
conduct of war. They noted how after every victory and also 
after each one of his three defeats he continued to maintain " the 
proud privilege of initiative." The result proved how happy was 
the understanding between king and people. A crowd of heroes 
surrounded their commander, diffusing through all ranks of the 
army that joyous love of adventure, that spirit of the offensive, 
which in all great periods of its history has remained the strength 
of the Prussian army. Out of the junkers of the Mark and the 
peasant-lads of Pomerania, Frederick created the dreaded regi- 
ments of the Ansbach-Beyreuth dragoons and the Zieten hussars, 
who in the fury of their charges and the shock of their onset soon 
excelled the savage horsemen of Hungary. As the king proudly 
expressed it, such soldiers knew nothing of risk : "A general who 
in other armies would be regarded as insane is with us simply a 
man who does his duty." The twelve campaigns of the Frederician 
epoch have impressed their own stamp for ever upon the warlike 
spirit of the Prussian people and of the Prussian army ; even to- 

the North German, when war is discussed, involuntarily adopts 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

the expressions of those heroic days, and speaks like Frederick of 
" brilliant campaigns " and " fulminating attacks." 

The good-hearted amiability of the Germans outside Prussia 
rendered it necessary that a longer time should elapse before they 
could overcome then: repulsion towards the hard realism of this 
Frederician policy, which unchivalrously chose the precise moment 
to attack an enemy when that attack was least welcome. But 
when the great year of 1757 came, victorious attack and serious 
defeat, new and audacious uprising and new and brilliant victories, 
followed one another with perplexing speed, and out of the welter 
of events the image of the king continually emerged ever great and 
dominant, the people was moved to its very marrow by the con- 
templation of true human greatness. The weather-beaten and 
hard-bitten figure of old Fritz, as it had been forged by the hammer- 
blows of pitiless destiny, exercised a magical charm upon countless 
loyal spirits, which had regarded with no more than a confused 
alarm the brilliant apparition of the youthful hero of Hohenfried- 
berg. The Germans were, as Goethe said of his Frankforters, 
Fritz-possessed " for what had we to do with Prussia ? " With 
suspended breath they watched how, from year to year, the 
unconquerable man saved himself from the forces of destruction. 
That overwhelming harmony of undivided love and joy which at 
times illumines as with a golden light the history of fortunate 
peoples, was indeed still denied to distracted Germany. Like 
Luther and Gustavus Adolphus, the only two earlier heroes whose 
image is ineradicably imprinted upon the memories of our people, 
hi the crozier-ridden lands on the Rhine and the Main, Frederick 
also was feared as the great enemy. The enormous majority of 
Protestants, however, wide circles among the Catholics, and above 
all every advocate of the young science and art of the epoch, fol- 
lowed his career with ardent sympathy. People treasured his witty 
sayings, and recounted wonder upon wonder performed by his 
grenadiers and hussars. Yet the alarmed generation of his con- 
temporaries was far from realising that this German was the first 
man of his century, and that the renown of the great king 
extended to Morocco and to America. 

Few were as yet aware that the Prussian renown in battle 
was no more than a rejuvenescence of the primeval military glory 
of the German nation ; even Lessing sometimes speaks of the 
Prussians as of a half-foreign people, and remarks with wonder, that 
heroic courage seems in them to be inborn as it was in the Spartans. 
Gradually, however, even the masses began to feel that Frederick 

73 F 

History of Germany 

was fighting for Germany. The battle of Rossbach, the bataille 
en douceur, as he mockingly terms it, was of all his victories the one 
that most powerfully influenced our national life. If in this nation 
of private individuals there still existed any political passion what- 
ever, it was the tacit sentiment of bitterness against French 
arrogance which, so often chastised by the German sword, had still 
always maintained itself intact, and had now once more drenched 
the Rhineland with blood and tears. But now came Frederick 
with his good sword to encounter France, which was submerged 
in the waters of shame ; a loud shout of rejoicing arose from all 
parts of Germany, and Schubart the Swabian cried : " Then 
impetuously I seized the golden harp, thereon to sing Frederick's 
praises." It was then that once again the Germans throughout 
the empire experienced a feeling resembling national pride, and 
they sang with old Ludwig Gleim : " Germans let us be, and 
Germans let us remain ! " The French officers who returned to 
Paris from the German battle-fields were open in their praises of 
the victor of Rossbach, for it still seemed impossible to their pride 
that this little Prussia could ever seriously threaten the power of 
France ; but in the German comic drama to the once dreaded 
Frenchman was now sometimes allotted the role of butt and 
windy adventurer. 

It is true that the nation still lacked a political understanding 
of the nature of Prussia. Alike in respect of the decisive facts 
of its recent history and in respect of the institutions of its most 
powerful state., this well-informed people lived in remarkable ignor- 
ance. When the victories of Frederick had to some extent mitigated 
the ancient hatred for Prussia, even in the Protestant lands of the 
empire every citizen continued to regard himself as fortunate because 
he was not a Prussian. The industrious fables of the Austrian 
party found everywhere willing listeners : " This free people," 
wrote Frederick Nicolai in 1780 from Swabia, " looks down upon 
us poor Brandenburgers as slaves." The attractive energy of the 
powerful state exercised itself only upon strong and aspiring natures. 
From the Frederician days onwards there was a steady stream of 
youthful talent carrying men out of the empire into the Prussian 
service : some were impelled by admiration for the king, and some 
by a longing for a wider field of activity ; but many had also an 
obscure intimation of the significance of this throne. The mon- 
archy had now completely outgrown the narrow-mindedness of 
territorial life, gladly took to itself all the healthy energies of the 
empire, and found among the circles of the immigrants many of 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

its most loyal and capable servants found there also its saviour, 

With the Treaty of Hubertusburg there began for the German 
north a period of forty years of profound quiet, that richly blessed 
epoch of peace upon which Goethe hi his old age so often looked 
back with grateful emotion. The old tradition of the poverty of 
Prussia began to seem fabulous. Social life, especially in the capital 
city, assumed richer and freer forms ; the popular well-being under- 
went a remarkable increase, and the great years of German litera- 
ture began. The position of the empire had been at once simplified 
and rendered more difficult by the war. All that remained alive 
of the old order was the unsolved opposition of the two great 
powers. The premonition of a day of painful decision went through 
the German world ; the lesser courts engaged hi busy negotiations, 
seeking to protect themselves by the formation of a federation of 
the minor powers, in the event of their being endangered by a new 
concussion " between the two colossi of Germany." King Frederick, 
however, thoroughly instructed as to the unending force of sloth 
hi this ancient empire, was satisfied to devote himself to the recon- 
stitution of the exhausted energies of his own state ; the aims of 
his German policy were henceforward merely these, to obviate the 
working of any foreign influence upon the empire, and to maintain 
an effective counterpoise against the power of Austria. 

A serious danger which threatened the German power from 
the east disturbed his peaceful plans. Since the war the Polish 
republic had been subject to the will of the Czarina, and the formal 
union of the distracted state with the Russian empire seemed only 
a question of time. Thereupon Frederick conceived the idea of 
the partition of Poland, which ran counter to the Russian views, 
setting limits to Russia's ambition. It was a victory of German 
diplomacy at once over the unending land-hunger of Russia and 
over the powers of the west which were pushed relentlessly aside 
by the straightforward procedure of the powers of the east. The 
necessary deed unquestionably opened a prospect of incalculable 
complications, for the corrupt realm of the Sarmatian nobles now 
pursued its path towards hopeless extinction ; but it was neces- 
sary, for it rescued the loyal land of East Prussia from the return 
of the Muscovite dominion, and secured for the state that con- 
necting link between the region of the Pregel and the region of 
the Oder which, as crown prince, Frederick had already recognised 
as indispensable for Prussia. For the second time the king was 
the Augmenter of the Empire, restoring to the great fatherland 


History of Germany 

the nuclear region of the power of the Teutonic Knights, the beau- 
tiful valley of the Vistula which, in days long gone by, the German 
Knights had won from the barbarians, and the German peasantry 
from the rage of the elements. When the estates of West Prussia 
in the refectory of the High Master's castle at Marienburg " swore 
fealty to the re-established dominion " (to quote the phrase used 
on the commemorative medals), atonement was made for the 
wrong done to this German land by the overweening ambition of 
the Poles and by the treason of feudal licence. The struggle of 
five centuries between the Germans and the Poles for the possession 
of the Baltic shore was decided in favour of Germany. 

The state, still bleeding from the wounds of the last war, had 
now to begin the arduous labour of peaceful reconquest. Horribly 
had the Sarmatian nobility infested the land of the Vistula, 
exhibiting that contemptuous disregard of foreign rights and foreign 
nationality which has ever distinguished the Poles from the other 
nations of Europe. Even more vigorously than formerly in Silesia, 
must the conqueror now comport himself in order to restore the 
German system to repute in the ancient and honourable cities once 
renowned for German military fame and German civic industry, 
in Schwetz, Kulm, and Marienburg ; to re -institute in the devas- 
tated country the first beginnings of economic life. Just as in 
former days the first German conqueror had wrested from the 
waters the corn lands of the inter-riverine district, so now there arose 
from the marches around the flourishing Bromberg the creation 
of the second conqueror, the industrious region of the Netzegau. 
Frederick himself had but an obscure vision of the significance to 
the great course of German history of this re-acquirement of the 
Ordensland, whilst the nation had become estranged from its own 
past, and hardly realised that these districts had ever been Ger- 
man. Some, with the acid obscurity of the moral platitudinarian, 
censured the diplomatic intrigue which had led to the alienation 
of the land ; others repeated credulously the fables circulated by 
the French, the ancient allies of the Poles, in order to stamp as 
infamous the powers that effected the partition ; most of them 
remained cold and indifferent, finding merely a new reason for accept- 
ance of the current view that old Fritz was possessed by the devil. 
Not a soul in the empire gave him any thanks for the new benefit 
he had bestowed upon our people. 

The restless ambition of Emperor Joseph II made it 
necessary for the king in the evening of his life to return to those 
ideas of imperial policy which had occupied his youth. The court 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

of Vienna abandoned the conservative attitude which alone could 
preserve in the empire any regard for the imperial house and under- 
took to compensate itself in Bavaria for the loss of Silesia ; the 
whole course of Austrian history for the last two centuries, the 
continuous development of the imperial state outward from the 
German realm, was suddenly to be reversed by a wild internal ad- 
venture. Thereupon for the second time King Frederick made an 
alliance with the Wittelsbachs, and with the might of the sword 
forbade the House of Austria to increase its power upon German 
soil ; more sharply and clearly than ever before did the contrast 
between the two rivals become manifest in the light of day. The 
war of the Bavarian succession exhibits at once in its military aspects 
and in its political aims many remarkable similarities with the 
decisive war of 1866 ; but the former campaign was undertaken, 
not to free Germany from the dominion of Austria, as was the case 
when Prussia drew the sword three generations later, but merely 
to repel Austrian aggression, to maintain the status quo. Although 
the ageing hero no longer possessed the audacity to enable him to 
carry into effect his campaign on the great lines in which it was 
conceived, none the less the power of Prussia was sufficient to compel 
the Viennese court to give way. For the second time Bavaria 
was saved, the proud imperial court must stoop " to plead before 
the tribunal of Berlin," and the embittered Prince Kaunitz uttered 
that prophecy which upon the field of Koniggratz was to find 
fulfilment hi the opposite sense from that intended by the prophet : 
if ever Austria and Prussia were again to cross swords, these swords 
would not be sheathed " until the matter had been fought to a 
manifest, complete, and irrevocable issue." Hardly less valuable 
than the immediate result was the powerful revolution of opinion 
in the empire. The dreaded disturber of the peace, the rebel against 
emperor and empire, now seemed to the nation the wise protector 
of the law ; the smaller courts, which had so often trembled before 
the sword of Prussia, now terrified by the restless scheming of the 
Emperor Joseph, looked for rescue to the arbiter hi Sans Souci. 
In the farms of the Bavarian Alps, side by side with the picture of 
the popular saint Corbinian, there was hung .that of the old warrior 
with the three-cornered hat. In the chorus of the Swabian and 
North German poets which sang the king's fame there were now 
mingled a few voices from the profoundly hostile Electoral Saxony ; 
the bard Ringulph related in enraptured odes how " from the 
bosom of the Almighty, King Frederick, has issued thy great soul 
rejoicing in battle." Not long before K. F. Moser had said that 


History of Germany 

it was impossible for the vision of the ordinary man to follow this 
eagle in his flight, but perchance there would some day arise a 
Newton of political science who could measure the paths of the 
Frederician policy. For the Germans began to perceive that this 
enigmatic policy had, after all, been wonderfulty and essentially 
simple, that Frederick the statesman, devoid alike of hatred and 
of love, utterly free from personal feeling, had always sought that 
alone which was clearly demanded by the situation of his state. 

When the War of Independence broke out in North America 
and the enlightened world joyfully hailed the new sun that was 
rising in the west, Frederick, too, did not conceal his pleasure. To 
his youthful great power a yet newer state elbowing its way into 
the circle of the ancient powers was heartily welcome. He was 
glad to see this England, which had so shamefully betrayed him 
in the last war, and which during the Polish negotiations had 
prevented his acquiring Danzig, now herself in a painful quandary. 
He declared openly that he would not for a second time defend 
Hanover for ungrateful England ; he even once forbade the passage 
of the English accessory troops hired in Germany, because this 
unclean trade in men enraged him, and still more because he 
needed the young men of the empire for his own army. He took 
advantage of the need of the Queen of the Seas to preserve, through 
the federation of the armed neutral powers, the rights of the navies 
of the second rank. After peace had been declared he was the 
first among the European princes to conclude a commercial treaty 
with the young republic, thus manifesting that free and humane 
conception of international law which has ever since been a tradi- 
tional characteristic of the Prussian state. But neither his hatred 
of the " goddam government," nor the outburst of popular favour 
which was displayed towards him in the colonies, ever induced him 
to take a single step beyond what was demanded by the interest 
of his own state. His ancient enemy Kaunitz might continue to 
explain the brilliant course of the Frederician policy as the outcome 
of the incalculable cunning of a demoniacal nature. In the empire, 
however, the old mistrust gradually passed away ; the nation 
observed that nowhere were its opportunities considered with 
such calm and deliberate attention as in the palace of Sans Souci. 

Thus it was that the unheard-of came to pass, that the high 
nobility of the empire of their own free will worked assiduously 
under Frederick's banner. The Emperor Joseph resumed his old 
Bavarian plan, intending to shatter the power of Prussia ; at 
the same time, by a hastily conceived design of secularisation, he 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

threatened the status of his spiritual neighbours. A spasm of 
alarm seized the smaller states, who thus saw their natural pro- 
tector become their enemy. There was talk of a federation of the 
central powers and of a league of the spiritual princes, until at 
length they were forced to recognise that they could do nothing 
without the help of Prussia. With youthful fire the aged king 
threw himself into the struggle. All the alluring appeals that 
were made to him to unite with the emperor in order to divide the 
ownership of Germany he scornfully rejected as appeals to " com- 
mon covetousness " ; he controlled his contempt for the petty 
princes, recognising that it was only by strict justice that he could 
bind ces gens-Id to his side. He succeeded in securing the great 
majority of the council of electors and most of the more powerful 
rulers on behalf of his league of German princes, so as to maintain 
against the emperor the ancient imperial constitution and the 
status quo of the estates of the empire. " It is only my love for the 
fatherland and my duty as a good citizen," he wrote, " which 
drives me in my old age into this new undertaking." The dreams 
of his youth were brilliantly fulfilled in the days of his old age. 
No longer hidden behind a Bavarian shadow-emperor as in the 
Silesian Wars, but with visor raised, the crown of Prussia now took 
the stage as the protector of Germany. All the neighbouring powers, 
which had counted on Germany's weakness, noted with alarm the 
unexpected crisis hi German affairs : France and Russia drew 
nearer to the Viennese court, and there was danger that the alliance 
of 1756 would be reconstituted. The cabinet of Turin, on the other 
hand, hailed the League of Princes with joy as " the tutelary deity 
of the Italian states." 

The policy of federalism had during two centuries never got 
beyond the stage of half-beginnings, but now that it was supported 
by the power of the Prussian state it suddenly achieved a striking 
success. The memory of the times of Maximilian I and of the 
reform proposals of the Elector Berthold was revived. The League 
of Princes was determined to preserve the ancient imperio-feudal- 
theocratic Germany. But as affairs progressed, and when Prussia 
maintained her leadership of the great estates of the empire, the 
old forms of the imperial law necessarily became devoid of meaning. 
The prospect was opened of the complete overthrow of the Austrian 
system. As Count Hertzberg joyfully exclaimed, there was hope 
of excluding the Archdukes from the great German fellowship, of 
transferring the imperial crown at the next election to another 
house, and of placing the leadership of the empire in the hands of 


History of Germany 

the mightiest of all the estates. The young Charles Augustus of 
Weimar had already resolved to subject to the examination of the 
empire those ancient privileges which secured for the House of 
Austria its peculiar position of authority. It almost seemed as 
if the great problem of the future of Germany was to find a peaceful 
solution. But the League of Princes could not endure, and this 
bitter truth was manifest above all to the sober sense of the old 
king. Only a concatenation of fortunate circumstances, only the 
departure of the Emperor Joseph from the traditional methods 
of Austrian statecraft, had thrown the petty princes into the arms 
of Frederick ; their confidence in Prussia extended only so far as 
it was forced on them by their dread of Austria. It was with the 
utmost reluctance that Electoral Saxony accepted the leadership 
of the younger and less distinguished House of Brandenburg ; 
Hanover was hardly less distrustful ; even the most devoted and 
the weakest of the federated estates, Weimar and Dessau, were 
secretly taking counsel, so we learn from Goethe, how they could 
best protect themselves against the dominion of their Prussian 
protector. Directly the Hofburg abandoned its greedy designs it 
was inevitable that the old and natural division of parties should 
be re-established, that the spiritual princes now seeking help from 
Berlin should once more regard Protestant Prussia as simply the 
sworn enemy of their rule. Since Frederick knew this, since he 
knew his faithful allies to the very marrow of their bones, he was 
under no illusions as to the prospects of the affair, and was well 
aware that this new League of Schmalkald was only a temporary 
help, a means for the momentary preservation of an equilibrium. 
Charles Augustus, hi generous enthusiasm, was drawing up bold 
plans for the structure of the new imperial association, and think- 
ing of a customs-union, of military agreements, and of a German 
legal code ; Johannes Miiller was glorifying the League of Princes 
in fulsome pamphlets, and Schubart was singing its praises in ardent 
lyric effusions ; Dohm, in an inspired memoir, came to the con- 
clusion, " there can never be any conflict between German and 
Prussian interests." The cool reason of the king was uninfluenced 
by such dreams as these ; he knew that nothing but a terrible war 
could overthrow the Austrian rule in the empire ; it sufficed him to 
prevent Austria from exceeding her legal power, for he needed peace 
for his country. 

All the necessary conditions were still lacking for a serious 
reform of the empire ; and above all there was lacking the will 
of the nation. The imperial-patriotic protagonists of the League 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

of Princes did not get beyond the ancient illusions of German 
freedom. The Josephan policy, Hertzberg assures us in moving 
terms, threatened to roll together the energies of Germany into 
a single mass, and to subject free Europe to a universal monarchy, 
whilst in the eyes of Dohm it seemed a praiseworthy aim of the 
new league to keep open the western frontiers of Austria so that 
France might at any time be able to come to the aid of German 
freedom. The people perceived darkly that the existing order was not 
worthy to exist ; in the writings of Schubart the small Swabian 
territories are often depicted as an open dovecot, just under the 
claws of the princely marten. But all such views and intima- 
tions were held in check by a sentiment of hopeless resignation such 
as the more active-minded present finds it difficult to understand ; 
it seemed to the German as if an unsearchable hidden destiny had 
condemned this people to vegetate for all eternity in a futile state 
of affairs, which had long lost every right to existence. When the 
great king departed he left, indeed, a generation of men whose 
outlook on the world was happier and prouder than had been that 
of their fathers ; there had been an enormous increase in the power 
of that state which might at some future time lead Germany to a 
new day. But the question by what ways and means a really 
living order might be created for the German community, seemed 
at the death of Frederick almost as insoluble as it had seemed when 
he ascended the throne ; and indeed the great majority of Germans 
made no serious effort to seek a solution. There hardly existed as 
yet the first beginnings of a national party ; and to those without 
counsel it seemed as if only a miracle could bring help. The horrible 
confusion of everything is most conspicuously displayed by the 
simple fact that the hero who had once used his good sword to 
prove the nullity of the institutions of the empire, must now spend 
the evening of his days in the defence of these exanimate forms 
against the very head of the empire. 

If it were possible to Frederick merely to pave the way for a 
solution of the German constitutional problem, if he were forced 
to leave this task unfinished, he was able, on the other hand, to 
exercise a deep and lasting influence upon the internal politics of 
the German territories, and to educate our people to a nobler sense 
of the state, to a worthier view of its nature. He came at the end 
of the great days of absolute monarchy, and seemed to his con- 
temporaries the representative of a new conception of the state, 
that of benevolent despotism. Propagandist energy is the peculiar 
privilege of genius ; genius alone is competent to assemble a 


History of Germany 

reluctant world beneath the banner of new ideas. Just as the ideas 
of the Revolution were first effectively diffused by Napoleon, so also 
was that serious conception of the duties of kingship, which since 
the days of the Great Elector had been dominant on the Prussian 
throne, transmitted first by Frederick to the general consciousness of 
mankind. It was the brilliant results of the Silesian Wars which 
had turned the attention of the world, hitherto admiringly fixed 
on the courtly magnificence of Versailles, to contemplate with a 
profounder consideration the unadorned crown of the Hohen- 
zollerns. In war and in foreign policy the king displayed the 
incomparable creative force of his spirit, in internal administra- 
tion he was the son of his father. He animated the traditional 
forms of the state with the energy of genius, completing the incom- 
plete freely and greatly ; but he undertook no entirely new con- 
struction. Yet Frederick was able to bring into conformity with 
the culture of the century, those ideas of political kingship which 
his father had realised as a hard-handed practical man ; unceas- 
ingly he manifested his activity both to himself and others. When 
still crown prince he had acquired a place among the political 
thinkers of the age ; despite all its faults of youthful unripeness 
his Anti-Machiavel is nevertheless the best and profoundest work that 
has ever been penned concerning the duties of the princely office 
in an absolute monarchy. Subsequently, in the first flush of vic- 
tory, he wrote the Furstenspiegel for the young Duke of Wurtem- 
berg. Yet more powerful than all theory was the evidence of his 
deeds, for in the days of trial he followed his own precepts, showing 
the world what it means " to think, to live, to die as a king." 
Finally, he received also that favour at the hands of destiny which 
even genius needs if it is to impress its stamp on an entire genera- 
tion ; he had the good fortune to live on into a ripe old age. He 
was now the Nestor, the accepted leader, of European princes ; 
his fame drew the gaze of all the thrones, and from his words and his 
works other kings could learn how to think greatly of their own 

The traditional view of the petty princeling, that land and 
people were the personal property of the sublimely estimable 
princely house, fell into disrepute after the dry remark of the king : 
" The prince has no relatives nearer than his state, whose interests 
must always take precedence of the claims of kin." The over- 
weening dynastic egoism of the Bourbons was displayed in all its 
vanity when Frederick, on mounting the throne, had turned his 
back upon the light pleasures of life with the words, " My only 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

God is my duty," when for half a century he had been serving this 
one god with all the forces of his soul, and when to every grateful 
utterance of his people he made the same quiet answer, " That is 
why I am here." Never before had a monarch spoken so frankly 
of the princely dignity, as did this autocrat, who recognised without 
reserve the right to existence of the republic as well as of the 
constitutional kingdom, and who sought the greatness of absolute 
monarchy only in the arduousness of its duties, saying : " The 
prince must be the head and heart of the state ; he is the supreme 
chief of the civic faith of his country." 

The coming generation of the high nobility formed itself after 
Frederick's model, and in accordance with the philanthropic ideas 
of the new enlightenment. The petty sultans of the days of 
Frederick William I were succeeded by a long series of well- 
disposed fathers of their country, men true to duty, such as Charles 
Frederick of Baden and Frederick Christian of Saxony. It became 
common for the princes to receive a military education after the 
Prussian manner ; ecclesiastical toleration, furtherance of the 
public well-being and of the schools, were regarded as princely 
duties ; in some of the smaller states, as in Brunswick, the freedom 
of the press became yet greater than in Prussia. Even in certain 
spiritual provinces there was a tendency to improvement, and 
Minister could value the gentle and careful administration of its 
Fiirstenberg. Not everywhere, indeed, nor in a moment, could 
the ingrained errors of the petty princely despotism be eradicated ; 
the old immorality of the trade in soldiers reached its climax during 
the American War to show of what the German minor princes were 
capable. The Frederician system of seeking the happiness of the 
people as a gift from above was apt to lead in the narrow domains 
of the lesser states to empty play-acting or to oppressive tutelage. 
The Margrave of Baden spoke of his council as "The natural guardian 
of our subjects " ; many a well-meaning lordling maltreated his 
tiny state by the imposition of the new-fashioned physiocratic 
system of taxation, and by all kinds of unripe philanthropic 
experiments ; whilst the princely state-directory of Oettingen- 
Oettingen must provide the inquisitive ruler with precise informa- 
tion concerning the " name, breed, use, and outward characteristics " 
of all dogs within his domain, together with innumerable addi- 
tional servile reports. On the whole, however, the princely genera- 
tion of the eighties was the most honourable that for long had 
occupied the German thrones. Wherever he could, the king 
opposed the excesses of his fellows, liberating the aged Moser from 


History of Germany 

prison, and securing the Wiirtembergers in the possession of their 
constitution. The condition of the empire as a whole was hope- 
less, but in many of its members a new and hopeful life began to 

Moreover, the example of Frederick exercised its influence far 
beyond the German borders. Maria Theresa became his aptest 
pupil, diffusing in the Catholic world the ideas of the Frederician 
monarchy. The old Austria, surrounded by weak neighbours, 
had hitherto passed its time in a careless slumber, and it was the 
growth hi strength of its ambitious northern neighbour which 
first forced the imperial state to undertake a vigorous development 
of its energies. Haugwitz, the North German, transformed the 
Austrian administration in accordance with the Prussian model, 
in so far as this was possible, and from these Austrian reforms 
enlightened despotism elsewhere now learned its lesson, so that in 
all the lands of Lathi civilisation, in Naples and Tuscany, in Spain 
and Portugal, there began restless endeavours for the forcible im- 
position of popular happiness. The pride of the French Bourbons 
held out longest against the new conception of monarchy, and with 
mocking laughter it was related at Versailles that at Potsdam the 
court chamberlain never handed the king his shirt. Not until it 
was too late, not until the Revolution was already knocking at the 
door, did the French monarchy begin to have some inkling of its 
duties. The Bourbons never fully emerged from the vain notion 
of courtly self-deification and contempt for mankind, hence their 
shameful fall. Among the Germans, on the other hand, the mon- 
archical sentiment which was in our people's very blood, and which 
had never completely decayed during the centuries of feudal poly- 
archy, was reinvigorated by King Frederick. In no other nation 
of modern history was the task of kingship understood in so great 
and lofty a sense, and for this reason the German people remained, 
even when the time of the parliamentary struggle arrived, the most 
monarchical in sentiment among all the great civilised nations. 

The love of peace of the House of Hohenzollern remained 
active even in the greatest of its warrior-princes. Power was 
prized by Frederick as no more than a means to secure the well- 
being of the nations and to spread civilisation among them. It 
seemed to him an injury to princely honour to conceive that power 
could ever become an end in itself, that the struggle for power for 
its own sake could ever bring historic fame. It was for this reason 
that he wrote his passionate polemic against Machiavelli. It was 
for this reason that in his writings he returned again and again 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

to the repellent example of Charles XII of Sweden. He was 
perhaps secretly aware that within his own breast elemental forces 
were at work which might lead him to similar aberrations, was 
never weary of depicting the vanity of aimless warlike renown, 
and in the circular hall at Sans Souci he had the bust of the King 
of Sweden placed contemptuously at the feet of the Muses. Even 
hi the salad days of his youth he was perfectly clear as to the moral 
aims of power. " This state," he then wrote, " must become 
strong so that it may be able to play the fine role of maintaining 
peace solely out of the love of justice, and not by inspiring fear. 
But if in Prussia it should ever happen that injustice, partisanship, 
and vice should gam the upper hand, I should hope to see the 
headlong fall of the House of Brandenburg." When, at the close 
of the Seven Years' War, he felt himself strong enough to maintain 
peace by justice, he devoted himself so zealously to the restoration 
of the popular well-being, that the army actually suffered in conse- 

This is literally true. The military commander, who had 
brought Prussia so many laurels, left the Prussian army in a worse 
condition than that in which he had found it on ascending the 
throne, and as a military organiser was not the equal of his rough 
father. He needed diligent workers to restore his devastated 
country, and it was therefore a principle with him to favour foreign 
recruiting for the maintenance of the army. The regimental 
commanders must draw up their cantonal lists in conjunction with 
the local administrators, and from the time this arrangement was 
instituted there occurred annually in every district that conflict 
between military demands and civic interests which, under changing 
forms, continued to manifest itself throughout the history of 
Prussia. On this occasion the contest was decided in favour 
of the needs of the popular economy. The civic authorities 
endeavoured to save every vigorous and capable youth from the 
red stock of the cantonist. The king himself intervened on this 
side, liberating from the duty of military service numerous classes 
of the population, such as immigrants, the families of all those 
engaged in industry, the servants of landlords. A number of 
towns, and even entire provinces, such as East Frisia, received 
special privileges. Soon after the peace, the army came to be more 
than half composed of foreigners. Frederick took a high view of 
the army, loved to speak of it as the Atlas which carried the state 
upon its strong shoulders ; the fame of the Seven Years' War still 
continued to produce its effect, so that service as a common soldier, 


History of Germany 

although in Prussia as everywhere else it was regarded as a 
misfortune, was not here, as elsewhere in the empire, considered a 
disgrace. The king brought the great summer manoeuvres on the 
heath of Mockerau to a degree of technical perfection which has 
probably never been attained in the sequel ; he never ceased to 
urge his officers " to love detail, which is also a work of glory " ; 
and he wrote for their instruction his military manuals, the ripest 
of all his works. No advance in military matters escaped his 
glance ; even when a very old man he constructed the new arm 
of light infantry, the green fusiliers, after the model of the American 
riflemen. The fame of the Potsdam drill-ground drew spectators 
from every country ; in Turin, Victor Amadeus and his generals 
carefully imitated every movement of the great Prussian drill- 
sergeant, even to the bent position of the head ; and when the 
young Lieutenant Gneisenau saw the pointed morions of the 
grenadiers on parade sparkling in the sun, he cried out with 
enthusiasm, " Which among all the peoples of the world can show 
such a wonderful sight as this ? " 

Yet it is unquestionable that in Frederick's later years the 
efficiency of the army declined. The flower of the old officers' 
corps lay upon the battle-fields ; during the Seven Years' War and 
this is without example in the history of warfare with very few 
exceptions all the notable generals had either been killed or per- 
manently disabled. Those who now came to the front had learned 
war only as subalterns, and they sought the secret of the Frederician 
victories in the manual exercises of the drill-ground. Among the 
foreign officers, there were many adventurers of dubious character. 
Advancement was sought by favour, and there was no place for 
the proud courage of a York or a Blucher. The king, less friendly 
towards the bourgeoisie than his father, believed that only the 
nobleman was a man of honour, and cashiered most of his bourgeois 
officers. In the noble officers' corps there arose a junker senti- 
ment which became yet more intolerable to the people than had 
been the unrestrained roughness of earlier days. The enlisted 
veterans ultimately came to live in civic occupation, in comfort with 
their wives and families, and detested the thought of active service 
for a country in which they remained foreigners. Already in the 
war of the Bavarian succession Frederick noted with annoyance 
how little this army could do, but the explanation of the failure 
eluded his observation. The eudaemonism of his epoch led him to 
misunderstand the moral energies of the military system. At one 
time, in accordance with the custom of his day, he had formed 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

Prussian regiments of Austrian and Saxon prisoners-of-war, and 
not even the numerous desertions of these unfortunates could teach 
him that he was wrong. In the latest years of the war he had had 
abundant evidence of what an army of the children of the country 
was able to effect, and yet this powerful appeal to the united energy 
of the nation was always regarded by him as a temporary resource 
for days of especial need, " now that the protection of the father- 
land is in question and that danger is extremely pressing." Among 
his statesmen, Hertzberg alone held sacred the bold ideas of 
Frederick William I, who had desired gradually to purge his army 
of all foreigners, " for then we shall become invincible like the 
Greeks and the Romans." But the venerable king saw with 
gratification the economic progress of his unhappy country, and he 
described his ideal of a military system in the extraordinary words : 
" The peaceful citizen should be altogether unaware of the fact 
when the nation is at war." Thus one of the pillars supporting the 
state structure, the idea of universal military service, was slowly 
crumbling away. 

The traditional subdivision of classes, and the organisation 
of labour which rested thereon, were maintained by the king even 
more strictly than they had been by his father ; whenever the 
peasant, the burgher, the nobleman seemed to him no longer 
adequate for his part in the national economy, he gave help by 
instruction and by relentless coercion, by presents and by loans. 
The noble must remain the first estate of the realm, for "I need 
him for my army and for my national administration." By the 
mortgage institutions, and by notable contributions in hard cash, 
Frederick succeeded in " preserving " the landed property of the 
nobles after the devastation of the years of war. Hence he dared 
as little as his father to attempt to carry into practice that com- 
plete liberation of the country-folk to which his great mind aspired. 
It is true that by the common law the crude form of serfdom was 
abolished, but the only slightly less oppressive hereditary subordina- 
tion was everywhere maintained. The administration was content 
to mitigate in certain details the severities of the existing class- 
rule. Unnoticed and undesired by the ageing prince, there was 
beginning a significant transformation in the relationships of social 
power. The new literature was producing a cultured public as a 
compost of all the classes ; the merchants and industrials of the 
great towns, the bourgeois leaseholders of the extensive crown- 
lands, gradually attained a secure state of well-being and a vigorous 
self-consciousness, and could not permanently tolerate the privileges 


History of Germany 

of the nobles. The nobleman lost, little by little, at once the 
moral and the economic foundations of his dominant position. The 
structure of the ancient class-subdivisions was undermined un- 

The administrative organisation of the father also remained 
unchanged under the son, the only difference being, that to the 
provincial departments of the general directory he added four new 
sections, dealing with the entire state, and concerned respectively 
with war, commerce, mining, and forestry, thus making a step 
further in the direction of the unified state. The crown continued 
to stand high above the people. Country dragoons were instructed 
to supervise the peasantry in the use of the seed potatoes presented 
by the king ; by an order of the Landrat and of the Chamber, com- 
pulsion was used to overcome the vigorous passive resistance of 
those concerned, against the new communal division, against the 
irrigation schemes, against all advances in agricultural technique. 
The completely exhausted spirit of enterprise of urban industry 
could be re-established only by the forcible methods of the prohibi- 
tive system. The errors of the Frederician economic policy lay, not 
in the zeal of the administration for the happiness of the people 
(a zeal which made light of obstacles, but for which the time was not 
yet ripe), but in the fiscal artifices which were forced upon the king 
by his financial needs. He was compelled to utilise three-fourths 
of his regular expenditure upon the army, and he endeavoured to 
balance his budget by the use of monopolies and of indirect taxes. 
In its lack of elasticity, the financial system still resembled that of 
a private household ; nearly half of the regular income was derived 
from the royal demesnes and the forests. The high expenditure 
of the state was rendered possible only by its extensive territo- 
rial possessions, which served also for the technical education of 
the country people. The maximum of the principal taxes being 
established by law, for the extraordinary expenses of domestic 
colonisation and reclamation recourse must be had to the expan- 
sible yield of the public administration of utilities. The carefully 
guarded war-chests sufficed for a few brief campaigns ; but it was 
impossible for Prussia to conduct a long and arduous war without 
the aid of foreign subsidies, for the rights of the diets, the tradi- 
tional views of officialdom, and the immaturity of the national 
economy, forbade recourse to governmental loans. Notable as 
was the increase in civic welfare, progress hi this respect was less 
rapid than among the more fortunately situated neighbouring 
peoples. The Prussian state always remained the poorest of the 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

great powers of the west, essentially an agricultural country, and 
one which played a very modest part hi world commerce, even after 
Frederick, by the acquisition of East Frisia, had opened access to 
the North Sea. The harbours of the Ems and of the Oder lacked 
the possession of a wealthy industrial hinterland. 

As a reformer Frederick was active in that province only of 
the internal life of the state which his predecessor had failed to 
understand. As regards the administration of justice, almost the 
only service rendered by Frederick William had been an apt trans- 
formation of the mortgage system. His son created the new 
Prussian judiciary, just as his father had brought into being the 
modern German executive officialdom. He knew that the adminis- 
tration of justice is a political duty inseparable from the state : 
throughout all his dominions he secured the complete indepen- 
dence of the imperial courts; instituted a ministry of justice side by 
side with the general directory ; placed the entire administration of 
justice in the hands of a hierarchially ordered state officialdom, 
which trained its own successors, and which exercised a rigid super- 
vision over the private judicial authorities that still existed in the 
lowest ranks of the magistracy. There was a promise of the uncon- 
ditional independence of the courts vis-a-vis the administration, 
and such independence was hi practice secured except as regards 
a few instances of judicial power arbitrarily but benevolently 
exercised by the royal cabinet. The new judiciary, though not 
very highly paid, preserved an honourable sense of its duties ; and 
whilst the courts of the empire displayed venality and partisan- 
ship, in Prussia the proud saying was justified (even against the 
king's will) il y a des juges d Berlin To the youth of the age of 
enlightenment, who regarded the state as a construction of the 
human will consciously working towards a definite end, it was a 
self-evident desire that the state must not be something fixed and 
traditional in character, but that it must be dominated by a con- 
sciously conceived and purposive system of law ; all through his 
life it was Frederick's idea to effect the first comprehensive codifica- 
tion of the law which had been undertaken since the time of Jus- 
tinian. Not till after his death, did the system of civil law come 
into operation which manifests more plainly than any other work of 
this epoch the Janus-head of the Frederician conception of the state. 
On the one hand the legal code is so careful to preserve the tra- 
ditional social differences that the whole system of the laws was 
adapted to the ancient feudal division of classes, even preserving 
for the nobility a feudal marriage law in conflict with the commoD 

89 G 

History of Germany 

law ; on the other hand the code pushes the notion of state 
sovereignty so boldly to its ultimate consequences that many of 
its utterances anticipate the ideas of the French Revolution, lead- 
ing Mirabeau to say that in this respect Prussia was a century in 
advance of the rest of Europe. The aim of the state is the general 
welfare ; it is only in pursuit of this aim that the state may 
impose limitations upon the natural freedom of its citizens ; but in 
pursuit of this aim it is also empowered to abolish all existing 
privileges. The king is no more than the chief of the state, and 
only as chief of the state does he possess rights and duties. 
Such were the views of the ruler of Prussia in the days in 
which Biener and other notable jurists were still maintaining 
as an incontestable legal principle the rights of the German princes 
as private owners of country and people. Consequently the 
authority of the state, placed above the domain of private rights, 
exercises an ordering and instructive influence in all private affairs, 
prescribes moral duties to parents and children, to masters and 
servants, endeavouring hi its promethean legislative wisdom to 
provide for every possible legal dispute of the future. 

This legal code marks the ultimate terms of the ancient abso- 
lutism : strict limits were imposed upon authority, and the com- 
munity was raised to the level of a legal state. At the same time 
the code, inasmuch as it overthrew the dominion of Roman law, 
was unwittingly paving the way for a new legal unity of the 
German people. The mechanical state-idea of the Frederician days 
was soon superseded by a profounder and more far-seeing philo- 
sophy, the incomplete juristic culture of Carmer and Suarez was 
replaced by the work of historical jurisprudence ; but for many 
decades the civil code remained the powerful foundation upon which 
all further reforms of the Prussian state were erected. Among 
the officials, as among the people, the belief in the dominion of law, 
a belief which is the pre-condition of all political freedom, became 
a living force. If the state existed in order to secure the general 
well-being it followed by an inevitable necessity (although Frederick 
himself failed to see this) that the privileges of the dominant castes 
should be abrogated and that the nation should participate in the 
conduct of public affairs. Sooner or later this conclusion would 
have to be drawn, for even now, in the enlarged domains of state 
activity, only a supply of talented human energies could prove 
adequate for the severe tasks which the kingship was undertaking. 

Far less effectually did Frederick work on behalf of the 
intellectual life of his people. We know, indeed, from Goethe's 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

memoirs how the heroic episodes of the Seven Years' War exercised 
upon German culture a fertilising and liberating influence, how in 
those years of renown in arms a sense of national existence, an 
enlarging sentiment of vital energy, came to animate the exhausted 
field of poetry ; how the poverty-stricken speech of the country, 
which had long been stammeringly attempting the expression of 
exuberant feelings, now at length escaped from dulness and empti- 
ness, to find the great expression for the great idea. It was within 
sound of the drums of the Prussian war camp that the first Ger- 
man comedy, Minna von Barnhelm, was written. In this wonderful 
spiritual awakening the people of Prussia took an extensive share, 
providing for the literary movement several of its pioneer figures, 
from Winckelmann to Hamann and Herder. Interpermeated with 
the Prussian spirit was the new and maturer form of Protestantism 
which ultimately emerged victoriously from the thought-struggles 
of this fermenting epoch to become a common heritage of the North 
German people I refer to the Kantian ethics. It was only upon 
this soil of Protestant freedom that the categorical imperative 
could flourish, only here that was conceivable that work of renun- 
ciation and faithfulness to duty. Where in former days rough 
commands had enforced silent obedience, there was now to be seen 
the evocation of a free-spirited assent by the image of the king 
who built fearlessly upon the power of the investigating under- 
standing, and who willingly recognised that he who reasons best 
goes farthest. Frederick carried on in the freest sense the ancient 
Prussian policy of toleration in matters of belief, incorporating 
hi his legal code the principle, " ideas of God and of divine things 
cannot be the object of legal compulsion." Nor did the free-thinker 
abandon the attempts towards religious union that had been made 
by his predecessors, but insisted that the two Protestant Churches 
should not refuse to one another in case of need the community 
of the sacraments. The supreme episcopal authority which he 
claimed for his own crown, secured him against any state-hostile 
machinations on the part of the clergy, and even allowed him to 
tolerate that Society of Jesus which had recently been suppressed by 
the Pope. He secured for the press a freedom which was rarely limited, 
for " if newspapers are to be interesting they must work without 
interference." He declared all the schools to be " state institu- 
tions," and spoke gladly and with enthusiasm of the duty of the 
state to train the coming generation to independent thought and 
to self-sacrificing love of country. How often did he praise a 
renown for science and art as the finest ornament of the crown? 

History of Germany 

In this also he showed himself a true German and a prince of peace, 
in that he regarded a classical education as the source of all higher 
culture, whereas the soldier Napoleon preponderantly esteemed 
the exact sciences. Despite all this, the king exercised but little 
direct influence in the promotion of popular culture. 

The exiguity of financial resources, the lack of efficient ele- 
mentary school-teachers, and his incessant struggles, now with 
foreign enemies and now with domestic poverty, rendered it difficult 
for the king to carry his plans into execution ; and ultimately the 
narrow utilitarianism of the father manifested itself also in the 
son. The thrifty-minded man found it easier to provide means 
for any other purpose than for that of popular instruction. When 
the Germans in the empire made a mock of the hungry Prussians, 
they thought above all of the Prussian professors. For the 
elementary schools the provision was extremely scanty ; for exten- 
sive areas in the country districts the rule of universal compul- 
sory education, though continually made more stringent, remained 
in practice a dead letter. None of the Prussian universities 
attained the fame of the new Georgia Augusta University. Not 
until near the close of the Frederician epoch, when Zedlitz, the 
friend of Kant, undertook the control of the educational institutes, 
was a somewhat freer impulse given to the educational system. 
At that time the excellent Abbot Felbiger was improving the Catholic 
elementary schools, and found imitators in Austria and elsewhere 
in the empire, so that ultimately even Catholic Germany came to 
share in the finest blessings of the Reformation. 

It seemed an easy matter to assemble in Berlin for abundant 
activities a brilliant circle of the best heads of Germany. Every 
young talent in the empire wished to develop under the eye of the 
national hero. Even Winckelmann, who had once in hatred 
shaken the dust of the Mark from his feet, now felt how strong 
were the bonds with which this state attached the hearts of its sons. 
" For the first time," he now wrote, " I hear the voice of the father- 
land calling me." He burned with desire to show the Aristotle 
of the art of war that a native-born subject could do something 
worth doing, and for years was in treaty for a post at Berlin. At 
Frederick's French academy, however, there was no place for 
German thinkers. The Medicean days which had once been 
expected from the art-inspired prince of the Rheinsberg court of the 
Muses, were provided only for the foreign wits at the round table 
of Sans Souci ; the disciple of French culture had no understanding 
of the young life that was growing within the frame of his own 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

people. Whilst Berlin society was intoxicating itself to excess in 
the ideas of the new literature, while mocking free-thought and 
artificialised pleasure-seeking were expelling the old rigid moral 
simplicity, the Prussian administration continued to retain its 
one -sided tendency towards the immediately useful. That intoler- 
ably stiff home-made and prosaic spirit which the old soldier- 
king had introduced into his state was mitigated by Frederick 
but not abolished ; it was only the baroque magnificence of the 
new palace and the mighty cupolas of the Gendarmenkirche which 
showed that there was proceeding a gradual modification in that 
barbaric hatred of culture which had characterised the thirties. 

The Prussian state continued to give expression to one side 
only of our national life. The delicacy and the yearning, the 
profundity and the enthusiasm, of the German nature could not 
come to their rights in this sober-minded world. The focal centre 
of German policy did not become the home of the spiritual life of 
the nation ; the classical epoch of our poetry found its stage in 
the petty states. This significant fact is the key to many of the 
riddles of modern German history. To the cool and undetached 
attitude of King Frederick our literature owes the most precious 
of all its possessions, its incomparable freedom; but this indiffer- 
ence of the crown of Prussia during the days that were decisive as 
to the character of modern German culture, is also responsible for 
the fact that it long remained difficult for the heroes of German 
thought to understand the one truly living state of our people. 
After Frederick's death it was fully two decades before Prussia 
could give a hospitable reception to the intellectual forces of the 
new Germany ; and a considerably longer period must subsequently 
elapse before German science was able to recognise that it was of 
one blood with the Prussian state that the state-constructive 
force of our people was rooted in the same vigorous idealism which 
had inspired German research and German art in its bold ventures. 

Frederick's coldness towards German culture is unquestionably 
the most tragical, the most unnatural phenomenon in the long 
history of the passion of new Germany. The first man of the 
nation, the one who had re-awakened in the Germans the courage 
to believe in themselves, regarded from the outlook of a foreigner 
the finest and most characteristic works of his own nation ; there 
is surely no more expressive, no more shocking way of describing 
the slowness and difficulty with which this people of ours was able 
to shake off the dire heritage of the Thirty Years' War, the excessive 
power of foreign influences. Frederick was not, as had been 


History of Germany 

Henry IV of France, a loyal advocate of the national merits and 
defects ; he lacked Henry's understanding of the national tempera- 
ment in every shade of its caprices. Two natures were at war 
within him. On the one hand he was the philosophical connois- 
seur, who rejoiced in the strains of music, in the sweet sounds of 
French verse, who regarded the fame of the poet as the greatest 
happiness on earth, who in honest admiration exclaimed to Voltaire : 
"To me the fortune of birth has given an empty appearance, but 
to thee every talent possible, and thine is the better part." On 
the other hand, he was the energetic North German, who stormed 
at his Brandenburger churls in the rough dialect of the Mark, 
to the hard people an image of warrior-courage, of restless labour, 
of iron strength. The French enlightenment of the eighteenth 
century suffers from the essential disease of a profound untruth, 
in that it possesses neither the desire nor the power to harmonise 
life with the ideal. People waxed enthusiastic regarding the 
sacred innocence of nature, whilst wallowing with delight in the 
most unnatural practices which had ever prevailed in the Euro- 
pean world. They mocked the ridiculous chances of birth, dreamed 
of primitive freedom and equality, while indulging in the most 
uncontrolled contempt for mankind and in all the sweet sins of the 
old courtly society, satisfied with the hope that in some remote 
future reason would assert its sway over the ruins of the actual 
world of their day. At the Prussian court the talented and ill- 
conditioned Prince Henry was a true child of this culture : theoretic- 
ally a contemner of that empty vapour which the mob term fame 
and greatness, but in practice a man of the hard reason of state, 
unscrupulous, an expert in all possible wiles and artifices. 

Frederick, too, led after his own manner the double life of the 
men of the French enlightenment. It was his tragical destiny to 
think and to speak in two languages, of neither of which he had 
perfect command. To the youth intoxicated with beauty, the 
rude gibberish that was to be heard in his father's tobacco-parlia- 
ment was as repugnant as were the obscure writings of over-refined 
pedantry with which he came into contact in the works of bigoted 
theologians ; for well or for ill he had to make use of this uncouth 
speech in discharging current affairs, now in a rough dialect, now 
in a stiff legal style. For the world of ideas fermenting in his head 
he could find worthy expression only in the tongue of cosmopolitan 
culture. He often admitted that his rough and bizarre muse 
spoke in a barbarous French, and in the recognition of this weak- 
ness he was apt to take too low an estimate of the artistic value 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

and linguistic purity of his own verses. One thing at least among 
those which make the poet, a protean talent, was not lacking to 
him. His muse ranged over the entire gamut of moods. Now, 
in appropriate earnestness it could express the great and the 
sublime ; now again, in satiric caprice, tease and worry its victims 
with the malice of a Kobold or, to say truth, with the mischievous 
waggery of a Berlin gutter-snipe. Yet it was a true feeling which 
taught him that the wealth of his soul failed to find such abundant 
and pure expression in his verses as in the tones of his flute ; the 
most tuneful expression, the ultimate profundity of sensation, were 
for the German unattainable in the foreign tongue. 

The philosopher of Sans Souci never became truly at home in 
the foreign culture which he so ardently admired. In especial 
he was separated from his French associates by the strictness of 
his moral view of the world-order. The greatness of Protestantism 
consists in its imperious demand for the unity of thought and will, 
of the religious and of the moral life. Frederick's moral culture 
struck its roots too deeply into German Protestant life for him 
to escape a sense of the secret weakness of French philosophy. 
Frederick could adopt towards the Church an attitude more dis- 
passionate than was possible to Voltaire, the Catholic, who, in his 
Henriade, the evangel of the new toleration, finally comes to the 
conclusion that all respectable men must belong to the Roman 
Church. Frederick never bent his neck like Voltaire beneath 
religious forms which his conscience rejected, and could endure 
with the serene indifference of the born heretic the action of the 
Roman Curia in placing his works on the Index. Whilst he some- 
times condescends to describe philosophy as his passion, we 
recognise that with him consideration of the great problems of exist- 
ence is something of far more importance than a casual pastime ; 
after the manner of the ancients he seeks and finds in the thought- 
process the repose of the spirit at one with itself, the security of 
the soul that is lifted above all the vicissitudes of fate. After the 
aberrations of passionate youth, he early learned to exercise a 
forcible control over the tendency towards artistic softness and 
sensuality, which often impelled him to grasp at the pleasures of 
the moment. However boldly and disrespectfully doubt and 
mockery might course through his mind, he ever held firmly to 
the conception of the moral order of the world and to the thought 
of duty. The solemn earnestness of his life utterly consecrated 
to duty is separated by the heaven's breadth from the loose 
and fragile morality of the Parisian enlightenment. His writings, 


History of Germany 

couched in a clear and precise style, which is sometimes trivial 
but never confused, are directed with persistent force of will towards 
a secure and determinate conclusion, and in the same way he desires 
to regulate his life in accordance with recognised truth. As far 
as is practicable in face of the resistance of a barbaric world he 
endeavours to secure for humaneness, which he terms the cardinal 
virtue of every thinking being, the dominion over state and society ; 
and he goes to meet death with the quiet conviction " that he leaves 
the world heaped over with his benefits." 

Nevertheless it remained for ever impossible to him com- 
pletely to overcome the division of his soul. The internal con- 
tradiction is manifest at the first glance in Frederick's mordant 
wit, which is so nakedly displayed because the hero, in his proud 
truthfulness, never dreamed of attempting to conceal it. The life 
of the man of genius is always impenetrable in its obscurity, 
and very rarely indeed is it so difficult to understand as in the 
wealth of this spirit thus cleft asunder. The king looks down with 
supt rior iron} upon the flat ignorance of his Brandenburg nobility ; 
he draws a deep breath of relief when after the tedium of this dull 
society he can refresh himself in the company of the one man to 
whom he looks with admiration, the master of the tongue of the 
Gallic muses : yet at the same moment he feels what he owes to 
the trustworthy soundness of this rough race ; cannot find words 
enough in which to express his esteem for the high spirit, the fidelity, 
the honourable disposition of his nobles; and bridles his spirit of 
mocker, when he contemplates the firm biblical faith of old Zieten. 
The French are his welcome guests for the pleasant hours of supper ; 
but his respect is given to the Germans. Not one of his foreign 
associates is so near to Frederick's heart as the " man of his soul," 
Winterfeldt, who maintained his German disposition even against 
his royal friend. Very frequently Frederick expresses in his letters 
his yearning for the new Athens on the banks of the Seine, and 
bewails the envy of unfavourable gods who have condemned the 
son of the Muses to rule over slaves in the Cimmerian region of 
winter ; and yet he shares without repining, just as did his father, 
the sorrows and labours of this poor people, glad at heart on account 
of the new life that was springing to existence under the hard hands 
of his peasants, exclaiming with pride : " I prefer our simplicity, 
and even our poverty, to that accursed wealth which destroys the 
worth of our race." Woe to the foreign poets when they take 
upon themselves to offer political counsel to the king ; severely 
and mockingly he then refers them to the limitations of their art. 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

However vividly, moreover, the ideas of the new France may 
occupy his mind, he is a great writer only when, in his French 
words, he is expressing German ideas, when in his political, mili- 
tary, and historical writings he is speaking as a German prince 
and commander. It was not in the school of the foreigner but 
through his own energy and through his own incomparable experi- 
ence that Frederick became the first publicist of the eighteenth 
century, the one German who approached the state with creative 
critical faculty, and who spoke in the great style of the duties of 
the citizen. Never before in this denationalised race had any- 
one written of love of country with the same warmth and profundity 
as the author of the Letters of Philopatros. The ageing king no 
longer considered it worth while to descend from the altitude of 
his French Parnassus into the lowlands of German art, or to 
examine with his own eyes whether the poetic energy of his people 
had not at length been awakened. In his essay upon German 
literature, composed six years before his death, he recapitulates 
the ancient accusations of the ordinary Parisian critic against 
the undisciplined wildness of the German tongue, and dismisses 
with disdainful words the detestable platitudes of Goetz von Ber- 
lichingen which he can hardly have read. And yet this very 
essay bears eloquent witness to the passionate national pride of 
the hero. He prophesies for the future of Germany an epoch of 
spiritual glory, the rays of whose sunrise were already illuminating 
those still blind to the light. Like Moses, he sees the promised 
land from afar off, and comes to the hopeful conclusion, " It 
may be that the last comers will excel all their predecessors ! " 
So near to his people, and yet so remote, so greatly estranged and 
yet so closely akin, w r as the great king of Germany. 

The grand epoch of the old monarchy went down to its rest. 
Around the king it became ever quieter ; the heroes who had 
fought his battles, the friends who had laughed with him and shared 
his enthusiasms, sank one by one into the grave ; he was over- 
whelmed by solitude, the curse of greatness. He was accustomed 
to spare no human feeling ; for himself in former days all the 
wondrous dreams of his youth had been trampled under foot by his 
unpitying father. In his old age his inconsiderate strength took 
the form of an unyielding hardness. The serious-minded old 
man who in the scanty hours of his leisure walked alone with his 
greyhounds in the picture gallery of Sans Souci, or, heavy-hearted, 
in the round temple of his park, pondered memories of his dead 
sister, saw far below at his feet a new generation springing up of 


History of Germany 

the petty children of man, ready to fear him and to obey, but not 
to give him their love. The excess of power of this one man lay 
as a heavy burden upon their spirits. When sometimes he still 
visited the Opera House, the opera and the singers seemed to wilt 
before the spectators ; everyone looked towards the place hi the 
parterre where the lonely old man with his great severe eyes was 
sitting. When the news of his death came, a Swabian peasant, 
expressing the innermost thought of countless Germans, exclaimed : 
" Who is now to rule the world ? " Until his last breath was 
drawn all the energy of will of the Prussian monarchy continued 
to emanate from this single man ; the day of his death was the 
first rest-day of his life. His testament showed once again to the 
nation how different was the political kingship of the Hohenzollerns 
in its understanding of the kingly office from the petty courts of 
Germany : "In the moment of my death my last wishes will be 
for the happiness of this state ; may it be the happiest of all states 
through the mildness of its laws, the most just of all in its domestic 
administration, the most bravely defended of all by an army that 
lives only for honour and fame for noble deeds, and may this realm 
continue to flourish until the end of time ! " 

A century and a half had passed away since, amid the ruins 
of the old empire, Frederick William had sought the first materials 
for the upbuilding of the new great power. A hundred thousand 
men of Prussia had found a hero's death, a colossal labour had 
been expended to establish hi safety the new German kingship, 
and as the outcome of this frightful struggle there had at least 
been secured for the empire one abundant blessing the nation 
once more found itself master on its own soil. For the Germans 
in the empire, life offered a consciousness of security which had 
long been lacking ; it seemed to them as if this Prussian had been 
predestined to cover with his shield against all foreign disturbers 
the peaceful work of the nation ; without this powerful sentiment 
of civic security our German poetry would not have found the 
joyful spirit necessary for great creation. Public opinion began 
gradually to reconcile itself with the state that had grown up 
against the public will ; people accepted it as a necessity of Ger- 
man life without troubling themselves much about its future. 
The difficult problem as to how so venturesone a state-structure 
was to maintain itself without the vivifying force of genius, received 
serious consideration from one contemporary mind alone, that of 
Mirabeau. The old epoch and the new were still greeting one 
another on friendly terms, when shortly before the death of the 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

king the tribune of the approaching Revolution passed an hour 
at the table of Sans Souci. In the glowing terminology of his 
rhetoric Mirabeau has described the greatest man upon whom he 
had ever set eyes. He termed Frederick's state a truly beautiful 
work of art, the one state of the day which could seriously interest 
a talented head, but he did not fail to see that this daring structure 
rested unfortunately upon too slender a foundation. The Prussians 
of those days could not understand such doubts ; the glory of the 
Frederician epoch seemed so miraculous that even this most carp- 
ingly critical of all the peoples of Europe was blinded by its splen- 
dour. For the next generation, the fame of Frederick was a 
destructive influence ; people reposed upon that fame in specious 
security, and forgot that it is only by arduous labour that the 
work of earlier arduous toil can be maintained. Yet when the 
days of disgrace and trial arrived, Prussia was once more to 
experience the power of genius slowly working to its issue and dif- 
fusing blessings ; the memories of Rossbach and Leuthen provided 
the ultimate moral energy which preserved the leaky vessel of the 
German monarchy from submergence beneath the waters ; and 
when the state once again took up arms in a struggle of desperation, 
a South German poet saw the form of the great king descending 
from the clouds, and calling to his people : '' Up, my Prussians, 
assemble under my banners, and you shall be greater even than 
were your forefathers ! " 


Meanwhile the German people, with a youthful energy and 
speed unique in the slow history of ancient nations, had completed 
a revolution in its spiritual life ; barely four generations after the 
hopeless barbarism of the Thirty Years' War there dawned the 
finest days of German art and science. From the vigorous roots of 
religious freedom there sprouted a new secular free culture, just 
as hostile to the ossified forms of German society as was the Prus- 
sian State to the Holy Roman Empire. The classic literature of 
all other nations was the offspring of power and of wealth, the ripe 
fruit of a developed national civilisation ; the classical poetry of 
Germany served to reintroduce the German people into the circle 
of civilised nations, to open Germany's way to a purer civilisation. 
Never before in the whole course of history has a powerful literature 
so utterly lacked favouring external conditions. Here there was 
no court which cherished art as an ornament of its crown ; there was 


History of Germany 

no large urban public which could at once encourage the poet and 
confine him within the limits of a traditional artistic form ; there 
were no vigorous commerce and industry to present to the natural 
philosopher fruitful problems for investigation ; there was no free 
national life to offer the historian the school of experience : even 
the lofty sensibility which derives from living amid great events 
was first provided for the Germans by the deeds of Frederick the 
Great. Spontaneously from the heart of this nation of idealism 
did its new poetry spring to life, just as formerly had originated 
the Reformation from the sound German conscience. The middle 
classes lived their lives almost entirety excluded from the conduct 
of the state, immured in the tedium, the compulsions, and the 
poverty of the life of petty towns, and j'et in such tolerably secure 
economic conditions that the struggle for existence did not as 
yet monopolise all vital activities, and the savage jostle for 
earnings and enjoj/ments still remained unknown to their peaceful 
existence. Among these human beings in a condition of almost 
incredible material well-being, there now awakened the passionate 
yearning for the true and the beautiful. The more intelligent 
among them felt themselves the free children of God, and soared 
above the realm of petty realities into the pure world of the ideal. 
The note was given by men of altogether exceptional talent, and a 
hundred inspired voices joined in a full chorus. Each one spoke 
after his own heart, confidently following the joyful message of 
the youthful Goethe : it is an inner impulse, and therefore it is a 
duty ! Each one gave to the full measure of his powers, as if the 
creative activity of the thinker and of the poet was the only thing 
in the wide world worth doing for a man of free spirit. They 
lived their happy lives, recking little of the monetary reward of 
their labour, immersed in their poetry, their contemplation, and their 
research, rejoicing in the ever-flowing approbation of warm-hearted 
friends, and rejoicing even more in the consciousness of their own 
vision of the divine. 

Thus from the year 1750 onwards three generations of Germans, 
working simultaneously and successively, and often striving in 
passionate contests, created the youngest of the great literatures 
of Europe. This literature, for long almost unnoticed outside the 
German borders, endowed with unbounded receptivity, took to 
itself the enduring content of the classical poetry of England, 
France, Spain, and Italy, reconstituting this with a new creative 
spirit, to find fulfilment ultimately in Goethe, the most many-sided 
of all poets. The movement was so perfectly free, so spontaneous 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

an outcome of the innermost impulse of an overfilled heart, that 
of necessity it culminated finally in the audacious idealism of 
Fichte, who regarded the moral will as the sole reality, and the 
whole outer world as merely a creation of the thinking ego ; yet 
the whole process was a necessary and natural growth. The 
creative energy of the German spirit had long been slumbering like 
a chrysalis in its delicate envelope, but there now happened what 
the poet expresses in the words : " The moment comes for the 
imago to emerge, to spread its wings, and fly to the heart of the 
rose." A pure-minded ambition, seeking truth for the sake of 
truth, beauty for the sake, of beauty, now animated the clear heads 
of the German youth. No other of the modern nations has ever 
devoted itself with the same earnestness, with the same undivided 
ardour, to the world of ideas ; no other numbers among the leading 
spirits of its classical literature so many fine and humanly lovable 
characters. Hence, for our people, whenever their star seems to 
be undergoing obscuration, the memory of the days of Weimar 
will remain an inexhaustible source of confidence and hope. To 
the Germans, art and science became matters of vital consequence, 
and were never here, as once of old among the Romans, a mere 
elegant play-acting, a pastime for the idle hours of the world of 
fashion. Not with us did the courts develop our literature, but the 
new culture arising from the free activity of the nation brought the 
courts under its own subordination, liberated them from unnatural 
foreign customs, and gradually won them to the adoption of a 
gentler and more humane civilisation. 

Moreover, this new culture was German to the core. Whilst 
the political life of the country was subdivided into innumerable 
currents, in the domain of spiritual work the natural vigour of the 
national unity was so overwhelming that no attempt was ever 
made at any territorial subdivision. All the heroes of our classical 
literature, with the solitary exception of Kant, were migratory 
men, and did not find their region of richest efficiency upon the 
soil of their own home. All were inspired by a consciousness of 
the unity and originality of the German nature, and all were ani- 
mated by the passionate desire to restore the peculiar gifts of this 
nation to their rightful place of honour in the world; they knew, 
every one, that the whole of Germany was hanging upon their word, 
and they felt it to be a proud privilege that only the poet and the 
thinker were competent to speak to the nation and to act on behalf 
of the nation. Thus it came to pass that for many decades the 
new literature and the new science were the mightiest bond of 


History of Germany 

union for this people split into so many fragments, and literature 
and science ultimately determined the victory of Protestantism in 
German life. It was in Protestant Germany that this great intel- 
tellectual movement had its original home, and only gradually 
did the Catholic regions of the empire submit to the same impulse. 
The thought -process of the philosophers gave rise to a new moral 
view of the world-order, to a new doctrine of humanism which, 
though free from all dogmatic rigidity, was yet rooted in the soil 
of Protestantism, and which ultimately became a common heritage 
of all thinking Germans, Catholic and Protestant alike. One to 
whom this new humanism was unknown was no longer living in 
the new Germany. 

The middle strata of society among which this new culture 
sprang to life came to such an extent to occupy the foreground of 
the national life that Germany, more than any other country, 
became a land of the middle class ; the moral judgment and the 
artistic taste of the middle class were the determinants of public 
opinion. Classical education, which had hitherto been the instru- 
ment for the expert training of lawyers and divines, now became 
the basis of the general popular culture ; upon the ruins of the old 
aristocracy of birth there upbuilt itself the new aristocracy of the 
educated people which for a hundred years has been the lead- 
ing class of our nation. In all directions the literary movement 
exercised its awakening and fertilising influence ; it ennobled 
manners, restoring to woman her due place as mistress in social 
intercourse ; it provided once again for an oppressed and intimi- 
dated generation the free breath of life. Building upon the written 
speech of Martin Luther, it developed a common tongue of inter- 
course for all branches of the German stock ; it was only in the 
final third of the eighteenth century that the cultured classes began 
to pay due respect to the pure High German even in daily life. 
Unaffected by the noise and the hurry of the great world, German 
poetry was able to maintain for an extraordinarily long period 
the blameless cheerfulness, the concentrated reflectiveness, and the 
fresh love of being, characteristic of youth. It was this which 
so greatly charmed Madame de Stae'l in the brilliant days of Weimar 
art ; she felt that on the Ilm, among the most highly cultured of 
the German people, she was drinking in the forest-love of a primi- 
tive human life, and was taking breath once more after the vapours 
and the dust of her native world-city. And as it is the right of 
youth to promise without restraint, and whilst receiving crowns 
of glory to reach out the hands once more in pursuit of further 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

aims, the German nation, in this period of poetic rejuvenescence, 
displayed an extraordinarily many-sided activity, unweariedly 
propounding new problems, discovering new artistic forms, and 
devoting its energies to every possible science, with the one excep- 
tion of the science of politics. 

It must be admitted that side by side with the peculiar merits 
characteristic of its origin, our new literature exhibited also peculiar 
weaknesses. Since the poet was unable to create his matter directly 
out of the great passions of vigorously active public life, it resulted 
that criticism gained a preponderance that was often dangerous 
to the naive artistic creative energy, most of the dramatic heroes 
of our classical art display a morbid tendency to renunciation, to 
a dread of action. The unbridled freedom of creation readily led 
the poets to arbitrary conceits, to elaborate artifices, to ambitious 
beginnings which never found completion ; and it is not by mere 
chance that the greatest of all our poets is the one who, among the 
great poets of history, has left the world the largest number of 
fragments. Individual talent could display its primitive energies 
undisturbed, and was not all tuned to a single measure by the 
exigencies of party life. Love became stormy, friendship effemi- 
nate, and every sensation found expression to excess ; an enviably 
rich sense of fellowship, fertile in ideas, produced a few men of 
universal culture, such as had not been known in Europe since the 
Renaissance. But within the retired sphere of this purely private 
life there developed, not only what is valuable in individuality, 
but also the defects characteristic of the free personality. 
" Love, to the very marrow, love, hate, and fear, tremble, hope, 
and despair." This was the watchword of the new sensationalism 
of the epoch of Sturm und Drang; an unbridled self-confidence, a 
faith in their power to storm the heavens became active in the 
young generation, reacting against the lack of freedom characteristic 
of public affairs. Incalculable caprices, personal hates and personal 
envies, were given unrestricted expression ; many of the works 
of this epoch are comprehensible to-day to those only who are 
familiar with the letters and diaries of their writers. 

A literature of such an origin and such a character could not 
become popular in the fullest sense of the word, and could influence 
the masses but slowly and indirectly. Whilst the men of culture 
were inspiring themselves by the contemplation of the pure forms 
of the antique, the sense of beauty among the common people, 
although these were now better educated than formerly, remained 
much blunter than that of the same class in France and in Italy. 


History of Germany 

Once only in this northern land was there a passable cultivation 
of the general sense of form : in the days of the Hohenstaufen, 
when the palaces and the cathedrals of the late Romanesque style 
were constructed, and when the glorious songs of our earlier classical 
poetry were understood by the peasant lads and maidens in every 
village along the Rhine and the Main. Since those days, at every 
stage in the development of German civilisation, there has been 
displayed a hideous foundation of unrestrained barbarism. When 
the beautiful Renaissance facade of the Otto Heinrich building 
in Heidelberg was erected, the German art of poetry was in a 
profoundly depressed condition, and the noble edifice was defaced 
by lamentable doggerel verses. Similarly, when the joyful days of 
our second classical literature arrived, the fine arts, which 
flourish only in the soft atmosphere of general well-being, were 
hardly affected by the fresh current of the new time, and Goethe 
wasted the beauty of his verses upon such ridiculous buildings as 
that Roman house at Weimar whose pseudo-antique forms are 
altogether repugnant, and which offends the cultured sense by its 
utter vanity. We cannot, indeed, fail to be moved by the con- 
templation of this heroic generation of idealism, which, amid the 
unadorned poverty of the palaces of our petty princes, continued 
to aspire towards the highest good of mankind : yet there persisted 
an unnatural severance between the wealth of ideas and the poverty 
of life, between the bold flights of the imagination of the cultured 
and the utterly prosaic daily activities of the labouring masses. 
The nobility of a harmoniously developed civilisation such as that 
which brought happiness to the Italians in the days of Leonardo still 
remained denied to the Germans. 

All its defects and errors notwithstanding, it was this literary 
revolution which determined the character of the new German 
civilisation. By developing the fundamental ideas of the Reforma- 
tion into a right of absolutely unprejudiced free investigation, 
it made this country once again the central region of heresy. 
Awakening the ideals of a purely humanistic culture, it awakened 
also the national pride of country. However immature might be 
the political culture of the time, however wrong-headed its cosmo- 
politan dreams, in all the leaders of the movement there was none 
the less active the noble ambition to prove to the world that, as 
Herder says, " the German name is strong, firm, and great in its 
own right." The national inspiration of the War of Liberation arose, 
not in conflict with the ideas of humanism, but on a truly humanist 
foundation. When the cruel blows of destiny had again reminded 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

the German genius of the needs to come down from the clouds to 
the finite conditions of existence, the nation also attained by a 
necessary last step to the consciousness that its new spiritual free- 
dom could endure only in a respected and independent state ; the 
idealism that breathed from the thoughts of Kant and the dramas 
of Schiller, became transfigured in the heroic wrath of the year 1813. 
It resulted that our classical literature, proceeding from an entirely 
different starting-point, aspired towards the same goal as the 
political labours of the Prussian monarchy. It is to these two 
formative energies that our people owes its position among the 
nations and the best features of its recent history. It is very 
remarkable how both for a hundred years held equal pace in their 
development, bearing witness to an inner connection, which for this 
very reason cannot be fortuitous, since an immediate and obvious 
reciprocal action is rarely traceable. At the very time when the 
Great Elector was creating the new temporal state of the Germans, 
there happened also in the world of literature the decisive libera- 
tion of science from the yoke of theology. When subsequently, 
under Frederick William I, the Prussian state was collecting its 
forces in a period of quiet work, the intellectual life of the nation 
was also in a state of self-containment, the arid prose of the 
Wolffian philosophy once more taught the middle classes how to 
think and to write logically. Finally, towards the year 1750, 
contemporaneously with the heroic deeds of King Frederick, there 
began the awakening of creative energy in literature, and the first 
permanent works of the new poesy made their appearance. 

To the mind of the Middle Ages, the moral world appeared a 
closed visible unity ; state and church, art and science, received 
the moral laws of their being from the hands of the Pope. It was 
the aim of the Reformation to destroy this dominion of ecclesias- 
tical authority, and to win alike for the state and for knowledge 
the right to an independent moral existence. Yet the success thus 
attained was but a half -measure. Just as the theocracy of the 
Holy Empire remained established, and all the temporal states 
continued to support the zealotry of the Churches, so also know- 
ledge relapsed under the theological perversion ; the old queen of 
the sciences continued to occupy her throne, and all the teachers 
at the universities were compelled to avow some particular religious 
creed. Then began, first of all in Germany's highly cultivated 
neighbour-lands, the great work of the mathematical century ; a 
strict and clear-headed research, working in a free secular spirit, 
elucidated the secrets of nature ; and towards the end of the 

105 H 

History of Germany 

seventeenth century, when Newton discovered the laws of celestial 
mechanics, there gradually ensued a profound change in our views 
of the world-order. Dogmatic religious belief had hitherto been 
regarded as the only trustworthy guide in the insecure realm of 
thought, but now knowledge seemed to furnish greater security 
than belief. It will always remain a proud memory for our people 
how boldly and freely the harassed generation of the Thirty Years' 
War participated in this mighty movement, at first in a spirit 
of receptive discipleship (for Leibnitz found it necessary to say that 
industry was the only talent of the German nation), but subse- 
quently in a mood of active independence. After a long and fierce 
struggle Puffendorf expelled the theologians from the field of 
political science and founded for Germany a true doctrine of the 
state. Other sciences followed suit and learned to stand upon 
their own feet ; the University of Heidelberg was the first to abandon 
the principle of religious unity. In Leibnitz there arose a thinker 
whose cautiously intermediating spirit was inwardly free from the 
dominion of dogma, and who opened a path of unprejudiced research 
to German philosophy ; whilst soon Thomasius could joyfully 
exclaim, "It is unrestricted freedom which alone gives the spirit 
its true life." By the secularisation of the sciences, the political 
power of the Churches was gradually destroyed from within out- 
wards. By the middle of the eighteenth century there was little 
left of the power which the court-chaplains and consistories had 
formerly possessed in the Protestant lands of the empire ; the 
new officialdom held fast to the sovereignty of the state. At this 
period, also, Thomasius ventured to introduce the German tongue 
into academic instruction, and since all the Protestant universities 
followed his example, the Latin learning of the Jesuits was no longer 
able to enter into rivalry with Protestant science ; everyone in 
Germany who desired a living culture hastened to enrol himself 
at some Protestant university. Although the corporate pride of 
the professors and the roughness of the academic youth were not 
yet entirely overcome, the first bridge had been erected between 
science and the life of the nation. 

At the same time there ensued for the Protestant Church a 
period of new life, centred above all in the young University of 
Halle, and firmly attached to the tolerant ecclesiastical policy of 
the Prussian state. The nation had been heartily sickened by the 
raging contests of dogma during the epoch of the wars of religion. 
The efforts of the Calixtiners towards religious union, the "religious 
inwardness" of the pietists, and the rationalising criticism of 

1 06 

Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

Thomasius, found themselves side by side in a common struggle 
with the tyranny of the theological belief in the letter of the written 
word. The moral content of Christianity, which had almost been 
forgotten amid the noisy struggles of the zealots, came once more 
to its own, now that Francke and Spener had exhorted their congre- 
gations to live the life of the gospels in mutual brotherly love. 
The effective sense of Christian piety was manifested in the magni- 
ficent foundation of the Halle orphanage and in other works of 
charity ; the doctrine of pietism spoke to the heart, and enabled 
women to feel themselves once more to be living members of the 
congregation. Nor did this revival of German Protestantism lead, 
like the efforts of the Dutch Arminians and of the English Latitu- 
dinarians, to the formation of new sects ; it effected, rather, a genuine 
union of the whole Protestant name, permeating the Church once 
more with the spirit of primitive Christianity, and fulfilling the 
word " in My Father's house are many mansions." After many 
struggles and aberrations it yet remained as a permanent acquire- 
ment that German Protestantism became the gentlest, the freest, 
and the most comprehensive of all the Christian communities, and 
one which was still able to find place within its bosom for the boldest 
ventures of philosophy ; it resulted also that religious toleration 
gradually made its way into the daily life of the Germans, and that 
numerous mixed marriages, and before long also mixed schools, 
gave a permanent seal to ecclesiastical peace. 

It is only this revival of German Protestantism which explains 
those most peculiar tendencies of the new German civilisation 
which remain incomprehensible to most non-Teutons, and even to 
the English ; this alone has rendered it possible for the German 
to be at the same time pious and free, for his literature to be Protes- 
tant without the taint of dogma. The English and French 
enlightenment has the sign written on its forehead to show how it 
was effected in conflict with the tyranny of enslaved Churches and 
with the obscure zealotry of an ignorant populace ; even the deism 
of the British is irreligious, for the deists' god makes no appeal to 
the conscience, and merely fulfils the office of the great machine- 
driver of the world. The German enlightenment, on the other hand, 
was firmly rooted in Protestantism ; it attacked ecclesiastical 
tradition with even sharper weapons than did the philosophy of 
the neighbouring peoples, but the boldness of its criticism was 
mitigated by a profound veneration for religion. It awakened 
the consciences which the Anglo-French materialism put to sleep ; 
it preserved the belief in a personal God, and in the ultimate 


History of Germany 

purpose of the perfected world, the human immortal soul. The 
fanatical hatred of the Church and the mechanical view of the world- 
order which characterised the French philosophers, were regarded 
by the Germans as a sign of enslavement ; Lessing turned with 
repulsion from the mockeries of Voltaire, and, with the self-certainty 
of the young man rejoicing in the future, the student Goethe laughed 
at the senile tedium of the Systeme de la Nature. All through the 
eighteenth century the Protestant parsonage continued to exercise 
its ancient beneficial influence upon German life, while never 
ceasing to take an ardent part in the creation of the new literature. 
Even though our art could not become a possession of the whole 
people, we have still to thank the rejuvenation of German Protes- 
tantism for the great blessing that the most highly cultivated 
moral views have come to permeate the conscience of the masses, 
and that ultimately the ethics of Kant forced their way into the 
Protestant pulpits and thence into the lowermost strata of the 
North German people. The moral gulf between the upper and the 
lower strata of society was narrower in Germany than in the lands 
of the west. 

This first epoch of modern German literature exhibits also a 
severe prosaic tendency. Men of learning are the leaders of the 
movement ; art is hardly touched as yet by the spirit of the new 
age ; only in Schliiter's buildings and statuary, and in the com- 
positions of Bach and Handel, do we witness a great and free 
manifestation of the heroic character of the epoch. Yet to-day 
those notable struggles against Jesuitism and against coagulated 
Lutheranism seem to us as pioneer and as radical as the political 
deeds of the Great Elector. They laid the firm foundation for 
everything which we to-day speak of as German spiritual free- 
dom. From the maturer writings of Leibnitz and Thomasius, from 
Puffendorf's work upon the relationship of State and Church, 
there speaks already that spirit of unconditional toleration which 
in foreign lands neither Locke nor Bayle could whole-heartedly 

In the succeeding generation, the creative energy was almost 
completely suspended. These were the empty days in which the 
crown prince Frederick was experiencing the decisive impressions 
of his youth. The market of learning was under the dominance 
of a sterile polymathy, and the ambitious works of the day were 
lacking precisely in those qualities of measure, precision, and 
definiteness of expression, which were especially prized at the 
Rheinsberg court of the Muses. Gottsched's poetry slavishly 

1 08 

Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

followed the rigid rules of French poetry without ever rising out 
of the level of bumptious platitude to attain the rhetorical pathos 
of the romance world. Electoral Saxony was the only German 
land which could boast of tasteful culture and of a fertile artistic 
activity ; but the splendid operas and the fine baroque buildings 
of the Dresden court are no more than the signs of the fantastic 
late blossoming of Gallic art, and by no means indicate a progress 
in our national life. Yet even now the growth of the German spirit 
was far from being arrested. The more generally comprehensible 
products of the intellectual work of the highly talented previous 
generation became gradually current among the people. The 
philosophy of Christian Wolff effected a reconciliation between 
faith and knowledge sufficient for the needs of the epoch, and thus 
provided for the coming generation a consistent and harmonious 
view of the universe. The average culture of the middle classes 
found peace in the belief that God operates in accordance with 
natural laws. Wolff deliberately transcended the limits of the 
learned world, awakened in wide circles a desire for thinking and 
writing, and accustomed men of learning to contribute their quota 
to the work of general enlightenment. Simultaneously, pietism 
was working its influence in society. The rough tone of tyrannical 
hardness disappeared from family life. In the sentimental assem- 
blies of the finer spirits there began the cult of personality. The 
life of every individual acquired an unexpected new value and 
content ; the Germans came to recognise once more how rich is 
the world of the heart, and became capable of understanding 
profoundly conceived works of art. 

Now there appeared in the arena, as suddenly as the might 
of the Frederician state, and exhibiting the same overwhelming 
strength, those forces of German genius which had been quietly 
maturing in the long years of anticipation. In 1747 were pub- 
lished the first cantos of Klopstock's Messiah. The warmth and 
intimacy of feeling which in the prayers and diaries of the revivalists 
had found no more than an immature and often ludicrous expres- 
sion, now at length attained to a worthy poetic form ; the jejune 
speech gained buoyancy, nobility, and boldness ; the entire world 
of the sublime was reopened to the German imagination. With 
remarkable speed the nation understood that a new epoch in its 
culture had begun. A swarm of young men of talent surrounded 
the bard, in whose personality the loftiness of the new art also 
found a worthy representative ; and these admirers, in the naive 
self-appreciation characteristic of all periods of powerful expansion, 


History of Germany 

placed the epic of the German master above that of Homer, and 
his odes above those of Pindar. This artistic circle was in- 
toxicated by a fantastic enthusiasm for the fatherland, and this 
sentiment, propagated slowly but vigorously, found its way through 
all strata of the German middle class. Just as every nation, when 
there comes a turning-point in its existence, is accustomed to find 
fresh sources of enthusiasm in the great memories of the primitive 
homeland, so now the yearnings of these days turned back towards 
the simple greatness of the Teutonic primitive age, conceiving that 
only in the shadows of the German oak-forests, only in the land 
of Arminius and the bards, were truth and loyalty, strength and 
ardour at home. What a chorus of acclamation arose from the 
new Germany when the singer of the Messiah called upon the 
new contestant, the young German muse, to enter the field against 
the poesy of England. 

Meanwhile Winckelmann made our people acquainted with 
ancient art, and rediscovered the simple and profound truth that 
art is the representation of the beautiful. At the same time he 
produced the first work of the new German prose that was perfect 
in respect of form. Clear, weighty, and inspired, sounded the words 
of this priest of beauty, embodying passion and great thoughts 
pressed together in a measured and concise form ; it was by " the 
illuminated brevity " of his style that the shapeless prolixity of 
learned pedantry was first overcome. His writings gave to the 
young literature its trend towards the classical ideal. In rivalry 
and in passionate delight, art and science sought to fulfil them- 
selves with the spirit of antiquity ; and since man values that only 
which he over-values, it resulted that this generation, rejoicing in 
beauty, intoxicated with the joys of first awakening, could see 
nothing in the ancient civilisation but pure humanity, health, and 
nature. It was only to the Romans themselves that the world of 
classical Rome was truly congenial, but to the genius of Greece the 
Germans were attracted by a sentiment of kinship. To the Germans 
first among the modern nations did there come a full understanding 
of Greek life, and as the new culture ripened, the poet could joy- 
fully exclaim : " The sun that smiled on Homer smiles also on 
us now ! " By its entry into the antique world the German tongue, 
which had so often been impoverished and obscure, reacquired a 
considerable proportion of its ancient wealth, and it now came 
to display an unanticipated plastic softness and flexibility. Alone 
among the new languages of civilisation, German showed itself 
competent to employ at once faithfully and vividly all the measures 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

of the Greeks ; as soon as Voss, the German Homer, had shown 
the way, Germany gradually became the leading speech of the world 
for translations, hospitably providing a second home for the poetic 
figures of all peoples and all ages. Yet this charming receptivity 
implied neither weakness nor lack of independence : the German 
disciples of the classic preserved then: spiritual freedom from 
the classical ideals, not allowing themselves, as had happened to 
the humanists at the close of the fifteenth century, to be led astray 
from the firm regulation of their own lives by the moral views 
of the antique world. Winckelmann, indeed, reminds us in many 
of his characteristics of the unrestrained heroes of the Renais- 
sance : but the majority of poets and thinkers who followed in his 
footsteps remained German, taking from the Hellenic culture that 
only which was accordant to the German nature ; and the poem 
which of all the works of modern art approximates most closely 
to the spirit of the antique, Goethe's iphigenia, was nevertheless 
permeated by a sentiment of loving gentleness such as was never 
understood by the hard-hearted heathen of antiquity. 

Independent of these two tendencies, and yet at one with 
both in the struggle for the rights of the free artistic creator, Lessing 
went on his way. The most productive critic of all time, he stood 
in relation to the pathetic exuberance of Klopstock as once Puffen- 
dorf and Thomasius had stood in relation to pietism, at the same 
time divergent and bringing fulfilment. His creative criticism 
effected that which the enthusiasm of the new lyric poetry would 
never by its own unaided powers have succeeded in effecting, the 
permanent destruction of the strained unnaturalness of the poetic art 
of Gottsched, the expulsion from the German Parnassus of the bastard 
type of didactic poem, the liberation of the nation from the yoke 
of the rules of art imposed by Boileau. Little as we are justified 
in ascribing to the man who regarded patriotism as a heroic weak- 
ness the conscious sentiment for the fatherland characteristic of 
our own day, yet through those powerful controversial writings 
which held up the dramas of Voltaire for the laughter of the Germans 
there runs that same great tendency of a strengthening national 
life that we find in the heroic progress of Frederick. Lessing's 
criticism turned the German poets from the courtiers'-versification 
of the Bourbons to the methods of Aristotle rightly understood, 
to the simple examples of classic art, and he taught them to esteem 
that truth which is true to nature more than all highly elaborated 
rules. That criticism displayed to them in the plays of Shakes- 
peare a source of primitive Teutonic life which became a fountain 


History of Germany 

of youth for German art ; the poet of the merry England of old 
soon found in the free secular sense of the Germans a fuller under- 
standing than in his own fatherland sterilised by puritanism. 
Lessing, above all, educated the new public ; he was the first 
German man of letters, the first who by his own personal worth 
raised to honour the profession of the free author, and the first who 
understood how to make an effective appeal to all the cultured 
minds of the nation. The most obscure problems of theology, 
of aesthetics, of archaeology, seemed luminously clear when treated 
by him in the light tones of the lively speech of Upper Saxony, 
in that prose that was simple and yet so full of art, which every- 
where reflected his own inmost nature, the serenity of his own 

And here, even in the earliest youth of the classic German 
prose, it became manifest that our free tongue was suited to every 
individuality of style, that it permitted each creative mind to work 
after its own fashion. The style of Lessing, plainly modelled on 
French examples, was no less German than were the majestic periods 
of Winckelmann for both these authors wrote as they had to 
write. But the security of the literary sense of self-sufficiency 
first came to the Germans when the great critic showed himself also 
to be an original artist, presenting to our stage the first works that 
were not shamed by contrast with the rich reality of the Frederician 
epoch, and that could bear comparison with the dramas of foreign 
lands. These were works displaying the keenest understanding of 
art, and yet full of passionate dramatic movement ; apt for the 
stage, and yet composed in perfect freedom ; works of imperishable 
human content and yet taking their figures with a vigorous hand 
from the animated life of the immediate present. Thus he rose 
higher and higher, dispersing in all directions the seed of free cul- 
ture. By his Emilia he gave our young literature the courage to 
raise its voice against the lack of freedom in the state and in society. 
His theological controversial writings laid the foundations for a 
new epoch in theological science, for the biblical criticism of the 
nineteenth century. The last of his poetic works established the 
forms for the drama of lofty style which was subsequently to 
undergo further development at the hands of Schiller, and mani- 
fested at the same time that comprehending faith in enlightenment 
whose serene mildness was not to become apparent to other nations 
until after the storms of the Revolution. 

In the seventies, a new and still richer generation came upon 
the stage. The universal spirit of Herder united at once the 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

vigorous understanding of Lessing and the rich emotional nature 
of Klopstock. He rediscovered that truth which had been lost 
in the long centuries overlaid by barbarism, that art is not the 
exclusive possession of particular peoples or ages, but is a common 
gift of all nations and all times ; and he led back our German 
lyric poetry to the ancient forms and subjects of the folk-songs. 
The moving tones of German rhyme came once more to their 
own, and emotional feeling found a warm, profound, and natural 
expression in songs and ballads. A thoroughly unhistoric epoch, 
one which had acquired its fame in the destruction of a decaying 
world of historical ruins, was awakened by Herder to an under- 
standing of historical life. His free spirit despised the poverty of 
that self-satisfied illusion which regards all the children of men as 
created only " for that which we term civilisation." He recog- 
nised that each nation has its own measure of happiness, its own 
golden age ; and with wonderful insight he discerned the peculiar 
characteristics of the spiritual life of the peoples. It was through 
his work that the contrast between the naive civilisation of anti- 
quity and the sentimental culture of the modern world first became 
apparent. To his prophetic glance there was already revealed 
the interconnection between nature and history ; he conceived the 
magnificent idea of " following the footsteps of the Creator, of 
thinking after His manner," of seeking the revelation of God at once 
in the constructive energies of the world-all and in the transforma- 
tions of human history ; he gave a new profundity to the idea of 
humanity when he thought of mankind as a " tone in the chorus 
of creation, a living wheel in the works of nature." No writer of 
the eighteenth century passed a severer judgment than Herder 
upon the late manifestations of Christianity, and yet none dis- 
played a profounder understanding of faith than did this intrinsic- 
ally religious spirit. The highest goal of his endeavour was to 
purify religion from all that was despiritualised and enslaved. 
Every one of his writings breathes an air of intense piety, an 
intimate and joyful faith in the wisdom and goodness of God, a 
faith that ultimately overcomes all the caprices of a self-tormenting 
nature inclined to get out of tune. Thus it was that an unsparing 
opponent of the errors of the Church could without hypocrisy 
remain a great divine and an ecclesiastical official a striking 
testimony to the sober-minded freedom of the age. 

The new universal culture for which the bold anticipations of 
Herder had merely paved the way, now received their definitive 
artistic form in the work of the poet of mighty speech to whom a 

History of Germany 

God gave power to express in song what he had learned in suffering. 
It was this mysterious power of conveying an immediate environ- 
ment that his contemporaries first learnt to marvel at in the 
young Goethe. Soon, too, they felt the influence of his unending 
love, of his unsurpassed receptiveness for all that is human. It 
seemed like a personal revelation of himself when he made his Son 
of God exclaim : " Oh, my generation, how I yearn towards thee ! 
And how dost thou, too, pitiful in heart, supplicate Me in thy deep 
distress ! " Like the bards of all ages when art was naive, he 
sang only what he had himself experienced ; yet his spirit was so 
rich and multiform that his poetry gradually encompassed the 
wide circle of German life, and during many decades almost every 
new idea which this time of restless creation conceived, found its 
most profound and most powerful expression in the work of 
Goethe ; until at length the entire world of nature and of human 
life was reflected in the old man's quiet eyes. By his early 
poems he brought to German lyric poetry that new life which 
Herder had merely foreshadowed. All the charming and tender, 
sweet and yearning feelings of the German heart, which had 
been obscured in the pathetic style of Klopstock, the writer 
of odes, now found expression ; the ancient songs, such as 
Roslein auf der Heide, delighted once more the cultured youth 
of the day, now that Goethe had borrowed them from the herds- 
man and the hunter, had ennobled their simplicity by the magic 
of his art. The Germans learnt once more, from his genial poems, 
to be unrestrainedly joyful, to give themselves up without reserve 
to the heavenly delight of the moment. Then came Goetz to 
reproduce before the eyes of the nation the rough, untamed energy 
and greatness of the ancient German life ; then did the Sorrows 
of Werther furnish satisfying expression for the storm and stress 
of passion which filled the hearts of the young generation. It 
was also politically significant that even in this dispersed and 
distracted nation, a poet should attain an irresistible general success, 
like that which of old had been attained elsewhere by Cervantes ; 
and all that was vigorously youthful drew together in glowing 
enthusiasm. At the close of the Frederician epoch, the poet 
emerged from those struggles of the heart to which we owe the 
most beautiful love poems in the German tongue, to become, after 
ten years of life at court that were full of work and of distrac- 
tion, once more an artist. He hastened to " that land where for 
every receptive mind the most individual culture begins." There, 
in the south, he learnt to reconcile northern passion and emotional 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

profundity with classical purity of form. However great he was, 
and however powerful his influence, he never claimed dominion 
over our poetry, and German freedom would never have permitted 
any such claim. Even after the appearance of this almighty 
genius, the literary movement went on its course in joyful unre- 
straint. Hundreds of independent minds continued to work after 
their own fashion. Everywhere in the Poets' Associations and in 
the Freemasons' Lodges there was an ardent search for pure 
humanity, for knowledge of the eternal ; and everywhere in this 
life of activity there was a joyful foreshadowing of a wonderful 
future. This generation felt itself raised above the common 
reality of things, carried as if on the wings of the wind towards 
the dawning of the light, towards the perfection of humanity. 
The thoughtless masses, it is true, then as at all times, asked merely 
for comfortable amusement. Wieland's roguish liveliness was 
more agreeable to them than the pathos of Klopstock, just as 
subsequently Kotzebue was more pleasing than Schiller or 
Goethe. But in the best circles of society, a joyful idealism 
was dominant, and it was this which gave its stamp to the 
culture of the age. 

Meanwhile the nation discovered that it possessed, not merely 
the greatest poet, but also the greatest philosopher of the day. 
The opposition between the German and the Anglo-French views 
of the world-order was described by Goethe in the simple words : 
" The French do not understand that there is anything in human 
beings unless it has come into them from outside." To the German 
idealism, it seemed, on the contrary, a problem for solution, how 
anything at all could enter a soul from outside. To the enlighten- 
ment of the West, the world of sensuous experience appeared the 
one incontestable reality. Then Kant undertook to throw light 
on the facts of human cognition, and asked the profound question, 
how is the scientific cognition of nature in any way possible ? 
This was the great turning point of the new philosophy. With 
the same royal self-confidence as Goethe, Kant had begun the 
work of his life : " Nothing shall hold me back from my course." 
He started from the ideas of the mathematical century, and faith- 
fully followed with independent mind every movement of the new 
decades. Towards the end of the Frederician epoch, he produced 
those works which for a long time to come were to establish the 
fundamental moral ideas of the ripened Protestantism. More 
boldly than any of the atheists of the Encyclopaedia, he con- 
tested the illusion that a science could ever be derived from the 


History of Germany 

supra-sensual, yet in the domain of the practical reason he found once 
more the idea of freedom. From the necessities of moral action, 
he derived the great conception (not based upon theological 
crutches, and therefore invincibly victorious) that the most incom- 
prehensible is of all things the most certain : the empirical ego is 
subordinated to the laws of causality, the intelligible ego acts with 
freedom. For free activity, he propounded that imperative in 
which simple-mindedness and the highest culture could both find 
peace : " Act as if the maxims in accordance with which you are 
acting must become natural laws." Kant's ideas, moreover, like 
everything that was written in this blossoming time, first came to 
full fruition through the power of personality. The serene wisdom 
of the thinker of Konigsberg, which demanded from men that 
they should even die in a good humour, the simple greatness of 
this life utterly filled with the ideal, profoundly moved the minds 
of his contemporaries. Kant was the architect of his Old Prussian 
home, he reintroduced the remote Eastern Mark as an active 
member of the community of German intellectual workers, and 
the uprising of 1813 showed how profoundly this valiant people 
had taken to heart the saying that nothing anywhere in the world 
could be esteemed except a good will. 

Now there appeared upon the scene the young poet who was 
destined to diffuse the ideas of the Kantian ethics through the 
widest circles of the nation. Rough and formless seemed the 
youthful writings of Schiller, the product of an invincible energy 
of will in conflict with the control of petty enslaving circumstances ; 
but the bold conception of his story-telling, his powerful pathos, 
his sustained passion, and the vigorously ascending course of his 
technique, already sufficed to herald Germany's discovery of her 
greatest dramatist a dictatorial spirit, born to mastership and 
victory, who now in his days of youthful fermentation irresistibly 
forced upon his audience the savage and the horrible, and who 
subsequently, matured and refined, lifted thousands with himself 
above the common miseries of life. Out of the clamorous rhetoric 
of these tragedies, there spoke a wealth of new ideas, a glowing 
yearning for freedom, and the hatred of a great soul for the rigid 
forms of the ancient society. The writings of Rousseau and the 
political movement of the neighbouring lands were already throwing 
their first sparks over Germany. One who despised everything 
that was dull, narrow, and commonplace, this son of the petty- 
bourgeois land of Swabia, reached out into the great circles of a 
historical world ; he was the first to bind the cothurni on to the feet 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

of our sons. He first led them among kings and heroes, into the 
greatest altitudes of humanity. 

Beside such a wealth of art and science a purely political litera- 
ture appears small and mean. Just as every great transformation 
of our intellectual life has reflected itself in the destinies of a German 
university, so on this occasion also we can trace the connection 
between the beginnings of our classical literature and the first 
blossoming of the Georgia Augusta University. There proceed 
from Gottingen a zealous care for jurisprudence and the science 
of the state, and this movement was reciprocally intercon- 
nected with the great thought-current of the century which 
was everywhere drawing its sources from the exact sciences 
and streaming towards the freedom of the historical world. It 
was a living law which was expounded by the publicists of 
Gottingen ; it was a point of honour in the anti-imperial pro- 
fessors to define the rights of Protestantism and of the temporal 
estates of the empire against the shadowy claims of the Emperor- 
ship. Yet neither the rough candour of Schlozer nor the industry 
of Putter, neither the learnedness of the two Mosers nor any other 
of the remarkable manifestations of political and publicist science 
characteristic of that day, bears the stamp of genius. There is 
not a trace of the bold, universal grasp of Puffendorf, not a trace 
of that creative criticism which found expression in the ardent 
voice of the poets, there is nothing of that inconceivable wealth of 
expression which delights us in the belletristic literature of the time. 
Beside the silvery tones of the prose of Lessing and Goethe the 
language of Putter has the flat sound of base metal. 

Whilst German poetry and philosophy were soaring above 
the work of the neighbouring nations, in political science the 
English and the French took the lead. It was only in the actions 
and in the writings of the great king, himself untouched by the 
literary revival of his own nation, that Germany took an effective 
part in the great political thought-movement of the century. 
In Herder's Ideas, how weak are the political sections when 
compared with the richness of those that deal with the history of 
civilisation. The one vigorous and peculiarly endowed political 
thinker, belonging to the younger political life of Germany, Justus 
Moser, exercises a real influence upon his contemporaries only hi 
the sphere of aesthetics, by his spirited description of German 
antiquity ; it was not until much later, in the days of the revival 
of historical jurisprudence, that his profound historical view of 
the state was understood by the nation. The German readers 


History of Germany 

brought to the publicists a richer abundance of historical know- 
ledge than was brought by the British and by the French, but they 
had not a glimmer of political passion or of political understanding. 
This utterly unpolitical age understood how to feel its way to art 
under conditions whose absolute contradiction was perceived by all. 
But while the research of German thinkers was boldly directed 
towards the solution of the most obscure riddles of the universe, 
there did not, even after the terrible teaching of the Seven Years' 
War, appear a single man who could lay his finger upon the wounds 
of the German state, or could with unsparing courage ask the deci- 
sive question : What is the significance for the future of our country 
of this uprising of a new German great power ? German life failed 
to discover the exhaustive expression either in the wealth of ideas 
of its literature or in the activities of the Prussian state. There 
were moments, indeed, when the two creative energies of our new 
history appeared to come into contact and to attain to a mutual 
understanding. We of this later generation are moved to learn how 
the gruff officers of Frederick's army sought counsel and edifica- 
tion in Leipzig from the pious Gellert. The poet of the Spring, 
Ewald Kleist, the Prussian recruiting officer, who in Zurich sought 
refreshment from the hardships of his man-hunting career in the 
circle of the artistic disciples of Klopstock, and who then found a 
soldier's death at Kunnersdorf, appears to us to-day a more signifi- 
cant figure than many a more highly gifted poet, because he united 
in a single personality a heroic sense of the poetic yearning of this 
teeming time. On the whole, however, it is certain that the 
Prussia of that day was no less unaesthetic than the German 
literature of the time was unpolitical. In the days of Lessing, the 
Prussian capital was for some years the Acropolis of German 
criticism ; since the seventies, its public had possessed the most 
developed artistic sense in Germany and there had prevailed in the 
town a refined and intellectual sociability ; but in respect of crea- 
tive capacity it was poorly equipped. A shallow eudaemonism 
was dominant. For the dull understanding of Nicolai, the flight 
of the young German poetry was too lofty; while the critics of 
Berlin were thus lamenting, elsewhere in the empire were being 
fought the battles of the new German culture. The firm foundation 
of national power was lacking to our classical literature. This 
literature has proved for all time that the proud freedom of poesy 
can dispense with the sun of good fortune ; that a new wealth of 
ideas must inevitably find form and expression as soon as it springs 
up in the soul of a nation. There was danger, however, that the 


Germany after the Peace of Westphalia 

nation would morbidly over-value the intellectual goods for the 
very reason that its literary life was so much more magnificent than 
its political. The patriotism of our poets remained too subjective 
to exercise a direct influence upon the popular sentiment. The 
cosmopolitan tendency which inspired the entire literature of the 
eighteenth century, did not find in Germany, as it found in France, 
a counterpoise in a highly developed national pride, and it there- 
fore threatened to alienate the Germans from their own state. 

Never since the time of Luther had Germany occupied so 
shining a position in the European world as to-day, when the 
greatest heroes and the greatest poets of their age and century 
belonged to our nation. And this abundance of life came but a 
hundred years after the disgrace of the Swedish distresses. Any- 
one who at this time made a journey through the leading states 
of Central and Northern Germany, gained the impression that 
here was a noble people peacefully developing towards a beautiful 
future. The humanistic culture of the time was actively engaged 
upon innumerable institutions of general utility. The old curse 
of mendicity disappeared from our highways, and the great towns 
provided with a free hand for poor-houses and hospitals. Zealous 
pedagogues laboured to transform the education of youth in accord- 
ance with new-found systems, without depriving them of the 
innocence of the " natural " human beings of Rousseau. Every- 
where the newly enlightened world was straining at the bonds 
imposed by the old feudal order. There were nobles here and 
there who voluntarily freed their serfs. Philosophers noted with 
satisfaction that the son of a knacker had in Leipzig become a 
doctor, and that in caste-ridden Weimar a young Frankfort doctor 
had risen above the heads of the native nobility to become a 
minister of state. A cheerful enthusiasm for nature drove out 
the old anxiety regarding the evils of fresh air, put an end to the 
philistine customs of a close indoor life : the men of learning began 
once more to feel themselves at home upon God's earth. Yet 
this people of ours was sick within. Motionless and unreconciled, 
the great lie of the imperial law stood contrasted with the new 
culture and the new state of the Germans. In the petty terri- 
tories of the south and of the west, all the sloth, all the inertia of 
German life lay like a great unlighted bonfire, awaiting the fire- 
brand which the restless neighbour-nation was to hurl across the 
frontier. The glory of the Frederician age had hardly begun to 
pale when the Holy Roman Empire fell into shameful ruin. 



ONLY a royal commander or a reforming legislator could maintain 
undiminished the heritage of Frederick. The old form of the 
Frederician monarchy had two strings to its bow. Unless it could 
engage the warlike energies of this people on a bold venture, and 
could provide the Holy Empire with a new constitution by the arms 
of Prussia, it was impossible that the forcible concentration of the 
entire state-authority in a single hand should be permanently main- 
tained. The enlarged area of the state-territory, the increased 
claims upon the functional activity of the state, and the greatly 
increased self-confidence of the well-to-do classes, involved demands 
for a comprehensive reform, which should transmute the national 
economy so as to make it more elastic, should abolish the old class 
divisions which had become untenable, and should permit subjects 
to take an active part in the administration of the districts and 
the communes. If this reconstruction were not effected, illness 
and rigidity threatened the monarchy. That spirit of criticism, 
which had been awakened by Ferderick himself, but which had 
been held within bounds by the dread of his genius, might readily 
destroy the moral security of the state, which was based upon the 
ancient Prussian loyalty and discipline. 

It was Germany's misfortune that Frederick's successor was 
equally unfitted to undertake either of these tasks. Frederick 
William II possessed the knightly bravery of his ancestors and a 
lively sense of his royal dignity and of the position of his state as 
a great power, but he was devoid of the expert knowledge, the 
enduring industry, the security of judgment, and the firm vigour 
of will, which were demanded by his difficult office. He was as 
mild and benevolent as his uncle, in old age, had been misan- 
thropic, readily impressible, rich in good ideas, receptive for lofty 
proposals; but what he had rashly and ardently undertaken was 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

soon allowed to drop when he became wearied by any difficult 
obstacles, or when sly opponents knew how to play upon his 
generosity. Human ^pettiness breathed more freely when the 
oppressive weight of the old hero had been removed ; and the 
greatly loved man who so confidently and warmly associated with 
his people, was greeted with a chorus of acclamation. As in the 
days of Frederick I, the people once more spoke with approval 
of the free hand of the king, and talk was long current in the 
country of the gifts and the patents of nobility of the great year 
of grace 1787. Many of the severities of the Frederician regime 
were done away with ; the detested governmental administra- 
tion of public utilities was abolished ; the recruiting officers 
received orders that " for the general advantage of humanity " 
they should do their harsh work with moderation. Yet in essentials 
the old administration remained unchanged, and^all that was 
lacking was the master-spirit that had animated it. The military 
system declined under its senile leaders ; the king did not venture 
to dismiss the veterans who still wore the laurels of the Seven 
Years' War. The philanthropic ideas of the age, and a well- 
meaning but weakly compliancy towards the interests of the 
bourgeoisie, carried the state far from the Spartan stringency of 
Frederick William I. It is true that by the cantonal regulation 
of 1792 the old Prussian principle of universal military service was 
maintained ; and yet at the same time the exceptions to the 
obligation, already far too numerous, were legally recognised and 
enlarged so that the duty to bear arms pressed almost exclusively 
upon the sons of the peasantry. 

The gay court was by no means grossly extravagant. The 
expenses of the court, which now provided liberal subsidies to 
artists and men of learning, averaged per year no more than 
580,000 thalers not more than was needed by the thrifty successor 
of Frederick William. The king's lack of economy was shown 
only in his frivolous waste of the goods of the state, and it was 
yet more disastrous that his good-natured humour rendered him 
unable to resolve to replace by new and just taxes the oppressive 
taxes that had been repealed. The surpluses which this national 
economy could not do without, soon dried up. Courage was 
lacking to overcome the difficult obstacles which the feudal con- 
stitution opposed to every increase in the burden of taxation ; 
the king was glad to take credit to himself for the alleviation he 
had brought to his dearly loved people. As soon as one mobilisa- 
tion and two campaigns had almost completely emptied the 


History of Germany 

Frederician war-chest, the monarchy found itself in the humiliating 
position of having to maintain its power with the aid of foreign 
gold. In the city, immorality became rife now that it was able 
to excuse itself by the example of the court, and flourished still 
more luxuriantly when there ensued the inevitable reaction against 
the superficial freethought of the Frederician days, and when a 
morbidly mystical piety became the fashion in court circles. The 
extraordinary power of the new literary idealism is shown by the 
fact that public opinion has always judged the Prussian ruling 
system by the spirit it has displayed in the conduct of ecclesiastical 
and educational affairs. The whole of Germany simmered with 
anger when the distinguished Zedlitz was dismissed from office 
and the dull hypocrite Wollner endeavoured to repress the free 
speculation of the century by his Religious and Censorial Edicts. 
It proved difficult to promulgate the civil code against the obstinate 
resistance of the devotees at court. The healthy nucleus of the 
officialdom remained indeed indestructible, but the laborious 
course of the administration was no longer able to keep pace with 
the quicker movement of bourgeois intercourse, and the general 
relaxation of discipline was manifested by many defalcations and 
instances of corruption which would have been unthinkable under 
the two previous kings. 

And now, in these days without renown, it became clear how 
weak was the footing upon which had been established that sense 
of the state which Frederick had awakened in his people. For 
the most part the national pride of the Prussian was a sentiment 
of honour towards the great king, and that pride waned with the 
hero's death. To the majority of East Prussians and Silesians, 
Berlin was altogether out of the world ; the particularism of the 
territorial areas found the foci of its interests in Konigsberg, Breslau, 
and Magdeburg. An earnest and comprehensive participation in 
the destiny of the state was found only in narrow circles. All 
the louder became the chorus of criticism. The political impulse 
which in the officialised state found no stage for work on behalf 
of the Commonwealth, threw itself into literature. A flood of 
lampoons was spread over Germany, regaling uncritical and 
credulous readers with colossal fables about the Asiatic debauchery 
of " Saul II, King of Cannonland." This was an unwholesome 
and very dangerous activity, because in an absolute monarchy 
every censure is arrowed directly against the personality of the 
king, and still more dangerous because out of this abundance of 
censorious criticism not a single fruitful idea emerged, never an 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

intimation of the real infirmity of the community. It was a 
tragical change of scene. The world continued to tell stories of 
the brilliant sayings of the round table of Sans Souci, whilst now 
close at hand in Charlottenburg and hi the Marble Palace at the 
Heilige See, Reitz, the groom of the chambers, talked platitudes 
with the Countess Lichtenau, and the successor of Frederick 
regarded with wonder the spirits manifested in the magic mirror of 
Colonel Bischofswerder. 

Frederick's last work, the League of German Princes, fell to 
pieces in the hands of his heir. The old king had indeed never 
had any doubt as to the real sentiments of his petty federal asso- 
ciates, nor of the untrustworthiness of the friendship of Hanover 
and Saxony. His contemptuous phrase is on record, " There is 
nothing to be done with these fellows." None the less he had 
left this League of Princes as an inheritance to posterity. As 
long as the extraordinary favour of the situation persisted, as long 
as the fear of Austria forced the high nobility of Germany to place 
themselves under the banner of Prussia, it was inevitable that a 
strong will should know how to make use of the conspicuous posi- 
tion at the head of the League of German Princes as a means for 
the permanent increase of power. The vacancy of the imperial 
throne was imminent, for the Emperor Joseph was seriously ill. 
By a secret article in the constitution of the League, it was agreed 
among the associated princes that the new imperial election should 
be decided in accordance with a common understanding. Prussia 
controlled the majority in the Electoral Council ; in the most 
important of the spiritual states, Electoral Mainz, the choice of 
a coadjutor had just been decided in Prussia's favour. At least 
the attempt must be ventured to renew the policy of the second 
Silesian War, in circumstances that were incomparably more 
favourable, and, under the leadership of Prussia, to animate the 
dead mass of the central states of Germany until they should form 
a living power. Once more it seemed that it would be possible to 
transfer the German crown to a German house, or else to abolish 
the Emperorship entirely and to reconstitute in federal form the 
Illustrious Republic of the German Princes. The smaller asso- 
ciates must necessarily, however unwillingly, obey a victorious 
Prussia. The sceptical views of his experienced predecessor were 
remote from the more trivial and more trusting nature of the new 
king. As a prince he had already built great hopes upon the idea of 
the League of Princes, but now for a time he left the conduct of 
his German policy in the hands of Charles Augustus of Weimar. 


History of Germany 

In the head of this great-hearted patriot there blossomed bold 
and vastly conceived schemes of reform. Unweariedly he travelled 
from court to court as the courier of the League of Princes. 
He regarded this defensive alliance as a permanent institution, 
and as the solid nucleus of a new imperial constitution ; he 
thought of creating a standing army for the League and of 
providing a great parade-ground in Mainz ; the Bundestag, 
summoned to Mainz, was to undertake the task of imperial reform 
and to do away with the inveracities of the existing law. Pros- 
pects seemed favourable. All the petty states of Europe felt 
themselves threatened by the adventurous plans of conquest of 
the Hofburg, and were inclined to look upon Prussia as the pro- 
tector of the balance of power. In Piedmont and in Switzerland, 
the question had already been mooted whether it would not be 
well to join the League of Princes, in order thus to secure protec- 
tion against Austria. When Belgium took up arms against the 
innovations of the Emperor Joseph, the proposal was made that 
this imperial crown-land should also be admitted, as an inde- 
pendent state, into the imperial association. 

Meanwhile Prussia had once more consciously assumed the 
role of the leading power of Central Europe. Count Hertzberg 
had conceived the happy thought of delivering from the dominion 
of the patriotic party, or in other words, from the influence of 
France, the Republic of the Netherlands, distracted by internal 
struggles. The king's troops entered Holland, gained an easy 
victory over the patriots, and restored the repute of the House of 
Orange. Now came the time to enjoy the fruits of victory and 
to attach to the Prussian system this royal house akin to Prussia 
by blood and re-established by the force of Prussian arms. It 
was the advice of Charles Augustus that the republic should join 
the League of Princes, and that by regular subsidies to the smaller 
princes of the empire, the maintenance of a standing army should 
be rendered possible. But here, for the first time, became manifest 
the disastrous instability of the king, who was unable to put any 
of his good ideas into effective operation. His zeal for the League 
of Princes had long had time to cool. The gentle disposition of 
Frederick William led him to honour, with imperial-princely 
devotion, the anciently consecrated forms of the German consti- 
tution, and his piety was shocked by the thought of any radical 
reform. The statesmen of Berlin barely concealed their contempt 
for the League of German petty princes, and Count Hertzberg 
frequently called it " the great affliction of high policy." Since 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

Saxony and Hanover proved antagonistic, the summoning of the 
Bundestag to Mainz never took place. None of the proposals of 
Charles Augustus were realised, and within two years of the death 
of Frederick there was no longer any talk of the development and 
firmer establishment of the League of Princes. The army of 
Prussia evacuated the Netherlands, and the frivolous spirit of the 
king was willing to leave the payment of the costs of the war to 
the rich neighbour peoples. The undertaking that had been so 
brilliantly begun, terminated in a diplomatic reverse. It was 
not Prussia but England that won the upper hand at the Hague, 
and the ancient alliance between the two naval powers was re- 
established. More than 6,000,000 thalers had been wasted, and 
from that time the government began to suffer from a disastrous 
lack of money. In the army, moreover, the effect of the bloodless 
triumphs in Holland were most unfortunate, and the professional 
soldier conceived a boundless contempt for the idea of an armed 

Even yet, however, the wonderful favour of fortune was not 
exhausted. The king was provided with still another oppor- 
tunity to strengthen his power at once in Germany and in Europe. 
The Emperor Joseph could not reconcile himself to the defeats of 
the Silesian and Bavarian Wars. Dominated by a passionate desire 
to revenge the honour of his house upon the Prussian opponent, 
and to restore his dominant position in the empire, he abandoned 
the interests of Austria in the east ; he came to an understanding 
with Russia and acceded to the designs of Catherine upon Con- 
stantinople, in return for great expansions of territory in Bavaria, 
Italy, and the Turkish frontier regions. Whilst the armies of the 
two imperial powers now began in the Danubian region a laborious 
campaign against the Turks, in the hereditary dominions of Austria 
there was everywhere manifested a resistance to the hasty reforms 
of the emperor and to the forcible attempts he made in the direc- 
tion of centralisation. Belgium was in open rebellion ; the Magyars 
were so profoundly disaffected that the Hungarian nobles were 
already sending messages to the King of Prussia, asking him to 
propose a new King of Hungary. There was an uproar in all the 
cabinets when the plans of aggrandisement of the imperial court 
came to light. King Frederick William concluded with the naval 
powers a triple alliance for the preservation of the status quo in 
the Orient. Sweden had already declared war against Russia ; 
even the Poles were thinking of taking up arms against the 
Empress Catherine, and formed an alliance with Prussia. France, 


History of Germany 

which since the days of Choiseul had been allied with Austria, was 
now compelled by the outbreak of the Revolution to abandon all 
thought of a bold foreign policy ; the court of Berlin greeted with 
joy the beginnings of the Great Revolution because it endangered 
the Austro-French Alliance ; the Prussian diplomatists were 
careful to keep on good terms with Petion and the other spokesmen 
of the National Assembly. Never before had the general situation 
been so favourable for a campaign against Austria. If the Prus- 
sian army, which was assembled on the Silesian frontier, should 
venture to strike a blow into the heart of the Austrian power, 
there was nothing between the Prussians and Vienna that could 
offer any serious resistance, for almost the entire fighting force of 
the emperor was engaged upon the distant Turkish War. Now 
or never was the moment to end German dualism with the sword. 
Now was the time to put the question which had once before been 
proudly asked by Frederick when he stood between enemies and 
doubtful friends to ask of Destiny the question, " Prussia or 
Austria ? " 

But neither the king nor his minister Hertzberg fully under- 
stood the significance of this great moment in relation to the future 
of Germany. This doctrinaire man of learning, a great Prussian, 
full of love for the fatherland, entirely convinced that the irre- 
concilable opposition between the two great powers of Germany, 
was the inevitable outcome of geographical necessity, had been a 
valuable assistant to the old king, active alike as publicist and as 
writer of despatches in all the diplomatic negotiations that had 
taken place from the beginning of the Seven Years' War until the 
foundation of the League of Princes ; but he was not competent 
to undertake the independent continuation of the Frederician 
policy in its simple greatness. Although King Frederick had used 
him merely as an instrument and had seldom listened to his advice, 
he was in his own mind the true heir of the great king and of all 
" the ancient and powerful Brandenburger system," and he con- 
sidered himself to be the leading connoisseur of the diplomatic 
relationships of Europe. He thought that so long as his hand 
was on the tiller, no mistake could possibly be made, and that 
Prussia would continue to play the leading part in European 
affairs. Instead of the simple plans which the old hero had pur- 
sued with relentless openness, his pupil loved to think out elaborate 
and artificial combinations for the preservation of the balance of 
power ; and it seemed to him that an alliance between the three 
northern powers, Prussia, England, and Russia, was the philosopher's 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

stone of the situation, although suitable conditions for such 
an alliance were altogether lacking. Whereas Frederick ever 
held it as a sober opinion that in the wide world Prussia had only 
enemies, open or concealed, Hertzberg built with unshaken self- 
conceit upon the victorious force of his reasoning. He dreamed 
that he had found an unfailing way for the solution of the eastern 
problem : the separation of the northern provinces from Turkey 
and the reunion of Galicia with Poland were to provide the means 
for a comprehensive territorial redistribution in Eastern Europe 
which would be accepted with joy by all the powers of the east ; 
the Prussian go-between was to be rewarded with Swedish 
Pomerania, Danzig and Thorn, Kalisz and Posen in a word, all 
the gaps on the northern and eastern frontiers of Prussia were 
to be filled in. This was to be effected without any need for un- 
sheathing the sword, by the magic of the pen of a diplomatist. 

To Hertzberg's astonishment this over-elaborated plan was 
rejected by the two imperial powers ; and he soon encountered 
also the veto of the allies of Prussia. The naval powers feared an 
open breach with the imperial courts because they were afraid 
of losing the lucrative Russian trade. It was for this reason that 
as long ago as the Seven Years' War England had refused to Prussia 
the one really valuable help she could give as an ally, namely, 
the sending of a strong fleet into the Baltic. The Poles, too, were 
unwilling to consent to the withdrawal from Danzig and Posen, 
which might perhaps have rendered possible the continuance of 
the Polish Republic. The Porte, finally, would not hear of any 
reduction of its dominion, for its armies were making a good resist- 
ance to the attacks of the imperial powers. In this emergency, 
Prussia dropped her demands and asked merely for the restoration 
of the status quo in the east. Even now the negotiations might 
have led to a decisive reckoning with Austria, if the Prussian tone 
had been strengthened so that Austria might have seriously feared 
war. But Hertzberg refused to go as far as this, whereas the king 
with a wiser judgment demanded a decision by recourse to arms. 
In the middle of this momentous development the Emperor Joseph 
died, and now payment had to be made for the arrogant contempt 
which Hertzberg had displayed for the League of Princes. The 
League had already been weakened, because the sentiment of the 
smaller courts was so unstable that to them the great question of 
the election of the emperor no longer seemed a matter of import- 
ance. With his usual fickleness, King Frederick William soon 
abandoned his warlike schemes, consoling himself with the reflection 


History of Germany 

that even his uncle had never wished to acquire the imperial 
honour for his own house ; and when the successor of King Joseph, 
Leopold II, approached him in a yielding spirit he, without further 
consideration, offered Leopold the imperial dignity. Content with 
a half victory, he concluded on July 26, 1790, the unlucky Reichen- 
bach Convention, which merely restored the status quo before the 
Oriental War. 

It was so far a success that the threatening attitude of Prussia 
compelled the House of Lorraine to abandon its conquest of Bel- 
grade, and to bring to an inglorious close that Turkish War which 
had been undertaken with such extravagant hopes and with such 
a great beating of drums. And yet Leopold quite understood 
the situation when, drawing a breath of relief, he wrote : " This 
is the least bad peace we could hope to conclude." The death of 
Joseph II was as disastrous to Prussia's German policy as had 
formerly been the death of Charles VII. Joseph's prudent suc- 
cessor rescued Austria's position of power in the empire by giving 
up his brother's oriental plans. As he himself admitted, he 
received the imperial crown without conditions, as a generous gift 
from the King of Prussia. The diplomatic defeat of Austria was 
advantageous solely to the Turks and to the maritime powers. 
By the intervention of Prussia, the Porte was relieved of a dangerous 
opponent ; and to the excessive prudence of Hertzberg, the rigidly 
conservative oriental policy of England owed an easy triumph. 
Soon, however, the court of Berlin saw the world-situation altered 
to its disadvantage. By the skilled compliancy of Leopold, the 
rebellious crown-lands were rendered once more obedient, were 
kept quiet by his Florentine secret policy. In Poland, Austria 
soon acquired a dominant influence. Sweden concluded a dis- 
advantageous peace with Russia. England openly refused to 
co-operate in Hertzberg's Polish schemes. Above all, the Conven- 
tion of Reichenbach was the death of the League of Princes, was 
the end of the German policy of the great king. The smaller 
princes, when they saw that in Berlin there was now lacking a proud 
and dominant will, and that from Leopold's moderation there 
was nothing more to fear, relapsed one after another to their 
natural party position ; they reconciled themselves with Austria ; 
the League of Princes vanished without leaving a trace ; there 
was not even effected a serious reform of the electoral capitulation. 

The last favourable hour in which Prussia might perhaps 
have done something to relieve the hopeless confusion of imperial 
policy had passed beyond recall. Without guidance, the shapeless 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

German community drifted hopelessly towards its destruction by 
foreign power. Charles Augustus complained bitterly of the 
slumbering spirit of the Germans, which regarded this chaos as 
the sacrosanct ideal of a good constitution. Whilst in the west 
the storm was already gathering which threatened to destroy all 
the ancient forms of the European world, the well-meaning Elector 
of Cologne expressed the heartfelt wish of the German high nobility 
for the future of the fatherland. " We need a peaceful Emperor, 
one who will economically maintain the German system ; but we 
must leave to the pigmies their illusion that they also are run- 
ning the machine." The people, too, were totally without under- 
standing of the seriousness of the time. Isolated intelligent 
publicists, such as George Forster, esteemed the triumph of Prus- 
sian statecraft, but the sins of omission of that statecraft passed 
unmarked. The mass of the nation rejoiced over the re-estab- 
lishment of peace. When during the Reichenbach negotiations 
the king paid homage to the fashionable Nature-cult and climbed 
to the summit of the Heuscheuer, the loyal Silesians erected a 
monument to him upon the frontier mountains, with the grateful 
inscription, " His shield is the safeguard of our peace." 

A necessary consequence of this pusillanimous maintenance 
of peace was that before long Hertzberg was thrust aside by the 
already powerful favourite Bischofswerder. However unfortu- 
nate he had been in his choice of means, Hertzberg had at least 
never abandoned one of the fundamental principles of the Frede- 
rician statecraft, for he had always endeavoured to maintain the 
proud independence of Prussian policy from the commands of 
the Hofburg. But with the accession to power of Bischofswerder, 
an entirely new tendency came into operation the policy of 
peaceful dualism. In sharp contrast with the glorious fifty years 
that had just closed, it was hoped by this policy to safeguard the 
existence of the state by an alliance with Austria, directed 
especially against Russia. The idea of imperial reform was utterly 
renounced, it being considered that the best hope for German 
affairs lay in a loyal understanding with the imperial house. In 
the spring of 1791, Bischofswerder began the negotiations for 
the Austro-Prussian Alliance. Nothing could have been more 
unfortunate for the fate of Germany. This alliance between two 
irreconcilable enemies was an essential falsehood. On both sides 
confidence was wholly lacking. The great majority of the Prussian 
statesmen still adhered firmly to the Frederician traditions, and 
followed with lively suspicion every step taken by the Vienna 


History of Germany 

cabinet ; in the Hofburg neither the conquest of Silesia nor the 
humiliation of Reichenbach had been forgiven, and there was no 
inclination whatever to recognise the northern newcomer as an 
equal associate. Of all the great questions of power which were 
in dispute between the two rivals, not a single one had been solved. 
Contrary to the expectations of Berlin, the alliance between Austria 
and Russia remained established. The pliant disposition of the 
king towards the imperial house did not change in the mind of 
the emperor the old conviction that every increase of Prussian 
power in the empire was disastrous to Austria ; the Court of Vienna 
marked with great anxiety the union with Prussia of the some- 
time Hohenzollern territory of Ansbach-Bayreuth whereby Prussia 
for the first time planted her feet firmly in South Germany and 
won a threatening position on the flank of Bohemia. Still sharper 
was the contrast of interests between the two allies in respect of 
the Polish question. 

Both the powers desired to maintain the Republic of Polish 
Nobles as a bulwark against Catherine's restless policy of conquest. 
The mechanical conception of the state characteristic of the age 
found pleasure in artificialities. Whereas peace can be estab- 
lished only through the sound internal health of vigorous national 
states, it was then hoped to secure peace by a carefully main- 
tained system of balances ; by the arbitrary construction of petty 
states, which should act as buffers between the great powers. 
Neither in Vienna nor in Berlin did anyone come to understand 
that this Polish state of unbridled Junkerdom was doomed to 
destruction, that the freedom of Poland was nothing more than 
the foreign domination of Sarmatian nobles and landed gentry 
over millions of Slav, Lithuanian, German, Jewish, and Wallachian 
subjects, who had no rights and no sentiments in common with 
their cruel masters. Austria, intimately akin to the Catholic 
State of Nobles, and for hundreds of years past in continuous 
alliance with that state, had nothing more to expect from a new 
partition, and hoped rather to find in a strong Polish realm pro- 
tection against Russia and Prussia. The Prussian state, on the 
other hand, had grown up in conflict with its Sarmatian neigh- 
bours, and had reason to dread that a revival of the Polish power 
would greatly endanger the German Vistula region. The results 
of the first partition could prove satisfactory to Prussia only on 
the condition that Poland should remain a harmless power of 
intermediate importance, and that at least Thorn and Danzig 
should be united with West Prussia. Now that the two most 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

important places in the German section of the Vistula were sur- 
rounded by Prussian territory, it was impossible that they should 
be permanently left in the hands of a foreign conqueror who was no 
longer able to keep his old plunder in his grasp. Every considera- 
tion of prudence impelled the Polish notables to gain the friendship 
of Prussia by a yielding disposition. But not even the terrible 
experience of the year 1772 had brought the stupid and arrogant 
nobles to their senses. Now, as before, the unhappy people was 
racked by party struggles. In Warsaw the hope was still cherished 
of unfurling the white eagle once again upon the Green Bridge of 

After a brief attempt at friendliness, the Polish policy became 
once more decisively hostile towards the western neighbour, the 
old deadly hate against the Germans, the Protestants, the con- 
querors of the mouth of the Vistula, broke out once more. The 
coup d'etat of the victorious party on May 3, 1791, led to the 
creation of a new constitution which to Prussia was necessarily 
equivalent to a declaration of war ; the crown of Poland was to 
be furnished with enhanced power and was to be the hereditary 
appanage of the House of the Albertines. The unnatural alliance 
between Saxons and Poles which once before had for long decades, 
as Frederick William I was accustomed to say, shut up the 
Prussian state in a " cage," was now to be renewed for all time. 
A Slav-Catholic power with a population twice as large as that of 
Prussia, hostile to the German nation by race, creed, and ancient 
memories, ruled by a princely house which must inevitably fall 
under the influence of the Roman nuncio and of the Austrian 
ambassador, threatened to spring into existence in the centre of 
Germany and to enclose the Prussian state hi the south as in 
the east. This plan, which once more put in question the very 
existence of the Prussian great power, the entire work of the Hohen- 
zollerns since the days of the Great Elector, received the eager 
support of the Emperor Leopold, the ally of the King of Prussia. 
Though the king, in a wave of generous caprice, had accepted the 
new Polish constitution, yet the moment must soon come in which 
he would recognise his error, and would understand that the policy 
of the Hofburg was equally hostile to Prussian interests in Poland 
and in Germany. 

Such was the state of affairs. The constitution of the Holy 
Empire was hopelessly disorganised ; every possibility of a reform 
from within outwards had been lost ; the two leading powers 
were allied in appearance but within were separated more sharply 

History of Germany 

than ever by ancient hatred and conflicting interests. Whilst in 
this posture, Germany was influenced by that elemental movement 
which had shaken France to its vitals. Goethe has depicted for 
us how this ingenuous race of ours, free from envy and ever appre- 
ciative of the great deeds of the foreigner, rejoiced " when the 
first rays of the new sun began to shine, when we heard of the 
Rights of Man, the rights common to all." A joyful belief in the 
unending progress of humanity, this cherished idea of the philoso- 
phical century, appeared to be established ; it seemed as if " the 
highest that man can conceive was now near and attainable." The 
aesthetic impulse towards freedom characteristic of the young poet 
had long intoxicated him with the idea of the free individuality, 
which, liberated from all compulsion, should obey only the voice of 
its own heart. The preference of genius threw aside all traditional 
morals, even the bonds of domestic fidelity ; in artistic circles, 
adultery and easy-going divorce became exceedingly common, 
and could reckon upon the smiling tolerance of free spirits. And 
now, since the night of the fourth of August, the detested com- 
pulsory authority of the state also appeared to be no more than a 
construction of human arbitrariness, no more than a soft clay 
which the will of freemen could always knead into new forms. 
The artist, yearning for freedom from the state, saw his most 
cherished dreams overwhelmingly fulfilled by the Declaration of 
the Rights of Man; to the aesthetic view of the world-order 
characteristic of this generation there seemed no need to seek 
freedom within the state, to think of the duties which bind the 
citizen to the community. The one of the existing political institu- 
tions which in literary circles aroused the most passionate hostility 
was the legal inequality of the classes, which was felt to be all 
the more abhorrent because in the free social intercourse of cul- 
tured circles it had long been in fact disregarded. What joy was 
now felt when France announced the equality of all who bear the 
human form ; when the prophecies of Rousseau, who more than 
any other Frenchman appealed to the enthusiastic idealism of the 
German youth, seemed on the point of realisation. All the yearn- 
ings of the time, the noble impulse towards the recognition of 
human dignity and of the heaven-storming confidence of the 
sovereign ego, now found satisfaction in the audacious paradox 
of the Genevese philosopher, that in a state of complete freedom 
each man would obey himself alone. 

To the guileless German theorists, the sins of the Revolution 
seemed hardly less seductive than its greatness. To the taste that 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

had been schooled upon Plutarch's Lives, the stilted Catonism 
of the new apostles of freedom made a powerful appeal ; the 
unhistorical abstractions of their doctrine of the state corresponded 
to the philosophical self-complacency of the age. The enthusiastic 
youth, in whose ears were still ringing the words of power of the 
Robber Moor, was powerfully moved by the rhetorical pathos of 
the French enthusiast, admired the republican virtue of the school 
of the Girondists, at the very time that this party was with a 
reckless light-heartedness planning war against Germany. The 
romantic glorification of the old Emperordom which during recent 
years had been in vogue among the Swabian poets, now came 
altogether to an end. Even Klopstock turned away from his 
Cheruscan oak-groves to direct his eyes towards the new capital 
of the world, to sing the praises of the hundred-armed, hundred- 
eyed giant, and to exclaim, " Had I a hundred voices, I could not 
celebrate the liberation of Gallia with loud enough tones, if the 
divine voices did not join in the chorus." Cosmopolitan enthusiasm 
for freedom dreamed of a brotherhood of all the nations, declaimed 
in verse and in prose against tyrants and slaves, " to whom the 
sound of chains is sweet ! " In Hamburg and other towns, on 
the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, the Festival of 
Fraternity was celebrated and the tree of liberty was erected. 
The whole circle of those who surrounded Klopstock Henning, 
the embodiment of the spirit of the age, Frau Reimarus and the 
Stolbergs was intoxicated with this new spirit. Campe and 
the other advocates of the new doctrines of education saw with 
delight how the over-cultured world seemed to be turning 
back once more to the innocence of primitive humanity. For 
High Germany, Strasburg was the centre of the revolutionary 
ideas ; thither went the young hotheads from Swabia in 
order to learn the new French evangel. In the street-talk of 
the students, in Tubingen, Mainz, and Jena, there could sometimes 
be heard political appeals ; here and there there were brawls 
with the emigres, the arrogant and undisciplined behaviour of these 
traitors to their country seeming to justify all the violence of the 
Revolution. Even in Berlin, women of the upper classes were 
seen adorned with the tricolor, and the rector of the Joachimstal 
Gymnasium took occasion on the king's birthday to celebrate 
in an official speech the glories of the Revolution, doing this with 
the lively approval of the minister Hertzberg. 

Among the leaders of the nation none was more profoundly 
impressed by the great movement of the neighbour country than 


History of Germany 

was Kant. In his quiet way he had attentively followed the 
political thought-movement of the age. More especially, he was 
intimately acquainted with the works of Rousseau and Adam 
Smith, and he now summed up in scientific phrase the metaphysical 
struggles for freedom of the century in the great saying : "In 
every man we must honour the dignity of the whole race, and no 
human being must be used as a means to the ends of others." 
What he had discovered in his solitary reflection he now saw 
realised in the deeds of the French, and since in the serene quiet 
of his life he had absolutely no intimation of the elemental energies 
of the French populace, not even the horrors of the Reign of Terror 
disturbed his admiration for the Revolution, for the men-of-blood 
of the guillotine were also appealing to the rights of the ideal. In 
the school of Kant the true content of the ideas of the revolutionary 
epoch is most faithfully displayed. 

This enthusiasm of the German cultured world for revolu- 
tionary France remained purely theoretical. Just as the jurists 
of Gottingen and Halle, in the more general part of their discourses, 
had built up a system of rational law out of the ideal in order 
subsequently, in the special part of these discourses, to expound 
dispassionately the precise opposite of the rational state, the 
labyrinth of the imperial German constitution, so now the German 
admirers of the Revolution never asked themselves how their ideas 
were to be realised in flesh and blood. The sage of Konigsberg 
unconditionally rejected all right of resistance. Fichte, himself the 
most radical of Kant's pupils, who ventured to defend French 
liberty even hi the days of Robespierre, uttered an express warning 
against the attempt to carry out his own ideas ; he saw no bridge 
between " the level highroad of natural right " and " the obscure 
by-ways of a semi-barbarous policy," and came to the regretfu] 
conclusion that " worthiness for liberty can come only from below, 
but liberty can be installed without disorder only from above." 
As long as the blows of the Revolution affected only the nobility 
and the Old Church, the theoretical admiration of the Germans 
was unaffected ; it was their naive belief that the Jacobins were 
engaged by dire necessity in the struggle with a rout of dangerous 
traitors, and that " whoever fell, fell because he had done wrong." 
But when the party-struggle became continually fiercer, and when 
the fanatical rage for equality undertook to annihilate even the 
ultimate aristocracy, that of life itself, it was no longer possible 
for the leal and severe German sentiment to follow the capricious 
development of Gallic passion. The German enthusiasts turned 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

with tears from the barbarians who had desecrated their sanctuary. 
Klopstock complained " Our golden dream is shattered " : people 
were horrified and disillusioned. The sentiment of cold contempt 
which the cruelty of the Reign of Terror must necessarily arouse 
in a politically mature nation, was not produced hi the good-natured 
Germans ; they noticed merely that the mass-murders of the 
Committee of Public Safety were imposed by an infinitesimal 
minority upon a slavishly obedient people. Those who had been 
thus disillusioned, sank back into the ancient political indifference, 
and devoted their whole activity once more to the work of art 
and science. Goethe expressed the heartfelt view of the great 
majority of cultured Germans when he laid it to the charge of 
France that that country had to-day, as had Lutheranism of old, 
disturbed peaceful culture. Schiller, too, voiced the general 
feeling when he introduced the " Hours " with the words : " The 
poet and philosopher belongs in the body to his own age, because 
he cannot help it, but in the spirit he is a contemporary of all the 

The most noble literary work which in Germany was the 
outcome of the Revolution, came from the opposite camp. It 
was inevitable that the forces of conservatism should draw to- 
gether in order to counteract the revolutionary ideas. Among 
the Prussian officers, it was especially the perjury of the French 
troops which aroused profound disgust ; there was formed a 
Royalist Club, upon whose members was strictly impressed the 
sacred character of their oath to the flag. Brandes and Rehberg 
expressed the sentiment of the old society in well-meaning and 
well-informed writings, which lacked however both energy and 
profundity ; Spittler judged the blessings and the curses of the 
great movement with the impartial security of the historian. The 
insight of Captain Gneisenau recognised as early as the year 
1790 that the French were ripe for enslavement, and foresaw 
that an unparalleled revolution threatened the frontiers of all the 
nations. It was somewhat longer before Frederick Gentz came 
to a full understanding of the signs of the times. In April, 1791, 
he dissented from Burke's attacks upon the Revolution ; but a 
year and a half later he translated the Englishman's book into 
German, and appended those valuable essays which constitute a 
turning-point in the history of our political culture. In these it 
was recognised for the first time that the great age of our literature 
was destined to rejuvenate and enlighten the political thinking also 
of the nation. A disciple of the new culture, equipped with the 


History of Germany 

wealth of ideas of the Kantian philosophy and with the pure sense 
of form of classical poetry, he was the first to exhibit that energy 
of productive criticism which owed a new life to art and science, 
devoting himself not to abstract speculation upon natural law, but 
to the criticism of the living facts of contemporary history. He 
understood how to see reality, how, in the inchoate structure of 
the moment, to recognise the foreshadowings of future development. 
With a power and wealth of speech which Germany had hitherto 
known in its poets alone, he chastised the folly that characterised 
the mob, and prophesied, " France will pass from form to form, 
from catastrophe to catastrophe." It was indeed already evident 
that in strength of character this first publicist of the age was not 
the equal of his own talents ; his hatred for the Revolution was not 
free from nervous anxiety ; he trembled before the excess of 
knowledge, before this wild century " which begins to need the 
bridle," and yet from his work there springs sharply and clearly 
the ground-ideas of a new and vigorous view of the state, one 
closely connected with the awakening of the historical sense of 
German science. The historical doctrine of the state is here 
opposed to the cosmopolitan radicalism of the Revolution ; it 
attacks the pleasing illusion of soft-headed people who wish to 
introduce into politics the discarded claims of a Church in which 
alone can be found salvation, who think of limiting the rich multi- 
plicity of national culture, political and legal, by a catechism of 
commonplaces concerning natural rights. It dispelled superstitious 
belief in the right reason of the majority by the incisive saying, 
" It is not majority rule, but the liberum veto, which is a natural 
right." It defended the power of the state against the unbridled 
individualism of the age, and maintained against the grasping 
demands of the sovereign ego the profound truth that " political 
freedom is politically limited freedom." 

Many years of hard experience were to pass away before the 
cultured members of the nation could learn to understand this 
saying. For the moment, their happy peace remained undis- 
turbed ; and still less in the lower strata of the people was any 
dangerous political excitement to be noted. The curse of Germany 
was in its system of petty states and in the torpor of the imperial 
constitution. And how was it possible for the quietly satisfied 
particularism of the masses to recognise these essential disorders 
of German life ? The internal conditions of the greater temporal 
states, in so far as these had been affected by the spirit of the 
Frederician epoch, gave no occasion for passionate unrest. Many 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

of the political ideas which the half-culture of to-day is apt to 
celebrate as " the ideas of '89," had in Prussia long been realised 
or were approaching realisation. Freedom of conscience had been 
established for generations ; freedom of the press was but little 
curtailed ; almost everywhere in the Protestant North the churches 
were subordinated to the authority of the state, and their 
goods had been secularised ; a benevolent agrarian administration 
imposed strict limits upon the feudal rights of the nobles ; what still 
remained in existence of the vestiges of an outworn social order 
could be peacefully abolished by a firm reforming will. It was 
only in the petty states, where the justice of the monarchy was 
lacking, that there was still to be found a counterpart of the sins 
of the French aristocracy under the old regime. In the ecclesiastical 
states of Germany, there yet flourished a Catholic unity of belief ; 
hi the arrogant aristocratic cathedral-capitals, in the imperial 
towns, there still prevailed the sloth and the corruption of the old 
civic nepotism ; hi the territories of the princes, the counts, and 
the imperial knights, there was still active the arbitrary spirit of 
hole-and-corner tyrants. The whole existence of these corrupt and 
ossified administrations was a scandal to the ideas of the century. 

It was almost exclusively in these inconsiderable sections of 
the empire, when the joyful tidings came from France of the 
liberation of the peasantry, that there was manifest a certain 
fermentation among the people. It resulted that the Abbess of 
Frauenalb was chased out of the country by her subjects, while to 
her colleague in Elten the oath of allegiance was refused. Minor 
disturbances among the peasantry broke out in the district of 
Treves, in the territories of some of the imperial knights, and 
above all in Spires, the most notorious of the German bishoprics, 
where since the days of the Peasant War there had prevailed a 
rigid priestly dominion, and where the Table of Laws for the tem- 
poral servants of the state held up before the officials as their 
highest aim " the fulfilling of the will of the Lord, which is best 
for all." In Mecklenburg, ill-treated serfs assembled and threatened 
to put their feudal chief to death. The wretched local quarrels, 
which for most of the imperial towns formed the essential fabric 
of life, now assumed an exceptionally fierce tone ; the language 
used against the suzerainty became louder and more virulent ; 
the spiritual princes all along the Rhine betrayed their serious 
anxiety by the issue of threats of punishment against the rebellious 
spirit of their subjects. 

All this had very little significance. In truth, nowhere els3 in 

137 K 

History of Germany 

the empire was the political slumber so profound as here ; and 
even the literary movement of Protestant Germany had barely 
touched the demoralised little peoples of the lands of the crozier. 
But whilst there was no serious danger of uprising from below, 
whilst even Forster in the days of his radical enthusiasm had to 
admit that Germany was not ripe for a revolution, it was also true 
that in this region of feckless and unarmed petty states there was 
lacking all power of resistance to foreign force. The slowly-dying 
members of the empire were neighbours to France, and had been 
accustomed for two centuries past to obey the orders of the court 
of Versailles ; such regions were interspersed among the domains 
of the more vigorous temporal states. Should revolutionary France 
endeavour to establish in some new form the old dominion of the 
Bourbons upon the German Rhine, ecclesiastical Germany might 
easily go to pieces at a touch, and might bring down with it in its 
fall the last ruins of the Holy Empire. 

This danger threatened already in the very earliest, in the 
reputedly blameless, days of the Revolution. It was the greatness 
and the curse of this movement that it tended inevitably to over- 
flow the borders of France. The horrible Peasants' War of the 
summer of 1789 and the new laws to countenance the results of 
this mass-movement, served merely to realise a whole world of 
desires and thoughts which during a century past had undergone 
diffusion through all the nations of the west ; what wonder, then, 
that the French now regarded themselves as the Messiahs of free- 
dom. The sudden collapse of the Bourbon rule was ascribed, not 
to the fact that the old order was enormously more degenerate in 
France than in other lands, but to the superiority of the French 
genius. Among the causes of the Revolution, a considerable one 
was undoubtedly the general discontent regarding the profound 
decline in the standing of France in Europe ; and now that the 
power of this people had after all displayed itself so gloriously, 
and when foreign nations were looking admiringly towards Paris 
as the capital of the world, the French felt that it was their mission 
to impose laws on all the earth. The nation was accustomed to 
despise every foreign power ; it dreamt that its culture must always 
serve as an example to the entire world as it had in earlier days, 
in the time of Louis XIV ; of the new and original culture which 
had sprung to life in Germany, the French knew nothing. The 
Declaration of the Rights of Man had set an example to all other 
peoples, and Lafayette hailed the new tricolor with the prophecy 
that the flag should wave round the world. Since then, the force 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

of the revolutionary propaganda had increased ; the internal 
disorders of all the neighbouring countries, of Italy and Spain, of 
Holland and Belgium, of Switzerland and the German petty states, 
promised an easy victory to France. A world- war such as had 
been unknown in Europe since the days of the wars of religion 
was imminent when all the horrible corruption which had charac- 
terised France under the rule of the Bourbons (dependent upon the 
immorality of the higher classes and the rude ignorance of the 
lower), in association with the elemental energy of the ideas of a 
new epoch, rose like a flood to overwhelm this world of defenceless 

The first blow against the rights of the German empire had 
already been struck ; the estates of the empire in Alsace had been 
deprived of their territorial rights, and the ecclesiastical princes 
had been robbed of their spiritual goods in defiance of public agree- 
ments and without asking the empire. Thus the old question 
of power which had so long been disputed between the two neigh- 
bouring peoples, the struggle for the region of the Rhine that had 
never been fought to a conclusive issue, was forced upon the Germans 
in a wonderfully complicated form. It was impossible to contest 
the need for an appeal to force. Everyone knew the unhappy 
situation of the unfortunate peasants of Alsace, who had to pay 
taxes to the crown of France and at the same time feudal dues to 
the petty German lords. Through the liberating act of the Revo- 
lution, the hearts of the kindly people in this German area had 
been completely won for France. Should Prussia, should the intel- 
ligent temporal imperial princes who had themselves long ago made 
free with the goods of the Church, and who worked considerately 
to secure the liberation of their own peasantry, now intervene 
with the strong hand to secure the tithes of the Bishops of Treves 
and Spires, intervene on behalf of the feudal exactions of the over- 
lords of Worms and of Leiningen, take action in support of this 
compost of petty princes and lords who in the Reichstag were in 
the habit of voting obediently in omnibus sicut Austria, and who 
in the north were regarded only with contempt ? The struggle 
against France might very readily become war against the Revolu- 
tion, for the radicalism of war tolerates no half measures. The 
emigres were thronging and agitating in all the courts ; the danger 
was imminent that if the sword were once drawn, these sworn foes 
of the Revolution would gain the upper hand, and that the German 
powers would be led on to the mad undertaking of attempting to 
restore the old Bourbon regime. But the privileges of the Alsatian 


History of Germany 

estates of the realm formed the one bond of international law 
which still connected the avulsa imperil with the whole empire. 
To hand them over unconditionally to the sovereignty of the Paris 
National Assembly would be to abandon the last claims of the 
empire upon Alsace. The German state had not yet sunk so low 
as of its own free will to put the finishing touches to the work of 
Louis XIV least of all now, when France broke out into ominous 
threats, and yet had neither money nor an army ready for war. 

Thus alike in the west and in the east the storm was threaten- 
ing, and for long the great enemy of Germany had been on the 
watch reckoning the hour when these two tempests should break 
simultaneously over our fatherland, when the destruction of 
Poland and the French War occurring coincidently might completely 
paralyse the leading German power. The Empress Catherine bore 
a grudge against the Prussian court because King Frederick had 
brought her Polish schemes to naught and because Frederick's 
successor, half involuntarily, had nullified her dreams of Byzantine 
imperialism. She had seen with regret Prussia and Austria come 
to an understanding, but soon found means to make these allies 
harmless to Russia. Could she only succeed in involving the 
German powers in the incalculable risks of a war with France, she 
would be mistress in Poland., and could carry out the inevitable 
destruction of the Nobles '-State as best she pleased. She hardry 
took the trouble to conceal her wishes, declaring openly to her coun- 
cillors, " I want to have my elbows free, and to keep the German 
courts busy with French affairs." For this reason she hastened to 
bring the Turkish War to an end, and for this reason also she, the 
friend of Diderot, now appeared as a fanatical opponent of the 
Revolution. She protected the emigres, and continually warned 
her neighbours of the common duty of all sovereigns to restore the 
ancient crown of France ; she desired to bring about a counter- 
revolution through the agency of the brothers of King Louis ; she 
pledged, in indefinite terms, the arms of Russia in aid of the great 
campaign of Royalism, keeping the power in her own hands of 
withdrawing her assistance as soon as she pleased. This course of 
conduct on the part of the court of St. Petersburg was so necessary 
a consequence of Russia's well-secured geographical position that 
the Prussian minister, Alvensleben, a man of by no means excep- 
tional talent, immediately saw through the designs of the czarina, 
and foreshadowed to the king the policy of his restless neighbour. 

Neither the emperor nor the statesmen of Prussia failed alto- 
gether to understand the incalculable dangers of a war in so confused 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

a situation. Leopold's sober judgment long remained unaffected 
by the letters demanding help sent by his unfortunate sister, Marie 
Antoinette, who, filled with feminine passion and suffering from 
injured pride, went to the verge of treason in her machinations. 
The Prussian cabinet was at first well satisfied by the demeanour 
of the constitutional parties. The Prussian ambassador, von der 
Goltz, frankly recognised that the Revolution was justified, and 
did not shut his eyes to the accumulated follies of the unfor- 
tunate court. In Vienna and in Berlin the plots of the emigres 
were severely censured. It was not until the spring of 1791, 
after King Louis had already had to atone for his ill-conceived 
attempt at flight by incredible personal humiliations, that the two 
courts began seriously to think of taking up arms against the Revo- 
lution. The exciting news came at a most momentous instant, 
for Bischofswerder had just taken the first steps towards the per- 
manent union of the two powers. Frederick William's knightly 
sense was inspired by the idea of revenging the injury of the majesty 
of France with his own royal sword. Certain clever heads among 
the emigres gradually acquired secret influence at the court ; it 
was not by chance that just at this moment a new and un-Prussian 
manner came over the administration ; that there was a departure 
from the proud free-spiritedness of the great king ; that pinpricks 
were directed against the leaders of the enlightenment. The 
powerful favourite was the book-keeper of all the demagogues and 
conspirators in Prussia. When the man of ill omen visited Austria 
for the second time in the summer of 1791, in order to confirm 
the understanding initiated in the spring, he found the emperor 
at Milan in an excited mood; threatening expressions were let 
fall, to the effect that it was time for the bane of revolution to be 
uprooted time for the disturbers of the peace to be attacked every- 
where, not excepting Germany. Shortly afterwards in a circular 
letter from Padua, Leopold demanded of the European powers 
that they should come to the help of his misused brother-in-law ; 
that they should revenge the injury done to the honour of the king 
by recourse to powerful measures, and that they should refuse to 
recognise any French constitution which was not freely adopted 
by the crown. Bischofswerder, of his own initiative and against his 
instructions, signed the Vienna Convention of July 25th, whereby 
both powers guaranteed each other's possessions and promised one 
another help in case of internal disorders. 

Therewith was the descending path which had been entered 
at Reichenbach pursued to its end. The cunning of Leopold had 


History of Germany 

completely overreached the king's favourite. Prussia abandoned 
the proud independence of the Frederician policy, undertaking, 
without receiving any corresponding advantage, to help the imperial 
court in its need, for only Austria, and not Prussia, was threat- 
ened in its possessions. In Belgium the fires of discontent were 
still smouldering, and an attack by the French might readily lead 
them to break into open flame. The negotiator who had thus 
exceeded his instructions was received with reproaches in Berlin : 
several of the ministers entered vigorous protests against this 
momentous change in the political system, contending that the most 
effective means against revolution were careful husbandry of the 
energies of the state, that the Vienna Convention involved incal- 
culable responsiblities which might easily prove destructive to 
the army and to the finances. Public opinion in Prussia was also 
profoundly suspicious of the Austrian friendship. The memories 
of the Seven Years' War had not yet passed away ; the rights of 
the estates of the empire in Alsace and the fate of the left bank of 
the Rhine were so remote from the thoughts of the North Germans 
that even later, when the imperial war on the Rhine had already 
lasted a year and a half, one of the first political intelligences of the 
time, Spittler, wrote naively, " We Germans are enjoying a happy 
repose ! " King Frederick William, however, approved the arbi- 
trary steps of his friend. Soon afterwards he met Leopold at 
Pillnitz, was attracted by the dignified personal conduct of the sly 
Florentine, and exclaimed with rejoicing that the alliance between 
the two great powers of Germany would endure to all eternity 
for the blessing of future generations. There was, indeed, in 
all this ill-will no immediate danger to France. Whilst Frederick 
William himself ardently desired the campaign against the French 
rebels, his minister was as decisively opposed to the thought of 
an offensive war as was the entirely peaceful emperor. In Pill- 
nitz, the emigres who clamoured for war were ignored, and all 
that resulted was the meaningless Declaration of August 27th, 
in which the two powers stated that they regarded King Louis's 
plight as the common concern of all sovereigns, and that interven- 
tion in the internal affairs of France would ensue as soon as all the 
powers of Europe were in agreement upon the matter. This 
amounted to nothing at all, for everyone was well aware that 
England would never take part in an armed intervention. Even 
these vague intimations came to nothing in Vienna when King 
Louis was in the autumn restored to his dignities and when he 
voluntarily accepted the new constitution. It seemed that the 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

Revolution had come to a standstill. The emperor was completely 
pacified, and even the old Prince Kaunitz, who had earnestly 
desired a European War against "the rabid fools" of France, now 
admitted that all danger of war was over. The negotiations 
concerning the rights of the empire in Alsace were conducted by 
Leopold, in accordance with ancient imperial custom, with a 
moderation that was tantamount to weakness ; he disregarded all 
measures of military security, and demanded merely an indemnity, 
but not restoration of what had been stolen. Austria and Prussia, 
upon the request of France, demanded of the Electoral Prince of 
Treves that he should forbid the equipment of the army of emigres 
at Coblenz this poor little army which, considering the deadly 
hate of the French against the traitor nobles, could never have 
been a danger to the new France. When Leopold added that he 
would use his Belgian troops to protect the men of Treves against 
the attacks of French levies, he did no more than promise to 
undertake what was already his inalienable duty as overlord of 
the empire. 

It was France and France alone that forced war upon the 
German powers, notwithstanding their peaceful disposition. The 
fundamental law of the constitutional monarchy had been hardly 
established when the doctrinaires of the Gironde were already 
working for its destruction. They desired a republic, and speedily 
recognised that a declaration of war against the king's brother-in- 
law would irreparably undermine the repute of the throne, that the 
last poor vestiges of the old kingship must inevitably crumble as 
soon as the flood of the revolutionary propaganda began to flow 
over the whole of Europe. The antagonism to the republic of 
the enormous majority of the nation was to be overcome by glory 
and success in war, by the cherished ancient dream of the natural 
frontier ; and the financial need of the state was to be relieved by 
abundant booty. In view of the sensitive pride of the profoundly 
moved nation, and of its utter ignorance of foreign affairs, it was 
not difficult for the wild oratory of Brissot, Guadet, and Gen- 
sonne" to weave out of true and false an attractive web of illusion, 
to assimilate the insane letters of the unhappy court and the open 
treason of the emigres with the heedless words of the Declarations 
of Padua and Pillnitz. The nation began to believe that its new 
freedom was endangered by an obscure conspiracy of all the old 
powers, that the sword must be drawn hi order to maintain the right 
of national self-government against the tutelage of Europe. Since 
the warlike mood gained ground from day to day in the legislative 

History of Germany 

assembly, extreme arrogance was shown in the negotiations with 
the emperor, and no definite indemnity was offered to the estates 
of the empire in Alsace. Then the assembly, carried away by 
the flaming speeches of the Girondists, demanded of the emperor 
a formal declaration that he would abandon the plan of a European 
coalition, and that he would hold himself ready to support France 
in accordance with the old alliance with the Bourbons, and all this 
under pain of instant war. Since Leopold returned a dignified 
and temperate answer, war was declared against Austria upon 
April 20, 1792. Not more wantonly were begun the robber 
campaigns of Louis XIV than this struggle which, as far as 
all human expectation could show, must involve unprepared 
France in a shameful defeat. The doctrinaire speech of Condorcet 
then announced to the world that the principle of republican free- 
dom was uprising against despotism. The gauntlet was thrown 
down to the whole of old Europe. As regards Prussia, the Vienna 
Convention now came into operation, and was reinforced by a 
formal defensive alliance. 

The war was forced upon the German powers. Almost at the 
same moment, Russian troops, making light of all resistance, 
entered Poland, extending the control of the czarina as far as the 
Vistula. Once again, as so often before, the central power of the 
Continent stood between two fires. The statesmen of Prussia had 
now to choose whether they should offer a stout resistance to the 
hardly functional army of the Revolution, while devoting the main 
forces of the state to safeguarding German interests in the east, 
or whether conversely they should for a time let the Polish matter 
await decision, in order first to settle the French War with speedy 
and powerful strokes. Since France had herself torn up the old 
treaties by her declaration of war, a heroic sentiment might now 
conceive the hope of restoring to the empire the Vosges, so often 
mourned by King Frederick as the German Thermopylae. Which- 
ever might be the choice, the hour was pressing. It was essential 
that the entire might of Prussia should at once be put into the field 
in order, either in the east or in the west, to attain to a decisive 
issue with overwhelming speed. But the eagle eye of the great 
king was no longer watching over his state, and the pigmies who 
surrounded his successor advised the adoption of the stupidest 
course possible ; they began an offensive war against France, and 
devoted to this venturesome undertaking barely the half of the 
Prussian army. 

The war of the first coalition was lost by diplomatic mistakes, 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

not in consequence of reverses in the field. It was decisive for the 
course of the war that in Vienna and in Berlin all the sins and 
all the lies of the covetous and uninspired cabinet-policy of the 
eighteenth century were now revived, the policy which had failed to 
understand the level sense of Frederick William I and had despised 
the heroic pride of his son. The Emperor Leopold died at the 
very outset of the war. His youthful successor, Francis II, 
believed in the old Hapsburg Jt < J $t [the initials of Austria 
Est Imperare Orbi Universo] with all the stiff obstinacy of a 
head empty of ideas, inclining always to the simple view that 
his archducal house could never possess land enough. He 
revived the Josephan plans of conquest, hoping by means of 
the French War ultimately to be able to effect the exchange of 
Belgium for Bavaria. Nor did Prussian statecraft any longer 
display the ancient character of sober self-restraint. Since the 
conclusion of the Austrian alliance, Prussia had also been affected 
with the insatiate greed of the Hapsburg-Lorraine policy, and 
vacillated in vain pursuit of the illimitable, instead of following, 
in accordance with the good old Hohenzollern manner, a firmly 
restricted aim pursued with iron persistency. The aim of 
the court intriguers, Haugwitz and Lucchesini, was to obtain the 
greatest possible gain in land and people with the smallest possible 
sacrifice. They perceived that the Vienna Convention, which 
pledged Prussia to come unconditionally to the support of the 
emperor, had been a deplorable folly ; and now, before Austria had 
disclosed her Bavarian plans, they demanded, in return for mili- 
tary help, a portion of Poland and the Palatinate territories on the 
Lower Rhine the Bavarian Palatinate could seek compensation 
in Alsace. They thus had in view the reconquest of the German 
Western Mark, and imagined at the same time that the old dispute 
concerning the Jiilich-Cleves succession could be brought to a con- 
clusion entirely to the advantage of Prussia. It is undeniable that 
this plan had a sound kernel ; but how could it be hoped that so 
striking a gain, a simultaneous acquirement of Posen and the 
Rhine provinces, could be effected, except by the use of all the 
powers of the monarchy ? It was a loathsome sight, how the 
greedy desires of the two courts now led them to bargain with one 
another. To be sure of compensation in Poland, Prussia now 
agreed that Austria should enlarge her dominion with plunder 
from Bavaria ; the prime principle of the Frederician policy, the 
old king's resolution which he so often maintained with sword 
and with pen, that on no condition whatever was the House of 


History of Germany 

Austria to be allowed to enlarge its power in the empire, was aban- 
doned with lamentable weakness " from cowardly greed," as 
Frederick had once said in relation to similar proposals. And yet, 
after all, a loyal friendship between the two allies was far from 
being secured. 

In July, 1792, the high nobility of the German nation assembled 
at Mainz around their new emperor Francis. It was the farewell 
supper of the doomed Holy Empire. Once more there flaunted 
through the narrow alleys of Mainz the golden chariots of the 
spiritual electors, the brilliant array of retainers of hundreds of 
princes, counts, and barons of the empire, all the splendour of the 
good old days the last display of the kind before the new century 
was to tread down with its iron heels the antediluvian Rhenish 
frippery of bishops' mitres and princely crowns. While this splen- 
did festival was in progress, the two great powers were secretly 
in treaty concerning the spoils of victory. The fate of Bavaria 
seemed to be decided. Prussia completely abandoned its old ward, 
the House of "Wittelsbach, and considering the military weakness 
of the South German state, it seemed beyond question that Austria 
could immediately enforce the Bavario-Belgian exchange. But 
thereupon the imperial negotiators explained that their chief did 
not demand Bavaria alone but also Ansbach-Bayreuth, which 
Prussia had just legally acquired, and this left no doubt that the 
Hofburg aimed at the partition of Germany, at the subjection of 
the whole of the south. The ministers in Berlin were " seriously 
enraged," and the king regarded as a personal injury the demand 
for the Franconian lands which had been the ancient appanage of 
his house. Nor could a clear understanding be arrived at concern- 
ing the Polish question. Although Austria did not absolutely 
forbid Prussia to increase her dominion in the east, both parties to 
the negotiations felt that there was a wide divergence in their 
views as to the future of Poland. The court of Berlin had at 
length become convinced that the May constitution of Poland, 
which was favoured by Vienna, was strictly contrary to Prussian 

In a mood of depression, grumbling at one another, and with- 
out any clear agreement as to the aims of the war, the two allies 
took the field. The imperial court engaged in the campaign 
unwillingly, regarding it as a war of defence which had been forced 
upon it ; the Prussian statesmen played just as unwillingly their 
part in rendering a help which, in accordance with the treaties they 
had made, it was impossible to refuse ; both the powers consoled 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

themselves with the vague hope that the uncongenial undertaking 
would in one way or another provide them with an extension of 
territory. King Frederick William alone was inspired by a knightly 
sentiment. He regarded himself as the defender of the rightful 
kingship, and through his dreams there passed the figures of 
Arminius and other saviours of the German Fatherland. But 
even in him there was lacking any clear understanding of what 
kind of order he was to impose upon conquered France. 

Even before the armies met there became manifest not 
only the dissentient aims of the allies but also the other 
elements of hopeless untruth by which the coalition was affected. 
Since the orators of the Gironde were preaching a war of principle 
on behalf of revolutionary freedom, it was impossible for their 
enemies completely to escape the influence of the counter-revolu- 
tionary party. In Paris, Austria was regarded as the protector 
and advocate of all those ancient political ideas which were toler- 
antly spoken of by the general name of feudalism ; and against this 
power of darkness the spokesmen of the Revolution fought with 
joyful zeal. But that the state of the philosopher of Sans Souci, 
the rebel against emperor and empire, should now protect the 
old-time Europe with its armies, seemed to them almost incredible ; 
they could not abandon the hope that fhey would still be able 
to win this kingdom over to the side of enlightenment. Yet at 
the Prussian head-quarters it was impossible to keep away the 
emigres who were offering their services ever more loudly and more 
confidently. In a moment of unintelligent weakness, the Duke 
of Brunswick, the commander-in-chief, penned a fanatical war- 
manifesto which was coloured with the sentiments of the Hotspurs 
among the emigre nobles, and which aroused disgust in the Prussian 
cabinet : the talented disciple of the French philosophy, to whom 
the Minister of War in Paris had recently offered the leadership 
of the revolutionary army, now threatened revolutionary France 
with utter destruction. The Gironde exulted, for it seemed proved 
beyond question that the plans of the allied despots were counter- 

Not less unhappy than the policy which had led to the struggle 
was the conduct of the war. For a long time, it is true, the well- 
drilled regiments of Austria and Prussia maintained an advantage 
over the haphazard and bewildered mass of the revolutionary army. 
Whenever it came to the issue of battle, the French were regularly 
defeated by the Frederician troops ; they never dared to make a 
stand against the Prussian cavalry, and especially against the 


History of Germany 

dreaded " red king," Colonel Blucher of the Red Hussars. For 
years to come, the peasant of the Mark joked about the French 
blockheads, the " katzkoppe," as he nicknamed the chasseurs. 
At the close of the three Rhine campaigns, Blucher published his 
journal, describing modestly and yet with cordial self -approval 
how often he had " smashed " the enemy. The officers returned 
home from the war with the consciousness of duty gloriously ful- 
filled. And yet these three campaigns, which brought to the 
Prussian flag so many magnificent and isolated successes, closed 
in a shameful peace. The conduct of war is everywhere deter- 
mined, and especially in wars conducted by a coalition, by the 
aims of the statecraft which the war is to subserve, and a policy 
that dreads victory cannot endure great military commanders. 
The vacillations of Prussian policy found their true expression in 
the weakness of will and in the circumspect hesitation of the Duke 
of Brunswick. In the last days of the Seven Years' War, King 
Frederick had been forced by the overwhelming power of his 
enemies to adopt a caution which was altogether foreign to his 
own inclination and principles. What had thus been imposed upon 
him by necessity seemed to the generals of the years of peace to 
be the fine flower of military wisdom. They considered it the com- 
mander's task to deploy their troops in a widely extended cordon, 
to cover every threatened point, to protect the mountain by the 
battalion and the battalion by the mountain ; that spirit of initi- 
ative which Frederick had so often declared to be the very nerve 
of war, had been completely lost in this peace-loving generation. 
The artificiality of this circumspect method of conducting war 
corresponded at once to the temperament of the Brunswicker and 
to his political views, for he alone among the generals of the allied 
army dreaded the elemental energies of the Revolution and shunned 
the venture of open battle. 

In accordance with ancient Austrian custom, of the auxiliary 
forces summoned by the empire only a small proportion put in an 
appearance. The commander-in-chief first acquired the fortresses 
along the Meuse, and then, unwillingly obeying the king's orders, 
advanced westwards towards Paris, although his army was far too 
weak to attempt the conquest of the hostile capital. The campaign 
was already decided by September aoth. The Duke did not dare 
to attack the French upon the heights of Valmy, abandoned certain 
victory, and evacuated French soil on the approach of French 
reinforcements. Goethe perceived the consequences of this great 
change of front with the seer's vision of the poet ; beside the watch- 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

fire he said to the Prussian officers, " To-day there begins a new 
epoch in world history." Meanwhile, by the revolt of the tenth of 
August the throne of the Capets had been overthrown ; a French 
Republic arose out of the horrible blood-bath of the September 
massacres ; and the rulers of the New France could bring to the 
convention as a wedding-gift the great tidings that the Frederician 
army had ingloriously fled before the troops of freedom. 

The surprises of this wild year of 1792 were not even yet at 
an end ; it seemed as if an inscrutable destiny were to prove the 
folly of all human foresight. A French volunteer-corps under an 
incompetent leader pressed forward in a mad adventure upon the 
flank of the Prussian army until close to Mainz ; the first fortress 
of Germany opened its gates without resistance. The glories of 
the Rhenish system of petty states collapsed like a house of cards ; 
princes and bishops fled in wild disorder. In accordance with the 
ancient treacherous custom of the Wittelsbachs, the Bavarian 
Palatinate declared itself neutral ; the Holy Roman Empire 
sensed the beginning of the end. The weak-willed population of 
the spiritual territories allowed themselves to be seduced by a hand- 
ful of noisy hotheads into the play-acting of a Rhenish Republic, 
imitating in reverent awe all the brave words of the Parisian 
dispensers of happiness, although " the phlegm which nature has 
imposed upon us allows us only to regard the French with wonder- 
ing admiration." The contemplation of this caricature of free- 
dom broke the unstable heart of the most intelligent of the 
Rhenish enthusiasts, George Forster. Meanwhile, Savoy and Bel- 
gium, badly defended, fell into the hands of the ragged troops of 
the Republic. Wonderful and brilliant results were these, which 
might even have intoxicated a sober people. A measureless self- 
confidence now animated the leaders of the new Republic ; they 
demanded that all the nations who wished to rise on behalf of 
freedom should follow the French example. The campaign of the 
revolutionary propagandists was ceremoniously announced ; war 
to the palaces, peace to the huts ! In this fanatical assurance of 
victory there resided an immeasurable moral force. Moreover, 
the military power of the Republic was increasing, although every- 
thing in its military system was still disorderly and confused. The 
extraordinary mobs which the Convention led into the field were 
certainly unable in open battle to secure victory in face of the 
methodical conduct of war of the Frederician generals, and yet to the 
little armies of the old days it was quite impossible completely to 
overthrow such a national uprising. Among the volunteers of 1792, 


History of Germany 

there was an abundance of youthful talent, a great proportion of 
the marshals and generals of the subsequent empire ; the new 
equality gave an open road to all aspiring spirits, and the terror of 
the guillotine spurred everyone on to venture the highest. 

There were thus manifested a new art of war and a new state- 
craft combining the land-hunger of the old cabinet policy with 
unheard-of contempt for all the traditional forms of international 
law. If the empire was to withstand the attack of this incalculable 
young power, it was essential that the Rhineland above all should 
receive a more vigorous political order and should be rendered 
capable of offering resistance. Through the fault of the petty 
courts, the fortress of Mainz had fallen into the hands of 
Custine, and, after the defeat, could offer nothing to the oppressed 
fatherland beyond pitiful complaints, appeals to precedent, and a 
few passionate pamphlets which were to incite loyal subjects to 
revolt against the " petty-bourgeois Custine." Was it desirable 
to reinstate these outworn political authorities which had collapsed 
at the first touch of the enemy ? Once more the idea of secularism 
inevitably sprang to life ; if effected promptly and by the sole 
hand of the German powers, it would have offered the last means 
of saving the existence of the imperial domain. In Berlin, as 
in Paris, the abolition of the spiritual cities was then seriously 
considered, but in face of Austria's veto, the Prussian statesmen 
abandoned the plan, and there recommenced the deplorable bar- 
gaining for a cheap advantage. 

It was finally resolved, after the Prussians had already driven 
the French out of Frankfort and well across the Rhine, that in 
the next year Belgium and Mainz should be reconquered, whilst 
the emperor should be compensated with Bavarian, and the 
Prussians with Polish, territory. Both powers were continuing 
the unhappy war in the sole hope of securing a rounding-off of 
their dominions. The plan of a royalist counter-movement, which 
still dominated the honourable mind of the King of Prussia, lost 
all foundation as soon as the Republic had been founded, and when, 
not long after, King Louis XVI went to the guillotine. 

Meanwhile the Russians established their power on the Vistula. 
By the Peace of Jassy, Catherine had been disembarrassed of the 
Turkish War, and as she now threw herself upon the Polish prey with 
all her forces she once more found an ally in the party passion of 
the Sarmatian nobility. With the aid of the Confederation of Tar- 
gowitz, she abolished all the reforms of 1791 and restored the old 
constitution restored, in a word, her own dominion over the 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

crown of Poland. For thirty years past she had been working 
incessantly to bring Russia into direct contact with the civilisation 
of the west by means of the conquest of Poland ; now she seemed 
to attain the goal of her desires, for she ruled over the land of the 
Vistula, and could decide as she wished when and in what manner 
she could effect the complete absorption of the conquered domain. 
Who could withstand her ? By the dissensions among her German 
neighbours, by the decay of the Western European comity of 
nations, the power of Russia had been enormously increased, and 
was, moreover, over-estimated by all its contemporaries ; no one 
perceived that this thinly populated land had lost a million men in 
the wars of its restless empress, and that its means for a war of 
offence were inconsiderable. The diplomatic arts of Catherine 
rendered it impossible for the German courts to take the side of the 
Polish patriots. Since the court of St. Petersburg condemned in 
passionate terms the murder of the king by the Jacobins, the 
patriotic party at Warsaw rallied to the help of the French ; who- 
ever was the enemy of France could not possibly be the ally of 

Thus it was owing to the carefully planned and unscrupulous 
policy of the empress that King Frederick William found himself 
surrounded by enemies, exactly as had been his predecessor twenty 
years earlier. He was forced to decide whether he would tolerate 
the sole dominion of the Russians in Poland, or whether he would 
limit the increase of the Muscovite power by a new partition. The 
choice could not be long in doubt. The Prusso-Polish alliance was 
torn up by the Poles themselves when they offered the House of 
Wettin the hereditary crown. The court of Berlin finally took the 
step which had long been demanded by Prussian interests. It 
declared openly against the constitution of May, 1791, and did so 
in terms of artificial anger which were detestably inconsistent with 
its former attitude. It assembled half the army on the eastern 
frontier, and as Catherine, in view of the sinister fermentation with 
which Poland was filled, did not feel secure of her position, she 
unwillingly agreed hi January, 1793, to the second partition of 
Poland. Then the world witnessed the suicide of a once mighty 
people. All the horror of the rule of the Convention in Paris 
seemed innocence itself when compared with the detestable spec- 
tacle of the mute sitting of the Reichstag of Grodno. By a precon- 
certed trickery, by the appearance of acting under compulsion, 
the suborned delegates and magnates agreed to the partition. 
Prussia acquired, in addition to Thorn and Danzig, the ^ extensive 

History of Germany 

Polish areas of Posen and Gnesen, whose lack in the Seven Years' 
War had involved such difficulties for Frederick. They consti- 
tuted a natural connecting link between Silesia and Old Prussia. 
Since they already possessed a considerable proportion of German 
inhabitants, and since they were in vigorous communication with the 
empire, it seemed probable that in the course of years they might be 
altogether won over to Teutonic civilisation. The great gap in our 
eastern frontier was at length closed ; all the injustice that the 
Polish nobility had for centuries past done to the pioneers of Ger- 
man civilisation was now to be atoned for. If, however, the parti- 
tion itself was a deed of just necessity, the choice of the means 
displayed the moral decay of the Prussian state. By breach of 
faith and by lies, by corruption and by trickery, was the goal 
attained. Not satisfied with securing the frontier, Prussia took 
more than was necessary, extending its dominion as far as the 
Bzura, deep into the interior of a purely Polish region. Poland 
thus mutilated could no longer maintain its existence ; the second 
partition led inevitably and speedily to a final overthrow which 
could not fail to be injurious to Germany. 

The immediate consequence of the treaty of partition was the 
destruction of the Prusso- Austrian alliance. It was true that the 
Emperor Francis had at first agreed to the enlargement of Prussia 
because he was unable to subdue Belgium without the assistance 
of the North German power ; but he was disquieted to learn that 
his ally had independently, and earlier than himself, secured the 
reward of victory ; it seemed to him as if he were mocked when 
Catherine wrote that he might crown his work by agreeing to the 
new partition of Poland. He angrily dismissed his ministers and 
entrusted the conduct of foreign affairs to the minister Thugut. 
This man was the most hateful of all the enemies of Prussia, far 
excelling the statesmen of Berlin hi emotional slyness and unscru- 
pulous activity. He hoped to follow Catherine's example and to 
take advantage of the terrible confusion of the European situation 
to carry out a plan of conquest in the grand style. His greedy de- 
sires extended in all directions, to Flanders and Alsace, to Bavaria, 
Italy, to the Danubian regions, to Poland. His hatred of the North 
German allies had become even greater since the heir to the 
Bavarian Palatinate, the Duke of Zweibriicken, had safeguarded 
himself against the scheme for the Bavario-Belgian exchange, 
and since Prussia, at length recognising past errors, had declared 
in plain terms that the exchange could not be allowed to take 
place without the free assent of the House of Wittelsbach. The 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

Austrian statesman immediately attempted to attack the power of 
Prussia in Poland. Nothing could be more welcome to Catherine ; 
she found it hard to accept that the Polish booty should for a 
second time be diminished in size by the intervention of Prussia, 
and she cleverly utilised the mutual hate of the German powers to 
weaken them by playing one neighbour off against the other. 
Already in the summer of 1793 the courts of Vienna and St. Peters- 
burg were drawing together. In Berlin there could be no possible 
doubt as to the hostile aims of the new league of the emperors. 

The decay of the coalition was immediately reflected in the 
events of the war. The Prussians crossed the Rhine at Caub, near 
the old Palatinate, in the same place where two decades later they 
recommenced the struggle for the German River ; they drove the 
enemy from the left bank, besieged and conquered Mainz. Under 
the protection of their arms, the refugee high nobility returned, 
and reconstituted unhindered all the old nuisance of the system of 
petty states, although the hopeless corruption of that system was 
well understood in Berlin. The Prussian army then remained 
for a long time in the mountains of the Palatinate, fronting south- 
ward toward Alsace, everywhere victorious when the enemy 
attempted an attack ; but the Prussians did not venture to advance, 
for the cabinet of Berlin distrusted the intentions of its ally. The 
imperial general Wurmser, in command of the left wing of the army 
at the front of the Weissenburg " Lines," demanded an advance 
into Alsace, in order to restore there, as had been done along the 
central Rhine, the rule of his fellows of the imperial nobility, and 
defied the Prussian commander-in-chief with open disobedience. 
Towards the end of the war, General Hoche was appointed to 
the command of the French troops, the finest man among the 
young military leaders of the Republic. Defeated by the Prus- 
sians at Kaiserslautern, with the impetuosity of the born com- 
mander he turned against Wurmser's army, defeated the imperial 
troops at Gaisberg, Worth, and Froschweiler, in those foot-hills 
where were subsequently to be fought the first battles of the great 
war of retaliation, liberated Landau from its siege by the allies 
and forced Wurmser to retreat. After the defeat of the Austrians, 
the Prussian army could no longer hold the mountain, and evacu- 
ated the Palatinate. In the horrors of the " winter of rapine " 
the unhappy country learnt to experience the advantages of French 
liberty. In a valiant army, severe defeats awaken moral energy ; 
but this campaign, which had been lost by the fault of others, 
disordered the discipline of the Prussian officers. They grumbled, 

153 L 

History of Germany 

broke into open complaint, and demanded that the army should 
be recalled from this useless war. The un-Prussian spirit which 
paralysed the administration had penetrated to the army ; it was 
like a military republic ; the anger against Austria displayed itself 
in a hundred detestable ways. In the theatre of war in the Nether- 
lands, the coalition, now strengthened by the accession of England, 
had also but little good fortune. Belgium had been won back, 
and in the summer, after the taking of Valenciennes and Mainz, 
the road to Paris lay open before the allied armies, if resolution could 
only be found to unite forces for a common forward movement. 
But the English commercial policy demanded the possession of 
Dunkirk, while Thugut insisted upon the conquest of Picardy ; 
owing to the quarrels of diplomacy the favourable moment was 
lost, and at the close of the campaign the armies found themselves 
once more on the defensive upon the southern frontier of Belgium. 
Meanwhile the military strength of the Republic was steadily 
increasing. The Jacobin Reign of Terror subjected the entire 
country to the dictatorship of the capital ; war was a necessity, 
for economic prosperity was utterly disturbed. The idea of the 
revolutionary propagandists became a terrible truth : an un- 
resting conspiracy extended its nets over half Europe, to 
Warsaw and Turin, to Amsterdam and Ireland, endeavouring 
to disturb the frontiers of every country. Tremblingly the 
people made the incredible sacrifices which were imposed upon 
them by the demands of the government in Paris. Although in 
the German provinces of France, and in Catholic Alsace, the 
terrorism of the commissaries of the Convention awakened, here 
and there, old Austrian memories, in the east the mass of the 
populace remained faithful to the tricolor because they dreaded 
that a victory of the coalition would involve the reimposition of 
tithes and the revival of forced labour. In Strasburg, people 
chanted the Song oi the Revolution. The genius of Carnot gave 
the army a new organisation, introducing troops of the line and 
national guards into the tactical unity of the half-brigade. He 
dismissed the useless elected leaders, and constituted out of the best 
energies of the old Bourbon officers, and out of new volunteers, a 
capable officers' corps. To those trained in the old and cautious 
art of war, the wild venturesomeness of the Republican generals, 
who hurled themselves upon the enemy with a reckless expendi- 
ture of human life and of the munitions of war, proved irresistible ; 
moreover, in the long campaign the conduct of the French troops 
underwent a steady improvement. 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

Thus the enemy gained strength ; whereas Prussia, at the 
beginning of the third campaign, was completely paralysed by 
the exhaustion of her financial resources. The Treasury was 
almost entirely depleted. Already in the second year of the war, 
the king had not been able to dispense with the aid of English 
gold. It was to him and to his army alone that the empire owed 
the reconquest of a dominant position on the Rhine. He would 
be able to carry on the imperial war in the years to come if the other 
estates of the empire, which had hitherto put into the field for the 
defence of the western frontier a force of barely twenty thousand 
men, were to help him out in his financial need, and to undertake 
the support of his army on the Rhine. But to the penetrating 
vision of petty particularism it seemed that the Prussian proposals 
involved a revival of the ideas of the League of Princes. Every- 
where was faint-heartedness and self-seeking. In many of the 
courts there was even open treason, for France had long been at 
work to bring the petty lords under her influence. Nor was Austria 
in favour of a change which would have made the King of Prussia 
appear as the imperial military commander, and his troops as the 
imperial army. The attempts at a loan which Hardenberg strove 
to raise among the smaller courts of the west, had no notable result. 
Thus deserted by his co-estates, Frederick William finally resolved 
to place his entire army of the Rhine at the disposal of the naval 
power, for hire. This state of affairs, per se hardly tolerable for a 
great state, involved in addition the most invidious disputes, for 
the agreement regarding the subsidies contained a number of 
ambiguous sentences. The naval power held that it could dispose 
of the troops of its ally as it pleased, and desired to assemble all the 
armies of the coalition in the Netherlands in pursuit of the interests 
of English commercial policy. Prussia, on the other hand, con- 
tended that the choice of the theatre of war was reserved to her- 
self, and still endeavoured to defend the imperial frontier along the 
central Rhine. Austria hoped once more to secure conquests in 
Flanders and in Lorraine. Field-Marshal Mollendorff opened the 
campaign with a second victory at Kaiserslautern. After being 
compelled in the summer to withdraw from the mountains, he 
advanced once more in the autumn, and for the third time the 
Prussian regiments victoriously occupied the bloodstained heights 
above the Lauter. Even in the Netherlands, the North German 
accessory troops did not lack conspicuous success. The heroic sally 
from Menin made by the Hanoverian General Hammerstein and 
his adjutant Scharnhorst, proved that the old Prussian valiancy 


History of Germany 

in arms was not yet extinct. But the courage of individuals 
could not atone for the disastrous effects of the weakness of the 
leadership and of the ambiguous character of the imperial policy. 
In October, the Austrian army withdrew from Belgium over the 
Rhine. The enemy pushed after it, occupied the Rhineland as 
far as Coblenz ; and the Prussians, since their rear was then 
threatened, were also forced to evacuate the left bank of the river. 

At the same time the king experienced the evil consequences 
of his dependence upon the naval power. England, embittered by 
the independent attitude of the Prussian generals, refused the 
payment of the monetary subsidy, thus making it impossible for 
the king to continue the campaign. Thus it happened that the 
best army of the coalition was lost to the European War through 
England's selfish arrogance. Towards Christmas, Pichegru entered 
Holland, crossing the great rivers on the ice, and the navy of this 
state, which had once ruled the seas, lowered its flag to a troop of 
French cavalry. The Batavian Republic was proclaimed, for the 
great free state of the west now began to surround itself with a 
wall of daughter-republics. Thus the third Rhenish campaign 
had been fought in vain, and next summer the Westphalian terri- 
tories must expect attack from the French by way of Holland. 
Prussia was completely isolated, and it was soon learnt that the 
rupture between Prussia and England had been hailed with delight 
both in St. Petersburg and in Vienna. But in the Prussian nation 
no one had any understanding of how profoundly the power of the 
state had been damaged by a policy of half-measures and confused 
aims. The capital rejoiced over the three victories of Kaisers- 
lautern ; the minds of the people were intoxicated with patriotic 
pride and royalist devotion. Then for the first time, hi the years 
1793 and 1794, there was heard at Berlin the song " Hail to thee 
in the victor's crown," the new Prussian words set to the old melody 
of Handel. The beautiful monument of victory of the old mon- 
archy, the Brandenburg Gate, was unveiled ; with enthusiastic 
delight the people assembled in crowds to see the bride of the 
young crown prince make her entry through this gate of triumph. 
Prussian writers, in a well-meaning infatuation, compared the 
undisturbed good fortune of their loyal and victorious nation 
with the confusion and powerlessness of the state of the French 

Meanwhile the shaky accord of the coalition was completely 
disturbed by the Polish negotiations. In Easter week, 1794, a san- 
guinary revolt took place at Warsaw, and the Russians were driven 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

out of the country. With the support of Paris, the area of dis- 
turbance continually widened, reaching far into Prussian Poland. 
This time also, in the last struggle of despair, the Polish nobility 
still displayed its ancient sins of dissension and undiscipline. Yet 
the unhappy nation manifested more strength than the parti- 
tioning powers had expected, and a gracious destiny bestowed upon 
Poland the good fortune of reinvigorating her heart at the prospect 
of a true hero. Kosciuszko possessed neither the genius of the 
great commander nor the world-wide vision of the statesman, but 
his pure spirit, animated with all the knightly virtues of his people , 
was endowed also with an invincible uprightness, with a genuine 
devotion for his fatherland, such as had been unknown in 
Poland for centuries past. To the rough levies of the Polish pea- 
santry, when the sober-minded hero, clad in a white frieze country- 
man's coat, rode through the ranks of his men, Father Thaddeus 
seemed like a guardian angel. In Russia, on the other hand, there 
now flamed up the ancient hatred of the Byzantine Christians 
against the Latins, of the Eastern Slavs against the Western. Like 
one man, the empire demanded the annihilation of Poland in atone- 
ment for the affront that had been offered. Never was any war 
more sacred to the Russian people. It was obvious that in the 
bloody day of Warsaw, the Poles' last hour had begun. It was 
therefore the duty of Prussia to take immediate action, and before 
the Russian armies could be assembled from the remote corners 
of the empire, it was essential that Prussia should herself subdue 
the revolt in order thereafter, in the inevitable final partition, to 
be able to speak the decisive word. The king understood all that 
was at stake. He sent his army over the frontier, defeated the 
Poles at Rawka, subdued Cracow, and then turned against Warsaw, 
which was badly equipped, torn by faction-fights, and by no 
means prepared to resist the Prussian attack. But that unlucky 
over-carefulness and over-refinement which had ruined the 
Rhenish campaigns, served also to deprive the king of the fruits 
of his Polish victories. The royal-minded man wished to take 
Praga by storm, and then, like his ancestor the Great Elector, to 
enter the Polish capital as a conqueror. Bischofswerder, however, 
warned him to husband his forces for the reckoning with Russia ; 
one of Catherine's agents, the Prince of Nassau-Siegena, eagerly 
joined in this cowardly advice. A regular siege was begun and 
was discontinued after a few days. Whilst the Prussian army, 
depressed and embittered, withdrew from Warsaw, Souvbroff, the 
barbarian of genius, in whom the savage national temperament of 


History of Germany 

the Muscovites found vigorous expression, eame to the attack with 
the bulk of Catherine's forces. His devotion to the White Czar 
and to the Orthodox Church was as blind as that of any Russian 
peasant, and yet he was a master in the western art of war, a great 
warrior, born to command, accustomed to expect the impossible 
from the courage of his soldiers, accustomed to act up to his motto, 
" The bullet is a foolish woman, but the bayonet is every inch a 
man." He carried out what the Prussian commanders had failed to 
effect, defeated the army of Kosciuszko, and took Praga by storm 
after murderous battles. Warsaw lay at the feet of Catherine, 
her troops held the commanding position between the Bug and the 
Vistula. The revolt had been suppressed, not by Prussia but by 
Russia ; and the court of St. Petersburg announced boastingly, 
" Poland has been completely overthrown by the armies of the 

The sins of omission of the Prussian generalship must be paid 
for when the three eastern powers came to negotiate at St. Peters- 
burg concerning the last partition. Prussia demanded the line of 
the Vistula, with Warsaw, Sandomierz, and Cracow. Since Austria, 
which had done very little towards the suppression of the revolt, 
coveted these last two districts for herself, General Tauentzien 
returned an answer which showed the complete decay of the coali- 
tion. He said : " These two provinces in your hands would give 
us more trouble than all the democracies of the world." Russia, 
however, took Austria's side, since for more than a year Thugut 
had been successfully engaged in acquiring the favour of Catherine. 
The two imperial courts were at one in the intention of control- 
ling Prussian ambition by all the means in their power, and since 
Prussia would not give way, on January 3, 1795, Austria and 
Russia signed a secret treaty against their ally. By this it was 
arranged that Poland should be partitioned in such a way that Russia 
and Austria should receive the preponderant part of the country, 
while Prussia must remain content with Warsaw and a narrow strip 
on the eastern Prussian frontier. In addition, a comprehensive 
plan of conquest was laid down. In the Danubian provinces, 
Russia was to enjoy the right of a younger son, while Austria 
received a free hand for the annexation of Bavaria, Bosnia, and 
Serbia, and also the Venetian Republic. Indeed, the empress 
gave her assent to all other conquests which her ally might still 
consider necessary. Should Prussia offer any opposition, this 
was to be overpowered by the full might of the Russian and 
Austrian armies. Thus all the immoderate desires of the Emperor 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

Joseph were revived. On the Lower Danube, in the heart of 
South Germany, and above all on the Adriatic, Thugut hoped to 
enlarge the power of his state, and Catherine gladly acceded to 
these desires because in the general disturbance she hoped to attain 
the second great goal of her statecraft, the control of Constantinople. 

To this had the Prussian state come in the five years since the 
days of Reichenbach. By the naval power and by the German 
empire, means for the conduct of the war were refused, while 
Russia and Austria threatened an onslaught. For some months, 
the treaty of January 3 still remained unknown in Berlin, but there 
could be no possible doubt as to the sentiments of the imperial 
court. Thugut had long ago assembled troops in Bohemia in 
order to use them in the attack upon his Prussian allies. Was 
it possible for Prussia, without money, and with the aid of such 
allies as these, to prosecute the French War, whose aims in the 
confused quarrels of diplomacy became ever obscurer and more 
questionable ? For a long time all the king's advisers had been 
demanding peace or an alliance with France even Hardenberg, 
the talented minister who by his skilful administration had won the 
Franconian Margravates for the monarchy, and who now began to 
exercise an influence upon foreign affairs. Charles Augustus of 
Weimar, who from the first had been strongly opposed to the war 
with France, now renewed his efforts for peace. The army, and 
even the valiant Blucher, were altogether averse to continuing the 
war in alliance with the Austrians ; and not less eager for peace 
was the nation, which considered that enough laurels had been 
won. Young Vincke voiced the heart-felt sentiments of all 
enlightened Prussians when he asked bitterly, " How long are we 
to remain a voluntary sacrifice for Austrian double-dealing ? " 
Hans von Held, whose tongue was the sharpest among those of 
the literary opposition, wrote the moving exhortation : " Frederick 
William, give the signal, call thy valiant army back ! Let us be the 
Frenchmen's brothers, thus commands the voice of Fate." In 
the empire, too, everything was calling for peace, for the condition 
was one of general exhaustion. Thugut, on the other hand, passion- 
ately embittered, threatened that he would himself come to terms 
with France if he were not allowed to have Cracow. The hasty 
withdrawal of the Austrians from the Netherlands, and many 
serious reports that were received concerning the activity of Carletti, 
the Tuscan minister in Paris, served to increase the suspicion of 
the Prussian court against the Hofburg. 

In France the need for peace was hardly less pressing, and there 


History of Germany 

was an earnest desire for an understanding at least with Prussia. 
With the fall of the Terror, the moderate parties came into control 
at Paris, and the statesmen of Berlin flattered themselves with the 
expectation that if Prussia were to conclude a separate peace, this 
would pave the way for a general peace and would restore the 
status quo in the empire. Against his will, the king at length gave 
permission for the opening of peace negotiations ; in the bottom 
of his soul, as a faithful prince of the empire, he still wished to carry 
on the Rhenish campaign. Notwithstanding the diplomatic skill of 
Hardenberg, the course of the Basle negotiations proved unfortunate, 
because the ministers in Berlin lacked courage to threaten their 
opponents with a resumption of hostilities. Nor did the Prussian 
diplomats venture seriously to entertain the idea of secularisation, 
which was once more brought up by the French, and which might 
perhaps have furnished a passable way out of the difficulty. They 
were content with half-measures, and on April 5, 1795, they con- 
cluded the Peace of Basle, in virtue of which Prussia simply with- 
drew from the coalition ; if the French proved unable to maintain 
their position on the left bank of the Rhine, the king was to be 
indemnified for his possessions in this region, and it was a tacit 
understanding between the parties to the bargain that the indem- 
nity was to take the form of secularised ecclesiastical lands. 

In view of the state of affairs and personalities in Prussia, 
the conclusion of peace was the last despairing means for the 
rescue of the state from an untenable situation. It was the neces- 
sary consequence of the errors and misfortunes of many years, 
of a lying alliance which carried within itself the germs of treachery, 
of a policy without energy oscillating ever between Poland and the 
Rhine, and never venturing to strike a decisive blow. The respon- 
sibility did not attach to individual men, but to the entire nation, 
which, after having been once awakened by a great man from its 
political slumber, had lapsed into a waking dream, and had learned 
once more with a slack self-content, to despair of its political future. 
Notwithstanding all excuses and explanations, it was the gravest 
political error of our new history, a disloyalty of the Prussian 
state to itself, which had to be atoned for by two decades of dis- 
honour and stress, by unexampled sacrifices and struggles. 

In its position as augmenter of the empire, Prussia had out- 
grown the futility of the system of petty states. No defeat in the 
open field could abase it more profoundly than it was abased by 
its own action when without compulsion it drew its hand from the 
German Western Mark, and when it abandoned to an unknown 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

destiny the region of Mainz, which Prussia's own army had so 
recently restored to the empire. Amid powerful neighbours, 
Prussia had always maintained itself by the energy of its own will. 
More unbecoming than even an open alliance with the enemy of 
the empire was the slothful pusillanimity of spirit which was content 
to wait upon events to see if perchance the Austrians might still 
be able to drive the French out of the empire. An honourable 
sentiment of imperial pride led the king to refuse to the last pos- 
sible minute his consent to the Peace of Basle. He was the heir 
of that Great Elector who had been betrayed no less shamefully 
by Austria and yet had ever and again ventured to renew the 
struggle for the Rhenish land ; moreover, he perceived obscurely, as 
did the brave old minister Finkenstein, that for the position of Prussia 
in the world, the maintenance of the western frontier of the empire 
was far more important than the possession of Sandomierz and 
Cracow. Betrayed by his allies, he was unquestionably justified 
in withdrawing from the coalition as soon as France offered honour- 
able terms of peace and recognised the ancient frontiers of the 
empire, but peace on such terms was attainable only by the hazard 
of a fourth Rhenish campaign. The war had left untouched 
the kernel of the monarchy. Although the misfortunes of the 
year 1794 had caused momentary difficulties, there was everywhere 
visible a general condition of well-being. There could be no ques- 
tion of the people being overburdened with taxation. The domain 
which was now enlarged by thousands of square miles provided 
its amiable ruler with an annual income greater by barely a million 
thalers than that yielded in former days by the little state of 
Frederick II. In such a situation, a great statesman would have 
known how to find means for a new campaign, notwithstanding 
all financial difficulties and notwithstanding the unfortunate out- 
come of the recent attempt at raising a foreign loan. But in 
the king's council there was no man of creative mind ; the unhappy 
prince saw no way out and pacified his conscience with the gloomy 
consolation that the peace at least involved no formal surrender 
of German land. 

All the reckonings and expectations of his cunning advisers 
soon showed themselves to have been erroneous. They had 
expected to bring the imperial war to a close. Hardenberg believed 
that France would voluntarily renounce the Rhine frontier simply 
in order to come to terms with the empire, and naively expected 
that there would result a permanent friendly relationship between 
Prussia and the Republic. How little did they understand the 


History of Germany 

character of revolutionary France ! Soon after the Basle Treaty 
had been signed, the war party at Paris once more gained the 
ascendancy, expected armed help from Prussia, and, disappointed 
in this expectation, treated the peaceful neutral neighbour with 
unconcealed contempt. It became ever clearer that a peace with 
this revolutionary-minded state would not become possible until 
the old European system lay in ruins. Haugwitz and Alvensleben 
had hoped that the conclusion of peace would give them a free 
hand for the Polish negotiations, but were compelled ultimately 
to accept with trifling modifications the partition proposed by 
the two imperial courts, for it was only as the ally of France that 
Prussia could oppose the masterful will of Thugut and Catherine, 
whilst the sense of honour of the king and the inertia of most of 
his advisers rendered impossible an open alliance with the Revolu- 
tion. None the less, by the Treaty of Basle, Prussia had already 
become an accomplice, a secret ally of the French policy of conquest. 
It was known in Berlin that the Republic would retain the left 
bank of the Rhine ; compensation was expected from French 
friendship for the lands of Cleves, and thus Prussia, however 
repugnant the idea might seem, was chained to the victorious 
chariot wheels of France. 

The first step led to others. On August 5, 1796, a supple- 
mentary treaty was concluded which placed in prospect certain 
definite acquisitions. If the left bank of the Rhine should be lost, 
the king was to receive the Bishopric of Minister, and his. brother- 
in-law of Orange was also to be indemnified with certain spiritual 
territories of the empire. Thus the great idea of secularisation 
lost its true significance. King Frederick had understood it as a 
means for the reform of the empire, but now it was to serve merely 
for the spoliation of Germany. By the peace, Prussia apparently 
won a great extension of its power. The petty states of North 
Germany quickly followed the example of their powerful colleague. 
A line of demarcation was drawn along the Rhine and then straight 
across Central Germany ; behind it lay the neutral north, guarded 
by the arms of Prussia against the terrors of war. The canny folk 
of Berlin rejoiced ; the rule of the black eagle over the whole of 
North Germany was now established by the peaceful arts of diplo- 
macy. And yet the brilliancy of this position was utterly illusory. 
The Rhine did not form a tenable frontier, the Republic could 
hold the left bank only if it controlled also the right bank directly 
or indirectly. Inevitably the war extended far into High Germany ; 
for all the South German states had already concluded treaties of 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

submission to France, the precursors of the Confederation of the 
Rhine. Surrounded by France and its vassals to the south and to 
the west, North Germany could maintain its independence only so 
long as France found it necessary to safeguard this in her own 
interests. It was nothing but a peace-loving inertia which held 
together the German alliance on behalf of neutrality ; should the 
protector of North Germany become involved in a new war with 
France, this league, which was devoid alike of moral content and 
of positive aim, must immediately break up, for it was inevitable 
that the smaller associates would fall away from a conquered 
Prussia. From the egoism of these courts it was useless even to 
expect a permanent subordination of the minor North German 
contingents under the leadership of Prussia. The policy of Berlin, 
poor in ideas, hardly even made an earnest attempt to transform 
into a legally established hegemony, the dominant position which 
Prussia in fact occupied in the north ; and yet the peace could 
have been justified only if it had been utilised to revive in North 
Germany the policy of the League of Princes. 

The old king had always inexorably opposed the separation 
of the north from the south, whenever the Emperor Joseph had 
wished to effect this in the interest of Austria, but now the parti- 
tion of Germany was realised for the advantage of France. Since 
Prussia withdrew into the retired life of North German neutrality, 
the best of the political gains which the re-acquirement of the 
Franconian family lands had brought to the Hohenzollerns was 
irrecoverably lost ; the powerful step forward into the centre of High 
German life had been vainly effected. Among the South Germans 
there existed henceforward two parties only, the French and the 
Austrian existed so far as this outworn race still possessed any 
political sentiment whatever. The unsatisfied provincial diets 
of Wurtemberg and a few hotheads in Bavaria and Swabia admired 
the victorious Republic as the protector of liberty. The people 
in general knew nothing of the secret designs of the Hofburg ; 
they saw that the imperial troops continued for years to fight 
against the enemies of the empire, while Prussia stood inactive on 
one side ; and they honoured the empire as the last loyal protector 
of their native soil. In the autumn of 1795 the Bavarian Land- 
sturm united with the Austrian forces, and fought the plundering 
and undisciplined troops of the Sansculottes in the Taunus and the 
Westerwald. Since in the person of the young Archduke Charles, 
Austria had found a new hero, the long almost discredited name 
of the imperial house now acquired a new esteem among the High 


History of Germany 

Germans. Even to-day in the farms of the Black Forest we find 
old wood-cuts commemorating the battles fought by the imperial 
commander-in-chief. In these years there was constituted among 
the best Germans of the southern highlands an Austrian historical 
tradition which continued to exercise a powerful influence for 
decades to come. It was at this time that the Szeklers and Kroats 
were in the Neckar valley, and that the young Uhland received the 
decisive political impressions of his life. Prussia, however, which 
had never really acquired the confidence of the High Germans, 
was now, and for a long time to come, the object of general contempt. 
Thus the consequences of the Basle Treaty were disastrous in every 
direction, and while Hardenberg had hoped that the peace would 
pave the way for his state to effect a long series of internal reforms 
and to introduce the sound ideas of the Revolution, this hope also 
was doomed to disappointment. It rather resulted that the newly 
acquired territory remained for years a hindrance to internal 

The Basle Treaty, which was to have brought for the king the 
honourable position of the intermediator of European peace, resulted 
only in alienating from Prussia the whole comity of states. At 
the two imperial courts, the news from Basle awakened passionate 
anger. What was merely empty-headed weakness was regarded 
in St. Petersburg and Vienna as black treachery and naturally 
so, for Prussia could now only derive advantage from the victory 
of the Republic. Both the courts remained firmly convinced that 
Prussia was secretly intriguing with France ; and they attributed 
the worst possible designs to the king's councillors, seriously 
believing that Prussia was meditating a war of offence, was secretly 
endeavouring to egg on the Turks and the Swedes to attack 
Catherine. Thugut assembled an army on the Silesian frontier, 
and incited the Russian cabinet in violent despatches to undertake 
a war of destruction against their " natural enemy." He drew up 
an adventurous plan by which Prussia was to be deprived of all 
her Polish provinces and also of West Prussia. Souv6roff was to lead 
the Russian armies against the Prussian capital. The military 
preparations against the North German power brought the Rhenish 
campaign to a standstill throughout the summer. It was not 
until the autumn that the two imperial courts became convinced 
that there was nothing to be feared from Prussian weakness, and 
at the same time Thugut came to recognise that an understanding 
with the Republic was impossible. The idea of the preservation 
of the frontiers of the empire lay remote* frornjiis hard policy of 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

interest. He was ready to sacrifice the left bank of the Rhine if 
Austria could acquire the Bavarian hereditary dominion. No 
one in the Hofburg thought of the duties of the emperorship. The 
court of St. Petersburg was expressly assured that the Russian 
troops might enter Germany as freely as they pleased hi order to 
chastise the estates of the realm that had fallen away from Austria. 
It was only in respect of Italian affairs that no agreement could be 
effected. Thugut hoped to annex to Lombardy the domain of the 
neutral Republic of Venice, whilst France did not wish to leave 
Milan, the key to Italy, in Austria's hands. The result was that 
once again in the autumn of 1795 the swords were unsheathed, 
the court of Vienna hoping to conquer Venice on the Rhine. Since 
the war was renewed for the sake of Italy, a decisive issue must be 
fought out in Italy as well. United with Russia and England more 
firmly than ever by the new triple alliance, supported by Pitt 
with abundant monetary subsidies, Thugut rushed into the incal- 
culable struggle. On all hands simple greed was dominant, every- 
where was manifest contempt for all rights. Whether France or 
Austria should prove victorious, the one thing that would neces- 
sarily be overthrown was the old-established international law. 
And while this disastrous struggle was in progress there remained 
neutral that state whose boast that it held the balance of European 
power had once been echoed alike by friend and foe ! 

It was astonishing to observe that in North Germany no one 
seemed to dream of how dire was the penalty which Prussia had 
to pay in the loss of general repute for this mean-spirited peace ; 
no one seemed to understand the devastating effect of the loss of 
all good feeling and all sense of justice which must inevitably result 
in Germany now that the one truly living German state had aban- 
doned the empire. All over North Germany, a general approval 
was given to the wise men who had made peace. Trade and com- 
merce were flourishing ; the shipping and the grain-trade of Prussia 
enjoyed the advantage of neutral flags and received an altogether 
unexpected expansion owing to the general naval war. The 
energies of the new literature developed in undisturbed security ; 
now were the golden days of Weimar. Half in contempt and half 
in indifference, Saxony, proud of its culture, looked down out of 
the fullness of its intellectual life into the desolate disorder of war 
across the line of demarcation. By the joyful news from Basle, 
Kant was incited to the composition of his essay upon Per- 
petual Peace, and dreamed that the barbarism of war was soon 
to be done away with at the very moment that a new age of blood 


History of Germany 

and iron was dawning for enlightened Europe. The king, too, 
who had so long resisted the peace, soon consoled himself with the 
contemplation of the general satisfaction. Learning to make a 
virtue of necessity, he wrote, filled with self-approval, to Catherine, 
that it was his hope to follow the example of his predecessor, who 
had first enlarged the boundaries of his state, and had then devoted 
himself systematically to maintaining his newly-acquired dominion 
and to ruling it in peace. 

In actual fact, except John Sigismund and Frederick II no 
other Hohenzollern had brought the monarchy so remarkable an 
extension of territory ; in the ten years of this reign the domain 
grew from 3,500 to nearly 5,600 square miles [German]. With 
the accession of the Franconian Margravates, another happy land 
of ancient civilisation was added to the needy trans-Elbian colonies. 
Under the guidance of Hardenberg there was formed a Franconian 
school of Prussian officials ; Alexander Humboldt presided over 
the mining development of the Fichtelgebirge. Altenstein, Kir- 
cheisen, and Nagler learnt there to adapt the stricter principles of 
the ancient Prussian administration to the comfortable circum- 
stances of free peasants and well-to-do townsmen of the lower 
middle classes. These men of Franconia, and the philosophical 
East Prussians who, like young Schon, had sat at the feet of Kant 
in Konigsberg, and who had become acquainted with the ideas of 
Adam Smith through the instrumentality of the excellent Kraus, 
were subsequently the founders of the reform party of the official- 
dom. From the military and economic points of view, the new 
frontier on the Bug and the Pilitza was most advantageous, since 
it opened free intercourse between the harbours of the province of 
Prussia and the internal regions of Poland that were rich in wood 
and grain, while it gave to the state an admirable and impregnable 
position, between the Vistula, the Bug, and the Narew. The un- 
happy inhabitants of Great Poland and Ma&ovia learnt for the 
first time for centuries the blessings of a just and benevolent 
administration. Misfortune was respected by a lenient treatment 
of the insurgents, whereas in Russian Poland a cruel system of 
punishments was enforced. The noble became at length a subject, 
was forced to respect the law ; the peasants and the Jews could 
once more provide for the future and devote themselves to peaceful 
labour without trembling before the horsewhip of the landed 
gentry. Security before the law, hitherto unknown in Poland, 
attracted numerous settlers, and led to an influx of capital from 
the German provinces into this rich virgin soil. There was a 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

notable expansion of agriculture ; the regulation of mortgages 
rendered possible a more vigorous agrarian development, new 
roads and new canals were built ; with astonishing rapidity 
Warsaw assumed the character of a German town. No one could 
fail to recognise the general blossoming of improved economic 

But it soon became manifest that the power and happiness 
of states do not depend upon military and commercio-political 
conditions alone. The justice of historical destiny remains ever 
inscrutable, and becomes acceptable only in a spirit of reflective 
devotion, because neither to people nor to individuals does it 
mete out justice with equal measure. Among nations, as among 
individuals, there are favourites of fortune, in whose hands every- 
thing thrives without effort ; and there are others of harder metal 
for whom only that which is obtained by prolonged struggle turns 
to advantage. What the Prussian state had hitherto gained 
had been the reward of serious work ; but this new and large 
extension of territory was acquired by ineffective campaigns and 
inglorious undertakings, and upon the orderly domesticity of the 
country it had the effect of a gambling gain. Often had the 
Hohenzollerns resisted alluring appeals from abroad, but this time 
they gave way to temptation. Of the ten and a half million 
inhabitants of Prussia, four millions were now Slavs, so that there 
was serious danger that the country would be alienated from its 
great German future. The acquisition of Warsaw and Puitusk 
was indeed a necessary step, unconditionally demanded in accord- 
ance with the views of the time, since it was impossible for Prussia 
to abandon either to Austria or to Russia the key of its eastern 
frontier. It cannot be made a matter of personal reproach to the 
king that he failed to look beyond the doctrines of his epoch relating 
to the balance of power, and that he understood no better than 
his contemporaries the force of national contrasts. It remained, 
however, impossible to reconcile with the Protestant German 
state these thousands of hostile gentry and these stupid peasants 
who blindly obeyed their priests. During the Rhenish Wars, 
Polish recruits could be seen in fetters marching towards the west, 
and it happened sometimes that as many as half of these escaped 
upon the way. The Polish provinces weakened the moral energy 
of the state, which cannot exist without the free consent of its 
citizens, and they brought its internal development to a stand- 
still. The partition of Poland stands first among the manifold 
causes of that deplorable torpor which affected the administration 


History of Germany 

and the army for the next few decades. The energies of the German 
officialdom barely sufficed to ensure the beginnings of a civilised 
human life for these semi-barbarous lands which were not yet ripe 
for Prussian administration. How was it possible to think of 
reforms and of the introduction of self-government, which in two- 
fifths of the monarchy would have been simply to the advantage 
of the tyrannous Polish Junkers ? Or how could anyone dream of 
the formation of a truly national army in which among ten soldiers 
four would have been Poles ? 

Whereas formerly, in newly acquired provinces, the state had 
immediately introduced with a wholesome severity all its insti- 
tutions, and especially its system of taxation, there now pre- 
vailed at court a deliberate mildness, an excessive readiness to 
listen to every desire expressed by the children of the new land, 
to allow for every peculiarity, justified or unjustified. Instead 
of simply including the new provinces in the organisation of the 
ancient Prussian authorities, they were given a provisional adminis- 
tration. Hardenberg ruled in Franconia, and Count Hoym in South 
Prussia, with the powers of a viceroy. The old system of taxation 
remained in operation. Even in the confused and disastrous Polish 
system of taxation all that was done was to remedy a few crying 
defects, and the incredible result was that the extensive Polish 
domains provided to the general revenue of the state the trifling 
sum of 200,000 thalers, whilst the rich region of Franconia actually 
required a financial supplement from the national revenue. It 
seemed as if the exhausted state no longer ventured to breathe its 
own spirit into its new acquisitions. To the soft philanthropy of 
the age it appeared cruel to apply the old manly principle of the 
relentless straining of every possible nerve. Moreover, the acquire- 
ment in Poland of the landed property of the starosts and of the 
Church offered an irresistible temptation to the generosity of the 
king ; instead of dividing up these estates and distributing them 
among German immigrants, he disposed of the greater part of them 
by favour and caprice. The greedy competition for the Southern 
Prussian crown-lands severely affected the already slackened dis- 
cipline of the officialdom ; and the Polish peasant, when he saw 
the scandalous gift of lands to the new lords, forgot to return thanks 
for the good deeds of the Prussian administration. 

Among all the sins of omission of these weary years, there was 
none so disastrous as the neglect of the army. The goodhearted- 
ness of the king, the false economy of a lax policy of peace, and the 
tacit mistrust of the loyalty of the Polish soldiers, resulted in a 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

failure to undertake the necessary strengthening of the army. 
Whilst the population had been almost doubled, the troops were 
increased by no more than 35,000 men ; the army estimates, 
which at the death of Frederick had been from 11,000,000 to 
12,000,000 thalers, rose only to 14,000,000. Meanwhile the armies 
of all the neighbouring realms increased enormously, while the posi- 
tion of the nation in the world had been rendered more difficult than 
ever by the extension of the frontiers in the east and in the west, 
When Frederick William II died, Prussia's power, both 
internal and external, was less than it had been at the close of 
his uncle's reign. From a compact German state capable of the 
incredible under the impulse of a vigorous and talented will, Prussia 
had become a motley and unwieldy German-Slav realm, possess- 
ing neither military strength nor financial resources sufficient for 
the defence of its wide domains, and requiring a prolonged term 
of peace in order to regain internal unity. The great penal judg- 
ments of history seem strange to weak spirits, for the executioner 
of the judgment is almost always partisan, almost always himseli 
tainted with crime. Thus the destruction of the Polish state, 
merited as it was by accumulated misdeeds, was now carried out 
by unclean hands. The blame which had to be apportioned for 
the necessary deed was punished in Russia by a long series of 
internal struggles, and in Austria by the misfortunes of the French 
War ; but by none of the three partitioning powers was the sin so 
severely atoned as by Prussia, for in the conquest of purely Polish 
territory none had strayed so far from the paths of a natural policy 
as had this German state. The mean-spiritedness of Basle and 
the quarrels of Grodno, had been turned by Prussia to her account 
in such a way that henceforward there became supreme in Europe 
that reckless land-hunger which recognised no right but the right 
of the stronger and which found in Napoleon its supreme represen- 
tative. Germany herself, now that all her states had recognised 
that reform was inevitable, was once more in the same situation 
as in the days of Gustavus Adolphus ; as then the equality of the 
Churches, so now the secularisation of the Holy Empire, the destruc- 
tion of theocracy, could be effected only by the intervention of 
foreign forces. 


Such was the situation of affairs when King Frederick William 
III ascended the throne. Serious-minded and with a strong 

169 M 

History of Germany 

sense of duty, pious and upright, just and veracious, a thorough 
German alike in his merits and in his defects, he possessed all the 
virtues which form a good and pure-hearted man, and seemed 
created to lead a well-ordered state of intermediate strength 
honourably through a period of quiet ; it was a need to this pro- 
foundly affectionate spirit to be loved by his subjects. His 
intelligence comprehended only a narrow area ; and yet in all ques- 
tions which came within his scope, his judgment was clear and 
sound, formed after profound and thorough consideration, and he 
always retained an inborn and fortunate comprehension of the 
forces of reality. In his education, everything had been neglected 
which might have led this noble but inelastic and essentially 
unpolitical nature to the freedom of a royal view of the world-order. 
First of all, the artless cheerfulness of the boy so forcibly repressed 
by the morose temperament of a pedantic tutor, the theologian 
Behnisch ; next the strict prince had to look on at the light-minded 
activities of the paternal court and was forced shyly to conceal 
the profound disgust which the spectacle aroused in his mind. He 
thus learned to withdraw into himself and to shun the world. His 
active powers were paralysed by an invincible diffidence ; it was 
his misfortune that he was never able to take life lightly and to 
look around among his fellows with serene self-command. Every 
appearance in public, and even speaking to any large number of 
people, was a burden to him. When he had to do it, he expressed 
his intelligent judgment and his tender sensibilities in bare, curt 
phrases ; his compressed and bald manner never furnished a true 
expression for this fine knightly figure with the beautiful and honest 
blue eyes. Accustomed from youth upwards to associate with persons 
of mediocre intelligence, he was seldom able to overcome his aver- 
sion to genius, to boldness, to anything that was out of the ordinary. 
He was alarmed by that inconsiderate freedom of speech which is 
characteristic of the great among the Teutons. Among all the 
talented men who served him, one only became truly dear to him, 
Scharnhorst, the man of simple nature, whose greatness imposed no 

It is the strength and the weakness of staunch natures that 
they find it difficult to forget. Frederick William was always 
ready to pardon, but he never forgot. Whilst he remembered 
with gratitude every service and every trifling obligation, and 
whilst he was profoundly pained by separation from faithful 
subjects, he could harbour a sentiment of anger for years until 
at length he plucked up sufficient courage " to give his opinion in 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

good German " ; and then the good-natured prince, violent in 
his anger, was unjust and petty in good German. Least of all 
was he able to forgive any arbitrary conduct on the part of his 
servants. He wished to be king, and was king. No one ever 
controlled him. Incredibly difficult was it for him to make any 
great resolution ; he hesitated and procrastinated, let things slide, 
tolerated for a long time anything that displeased him, because he 
lacked confidence in his own judgment ; yet once he was forced 
to come to a decision he always and everywhere followed his own 
conscience. From lack of resolution he left much undone to which 
his own level reasoning urged him, but he never did anything except 
as the outcome of his own well-weighed conviction. His slow 
moving but firm and vigorous spirit would accept from the ideas of 
great intelligences no more than what his own nature approved ; 
no force of persuasion ever induced him to abandon the moral and 
political principles he held sacred. The blame and the glory of 
his long reign belongs to himself far more than his contemporaries 
were aware, for amid the brilliant figures of his generals and states- 
men they were apt to lose sight of the inconspicuous prince. He 
chiefly was responsible for that lax policy of peace which prepared 
the destruction of the old state, but to him also belonged the credit 
that after ten years of hesitation and after the cruel assaults of 
destiny, he at length dared to be altogether himself, freely and 
spontaneously resolving to undertake the reconstruction of the 
state, carrying out the reforming ideas of his councillors just as far 
as they seemed to him right, and not undertaking the long-prepared 
War of Liberation until he himself saw that the right moment 
had come. In the second half of his reign he was responsible for 
the association of Prussian policy with Austrian, for the persecution 
of the demagogues, and for the non-appearance of the promised 
constitution ; but he also conducted the reconstruction of the 
Prussian unified state with resolute patience, recognising with true 
insight the right moment for this undertaking, when the oriental 
confusion of the struggles of German commercial policy allowed 
the state once more to resume its independent way. Without 
him, and without the general confidence in his uprightness, the 
reconciliation of the innumerable contrasts of the new Prussia 
would have been as impossible as the peaceful creation of that 
customs-union which inseparably connected non-Austrian Germany 
with the Prussian state, and which laid the foundations of the new 
German Empire. 

; ^ This king was not able, like the first Frederick William and his 


History of Germany 

son, to stamp his own nature upon the state, but must derive his 
creative ideas from other and more brilliant intelligences. Yet 
he remained the master. During his reign, for good or for evil, 
the monarchical character of the Prussian state was ever main- 
tained. In need and in disgrace, under discouragements by which 
a freer and bolder spirit might well have been plunged in despair, 
he pursued the course of duty without ever turning aside. Thus 
his name is inseparably associated at once with the gloomiest 
and the purest memories of our new history. His faithfulness 
to duty and his natural feeling for the honour of the throne 
gave him the energy to attain by gradual growth to a competent 
understanding of his position. By degrees he learned to value 
those domains of the national life which to his sober and 
domesticated nature had at first seemed alien. He learned to 
make himself at home in foreign policy ; and this prosaic man, 
who in his youth had found pleasure in the deplorable insipidity 
of the Conies of La Fontaine, became ultimately the Maecenas of 
his house, a patron of the arts and sciences to a wider extent than 
had been any other of the Hohenzollerns. One who wished to see 
him in his human lovableness must seek him out in the lonely castle 
at Paretz. There under the ancient trees, beside the blue waters of 
the Havel, the young prince passed his happiest days by the side 
of his beloved consort Louise, in the lively circle of the pretty little 
flaxen-heads who grew up around him ; there he unbent, and by 
his humorous sallies he even provoked to disrespectful laughter 
that strict guardian of etiquette, the Countess Voss. It was a bless- 
ing for his somewhat heavy nature, inclined to melancholy, that 
he could cheer himself in the society of his serene-minded and high- 
spirited wife and breathe there the whole breath of life ; and yet 
for him, as for so many Teutons of deep feeling, the happiness of 
marriage exercised for a time a narrowing rather than an expanding 
influence. As a young husband he found full satisfaction in the 
innocent joys of his home, and gave to the state no more than an 
honourable diligence, not the free sacrifice of his entire intelligence 
which was demanded by the princely office ; entangled in the 
unconscious egoism of content, it was unwillingly that he left the 
pure atmosphere of his home, and he was satisfied to keep far from 
his personal environment the corruption which was eating up the 
state and society, instead of making it his kingly duty to fight it 
without pity. 

By his candid tutor Sack, the crown prince was early introduced 
to the old Hohenzollern idea of Protestant union, and was habi- 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

tuated to a profound and yet free conception of the Christian 
faith. From Engel, he learnt the philanthropic ideas of the age of 
enlightenment ; from Suarez the political doctrines of the masters 
of common law ; in the campaigns on the Rhine and in Poland, 
as well as in military manoeuvres in times of peace, he showed him- 
self to be a valiant and well-informed officer. But, as he often 
himself complained, he was kept far from all affairs of state. When 
he entered upon the twenty-seven years of his reign, he found 
himself in an unknown world. Filled with a profound veneration 
for the works of his great-uncle, he was surrounded by elderly and 
opinionated masters who encountered the timid young man with 
the obscurity of the Frederician omniscience. Nothing was more 
remote from his mind than a fantastical over-estimation of the 
royal dignity. As the term " state " had gradually found its way 
into the customary terminology of the people from the laws of 
Frederick II, it had long been taken as a matter of course that every 
King of Prussia should conceive his high office as a grave political 
duty. The young king had a cordial feeling for the common man ; 
his inclinations were simply bourgeois like those of his great-grand- 
father, he had no preference for the nobility. It was his desire 
to complete that liberation of the agricultural workers which his 
ancestors for hundreds of years past had been effecting step by step. 
In the same sense as the first Frederick William, he was able to say, 
" I think as a Republican." Not that he was bewitched by the 
ideas of the French Revolution ; to his peace-loving nature and 
to his sense of justice alike, the bloody spectacle of the forcible 
popular uprising was repulsive. But his natural fair-mindedness, the 
traditions of his house, and the political ideas he had imbibed in 
the school of Suarez, impelled him in the direction of social reform. 
By philanthropic sentiment he was a free-trader ; an opponent 
of those laws which tended to make the necessaries of life dearer 
for the common people, or which rendered it more difficult to get 
a fair value for the energies of labour. His sound understanding 
soon discovered almost all the defects from which the benumbed 
state was suffering. When the disturbances broke over Prussia, 
the king spoke with a clearness, which to his environment seemed 
actually uncanny, about the causes of the crash. Concerning 
the ways and means of improvement, he often reflected with impres- 
sive understanding ; and it was with perfect truth that in respect 
of most of the proposals for reform put forward by Stein and 
Scharnhorst he was later accustomed to remark, " I have had 
this idea for a long time." There was only one essential idea, which 


History of Germany 

he failed to grasp the impossiblity of effecting important changes' in 
the Frederician state by isolated reforms. Lacking this essential 
idea, all else was useless. 

That rigid system of monarchical division of labour which the 
first Frederick William and his son had brought into being, was 
the creation of a deliberately conscious will, and was the outcome of 
the one-sided greatness characteristic of Old Prussia. The whole 
structure was cast in a single mould, and as if held together by iron 
clamps ; one pillar supported the others ; the divisions of the 
classes and the arrangement of the administration were insepar- 
ably connected ; if one stone were torn away, the whole building 
would collapse. If it was desired to abolish the privileges of the 
nobles in the army, the nobleman must be allowed to carry on 
bourgeois occupations and to buy land of the peasants. If the 
peasants were to be freed from the obligation to forced labour, 
the separation between town and country, the guild-system, 
and the excise, could no longer be maintained. The monarchy 
needed reform through and through as soon as it was recognised that 
the ancient forms of society were outworn. But no one in Prussia 
had yet attained to this degree of insight, not even Baron von 

The first decade of the reign of Frederick William III, the most 
decried and the least-known epoch of Prussian history, was a period 
of well-meaning but utterly unfruitful attempts at reform. A 
few years earlier this state had still ranked, with good reason, as 
the best-ruled on the Continent ; in the opinion of the whole of 
North Germany it had faithfully guarded its vital energies in the 
struggle against the Revolution. Thus it happened that even the 
critical candour of the North German hardly noted how everything 
was going wrong in the community. The new century was hasten- 
ing forward on the wings of the wind ; now in a few brief years 
important historical changes were to be effected which before this 
had taken decades to mature ; in such days as these who did not 
go forward went backward. But of this great transformation of 
the times there was no intimation whatever in the peaceful people 
that stayed in philosophic calm within its own boundaries, merely 
observing with languid interest that two powerful nations were 
struggling for the conquest of the world. 

German good-nature is always inclined to expect the highest 
from a new ruler, but seldom have there been such exaggerated 
hopes as those which hailed the advent of this unassuming prince. 
His strict morality sufficed to win the hearts of the middle classes, 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

and these intermediate strata of society became more and more 
the exponents of our public opinion. In practice the enlightened 
epoch rejoiced in an unrestrained good-fellowship, filled with the 
warm pleasures of the senses, and yet in theory it retained a lively 
enthusiasm for abstract " virtue" ; this term had not yet acquired 
the connotation of philistine vacuousness which it bears to-day. 
Since the days of the Great Elector, the Prussian people had not 
again witnessed connubial happiness on the throne. What a 
delight it was to these German family men when the " throne became 
a shrine and the court a family," as Novalis sang with worthy 
enthusiasm. The pitiless severity of the two powerful kings of the 
eighteenth century had held the masses remote from the throne, 
imposing upon them sentiments of timid respect ; but now, through 
the cheerful cordiality of Queen Louise, the relationship between 
the Hohenzollerns and their loyal people acquired that homely 
characteristic of confidence which was elsewhere displayed only in 
the quiet life of the petty states. 

The Prussians felt proud as Royalists, as opponents of the Revo- 
lution. Not alone the Hotspur among the youth of the Mark, 
young Marwitz, but also other members of the nobility and of 
the officers' corps, encountered the regicide Sieyes, the envoy of 
the Republic, with angry glances when he made his appearance 
with unpowdered hair and wearing a tricolor sash, at the gorgeous 
old-fashioned ceremony of the oath of allegiance. The enlightened 
society of Berlin, however, held a position of conscious opposition 
to Austria and to the Holy Empire. The French were given to 
understand that the king was a democrat after his own fashion, 
that he would effect with due measure and in an orderly manner 
what they had done so stormily, and it was soon reported that a 
Jacobin had complained, " this king is stealing our thunder." 
When the young king now made a clean sweep of the dubious 
members of his father's environment, and when in an eloquent 
address to his cabinet he gave utterance to an abundance of excel- 
lent proposals and humane views, Marquis Herz exclaimed with 
delight : " Pure reason has come down from Heaven and is estab- 
lished upon our throne." An authors' club of Berlin published 
" Annals of the Prussian Monarchy," which were to describe the 
performances of the royal reformer step by step. This mood of 
hope endured for a considerable period. When in the year 1800 
Hufeland was summoned to Berlin, he wrote with satisfaction : 
" I am going to a liberal state, one which is blossoming under a 
new government." Schiller, too, and Johannes Miiller, spoke 


History of Germany 

with cordial approbation of the essential freedom of Prussian life 
and expressed their satisfaction at the speed with which Berlii 
was becoming a centre of German art and culture. 

But the king was soon to learn how limited was in truth his abso 
lute authority, limited by the inertia of the adminstration, by th< 
passive resistance of public opinion, by feudal prejudices, and b} 
the military and bureaucratic spirit of caste. In the enlargec 
monarchy, even a Frederick had hardly found it possible to retail 
in a single hand the immediate conduct of all the affairs of state 
Personal government had become an impossibility, but its form: 
persisted in an altered sense. Under Frederick, the cabinet coun 
cillors had been mere secretaries, whose duty it was to transmit 
to the executive authorities the commands of the king ; undei 
his two successors they acquired a dangerous power. Since the 
prince could not himself supervise the enormous mass of reports 
the secretaries became advisers. The cabinet councillors were 
chosen for the most part from the ranks of the bourgeois judges 
they alone held regular intercourse with the monarch and soon 
came to regard themselves as tribunes of the people, as representa- 
tives of the peaceful bourgeoisie against the nobility and the army, 
Between the crown and its ministers there was a throng of incal- 
culable subaltern influences at work. Among these trusted coun- 
cillors, there was not a single one whom the young prince could 
raise out of the slothful atmosphere or tepid resolves into the 
fresh air of vigorous determination. The most notable among 
them, Mencken, was of value to the royal pair through the benevo- 
lence of his enlightened moral and philosophical views. He did 
all he could to institute numerous reforms in matters of detail, 
but he lacked the comprehensive insight of the statesman. Sub- 
sequently Beyme had control of the most important internal affairs, 
and Lombard of foreign affairs ; the former was an able lawyer and 
a man of humane views, but was great in little things only, whilst 
Lombard was an empty-headed and frivolous debauchee. The 
personality of the adjutants-general was also in harmony with the 
spirit of trivial mediocrity which dominated the whole circle. 
Colonel Zastrow was a conceited opponent of all reform ; Colonel 
Kockritz was a man of narrow philistine spirit, pleasing to his 
young master by his phlegmatic good nature, happy when he could 
recreate himself after the labours of the day over a pipe and a 
quiet game of cards, but extremely testy at a young gentleman 
among his subordinates who allowed himself " to make verses," 
as did poor Heinrich von Kleist. Although the king's views 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

extended far beyond those of these petty-minded men, he neverthe- 
less gradually allowed himself to be lowered to the level of their 
smallness and pusillanimity. 

Just as in former days the reconstruction of the state had pro- 
ceeded from the army, so now it was in military affairs that it first 
became apparent that the new epoch had need of new forms. The 
most important acquisition of the old monarchy was lost when the 
left bank of the Rhine was ceded to France, and when, not long 
after, the new middle states of the south-west founded their 
own little armies. Thus at the very outset of his reign the 
king was forced to institute a more extensive levying of the native 
Prussians who were liable to military service, " owing to a decline 
of the enlistment in other parts of the empire." This first step 
had to be followed by others. Henceforward the army depended 
upon Prussian strength alone. If it were to be furnished with that 
accession of numbers which was so urgently required, at least a 
portion of the privileged classes must be summoned to bear arms. 
This was impossible so long as the officers' corps remained a closed 
caste placed at an inaccessible height above the rank and file, and 
so long as the cruel old discipline still persisted, that discipline 
which had become utterly repugnant to that philanthropic tempera- 
ment which the age cultivated to the extreme of softness. As 
soon as the old stock of recruited foreigners died out, a radical 
reconstruction of the army became unavoidable, a complete 
change of the old caste relationships and, above all, a change in 
the position of the nobility in the state and in society. 

Numerous proposals for reform were made. A few enlightened 
spirits among the younger officials, such as Hippel and Vincke, 
went so far as to demand that the old Prussian idea of universal 
military service should be put into complete execution. Knesebeck, 
Riichel, and other officers recommended the formation of a terri- 
torial militia. But the ignorant pride of the old generals was hostile 
to every proposed change. They still believed that the Frede- 
rician army was unsurpassable. Even Frederick Gentz, who, to the 
scandal of the poor-spirited time, ventured to send an open letter 
of admonition to the new monarch, said of the army, " as far as this 
is concerned, no change is needed " ; and Blucher, who was afraid 
of no one, continued as late as the spring of 1806 to speak of " our 
invincible army." Since to every proposal for reform the proud 
old Field-Marshal Mollendorff made answer with a snarl, " This is 
altogether above my head," the king determined, to his bitter sub- 
sequent regret, not to show himself any wiser than these old men of 


History of Germany 

established reputation. On the other hand, in the enlightened 
world there prevailed a doctrinaire belief in the blessings of peace, 
which formed a ludicrous contrast to the bloody practice of the 
states of the new century, but which harmonised well with the 
German good-nature. In unctuous pamphlets the question was 
asked, " Are standing armies necessary in time of peace ? " The 
decline of rigid absolutism is manifested by the fact that such 
expressions of public opinion now began to exercise an influence 
with which the government had to reckon. At the court, Mencken 
ardently advocated the old view of the officialdom, that the military 
expenditure was too heavy ; and the king himself wished to do 
no more than was absolutely indispensable, for he desired to reduce 
the burden of debt he had inherited from his father. Last of all, 
the serious question had to be faced of how trustworthy regiments 
could possibly be formed out of the disaffected Poles. 

In view of these conflicting considerations, despite innumer- 
able proposals and much consideration, no important reform was 
effected. A trifling increase was made in the army, raising its 
total strength to 250,000 ; but this involved a notable increase 
in the army-expenses until they attained the figure of 16,000,000 
or 17,000,000 thalers, for the king at length undertook to provide 
for the troops on a more liberal scale, although still quite inade- 
quately. For the reinforcement of this insufficient army, there 
was to be a territorial reserve of 50,000 men, constituted chiefly 
out of the privileged classes ; this reserve was actually in process 
of formation when the confusions of the war of 1805 brought to a 
premature conclusion this policy of half reforms. No support 
was given to a brilliant plan of Scharnhorst, who, in the spring of 
1806, proposed to form a great militia of 3,000,000 men. Even 
the reduction of the cumbersome equipment and other technical 
improvements which seemed necessary to the clear soldier's insight 
of the king, had to encounter the obstinate resistance of the pom- 
pous old gentlemen with the long waistcoat-flaps. The affable 
prince was greatly disturbed by the arrogance of his officers, and 
warned them sharply that they should not dare to be rude to the 
meanest of the citizens, " for it is the citizens, not I myself, who 
maintain the army." Yet he failed to understand that such 
admonitions could bear no fruit so long as the ancient forms of the 
army-constitution persisted, and so long as the officers' corps con- 
tinued to be recognised as the first class in the state. 

How strange, however, had been the metamorphosis effected 
in that army of the Silesian wars, then so harmonious despite its 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

severity and roughness. A new and over-talented generation was 
growing up ; all the heroes of the future War of Liberation had 
for some time been in the army, and most of them were already 
staff officers. In many of the circles of the officers' corps there 
prevailed a fresh and scientific sentiment, a lively understanding 
of the present age. In the new military academy, Colonel Scharn- 
horst gave his lectures Scharnhorst, son of a peasant of Lower 
Saxony, who had found no field for his energies in noble-ridden 
Hanover, and who had finally answered the king's summons to 
Berlin. He was already teaching that which to the wisdom of 
men of the old cautious military school seemed rank heresy, that 
one " should never remain on the defensive in concentration, but 
should always attack in concentration." He illustrated his doc- 
trines by the wars of Frederick, and by those of young Bonaparte, 
whom the Frederician veterans would hardly admit to be even a 
bourgeois general. Forgotten in his little Silesian garrison there 
lived Gneisenau, the born commander, poring over his maps, 
following with attentive gaze every step taken by the Corsican from 
the days of the first Italian campaign ; endeavouring to grasp all 
the peculiarities of this new elemental force, as if foreseeing that 
he himself was some day to encounter the unconquerable man. 
The new spiritual life of the nation began at length to exercise its 
influence even upon this military circle which had hitherto been 
completely unaffected. All the literary tendencies had certain 
representatives among the young officers, not excepting even the 
peace-loving cosmopolitanism of the Kantian philosophy ; Lieu- 
tenant Heinrich Kleist complained bitterly that he had to waste 
his time so immorally in the Rhenish campaigns. 

The dominant tone, however, remained extremely unspiritual. 
Most of the old officers assiduously manifested their hatred for 
culture and did not conceal their contempt for the schoolmaster 
Scharnhorst. Since in each company only four or five new recruits 
were introduced annually, the difficult and grateful task of the mili- 
tary education of the people, which forms the chief work of the in- 
fantry officers of the modern popular army, did not exist at all for 
the officers of that day, and to high-spirited natures the perpetual 
repetition of the same parades, with the same veteran professional 
soldiers, became quite unbearable. The timid citizens of Berlin 
were terrified, and the king intervened with severe punishments, 
when the young officers of the notorious Regiment of Gensdarmes 
made the streets hideous with noisy masquerades, and when the 
overgrown Charles Nostitz, dressed up as Katharina von Bora, 


History of Germany 

brandished his riding whip behind Doctor Luther. The hot young 
blood, unable to accommodate itself to the tedium of perpetual 
pipeclay and perpetual drill, broke out in such rough sports as these. 
The whole tragedy of this army of peace was incorporated in the 
tragic fate of Prince Louis Ferdinand ; it was dreadful to see how 
the free and bold young hero, born for all that was glorious, dissi- 
pated his energies in wild enjoyment and mad adventures because 
he could not bear an empty existence. More and more the true 
purpose of the military system was forgotten. The orders " pour 
Ic merite," previously given only on the field of battle, now became 
rewards for the heroic deeds performed in peaceful manoeuvres. 
A pettifogging spirit supervised the length of the pigtails, the 
shape of the trusses of hay, the clash of the presented arms ; 
but, for the sake of economy, the artillery had no teams to 
draw it. To the Frederician army nothing seemed of any 
importance but a majestic slowness ; it happened on one occasion 
that an artillery regiment took four days to march from Berlin to 
Breslau. The common soldier, who did not wish to lose his custom- 
ary skill in his manual occupation, was as peace-loving in his 
thoughts as were the majority of the grey-headed captains, for whom 
the furloughs of the years of peace brought many savings for their 
private purse. It seemed as if the sword of Prussia was never 
more to be drawn from the scabbard. The foreboding of Frederick, 
in which he had warned " the favourites of Mars " that they should 
never allow their manhood to be corrupted by sloth, arrogance, 
and softness, was now literally fulfilled. 

Just as little was there effected any comprehensive reform of 
the administration. The king did not venture to follow the 
example of his great-uncle, who had decided everything for himself. 
His fair-mindedness shrank from the acceptance of the hard Frede- 
rician principle which was inseparable from such omnipotence, that 
the monarch must never admit error. Wherever possible, therefore, 
he referred all petitions to the appropriate permanent authorities. 
In this way there was added much work to the already oppressive 
labours of the officials. Since the new provinces in Poland and 
Franconia had at length been placed under the control of the General 
Directory, the central authority, which formerly and in simpler 
circumstances had been so thoroughly efficient, proved altogether 
incompetent ; each department went its own way, and all unity of 
control was lacking. The members of the official bureaucracy re- 
mained far superior to those of the neighbouring German states ; they 
were active, full of patriotic pride, and highly cultured, although here 

1 80 

Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

and there isolated presidents endeavoured to rival the generals in 
their hatred of culture. But the antiquated organisation of the 
authorities which were interpolated between the provincial system 
and the real system, resulted in this, that no one was in reality 
minister and able to supervise the course of the administration. 
The simplest matter could not be carried out without distressing 
disputes about competence, the delimitation of authority, and the 
increase of the number of ministerial appointments served only 
to increase the evil. In the old official families which had now been 
attached to the service of the state for many decades, there was 
indeed handed down from father to son a lively sentiment of the 
honour of then* order, but there was also transmitted a considerable 
measure of official arrogance ; newcomers like Baron von Stein, 
who found their way into this bureaucratic world from the fresh 
and natural activities of the country house, noted with regret that 
the writing of official orders threatened to become an end in itself. 
A formalised documentary activity gained the upper hand and 
could not be overcome by the mild admonitions of the royal decrees, 
because there was lacking at the head of affairs that far-sighted 
statesmanship which might have imposed new positive duties upon 
the officialdom. An additional difficulty was to be found in the 
distressing inertia of the Polish provinces, which weighed as heavy 
as lead upon the administration. It was an intolerable misfortune 
that the ruling classes received hardly any young accession of 
strength from the wide Slav dominions. The mocking saying of 
its opponents that the Prussian state was a purely fortuitous 
structure, seemed now to be justified by the facts. 

Soon after ascending the throne, the king expressed, in 
opposition to Struensee, the Minister of Finance, his disapproval 
of the untenable prohibitive system which was perpetually violated. 
It was not till seven years later that he was able to make the first 
breach in this old order of affairs, and (through the intermediation 
of Struensee's successor, Stein) almost entirely repealed the internal 
duties. The introduction of uniform frontier tariffs was still every- 
where regarded as a foolhardy venture. In his Budget Reports 
of 1781, Necker said that there was little hope that it would be 
possible to abolish the constitution barbare of the provincial tolls. 
The fiscal unity of France was first established by the Revolution. 
When now in Prussia it was ventured to abolish the internal customs 
dues, it was soon realised that this reform was no more than a half 
measure. For there still remained the excise with its sixty-seven 
different tariffs, and a cabinet decree of the king vainly attempted 


History of Germany 

to bring clearness into this confusion. There still existed the 
industrial compulsion which distinguished the towns from the 
open country ; only in the County Mark had Stein already ventured 
to abolish this limited distinction. Together with the provincial 
customs dues there was abolished also the freedom from tolls of 
the privileged classes, and this first moderate invasion of the privi- 
leges of the nobility in matters of taxation immediately raised the 
question whether the far more oppressive inequality of direct taxa- 
tion would still be suffered to continue. In the Electoral Mark, 
in the year 1806, the towns paid nearly 2,500,000, the peasants 
644,000, and the whole of the landed proprietors only 21,000 thalers, 
in taxes to the state. But the time had not yet come for a radical 
transformation of the national economy. There was a terrible 
conflict of economic views. Most of the more intelligent among 
the younger officials, like Vincke, were enthusiasts for the " divine 
Adam Smith," but the landed proprietors inclined to the ideas of 
the physiocrats. 

The greatest hindrance to reform lay, however, in the opposi- 
tion of the diets. The strong passive resistance of the old orders 
had always turned the edge of the agrarian laws of the eighteenth 
century ; now, under a government that was far too considerate, 
this resistance displayed an altogether unexpected strength. One 
of the first steps taken by the king was to give to certain free 
peasants, known as the Kollmers, the right to representation among 
the estates of East Prussia. Thus rejuvenated, the Diet of Konigs- 
berg became the only tolerably healthy body among the decayed 
feudal corporations of the monarchy ; with some reason it described 
itself as the " representative of the nation." But when the king 
further proposed to abolish patrimonial jurisdiction, even the Diet 
of East Prussia offered repeated and open opposition. Another 
cherished plan of the peasant-loving prince, the abolition of forced 
labour for the peasantry and the transformation of all peasant 
land held on terms of feudal subservience into free property, also 
had to encounter the resistance of the nobles. This idea was by 
no means the outcome of the French Revolution, but was a neces- 
sary development of the earlier legislation of the Hohenzollerns, 
who for two hundred years had been working for the liberation of 
the country folk ; simultaneously, and altogether independently of 
one another, such officials as Stein and Hippel, and such writers 
as Leopold Krug, recommended the abolition of hereditary servi- 
tude. On the crown-lands of West Prussia and East Prussia, 
the valiant president Auerswald succeeded in abolishing statute 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

labour, and wherever any one of the nobles was willing of his own 
initiative to undertake the same reform, he received all possible 
encouragement from the king ; but it was thought too venturesome 
to attempt a comprehensive law for the entire monarchy. The 
opposition was offered not by the landed proprietors alone, but 
also by the rude peasants, who regarded with a vigorous mistrust 
every attempt to alter the established order ; even the trees planted 
along the new high roads were not safe from the hands of these 

The same unteachable hostility was displayed also when the 
king, impelled solely by the goodness of his own heart, undertook 
the improvement of the elementary schools and made a serious 
attempt to enforce the universal duty of school attendance. The 
government still stood high above the people. Whilst the detest- 
able lampoons of the opposition were now, as formerly, character- 
ised by a deplorable poverty of ideas, in official circles all the great 
social reforms of the subsequent century already received a 
thoroughly intelligent advocacy ; J. G. Hoffmann even recom- 
mended the complete abolition of the guild system. But energy 
was lacking to constrain the hostile people to the acceptance of 
these good ideas. In deference to " public opinion," the tobacco 
monopoly was repealed, and yet this, properly administered, would 
have been a very lucrative source of national income and one inter- 
fering very little with the natural course of trade. When Struensee, 
in the year 1798, proposed the issue of a moderate amount of 
paper money, a trifling expression of dissatisfaction on the part of 
the commercial classes of Berlin induced all the ministers to declare 
with one voice that they felt it was impossible to carry out so odious 
a measure. The weakness of the throne was displayed especially 
in the moral condition of the capital. Whilst at the court an 
ancient and inexpensive simplicity of manners was strictly observed, 
the fashionable world of Berlin lived in complete disregard of this 
admirable example of domestic virtue. The population of the 
town now numbered 182,000 ; the upper classes already showed 
all the freedom of metropolitan life, whilst among the middle classes 
a dull surburbanism still prevailed. Sociability became a fine art 
such as it had never before been in Germany. Wit and criticism 
developed without restraint. Profligacy and intellectual arrogance 
became so conspicuous that even Goethe spoke with some aversion 
of this dangerous society. In such an atmosphere there grew up 
natures of illimitable receptivity and sensitiveness, such as 
Schleiermacher ; virtuosi of pleasure and of thought, such as 


History of Germany 

William Humboldt and Frederick Gentz ; but also the empty- 
headed imitators and idea-brokers the circle of Varnhagens, and 
such virtuosi of crime as the murderess Ursinus. 

During this decade of half beginnings and well-meaning 
attempts there was on the whole a great deal of good effected. 
In agrarian economy there was real progress ; in the twenty years 
following the death of Frederick, the price of grain doubled, whilst 
the price of land rose still faster, almost giddily. Thaer was the 
first to draw the attention of the North Germans to the example 
of English agriculture, and after the skilled advocate of free labour 
had opened his educational institute in Moglin, among the younger 
agriculturists there was a great increase in technical insight and 
knowledge of agriculture. Without the influence of Thaer it would 
hardly have been possible to carry into effect the Stein-Hardenberg 
laws. Now for the first time the roads and waterways, which had 
been terribly neglected throughout the empire, received serious 
attention. Through the work of Stein, the Ruhr was opened to 
navigation. The king himself devoted his earnest attention to 
the valley of the Vistula, where, under the Polish regime, the mighty 
dikes of the Teutonic Knights had completely fallen into decay. 
The mining industry, which had already received a considerable 
impetus under Heinitz, Stein's teacher, now underwent a further 
advance when Count Reden instituted the great mining works in 
Upper Silesia. Krug and Hoffmann were actively engaged in the 
newly founded Statistical Bureau, while Niebuhr was summoned 
from Denmark to take charge of the Bank. 

In the general opinion there was nothing for which the new 
Government was so highly esteemed as for the dismissal of the 
detested Wollner and for the repeal of his severe Edict of Religions. 
The young prince's contention that reason and philosophy are the 
inseparable accompaniments of religion, went straight to the 
heart of the enlightened world, for everyone could interpret the 
phrase in accordance with his own pleasure. But when the king 
recommended the ecclesiastical authorities to unite for a common 
Protestant liturgy a proposal he owed to his tutor, Sack it 
appeared once more that the crown was considerably in advance 
of the people. He had to defer this plan of union till better days, 
for in delicate questions of ecclesiastical policy he wished to work 
even more cautiously than in matters of ordinary statecraft. The 
same excess of caution was responsible for his temporary failure to 
carry into effect that reform of the educational system which had 
been discussed in so many memorials and treatises ; no satisfactory 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

choice had been effected from among all the diverse methods of 
education which the age of Pestalozzi was unweariedly producing. 
A zeal hitherto unknown in Prussia was displayed for learning, and 
the barrier was at length removed which had so long cut off this 
state from German science. Alexander Humboldt, Johannes 
Muller, Hufeland, and a long series of distinguished professors, 
were summoned to Berlin ; even Fichte, who had been driven 
out of Jena by the bigotry of the Lutherans of Electoral Saxony, 
found an asylum on the Spree. The intellectual life of the capital 
began to advance with giant strides. As early as the winter of 
1786, twenty-one courses of public lectures were announced in the 
town, and since that date they had become even more numerous 
and important. In Berlin, A. W. Schlegel gave lectures on literary 
history embodying the programme of the Romantic School. The 
collections of the Royal House, which the young king was the first 
to open to the public, and above all the theatre, which, under the 
direction of Iffland, was still a great national institute of culture, 
favoured a lively interchange of ideas, and thus, quite spon- 
taneously, the question came to the fore whether this wealth of intel- 
lectual life should not be centred in a university. No other German 
university arose by so natural a development as that of Berlin ; 
it was really in existence before it was formally constituted. But 
for the moment not even this plan got beyond the stage of cabinet 
discussion. The whole age seemed bewitched, and no important 
matter could be brought to a conclusion. 

The philistine indifference of the state to the fine arts was 
at length overcome. Public picture-galleries were now opened, 
and Berlin already possessed an independent school of aspiring 
artists. Contrasted with the work of Langhans, a man of classical 
spirit, who designed the Brandenburg Gate, was the robust realism 
of Schadow. When the queen went out driving, there stood, hat 
in hand, at the door of her carriage, the young lackey, Christian 
Rauch, who was subsequently to outdo all others when his benevo- 
lent mistress had smoothed his path to great artistic creation. But 
in these respects also there was the same distressing phenomenon 
of costly energies that were not utilised and of extensive beginnings 
that were never brought to a conclusion. After a number of 
plans had been taken up and discarded, only one great public 
building was completed, the new Mint, adorned by Schadow with 
admirable reliefs, and yet the building itself was repulsively bald, 
a true image of this barren time. 

Similarly in all the spheres of political life, the old was not yet 

185 N 

History of Germany 

swept away and the new was not yet properly developed. The 
state had lost in character what it had gained in humane mildness. 
It resembled a Gothic building still mighty in decay, upon which 
shaky hands had here and there erected basely-designed turrets. 
Yet the loyal people was happy in these incredible conditions. It 
was unquestionable that the childlike manifestations of joy which 
greeted the king and the queen whenever they made a progress 
through the country, and which were loudest among the warm- 
blooded Franconians, came just as sincerely from the heart as did 
later the tragical letters of farewell from the lost provinces. 

The king's ideas in matters of reform went no further than 
social improvements. Not even Hardenberg had any thought 
of more than the institution of civic equality in accordance with 
the French example. There was but one man in Prussia who con- 
ceived generous plans of political reform. As president of the 
chamber in Westphalia, Baron von Stein had become acquainted 
with the old municipal freedom of the County Mark, and from his 
experience there, and from his study of English history, he had 
formed the opinion that a sound political order exists only where 
the people itself learns to put its hand to the work of government. 
When the feudal constitution was abolished in the newly acquired 
Minister territories, he wrote to the king : l " These diets, which 
hitherto have been abused by the officials as the enemies of all 
reform, might, if rightly handled, become the pillars of social order. 
They check those arbitrary breaches of the constitution and of the 
laws, of which in the pressure of affairs the territorial councils are 
not infrequently guilty ; and by property and by dependence on 
the fatherland they are chained to those interests of the country 
which the foreign public officials often fail to recognise, towards 
which they are apt to be indifferent, and which they sometimes 
regard with hatred and contempt. Rulers have nothing to 
fear from the propertied classes ; but they have much to fear from 
the innovating tendencies of the younger officials, from the luke- 
warmness and the mercenary spirit of the older ones, and from the 
flabbiness and the egoism making light of all morality which 
invade all classes alike." Such ideas were at present altogether 
beyond the king's understanding. He did not, indeed, share the 
detestation of the Revolution which was felt by the bigoted Royalists 
of his court, for he fully recognised the justice of the liberation 
of the French peasantry ; but owing to the bloody deeds of the 

1 Report to the King, Mtinster, October 30, 1804. 
1 86 

Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

French revolutionists he was suspicious of anything that savoured 
of constitutional monarchy. In view of the general contentment 
of his people, how could it occur to him that the absolutism which 
had brought his state into existence, now belonged to the past ? 
Not even Stein himself knew how rotten had become the old order, 
and how urgently necessary was a reconstruction. In all classes 
there prevailed the same incredible illusion. Historical criticism 
can offer no suggestion how the disgraces of 1806 might have been 
spared to the old monarchy. Only the incisive demonstration of 
war could display to this blinded generation the inward decay of 
those Frederician forms which paralysed all activity by the magic 
of ancient renown. Only a defeat could put an end to the 
unnatural episode of the German rule in Warsaw, could restore 
the state to itself, and could revive its true German nature. 

Originally Frederick William was as little prepared for his 
royal duties as for the conduct of foreign policy ; of a slow and 
cautious temperament, he needed long training in a severe school 
before his soft disposition became accustomed to the hardness of 
the great questions of political power. By inclination and by his 
sense of duty he was a man of peace. He would have regarded it 
as criminal folly, in the absence of urgent necessity, to introduce 
to the hazard of war this industrious North Germany, whose quiet 
happiness was esteemed by all, even by Frederick Gentz ; he was 
loath to expose the heavily-burdened state to new confusions ; 
he could be forced to draw the sword only by direct attack. The 
general peace-loving character of the North Germans found no more 
ardent representative than at the Prussian court ; here pacifism 
had even become a constitutional doctrine. " A king," said 
Colonel Kockritz to his royal friend, " has no right to stake the 
existence of his state in a war ; such a right is reserved for a Re- 
public." But there was no doubt in the sound sense of the king 
about the dangerous intentions of France. His father had ever 
remained faithful to the old hostility to the Republic. On his 
death-bed he had rejected the offer of an alliance with France, 
and he would not allow himself to be led astray when Caillard held 
out to him the prospect of acquiring the German imperial crown. 
Count Haugwitz, also, was now full of mistrust of the rulers of 
Paris. Consequently the relations between the two powers 
remained extremely cool, and the young king sometimes declared 
that he wished to save up the energies of his state for the time 
when perhaps a decisive struggle with this robber neighbour might 


History of Germany 

become necessary. It is probable that he himself did not know 
whether he meant this seriously, or whether he was merely seeking 
a cloak for his own pacifism. As a good German, he desired the 
contentment of the whole empire and the restoration of the 
ancient frontiers; he approved the position of the French neither 
in Mainz, which had been conquered by his own troops, nor yet in 
his own hereditary dominions on the Lower Rhine. 

The prince under whose rule the greatest and most extensive 
changes of territorial area occurred that were ever effected in 
Prussian history, was one with a constitutional dislike to any 
trafficking in lands and people ; even trifling rectifications of fron- 
tier were repugnant to his conscience. He had at length agreed 
to the cession of Cleves and Guelderland only because these terri- 
tories, temporarily occupied by the French, had not yet paid him 
homage. Throughout Germany the relationship between a prince 
and his subjects was still regarded as a matter of personal duty ; 
as soon as a ruler died the gates of the towns were immediately 
closed and the troops were at once sworn in to their new master. 
The sober sense of the son was not illusioned by the romantic honour 
which the father had paid to the ancient and honourable forms of 
the imperial constitution ; he recognised the irrevocable decay of 
the empire, and as a faithful Protestant he had but little sympathy 
with the troubles of the spiritual states. But since he had not as 
yet paid any serious attention to the possibility of imperial reform, 
the simple re-establishment of the status quo in Germany would 
have been most agreeable to his sense of justice and to his love of 
peace. If this should prove impossible, he desired at least to pre- 
serve a balance between Austria and Prussia, to compensate every 
enlargement of Austrian power by a corresponding increase of his 
own state. Without any personal rancour against the Hofburg, 
he revived the Bavarian policy of his great-uncle, working on behalf 
of the rights of the Wittelsbachs against the imperial plans of con- 
quest. It is true that the leading thought of his German policy 
remained the preservation of peace in the north. In his view 
the power of the monarchy, at once against France and against 
Austria, must be maintained by diplomatic means alone. 

It was with this sentiment of a just paterfamilias that the 
inexperienced young prince went to encounter the elemental ener- 
gies which during recent months had transformed the aspect of the 
world. The leaders of the Reign of Terror had once boasted that 
the Revolution was to plough deep furrows ; and this prophecy 
had been horribly fulfilled. In the nine years since the storming 

1 88 

Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

of the Bastille, 22,331 new laws had been passed in unhappy 
France ; every bridge between the past and the present had 
been destroyed ; of all the institutions of the Bourbon state the 
only one that still remained was the Academy of Paris. A third 
of the soil of France had been forcibly torn from its old possessors. 
Depreciated paper money had been issued to the amount of 
47,000,000 francs. All the rights of property were in a state 
of hopeless confusion. For years the country had been despoiled 
by the practical communism of the Paris mob. Well-being and 
security before the law had disappeared, and therewith had dis- 
appeared also all the nobility of its culture. The Goddess of Reason 
had been enthroned upon the altars of the denied churches ; the 
most tasteful people of Europe paid honour to the red cap of the 
convicted prisoner as the emblem of its new freedom, and renamed 
the days of the calendar after the pig, the donkey, and the potato. 
The hideous work of the guillotine had at length come to an end, 
but the cruel penal laws against priests and emigres were still 
enforced with pitiless rancour. The goods and the civic existence 
of thousands were still at the mercy of the incalculable caprices of 
the dominant party. Nine years of incredible misery had extin- 
guished the last sparks of political idealism, and had deprived of 
all meaning the struggles of public life ; the disputes between parties 
were, as they have ever since remained in France, nothing more than 
a contest for the possession of power. 

The French nation demanded peace, legal security for the new 
distribution of property, and the restoration of the ancient Church. 
If matters were left to themselves, the recall of the royal house 
seemed inevitable, not because the wearied people still retained 
any sentiment of loyalty to the dynasty, but because it was only 
the monarchical order which seemed to promise an epoch of peaceful 
well-being. In the general decay, the army alone preserved some 
degree of virile discipline ; in the general exhaustion, it alone 
retained moral aims. Numerous successes, deserved and unde- 
served, had awakened warlike ambition and pride in the uncon- 
quered tricolor, and this especially among the young generals. It 
was through this army, the one orderly and enthusiastic power in 
the new France, that the radical parties of the Convention retained 
their dominion against the will of the nation. On the I3th of Vendemi- 
aire, 1795, General Bonaparte suppressed the Royalist rising and 
forcibly secured the entry of two-thirds of the members of the Con- 
vention into the popular assembly of the new directorial constitu- 
tion. But this involved a continuance of the war, for it was only 


History of Germany 

in war-time that the victorious minority could hope to retain a 
secure possession of power. 

With the Italian campaign of the year 1796 began the second 
epoch of the period of the Revolution, and the epoch most impor- 
ant to the history of Europe. Now for the first time the revolu- 
tionary propaganda became really effective. A new order of 
affairs made an end of the old territorial distribution, abolished 
the traditional forms of state and society in Central Europe. It 
was through the victories of Bonaparte that the arms of France 
first obtained an incontestable superiority. When the young hero, 
passing round the Alps, invaded Northern Italy from the south, 
he at once showed himself to be master of a new and bolder method 
of warfare, of a method which was able to make war pay for war, 
to nourish it upon the resources of the conquered land ; he was not 
afraid to accept the risk of annihilation, but offered battle to the 
enemy after a sudden change of front. No longer, as in the day 
of the old linear tactics, were battles a simple struggle between two 
compact lines, either army endeavouring to break through the line 
of the other. Bonaparte gave to the course of war a dramatic 
movement ; he forced a decisive issue by the infliction of over- 
whelming blows with his carefully saved reserves as soon as the 
forces of his first lines of attack had been used up ; and no one 
ever knew as well as he how to make the best possible use of the 
favour of fortune. Not to him, as to the commanders of the costly 
old mercenary armies, did it seem to be the first duty of the general 
to spare his own troops for all losses could be readily made good 
by conscription. His primary aim was to destroy the forces of the 
enemy. Marching rapidly through the country, he endeavoured 
to strike a vital blow at the heart of his opponent, to rob him of 
his capital city. With an enthusiastic belief in himself and in the 
power of his sword, his spirit glowing with the obscure and majestic 
poetry of war, he educated his troops to believe with a blind 
confidence in his destiny, taught them that " honour, glory and 
wealth " are the highest arms of war, and filled them through and 
through with a restless, adventurous military spirit which despised 
as empty chatter all talk of popular happiness and popular freedom. 
He christened the French with the cleverly chosen name of la 
grande nation, and induced in the people, who were sickened of 
party struggles, an intoxicated sentiment of overweening belief 
in themselves and in the fortune of war a spirit which proved 
stronger and more enduring than had been the enthusiasm for 
freedom of the early days of the Revolution. 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

The victor of Montenotte and Rivoli imposed a change of 
character upon the European policy of France no less than upon 
the conduct of war. Notwithstanding the cosmopolitan catch- 
words with which the government was accustomed to deck its 
actions, its designs were not notably different from those that had 
characterised the national policy of the House of Bourbon. The 
desire was to extend the boundary of the nation towards the east, 
and by the weakening of Germany to give to France a prepon- 
derant influence in the counsels of Europe and to secure for her the 
leadership of the Latin peoples ; the direct control of Europe was 
not the French ambition. But the insatiable man who now held 
his Byzantine court in Italy, who at his caprice carved the con- 
quered regions into vassal states, who overcame all opposition 
on the part of the Directory, now by threats and now by sending 
abundant plunder, was a man without a fatherland. As a youth 
he had once been an enthusiast for the liberation of his Corsican 
home, but his precocious wisdom in the things of the world soon 
dissipated these youthful dreams ; with never a regret he entered 
the service of the conquerors of Corsica because he saw that the 
dissolution of the old order in revolutionary France offered the 
highest possibilities to a man of supreme endowments. He 
now felt himself to be the born conqueror, superior to all other 
mortals in the energy of his will and in his ability to carry out 
his designs. He luxuriated in the feeling of being the one power 
of the time which was able to undertake the impossible, and rejoiced 
in the proud consciousness that to him alone was it given to carry 
into effect the determinations of a terrible destiny. Before him was 
extended the old Europe, split up by contesting interests, paralysed 
by a cumbersome military system and by antiquated constitu- 
tions a world of petrified states, appealing to historical precedent 
alone in justification of their right to existence. At his back were 
the powerful warlike energies of the French nation, a nation that 
had broken with its own past, and regarded itself as endowed with 
the mission to impose new laws on the whole earth. 

Thus there arose in the mind of this man without a fatherland 
to whom the spiritual life of the nations and the world of ideas 
always remained incomprehensible, the detestable thought of a 
new world-empire. The images of the Caesars and of the Carlo- 
vingians loomed before his mind ; the rich history of a millennium 
was to be annihilated by a giant adventure ; the many-sided 
culture- world of the west was to obey the orders of a single 
Colossus. With a marvellous sureness of aim, and with unexampled 


History of Germany 

freedom from conscientious scruples, this new and utterly un- 
French policy of world-conquest advanced towards its goal. The 
insight of Bonaparte at once recognised by what means Austria, 
victorious in Germany but beaten in Italy, was to be forced to a 
transitory peace. He saw through the plans of Thugut in the 
Adriatic ; with unprecedented treachery he made an excuse for 
the conquest of the neutral Republic of Venice ; easily overthrew 
the undefended Venetians ; and then offered the imperial court 
to exchange Venice for Milan, Belgium, and the left bank of the 
Rhine, knowing that the rounding-off of her dominion with Venice 
would be more grateful to Austria than the retention of the 
lost and untenable outposts. In addition, to the emperor were 
promised the secularised ecclesiastical lands of Salzburg and 
Bavaria as far as the Inn, whilst to his cousin, who had been driven 
out of Modena, was to be given the Breisgau. It was on these 
terms that the Peace of Campo Formio was concluded on 
October 7, 1797. 

Once again had the Holy Empire to pay the price for Austrian 
defeats ; and once again, and more hypocritically than ever before, 
there were heard in the Reichstag those consecrated imperial and 
fatherly phrases with which the German imperial power was accus- 
tomed to veil the aims of its own self-seeking policy. Whilst in 
the secret articles of the Treaty of Campo Formio the mutilation 
of the German western frontier, the secularisation of the spiritual 
domains, and the indemnification of foreign princes at the expense 
of the empire, had been arranged, in the open phrasing of the 
Treaty of Peace allusion was made to the retention of the perfect 
integrity of the empire. A decree of the imperial court invited the 
estates of the empire to a Congress at Rastatt, in order that " upon 
the basis of integrity, Germany's constitution and welfare may be 
established for centuries to come, to the permanent ecstasy of peace- 
loving humanity." At the Congress of Rastatt, the envoys of the 
Republic appeared as the masterful umpires of German affairs. 
Nearly three hundred German diplomats were assembled ; among 
them were many men of learning, eager to enrich the great collec- 
tion of riddles known as the imperial law by the addition of some 
new prodigies. By flattery and by corruption they rivalled one 
another to secure the favours of the arrogant strangers. The 
French language and French ways were dominant. Every even- 
ing, official Germany applauded French play-actors when these 
were doing their best to amuse les Mtes Allemandes. It was 
the task of the Austrian statesmen to keep secret from the envoys 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

of the estates of the empire the real character of the conversations 
of Campo Formio. For a time this deceit was successful, for the 
emperor was represented by three different embassies : as Emperor, 
as Archduke of Austria, and as King of Hungary, and always one 
of his envoys could skilfully hide himself behind the others. 

At length, however, the unhallowed secret had to be made public. 
At Christmas, 1797, Mainz was evacuated by the imperial troops. 
The hopelessly confused situation of the two nations of central 
Europe whose destinies had been intertwined by fate, now came 
to light, for on the same day the French occupied the unconquered 
bulwark of the Rhineland, and the conquered Austrians entered 
the town of St. Mark. Soon afterwards, the French plenipoten- 
tiaries in Rastatt openly demanded the left bank of the Rhine. 
This was the first official announcement of the annihilation of the 
Holy Empire. For in accordance with the patrimonial conception 
of the imperial law it was regarded as self-evident that the houses 
of the temporal hereditary princes must be compensated for the 
losses they sustained on the left bank of the Rhine, whilst the 
spiritual electoral princes (in the French documents of state they 
received the descriptive name of princes usufruitiers) were to be 
indemnified for their right of usufruct by pensions. General secu- 
larisation, of which for years past the idea had continually and 
inevitably recurred, now seemed to be the last possible means of 
satisfying the dynastic wishes of the German estate of princes. 
The plunder of the goods of the Church by the high nobility now 
began. The emperor himself had opened the floodgates by the 
deliberate annexation of the Salzburg ecclesiastical lands. In 
savage greed, the princely envoys thronged round the plenipoten- 
tiaries of the Directory in order to obtain from the favour of the 
enemies of the empire a rich share in the domains of their spiritual 

It was the intention of Thugut that in this robbery of the 
spiritual princes Prussia should come off empty-handed. In 
the secret articles of the Treaty of Campo Formio, the cession of 
the left bank of the Rhine from Basle to the Nette was approved 
on the express understanding that in this way Prussia would retain 
its possessions on the Lower Rhine, and thus would^have no claim 
to indemnity. This understanding was in open contradiction 
with the Treaty of August, 1796, which had promised the court of 
Berlin an advantageous rounding-off of Prussian dominion in the 
event of the cession of the left bank of the Rhine. Thus by two 
contradictory secret treaties, France had tied to her side the two 


History of Germany 

mutually hostile great powers of Germany, one of which hoped 
to secure advantage out of its defeats, and the other out of its 
inaction. Inevitably, the third power, which based its claims upon 
the victorious use of the sword, would derive the maximum advan- 
tage from these contradictory negotiations. 

Even after all that had happened, the way was open for a 
resolute Prussian policy. The Prussian possessions on the Lower 
Rhine became untenable, now that the emperor had ceded to France 
Belgium, Mainz, and the region of the Moselle. The whole left 
bank of the Rhine had been lost to Germany through the Treaties 
of Campo Formio. These facts would have to be accepted ; and 
an endeavour must be made to give to Germany a tenable secular 
constitution at least on the right bank of the Rhine. It was for 
Prussia, the natural opponent of the spiritual states, to undertake 
with her own hands the now unavoidable task of the general secu- 
larisation of the Holy Empire, the task of breaking the power of 
the Hofburg in Germany by the annihilation of the spiritual depen- 
dencies of Austria, of transforming the empire into a League of 
Princes under the leadership of Prussia. The smaller temporal 
princes must receive their indemnification at the hands of Prussia, 
not at the hands of France. It must be the aim to win them over 
to the Prussian side by the one influence that was sacred to them, 
by the influence of their dynastic interests. Dohm, the Prussian 
envoy in Rastatt, had in fact advised the king thus to undertake 
secularisation in the grand style, as a means to carrying out a com- 
prehensive reform in the empire, and not for the gratification of 
petty greeds. But to the poor-spirited blindness of the court of 
Berlin, no bold resolution was possible. During the war, Prussian 
policy had been animated by the benevolent aim of establishing 
peace between Austria and France upon the basis of the integrity 
of the empire ; but the proposed intermediation of Prussia was 
roughly rejected because Thugut could not overcome his gloomy 
mistrust of the North German power, and also because a state which 
under no circumstances was willing to strike a blow was not able 
to play the part of intermediator in a world-war. Now that the 
cession of the Rhineland had been decided against the wishes of 
the king, his envoys in Rastatt endeavoured, in accordance with 
the natural policy of Prussia, to bring about an indemnification of 
the temporal princes on as liberal a scale as possible, whilst the 
court of Vienna desired to limit the extent of the secularisation, 
and, above all, protect the established pillars of the Hapsburg 
empire, the three spiritual electoral states. From Berlin a strong 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

opposition was also offered to the Hapsburg plans of Bavarian 

Prussia and Bavaria now appeared, as formerly in the days 
of Frederick, as the leaders of the anti-Austrian party ; but not 
now, as of old, was this opposition dictated by the proud conscious- 
ness of their own power. It soon became evident how insecure was 
that apparently brilliant position of strength which the Prussian 
state had acquired through its policy of North German neutrality. 
Its small proteges soon realised that the fulfilment of their greedy 
wishes was to be expected only from the conscienceless activities 
of the young Republic and not from the pacifism of Berlin. The 
French envoys dominated the Congress, and Prussia herself in 
reality was playing only the deplorable role of the first among the 
petty states on the look-out for plunder, and she did not even 
venture to propose a thorough-going reorganisation of the German 
constitution. To this abasement had the empire sunk when the 
dreaded Corsican paid a flying visit to Rastatt, thus obtaining his 
first glance into German life. It was in the bitter quarrels of this 
fruitless Congress that Bonaparte formed his judgment of our 
fatherland. He saw through the absolute nullity of the imperial 
law, and was satisfied to feel that if the imperial constitution could 
no longer be maintained, its fall could only redound to the advan- 
tage of France. With the malicious joy of the plebeian he noted 
with contempt the slavish abasement of the German estate of 
princes. Yet it did not escape his notice that in consequence of 
the weakness of its territorial authorities this country was over- 
ripe for national unity, and it seemed to him urgently necessary that 
by the satisfaction of their land-hunger the smaller dynasties should 
be won over entirely to the side of France, and that divided 
Germany should thus be robbed of its nationality (depayser 

The Congress of Rastatt was broken up by a recommencement 
of the war. Thugut had accepted the Treaties of Campo Formio 
unwillingly, for he had hoped to acquire the Papal States in addi- 
tion to Venice. When France refused to accede to this desire, 
and when, contrary to the agreement, he worked for the general 
secularisation of Germany, that is to say, for the annihilation of 
the old emperordom, the Hofburg felt that the foundations of 
its power were threatened ; for, so wrote the minister to St. Peters- 
burg, " not only does Germany subsist through Italy, but also 
Italy subsists through Germany." Meanwhile there ensued new 
arbitrary acts of French statecraft. In the midst of the peace, 


History of Germany 

the Pontifical State was transformed into a Roman Republi 
and the Swiss Unified State was established. The old powe 
had the view forced upon them that no peaceful common life w; 
compatible with this restless policy of world-conquest. As ear 
as the summer of 1798, Austria, England, and the new Czar Pa 
were working for the formation of the second coalition. T] 
allies took the matter very seriously, utilising all their energie 
It was their intention to attack the revolutionary state and i 
daughter-republics, along the whole extended line from the Tex 
to Calabria, along all its frontiers simultaneously. There was 
better prospect for the success of their gigantic armaments becaus 
of the two most notable commanders of the Republic, one, Hoch 
had just died, while the other, Bonaparte, was far away in Egyp 
The young hero had conceived the grandiose idea of striking ; 
the power of England, which he hated as the most dangerous enen 
of his plans of world-conquest, in her most vulnerable spot, tl 

For Prussia, the question of joining the new coalition was n< 
one to be decided inconsiderately, for every one of the allied powe 
was pursuing aims which were foreign to German policy, < 
were even directly hostile to Germany. Russia desired to mail 
tain the status quo in the east, in order subsequently to solve tl 
eastern question according to her own wishes. In the Englis 
Parliament, there were manifested always more plainly and am 
gantly the designs of an active commercial policy, which, as it w< 
phrased by the German poet, " desired to lock up the domain < 
free Amphitrite as if it were a private house." To the naval powei 
of the second rank, it was impossible that either England's so. 
dominion in the Mediterranean, or yet the complete destructio 
of the French and Dutch colonial possessions, could be welcomi 
Finally, the court of Vienna hoped for great conquests in Itah 
and also for the re-establishment within the empire of tt 
supreme imperial authority. Its paid writers once more adopte 
a threatening tone of Ferdinandian arrogance, warning the Germa 
high nobility to fulfil their duties of feudal allegiance towards th 
imperial majesty. Above all, the second coalition displayed 
marked reactionary character which had little in common wit 
the moderate views of the Prussian court. The Czar Paul spok 
in his fantastical manner of the restoration of the ancient Frenc 
kingship. Fanatical pamphlets preached a war of annihilatio 
against the godless men of new France, declaring that all the rofa 
riers of Europe were looking towards Paris. The embassy-murde 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

at Rastatt at the beginning of the war already served to show how 
blindly embittered were the advocates of the traditional law, 
although the deed of blood was not directly ordered by the Hof- 
burg. The cruel re-establishment of the Bourbon tyranny in 
Naples showed still more plainly what intense passion the fury 
of the Jacobins had awakened, and what confusion Europe had to 
expect if through the victory of this most powerful of all alliances 
the forces of the counter-revolution gained free sway. 

Yet there were overpowering reasons why Prussia should join 
the Triple Alliance. The statesmen of Berlin were at one with 
the three powers in the intention to impose limits upon the floods 
of the world conquest. Count Haugwitz had at length clearly 
recognised the character of French policy. Moreover, if every one 
of the allied powers pursued her own immediate aims, it would be 
all the more possible for Prussia to establish her own dominance 
in Germany by resolute action. England was preparing for a land- 
ing on the coast of Holland, while Austria assembled her army in 
High Germany and Italy. If Prussia, whose eastern frontier was 
no longer threatened, threw all her military forces into the 
wide gap between these two theatres of war, it seemed to all human 
foresight that the honourable and heartfelt desire of the young 
king, the reconquest of the Rhineland, must be fulfilled, and that 
the victorious state would by German deeds acquire the hegemony 
of the north which it had hitherto possessed only in appearance. 
It was the fault of the king, and of his generals weakened by old 
age, that the great hour remained unutilised. The hesitating prince 
considered that the moment had not yet come for the overthrow 
of the Revolution ; he wished to wait upon events, to save up his 
energies for a possible last blow. North Germany, in love with 
peace, joyfully agreed to this poor-spirited determination ; its 
princes and its peoples delighted in the return to the Basle policy 
of neutrality. 

Thus the colossal struggle began without Prussian co-opera- 
tion. The battle of Aboukir founded the Mediterranean rule of 
the British, and brought Bonaparte's oriental schemes to naught ; 
the victories of Souvbrof! and Melas snatched Italy from the French ; 
the Archduke Charles pressed victoriously forward into High 
Germany, and once more the peasantry of the German south threw 
in their lot with the imperial troops ; the domain of the Republic 
lay open before the armies of the coalition, but once again the 
dissensions of the allies proved the salvation of France. To the 
Hofburg the arrogance of the Russian commanders seemed as 


History of Germany 

intolerable as the policy of the czar, who in Italy demanded the 
restoration of the legitimate governments and seized Corfu and 
Malta for himself. Whilst Thugut was endeavouring to subject 
the Peninsula to the dominion of Austria, Souvoroff counteracted 
his endeavours in every possible way, and finally refused to take 
full advantage of victory and to conquer Genoa, the last position 
of the French in Italy. Upon the proposal of England, from the 
open road of victory the great Russian was diverted to Switzerland, 
where he wasted time and energy in that heroic march over the 
Alps which displayed to the astonished world the extraordinary 
staying-power of the Russian soldiers, but which was fruitless from 
a military point of view. When the end of the year 1799, which 
had opened with such glowing hopes, was approaching, the power- 
ful Triple Alliance broke up in fierce hostility. The czar summoned 
his troops home, and there was no longer any talk of threatening 
the domain of the Republic. 

The idea of world-conquest had already struck so deep a root 
in the life of the new France, that the French nation regarded the 
loss of its Italian conquests as an intolerable disgrace, and greeted 
the Corsican hero on his return from Egypt with rejoicing, regard- 
ing him as a saviour. The coup d'etat of the i8th Brumaire, the 
outcome of an internal necessity, brought the whole authority 
of the state into the hands of the commander-in-chief who, for 
the past three years, had, by the terror of his arms, maintained the 
radical war-party in power, and this change gave to the new France 
the constitution which, with trifling alterations, has persisted to 
the present day. The only two new political ideas which had really 
permeated the nation, the idea of national unity and the idea of 
social equality, were carried out to their ultimate consequences ; 
the altered distribution of property was recognised, and was secured 
by a strict legal system. Above the undifferentiated mass of this 
people of equals there now arose I'homme peuple, the democratic 
autocrat in whose boundless authority the one and indivisible 
nation found a satisfactory realisation of its own greatness. The 
compact hierarchy of the active new officialdom obeyed his will, 
since for those who, while accepting subordination to the auto- 
crat, formed part of this hierarchy, there was promise for the satis- 
faction of every ambition ; while the hierarchy relieved the ruled 
of all care and all labour for the nation's weal. The army of tax- 
payers of the lower classes obeyed him blindly ; whilst the military 
organisation, happily adapted to the aims of a policy of conquest, 
placed at the disposal of the First Consul at the same time the 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

masses of the national levies and the technical efficiency of bodies 
of mercenary troops employed for a long term of service. The 
possessing classes, on the other hand, liberated from the burden 
of compulsory military service, enjoyed, in comfortable security, 
the triumphs of the tricolor, and learnt to value the exciting news 
of war and victory as an indispensable pastime. 

This was at once the greatest triumph and the self-annihila- 
tion of popular sovereignty. It was the proudest, the cleverest, 
and the best-ordered despotism of modern history, the necessary 
conclusion of the course of development in which the French state 
had been engaged since the accession of the Bourbons to power. 
Even the ancient traditional catholic character of French culture 
was now re-established by the Concordat. All the fruitful new 
ideas which the legislation of the National Assembly and the Con- 
vention had realised or prepared, found in the prefectoral system, 
hi the legal code, and in the fiscal and military systems of the new 
autocracy a talented realisation, in so far as they correspond to 
the two aims of the democratisation of society and the centralisa- 
tion of the state. On the other hand, of the desires of the Revolu- 
tion for liberty, of the participation of the nation in the conduct 
of affairs, there remained nothing but the empty spectacle of 
worthless parliamentary forms. The constitution of Napoleonic 
France, like that of the old Bourbon regime, was in reality no more 
than a method of administration. Commerce, which had been 
almost completely ruined in the party struggles of the last decade, 
now rapidly revived, thanks to the legal security and to the free- 
dom of movement which the new laws provided for the economic 
energies of the nation. But the new ruler neither desired nor was 
able to effect any change in the other tragical heritage of the 
Revolution, in the spiritual desolation of French life. His 
mind was filled with common human ambition ; freedom of 
thought and independent creative activity in art and science were 
regarded by him as vain ideology, partly ludicrous and partly open 
to suspicion. 

Thus there entered upon the stage that strange two-edged 
system of Bonapartism which, in self-consciousness, readiness for 
activity, and organising energy, was enormously superior to the 
ossified states of the neighbour country. It was a structure of the 
Revolution, democratic from the foundation upwards, the natural 
opponent of the historical state-authorities and social forms of old 
Europe ; but it was also despotic from the foundation upwards, 
the sworn enemy of all freedom, of all national peculiarity in popular 


History of Germany 

life. Napoleon's first task was to make good the losses of the last 
year, to re-establish the status quo of Campo Formio. His brilliant 
attempt to shake the naval dominion of England by the alliance of 
all the sea-powers of the north and of the south, was a complete 
failure ; but in war upon land, fortune was kind to him. His dramatic 
march across the St. Bernard showed to the delighted French that 
the laurels of Souvoroff could be worn also by French soldiers. The 
victory of Marengo restored the dominion of Italy to Bonaparte ; 
the dismissal of Thugut showed that the tough staying-power of 
the court of Vienna was beginning to fail. But there was still 
required one last blow, the battle of Hohenlinden, to compel 
exhausted Austria to make peace. On February 9, 1801, the Peace 
of Luneville recognised publicly and unmistakably what the Treaty 
of Campo Formio had established secretly and obscurely, that 
henceforward the Rhine was to be the boundary of Germany. 

A domain of 1,150 square miles [German], and of almost 
4,000,000 inhabitants, had been lost to Germany, nearly one-seventh 
of the population of the old empire, which, without Silesia, had 
been estimated at 28,000,000. The German nation accepted 
this terrible blow with an uncanny cold-bloodedness. Hardly a 
sign of patriotic anger was manifested when Mainz and Cologne, 
Aix-la-Chapelle and Treves, the broad and beautiful homelands 
of our most ancient history, passed to the foreigner. Yet the 
stunted generation of the Thirty Years' War had once shed an 
abundance of bitter tears over a Strasburg. 

It was the fault of the rule of the crozier that the country of 
the left bank of the Rhine had become so foreign to the nation. The 
ecclesiastical domain had taken no part whatever in the victories 
of Frederick and in the poems of Goethe, no part in anything 
which had filled the life of the new Germany. This region now 
accepted its fate with dull resignation ; it was only the Lower 
Rhenish provinces of Prussia which loudly bewailed their separa- 
tion from an honourable state. It was natural that the moving 
propaganda of the Revolution had not been entirely without effect 
during the long years of the French occupation. Here and there 
might be witnessed a modest copy of the revolutionary societies 
of the people of Mainz. For a time the young men were intoxi- 
cated with the hope that their home would become an independent 
daughter-republic under the protection of France. In Coblenz, 
the federates of the Cis-Rhenish Republic danced round the red, 
white, and green tree of freedom. Biergans, the Brutus of Cologne, 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

diligently endeavoured to imitate the fierce eloquence of Marat 
and Desmoulins ; but the copy was hardly more successful than 
was the German Marseillaise, the tame, philistine league-song of 
the Rhenish Republicans : " Rejoice, brothers all, Reason has 
conquered." It was only young Joseph Gorres who understood 
how to speak this fanatical speech which was foreign to the Ger- 
man nature. With all the impetuosity of his fantastic intelligence 
and with all the unripeness of his half culture, acquired in the con- 
ventual schools of the episcopal lands, the honourable and enthu- 
siastic youth threw himself into the whirlpool of the revolutionary 
movement, celebrating in speeches and in pamphlets the wonders 
of Gallic freedom. When the evacuation of Mainz had decided 
the fate of the Rhineland he delivered the funeral oration of the 
Holy Empire, exclaiming : " Nature created the Rhine for the 
boundary of France : woe to the weak mortal who shall attempt 
to move her boundaries, and who shall prefer mud and heaps of 
stones to her sharply-drawn natural outlines." Such was the scorn 
with which the most gifted son of the Rhineland took leave of his 
fatherland ; such were the sentiments which experience of the 
ecclesiastical rule had aroused in the hot spirit of the man who, 
not long after, was to become the most enthusiastic apostle of 
Germanism on the Rhine ! 

Among the masses of the Rhenish people the activity of the 
Jacobins had no effect. They groaned under the burdens imposed 
by the war and under the insecurity of the endless provisional con- 
ditions ; they saw with discontent how the foreign officials plundered 
the country, rudely destroyed the monuments of antiquity, deforested 
the mountains, carried off to Paris the old pillars from the grave 
of Charlemagne. It was only with the completion of the annexa- 
tion that they learnt also to esteem the advantages of the new 
administration. For the spiritual domains of the Rhineland, 
as for Italy, the French Government was the pioneer of the modern 
state-life ; it brought the beginnings of civic equality, which in 
Prussia, and in many of the neighbouring temporal states, had 
long existed ; and it brought also numerous other political reforms 
which were still lacking elsewhere in Germany. Under this regime, 
moreover, the homeless and unarmed people of the lands of the 
crozier learnt for the first time the glory of war and the self-satis- 
faction that comes from forming part of a great community. 

The region that consisted of a confused assembly of ninety- 
seven bishoprics, abbacies, princedoms, counties, and estates of the 
empire, and that had nourished an innumerable body of Imperial 

201 o 

History of Germany 

Knights, was divided into four well-rounded departments. A 
strict police broke up the bands of oppressors, and established in 
the mountain-districts of the Eifel and of the Hunsriicken a state 
of peaceful security which had been unknown in the days of the 
dispersed rule of powerless petty states. In these lands of ancient 
peasant freedom the abolition of hereditary serfdom had but little 
significance. But all the more profound and valuable was the 
effect of abolishing the feudal burdens of the ecclesiastical tithes ; 
and still more valuable was the result of the sale of the national 
goods ; upon the ruins of the ancient spiritual landed domains there 
came into existence a new and well-to-do system of petty proprie- 
torship. The gates of the ghetto of Benn were opened and the 
Protestants of Cologne and Aix-la-Chapelle built their first churches. 
The public procedure of the Courts of Assize put an end to the 
extraordinary forms of legal procedure which had previously been 
characteristic of the thirteen courts of the good town of Cologne 
and of the innumerable tribunals of spiritual and temporal lords. 
Instead of the Lords of Council, to whom the people had given the 
nickname of the " Cologne Clique," instead of the highly noble and 
all- wise patricians who once ruled the " realm of Aix," prefects 
and mayors were everywhere at work as obedient servants of the 
First Consul. All local independence had been abolished ; and yet 
the new official Government showed itself, not only more kindly, 
but also, more honourable and more just, than the ancient nepotist 

It is true that the Rhinelanders stoutly defended their 
German speech and German customs against all attempts at 
forcible Gallification. The arbitrary unnaturalness of the new 
river boundary was felt as a great grievance. All along the river 
the people carried on a petty warfare against the detested customs- 
officers, and refused to abandon neighbourly intercourse with their 
fellow-countrymen on the right bank of the Rhine. Yet it was 
soon realised how powerful are the bonds with which a vigorous 
state attaches its members. Free trade with the extensive western 
hinterland, the abolition of the old guild rights and boundary 
rights, called into existence new industrial undertakings and new 
relationships of intercourse. The good French gold, which had been 
current in France since the plunder-campaigns and the fiscal reforms 
of Bonaparte, looked very different from the Petermannchen and 
the Kastemannchen and all the other variegated coinage of the 
episcopal days. The people of the middle and lower Rhine never 
became so whole-heartedly French as did the soldier-race of Alsace. 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

Notwithstanding the enfranchisement of agriculture and industry, 
the increasing pressure of taxation and the terrible sacrifice of men 
that resulted from the Napoleonic wars, rendered impossible a 
sense of genuine economic well-being. But still it was generally 
held in these regions that they belonged for ever to France. The 
Rhinelanders had broken with their past, and of all their old tradi- 
tions they had taken with them into the new time only the Catholic 
faith, hence the feeling of inner kinship which for a long period to 
come bound them to the new French culture. The old order had 
vanished without leaving a trace behind, and all possibility of its 
restoration had passed away ; soon there disappeared the very 
memory of particularism. For the rising generation of the Rhine- 
land, a living history really began with the entry of the French. 
It was only men of exceptionally deep nature, such as Gorres and 
the brothers Boisseree who gradually came to recognise the curse of 
all foreign dominion, the atrophy and disorder which that dominion 
imposes upon spiritual life. They turned their longing gaze towards 
the centuries of the Middle Age when the Rhineland was still a 
living member of the German Empire, and amid tears and repent- 
ance they rediscovered their lost fatherland. To the great 
majority, what had happened seemed an unalterable necessity, 
especially in view of the fact that the condition of affairs in the 
empire was not such as to tempt any thought of reunion. Even 
upon the right bank of the Rhine, everyone believed that the new 
western frontier of Germany had been established for all time. 

It was now the task of the imperial authorities to carry out 
the great work of indemnification which was a necessary outcome 
of the diminution of the empire. By the Seventh Article of the 
Peace of Luneville, it was agreed that the hereditary princes of the 
left bank of the Rhine should receive compensation in the interior 
of Germany (dans le sein de V Empire) ; the conversations of Rastatt 
were here to serve as a guide. Thus by the sword of the foreign 
conqueror there was imposed upon the Reichstag the duty of secu- 
larising the Holy Empire and destroying the spiritual states. What 
in the days of the Silesian War had led to the salvation and rejuvenes- 
cence of the German state, now led to the partition of Germany. 
During the confused negotiations which for the next two years were 
proceeding between Paris and Ratisbon, between Berlin, St. Peters- 
burg, and Vienna, there spontaneously resulted that grouping of 
German parties, of which anticipations had already been manifested 
at the Congress of Rastatt. The court of Vienna remained for long a 
prey to the extraordinary illusion that Bonaparte would not trouble 


History of Germany 

himself about the reconstitution of Germany, and endeavoured 
to save as many as possible of the theocratic authorities of the 
ancient empire, and above all to save the spiritual electoral 
princes. In one of the Austrian state-papers we read : " It is not 
the amount of their income but their very existence which is of 
value to the German constitution." Prussia and Bavaria, on the 
other hand, the most powerful of the temporal states, fought on 
behalf of the common interests of the hereditary princes, favoured 
general secularisation, and were therefore considered by the world 
to be the allies of France. 

Not even at this time, however, did there exist an unconditional 
understanding between the First Consul and the Crown of Prussia. 
Bonaparte could not endure as an ally anyone who claimed the 
independence of a great power ; the new " federal system " which 
he proposed to institute in place of the old comity of states, gave 
room only for a dominant France and for powerless vassals. He 
was the enemy of every independent power, and he never had any 
good feeling towards Prussia. In the life of Bonaparte, there was 
no development. He did not, like the true heroes of history, learn 
from experience, but unmoved and untaught, he worked to the 
end of his career for the realisation of his original plan of world- 
conquest. It is for this reason that he seems greatest in the days 
of the consulate, when these dreams of power first became revealed. 
In four neighbour countries at once he appeared as the intermediator 
of peace and as the great organiser. In Switzerland he threw on 
to the dust-heap the old structure of the Unified State and gave to 
the Confederates a reasonable federal constitution, for, as he put 
it, " Nature herself has predestined you to be a federation of states, 
and no reasonable man seeks to force Nature from her path." With 
the same penetrating insight he recognised that in Holland the 
federal form of state was out of date ; he allowed the Batavian 
Unified State to persist, and imposed a constitution which facili- 
tated the transition to monarchy. For the Italians, he awakened 
a world of brilliant memories and expectations, bringing once more 
into honour the ancient name of the country, and raising the vassal 
state on the Po to become an Italian republic ; here also the train 
was carefully laid for monarchy and for a veiled foreign dominion. 
Finally, in the matter of his German policy he had long indicated 
the way which was to lead to the destruction of the German name. 
Never was an impossible scheme undertaken with more crafty 
consideration, and never was it put into operation with a more 
vigorous activity. 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

When in speeches and state-papers the First Consul described 
the German Empire as indispensable to the balance of European 
power, all that he had in mind was the anarchy of German 
particularism and he was thinking not at all of the theocratic forms 
of the imperial constitution. The Carlo vingian traditions of the 
Holy Empire were not less hostile to the Corsican's plans of world- 
dominion than were the medieval institutions of ancient Germany 
in conflict with the modern democratic character of the new tyranny. 
As the Moniteur wrote, the German constitution was " the centre 
of all the feudal prejudices of Europe," and was at the same time 
one of the chief pillars of the Austrian power. But in Paris the 
court of Vienna was considered, next to England, to be the bitterest 
enemy of the Revolution ; the destruction of Austrian power in 
Germany had been long determined. As early as the summer of 
1800, one of the hired scribes of Talleyrand was writing the Letter 
of a German Patriot, a first ballon d'essai in the direction of those 
devilish half truths by means of which Bonapartism exercised so 
misleading an influence upon our people. The pamphlet related in 
eloquent words the long tale of Austria's sins against the Holy 
Empire, and urged all enlightened Germans to overthrow the Haps- 
burg dominion. The First Consul revived the plan which already 
in the year 1798 Sieyes had suggested when he was ambassador in 
Berlin. He prepared the tri-partition of Germany, and in order to 
bring the defenceless petty states as far as possible under his own 
authority, he wished first to push back towards the east the two 
German great powers. It was for this reason that the Breisgau 
was given to the Duke of Modena ; it was for this reason that 
France, for the moment in unison with the court of Vienna, offered 
a decisive objection when Hardenberg ventured to propose that 
Prussia should seek her indemnification in Franconia. It was for 
this reason that the wishes of Bavaria, which was already casting 
greedy eyes upon Ansbach-Bayreuth, received gracious approval 
in Paris. It was for this reason, finally, that the First Consul 
enquired of Berlin whether Mecklenburg might not conveniently 
round off the Prussian dominion, while the ancient ducal house 
might be compensated in the Prussian Rhineland. In this respect 
Bonaparte had no more than a partial success, for King Frederick 
William firmly refused to take possession of Mecklenburg against 
the will of the dukes ; but Bonaparte succeeded to this extent, 
that Prussia was not allowed to increase her Franconian possesr 
sions, and lost all influence in the south. 

The great despiser of men now found an infallible means for 


History of Germany 

the control of these southern and western German domains. It 
was not in vain that at the Congress of Rastatt he had seen into 
the innermost souls of the German high nobility. It was in order 
to secure for ever the dissociation of Germany that he became the 
creator of our new middle states. The little people of princes, 
counts, and imperial knights, was a nuisance to him, for most 
of them belonged to the Austrian party and were useless in war. 
Among the electoral princes and the dukes, on the other hand, he 
saw sufficient utilizable material for the creation of a crowd of 
vassals to France. They were too weak to stand upon their own 
feet, too vain to yield to the authority of a national state, but they 
were powerful enough to constitute a number of small contingents 
which, under the leadership of the conqueror of the world, might 
once more exhibit the ancient German valiancy in arms. During 
the last war they had almost all concluded separate peaces with 
the enemy of the empire, had left the path of legality as rebels 
against the emperor and the empire, and had broken down the 
bridges behind them. When the man of power took under his pro- 
tection these political hermaphrodites which could neither live nor 
die, when he gratified their greed by throwing them a few fragments 
taken from the possessions of their pettier co-estates, when he 
flattered their vanity by resounding titles and the appearance of 
independence ; when, that is to say, he compacted together the 
hundreds of tiny territories into a few dozen new casually con- 
structed states, which without a history and with no legal title to 
existence, existed solely by the grace of France ; when he then 
induced his satraps to wage insolent wars against the fatherland, 
leading them from one felony to another, and rewarding every new 
crime by new booty they had signed away their souls to him, and 
he could henceforward confidently reckon that they would rather 
kiss the shoes of the foreigner than ever again voluntarily subject 
themselves to a German community. He was not the man to leave 
to his proteges a debt of gratitude. " France," he wrote to the 
Elector of Bavaria, " and France alone, can secure you in your 
power " ; and once more, "to us alone does Bavaria owe her 
enlargement, and at our hands alone can she receive protection." 

Up to this point Bonaparte's German policy seems no more 
than a grandly conceived further development of the old French 
statecraft, which since the days of Henry IV had continually aimed 
at the establishment of a protective suzerainty over the German 
petty states. In the state-papers of the First Consul there now 
recurs the seductive word " sovereignty," which in the Peace of 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

Westphalia the diplomats of France had first applied to the 
German territorial suzerainty. But the ideas of this restless 
spirit now sought to push far beyond these goals. As soon as 
Western Germany had been subjected, Austria and Prussia were to 
be enchained. Bonaparte's friendship for Prussia was never anything 
more than an adroit double game. Although he cherished a pro- 
found and justified contempt for the timid policy of the court of 
Berlin, he none the less shared an error then universal, and over- 
estimated the might of Prussia. It was true that the man who 
despised all ideology had no vision for the inexhaustible moral 
energies which slumbered in the inert state ; but he was well aware 
of what the Prussian soldier had been able to achieve in the Rhenish 
campaigns, and was not sufficiently well informed with regard 
to the progressive decay of the Frederician army. With such an 
opponent, he wished to fight only under favourable circumstances, 
and with all the rest of Germany on his side. During the war he 
had several times hoped, through the intermediation of the most 
peace-loving of the great powers, to attain to a general peace, and 
subsequently to allay the awakening mistrust of the court of Berlin 
by indefinite concessions. After the peace, he regarded the destruc- 
tion of the Austrian party in the empire as his most immediate 
task, and for this end the help of the Lorrainer's old rival was 
indispensable. The letters of the First Consul to the young king 
overflowed with terms of endearment. He wrote that every wish 
of his royal friend would be regarded by the French Cabinet as a 
command ; he said that both he and William, one the admirer and 
the other the successor of Frederick, should continue to walk hand 
in hand in the footsteps of the great king. To the mightiest of 
the temporal estates of the empire it was impossible to refuse abun- 
dant indemnification ; but it was essential to avoid any strengthen- 
ing of the Prussian party. Hence Talleyrand was given instructions 
that the Prussophile House of Mecklenburg was to be excluded from 
the new Electoral Council, but the minister did not venture to 
propose this exclusion. 

The court of Berlin, upon its side, was far from convinced of 
the good faith of France. In Berlin, as almost everywhere else, 
the coup d'etat of the i8th Brumaire had been welcome because 
the establishment of an orderly government in France seemed to 
offer promise of a general peace. Once again, as so often before, 
it was hoped that the integrity of the empire would be preserved 
by diplomatic methods. But how could a German state which 
even after the declaration of the imperial war in the year 1799 


History of Germany 

failed to draw its sword, attain so high an aim ? The sundering 
of the Rhineland from Germany had been completed, and Prussia 
had not ventured upon any serious step to ward off the blow. At 
length, indeed, a bold move was made, when France and Russia 
threatened, in the year 1801, to occupy Hanover and to force the 
closing of the German ports ; thereupon Prussia stepped forward 
and herself occupied the German land a resolute measure which 
England valued at its true worth but which Bonaparte never for- 
gave. Meanwhile, however, the king observed with regret how 
isolated was his state, but he mistrusted the incalculable aims of 
Bonaparte, and to the enquiries of the First Consul whether Prussia 
would not seek compensation in Hanover, he repeatedly refused to 
do this, not only on grounds of justice, but because he recognised 
the ulterior designs of French policy. On the other hand, he saw 
that the interests of Prussian shipping were seriously interfered 
with by the commercial policy of England. Finally he was separated 
from the court of Vienna by the old unteachable mutual mistrust ; 
so recently as the war of 1799, Austria had sent a considerable 
proportion of its army into Bohemia in order to hold Prussia in 

Thus the king determined to seek an understanding with 
Russia ; it seemed to him that this state was by geographical 
position a power mainly defensive. Now for the first time the 
young monarch took part in foreign policy with an independent 
idea ; he now began in these questions also to find a sphere for his 
peculiar deliberative method. Since there had always been a 
strong Prussian party at the court of St. Petersburg it was soon 
possible to come to a good understanding with the Czar Paul. It 
was Prussia which in the year 1800 endeavoured to bring about 
peace between France and Russia. The drawing together of Prussia 
and Russia became a friendship when the young Czar Alexander 
ascended the throne over the corpse of his father. On June 10, 
1802, the two neighbour princes had that memorable meeting in 
Memel which was to have such weighty consequences for the reign 
of Frederick William. Both were young men, both were full of 
the philanthropic ideas of the age of enlightenment which aimed 
at popular happiness, so that they were soon on common ground ; 
they discussed the danger which was threatening both from the 
world power of the west, and they swore mutual fealty. Upon the 
czar, who was still little more than a boy, the knightly and serious 
behaviour of the king and the bewitching grace of the queen made 
a lively impression, so far as his character, with its strange admixture 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

of enthusiasm, self-deception, and slyness, was capable of profound 
sensations. Again and again his Polish friend Czartoryski, an 
irreconcilable opponent of Prussia, complained that this day of 
Memel had been the beginning of all evil. But Frederick William 
cleaved to his new friend with the unchangeable loyalty of his 
honourable heart. A personal inclination strengthened him in the 
resolve which had been formed through the working of his sober 
reason. He would venture upon a war with France only in alliance 
with Russia. He urged the Russian court to participate in the 
negotiations about the German indemnity questions, in order 
that France might not be the only arbiter in the empire. 

Whilst the king thus secretly endeavoured to protect his rear 
in the case of a possible war with France, hi his German policy he 
was also pursuing ideas which were in flat opposition to the designs 
of the First Consul ; it was solely in consequence of the confused 
party involvements of the moment that the Prussian court seemed 
for a time to walk hand in hand with the French government. 
The general secularisation could be welcome to the Prussian state 
only as soon as the cession of the Rhinelands was decided. All 
the Prussian Protestant traditions combined to lead the king to 
work towards this end. Moreover, in the enlightened world there 
was then dominant the doctrine of the unrestricted power of the 
state, which by right controlled all the goods of the Church on 
behalf of the nation. Stephani's book upon The Absolute Unity 
of State and Church was now going the round of North Germany. 
The King of Prussia was himself permeated by these views, and 
was now making his cabinet work out a comprehensive plan for the 
confiscation of all the ecclesiastical goods in Prussia. In like manner 
he believed that he would be acting altogether in the spirit of his 
great-uncle if he placed himself on the side of Bavaria and the new 
middle states ; Frederick, in his plans for imperial reform, had 
always had in mind the strengthening of the great temporal estates 
of the empire. Bonaparte favoured the middle states, because he 
desired to construct out of them the nucleus of a French party. 
The Prussian court, conversely, supported this policy in the hope 
that by the destruction of the most futile of the petty states the 
force of resistance of the empire against France could be enhanced. 
Haugwitz declared frankly to the Austrian ambassador Stadion, 
that such had for years been the persistent view of his court. 
Russia spoke in the same sense to the court of Vienna, for from the 
Prussian state-papers the conviction had been gained that a 
general secularisation was necessary to strengthen the German 


History of Germany 

west. Once more with the same grounds the king justified himself 
to the czar for Prussia's own demands for indemnification : he must 
strengthen himself for the eventuality of a great German war 
against Bonaparte. 

Behind all these schemes and wishes there remained the shy 
and indefinite hope that it would be possible to reorganise the 
secularised empire, or at least the north, in federal form. The 
recognition that the old emperordom was no longer tenable 
gradually found a wider acceptation. Already a year after the 
death of Frederick a pamphlet had put the question in plain terms, 
" Why should Germany have an Emperor?" During the war of 
the second coalition there appeared another pamphlet, Hints 
concerning the State Constitution of Germany, and in this the 
admonition was uttered, " Germans ! unite to form a strongly 
united German Federation ! " Similar federalist ideas were dis- 
cussed among the Prussian statesmen. In the year 1800, the inde- 
fatigable Dohm, after a conversation with the Duke of Brunswick, 
carried a stage further the proposals he had already announced 
in Rastatt, and drew up a plan for a North German Federation. 
The aim of this was to check the overgrowth of the power of France, 
already threatening all her neighbours. For this reason, the Basle 
league of neutrality must be transformed to constitute a vigorous 
and permanent federation. There were to be four sections, under 
the leadership of the more powerful of the middle states and the 
supreme leadership of Prussia. There were to be a Bundestag 
and permanent federal courts. The army was to be under Prussian 
command and was to be trained on the Prussian model. Such 
plans were freely discussed at the court of Berlin but no one ven- 
tured to attempt to carry them out. Not even Dohm could free 
himself from that deplorable error which tainted all the old ideas of 
Prussian policy. He also was under the illusion that the re-estab- 
lishment of the German power could be effected by pacific means ; 
the First Consul would offer no opposition so long as the idea of 
" national independence " was not expressly avowed ! 

The wisdom of the statesmen of Berlin failed to see how 
profoundly relationships in the empire had been modified since 
the days of Frederick. It was not Prussia, but France, which 
now held in its hands the balance of German power. France divided 
in accordance with her own favour and caprice the ruins of the 
spiritual states. As things were, the co-operation of Russia in the 
negotiations could be no more than apparent ; the sole result of 
this co-operation was, that in the distribution of lands, some princes 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

who were related to the court of St. Petersburg received preferential 
treatment. When in such conditions the Prussian state demanded 
the constitution of the new middle states, this could serve only 
to strengthen the French party in the empire without securing any 
loyal support for Prussia. Prussia became Bonaparte's accomplice 
without securing for herself any permanent alliance with the man 
of power. 

How much more adroitly than by this well-meaning policy of 
half-measures and self-deception did the straightfoward uncon- 
scientiousness of the new court of Munich know how to turn matters 
to its own advantage. Here the House of Pfalz-Zweibriicken had 
just attained to the throne which had been so often contested by 
the greed of Austria. The Prime Minister, Count Montgelas, never 
failed for a moment to recognise that the young dynasty had every- 
thing to fear from the Hofburg and everything to hope from Bona- 
parte. Quickly making up his mind, he appeared soon after the 
peace at the head of the French party in Germany, and for this was 
rewarded by the grateful assurance of the First Consul that the 
high-minded nobility of France would forget the earlier vacilla- 
tions of the Bavarian court. The unscrupulous realist saw in 
Bavaria's past no more than a history of lost opportunities ; now 
at length, when the world was out of joint, was the time to grasp 
at the skirts of happy chance, to get into the victorious chariot of 
the conqueror of the world, and by faithful vassal's service and 
unwearied haggling to secure just as much booty as the conqueror 
was willing to spare. To this policy of logical particularism, any- 
thing that remained to the empire of the millennial union of the 
German nation seemed frankly ludicrous ; all shame, all affection, 
all sentiment for law, were here unknown. Greedily it seized the idea 
of a German Trias, which had once before emerged after the Peace 
of Hubertusburg, and which was now revived when Prussia aban- 
doned the South German petty states whilst Austria threatened 
them. Gagern, the minister of Nassau, a well-meaning imperial 
patriot, who, after the dilettantist manner of the petty-state diplo- 
matists, was always full of slight, readily conceived, and obscure 
projects, had as long ago as the time of the Treaty of Campo Formio 
naively urged upon the imperial court the formation of a league 
of the smaller states, under Russian guarantees. In a similar 
sense the honourable Swabian publicist, Pahl, wrote' an appella- 
tion to the Luneville Peace Congress. But now that the writers 
of the Bavarian Palatinate urged a separate alliance of all the lesser 
German powers, without Austria and Prussia, it was not their wish, 


History of Germany 

as it had been the wish of these eloquent dreamers, to rescue the 
national independence of the German south. What they desired 
was the subjection of the middle states under the arbitrary dominion 
of France, the annihilation of Germany. Temporarily, so long as 
it was still necessary to fight the Austrian party, the Zweibriicken 
dynasty remained on good terms with its ancient protector, Prussia. 
Bonaparte did not interfere, for he knew how easy it would be to 
break up this friendship, since the Franconian margravates of the 
King of Prussia were at the very gates of Bavarian greed. 

During this most difficult crisis which had ever affected the 
ancient German state, Austria deprived herself of all possible 
influence, endeavouring to rescue an untenable position by a policy 
of stupid rigidity. At the Prussian court, there was no failure 
to recognise the need for the destruction of the old order, but the 
desire for the reconstruction of the empire merely took the form of 
a weak and indefinite hope. Thus the decision as to the future 
of Germany was inevitably left in the hands of the foreign conqueror, 
who boasted, " I alone know what I have to do." Even during 
these troubled years, the Reichstag of Ratisbon had remained so 
true to the sleepy customs of its spectral existence that a warm- 
hearted imperial patriot was able in the middle of the imperial war, 
to write with all seriousness upon the problem of what the dis- 
tinguished Imperial Assembly was to consider in the near future. 
The empire accepted the Peace ot Luneville, and the spiritual estates 
did not find the courage to protest against their death-sentence. 
Almost the whole of the year 1801 had passed before Austria and 
Prussia finally succeeded in constituting a Diet of Deputation, 
and even at the end of eight months more, the deliberations of this 
committee had not yet been begun. The decayed body of the Holy 
Empire no longer possessed the power to carry out its intentions 
without assistance. The struggle of all against all and the 
infatuation of the Austrian court rendered every resolution 

The Hofburg was still unable to understand that in the Peace 
of LuneVille it had abandoned the spiritual estates ; it did every- 
thing it could to avoid the inevitable consequences of its own 
actions, and even arranged for the election by its own adherents 
of an archduke to fill the vacant prince-bishoprics of Cologne 
and Miinster. At the same time the Hofburg exhibited its ancient 
hostility to all enlargement of Prussia. It would | be better, so 
the phrase ran at the court of Vienna, to renounce three rich Turkish 
provinces than to yield up Miinster and Hildesheim to the Protes- 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

tant great power. Meanwhile the Bavarian neighbour was con- 
tinually rendered anxious by Austrian plans of exchange and 
enlargement. This emperor, who could not find words strong 
enough to express his anger at the forcible dispossession of the 
spiritual estates, would freely permit the court of Munich to appro- 
priate in the south-west the dominions of neighbouring imperial 
towns, counts, and barons, if only Austria should receive in exchange 
the eastern part of Bavaria. It was Austria which first uttered 
the momentous phrase, " destruction of the smaller temporal 
estates," whereas hitherto in official documents there had been 
references only to the secularisation of the spiritual states. It 
was owing to this rigidly conservative and recklessly greedy conduct 
of the imperial court that Prussia and Bavaria found it necessary 
to secure their own indemnification by separate treaties with France. 
The Prusso-French Treaty contained the expressive sentence that 
the crown of Prussia acquired its compensatory territory " with 
unlimited suzerainty and sovereignty, upon the same footing 
as that occupied by Prussia in her other German possessions " 
whereas the imperial law did not recognise the sovereignty of the 
imperial estates. It was not regarded as any longer worth the 
trouble of even keeping up a pretence of the imperial over-lordship. 
Without consulting the empire, Prussia, on August 3, 1802, took 
possession of the new acquisitions allowed by Bonaparte. 

Meanwhile the Parisians made a mock of the aspect of the 
princes and statesmen of the Holy Empire who were hastening in 
crowds to the First Consul's seat of dominion. The light-minded 
city had speedily recovered its ancient Celtic cheerfulness after 
the terrible years of the Revolution. Bonaparte understood the 
Parisians' insatiable desire for nervous excitement, and knew how 
to satisfy Paris by the brilliant spectacle of his campaigns of triumph 
and booty. But even more entertaining than all these festivals 
was the unexampled drama of the voluntary humiliation of the 
German high nobility. How often, during all these heavy years, 
must it have come home to the souls of the German petty princes 
that an end had come to all their ancient glories. Again and 
again they had fled before the armies of the Revolution, and they 
had turned into money anything they could get together of the 
possessions of their state. Now came the decisive hour ; it still 
seemed possible to save their thrones. In their anxiety, all pride 
and all shame were lost. Every noble conception of princely duties, 
such as had gained ground at the German courts in the days of 
Frederick, was destroyed by the tyranny of Bonaparte ; once more 


History of Germany 

the sentiments of the princely dealers-in-soldiers of the good old 
time gained the upper hand. 

The high nobility of Germany settled upon the open wounds 
of the fatherland like a swarm of hungry flies. With cynical 
composure Talleyrand opened the great market for the land and 
people of Germany, and said equably that if any German nobleman 
still experiences any trace of shame, il faut ttouffer les regrets. 
The highborn opponents of the Revolution begged for his favour, 
paid court to his mistresses, tenderly carried about his lap-dog, 
mounted, eager for service, to the little attic where lived his assis- 
tant Matthieu the most cunning among that long series of talented 
Alsatians, whose powers of work and knowledge of affairs were 
gladly utilised by Bonaparte in his dealings with Germany. The 
gold of the little courts, which they had never been able to find 
when the empire needed money for the defence of the fatherland, 
now ran in streams. In the diplomatic world everyone knew the 
tariff of the French negotiators, and knew to a thaler the cost of a 
vote in the princely council of the Reichstag. The Prince of Lowen- 
stein, a successor of the victorious Frederick of the Palatinate, 
played the broker in this unclean traffic . Even the rascality of 
Paris was not slow to avail itself of the new opportunities ; many 
of the greedy German princes, countrified in their simplicity, were 
caught in the toils of a false agent of Talleyrand, until Bonaparte 
himself took steps to put an end to the scandal. 

All were drawn into this unwholesome activity, the good as 
well as the bad, for nothing was to be expected of the Ratisbon 
negotiations, and anyone in Paris who failed to look after his own 
interests was remorselessly trodden under foot amid the throng. 
Even the most valiant of the German petty princes, Charles 
Frederick of Baden, must have his chaffering negotiator. Amid 
the throng of the begging and offering smaller men, there stood with 
self-conscious and patronising mien, the much-courted Prussian 
envoy, Lucchesini, who believed himself able to outdo all others 
in his cunning, and who failed to see how greatly Prussia was injur- 
ing her repute by favouring an unsavoury game at chess which 
recalled the Reichstag of Grodno and the shameful self-destruction 
of the Polish nobility. This rivalry of dynastic greed destroyed 
what still remained to the empire of loyalty, of faith, of duty, of 
honour. Bonaparte rejoiced that there was no longer any moral 
bond to hold the old German state together. Each court demanded 
unashamedly what suited its own convenience ; hardly any attempt 
was now made to offer compensation for actual loss as an excuse. 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

It soon became evident that the spiritual domains on the right 
bank of the Rhine would not suffice to satisfy all these greedy 
desires, and there was a general agreement that the imperial towns 
should also form part of the spoil, as soon as the imperial towns 
of the left bank had similarly been destroyed without compensa- 
tion. Finally the great land-auction came to an end. The goods 
were knocked down, sometimes to the highest bidder, sometimes 
to the Prussian and Russian favourites, but for the most part to 
those courts which Bonaparte had selected as props to his German 
policy. When the negotiations were finished, he wrote openly 
to the Margrave Charles Frederick, a near relative of the Czar, 
that the House of Baden had now attained the rank " which is 
demanded by its distinguished kinship and by the true interests of 

After the most essential matters had been arranged in Paris, 
France and Russia appeared in Ratisbon as intermediaries. Bona- 
parte permitted the czar an apparent co-operation, to satisfy his 
avarice and to meet the wishes of Prussia. The mediators declared, 
with good reason, that jealousy and opposition of interests in the 
Reichstag made their intermediation essential. They disclosed 
their plan of indemnification, and concluded masterfully that it was 
then: will that this plan should be accepted without alteration. The 
emperor offered a resistance even now, and did not yield until 
Prussia and Bavaria had concluded a formal alliance with France, 
and until a threatening note had been despatched from St. Peters- 
burg ; but then the disinterested protector of the spiritual states 
showed no hesitation in rounding-off his own hereditary dominion 
by the bishoprics of Trent and Brixen. In the Diet of Deputa- 
tion, the customary quarrels still continued for a time. The Russian 
statesmen complained with disgust how tedious and wearisome was 
this German disputatiousness, seeing that for every trifling change 
in the ownership of lands a special courier must be sent to investi- 
gate. But the die had been cast, and the more powerful princes 
had already secured their booty. 

On February 25, 1803, the Diet of Deputation terminated 
its deliberations, and on April 27, by the last of the imperial 
decrees, the annihilation of one hundred and twelve German states 
was declared. Of the spiritual estates three only were left ; the two 
Knightly Orders, these being spared because it was wished to leave 
the Catholic nobility, so severely affected by the changes, a last 
refuge for their sons ; and the Imperial Chancellor in Germania, 
because Bonaparte recognised a useful tool for French designs in 


History of Germany 

the unstable vanity of the Mainz Coadjutor, Dalberg. All the 
imperial towns disappeared except the six largest. More than two 
thousand square miles of territory, supporting over three million 
inhabitants, were divided among the temporal princes. Prussia 
received fivefold compensation for her losses on the left bank of 
the Rhine ; Bavaria gained three hundred thousand heads ; Darm- 
stadt was compensated eightfold, and Baden tenfold. Some, also, 
of the foreign princely houses took part in the great spoliation, 
such as Tuscany and Modena, cousins to Austria, and Nassau- 
Orange, the prote'ge' of Prussia. Quite forgotten was the Frederi- 
cian piinciple that Germany belonged to herself alone. To the 
foreigner, central Europe seemed, as it had seemed in the six- 
teenth century, a masterless mass, a place of spoil for the princes of 
all nations. The Holy Empire was annihilated ; nothing but its 
disgraced name still continued to exist for three distressing years. 
Few among the great state-transformations of modern history 
seem so detestable, so base, and so mean as this Princes' Revolution 
of 1803. It was a triumph of hard and material self-seeking. Not 
a glimmer of a bold idea, not a spark of noble passion illuminated 
the colossal breach of public law. And yet the overthrow was a 
great necessity. All that was buried was already dead ; all that 
was disturbed was that upon which the history of three centuries 
had already passed judgment. The ancient forms of the state 
vanished in an instant, as if they had been swallowed up by the 
earth, and never has anyone seriousry thought of reviving them. 
The ridiculous falsehood of theocracy was at length done away 
with. With the spiritual princes fell also the Holy Empire itself 
and the claims of the Holy Roman emperor to world-dominion. 
Even the ancient ally of the Hapsburg emperor, the Papal See, 
would now recognise no more than the imperium Germanicum. The 
Italian's fine sense of power recognised that the protectorate over 
the Roman Church had now been transferred to France, and the 
Pope wrote to his " beloved son " Bonaparte that Rome would 
turn to him whenever help was needed. The Holy Empire became 
transformed into a League of Princes, and it was with justice that 
Talleyrand now spoke officially of the Federation Germanique. 
This loose association of temporal princedoms was at first held 
together solely by the name of Germany, and it seemed as if in the 
near future a break up of the German community might be 
expected, rather than its federative reconstruction. But with the 
disappearance of the theocratic forms there had disappeared also 
that spirit of rigid immobility which had hitherto held in thrall 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

all the political energies of the nation. The new temporal Ger- 
many was capable of movement, of development. If liberation 
from foreign tutelage could once be effected, there might result 
upon the soil of temporal territorialism the uprising of a national 
unified state which would be less of a falsehood than had been the 
Holy Empire. 

With the effecting of secularisation there came an end to that 
artificial distribution of votes which had hitherto given to Catholi- 
cism an inequitable preponderance in the imperial assembly. 
Henceforward the majority in the Reichstag was Protestant, like 
the majority of the German nation outside Austria. In the electoral 
council there appeared in place of Cologne and Treves, the new 
electors of Salzburg, Wiirtemberg, Baden, and Hesse; in this 
body there were six Protestant votes among ten. The still remain - 
ing members among the imperial towns were all Protestant, 
including Augsburg, where religious equality prevailed. In the 
Council of Princes there remained fifty-three Protestant estates 
beside twenty-nine Catholic estates. When, in accordance with 
the imperial law, the new lords of the secularised lands claimed 
the votes of the dispossessed estates, the last great dispute 
of the Ratisbon assembly broke forth. The course of this struggle 
manifested the great modification of influences and the radical 
change in the old relationships of power in the empire. At one 
time it had been necessary for the Protestants to protect them- 
selves against the preponderant Catholic majority with the aid of 
the Corpus evangelicorum ; now, in the name of the Catholics, the 
emperor appealed to the principle of religious equality, and 
demanded for his co-religionists a sufficient number of new votes 
to establish equality in the council. But the contemporaries of 
Kant had outgrown the hatreds of the religious wars. The great 
majority of the Reichstag, and, above all, Prussia and Bavaria, 
would not admit that the essence of religious equality was to be 
found in equality of votes. It was openly said that the old 
difference between Catholic and Protestant votes had lost its 
meaning now that a rational system of tolerance prevailed in every 
German state. The Emperor Francis, on the other hand, hoped 
to re-establish the power of the Austrian party at all costs. In 
opposition to the constitution, he employed for the last time the 
ultimate right of the imperial majesty, imposing his veto, and the 
dispute remained unsettled until the formal dissolution of the 
empire. A partisan misuse of the rights of the crown for the advan- 
tage of the House of Austria and of the Catholic party such was 

217 P 

History of Germany 

the last act of imperial rule performed by the Hapsburg Lor- 
rainers : a worthy conclusion to the long series of historical sins 
of the Ferdinands and the Leopolds. 

In the Roman camp there was unending complaint. With a 
single blow the last theocracies of the Christian world, outside 
the Pontifical State, had been destroyed, and the German clergy 
lost its ecclesiastical wealth at the same time as its political power. 
It was not only the goods of the spiritual lords who were immediates 
of the empire that were subjected to secularisation, but the mediate 
endowments and cloisters were, by the decision of the Imperial 
Deputation, placed at the free disposal of the temporal lords. All 
the world believed that this was the end of Romanism in the empire ; 
no one had the least idea that secularisation would ultimately bring 
as much gain as loss to the Papal See. The noble ecclesiastical 
princes of the eighteenth century were for the most part practical 
children of this world, slack in the performance of their ecclesias- 
tical duties, and by their aristocratic class-feeling and by their 
obligations as territorial suzerains were closely associated with the 
national state. If only on account of neighbourly association, they 
were unable completely to escape the spirit of toleration which filled 
this people of ours devoted to religious equality ; they accepted the 
principles of the Peace of Westphalia, which had been condemned 
by the Pope ; and it was unwillingly that they bowed their stiff 
necks beneath the feet of the Italian priest. At all times the idea 
of a German national church found among them a few supporters, 
and in Hontheim-Febronius a talented advocate. The result of 
secularisation was to give the nobles a dislike for the service of the 
Church. So far as is known, during the Napoleonic epoch, not a 
single young nobleman of ancient lineage entered the priesthood. 
The plebeian clergy which now came into existence was remote from 
bourgeois society. It had a grudge against the new Germany on 
account of the great spoliation of the Church ; it regarded the 
Church as its only home ; and at a later date, when the Roman 
designs for world-dominion were renewed, this clergy obeyed the 
orders of the Pope with a blind zeal which was hardly less valuable 
to the Roman curia than had been the territorial and princely power 
of the opinionated prelates of the old regime. 

The Catholic nobility suffered even more severely. By the 
confiscation of seven hundred and twenty benefices it lost, not 
merely a considerable proportion of its wealth, but also its whole 
political authority. The last vestiges of an independent aristocracy 
disappeared from the empire ; the days were over in which the 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

power of the Westphalian counts could be esteemed equal to that 
of two electors. It was the curse of these old stocks that they 
lacked the consciousness of political duty. Like the Bourbon 
court nobility, they had sought the good of their order in the 
luxuries of an easy life, and they had never learned, in accordance 
with the example of the old Prussian Junkerdom, to assimilate 
themselves to modern monarchical forms, but withdrew in 
rancour from the life of the nation. It was only to the Archducal 
House of Austria that they would, in accordance with ancient 
custom, devote the services of their sons. From the circles of this 
Catholic nobility there came into existence an embittered opposi- 
tion to the new temporal Germany. Passively influential, disturb- 
ing the internal peace of the country even down to our own day, 
this opposition has yet in the end, by its fruitless obstruction, 
served merely to accentuate the democratic tendencies of our 
recent history. 

It was the mediatised imperial towns which most readily 
adapted themselves to the new order of things. Here and there, 
indeed, the obstinate pride of the honourable patricians came into 
sharp conflict with the efficient arbitrariness of the bureaucracy ; 
and many even of the younger generation, like Frederick List, for 
instance, preserved throughout life the proud self-confidence of 
the old imperial burghers. But the consciousness of hopeless 
weakness made serious resistance everywhere impossible. In the 
Reichstag hardly any disturbance was noticeable on the part 
of the Third College, which at one time had been as powerful 
as the First and Second Colleges together. The few imperial towns 
which were still inclined temporarily to offer any resistance carried 
no weight against the power of the princes ; indeed, by the deci- 
sion of the Imperial Deputation, they were excluded from political 
influence ; they could take no part in the discussions concerning 
peace and war, and in the imperial war they were to enjoy an uncon- 
ditional neutrality. The pacifist generation felt no annoyance at 
this extraordinary decision. The shippers of Hamburg found an 
old wish of their heart fulfilled, and one which honest Busch had 
often expressed. Even the inland press gave cordial approval, 
contending that such a wise favouring of commerce was in accord- 
ance with the enlightenment of the day. 

Thus it came to pass, as the outcome of the political struggles 
that had continued in the empire for many hundreds of years, that 
the princely authority emerged as sole conqueror. The hierarchical, 
municipal, and aristocratic state-structures of ancient Germany 


History of Germany 

had been destroyed except for a few vestiges. All that was not of 
princely blood became absorbed into the mass of subjects ; the 
gulf between princes and people, which had become ever greater 
in the period of absolute monarchy, was now widened even more. 
How powerful, too, appeared the influence of the estate of 
princes upon our national life. Just as in former days the refor- 
mation of the Church had found protection and salvation among 
the territorial magnates, so now the political revolution was imposed 
from above upon an inert and silent people. That which implanted 
in our soil the fundamental principles of revolutionary France was 
not the propoganda of the trans-Rhenish Republicans but the 
dynastic policy of the German courts. This policy marched forward 
with the same all-embracing recklessness that had characterised 
the parties of the French Convention, inconsiderately destroying 
all historical right in the name of public safety. 

The Princes' Revolution was a severe defeat for Austria. The old 
imperial party was destroyed, the imperial dignity became an empty 
name ; and it seemed that it might be desirable to abandon even 
this name, for the new council of electors was strongly inclined 
to choose a simple archduke when the time for a new election 
should arrive. It was true that the monarchy attained a notable 
rounding-off in the south-east in compensation for the sacrifice of 
its western provinces ; and the diplomats of the Hofburg con- 
gratulated themselves upon having at length been delivered from a 
dangerous and difficult situation. The courts of Munich and Stutt- 
gart had no longer any reason to tremble before the Austrian lust 
of conquest, as it seemed possible that friendly relations might 
again be opened. But the military dominion over the German 
south-west had been lost, and in reality Austria left the empire. 
Her policy would have to pursue an entirely new course if she was 
still to exercise any kind of influence upon Germany, for the means 
of power emplo3^ed by the old emperorship had been annihilated. 

Nor had the power of Prussia been enhanced by the decision 
of the Imperial Deputation. It was certainly an advantage that 
the Austrian party had disappeared, and that in the Reichstag there 
had become established a working balance between the north and the 
south. Hitherto, the states of the south a nd of the west, control- 
ling a majority, had exercised a decisive influence, but now the 
votes of North Germany had come into their own. None the less, the 
prestige of Prussia in the empire had greatly diminished. Her policy, 
devoid of energy, had everywhere attained to the precise opposite 
of her good intentions. Instead of an increase in the German power 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

of resistance, there had resulted rather a confirmation of French 
preponderance ; instead of a reconstruction of the imperial consti- 
tution, there had rather been produced an absolute anarchy which 
drifted towards utter dissolution. Even the new acquisitions of 
territory seemed more brilliant than they really were. Prussia 
had lost the dominions on the Lower Rhine, which were loyal, and 
were of value at once to Prussian power and to Prussian civilisa- 
tion, and had acquired in place of these, in addition to Hildesheim, 
Erfurt, and a few other small imperial towns and ecclesiastical 
foundations, the Miinsterland, which was the tower of strength of 
the dissatisfied Catholic nobility. Here, for the first time upon 
German soil, had the Prussian conqueror to encounter, not merely 
a transient particularist hostility, but a profound and enduring 
hatred, such as had been encountered in the Slav provinces. The 
cumbersome new administration aroused little respect in this 
refractory country ; three years were required before Prussia could 
make up its mind to abolish the cathedral chapter, the centre of 
all disaffection. The increase in territory did not bring with it 
any increase in national revenue, for here, as formerly in Franconia 
and in Poland, Prussia was over-considerate towards the taxable 
capacity of its new subjects. Even the army received only the 
trifling increase of about three regiments. In addition, by the new 
treaties there had not even been acquired a defensible frontier ; 
as the mocking phrsae ran in Berlin, it was merely the Prussian 
archipelago of the west that had been enriched by a few new 
islands. The king perceived very clearly that in so disturbed a 
time the Westphalian provinces could not be maintained without 
Hanover. It might soon become absolutely necessary to annex 
the Guelph lands, and yet nothing was done to prepare the state 
for this serious future possibility. The lax system of paternal 
mildness and economy persisted as if the day of eternal peace had 
already dawned. 

Meanwhile the German south effected with one vigorous blow 
what Prussia had effected by the work of two centuries. In 
North Germany, the spiritual domains had for the most part 
been united with the neighbouring temporal states during the 
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries ; the resolution of the Imperial 
Deputation gave to these states no more than a moderate enlarge- 
ment, without altering their historical character. In the south- 
west, on the other hand, the whole traditional territorial status 
was completely overthrown ; even the Palatinate, the most cele- 
brated of the High German territories, was divided up among its 


History of Germany 

neighbours. In this respect the Princes' Revolution led not merely 
to a change in territorial distribution but to a new construction of 
states. The arbitrarily assembled fragments of land which now 
received the names of Baden, Nassau, and Hesse-Darmstadt, 
possessed no community of historical recollections, and even 
in Bavaria and Wurtemberg the old hereditary territory of the 
dynasty was far from being strong enough to fulfil with its spirit 
the newly acquired areas. Thus it happened that our multiform 
national life was enriched by a new contrast which has not com- 
pletely disappeared even in our own day. The new Germany fell 
into three sharply differentiated groups. First of all, came the 
smaller North German states with their old feudal order and their 
hereditary princely houses ; secondly, the new creations of Bona- 
partism, the bureaucratic state-structures of High Germany, states 
without a history ; in between these, was Prussia, whose con- 
tinuous development had led to the overthrow of the old feudal 
order without completing the abolition of feudal forms. Suddenly, 
and with revolutionary roughness, the modern state now invaded 
the south. An arrogant, vigorous, and busy bureaucracy, which 
took Bonaparte's prefects as its example, tore down the double 
eagles from the council-halls of the imperial towns, removed the 
ancient coats of arms from the gates of the episcopal castles, threw 
on to the dustheap the constitutions of the towns and of the 
territories, and out of the chaos of multiform areas created 
strongly-centralised administrative districts. In these unarmed 
regions they created a young and not inconsiderable military power, 
which could easily threaten Prussia ; they endeavoured by all the 
means at their disposal to foster a new sentiment of Bavarian, 
Wiirtemberger, and Nassauer nationality. 

In its ultimate consequences, however, this great transforma- 
tion redounded to the advantage, not of particularism, but of 
national unity. It was a- long stride further upon the way which 
our history had taken for the past three hundred years. Through- 
out this period it had again and again happened that a pitiless 
necessity had destroyed outworn petty states, and had compacted 
these together to form larger areas ; and now, in a moment, 
more than a hundred of such petty states were swept away. It 
was inevitable that from such an experience the German people 
should sooner or later come to recognise that even the new terri- 
torial distribution was but a temporary one, that it was the destiny 
of Germany to march unceasingly forward towards the annihilation 
of particularism, towards the construction of the truly national 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

state. The Princes' Revolution destroyed for ever that charm of 
historical venerability which had made the Holy Empire seem so 
invincible. The old law had been broken ; the new conditions 
aroused respect nowhere, and they made the arbitrary unnatural- 
ness of the subdivision of German forces plain to every healthy 
mind. It seemed nonsensical that in Bamberg the Franconians 
and in Memmingen the Swabians should henceforward have to call 
themselves Bavarians, while in the valley of the Neckar the Palatiners 
were to feel themselves to be men of Baden. The profound falsity 
of this new and artificial particularism came at length, as a sense 
of political self-consciousness awakened in the nation, to arouse a 
feeling of passionate hatred in Germans of free and noble spirit, 
and to lead them towards the conception of national unity. Even 
among the unthinking masses, many detestable particularist pre- 
judices disappeared, now that people had been forcibly shaken out 
of the ancient tradition of their lives. Just as in the new chance-made 
states of Italy, Lombardy and Romagnola now found themselves 
side by side, so also in the middle states of Germany, burghers of 
the imperial cities and inhabitants of electoral and episcopal terri- 
tories were forcibly thrown together, and learnt to value as a loyal 
fellow-countryman a previously detested and despised neighbour. 
In Italy, as in Germany, the arbitrary force of foreign dominion 
had uprooted the naive belief in the eternity of the existing 
order, and had thus prepared the ground for new catastrophic 
changes which Bonaparte himself had never foreseen. 

With the revolution of 1803, there began for Germany that new 
century which in France dated from fourteen years earlier. The 
great nineteenth century was in its inception, the richest century 
of modern history. It was the destiny of this century to reap the 
harvest that had been sown in the epoch of the Reformation, to 
transform and to realise in popular life, the bold ideas and fore- 
shadowings of that thought-pregnant period. First in this new 
century were the last traces of mediaeval civilisation to disappear 
and the characteristics of modern civilisation to develop. The 
freedom of belief, of thought, of economic work, which in the days 
of Luther existed merely in name, was to become a secure possession 
of western Europe. The work of Columbus was to be completed, 
and the trans-Atlantic world was to be united with the old civilised 
peoples for a vigorous community of world-historical labour. Even 
the dream of the Huttens and the Machiavellis, the unity of the 
two great nations of central Europe, was to find incorporation in 
flesh and blood. Germany was entering this epoch of fulfilment 


History of Germany 

when the theocratic state-structure of its middle age fell to pieces, 
and when the political testament of the sixteenth century was thus 
at length fulfilled. 

Yet how many were the battles and the storms before all 
the transformations of the new age could be completed ! At 
first the German realm exhibited an aspect of hopeless confusion. 
No seer could imagine that a glorious young life was ultimately 
to arise out of these ruins. One thing alone was unmistakable 
that a profound transformation was at hand. The Revolution 
had done but half its work, for Bonaparte intended from the first 
to keep German affairs in a flux. Since the fortunate issue of the 
campaign of plunder, the ancient land-hunger of the German 
estate of princes exceeded all bounds ; this rage seized the protege's 
of Bonapartism like an epidemic of madness, and during the next 
decade dominated the entire policy of the new middle states. In 
this restless monarchical world, the imperial knights, counts, and 
barons could no longer maintain themselves ; by the fall of their 
colleagues on the left bank of the Rhine, and by the abolition of 
the cathedral chapters, they had had the ground cut from under 
their feet, and they themselves had been spared only because 
French policy was not yet in a position to carry all its designs into 
effect. The resolution of the Imperial Deputation had hardly 
been subscribed, when several of the princes began to " mediatise " 
the domains of the neighbouring imperial knights (for to " media- 
tise " was the fashionable phrase). The emperor attempted at 
Ratisbon to espouse the cause of his persecuted followers, but 
Prussia once more took the side of the princes, and one imperial 
knight after another was swallowed up by greedy neighbours. 

The conduct of the new Reichstag was in no respect distin- 
guished from that of the old. Jean Paul wittily compared this 
body to a great polyp, whose shapeless form undergoes no altera- 
tion however much it may have swallowed. With the ancient and 
customary fruitless disputes, there was also transmitted into the 
new time the old established imperial-patriotic phraseology. The 
envoy of the Archducal Chancellor Dalberg, welcomed the repre- 
sentatives of the new electors with the pompous words : ' The 
ancient and honourable imperial structure, which seemed so near 
to its complete overthrow, is to-day supported by four new main 
pillars." But in reality no one shared this confidence. Dull, 
vain, and heavy was the course of the proceedings. Not one of the 
envoys ventured even to propose the question whether the old con- 
stitution could still be maintained in an empire whose essential 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

basis had thus been altered. Everyone felt that in reality all 
was at an end : looking on with folded arms they all recognised 
that the hour was approaching when this misery of Ratisbon would 
come to an end for ever. 

Among the people all remained tranquil. Not a hand was 
raised to resist the new authorities ; even the complaints regarding 
the loss of the much-prized ancient liberty, sounded dull and 
timid. The imperial-patriotic jurist, Gaspari, found even in his 
distress a good-natured word of gratitude for the Imperial Deputa- 
tion, because by its pensions this body " had at least brought 
consolation to the unfortunate " ; and even the conservative 
Barthold Niebuhr was unwilling to lament over the dead or to 
contest the necessity of this breach of law. The few among the 
cultured cosmopolitans of North Germany who still at times looked 
down out of the heaven of ideas into the low world of political 
life, greeted the triumph of the princely order as a victory of modern 
civilisation ; they hoped, as Harl of Erlangen expressed it in his 
work upon the latest state-changes in Germany, that the " beautiful 
dawn of enlightenment would at length expel obscurity from the 
spiritual lands." A sounder view than that of most of his con- 
temporaries was taken by young Hegel concerning the situation 
of the empire. He saw in this chaos " the juxtaposition of two 
contradictions, that a state is at the same time to be and not to 
be," and he found the ultimate cause of the trouble in the vaunted 
German freedom. But his insight appears merely as the uncannily 
clear vision of one who is hopelessly diseased ; no breath of passion 
inspires his wise words ; for this reason, after scientifically dis- 
cussing the problem, he allowed his essay to remain unpublished. 
To the arrogance of the Berliners, which seemed to increase with the 
increasing weakness of their state, it appeared that the Princes' 
Revolution had not done enough for Prussia. In the carping 
circles of the capital, where such men as Held and Buchholz were 
the loudest talkers, the king was blamed because he had not grabbed 
enough in the general scramble. " Why," it was asked, " did not 
Prussia swallow all the North German territory, without paying 
so many compliments, and without troubling itself about copy- 
book morality and so-called legality ? " The great majority of the 
nation was equally unconcerned with such frivolous boastings, as 
with the quiet distresses of the dethroned, for the nation continued 
to maintain its unshaken indifference. 

One man alone, with moral earnestness and statesmanlike 
insight, ventured to speak openly of the disgrace of the fatherland. 


History of Germany 

When the Prince of Nassau endeavoured to deprive the ancient 
imperial knightly house of Stein of its territorial suzerainty, the 
Baron Karl von Stein sent an open letter to the petty despot, 
referring him in pithy phrases to the judgment of his own conscience 
and to the punishments that would be inflicted by an offended 
Deity, and concluded : "If the great and beneficial aims of 
independence and self-sufficiency of Germany are to be attained, the 
petty states must be united with the two great monarchies upon 
whose existence depends the endurance of the German name, and 
may Providence allow me to live to see this fortunate event." It 
was through this letter that the name of the president of the West- 
phalian Chamber first became known outside the bounds of Prussia. 
His proud spirit was admired, but the nation was not yet com- 
petent to understand the ideas of the most valiant of its sons. 

Yet this land of ours was not a Poland, and there still lived 
in our people, which received so equably the blows of the stranger, 
the joyful consciousness of a great destiny. The same decade 
which witnessed the burial of the ancient German state brought to 
the new poetry its purest successes. How remote now seemed 
those days when Klopstock had, with a beating heart, seen the 
German Muse start on her uncertain course. Schiller was singing 
with quiet pride : " We may freely display the laurels that have 
bloomed on the German Pindus ! " The Germans had long been 
aware that they had enriched with new and independent ideals 
the treasures of European culture that had been handed down to 
them, and that they occupied a place in the great community of 
civilised nations which no one else in the world could fill. It was 
with enthusiasm that the youth of our nation spoke of German 
profundity, of German idealism, of German universality. To look 
freely forth over all the dividing limits of finite existence, to 
regard nothing human as foreign, to traverse the realm of ideas 
in living community with the best of all nations and all times 
this was regarded as German, this was esteemed the special privilege 
of German culture. The national pride of this idealist generation 
was gratified with the idea that no other people was able to follow 
to the uttermost the bold flight of German genius, to attain to the 
freedom of our cosmopolitan sense. 

In fact our classical literature bore the definite stamp of national 
peculiarity. Madame de Stael herself admitted that those only 
who, like herself, were half German by blood, could adequately 
grasp of the wonderful peculiarity of German thought. All the 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

activity, all the passion of our youth became involved in these 
literary struggles which had now for three generations enticed 
German men into their charmed circle. An incomparable mass of 
new ideas was springing up. As the talented Frenchwoman put 
it, " an ingenuous foreigner might easily regard as a genius any 
skilled German talker, who is merely echoing the ideas of others." 
The insatiable impulse towards the communication of ideas, which 
is characteristic of all spiritually productive epochs, now found vent 
in an extraordinarily rich interchange of letters. Just as in former 
days Hutten had joyfully communicated to his humanist friends 
every new revelation which came to his mind, so now the invisible 
Church of the German thinkers joined in happy mutual devotion. 
In the law court, behind a pile of legal documents, the father of 
Theodor Korner eagerly read the works of his friends at Weimar ; 
and how often did Prince Louis Ferdinand, when in Westphalia 
with his regiment, ride over early in the morning to Lemgo, after a 
night spent in feasting, in order to talk with the Rector Reinert 
about Sophocles and Homer. Every poem was an event, was dis- 
cussed, dissected, admired, in detailed letters and criticisms. All 
the unavoidable defects of literary epochs, tittle-tattle and party 
spirit, sentimentality, paradox, and even self-deception, had free 
play. Yet out of the very weakness of the time there spoke the 
vital force and the joy of life of a talented and high-thinking 
generation, to whom the world of ideas was the only reality. Un- 
ashamedly William Humboldt praised the divine anarchy of Papal 
Rome because it left thinkers undisturbed to experience and to 
contemplate. What did he care for the Romans of flesh and 
blood, as compared with those spiritual voices which spoke to him 
from the marble statues of the Vatican ? In the same sense, Schiller 
complains of the emptiness of his revolutionary age which stimulates 
the spirit without giving to it any object upon which to work, 
without, that is to say, any aesthetic image to contemplate. 

One who does full justice to the profound earnestness of this 
idealism, and to the abundance of intellectual energy which is 
required to carry it through, will no longer find puzzling the political 
incapacity of the epoch we are considering. The parsimony of 
nature imposes upon the creative activity of nations, just as of 
individuals, strict limits, and to every great human activity attaches 
the evil of one-sidedness. It was impossible that a generation 
characterised by such energy of intellectual creation should at the 
same time possess the astute sense of worldly values, the resolute 
unanimity, and the hard national hatred, which alone would have 


History of Germany 

saved the country from the unparalleled dangers of the political 
situation. Just as Luther, full of his ideas of God, had no glance 
to spare for works of art in the Rome of Leo X, so the heroes of the 
new German culture deliberately turned their gaze away from the 
desolation they saw spreading over the German south-west, and 
joined with Goethe in thanking destiny that they themselves were 
safe in the impassive northern region which it was not so easy to 

In the friendship between Schiller and Goethe, the human 
amiability and the creative power of the new culture found their 
most finished expression. From ancient days it had been a glory 
of the Germans to claim that no other people had so often exhibited 
the finest blossoms of friendship between men, the ungrudging and 
faithful co-operation of great men for great ends ; and among the 
numerous fine friendships of German history, this was the finest 
of all. During ten fruitful years, these two friends never ceased 
to provide new gifts for their nation, fulfilling Goethe's own saying 
that genius is that human power which furnishes laws and rules 
by its own spontaneous activity. And yet it was only a part of 
their natures that they devoted to this abundant poietic activity, 
for they were well aware that no one wins permanent fame who is 
not himself greater than his works. 

In the hearts of the youth of the time there was preserved, 
beyond the possibility of oblivion, this unique picture of artistic 
and human greatness : how these two, so long separated by destiny, 
by the course of their education, and by the nature of their respec- 
tive gifts, at length found one another, and thenceforward, during 
the prime of their lives, stood firmly side by side in true German 
fealty, working so harmoniously together that neither knew which 
of them had written many of the individual epigrams in the Xenien, 
and yet each of them fully conscious of his own worth, giving and 
receiving in perfect freedom, and without the least inclination to 
interfere with his friend's individuality. On the one side, the 
favourite of fortune, brought up in luxury, liberally endowed 
with rank and wealth, beauty and health ; on the other side, the 
man sorely tried, who had for years contended with sickness and 
privation, and who had yet remained so proud and free in spirit 
that not a single line of his writings displays the common needs of 
his everyday life. The one was unrestrainedly himself, living 
for the moment only and indifferent to the future. He allowed 
the golden fruits of his poetry to ripen at their leisure until 
at the approved hour he could easily pluck them from the 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

branch. To him, the German tongue revealed her most cherished 
secrets, following like a diligent pupil every hint of the master. 
From the depths of an ever fresh and clear imagination, from 
the wide extent of an immeasurable knowledge, there flowed spon- 
taneously into his mind an unsought stream of images and ideas. 
In the mind of the other there glowed a nobler ambition. He 
wished to conquer here and now ; he wished to transfigure in great 
and beautiful lineaments the luminous thoughts which moved his 
heart, to force the dull world to believe in them and to shake off 
" all the rubbish of reality." He made full use of every hour, as 
if he had a premonition of the near approach of death, he knew how 
to compensate by untiring industry the deficiencies of his less many- 
sided culture ; and he knew how, like a careful steward, to make 
a secure and effective use of every word in his less wealthy verbal 
treasury. He availed himself to the utmost of the force of his ardent 
will, until he had attained to a finished and forcible conclusion ; 
whereas Goethe, in his easy way, was so often content to leave his 
work rough-hewn. 

Goethe's genius was predominantly lyrical, and to him all 
poetic activity had the fervour of a religious creed ; and yet in the 
midst of the excitement of subjective sensibility, he never failed 
to retain that " kindly restraint in love with the real " which he 
so greatly esteemed as the true productive state of the born poet. 
When he came to an end of his inner experiences he always pro- 
duced in his readers the lofty illusion that he had himself 
completely disappeared behind imaginary figures which had been 
nourished upon the blood of his own heart. The dramatic genius 
of Schiller trod more firmly in the objective world. Seeking and 
choosing, he often reached out for materials which originally had 
nothing in common with his own inner life ; but when he had 
warmed these foreign figures with his formative hands, he breathed 
upon them with the breath of his heroic nature, and furnished them 
so directly and so powerfully with the lofty pathos of his ardent 
sensibility, that his hearers always came to imagine that it was 
Schiller's own voice they were hearing, and regarded him as a 
subjective poet. In addition to the secure foothold of genius walk- 
ing amid visions, both these poets were endowed with that clarity 
of consciousness which was characteristic of the whole epoch, and 
they loved to give to themselves and to others an account of the laws 
of then- art. Neither of them considered that hi aesthetic culture 
alone was to be found the true task of their epoch. One worked 
as statesman, natural philosopher, and psychologist, the other as 


History of Germany 

historian and philosopher, to render a many-sided culture more 
profound and more luminous. Both felt at one with their nation. 
They did not fail to recognise that their works would prove fruitful 
on foreign soil, but they knew that it was to German life that they 
owed all that was most characteristic in their activities and that they 
could find an intimate and spontaneous understanding only where 
German hearts were beating : "In the Fatherland write what 
pleases thee ! There are the bonds of thy affection, there is thy 
world ! " 

It is, however, to the honour of German uprightness that 
even in this age of aesthetic contemplation, Schiller stood higher 
in the favour of the people than did his great friend. The average 
man does not rise beyond the material stimulus of poetry, and for 
this reason he cannot accept the one-sided moral estimate charac- 
teristic of art. It was only richly endowed spirits that could really 
understand the profound stream of the later poetry of Goethe. 
Only to the experts in life was the inner significance of his figures 
apparent ; only natures with insight were able amid his protean 
transformations to recognise the figure of the genius who always 
remained true to himself. Over the most highly cultured members 
of the nation the life and works of Goethe gradually came to exer- 
cise a quiet but irresistible power, which became ever greater as 
the years passed. We owe it to Goethe that William Humboldt 
was able to say that nowhere else was the true essence of 
poetry so profoundly understood as in Germany. From The 
Table Talk of Luther, the Germans had once learnt what it means 
to live wholly in God ; how to sense the omnipotence and the love 
of the Creator in every simple event of the twenty-four hours. 
Now the new humanism incorporated itself in a powerful and 
original human existence. From the life of Goethe, the happy 
circle of those with insight learned how, to the spirit of the 
artist, every experience becomes an image, how the freest culture 
returns to Nature, how distinguished pride harmonises with cordial 
simplicity and democratic love for mankind. As is the dramatist's 
right. Schiller's influence was more in the direction of width ; to 
him belonged the hearts of the enthusiastic youth of his time ; 
his moral earnestness touched the conscience ; his joyful belief in 
the nobility of mankind was as easily comprehensible to all as was 
the sparkling beauty of his ever-perspicuous speech. It is he 
whom we have to thank for the fact that the delight in the new 
culture became diffused through the widest circles, in so far as it 
was possible for this literature to become popular ; by the powerful 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

rhetoric of his Jungfrau von Orleans even the courts of Berlin and 
Dresden were shaken out of their essential prosiness. Goethe, 
as a youth, had been inspired with enthusiasm for the Strasburg 
cathedral, and had been the first among his contemporaries to gain 
an insight into the life of mediaeval Germany ; it was a delight 
to him to incorporate the archaic into the wealth of his speech and 
to reanimate it with life. Schiller, on the other hand, was a modern 
of the moderns, modern in sensibility and in speech, devoid of all 
sentiment for German antiquity, and for this reason all the more 
popular ; for the nation which had forgotten its own past demanded 
novelty and plainness. 

In Italy, Goethe enjoyed a second youth, living himself into 
the classical world, so that he became at home in antiquity as had 
no one since Winckelmann. Having assimilated the new views 
which flowed into his mind in Italy, he now astonished the nation 
by a series of poems which, in contrast with the obviousness and 
vital warmth of his youthful writings, displayed to the Germans 
a loftiness of style and a pregnant worth which had hitherto been 
unknown. But he had to learn that the mass of his readers could 
not follow his new style, and that they were unable to understand 
either the tender sensuous beauty of his iphigenia, or the restrained 
but profound passion of his Tasso. The Germans lost sight of the 
poet now that he had buried himself " in his badger's earth," 
and year after year through research and contemplation became 
the confidant of nature. He ventured upon the titanic under- 
taking, proceeding step by step from the simplest to the highest 
organisation, to gain an understanding of Nature as a whole, and 
in that understanding to live at one with nature. And this 
scientific cognition was at the same time artistic contemplation ; 
he gave himself up to nature with all the energies of his soul, so 
intimately and so lovingly that he could with justice speak of his 
geological studies as his " friendship with the earth." Research 
did not lead him astray, but strengthened in him the naive contem- 
plative attitude of the poet who always seeks the centre of gravity 
of the world in the heart of humanity. To his seeing gaze, the all 
became alive ; and inasmuch as he recognised how the eternal 
is active throughout all nature, he cleaved all the more joyfully 
to the belief in the independent conscience, the sun of our moral 
system. Since he had come to sense the God which is the intimate 
motive energy of the world, the serene joy of his poet's spirit seemed 
explicable through the consecration of a pious and holy conception : 
" The joy of life streams out of all things, from the smallest as from 


History of Germany 

the greatest star ; all advance and all struggle is eternal peace in 
God our Lord ! " 

Schiller, meanwhile, as he himself tells us, had in his poetic 
activity become a completely new man, and by earnest philo- 
sophical research had acquired the knowledge that through art 
alone will our race attain to harmonious perfection, that in art alone 
is man at once active and free, operating effectively upon externals 
and at the same time altogether himself. Thus was the most 
intimate secret of the age given bold enunciation. A thousand 
delighted voices answered his rousing appeal, " from the narrow 
and dull life of every day, flee to the refuge of the ideal," and 
welcomed the happy message that the artist is the complete man, 
that everything beautiful is good, and that that alone is good 
which is beautiful. At the same time the poet passed a severe and 
even a harsh judgment upon the shapelessness of his own youthful 
writings, and attained to a mastery of the classical purity of form. 
It was by Schiller that the work of Winckelmann was first com- 
pleted ; only after Schiller had brilliantly glorified the Gods of 
Greece, did the longing for the sublime simplicity of the antique, 
the cult of the classical ideal, become a common possession of 
cultured Germans. With wonderful speed did Schiller make him- 
self at home in this world from which his youth had been so remote. 
With the certainty of genius he discovered the motive energy of 
ancient history, the last and highest thought of Hellenism : 
" Even though the body be fallen into dust, the great name lives 
on ! " 

The two great poets having thus formed an alliance, the next 
thing was to permeate the world with this new idealism, to make a 
clean sweep of the spurious wisdom of prosy everyday morality, 
of dull utilitarianism and fantastical obscurity, to drive them out 
of the temple of the German Muses, to provide an open road for 
all that was truly significant and creative, to convince mediocrity 
that art offers no place for it. The Xenien-dispute subserved this 
purpose. It was a party struggle in the grand style which, in spite 
of all its roughness and animosity, was yet necessary to the develop- 
ment of our national life ; the Germans were well aware that in 
this there was being fought a question vital to their civilisation. 
Inspired by his active-minded friend to fresh creative work, Goethe 
continued to show himself in ever new manifestations. Intoxi- 
cated with beauty, with the pagan frankness of a rose-crowned poet 
of antiquity, he sang in Roman elegies the joys of the love- warmed 
camp, and only on occasions when he was furnishing a majestic 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

view of eternal Rome did he allow the reader to perceive that the 
intellectual wealth of a spirit overlooking all the centuries was 
hidden behind the cordial sensuality of these delightful verses. 
Soon afterwards he stood once more in the midst of the German 
present, describing with Homeric simplicity the healthy energy 
of our middle classes, the straightforward greatness which dwells 
amid the small things of the contented home; and exhorted our 
people to remain true to themselves, in a time of stress to hold fast 
to their own. The ardent and faithful love for the fatherland 
which spoke from Hermann und Dorothea made but slight impres- 
sion upon Goethe's contemporaries in their pride of culture. But 
with delight did they recognise their own personalities in the figures 
of Wilhelm Meister in these men without fatherland, without 
family, without calling, free from all the bonds of the historical 
present, and knowing only life itself, knowing only the passionate 
impulse for human culture. In this Odyssey of culture Goethe held 
up the mirror to his age, delineating with wonderful clearness all the 
characteristics of that literary epoch, alike its weakness and its 
fullness of life ; and he fulfilled the highest task of the romantic 
poet, succeeding where none had succeeded before in showing how 
life itself educates striving and erring men. 

Schiller, meanwhile, less many-sided, ceaselessly making 
the most of his natural gifts, acquired the mastery of the German 
stage. To him was essential that vigorous dramatic stimulus 
which Goethe was glad to keep at a distance. Brilliant pictures 
of battle and victory passed through his dreams. The sound of 
the trumpets, the rustle of the banners, and the clash of the swords, 
followed him even to his death-bed. The passions of public life, 
the struggles for the great purposes of mankind, for dominion and 
for liberty, those mighty changes of destiny which decide the issues 
of national suffering and national greatness, furnished the natural 
soil for his dramatic genius. His smaller poems, too, deal, by 
preference, with the beginnings of national life, displaying in mani- 
fold applications how the sacred compulsion of the law binds 
unpeaceful men together in the bonds of humanity. Never has 
the intertwining of the simple life of mankind with the great con- 
trolling powers of the state and of society been more beautifully 
described than in the Lay of the Bell. 

However prof oundly he might despise this "prosaic" age, 
however proudly he might reject any attempt at writing poetry 
with a purpose, nevertheless, this mind wholly directed towards 
the historic world was yet fulfilled with an intense political passion, 

233 Q 

History of Germany 

which was fully understood only by those of a later generation. 
It was not by mere chance that he so long cherished the idea of cele- 
brating in an epic the deeds of Frederick the Great. When the 
Germans took up arms for the liberation of then: own land, the 
glowing picture of the popular uprising in Schiller's Maid of 
Orleans first became truly comprehensible. When under the 
pressure of foreign dominion they once again came to realise them- 
selves, they were first able to do full justice to the greatness of the 
poet who in his two most powerful dramas had brought the history 
of the fatherland so near to their understanding. In his poetry 
the most deplorable period of our past regained so fresh and 
joyful a life that even to-day the German finds himself almost more 
at home in the camp of Wallenstein than among the soldiers of 
Frederick. From the battles of the sturdy German peasants of 
the Alps he composed a luminous picture of a great war of libera- 
tion, incorporating in this poem everything that alone such a high 
spirit as his could say concerning the eternal rights of humanity, 
concerning the fortitude and unanimity of free peoples. In 
political life, Wilhelm Tell was soon to become more significant than 
had formerly been Klopstock's Ballads of the Bards. It was upon 
this poem in especial that the rising generation nourished its inspira- 
tion for liberty and fatherland. To the young enthusiasts, the 
dramatically voiced exhortation, " Unite, unite, unite ! " seemed 
a sacred legacy from the poet to his own people. 

It is true that it was not possible for Schiller to give to the 
Germans that national theatre for which ever since Lessing all our 
dramatists had longed. This could be created by no single man. 
Schiller endeavoured to attain to a national style, which should 
consciously and independently unite in itself the genuine greatness 
of the older drama ; the richness in figures, the activity of move- 
ment, and the profound characterisation, of Shakespeare ; the 
lyrical tendency of classical, and the strict composition of French 
tragedy ; and which should thus express the character of our new 
culture. But there was lacking to the poet a vigorous intercourse 
with the people. It is only the loud acclamations of the audience 
in a great town that can show the dramatist when he has found that 
which is common to all, that which is truly popular. The handful 
of dull petty bourgeois in the parterre of the theatre at Weimar 
were not the people ; and the distinguished wits in the court boxes 
gave the same applause, and even a more lively applause, to the 
experiments of talented caprice as to what was simply great. What 
was above all lacking in the Germans, as Goethe complains, was 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

" a national culture, which should constrain the poet to adapt to 
that culture the peculiarities of his genius." Giving bounteously, 
but receiving very little, stood the dioscuri of Weimar over 
against their people, which by them was first raised to a loftier 
culture. It is for this reason that both of them, after many 
attempts with trilogies and single dramas, with iambics and 
couplets, with choruses and melodramatic interludes, did not after 
all succeed in creating an artistic form for our drama, a form which 
could be generally recognised as national. Just as the ceremonious 
and exaggeratedly pathetic declamation of the Weimar actors was 
not copied by the rest of Germany, so the dramatists themselves 
worked arbitrarily and capriciously, each beginning anew, each 
endeavouring by new arts and new artifices to outshine all the 
others. Our stage offered a picture of anarchy, which yet displayed 
all the charms of unrestrained freedom. No one was more pain- 
fully aware than Goethe himself of the petty dispersal of German 
life, and of the disastrous influence of this dispersal upon art. Of 
his own Wilhelm Meister he said that he had been forced to choose, 
" a most wretched kind of matter, comedians, country gentry and 
such stuff," because German society had nothing better to offer 
to the poet ; and in his Tasso, with a bitterness which must have 
been the outcome of personal experience, he described the oppres- 
sive narrowness of life at petty courts oppressive and narrow 
despite all the refinement of its culture. 

It was not only the natural tendency of the German spirit 
(which finds more satisfaction in the depiction of character than 
in the discovery of tense situations), that was responsible for the 
rare appearance, in this blossoming time of German poetry, of that 
humour which was brilliant enough in our merry sixteenth century. 
Another, and indeed the chief, reason of this failure was the atrophy 
of our public life. Comedy could not follow the bold advance of 
tragedy. Comedy is rooted always in the present, and flourishes 
only amongst people who possess an ingenuous belief in themselves, 
who feel perfectly at home in their own skins ; it needs firmly 
established national customs and ideas of decorous behaviour, 
unless it is to occupy itself with arbitrarily chosen and commonplace 
social struggles and interests, unless it is to become insipid. In 
the slowly reviving German nation there were as yet but weak 
beginnings of all this. The most popular comic dramatist of the 
time, Kotzebue, whose talent in this direction was unquestionable, 
repelled nobler natures not only by the inborn commonness of a 
thoroughly superficial spirit, but even more by the pettiness of 


History of Germany 

the circumstances he described, and by the insecurity of his moral 
sentiment which oscillated between lamentable weakness and 
smirking looseness. Even Jean Paul, der Einzige, who was then, 
with high artistic aims, devoting himself to the service of the 
comic Muse, was defeated by the desultory unreadiness of German 
social life. His figures moved, now in the heavy and suffocating 
atmosphere of the confined and poor-spirited life of the little 
town, and now in the tenuous ether of an ideal freedom, 
where man can no longer breathe. The enthusiasm of his warm- 
hearted love of humanity fails, nevertheless, to furnish him with 
any firm moral grasp ; he capriciously plays with the eternal laws 
of the moral world, in order subsequently to luxuriate in glorified 
sentimentality, and to leave his lovers " to dwell in the brief and 
blessed elysium of the first kiss." His readers had no definite sense 
of style, and consequently he could permit to his humour all possible 
manifestations of caprice ; unashamedly he gives free rein to the 
lack of form then natural to the German spirit, twisting language out 
of its proper channels, and overloading it with inflated artificialities. 

The moral dangers of the aesthetic view of the world-order 
did not escape the keen sight of Goethe. He warned the youth of 
his time that they should " know how to accompany the Muses, 
but should not take the Muses for their leaders " ! Yet it was a 
rich generation which so unrestrainedly followed its own impulses. 
All the sluices of the German genius seemed to have been raised ; 
our music attained its most classical development ; in philology, 
F. A. Wolf, and in the fine arts, Asmus Karstens, were adventur- 
ously breaking new ground. Even social charm, which is apt to 
be lacking to German straightforwardness, was brilliantly developed 
in the circles of the elect ; seldom have woman's love and woman's 
naughtiness been described in a more delightful and seductive 
manner than in the letters of Caroline Schelling. Nor can we fail 
to rejoice in the contemplation of the noble prince who allowed 
all these great men to work as they pleased, who understood them, 
and who at the same time was himself so firm-hearted and so 
stately. Unrestrainedly Charles Augustus shared in this young 
and vigorous life, until at length he was taught, not by foreign 
counsel but by personal experience, " gradually to impose limits 
upon his free soul." 

Men of the old French nobility, such as Talleyrand, Segur 
and Ligne, were accustomed to maintain that no one could really 
know what life was who had not had experience of the last days 
of the old regime ; but with much better reason could the poets 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

and thinkers of Germany say the like of their golden age. A 
wonderful compactness of spiritual existence enabled each one to 
effect the harmonious development of his gifts in every direction ; 
and it merely corresponded to the actual circumstances of the 
day if this fine sociability was more highly esteemed than the 
dull life of the state, if again and again in the letters of Schiller 
and of Goethe we find expression given to the ancient desire that 
above all the state must not encroach upon " the freedom of the 
individual." The attitude of this artistic world to the state was 
brilliantly displayed by William Humboldt in his treatise upon the 
limits to the effective power of the state. He contends that the 
highest aim of life, the education of human beings to individuality 
of energy and culture, can be attained only when the individual 
moves freely amid manifold situations. For this reason the 
state, which is an institute of compulsion, must confine itself to 
securing life and property, but must leave the kingly human being 
to act freely in all other respects. The state stands on a higher 
level in proportion as the individuality of the persons who combine 
to make it a state is higher, richer, and more independent. In this 
way was the Kantian doctrine of the constitutional state in the 
aesthetic sense carried a stage further ; the barren doctrine of 
individualism based on natural right gained ground when it became 
associated with the cult of the free personality. The admirers of 
classical antiquity were preaching the flight from the state, the 
precise opposite of Hellenic virtue. 

All too soon was to come a terrible awakening from these 
joyful dreams ; all too soon was the pride of culture to learn that 
for noble peoples there is something even more terrible than 
vulgarity disgrace. Nevertheless, the heroes of German poetry 
are by no means exposed to the reproach of being accomplices 
in the disgrace of their fatherland. The destruction of the old 
German state had been determined ; the participation of our poets 
in the political events of the time could not have sufficed to avert 
this destiny, and could only have diverted them from the contem- 
plation of the eternal. They cherished the most peculiar gift of 
our nation, the sacred fire of idealism. It is to them in especial 
that we owe it that there still continued to exist a Germany when 
the German Empire had disappeared ; that even in the midst of 
need and servitude the Germans could still continue to believe in 
themselves, in the imperishability of the German essence. Out 
of the culture of the free personality issued our political freedom 
and the independence of the German state. 


History of Germany 

In the poem which more proudly and more firmly than any 
other voiced the contempt of the idealists for vulgar reality, in 
Schiller's Reich der Schatten, we find the words : 

"Incorporate the Godhead into your own wills, 
Then will it descend from its lofty throne ! " 

The poet left them unaltered, although Humboldt aptly remarked 
that they failed to render satisfactorily the fundamental aesthetic 
ideas of the poem. But Schiller knew what he was about. For 
the culture which he and his friends were announcing was not 
contemplative enjoyment but joyful activity. Surrender of the 
whole personality to the service of the ideal did not weaken the 
energy of the will, but strengthened it, fulfilling its disciples with 
that steadfastness of soul which regards " everything which we 
term destiny as simply a matter of indifference," as Gentz said of 
Humboldt himself. This active humanism was neither soft, nor 
yet hostile to the state ; but it had not yet grasped the nature 
of the state, and needed the schooling of experience to develop 
all the virtues of the citizen and of the hero. When Humboldt, 
who was now preaching that people should turn their backs upon 
the state, subsequently served his own state with the greatest 
fidelity, he was not contradicting himself, but was simply marching 
a few steps further along the same road : he had learned that the 
nobility of free human culture cannot exist in an oppressed and 
dishonoured people. 

Meanwhile there began in literature a new tendency which 
was to lead the Germans to a profounder understanding of the 
state and of the fatherland. The first manifestations of the young 
Romantic School seemed at the outset to bear witness to a moral 
and artistic decline. Whereas the last two literary generations 
had been extraordinarily rich in noble and lovable figures, now 
the number of the empty-headed, the lascivious, and the over- 
cultured, underwent an enormous increase. The Storm and Stress 
Movement upon which the rising generation of poets plumed itself, 
was no longer naive youthful passion, but already displayed the 
characters of decadence. Simple delight in the beautiful was 
replaced by a morbid ambition which wished at all costs to furnish 
forth novelties, and Goethe says aptly of his successors, " they 
seem to be like knights who, endeavouring to outshine their prede- 
cessors, look for a guerdon outside the lists." 

The poetic faculty of the romanticists fell far below their 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

intentions. Even to contemporaries it was obvious that their 
imaginations worked vigorously in the void. Their leaders, despite 
stormy claims to genius, were rather finely-cultured connoisseurs 
than creative artists ; their art was rather a deliberate experimen- 
tation than an instinctive creation. Goethe's " living absorption 
into reality " was to be replaced by irony (the deadly enemy of all 
naivety) as the true poetic mood. The fine saying that " all noble 
natures pay with what they themselves are," served to their arro- 
gant sterility as an excuse for idleness. Arbitrary caprice confused 
the boundaries of all artistic form, corrupted the chaste simplicity 
of tragedy with operatic songs, introduced the onlookers as partici- 
pators in dramatic action, brought upon the stage the incomprehen- 
sible experiences of remote nations and times whereas the stage 
should always remain contemporary in the best sense of the 
word, and should represent nothing but what the audience can 
sympathetically understand. As Schiller puts it, language had now 
been so highly cultivated by great masters that it saved the writer 
the trouble of philosophising and thinking for himself ; the younger 
generation stretched its signification beyond the limits of the 
possible, speaking of " sounding colours " and " aromatic tones." 
The boundaries between poetry and prose were destroyed, poetry 
taking the form of discussions about art, whilst criticism concerned 
itself with fantastic pictures. Art was science, science was art ; 
all the manifestations of the spiritual life of mankind, belief and 
knowledge, prophecy and poetry, music and the fine arts, emerged 
from the single ocean of poesy to return to it once again. 

The result was that the romanticists, while they continually 
spoke of popular poetry, attained to a fantastic and artificialised 
view of the world-order which was comprehensible to none but a 
few initiates, and to these comprehensible only in scant measure. 
Frederick Schlegel's Lucinde furnishes a tragical testimony at 
once to the lack of discipline and to the incapacity of this school. 
Here we have an artificially heated imagination luxuriating in 
" dithyrambs over the most beautiful situation," without ever 
becoming sensuously warm and comprehensible, but resembling 
the loquacious ramblings of a drunken pedant. Even philosophy 
became infected by the presumptuousness and the obscurity of 
romanticism. Hitherto it had escaped the cosmopolitan influences 
which had invaded all the other branches of literature, but had 
created for itself an independent world of ideas which had remained 
as incomprehensible to the foreigner as was the terminology of 
the German philosophers. The genius of our speech, whose 


History of Germany 

tendency was in the direction of brilliant and verbose in- 
denniteness, lent itself only too readily to the mystical bent 
of the German nature ; and to these inclinations, romantic 
enthusiasm was to prove altogether disastrous. When young 
Schelling, inspired by the ideas of Goethe, determined to follow 
nature as it is displayed in all that lives, it is true that with 
astonishing boldness he opened to philosophic thought a completely 
new domain ; but he utterly lacked that profound modesty which 
Kant had never failed to display in his boldest speculations. The 
inspiration of the " intellectual outlook," which in the domain of 
the experimental sciences will no more than furnish brilliant 
hypotheses, which always need verification by empirical proof, was 
to serve him in place of observation and comparison. He imagined 
that by arbitrary interpretations, drawn from the realms of his own 
fancy, he could force from nature those secrets which nature will 
reveal to none but those who search for them with a loving and 
self-renouncing diligence. For the sober investigators there were 
contemptuously reserved the spiritless handicrafts. Good society 
displayed an enthusiasm for natural philosophy, or learned with 
satisfaction from Gall's doctrine of the skull how easy it is for the 
man of genius to solve the most obscure problems of psychology 
and natural science. All the deplorable effects of over-education 
began to manifest themselves. Intellectual pride capriciously 
questioned the world-saving laws of the moral life, looking down 
with contemptuous laughter upon Schiller, the moral pedant. 
Weaker natures became the prey of an over-intellectual faint- 
heartedness, learning to contemplate everything from all sides, 
whilst losing sight of the contrasted view-points which the intellec- 
tual wealth of the times offered to all, and losing the energy for 
independent thought and will. Everyone who had given a 
theoretical explanation of a historical phenomenon, and had 
learned to explain its origin, imagined that he had also thereby 
provided a justification for its existence. 

None the less, the romantic poetry bore most valuable fruit 
in our life, not so much through the works of art which it produced, 
as in consequence of the stimulus it imparted to science through 
the new and wider outlook it provided for the general feeling and 
thought of the nation. It refined the sentiment of nature, and 
rendered that sentiment more profound ; it awakened an under- 
standing for the soul of the countryside, for the magical charm of 
the lonely forests, of the rocky wildernesses, of the moss-grown 
springs. The eighteenth century, like the ancients, had felt itself 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

at home in the richly cultivated and fertile plain, but the new time 
sought for the romantic stimulus of nature : our youths learned 
to prize once more the blameless joys of the fresh and free life of 
the wanderer, and our people, down into the lower strata of the 
middle class, gradually became enriched by an abundance of new 
outlooks upon life. The world of fairy tale, of the mysterious, 
of chiaroscuro, was now for the first time fully opened to German 
poetry. Its visionary figures were less vivid, less sharply defined, 
less complete, than were those of the classical period of our art ; 
and yet they rose in relief out of a distant background, seeming to 
carry with them unending significance, and they were surrounded 
with the atmosphere of the " moonlit night which bewitches our 
senses with its charm." Primevally old and long forgotten sensa- 
tions of the Teutonic mentality were once more revived. 

The romanticists felt that the classical ideals had completely 
failed to represent the innermost life of our people ; they sought 
for new materials, overrunning, in the spirit of adventurous con- 
quistadors, the whole world as far as the cradle of humanity in India, 
and further yet to the nature-races in the forgotten corners of the 
world. Wherever the all-engendering poetry had incorporated 
itself in language, art, and religion, its manifestations were sought 
with intention to wed them to the German genius. Just as of old 
the Romans had placed in their Pantheon the images of the gods 
of the subject races, so now should the new race that was victorious 
in the realm of the spirit, that conceived itself as penetrating and 
overlooking all other nations with its gaze, take to itself, in faithful 
reproduction, the poetry of all lands. The fine sense of form and 
the graceful feminine receptivity of A. W. Schlegel brought the 
German translator's art to its finest blossom. One after another 
there speedily appeared German versions of Shakespeare, Cervantes, 
Calderon, and a number of other happy translations. The German 
art of poetry proved itself adequate for all these strange tasks, and 
there was even a danger of its succumbing to an over-elaborated 
formalism which was contrary to its innermost nature ; for in all 
epochs of their greatness the Teutons have ever prized content far 
above form. Nevertheless, the bold voyages of discovery made by 
the romanticists brought an invaluable and permanent gain. It 
was in their circles that there first awoke the historical sense which 
had always been lacking throughout the philosophical century. 
A. W. Schlegal, in his lectures on the history of literature, following 
the foreshadowings of Herder, developed the great idea that art is 
rooted in the soil of nationality, that in every people their language, 


History of Germany 

their religion, and their art can be understood only as a necessary 
unfolding of the popular spirit. Thus was the foundation laid upon 
which subsequently was to be erected the magnificent structure of 
comparative philology, comparative literature, and the comparative 
history of the arts. 

Moreover, this free voyaging into great distances led the 
romanticists home again. Since everywhere in history they were 
searching for national characteristics and for the primitive 
peculiarities of the peoples, they were ultimately led to ask 
themselves the question, how this new German people had itself 
come into existence. It occurred to them to look the antiquity 
of their own fatherland once more in the face, and the new genera- 
tion found the image a strange one, as to a grown man is apt to seem 
strange his own likeness as a boy. With delighted shamefaced- 
ness the Germans discovered how ludicrously little they knew of the 
wealth of their own land. The much-abused, obscure night of the 
Middle Ages became illuminated once more with a cheerful light. A 
multicoloured turmoil of strange figures, of monks and minnesingers, 
of saintly women and glorious champions, moved before their 
enchanted gaze ; the Hohenstaufen emperors, whose name was 
still known in Swabia among the common people, reappeared as 
the knightly heroes of the nation. The dealers at the annual fairs, 
who sold to humble readers the coarse-paper editions of old folk- 
books, now sometimes ventured to offer his wares to men of learning. 
Educated people gave attentive ear when the servant-maid was 
telling the children fairy tales, and word was passed round among 
initiates that in the myths of the ancient Teutonic heathendom 
there still lay concealed an inexhaustible treasure of profound and 
moving sentiment. Johannes Miiller gave for the first time a 
detailed description of mediaeval life in his History of Switzerland, 
which, despite its tortuous and artificial rhetoric, was none the 
less profound and vivid, and brought forward an abundance of 
new historical points of view. This, too, was the first book to refer 
to the heroic greatness of the Nibelungenlied. In the year 1803 
was published Tieck's collection of German minnesongs. Three 
years later Schenkendorf issued his appeal against the utilitarian 
barbarians who wished to lay hands on the old High-Master's castle 
at Marienburg : the despised Gothic now came to its own, under 
the name of the Old German architectural art. 

Thus there began on all sides a re-entry into German life ; a 
great transformation was manifesting itself, and before long this 
transformation was accelerated by the pressure of the foreign yoke, 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

by the awakening of national hatred. Their aesthetic delight in 
the antique and the popular, made the romanticists opponents of 
the Revolution ; they detested the " clean-shaven aspect " of 
modern equality before the law ; they detested the natural right 
which would impose its bald rules upon the beautiful multiplicity 
of historical phenomena ; they loathed the new world-empire which 
threatened to destroy the abundance of national states and national 
legal developments. There happened now for the first time in 
history what could happen only in so thoroughly idealistic a nation, 
that a movement which in its origin was purely aesthetic, rejuvenated 
and transformed political views. For this generation, poetry was, 
in actual fact the ocean into which all rivers flowed. If science, 
faith, and art were to be understood as the necessary outcome of 
the folk-spirit, no less certain was it that the law and the state owed 
their origin to the same spirit. Sooner or later it was inevitable that 
this necessary conclusion should be drawn, and that the idea of the 
national state should be conquered for German science. The connec- 
tion between Frederick Gentz and the romantic school rested upon 
the feeling of a profound inner kinship, and it was directly from 
the ideas and foreshadowings of the romanticists in the domain of 
the philosophy of history that was subsequently derived the 
historico-political doctrine of Niebuhr and Savigny. 

No less weighty with consequences was the revival of religious 
sentiment now preparing in the younger generation. Our classical 
poetry held aloof from the life of the church. Although it was in 
intimate harmony with the fundamental moral ideas of Protes- 
tantism, it would not recognise any of the existing religions as 
" religion." To Kant it seemed that religion was the recognition 
of our duties as the laws of God, the acceptance of the divine 
element in will ; his sublime strictness did not do full justice to the 
sentiments of the believing heart, to the impulse towards elevation 
and submission. It was this wonderful world of feeling, of myste- 
rious yearning, which irresistibly drew the glances of the roman- 
ticists. Whilst the most enthusiastic spirits among them were 
becoming intoxicated with the sensuous beauty of the Catholic 
cult, or were reaching out towards the discovery of a new aesthetic 
world-religion, young Schleiermacher remained firmly planted upon 
the soil of Protestantism. His spirit was too closely directed 
towards the world of affairs for it to be possible for him like the 
poets of Weimar, to forget reality for art ; and yet he was too 
much of an artist to find satisfaction in the pitiless general rule 
of the categorical imperative. To him the individual form of the 


History of Germany 

general moral law was to be found in the personality which at once 
freely develops its own individuality and at the same time consciously 
harmonises itself to the great objective orderings of the state and 
of society. In his lectures concerning religion, he opposes to the 
cultured despisers of religion the warning, " religion hates soli- 
tude : " and he showed how religion has its roots in feeling, how it 
possesses a primitive life precedent to all intercourse and all doctrine, 
a moral energy which is effective in all mankind. Only through 
religion can the human being, immersed in the finite, make himself 
at one with the infinite and become eternal in every moment. 
With patriotic pride, which gave anticipations of the moods of later 
years, he referred to the invincible might of the home of Protes- 
tantism, " for Germany is still always here, and its invisible energy 
is unweakened." Just as he appealed to a philosophical self- 
sufficiency on behalf of the common religious life, so also did he wish 
to enforce the value of the state. The state, he taught, is the finest 
of all human works of art ; it first gave to the individual life in the 
highest degree ; and for this reason the coercion exercised by the 
state must never be felt as a burdensome restraint. 

Similar views were reached by Fichte, that rigid and stiff-necked 
thinker to whom the emotional wealth of Schleiermacher appeared 
to be womanish weakness ; for the literary movement, which to us 
who look back upon it to-day seems so simple and so necessary, 
fulfilled itself only amid the continuous conflicts of self-confident 
and strongly individual personalities. The philosophy of Fichte 
was the last word of transcendental idealism. To the world of 
experience, he flatly denied all reality. It was only because moral 
activity demands a stage, that the spirit was forced to look out of 
itself into an outer world, and to assume this world to be real. In 
his political writings also, this venturesome man appeared to despise 
all the limits of historical reality. He wished to realise perpetual 
peace, the ideal of the age, by the complete abolition of international 
trade, so that the " closed commercial states " should have inter- 
course with one another only through the interchange of scientific 
ideas ; and in his speeches upon the elements of the present age, he 
proclaimed it as the privilege of the sun-like spirit to soar above 
the crowd, and as a cosmopolitan to find its fatherland " where 
light is and justice." None the less there speaks through these 
lectures an active mind which reached out beyond the world of 
theories. Every sentence preaches the strict service of duty : 
there is only one virtue, to forget oneself ; and only one vice, to 
think of oneself. Without knowing it, in his harsh admonitions, 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

directed against the slackness of his contemporaries, he was glori- 
fying the manly virtues of Old Prussia. It was merely as a bold 
suggestion that he expressed a thought in sharp contradiction with 
his cosmopolitan dreams. In the end, he said, the state is the 
vehicle of all civilisation, and is therefore justified in claiming all 
the energies of the individual. 

Thus within the bosom of the literary movement there was 
preparing a new political tendency. One who cast even a casual 
glance upon the distressing contradiction in German affairs, one 
who saw in close juxtaposition so flourishing an intellectual, and 
so miserable a political life, might well be reminded of the times of 
Philip of Macedon, when upon the grave of Grecian freedom, upon 
the battle-field of Chaeronaea, the Thebans erected the beautiful 
lion monument, and Lycurgus adorned conquered Athens with 
magnificent buildings. Just as Hellas had once stood insecurely 
between Persia and Macedonia, so now Germany, pregnant with 
thought, stood between Austria and France. Yet hi truth, the 
position of affairs in Germany was by no means so hopeless ; the 
melancholy proverb that the owl of Minerva begins her flight 
only in the twilight, applied to Hellas but not to Germany. Our 
classical literature was not the expiring flicker of an ancient civili- 
sation, but the significant beginning of a new development. Not 
among us was an Aristotle making a comprehensive survey of the 
last data of civilisation on its way down to the grave ; for in 
Germany a youthful generation, one which amid all its errors was 
filled with the joy of life and with a sense of security in the future, 
was astonishing the world with ever new discoveries. Never for a 
moment among the intellectual leaders of the nation was there 
any failure to believe in the great destiny of Germany. " Despite 
their miserable constitution," writes A. W. Schlegel, " and despite 
their defeats, the Germans remain the salvation of Europe." In 
the same sense writes Novalis, that whilst other nations were 
dissipating their energies in party struggles, or in the pursuit of 
wealth, the Germans were building up, with all possible diligence, a 
higher epoch of civilisation, and would hi course of time gain an 
enormous preponderance over the other civilised nations. Even 
the gloomy Holderlin, who was profoundly affected by the impo- 
tence of the Germans, " poor in deed, though rich in thought/' 
still exclaimed hi joyful prophecy : 

" Shall there come as lightning comes from the clouds 
Action out of thought ? Will the books soon come to life ? " 


History of Germany 

Servile sentiment was ever far from this generation of poets 
and thinkers. It is true that Germany sent her pilgrims to take 
their place upon that great foreign stream which, during the Consu- 
late and the first years of the Empire, was setting towards Paris 
from all the ends of Europe. In Paris, as once of old in imperial 
Rome, the finest artistic treasures of the world were now stored, 
and once again, as in the days of Augustus, there was assembled 
in a capital city a cosmopolitan public, whose critical judgment 
determined which among many beautiful things was the most 
beautiful. It was in the galleries of the Louvre that the over- 
whelming greatness of Raphael was first recognised. The German 
intellectuals found the petty towns of the homeland too narrow : 
they hastened to the Seine to intoxicate themselves alike in the 
noble and in the ignoble joys of the capital of the world. Yet 
even in the dazzling splendour of their new quarters they did not 
lose the sense of their own superiority ; they did not forget that 
in the production of all these stolen glories the French themselves 
had no share, but had first through the works of Laplace slowly 
begun to rise out of barbarism towards civilisation. While 
Frederick Schlegel was marvelling at the turtle-soup and the 
naked actresses of the new Babylon, he wrote, " Paris has only one 
fault, that there are so many French there " ; and his Dorothea 
adds, " it seems almost incredible how stupid are the French." 
More finely than these mocking cosmopolitans did Schiller voice 
the national pride of his own nation of thinkers. He knew that 
the victories of Kant and of Goethe were of greater significance 
than the laurels of Marengo, that the Germans always had the 
right to remind their boastful neighbours of the eternal good of 
humanity, and he writes proudly and grandly concerning the 
Pantheon of the Parisian plunderers : 

"He alone possesses the Muses, 
Who bears them warm in his bosom ; 
To the Vandal, they are stone ! " 


Matters had now arrived at such a juncture that the only 
thing which could hold over-powerful France within bounds was 
an alliance of the four Great Powers. Austria, however, had not 
yet recovered from the blows received in the last war. Since the 
spring of 1803, the young czar had been growing seriously alarmed 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

regarding the insatiability of the Napoleonic policy, with which 
he had become sufficiently acquainted hi the German indemnity- 
negotiations ; but in his boyish instability he came to no definite 
decision. Prussia was anxiously endeavouring to maintain the 
balance between the two dreaded colossi of the east and of the west, 
to preserve the friendship of Russia without offending France. 
It was only in the happy security of the insular kingdom of Britain 
that people felt strong enough to look things in the face. The 
Peace of Amiens which had concluded the war between the two 
deadly enemies, soon proved no more than an unstable truce. In 
Italy, hi Holland, in Switzerland, in Germany, everywhere the First 
Consul was pressing arrogantly forward, regardless of all treaties. 
But more serious than all this, in the eyes of commercial-minded 
England, was the Injury to the economic interests of the island. 
When France, Spain, Italy and Holland were closed by Bonaparte 
to English trade, the nation felt that the very foundations of its 
power were threatened. In full accord with the people, the court 
of St. James's refused to evacuate Malta so long as Holland and 
Switzerland were occupied by French troops. Meanwhile Bona- 
parte had long ago determined to resume the war against the 
inaccessible enemy. As early as March, 1803, long before the breach 
between the two western powers, he sent his confidant, Duroc, 
to Berlin, with the intimation that he found it necessary to take 
possession of Hanover. Since he was unable to overcome the sea 
power of England, he thought that by the occupation of Taranto 
and of Hanover he would close to British trade the entrance to 
Italy and the German North, 

In this manner the ultimate and sole pride of Prussian policy, 
the neutrality of North Germany, was put hi question. To avert 
such a blow from the German Empire, Frederick had long ago 
concluded the Treaty of Westminster, and had taken upon his 
shoulders the dangerous burden of the Seven Years' War ; and this 
at a time when the left bank of the Rhine was still German, and 
when the power of France was far less to be dreaded. Even Count 
Haugwitz urgently advised that the First Consul should be fore- 
stalled by a resolute invasion of France. It is true that the situa- 
tion was by no means simple. The perplexity of Prussia was a 
source of manifest satisfaction in Vienna ; an appeal for help from 
the Hanoverian Government was bluntly rejected, and there was 
no longer any talk of the duties of the suzerain of the empire. 
England did nothing to secure against attack the hereditary 
dominion of its kings and the nursery of its best soldiers. In 


History of Germany 

Hanover itself, the occupation which Prussia had two years earlier 
undertaken for the advantage of the country, had produced a great 
deal of ill-feeling ; instead of the friendship and neighbourly senti- 
ment of the Frederician times, moodiness and mistrust were now 
dominant. But what were such considerations when compared 
with the pressing demands of honour and self-preservation ? The 
last vestiges of Prussian prestige would be overthrown should 
French troops enter without hindrance between the eastern 
and the western provinces, should they press on to the very 
walls of the principal fortress of Magdeburg. From subsequent 
revelations of Napoleon it appears that a well-timed and 
vigorous remonstrance on the part of the Berlin court would 
not at this moment have brought about a war with France. The 
First Consul was then wholly immersed in his ambitious plans for 
the conquest of England. He had assembled his army on the coast 
in the neighbourhood of Boulogne, and there in the strict military 
school of a two years' training-camp had brought its technical 
efficiency to perfection. The national hatred of the fifteenth 
century was revived ; a fleet of transports, notably increased by 
voluntary contributions, was ready to carry the army across to 
the enemy's coasts. If he could only gain control of the channel 
for twelve hours, the landing would be attempted, and, as Bona- 
parte said in his letters, " then England would cease to exist." The 
independence of Ireland and the destruction of the wealth of 
Britain would for ever destroy the power of the island kingdom. 
Lost in such dreams as these, it was impossible that Bonaparte 
should now desire a breach with Prussia. 

^> King Frederick William, faithful to the leading idea of his 
foreign policy, did not wish to undertake this venture unless he knew 
that his back was guarded by Russia. After having despatched 
to Paris and London timid counsels in favour of peace, he demanded 
of the czar whether Prussia could count upon the help of Russia. 
In St. Petersburg, however, the blind Prussophobe sentiments of 
the Hanoverian Junkerdom proved decisive. Count Minister, Anglo- 
Hanoverian ambassador at the Russian court, shared with the 
English high tories then: inextinguishable hatred against the 
heirs of the Revolution, but he shared also the profound detestation 
of the Hanoverian nobles for equality before the law, and for the 
plain bourgeois military character of the Prussian State. In the 
request of Prussia, he could see nothing but a trap, a hostile attack 
upon the independence of Hanover. Upon the advice of Minister, 
the czar Alexander answered his royal friend with a refusal ; and 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

since, in addition, England refused to modify its severe navigation 
laws in favour of the Prussian flag, the result was that when, at 
the eleventh hour, the Hanoverian Government spontaneously 
appealed for help from Prussia, the answer was a rebuff. 

In the midst of the peace of the empire, the army corps of 
Mortier entered undisturbed into the imperial land of Hanover, 
a land which in accordance with international law had nothing to 
do with the war between England and France. The incapacity 
of the old state authorities made them an easy prey for the 
Bonapartist armies. The loyal people detested the French as a 
hereditary foe, and had done so since the victories of Ferdinand of 
Brunswick ; the Hanoverians were once again prepared to exercise 
the ancient warrior spirit of the Lower Saxons in a conflict with 
this never-resting Frenchman. But the cowardly nobles' govern- 
ment in Havover ordered the troops to make no kind of disturbance ; 
and without any serious attempt at resistance, by the Treaty of 
Suhlingen they handed over the whole country to the foreign com- 
mander. For the second time within fifty years, the brave 
Hanoverian army was forced into capitulation by a dishonourable 
policy. Nor did there on this occasion, as formerly upon the day 
of Kloster-Zeven, ensue a saving intervention of the British Govern- 
ment. England allowed the French to do as they liked. On June 4, 
1803, the birthday of George III, the French troops entered the town 
of Hanover. Mortier closed the Elbe and the Weser, and demanded 
taxes from the Hansa towns. The occupation and exploitation of the 
Hanoverian territory lasted for two years ; Bonaparte gave autograph 
directions how the royal stud was to be sent to Paris, and how the 
forests could best be used for the advantage of the French fleet. 
Then a second and still more disgraceful capitulation led to the 
disarming of the little army. With death in their hearts, and curs- 
ing " the cowardly curs of the Government and the Diets," the 
betrayed soldiers accepted their disgrace. Hundreds of them got 
away singly on board English ships, and entered the German legion 
of the king of England. Everyone in the country helped the 
fugitives on their way ; the people held together as if in a great 
conspiracy. The unhappy men who had capitulated at Suhlingen 
formed the nucleus of those glorious regiments which subsequently 
in Spain resumed the struggle against France, and proudly inscribed 
upon their banners the word Peninsula. There thus persisted in 
the German nation its old stout-heartedness ; all that was lacking 
was the great will which should know how to make a worthy use 
of such magnificent energies. 

249 R 

History of Germany 

When it was too late Alexander recognised that a mistake had 
been made. The cabinet of Berlin engaged in vain negotiations 
to induce the First Consul to evacuate the Hanoverian territory. 
The fine illusions which the credulous Lombard brought back from 
Brussels, after a conversation with Bonaparte, were soon dissipated. 
Before long it was learnt that France demanded an alliance with 
Prussia without offering any quid pro quo. The king felt that 
he could not make himself responsible for such a step, and turned 
once more to Russia to ask help in saving the state from an intoler- 
able oppression. It was thanks to him that on May 4, 1804, 
Prussia and Russia undertook to furnish reciprocal assistance in 
case Bonaparte should seize any other of the imperial lands. At 
the same time negotiating with France, they received an indefinite 
assurance that French troops should not pass beyond the Hano- 
verian borders, and guarantees of respect were given for North 
German neutrality. In Berlin there was still no lack of good plans 
and good intentions. Enquiries were made in Weimar as to the 
possibility of a renewal of the League of Princes, and Hardenberg, 
who, since April, 1804, had been a member of the Ministry, was 
already giving expression to the idea which subsequently, in the 
latter half of his public life, came to form the fundamental element 
of his German policy the plan to combine the whole of Germany 
into a federation of states under the joint leadership of Austria 
and Prussia. But all these good plans crumbled to pieces in face 
of the pacifist anxiety of the cabinet. The statesmen of Prussia 
flattered themselves with the illusion which was the outcome of 
the experiences of the last fifteen years, the illusion that the state 
could secure a gain by peaceful negotiations, could thereby 
strengthen its untenable position. Even the able new Minister of 
Foreign Affairs was still far from recognising that salvation could 
come only from a European alliance against France, and he hoped 
to secure an enlargement of the Prussian domain through friend- 
ship with France. 

Meanwhile the Holy Empire was forced to drain the goblet 
of shame to the dregs. When Bonaparte had the Due d'Enghien 
arrested and killed on Badenese territory, it was only the foreign 
powers of Russia, Sweden, and England that ventured in Ratisbon 
to demand satisfaction for this criminal disregard of the peace of 
the empire. Baden, acting on the orders of Napoleon, earnestly 
begged that the distressing matter should not be followed up, 
while the other envoys, taking their holidays before the proper 
time, sought to avoid further discussion by flight. In May, 1804, 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

the Napoleonic Empire was founded, and it was obvious that the 
new crown, which was assumed by this usurper with the blessing 
of the Pope, was the diadem of the Caesars and of the Carlovingians. 
The Roman Empire passed from the Hapsburg-Lorrainers to the 
Napoleons. Unashamedly the man of might already spoke of the 
Empire of the West ; he revived all the ancient Roman recollec- 
tions which had been preserved in the mingled civilisation of France. 
The eagles of imperial Rome waved in the field before his legions. 
Soon he was using threats in his letters, in view of the possibility 
that Austria or Russia should dream of being so foolish as to raise 
the standard of revolt. 

In vain did Gentz assure the court of Vienna that the recogni- 
tion of this crown would serve merely to incite to new excesses 
the insatiable man who had become great only through the pettiness 
of his slaves. The talented advocate of the old comity of states 
found ready to his hand the orphic formula which was subsequently 
to prove the guiding principle of the courts in their contest with 
Bonapartism. It was necessary, he said, to maintain historic 
rights against the right of revolt, against the idea of popular 
sovereignty. The outwearied Austrian policy remained quite 
unreceptive for such ideas. The legal wearers of the crown of 
Charlemagne had long taken a dislike to the burden of that crown, 
more especially since the House of Lorraine could no longer count 
securely upon the votes of the electors. The emperor Francis 
therefore seized the opportunity of the establishment of Napoleon 
on the throne, to secure the high rank of his own house for all time 
to come. With the approval of Napoleon he assumed the style of 
Emperor of Austria, and the usurper received in return the recognition 
of the ancient imperial house. In this manner was the empire of 
Austria, which had in reality existed since the days of Leopold I, 
formally established ; the domestic policy of the Hapsburg- 
Lorrainers, which for three centuries had concerned itself solely 
with the preservation of the hereditary dominions of the house, 
attained to its natural goal. The head of the House of Hapsburg 
continued to hold the title of Roman Emperor, but it was impossible 
that this " bizarre duplex emperorship," as Talleyrand mockingly 
called it, could be permanently maintained. The ancient and sacred 
name, now deprived of all meaning, must sooner or later disappear ; 
the power of the Carlovingian imperial crown was henceforward 
vested in Napoleon. 

In Berlin, the Bonapartist empire was greeted as a new 
guarantee for the bourgeois ordering of France, and it soon 


History of Germany 

gained recognition; but Frederick William's modest good sense 
would hear nothing of the North German imperial crown, which 
the diplomatists of Napoleon offered him in dubious terms. 
The smaller estates of the empire, good and bad alike, Baden 
and Hesse Rothenburg, Fiirstenberg and Leiningen, Bremen and 
Augsburg, sent humble congratulations to the crowned plebeian, 
in terms whose Byzantine abasement outdid even the flatteries of 
the French. They described themselves as His Majesty's most 
submissive and obedient of servants, they congratulated the 
protector of the German constitution, the hero and the peace- 
bringer, towards whose brilliant and benevolent genius the whole 
Continent was looking in dumb astonishment ; they described in 
moving terms the joy with which all German hearts were inspired 
at the aspect of this new Caesar ,who was so like their first emperor, 
Charles ; thanked him most cordially for the benefits they had 
received in the German indemnity-negotiations ; and commended 
themselves, in conclusion, to his kindly consideration in the event 
of a new distribution of lands 1 . 

To fill the measure of German degradation, in the autumn of 
1804 Napoleon made a tour through the newly acquired Rhenish 
territories. In the ancient imperial town of Aix-la-Chapelle, the 
ambassador of the Emperor Francis presented his new credentials ; 
in all the towns of the Rhine the prince of peace was received by 
the people with loud rejoicings. He established his court at Mainz, 
in the same halls where twelve years earlier the ancient empire had 
celebrated its last festivals. The princes of the south and of the 
west assembled in haste to pay homage to the successor of Charle- 
magne. Everything suggested memories of Carlovingian times ; 
there were already plans on foot for a second Rhenish league. But 
in a lonely room, the eloquent old Charles Frederick of Baden fell 
sobbing into the arms of the Chancellor Dalberg, bewailing the 
destruction of his fatherland. What had this stranger in common 
with the old royal peasant of the Germans, who in the night blessed 
the trellises of the Rhenish vine-growers ? What did he know of 
that ancient magic ring which had formerly drawn the German 
Charles to the German River ? A severe and mistrustful foreign 
dominion overshadowed Germany even before its princes had 
formally submitted themselves to the Imperator. Napoleon had 
his spies throughout the empire : " Ten spies," he wrote, " are 

1 1 have published these letters in the twenty-ninth volume of the Preussischt 
Jahrbucher, 1872, pp. 103 et seq. 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

hardly enough for such a town as Hamburg." No one was safe 
from the claws of his police. The English agent, Rumbold, arrested 
in Hamburg by the French, was, indeed, set at liberty upon the 
demand of the king of Prussia, but the confidants of Napoleon were 
well aware that he would treasure up this reverse against the 

Whilst the German powers were recognising the new imperial 
crown, there prevailed at the court of St. Petersburg a lively and 
warlike mood. Since the murder of the Due d'Enghien, the young 
czar had completely broken with France ; he saw that Napoleon 
wanted a new continental war, began negotiations with Vienna and 
London, and gave himself up once more to the enthusiastic dreams 
of a great war of popular liberation which he was to resume eight 
years later. He wished to strike a blow for the freedom of Europe, 
fighting not France, but the person of the usurper ; he wished to 
gratify the restored ancient states by liberal constitutions, and to 
unite a peaceful Europe in a permanent holy league of the peoples. 
After long hesitation, Austria advanced a step to meet Alexander's 
urgent demands, and in November, 1804, agreed upon a defensive 
alliance with Russia in the event of a further attack of Napoleon 
upon Italy. 

If Prussian policy truly understood the signs of the times, 
it was necessary that the warlike zeal of Alexander should be at 
once utilised and bridled. It was not by an untimely war that 
the peace of Europe could be saved, but only by a carefully 
prepared and timely armed movement of the three great powers 
of the east. Napoleon's thoughts were still chiefly concerned 
with his armee navale, and upon his plans for an invasion of 
England. He burned with desire " to take vengeance for six 
centuries of injury and insult ; if only this greatest of aims can be 
achieved, all else will follow of itself." It was with deliberate 
intent that in the summer of 1805, he travelled for some time in 
Italy, in order to withdraw the eyes of the world from the coasts 
of the Channel ; and then suddenly appeared once more in 
Boulogne, " to complete the great event before which all Europe 
trembles." But in accordance with his usual manner he continued 
to hold two doors open. The army of Boulogne could also be 
utilised for a sudden attack upon Austria ; and the more plainly 
there became manifest the enormous difficulties of landing in 
England, the more vigorously did Napoleon come to occupy him- 
self with plans for a new continental war. 

It seemed prudent to await the probable miscarriage of an 


History of Germany 

attempt at an English invasion, to offer the threatening opponent 
no excuse for an attack, and meanwhile to prepare as quietly as 
possible the armaments required for a new war of coalition, even 
though the army and finances of Austria were in so pitiful a condi- 
tion that the most notable man in the imperial army, the Archduke 
Charles, urgently advocated peace. A reconciliation between the 
courts of Berlin and Vienna seemed no longer impossible. The 
Archduke John, and the patriotic circle which surrounded him, 
had long advocated the view that nothing could be done without 
the aid of Prussia. Even Gentz, who became more and more 
embittered in his hatred for the Revolution, and who was already 
referring all the sins of modern history to Protestantism, still 
remained statesman enough to urge an understanding with Prussia. 
However profound the mistrust of the northern rival, it was impos- 
sible for the Hofburg not to recognise how indispensable was the aid 
of Prussian arms ; in the course of the secret negotiations of 1805, 
Austria seriously proposed to Berlin a reconstruction of the German 
constitution, so that the north should come under the dominion 
of Prussia, while the south should remain under Austrian suzerainty. 
But at the Prussian court there was still dominant the paternal 
wish for assured tranquillity ; it was hoped that peace could be 
maintained on the Continent, and that if this were impossible, the 
neutrality of North Germany might at least be secured. Even 
Hardenberg still cherished optimistic dreams ; he considered that 
the power of France was generally overestimated, and he wished 
to keep the hands of Prussia free, so that, should the circumstances 
demand it, by an alliance with France the strengthening of the 
monarchy and, above all, the annexation of Hanover, might be 
effected. It was through Hardenberg's influence that Prussia 
returned no satisfactory answer to the demands of the two imperial 

Thus it happened that the young czar, controlled by no 
will superior to his own, was left to the fancies of his restless 
imagination. The great statesman who for ten years had almost 
uninterruptedly been conducting the obstinate struggle of England 
against France, lacked, like all the British diplomats, a thorough 
understanding of continental conditions. Inconsiderately, William 
Pitt shared the confused plans of Alexander ; already in April, 
1805, a secret treaty of war between Russia and England was signed. 
Meanwhile, Napoleon assumed the royal crown of Italy, and wrote 
to the czar, as if in defiance, that only the wish of the Italian nation 
compelled him to make this sacrifice of his greatness. Then the 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

Republic of Liguria was annexed to the empire, and therewith even 
hesitating Austria was forced to join the Third Coalition. The 
allied courts were occupied in far-reaching plans. The boundaries 
of France were to be pushed back to the Rhine and to the Moselle ; 
complete independence were to be regained for Germany, Holland, 
and Switzerland ; the crowns of France and Italy were to be for 
ever separated. It was hoped, altogether in the sense of the ancient 
Anglo-Dutch Barrier Treaty, to control the grasping power of the 
French state by strengthening Holland, Piedmont, and Switzer- 
land. If Prussia should join the coalition, she was to receive 
Fulda in Orange-Nassau, and the Lower Rhineland, from the Moselle 
down to the Netherland frontier. A general congress was to decide 
the new territorial distribution when victory had been secured ; 
it was hoped that even the dethronement of the Corsican might be 
effected. But the slow and weak preparation of armaments was 
in crying disproportion with these bold resolves. 

Among the numerous failures of the impatient and impetuous 
Russian policy, there was none which must be so severely atoned 
as the arrogant contempt for Prussia. The league of friendship 
concluded at Memel was now destroyed by the Polish plans of the 
czar, which long continued to threaten the good understanding 
between the two neighbouring powers. Educated in the views of 
the fashionable enlightenment, Alexander had from the first, like 
his tutor Laharpe, regarded the partition of Poland from the out- 
look of the French philosopher. In the terrible catastrophe he saw, 
not an inexorable historical necessity, but simply a deplorable deed 
of violence, and one which justified all the horrors of the Revolu- 
tion. The thought that this bloodstained heritage was one he was 
forced to receive at the hands of his grandmother, was a heavy 
burden to his feeble spirit. In such a mood as this, when he was 
still no more than grand duke, he made the acquaintance of Prince 
Adam Czartoryski, the son of that old prince who had been hailed 
by a party of the Polish nobles as King Adam I. To the son 
of the czar, the versatile Pole was irresistible ; he was talented, 
highly cultured, older in years and experience than the grand duke, 
a master in the arts of Sarmatian flattery and subtleness. To 
strangers he seemed to resemble a knight-errant seeking his lost 
fatherland, and to be illumined and ennobled by a flavour of 
patriotic sadness. For many years the two friends were engaged 
in secret plans for the atonement of Catherine's misdeeds and for 
the restoration of Poland. In the mind of Alexander the calcula- 
tion was coloured by the feeling that his philanthropic intentions 


History of Germany 

coincided precisely with his personal advantage ; if he dreamed 
of the liberation of Poland, he saw the crown of the Jagellons upon 
his own head. 

Czartoryski pursued his Sarmatian plans with a vigour which 
to every Russian must have seemed equivalent to high treason, and 
misused his position as curator of the University of Vilna on behalf 
of a Polish-Catholic culture, and for the encouragement of a deadly 
hatred of the Russians. Now, when the conduct of foreign 
affairs was entrusted to him, he hailed the War of the Coalition as 
a welcome means for forcing Prussia over to Napoleon's side and 
then robbing the detested neighbour state of its Polish provinces. 
It was known that the Polish patriots continued to look hopefully 
towards their old ally France. For many years a Polish legion had 
fought under the tricolour ; Napoleon had already realised how this 
unhappy people might be utilised as a weapon against the eastern 
powers. For this reason, Czartoryski advised that the czar should 
forestall the Frenchman, and himself proclaim the freedom of 
Poland. To Polish levity it seemed a favourable opportunity 
for simultaneously arranging for a war against Prussia ; then 
Austria might secure, in Silesia and Bavaria, indemnity for her 
Galician possessions. The czar had not yet been completely won 
over to these nebulous plans, but the clever Pole had moved him 
to this extent, that his imperial friend, quite recklessly, was willing 
to side against Prussia. The ardent friendship of Memel seemed 
forgotten ; the negotiations in Berlin were conducted on the Russian 
side with insufferable arrogance, as if there was a deliberate inten- 
tion to drive Prussia out of the coalition. Since King Frederick 
William continued steadfastly to observe neutrality, Alexander 
had determined that he would lead the Russian army into Austria 
through Prussian territory, even against the king's will. 

Meanwhile the success of the Napoleonic designs against 
England became ever more questionable ; the elaborate plan to 
lure Nelson's fleet away to the West Indies and meanwhile to sweep 
the Channel, was defeated by the watchfulness of the British 
naval hero. Napoleon was already weighing the question whether 
it was not desirable, if not to abandon the whole undertaking 
(over five years later Arthur Wellesley still had good reason to fear 
a new attempt at invasion), yet to postpone the matter to a more 
favourable opportunity. In such a situation, nothing could be 
more welcome to the Imperator than the news of the military 
preparations of the Coalition. Eagerly he took up the challenge 
which his opponents had thrown down, and was delighted at the 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

prospect of driving out of the German Empire " this skeleton 
Francis II who has been placed upon the throne by the 
service of his ancestors " ; and he said, " Germany will see more 
soldiers than ever before ! " Whilst the grande armee hastened 
unnoticed and in wonderful order from Boulogne to the Rhine, 
the theatre of war on the Upper Danube was carefully surveyed 
by French spies, and at the same time the most brilliant of 
the Napoleonic campaigns was prepared by a prudent diplomatic 

There was no reason to fear opposition from the Holy Empire. 
The Reichstag of Ratisbon was at the moment profoundly immersed 
in important negotiations concerning a petty question of 
communal pasture-lands, and in this matter worthily occupied the 
brief respite which was still allowed. The Imperator now addressed 
his old proteges, the courts of the South German Middle States, 
speaking as protector of dynastic particularism. He was coming 
to rescue German liberty, and never again should German princes 
be treated as subjects of the German Emperor. Upon Napoleon's 
orders, the elector Max Joseph of Bavaria put off the Austrian 
negotiators, who were masterfully and threateningly demanding 
his adhesion to the Coalition, by hypocritical peace-declarations. 
The German prince gave his sacred word of honour that his troops 
should not undertake any military operations ; he begged, in 
desperate paternal anxiety, that a little patience should be granted, 
because his son, who was travelling in France, would be exposed 
to the revenge of the Corsican ; and he then hastened with his army, 
from the betrayed Austrians, to join the French. The Bavarian 
people paid no heed to the infamous conduct of the court. The old 
tribal hatred for the empire, the old and justified mistrust of the 
greed of the Hofburg, reawakened. With rejoicing, the brave 
little army responded to the appeal of the Imperator, who said, 
" You are fighting for the first goods of the nation, for independence 
and political existence." Baden and Darmstadt joined the move- 
ment, and, after some hesitation, Wurtemberg also ; all four of the 
Middle States, which Napoleon was already speaking of as " the 
pillars of my future German federation," joined his camp. 

He hoped to gain over Prussia also by deliberate deception. 
He offered Hanover to Prussia, if Prussia in return would cede 
Cleves on the right bank of the Rhine with Wesel, and would 
join the war against the Coalition. Thus the Prussian monarchy 
was to break with Austria and Russia, was to evacuate her last 
position on the Rhine, was to allow herself to be pushed back 


History of Germany 

towards the east, was to surrender Italy, Switzerland, and Holland 
to the conqueror of the world. Napoleon expressly retained in his 
own hands the free disposal of these countries ; he saw that the time 
was approaching when the Dutch would weary of their isolation, 
and would demand union with France. And for all these sacrifices 
nothing was offered to the king beyond that Hanover which, 
acquired under such conditions, could be maintained as a possession 
only by a long war against England. With irresponsible levity, 
Hardenberg yielded to the French persuasions and urgently advised 
that the French terms should be accepted. All that was wrong in 
his view was that the price was not high enough, and he hoped with 
the help of Napoleon to gain Bohemia and Saxony in addition to 
Hanover. It was only the sober good sense of the king which 
preserved the state from a disastrous step, one which threatened 
for ever to destroy the possibility of an understanding with the 
eastern powers, to prevent a common uprising against the 
Napoleonic empire of the world. Frederick William rejected the 
French offer of alliance, but he was soon to learn the truth of the 
words of the Great Elector that " for this state, neutrality is the most 
thankless of all political systems." For whilst Napoleon was 
endeavouring by new negotiations to secure neutrality on terms 
that would be advantageous to France, Prussia was simultaneously 
threatened from the east. The czar Alexander announced in open 
plain terms that his troops would march through Prussia. The 
king did what his honour demanded, put a large proportion of his 
army upon a war footing, and assembled his troops on the Warthe. 
The czar was astonished and alarmed at the breach of the peace, 
to the despair of Czartoryski ; and his foolish conduct had as its 
only consequence that the junction of his army with his Austrian 
allies, was more and more delayed. 

In this untenable situation, out of accord with France, in a 
state of tension with Russia approximating to open hostility, with 
anger and mistrust arising on all sides, the Prussian court contem- 
plated the outbreak of this war of Titans, as the cowardly Lombard 
was accustomed to describe it in his anxiety of soul. With crushing 
blows, Napoleon overthrew the Austrian army on the Upper 
Danube before the Russians arrived on the scene. The world learnt 
for the first time what it signified for the military power of France 
to be reinforced by the warlike energy of the Rhineland and of the 
German south. The glory of the great day of Trafalgar, at which 
Napoleon's fleet was annihilated, almost vanished before the 
terrible news which came from High Germany. It was related 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

how individual sections of the Austrian army had been defeated 
in a series of brilliant victories ; how the main body of the Austrians 
under Mack had been forced to a disgraceful capitulation at Ulm ; 
how the frenzy of despair had seized the imperial troops, how 
everywhere amongst the army and the officials there were signs of 
panic, weakness, and cowardice, all the sins of a profoundly corrupted 
state system, how the grande armee had at length pressed forward 
upon its irresistible march towards the Austrian capital. 

But fortunately for the Allies, at the very beginning of the 
campaign, the victor had permitted himself a deed of arrogance, 
which, rightly utilised, might have given another turning to the 
hopeless struggle of the Coalition, and which necessarily put an 
end to the untenable neutrality of Prussia. In order to bring Berna- 
dotte's army-corps to Ulm at the proper time, Napoleon did unre- 
flectingly what the czar was merely threatening to do, and sent his 
troops into Franconia, across neutral Prussian territory. To 
Prussia, he thought, he could do anything he liked, for, as he had 
written at an earlier date, " Prussia has sunk to the level of a 
power of the second rank." But at this news the anger of the king 
flamed up, and his Hohenzollern blood began to boil. He pro- 
claimed his rights in a courageous Declaration, broke off all his 
agreements with Napoleon, permitted the Russians to pass through 
Silesia, ordered the mobilisation of the whole army ; to his level 
sense it seemed self-evident that all diplomatic relations with France 
must immediately be broken off. The people, too, displayed a 
lively excitement at the outrage. In the theatre at Berlin there 
was ardent applause at the warlike notes of the Reiterlied der 
Wallensteiner, and the populace made a disturbance beneath 
the windows of the French ambassador, Laforest ; the estates 
of the Mark declared themselves ready to provide levies for the 
army, at their own expense ; the young officers went to the frontier 
in the assurance of Frederician invincibility. It was only in secret 
that Lombard and the French party ventured to carry on their 
usual intercourse with Laforest. 

Hardenberg, too, recognised the necessity for vigorous defence, 
but he did not realise in its entirety the pressing danger of the 
moment. He was unable to grasp that the king's latest steps made 
altogether impossible any honourable understanding with the revenge- 
ful Corsican ; nor did he recognise that this hero was not accustomed 
to allow negotiations to prevent him from following up his victories. 
The sanguine man continued to believe in the possibility of a peace- 
ful issue, and therefore advised, although salvation might still 


History of Germany 

have come from a rapid participation in the war, that there should 
rather be an armed intermediation which might readily be rendered 
useless by further warlike successes of the French. Meanwhile 
the czar Alexander came in person to Berlin, and on November 3rd 
the Treaty of Potsdam was signed. Prussia undertook to engage 
Napoleon, by diplomatic negotiations, to recognise the status quo 
of the Peace of Luneville. If he refused, as it was obvious he would, 
the intermediating power of the Coalition was to come into action, 
and was to receive as the reward of victory an enlargement of terri- 
tory ; Russia agreed to use her services in London to secure the 
cession of Hanover, whilst the English statesmen would as soon 
have given Holland to Prussia ! The great European warlike 
alliance appeared to be concluded. The czar renounced his Polish 
plans, saying remorsefully, " I shall not be beguiled in that way 
again." The alliance between the reconciled friends was cemented 
by a tender embrace over the grave of Frederick the Great, one 
of those touching incidents dear to the dramatic nature of 

According to the calculations of the duke of Brunswick, the 
Prussian army could not intervene in the struggle before Decem- 
ber I5th ; for the troops assembled on the eastern frontier were not 
to be led directly to Moravia for a junction with the Russo-Austrian 
army, but were to go by a wide circuitous route to Thuringia, in 
order thence to attack the French in the rear. This evolution 
corresponded to the wishes of Austria, and expressed the preference 
of the Brunswicker for such artificial methods ; and it is unques- 
tionable that in the mind of the cautious old duke, the idea still 
persisted that perhaps the war might after all be avoided. The 
king cherished the same opinion ; he still hoped to enforce peace 
without drawing the sword, simply by the display of his military 
forces. He had ordered a march into Hanover, and he won Hesse 
and Saxony for the Coalition. An army of 200,000 men assembled 
on the southern frontier of the monarchy in order to defend the 
independence of the German north ; there were also the English 
and Russian troops which had landed in Hanover, and the Swedes 
of King Gustavus IV, the deadly enemy of the Revolution. At 
the same time the Russian reserve-army passed through Silesia 
towards Moravia, and the archduke Charles led the Austrian 
southern army out of Hungary. 

The fate of the world hung upon a wise postponement of the 
battle. If the allies could hold Napoleon in Moravia by a careful 
defensive strategy until all their supports arrived, until with the 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

coming of the momentous December I5th, the Prussian army 
would also be ready to come into action, Napoleon's defeat seemed 
inevitable. He was more than one hundred miles from the French 
border, could expect no reinforcements, and even now his army was 
hardly so strong as that of the enemy. But he was again to be saved 
by the blunders of his opponents. During the negotiations, he 
had appeared to be in a yielding mood and inclined for peace, in 
order to arouse the belief that he was afraid. Alexander saw 
through the game, and insisted again and again that the cunning 
of the enemy should never lure him to a premature attack ; all 
the experienced officers urged him to caution. But a brilliant 
review of the army overthrew all the good resolutions of the czar. 
His arrogant pride was awakened at the sight of these fine regiments, 
still crowned with the laurels of the campaigns of Souvorofl. 
The young Hotspur was fascinated by the idea of astonishing the 
world by a decisive war, even before Prussia was ready to take 
part in it. The young court generals, who had so often in Russian 
history been to blame for light-minded resolutions, vehemently 
applauded the idea of an imprudent attack. It was determined 
that an attack should be delivered upon Napoleon's well-secured 
position in a direction from east to west, in such a way that the 
army, if beaten, would have to retreat into Hungary, and would be . 
cut off from communication with Silesia, where, at Neisse, 40,000 
Prussians were standing ready. On the anniversary of the day 
of Napoleon's crowning as emperor, Alexander received, in the 
battle of Austerlitz, the reward for the greatest folly of his life, 
and now Emperor Francis also lost his head and begged the 
victor for a truce. Napoleon agreed, on condition that the Hofburg 
should abandon the alliance with the czar, that the Russian troops 
should proceed homeward by way of Hungary, and that no foreign 
army should remain on Austrian soil. 

Thus was the great European war-alliance broken in its incep- 
tion by the fault of the two emperors. Yet the military situation 
of Prussia still remained advantageous. The czar did not 
completely abandon the war, but placed at the king's disposal 
the Russian forces still in Silesia and Prussian Poland. Frederick 
William had command of 300,000 fresh troops ready for war ; 
with such a force he might well hope to protect the liberty of North 
Germany, and to assist oppressed Austria to a tolerable peace. 
That this hope also came to nothing was chiefly the fault of the 
Prussian negotiator, Count Haugwitz, but in the last analysis it 
was the fault of the king himself. Prussian armed intermediation 


History of Germany 

was meaningless unless the Prussian negotiator was prepared to 
present a plain alternative, demanding of the conqueror that he 
should either accept the conditions of peace imposed by Prussia, 
or else try the fortune of war. But the pacifist king could not 
summon up sufficient resolution. From the first he took the 
edge off the negotiations, inasmuch as he gave his envoy secret in- 
structions that at all hazards he was to maintain peace with France. i 
During recent years Haugwitz had given many proofs of diplomatic 
insight, and had often formed a sounder judgment of Napoleon's 
hostile intentions than had his colleague Hardenberg, but in the 
present complication neutrality seemed to him the only possible 
policy. He had therefore no idea of going beyond the peaceful 
instructions he had received from the king. He travelled slowly, 
as he had been ordered, in order that the I5th of December might 
pass. When at length he encountered Napoleon, in the course 
of a conversation lasting several hours he said not a word of the 
king's conditions of peace, not a word of armed intermediation or 
threats of war, but allowed himself to be put off with empty phrases, 
and went to Vienna to wait upon events. There he received the 
news of the battle of Austerlitz, and immediately resolved to secure 
at all costs a reconciliation with the man of power. In his anxiety 
of soul, he persuaded himself that Austria was already thinking of 
joining Napoleon in order to fight Prussia. Subsequently, on his 
own initiative, and without any adequate authority, he signed at 
Schonbrunn, on December I5th an offensive and defensive alliance 
with France, in which Prussia recognised in advance all the conces- 
sions which Napoleon hoped to force from the Emperor Francis, 
abandoned Cleves on the right bank of the Rhine to France, aban- 
doned loyal Ansbach to Bavaria, and received in return Hanover. 

The victor rejoiced, saying, " If I am sure of Prussia, Austria 
must do whatever I want ! " With the Treaty of Schonbrunn in his 
hand, he compelled the unhappy court of Vienna, on December 26th, 
to accept the oppressive conditions of the Peace of Pressburg. 
The House of Austria lost Venice, Tyrol, and the remains of its 
Swabian possessions ; the ceded German provinces were divided 
among the South German satraps of France. By the grace of 
Napoleon, Bavaria and Wurtemberg received kingly crowns, and 
therewith the greatest of all goods, the last goal of two centuries 
of treason and felony, full and unrestricted sovereignty. Emperor 
Francis had to accede in advance to all the consequences that might 
arise out of these new rights. Therewith disappeared the last 

1 Recently proved by M. Lehmann, Scharnhorst, I, 354. 

Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

shadows of the ancient national monarchy ; the German kingship 
could no longer be maintained over sovereign kings. In the 
announcement of peace, the realm was already spoken of as the 
German Federation. For a long time past the Imperator had been 
discussing with the South German courts, what could best be 
established in place of the " miserable monkey play " of the Reich- 
stag of Ratisbon. Now, in affable letters, he announced to his 
loyal followers their new glories : Baden had entered the sphere 
of the great powers, and Bavaria at the first opportunity was to 
receive still further enlargement. He stood now at the climax 
of his successes. No misfortune had as yet tarnished the wonderful 
triumphs of his fortunate flags. France regarded the invincible 
one with astonishment ; the German city of Strasburg was proud 
to allow itself to be used by the new empire as a gate of entry into 
its old fatherland, and rechristened the Metzgertor after the battle 
of the three emperors ; in Paris, a Trajan's column was to 
celebrate the fame of the Imperator. 

On the return journey Napoleon received in Munich the 
obedient gratitude of the new King of Bavaria, celebrated the nuptials 
of his stepson with the daughter of the Wittelsbacher, and was 
gratified to learn how Max Joseph was announcing to his rejoicing 
people the " restoration " of the ancient Bavarian royal dignity. 
All Bavarians were now to wear blue and white cockades, " that they 
might know one another mutually as brothers and that they might 
secure from foreigners proper recognition as Bavarians." 
Chancellor Dalberg hastened to the wedding. The man of many 
abilities had issued during the war, in a wave of patriotic sentiment, 
a confused appeal to the German Reichstag, plaintively asking : 
" Shall the name of Germany, the name of German Nation, the 
name of a Race, become extinct, the name of the people that once 
conquered the Roman colossus ? " He had to listen to a severe 
reprimand, because he had " endeavoured to reawaken the German 
spirit." To secure complete reconciliation with those in authority 
he shortly afterwards nominated Cardinal Fesch, Napoleon's 
uncle, to be his coadjutor ; this man was a worthless off- 
shoot of the House of Bonaparte, a Corsican who understood not 
a single word of German, and who accepted the offered honour 
unwillingly, only on the understanding that he v/as soon to mount 
the most distinguished princely throne of Germany. At the same 
time the heir to the Baden throne was married to Stephanie Beau- 
harnais. To his brother-in-law Murat, Napoleon gave the Prussian 
Cleves and the Duchy of Berg, which latter (in accordance with an 


History of Germany 

old Bavarian design) was now exchanged for Ansbach. Thus the 
Bonaparte family made its joyful entry into the ranks of the high 
nobility of the German nation ; the German estate of Princes 
formally recognised the just claim of equality " of the. fourth 
dynasty of France." 

Meanwhile Napoleon took all possible measures to force the 
crown of Prussia to accept the Treaty of Schonbrunn. The grande 
armee and the South German troops advanced to the Main ; other 
army corps were pushed forward in Nassau and in Holland, up to 
the Prussian border. When the Imperator returned to France, he 
left Berthier in Munich, and his horses in Strasburg. It was his 
intention to return " as quick as lightning " in order to arrange for 
his armies to invade Prussia simultaneously from the west and from 
the south. Such was the position of affairs when Haugwitz returned 
after a tedious journey, flattering himself that by the Treaty of 
Schonbrunn he had saved the state. Was the king to punish by 
shameful dismissal the negotiator who had forgotten his duty and 
had exceeded his instructions to such an incredible extent, and was 
he to maintain, sword in hand, that dominion over North Germany, 
including Hanover (which in actual fact belonged to Prussia ) ; 
or was he to receive this same Hanover as a gift at the hands of 
Napoleon and to give in exchange Cleves and Ansbach, to conclude 
a defensive and offensive alliance with France, and to allow himself 
to be involved in the war against England ? For an honourable 
state there could be no hesitation between these two alternatives. 
And yet Hardenberg advised a middle course. He counselled that 
the Treaty of Schonbrunn should be accepted, but under reserva- 
tions which should prevent a breach with England ; for although 
he strongly condemned the conduct of his opponent Haugwitz, 
he hoped, even now, that it might be possible to secure further 
accessions of territory by new negotiations with Napoleon. In 
this way the cunning enemy was given the desired excuse to refuse 
on his side to be bound any longer by the Treaty of Schonbrunn. 
This serious mistake was immediately followed by a second and even 
greater one. Whilst Napoleon wrapped himself in a dubious silence 
and advanced his armies from all sides against Prussia, the demobi- 
lisation of the Prussian army was determined. Deceived by the 
ambiguous utterances of Laforest, Prussia believed that the atti- 
tude of France was friendly, and wished to escape the continued 
burden upon the finances, To meet the costs of the mobilisation, 
a loan had been floated and the issue of currency notes to the 
amount of 5,000,000 thalers had been authorised. 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

The state was to pay dearly for this pusillanimous economy. 
Napoleon had merely waited for the return home of the Prussian 
army in order to force Prussia " to yet another treaty." Now that 
Prussia stood before him disarmed, he at once removed the mask. 
Hardenberg continued ingenuously to hope that he would come to 
a friendly understanding with the Imperator concerning the recon- 
stitution of Germany ; he thought of a German trias, that is to say, 
that Austria should keep to her own affairs, while Prussia acquired 
predominant influence in the north and France in the south, and he 
believed that it would still be possible in such an intolerable situa- 
tion as this to retain a certain political community for the German 
nation. Then Haugwitz, who was to conclude the negotiations 
in Paris, sent the shattering news that Napoleon would no 
longer recognise the Treaty of Schonbrunn. On February 15, 1806, 
the perturbed negotiator signed the Treaty of Paris, whose 
conditions were even more severe than those of Schonbrunn. 
Prussia undertook to close the Hanoverian rivers, to begin at once 
a war against England which would completely paralyse Prussian 
trade, whilst not a word was said in the new Treaty of the compensa- 
tion for Ansbach which had been promised in the Treaty of Schon- 
brunn. What a situation ! The regiments had long been on a 
peace footing and were dispersed in their garrisons ; the French 
armies, invading from the Main and from the Rhine simultaneously, 
could overrun the country in a few weeks. Austria had concluded 
peace ; the czar held back, advising his friend secretly to come to 
terms as best he could, for good or for evil, with the preponderant 
power. Nor could any speedy help be expected from England. 
By the disaster of Austerlitz, the heart of the great Pitt had been 
broken, and after his death for a considerable time the British policy 
was a vacillating one. All the generals, even Ruchel the fierce 
enemy of France, declared that resistance was impossible ; but 
Hardenberg, moved to the depths of his soul, left the decision to the 
king, since the ministers did not as yet possess any independent 
responsibility. Frederick William decided as he was compelled 
to decide, and accepted the Treaty of Paris. 

^ Such was the lamentable ending of the first attempt to abandon 
the ; easy-going Basle policy of neutrality. Through the meddle- 
someness of the czar and the pusillanimity of Emperor Francis, 
the coalition had been destroyed. Prussia having been thus 
isolated, had been lured by Napoleon out of one false position into 
another, and had finally been subdued for good or evil. Despite 
the ill-will of the Hanoverians, the black eagles were affixed to the 

265 s 

History of Germany 

gates of the old Guelph towns. The lamentations of the faithful 
Ansbachers remained unheard although they sent despairing 
petitions to the king that he would not abandon them. Yet 
even in the midst of this humiliation there became manifest the 
first glimmer of a moral power of resistance, which during the heavy 
years of peace seemed to have altogether disappeared. During 
the winter the old unteachable self-satisfaction had often been 
boastfully manifested ; as late as January, so talented and active 
an officer as young Bardeleben wrote triumphantly, " We have 
attained to the happiness of peace with great and true glory ! " 
but after the Treaty of Paris there was a change of mood. Among 
the enlightened publicists of the capital, there were, indeed, a few 
emptyheads who praised the king because without a single blow 
he had gained a fine province ; but the nobles and the army felt 
with dissatisfaction that the glories of the Frederician times had 
passed away. Profounder natures, such as Gneisenau, saw that 
the decisive hour was rapidly approaching, and placed their hopes 
upon an alliance between the two German great powers. No one 
felt the disgrace more painfully than the high-minded king. 
He plainly declared his hopes : the Treaty of Paris was not 
binding for it had been secured by fraud and untruth ; his duty 
demanded that at the very next offence committed by France, 
Prussia should unsheathe the sword. 

Whilst Napoleon's protege Haugwitz took over the official 
conduct of foreign affairs, and steered the state in the narrow waters 
of the French alliance, Hardenberg remained the king's trusted 
adviser, and in view of the near prospect of war secretly revived 
the treaty with Russia. The eyes even of this over-sanguine man 
had at length been opened. He had had a large share in the poli- 
tical sins of the last two years, and yet was regarded in Paris as 
the leader of the anti-French party because he was an opponent 
of Haugwitz, and because he had again and again urged the king 
to rid himself of this "homme sans foi et sans loi." 1 The keen 
intelligence of Napoleon recognised in Hardenberg a high-minded 
statesman : he wished to revenge himself for the troubles of the 
previous autumn, loaded the minister with vituperation, which 
received dignified answers, and ultimately demanded his dismissal. 
It was to these attacks of Napoleon that Hardenberg owed a repu- 
tation which his actions had not deserved ; all men of standing 
looked hopefully towards him, and the valiant patriot Marwitz, 
the leader of the nobles of the Mark, honoured him as having 

1 Hardenberg's Journal, September 6, 1806. 

Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

been " since the autumn of 1805 the ideal of the man who should 
rescue the state." * But it was in these terrible weeks of the spring 
of 1806 that Hardenberg first really became that which the world 
held him to be. He saw with horror the abyss on the edge of which 
Prussia was tottering ; all that was noble and high-minded in this 
richly endowed nature sprang to active life, and henceforward 
until the end he was the unwearied enemy of the Napoleonic world- 

The last hope of Haugwitz in concluding the Treaty of 
Paris was that the French troops would soon be recalled. But 
this expectation proved vain. The grande \armee remained in 
Germany, threatening Austria from the Inn, and Prussia from the 
Rhine and the Main. The Hofburg was to be forced to accept the 
formal dissolution of the Holy Empire, which had been planned by 
the Imperator ; and at the same time Napoleon had determined 
that in case of need peace with England was to be secured by the 
surrender of Hanover, which was to be taken from Prussia for the 
purpose. Should the Prussian court resist this new injury, the 
French army was ready for invasion. Meanwhile the fortified 
places of Kehl, Kastel, and Wesel were occupied by France ; the 
fortress on the Lower Rhine was intended to constitute a point 
d'appui for an attack upon Prussia. 

Thus prepared, Napoleon proceeded to realise after his own 
manner the idea of the German trias with which Hardenberg had 
lately been playing. " La troisieme Allemagne " was to be 
politically constituted as a protege of France, not in alliance with 
Austria and Prussia but independently and in opposition to both. 
The fantastic memorial of Dalberg, which talked of the re-establish- 
ment of the Carlovingian empire and of a rejuvenation of the 
honourable German nation, and also the short and futile prelimi- 
nary negotiations in Munich with the greater South German States, 
convinced the Imperator how difficult it would be "to make these 
Germans work in unison." For this reason he determined to impose 
the new order offhand, just as of old Charles V had constrained the 
Italian princes to his will by treaties which were practically 
forced upon them. He knew that he could do anything he liked 
with the Middle States if he offered them new booty at the expense 
of their smaller co-estates. There had, indeed, been no lack of 
submission among these petty lords of the south. The majority 
had come together to form the Frankfort Union, and they sustained 
.a common ambassador in Paris. Again and again was the man 

1 Expression used by Marwitz in a letter to Hardenberg, dated February II, 1811. 


History of Germany 

of power deafened with requests and proposals from the anxious 
petty princes. When he was in a good mood, he allowed Talley- 
rand to tell him " ce que c'est que ce prince-la," and gave a gracious 
answer. But the conqueror had no use for unarmed vassals ; 
moreover, he was suspicious of the friendship which some of these 
petty lords exhibited for Prussia, and which the majority among 
them showed for Austria. His resolution was taken : "It lies 
in the very nature of existing circumstances that the petty princes 
must be destroyed." There was already rising upon the ruins of 
the old comity of states the new federative system ; the central 
sun of France surrounded by satellite states. Two of the Impera- 
tor's brothers ascended the thrones of Holland and of Naples; 
the rest of Italy, and Switzerland, were under his orders. For the 
German Federation, which was to strengthen the ranks of these 
satellite peoples, he counted first of all upon the four South German 
Middle States, and upon the new Lower Rhenish Grand Duchy of 
Joachim Murat. Of the smaller states, he had in mind to spare 
only a few, which had commended themselves to him by extreme 
servility or by dynastic ties. 

In the spring of 1806 there spread through the German courts 
a rumour that a new and comprehensive mediatisation was in 
prospect. Then, as four years earlier, the envoys of our high 
nobility hastened to Paris, in order by flattery and corruption to 
secure a good share of booty for their masters. Then, as before, 
an Alsatian was in charge of the business of the German territorial 
distribution ; on this occasion the negotiations were conducted 
by the old imperial publicist Pfeffel, under the guidance of Talley- 
rand and La Besnardiere. Meanwhile, however, the constitution 
of the Confederation of the Rhine was decided upon in Napoleon's 
cabinet. But no negotiations were undertaken with any of the 
German courts, and of the envoys in Paris four only had been 
allowed to read the Charter before Talleyrand, on July 12, 
summoned the faithful to a session. Here he displayed to them 
their hopeless situation ; how as rebels against the empire they 
could no longer deal in half measures ; thereupon the Charter 
was accepted without any discussion. The Rhenish Federation 
of Louis XIV was revived, but in an incomparably stronger form. 
Sixteen German princes separated themselves from the empire, 
declared themselves to be sovereign, and further declared that 
every law of the ancient and honourable national comity was null 
and inoperative ; they recognised Napoleon as their Protector, 
and placed at his disposal for every continental war in which 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

France might be engaged, an army of 63,000 men. Unconditional 
subordination in matters of European policy and equally uncondi- 
tional sovereignty in internal affairs : such were the two leading 
thoughts of the constitution of the Confederation of the Rhine, 
dictated by a thorough knowledge of the German estate of princes. 
The courts tolerated their subordination because, standing between 
Austria and France, they needed a protector, and because they 
hoped for new marks of Napoleon's favour. Some secretly consoled 
themselves with the thought that the French dominion would not 
last for ever ; but the sovereignty they all regarded as a treasure 
that was to endure to all eternity. German particularism was 
blossoming in all its sins. 

Napoleon, in a letter to Dalberg, did not deny himself the 
pleasure of making a mocking reference to the time-honoured 
treason of the petty princes ; he called the policy of the Confedera- 
tion of the Rhine conservative, since it merely gave legal sanction 
to a protectorate which had existed in fact for several centuries. 
At the same time he prudently flattered dynastic arrogance. No 
lord paramount was any longer to be imposed upon the German 
princes. No foreign court could interfere in their internal affairs ; 
he himself was merely to exercise the duty of a Protector, and 
his protectorate had no ulterior aim beyond securing complete 
sovereignty for the allies. The promised fundamental statute 
for the Confederation of the Rhine never appeared ; the Bun- 
destag, with its two councils, never assembled. For this piece of work, 
which was the outcome of rude force, there was lacking from the 
very outset all capacity for further development. It was far from 
the mind of the Protector, who had already scolded his own tame 
legislative body in Paris with the words, " Vous chicanez le 
pouvoir ! " to allow himself to be bothered by the tedious delibera- 
tions of a Rhenish Bundestag. It sufficed him that he had now 
under his command 150,000 German soldiers, regiments from the 
left bank of the Rhine. The two kings in the Confederation of the 
Rhine, however, did not conceal their hostility to any idea of their 
subordination to the Confederation, and they flatly rejected all the 
plans for federal development which the new prince-primate, 
Dalberg, brought forward with inexhaustible enthusiasm. 

The domain of the Confederation extended over the whole 
of the south-west, from the Inn to the Rhine, and then stretched 
northward far towards Westphalia, surrounding the Prussian 
State and its smaller allies in a wide curve ; the thirty-ninth 
Article of its Charter threateningly announced that for these other 


History of Germany 

German States the right of entry was reserved. Those of the 
smaller estates of the empire that still remained in the south and in 
the west, were subjected to the suzerainty of the sixteen members 
of the Confederation : this was the fate of all the princes and 
counts, of all the imperial knights (as many of them as had still 
kept their heads above water in the storms of recent years), of the 
two knightly orders, of the imperial towns of Nuremberg and 
Frankfort in all, a domain of 550 square miles [German] and con- 
taining about 1,250,000 inhabitants. All the sordidness attaching 
to the principal resolution of the Diet of Deputation seem trifling 
in comparison with the detestable brutality of this new exercise 
of arbitrary power ; for what had happened was not on this occasion 
initiated by the empire itself, and was not justified by the excuse 
of indemnification, but was the outcome of the arbitrariness 
of a handful of perjured princes. Moreover, under the protection 
of the Napoleonic army, the destruction was now threatened of 
Lobkowitz and Schwarzenberg, and of all those Austrian territorial 
lords who had so long constituted the nucleus of the imperial 
party among the temporal princes. With them fell also the old 
and celebrated races of the Furstenbergs and the Hohenlohes, 
which, but a few decades before had been almost as powerful as 
their fortunate neighbours in Carlsruhe and Stuttgart and one 
at least among those thus mediatised allowed his doom to be pro- 
claimed for honour's sake, and of his own deliberate will. Prince 
Frederick Louis of Hohenlohe-Oehringen proudly rejected all 
the alluring offers which Napoleon made to the celebrated Prussian 
general in order to win him over to the Confederation of the Rhine. 
He would not break the faith which had for centuries united his 
house with the Hohenzollerns, but lost his territorial suzerainty 
because he courageously placed himself on Prussia's side. Even 
more directly was the court of Berlin injured by the spoliation 
of the House of Nassau-Orange, for this house had provided 
for the crown of Prussia an indemnification on German soil 
for the lost possessions in the Netherlands, and it was now 
deprived of a part of its German lands, without its being 
thought necessary even to notify Berlin of the fact. Chance 
and caprice decided which of the petty states were to remain 
in existence and which were to be destroyed. Count von 
der Leyen was allowed to enter the Confederation of the Rhine 
as a sovereign prince because he was the nephew of Dalberg. But, 
unknown to these malefactors, there yet presided over this arbitrary 
proceeding a great necessity. Once more there disappeared a 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

whole crowd of those sterile state-structures which had once 
enriched themselves with the spoils of the ancient German 
monarchy ; the soil was being levelled upon which subsequently 
was to rise a new structure of German unity. 

Until far into the summer Napoleon remained convinced that 
the rightful emperor would refuse to accept the destruction of the 
ancient empire ; for the Peace of Pressburg expressly stated that 
the new kings were not to cease to belong to the German league. 
But Austria was utterly exhausted by unsuccessful war ; the Arch- 
duke Charles and the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Count Philip 
Stadion, hoped that the energies of the monarchy might be re-estab- 
lished in peace. In addition, in the Treaty of Pressburg, all the 
consequences of the Bavario-Wurtemberg sovereignty had been 
accepted, and the imperial suzerainty had therefore been 
indirectly abandoned. But if the will and the power to maintain 
the claims of the old emperordom by force of arms were lacking, 
the honour of the imperial house still demanded that the worthless 
title should be abandoned in good time, freely and voluntarily, 
before Napoleon enforced its renunciation. Such was the advice 
of Stadion ; but even in these gloomy days, in which a history 
dating from a thousand years was moving to its tragic conclusion, 
the ancient greed of the Hapsburg dynastic policy could not rest. 
Just as his ancestors had always regarded the occupancy of the 
imperial throne as no more than a means for the increase of their 
immediate territorial dominion, so Emperor Francis regarded 
the abandonment of the imperial crown simply as a possibility 
for a good stroke of business. " The time for discarding the 
imperial title," so he wrote, " is that in which the advantages which 
would thus be derived for my monarchy outweigh the disadvan- 
tages which its further retention might entail." For this reason 
Metternich was to hasten to Paris, in order there " to put a good 
value upon the imperial dignity," and not to refuse to resign it, 
but rather to display a conciliatory spirit in return for " some great 
advantages to be received by my monarchy." Such was the mood 
in which the last of the Roman-German emperors took leave of 
the purple of the Salii and the Hohenstauffen. The customary 
phrases of imperial and paternal loyalty and suzerain care were 
no longer heard ; the policy of the House of Austria at length 
displayed in plain words its attitude towards Germany. 
But the proposed commercial transaction miscarried. When 
Metternich reached Paris, the Charter of the Confederation of the 
Rhine had already been drawn up. The German emperor was 


History of Germany 

confronted with an accomplished fact, and had only to look on 
whilst at Ratisbon Napoleon and his vassals decreed the formal 
dissolution of the empire. 

Meanwhile the ultimate disgrace was inflicted on the Reichstag 
by one of the most loyal of the estates of the empire. The 
Hotspur of royalism, King Gustavus of Sweden, recalled his envoy 
because he regarded it as beneath his dignity to participate in delibe- 
rations which were under the influence of usurpation and egoism. 
When in Paris the preparations were in progress for the foundation 
of the Confederation of the Rhine, Dalberg was careful to give a 
holiday to the Assembly at Ratisbon. Then on August ist, eight 
envoys declared in the names of the Rhenish federal princes that 
their honourable lords found it " comported with their dignity 
and with the purity of their aims " to separate themselves formally 
from the Holy Empire, which was in fact dissolved ; they placed 
themselves under the " powerful protection of the monarch whose 
intentions had always proved themselves to be in harmony with the 
true interests of Germany." Simultaneously the French ambassador 
announced that Napoleon would no longer recognise the empire, 
which had long been merely a shadow of itself. 

In the ancient centuries of force and roughness there had always 
been preserved among the Germans a last sentiment of shame ; 
the murderer avoided the neighbourhood of his victim because he 
dreaded lest he should see the red blood burst once more from the 
wounds of the corpse. But this new and unprejudiced generation 
had no sentiments of this kind ; when the declaration of the first 
of August was read, there were present in the Reichstag hardly 
any envoys beyond those from the members of the Confederation 
of the Rhine which had destroyed the ancient German state. The 
Reichstag broke up without any further proceedings. Thereupon, 
on August 6th, in a cool and colourless manifesto, Emperor Francis 
laid aside the German crown, and at the same time declared, 
in opposition to the law, that " the office and dignity of lord para- 
mount " was extinct, and that the empire of Austria was exonerated 
of all German imperial duties. The alliance between Germany 
and the imperial hereditary dominions had, however, been for long 
so loose, that the formal separation had hardly any influence upon 
Austrian internal conditions. Thus by a coup d'etat of the last 
Hapsburg emperor was that crown destroyed which had for a 
thousand years been intimately associated at once with the 
proudest and with the most painful memories of the German people ; 
among these memories was the heroic fame of the Othos, but also 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

the horror of the Thirty Years' War and the ludicrous disgrace 
of Rossbach. The empire had traversed the whole circle of earthly 
destiny ; after being an ornament of Germany it had become a 
detestable caricature ; and when it at length collapsed it seemed as 
if a ghost had been laid. The nation remained silent and cold. 
It was not until the shame of the period without an emperor had 
been experienced to the full that the dream of emperor and empire 
once again was awakened in the German heart. 

In the camp of Bonapartism there was manifest ill-natured 
rejoicing. The Mainzer Zeitung wrote : " There is no longer a 
Germany. What some are inclined to regard as the efforts of a 
nation fighting against its dissolution are no more than the lamen- 
tations of a few persons beside the grave of a people which has out- 
lived its destiny. It is not now that Germany has perished. That 
which gives content and life to the history of nations is the spirit 
of a few great and leading men " whereupon there followed 
the customary genuflection before the hero of the century. In 
the highlands and along the Rhine, the opinion was widely diffused 
that England's gold and Austria's arrogance were alone responsible 
for the latest war, and for the destruction of the emperordom ; 
but in the north the masses hardly knew even the name of the empire 
and had no sense of the seriousness of the times. Under the pro- 
tection of the grande armee, the princes of the Confederation of 
the Rhine took possession of their spoils, and just as had happened 
three years before, the people suffered everything with no more 
than a few trifling complaints. All the courts of the Confederation 
considered that in virtue of their new sovereignty they were justi- 
fied in destroying the last vestiges of the ancient rights of the 
estates ; Napoleon's word of power, " C'est commande par les 
circonstances," was the justification for every arbitrary act. 
Frederick of Wiirtemberg, immediately after he had succeeded 
to the kingly crown, demanded from the Committee of the Diet the 
key of the estate treasury, and abolished the old territorial con- 
stitution which had been defended in the battles of three hundred 
years by the valiant Swabians, and which was the one living energy 
in the German south, saying that it was " an institution no longer 
adapted to the circumstances of the day " ; his ministers rejoiced, 
for now at length had been overcome the stubbornness of the 
estates. Even the crown of Denmark took the opportunity of the 
dissolution of the empire to incorporate Holstein into its state ; 
King Gustavus deprived Swedish Pomerania of its ancient terri- 
torial rights, and introduced the Swedish constitution. 


History of Germany 

The anarchy of a new interregnum broke over Germany ; 
clublaw prevailed. The clubs were no longer in the hands of 
medieval brigand nobles, but in those of modern princes. 
Napoleon suspiciously persecuted all displays of national feeling 
in the subordinated lands. He wrote to Talleyrand that the 
interests of France demanded that German public opinion should 
remain divided. When at Ansbach there was published an anony- 
mous pamphlet entitled Germany in Her Profound Abasement, 
a well-meant sentimental essay which in this time of iron could 
only give utterance to the peaceful counsel, " Weep, weep all 
noble and loyal Germans ! " to the Imperator even this groan 
of German philistinism seemed alarming, and he had the book- 
seller, Palm, who was said to have circulated the pamphlet, 
tried by court-martial, and shot. This was the first of 
Bonaparte's judicial murders on German soil, and the pru- 
dent folk of Bavaria began to doubt whether the Confederation 
of the Rhine had really brought about the victory of peace and 

How differently from this tearful Ansbacher did Frederick 
Gentz know how to speak to his people. The finest of his writings, 
the fragments from the recent history of the balance of power, 
showed, it is true, that the talented man was now writing in the pay 
of Austria : for the noble archducal house he could find words of 
praise alone, and he flatly denied the manifest designs of the Hof- 
burg against Bavaria. But these extenuations signified little in 
comparison with the magnificent frankness, with the flaming words, 
with which he probed the ultimate causes of the German disgrace. 
The old balance of power had been disturbed by a new world- 
dominion ; "it is not the genius of Napoleon, but the defenceless- 
ness of Germany, for which Germany is herself responsible, that 
has brought about her doom." The great question of the future 
is, whether the whole of Germany is to become what the half 
of Germany has become to-day, what Holland and Switzerland, 
Spain and Italy have become. Europe has been overthrown by 
Germany's fault, and by Germany must Europe be re-established. 
He calls for a saviour and an avenger, who shall restore us to our 
eternal rights, who shall build up Germany and Europe once again. 
With all the might of his scorn he lashes the fools who expect the 
salvation of the world from France. " The avenging fate which, 
for the punishment of Germany's arrogant stupidity has flogged 
her through the whole weary cycle of political insanity, has at 
length metamorphosed the enthusiasts of freedom for a timid 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

and febrile freedom into eulogists of the most atrocious slavery 
which has ever oppressed the nations." 

From the quiet north there at length resounded powerful 
words of patriotic wrath. Ernst Moritz Arndt, the valiant son of 
the isle of Riigen, had hitherto passed his days as an obedient 
subject of the three crowns of Sweden ; it was only when the 
disgrace of the Germans came home to him, that his German blood 
boiled and he came to understand which was his fatherland. 
During the war of 1805 he wrote the first portion of his Geist der 
Zeit, and from that time onwards he remained firmly attached 
to his unhappy people, playing the part of a faithful Eckart, 
of an awakener of consciences. There were at his disposal neither 
the comprehensive knowledge of Gentz, nor the insight and the 
logical powers of the great publicists. A child of nature, he needed 
many years before he could throw off the provincial prejudices 
of his Swedish-Pomeranian home, and get rid of the obscure enthu- 
siasm for the land of the forests and of freedom, Scandinavia, and 
could overcome his hostility towards poor, sober Prussia, which, 
with its coldly calculating Frederick, was alone responsible for the 
splitting up of Germany. But fresh and powerful, like the waves 
of his ocean home, endowed with a primitive and immediate force 
of sensibility, such as was possessed by no other political writer of 
the age, his eloquence flowed from an overfilled heart glowing with 
love. His every word was true and courageous. Whilst the hard 
political ideas of the Viennese publicists were comprehensible to 
very few in this generation without a state, Arndt concluded his 
book with the simple appeal, " I love humanity " ; he moved 
emotions because he preached politics from the human side. He 
was the first to recognise and to chastise the moral evils of 
intellectual over-culture, and to the clever century he exclaimed 
that it was " better to live than to chatter about life." " Without 
the people, there is no humanity ; and without free citizens, there 
if no free man. A man is seldom of so strong a fibre that he can 
endure servitude and contempt without deterioration ; a people, 
never." Similar sentiments found expression in the younger 
literary circles of Berlin ; since the unhappy Ansbach negotiations, 
the old feeling of comfortable self-satisfaction was no longer possible. 
In the entourage of Schleiermacher, ideas were entertained of a 
northern federation, which by freedom of trade and intercourse, 
and by a common military system, was once more to restore brother- 
hood to the Germans of the north. 

Such ideas as these, the only ones which promised salvation, 


History of Germany 

had lately begun to influence even the Prussian Government. 
Whilst the Holy Empire went down towards destruction, and the 
South and the West bowed beneath the French yoke, King 
Frederick William, as we learn from his subsequent war-manifesto, 
undertook to assemble the last Germans under the flag of Prussia. 
Two years earlier he had bluntly rejected the North German imperial 
crown which Napoleon had offered him, because he mistrusted 
Greek gifts ; and it was with honest regret that he saw the empire 
abolished. Not until the old legal community of the German nation 
had completely disappeared, did the conscientious prince at length 
determine to carry out those plans of federal reform which, since 
the days of the League of Princes, had continually been revived 
at the court of Berlin ; not until then did he determine to give a 
firm legal form to the protectorate of Prussia over the north, which 
had existed in fact since the Peace of Basle. It was his desire, 
as he wrote to Frederick Augustus of Saxony, to oppose to the Con- 
federation of the Rhine, a federative system which might save 
the north of Germany. Prussia at length re-entered the paths of 
a healthy German policy, and it was this very return to its 
great traditions which was to entail terrible humiliation, and 
punishment for past sins. The king no longer believed a single 
word of the smooth flatteries which Napoleon had continued 
to shower upon him throughout the winter. Since the Treaty of 
Paris, he had been prepared for the worst ; he considered the founda- 
tion of the Confederation of the Rhine, of which no notification 
whatever had been given to the allied court of Berlin, to be a revo- 
lution, and to be a manifestation of hostility towards Prussia. He 
felt by no means secure in the possession of Hanover, which he 
regarded as the bulwark of the independence of the north. The 
union of this country with the great power of North Germany was 
in such close correspondence with European interest, that even in 
England a few far-sighted persons advised a friendly understand- 
ing with the cabinet of Berlin ; but the Guelph pride of George III 
obstinately resisted such an idea. Thus while, on account of 
Hanover, England was carrying on a fruitless war with Prussia, 
the king had to fear that the trickery of his ally might once more 
deprive him of the dearly-bought country. 

It was full time that the last countries which still remained 
German and free should be put in a state of military preparation. 
That tri-partition of Germany of which Hardenberg had dreamed 
in the spring, was now almost completed, although in a very different 
sense from that which the credulous man had foreseen. All that 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

remained possible to the court of Prussia was to proceed indepen- 
dently of Austria and France, and to take independent action with 
regard to the third of Germany that lay within its own sphere of 
influence. Since even Haugwitz had long obtained a clear under- 
standing of the intentions of Napoleon, Prussia began already in 
July, even before the Confederation of the Rhine had been formed, 
to negotiate with the courts of Dresden and Cassel regarding the 
constitution of a North German Federation. The Prussian plan 
closely resembled the old-established constitution of the empire, 
and demanded from the smaller courts no more than the absolutely 
essential military provisions. Prussia was to have the imperial 
dignity, whilst the two Electors were to receive the long-desired 
kingly crowns ; there was to be a congress of envoys, under the 
leadership of these three states, and each of them was to have 
supreme military command in one of the three regions of the federa- 
tion ; finally, there were to be a federal court of justice, and a federal 
army of 240,000 men which in time of war was to remain under the 
supreme command in Prussia. Everything was anxiously avoided 
which might hurt the pride of the members of the federation. 
The congress and the tribunal were not to sit in Berlin, but, in 
accordance with ancient imperial custom, in two minor towns. 
To satisfy the ambition of Saxony and Hesse, it was arranged to 
mediatise the imperial knighthood and some of the pettiest counts 
and barons, and the two Middle States were to receive the lion's 
share of the spoil. 

Once more, however, it was to become manifest that there 
was no success obtainable for this state without arduous toil. It 
was not as a last resort, nor yet by peaceful negotiations, that the 
bold idea of the Prussian emperordom could be realised. The 
obscure vacillations of Berlin statecraft had aroused profound 
distrust in all the courts ; the hesitating embarrassment of Prussia 
was regarded by the world as deliberate calculation. Even at the 
friendly court of St. Petersburg there was for some time a doubt 
whether this North German Federation was not a Napoleonic 
intrigue. It was impossible that Austria should regard with a 
favourable eye a policy which endeavoured to transfer to Prussia 
a fragment of the old imperial glory. The Emperor Francis 
remained full of suspicion, especially since Prussia kept the negotia- 
tions strictly secret. It was through the intermediation of the 
Austrian ambassador in Paris that the Elector of Saxony first heard 
the news that Napoleon wished to warn him against the ambitions 
of Berlin. In such circumstances, what could be expected from the 


History of Germany 

good sentiments of those petty states which for so long had been 
accustomed to will the end without willing the means, to claim 
the protection of Prussia without offering any service in return. 

The elector of Hesse had first carried on secret negotiations 
on behalf of his accession to the Confederation of the Rhine, and had 
only failed to conclude a bargain with France because Napoleon 
would not present to the greedy elector the territory of his cousins 
of Darmstadt. Now, always in the hope of fresh accessions of 
territory, he joyfully accepted the plan of the North German 
Federation, but his zeal soon cooled when it became clear that 
Frederick William's sense of justice intended to limit the 
mediatisation within narrow bounds. The Saxon cabinet dis- 
played that stiff arrogance which had before characterised 
the negotiations concerning the Frederician League of Princes. 
There could be no question of subordinating the Saxon crown to 
a Prussian emperordom. Since Prussia yielded in the matter of 
the imperial dignity, the court of Dresden demanded the consti- 
tution of a Federal Directory, which should circulate between 
Prussia, Saxony, and Hesse ; and instead of a federal army and 
federal court of justice, there were to be three district armies, 
and three district tribunals under the separate guidance of the 
three leading powers. The old longing of the Albertines for the 
annexation of the Ernestine lands was revived, and from that 
time for two generations to come, remained the principal aim of 
Dresden statecraft. The Hansa towns also showed themselves 
averse to the scheme, although the North German Federation asked 
them for no more than a monetary payment instead of a supply 
of men for the army ; they secretly determined to form a separate 
Hanseatic Federation. When the danger of war now became more 
imminent, and Prussia demanded from the smaller proteges a con- 
tribution to the upkeep of the army, the court of Schwerin mani- 
fested the patriotic sentiments of the German petty princes in the 
ever-memorable declaration : " However thankful His Serene 
Highness the Duke would be to accept your Exalted Royal 
Protection if His Serene Highness believed himself to be in danger, 
yet in existing circumstances he must urgently excuse himself from 
making the proposed contribution." The upright Lord of Schwerin 
did, indeed, give way when Prussia recalled to his mind "the 
national honour of the oppressed fatherland," and threatened 
an invasion. Meanwhile the whole course of the tedious negotia- 
tions showed that a firm alliance with these courts could be based 
upon the pressure of arms alone. 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

The resistance of the petty states was supported in Paris, and 
by the faithlessness of Napoleon the North German Federation 
was destroyed in the germ. On July 22nd Talleyrand had written 
to the Berlin court suggesting that Prussia should derive advantage 
from the foundation of the Confederation of the Rhine, and should 
found a North German Empire for itself. It was manifest that this 
friendly invitation aimed only to secure Prussia's assent to the 
dissolution of the ancient empire. The Confederation of the Rhine 
had been from the first intended, as was plainly shown by the con- 
cluding article of its constitution, to provide for the adhesion of 
all the German petty states. Hardly had it been concluded when 
it was enlarged by the entry of the new Grand Duchy of Wurzburg. 
At the very moment when Napoleon was offering his ally the 
North German imperial crown, he warned the courts of Dresden 
and Cassel against the Prussian alliance, and secretly encouraged 
the plans for the aggrandisement of Saxony, and the attempts of 
the Hansa towns to form a separate league. On August i3th he 
came more plainly into the open, transmitting by the mouth of 
Dalberg to the two electors his assurance of protection against 
the ill-will of Prussia should they wish to join the Confederation 
of the Rhine. Four weeks later he declared to the Prince- 
Primate that he had recognised the full sovereignty of all the 
German princes, and that he would tolerate no lord paramount 
over them. Nowhere did these French intrigues produce a pro- 
founder impression than at the court of Dresden. As soon as war 
became imminent, the alarmed elector endeavoured to carry on 
a double game between Prussia and France, similar to that which 
Bavaria a year before had carried on between France and 
Austria. Too timid and too honourable to refuse his neighbour 
his federal help, he still hoped to secure himself against all 
eventualities, and begged that the Prussian troops should enter 
his territory suddenly, because he wished to make Napoleon 
believe that it was unwillingly that he had become the federal 
ally of Prussia. 

After all the lamentable humiliations of recent months, was 
Prussia now to endure, in addition, that Napoleon should forbid 
her to preserve against foreign dominion the last vestiges of 
Germany ? Were the Prussians to dally until the faithless man 
who had surrounded the monarchy with his armies, and who 
carried on unceasing preparations in his fortresses on the Rhine, 
offered to the king on the point of his sword a new and still more 
shameful treaty of subjection ? " Napoleon strikes at our heart," 


History of Germany 

wrote General Riichel, " he threatens Saxony and Hesse in viola- 
tion of his most sacred assurances." Nothing but the sword could 
find a way out of this intolerable situation. Since the winter, 
the one-sided patriots at the court had already foreseen that the 
decisive struggle was inevitably approaching. In anticipation 
of the oncoming catastrophe, Stein, the Minister of Finance, 
endeavoured during the spring to deliver the king from the influence 
of his subordinate advisers. He drew up a memorial upon the errors 
of the Government, the first programme of his great policy of reform. 
" Since Prussia has no state constitution, and since the supreme 
authority is not divided between the Chief of the State and the 
Representatives of the Nation, there seems to be all the greater 
need for a governmental constitution ; authority has become the 
spoil of a subordinate influence ; for this reason the secret cabinet 
government must be abolished, and in its place there must be con- 
stituted a Council of State with five expert ministers who must be 
in immediate relations with the king ; moreover, these must be 
new and energetic persons, for when measures are changed there 
must be a change also in those who are to carry them out." 
Blucher, too, boldly denounced the rout of base loungers which 
surrounded the noble king. In September, just before the fall of 
the dice, a number of the princes of the royal house, together with 
Stein, Blucher, and Riichel, addressed a common memorial to the 
throne, informing the king of that which " all Prussia, all Germany, 
all Europe knows," and imploring him to dismiss Haugwitz, Bey me, 
and Lombard. How profoundly must the old and solid framework 
of absolutism have been shattered when royal princes could venture 
such a step ! Frederick William was not inclined to allow the 
prestige of his crown to be endangered ; he called this undertaking 
a mutiny, and gave the petitioners an ungracious reception. Thus 
it happened that in the most important offices, the old time and the 
new remained side by side and in direct contact. In the 
army, the general-quartermaster Scharnhorst stood beside the 
commander-in-chief the duke of Brunswick ; in the ministry, 
Stein sat beside Haugwitz ; in the cabinet, Lombard acted after 
his own nature, whilst Hardenberg was giving the monarch trust- 
worthy counsel. Under such leadership as this, the shapeless old 
monarchy resumed the struggle with the man of power, of whom 
the French said with timid wonder : "He knows everything, he 
wills everything, he can do everything ! " 

The unavoidable war was at length precipitated by a new act 
of treachery on the part of Napoleon. How often and how 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

ceremoniously had France undertaken to guarantee her Prussian ally 
in the possession of Hanover. Now it was suddenly learned in 
Berlin that the Imperator, who throughout the summer had been 
conducting a great peace negotiation with England and Russia, 
had inconsiderately offered to restore to the Guelphs their heredi- 
tary dominions. Upon recept of this news, Frederick William 
immediately wrote to the czar (August gth) : "If Napoleon is 
treating with London about Hanover, he will destroy me." The 
king foresaw that before long the unworthy conditions of February 
would be renewed, that Prussia would have as sole alternative 
either to endure in silence a shameful act of robbery or to resist 
the invasion of the grande armee by force of arms. The Prussian 
army was therefore placed upon a war footing and assembled at 
Magdeburg. By this absolutely necessary step, the war was 
determined. For although the negotiations between France and 
England fell through, and the proposed deal with Hanover was 
temporarily abandoned, it still remained certain, in view of the 
secret intrigues of French diplomacy in Dresden and Cassel, that 
Napoleon would joyfully seize any convenient opportunity to over- 
throw the one state that still prevented the extension of the 
Confederation of the Rhine over the whole of Germany. As the 
king must have expected, within the next few days France 
threateningly demanded the demobilisation of the Prussian army, 
and the dissolution of the proposed North German Federation. 
With full justice he wrote to his Russian friend that peace was 
possible on two conditions only, if Napoleon should withdraw his 
troops from Germany and should undertake to offer no further 
obstacles to the North German Federation ; otherwise war was 
inevitable, for who could impose laws upon this man ? 

Although the Imperator did not immediately send an ulti- 
matum, the delay was dependent merely upon his desire to await the 
issue of the peace negotiations he was conducting with Russia. 
With complete foresight, and calculating every step, he had for 
months been engaged in diplomatic and military preparations for 
the Prussian war. Not one of his other campaigns of conquest 
had been initiated with such extreme caution, for he still had a 
considerable respect for the Frederician army. He succeeded in 
detaching his opponent almost completely from the other great 
powers, and he had hidden his game so cleverly that his contem- 
poraries and posterity believed his falsehood that this war of defence 
he had thus forced upon the Prussian State was a desperate chance 
venture| [wantonly undertaken by the king. The fable found 

281 T 

History of Germany 

acceptance even in Prussia, for after the unfortunate issue of the 
previous passage at arms, everyone execrated the policy of 1806. 

By the cession of Hanover, Napoleon had sown enmity between 
the Prussian court and England ; now he advised the Russian 
plenipotentiary, Oubril, to conclude a separate peace. Should 
the czar refuse to ratify the step undertaken by his envoy, there 
was still another weapon available which might have kept the St, 
Petersburg court out of the Prussian War. As long before as 
August, the Corsican Sebastiani had gone to Constantinople, in 
order to induce the Sultan Selim to declare war against Russia. 
He found the Divan in a state of angry excitement, for the uncer- 
tain and meddlesome policy of Czartoryski had secretly encouraged 
the Servians to revolt, had brought the hospodars of the Danubian 
provinces under Russian influence, and had sowed dissension in 
the isles of Greece. It was not difficult to urge the Porte onwards. 
When the czar Alexander rejected the separate peace proposed 
by Oubril, it was already known in Paris that Russia would be 
unable to place more than half her army at the disposal of Prussia. 
Soon after the battles in Thuringia, the war on the Danube broke 
out, and Napoleon exhorted the Sultan, " Now is the time to 
secure your independence ! " With the rejection of Oubril's peace 
proposals, there was no longer any choice open for the court of 
Berlin, for now a war between France and Russia was unavoidable, 
and this was a war which could not be carried out without Prussia's 
co-operation. By the oriental negotiations Napoleon simulta- 
neously secured the neutrality of Austria. In Vienna the hatred 
against the victor of Austerlitz was stronger than the mistrust of 
Haugwitz, even stronger than the gratification which was felt at 
the plight of the North German rival. But in the last war the power 
of Austria had been so profoundly shaken, that in the complication 
of the moment Austria hardly counted, and now this country was 
completely paralyzed by the incalculable Turkish confusion. As soon 
as the troops of Alexander invaded Wallachia, Archduke Charles 
advised his imperial brother to occupy Belgrade ; for months the 
cabinet of Vienna remained resolved upon a war against Russia. 
Hence the Hofburg received no less coolly the Prussian demands 
for help than it received Napoleon's suggestions of an alliance for 
the protection of the independence of Saxony. But to secure the 
favour of the Imperator, the Hofburg went so far as to betray to 
the court of the Tuileries a war-despatch of the Prussian minister. 

Thus Haugwitz was enmeshed by the diplomatic mastery 
of his opponent, and was, in truth, already beaten, although he 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

continued to foster happy anticipations. He continued to reckon 
trustfully upon the co-operation of Austria, which there was really 
no reason whatever to expect ; and he believed that the people 
of the Confederation of the Rhine would voluntarily serve under 
the king's banner, whereas everywhere mistrust and coldness were 
exhibited towards Prussia. It was only the help of Russia which 
the king had been able to secure for his state by secret negotia- 
tions in St. Petersburg. But not even the czar realised the great- 
ness of the danger, thinking that it would suffice to send to Prussia's 
assistance an army of 70,000 men ; and he allowed himself to be 
drawn into the war in the east at the very time that the struggle 
for Prussia's existence began. Moreover, there was a revival of 
the old troubles concerning the untrustworthy Polish provinces. 
The well-meaning Prince Radziwill advised the king to assume the 
title of King of Poland, and the czar, that of King of Lithuania, 
saying " these titles would obliterate all adverse sentiment." 
Frederick William was careful to avoid following this two-edged 
counsel ; but meanwhile in Paris a manifesto was issued summon- 
ing the Poles to fight for freedom by the side of their old French 
ally. For the opening of the campaign Prussia could count upon 
the co-operation of Electoral Saxony alone, and the loyalty of this 
one and only friend had long been vacillating. More than once 
Napoleon let the court of Dresden know that he regarded Saxony's 
participation in the war as compulsory ; the anxious elector did 
not yet venture upon open treachery, but he allowed his envoy to 
remain in Paris, and even before the news of the battle of Jena 
he sent thanks to the French emperor for his friendly attitude. 
Count Schonfeld, the Saxon representative in Vienna, received 
instructions to declare to the French ambassador that the elector 
had only joined Prussia under the force of circumstances, and hoped 
that Napoleon would not regard the behaviour of the court of 
Saxony as dictated by hostility against France. Napoleon could 
count with certainty upon the desertion of Electoral Saxony. 
The elector of Hesse remained neutral, since his avarice could 
expect nothing out of this war, and Haugwitz did not interfere 
with him. 

Such was the isolation of Prussia when this country took up 
arms against the whole of western Europe. Nothing but a careful 
defensive could ensure even a tolerable issue for the unequal 
struggle. With the support of that triangle of fortresses between 
the Elbe and the Oder which had so often proved the salvation of 
the threatened state, it might perhaps be possible to withstand the 


History of Germany 

overwhelming power of the enemy for such a time as would be 
necessary for the arrival of the auxiliary army from the interior 
of Russia. But Haugwitz wished to prove to the mistrustful world 
that he was engaged in this war in earnest. He advised an attack, 
and the Frederician traditions of the army also spoke on behalf of 
a bold offensive. The resolution was therefore taken to advance 
through Thuringia against South Germany, and for this madly 
venturesome undertaking not even the whole of the army was 
engaged. All the East Prussian regiments and the majority of 
the South Prussian regiments, nearly 40,000 men in all, remained 
at home. How differently did Napoleon know how to arm for 
battle and for victory. As early as August he had pushed forward 
the troops of the Confederation of the Rhine to the borders of 
Thuringia. In the first days of September he despatched marching 
orders to the grande armee, prescribing each days' march with 
detailed precision. His spies swarmed on the roads from Bamberg 
to Berlin : a war chest of 24,000 francs was enough for him, for any 
more that he wanted would be a spontaneous fruit of the antici- 
pated victory. 

Now, even more definitely than in the previous year, the 
Imperator indicated as the aim of the war the partition of Germany 
and the independence of all the German crowns ; it was for this 
aim that in a circular he demanded the armed help of the courts 
of the Confederation of the Rhine. An imperial embassy explained 
to the Senate how Napoleon had pledged himself to safeguard 
invaded Saxony from the ambitions of an unjust neighbour, and 
after the outbreak of the war a manifesto " to the peoples 
of Saxony " announced that France was coming to liberate them. 
The French, so far as in this dull generation there still existed any 
to trouble themselves about political questions, joyfully agreed 
with their ruler. Since Henry II had first presented himself in 
the guise of the eternal defender of German liberty, the protec- 
tion of the German system of petty states was generally regarded 
as one of the tasks of French national policy. Just as readily did 
the princes of the Confederation of the Rhine follow the protector 
of German particularism. Frederick of Wurtemberg exhibited all 
the wrath of offended majesty when the Duke of Brunswick exhorted 
him on behalf of the common fatherland and called to his mind the 
duties of German princes. The South German officers were 
delighted with the idea that now at length this arrogant Prussia 
was to be repaid for the disgraces of Rossbach and Leuthen. 

Yet it was a holy war, for by this war and by its terrible mis- 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

carriage, the old order of German life was utterly destroyed. 
What had collapsed at Ratisbon was an empty shadow ; but that 
which was destroyed on the battle-fields of Thuringia and East 
Prussia was the living German State, the only one which had given a 
content and an aim to the political existence of this people. It was 
going down to destruction when, after long years of aberration, it 
once more came to itself, and began to wage war against the enforced 
dominion of the foreigner and against the felony of its own princes. 
Nothing could be more honourable than the open and upright letter 
of defiance sent by the king to Napoleon ; nothing could be better 
justified than were the three demands of the Prussian ultimatum 
of October ist : the withdrawal of the French from Germany ; the 
recognition of the North German Federation ; a peaceful under- 
standing concerning the other two questions still in dispute between 
the two powers. Even in the diffuse and ill-drafted war-manifesto 
we still find, here and there, a tone of worthy national pride. The 
king takes up arms, " in order to free unhappy Germany from the 
yoke now imposed upon the country ; nations have rights which 
are greater than all treaties ! " 

Neither in the people nor yet in the army was there as yet any 
idea of the great significance of the war. With the voice of one 
crying in the wilderness, Schleiermacher stood in the pulpit of the 
Ulrichskirche in Halle to interpret to the blind the signs of the 
times : " All our life is rooted in German freedom and German 
sentiment ; that is all that matters ! " Fichte, too, still remained 
solitary, and understood by but few. As soon as the serious 
significance of the war became manifest, there awakened in this 
valiant man a lively sense of the state. He resolutely discarded 
all his cosmopolitan dreams, and with flaming words he praised the 
occupation of those who were fighting on behalf of the fatherland. 
" What is the character of the warrior ? He must be capable of 
sacrifice. It is impossible for him to escape a soundness of senti- 
ment, a genuine love of honour, an elevation towards something 
which is greater than life and its enjoyments." In the self-satisfied 
circles of the officers' corps, there was heard hardly so much 
as a laugh at the inspired speeches of the strange enthusiast ; here 
there was still dominant the stiff obscurity of the Frederician times, 
and in addition a spirit of carping criticism, which exercised 
its wit upon every command issued by those in authority. No one 
as yet fully understood how severely the army had been affected 
by the profound slumber of the last decade. The king himself, 
perhaps, had the clearest vision. His insight recognised the dis- 


History of Germany 

order, the self-sufficiency, the dullness which everywhere prevailed; 
but how would it have been possible for this retiring individual 
to make his own views felt in opposition to those of the world- 
renowned old Brunswicker ? The common soldier did his duties 
mechanically. The masses of the people remained cold and 
indifferent. Only the older ones who still remembered the great 
king trusted firmly in the sharp talons of the Prussian eagle and 
spoke boastfully of the march on Paris. 

Thus began the only utterly disastrous campaign of the 
fortunate history of Prussian warfare. Unexampled as had been 
the rise of this state, equally unexampled was now to be its defeat, 
as ever memorable to all subsequent generations as a personally 
experienced sorrow, a warning to all towards watchfulness, humility, 
and loyalty. Napoleon was animated by a savage and malicious 
joy when he saw the most distinguished of the ancient powers 
helpless beneath his claws. Insults poured from his lips ; never 
before had he been so passionate, so full of hatred and cruelty. 
He felt that the last hope of Germany rested upon Prussia ; with 
the insight of the mean-minded man he recognised that these 
Hohenzollerns were made of other metal than the Emperor Francis 
and the satraps of the Confederation of the Rhine. In his addresses 
to the army it was the noble queen, above all, against whom he 
uttered the most malicious abuse. She, who had taken absolutely 
no part in the decisive negotiations of August, was to bear the blame 
for " the burghers' war " which had overtaken guileless France 
so unexpectedly ; she thirsted for blood, and like another Armida 
was madly setting her own castle in flames. Even before the 
swords were crossed, it was already decided that it was impossible 
for an honourable peace ever to be arranged between Napoleon 
and the Hohenzollerns. The Imperator scornfully concluded his 
war-manifesto with the words : " May Prussia learn, that while 
it is easy to gain territory and people by the friendship of France, 
her enmity is more terrible than the storms of the ocean ! " 

Just as by the abuses of power of the previous winter Haugwitz 
had brought his state into its desperate diplomatic situation, so 
now he was responsible for the mistaken beginnings of the 
campaign. Notwithstanding its enormously heavy baggage, the 
Prussian army had completed the invasion of Thuringia earlier than 
the enemy ; but the intended invasion of France was not carried 
out, because Haugwitz wished first to await the issue of his ultimatum. 
A few invaluable days were lost in purposeless idling to the north 
of the Thuringian forest. Then came the news that the enemy were 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

hurrying along the Nuremburg-Lcipzig road to eastern Thuringia, 
threatening the Prussian left flank. The Duke of Brunswick 
feared for his line of communications, and ordered a withdrawal to 
the Elbe. While thus engaged, the army was simultaneously 
attacked from the south and from the east. The Imperator himself 
advanced northwards through the valley of the Saal. The advance 
guard of the Prussians was defeated at Saalfield ; the death of the 
high-minded Prince Louis Ferdinand profoundly disturbed the 
morale of the troops, being regarded by them as an evil omen ; and 
with disgust the officers heard the cry arise from the dispersed 
bodies of the Prussian army, the cry never heard in that army before, 
" We are cut off ! " Prince Hohenlohe, ill-advised by the empty 
talker Massenbach, now forfeited in a single day the fame he 
had formerly acquired in knightly fashion on the Rhine. With 
his Prusso-Saxon corps, he withdrew past Jena to the table-land 
on the left bank of the Saal, and since he had received orders not 
to undertake any serious fighting, not only did he fail to cross the 
river, but failed also to occupy the valley and the heights over- 
looking the table-land. Napoleon immediately took advantage 
of the blunder, at once himself occupied the heights, torch in hand 
led the artillery up the steep slopes, and when the grey morning 
of October I4th broke, the Imperator was already secure of victory. 
How could this fraction of the Prussian army hold the position of 
Vierzehnheiligen against the French main body, which now began 
to attack from the commanding heights with an overwhelming 
preponderance of force ? The German soldier fought bravely in 
a manner worthy of his ancient fame, now as always the Prussian 
cavalry showed itself superior to the French ; it was only in 
dispersed fighting that the heavy infantry was unable to contend 
with the nimble tirailleurs of Napoleon. The French were inspired 
by the warlike ardour of young leaders accustomed to victory, 
whilst the allies were paralysed by the caution of their helpless 
old staff-officers. " Voyez done le pauvre papa saxon ! " cried the 
French soldier with mocking wonder to an old grey-headed colonel 
who had been taken prisoner. It would still have been possible 
for General Riichel with his fresh troops to secure an orderly retreat 
for the beaten army, but he led his regiments in isolation to useless 
struggles. Thus it happened that the reserve was involved in the 
defeat, and when now in the early autumn night the retreat to 
Weimar was undertaken, the last moral bands which still held the 
army together were ruptured. Deaf to the exhortations of unloved 
leaders, the soldier thought only of himself. In formless masses 


History of Germany 

the vestiges of the battalions and the batteries, interspersed with 
portions of the unending baggage-train, hastened across the table- 
land. Every bugle-call of the pursuing enemy increased the panic 
and confusion. " This was a horrible experience," writes 
Gneisenau referring to this dreadful night. " It would be a thousand 
times better to die than to live through it again ! " In vain did 
he collect a few troops of the fugitives at the edge of the woods 
of Webicht, just in front of Weimar, in order to cover the retreat 
of the corps. He was to learn how great is the elemental might of 
terror over a stricken army ; a last random attack of the French 
cavalry, carried out in the obscurity of the night, once more led 
to a dispersal in wild confusion. Inextinguishably there remained 
in the spirit of the hero this picture of horror, an inheritance for the 
days of reprisal. 

Simultaneously, a few miles lower down the river, Davoust 
gained an incomparably more difficult victory over the Prussian 
main body. He marched westward along the road from Naumberg 
in order to cut off the Prussians from the way to the Elbe. When 
on the morning of the I4th his columns emerged from the narrow 
pass of Kosen upon the undulating table-land which rises steeply- 
above the left bank of the Saal, between Hessenhausen and 
Auerstedt, the two armies suddenly encountered one another in 
the thick fog, both of them on the march, neither of them expecting 
this battle, and the Prussians in this case greatly outnumbering the 
enemy. During the first hours of the battle the Duke of Brunswick 
was fatally wounded ; in the decisive moment the Prussian army 
was without a leader, for the king did not venture to take over 
the supreme command himself and had not yet nominated a 
commander-in-chief. Scharnhorst, indeed, pressed forward vic- 
toriously with the left wing, and believed that he had already saved 
the honour of the day ; but the cavalry of the right wing was 
unskilfully employed, and the second division under Kalckreuth 
took no part in the fight, for in this peace army no general dared 
to act on his own initiative. Thus the enemy succeeded, by using 
its ultimate reserves, in defeating the right wing of the Prussians, 
and now Scharnhorst, too, had to give way. The army retreated 
in tolerable order intending to turn northward at a point further to 
the west, near Buttstedt, and to take the road past Sangerhausen 
to Magdeburg. Hohenlohe had taken the same line of retreat from 
Weimar, and when, in the darkness of the night, the two beaten 
armies now encountered one another, the alarm became general, 
and the main army was involved in the disorder of the force of 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

Hohenlohe. The men were dull and unaffected in the face of the 
destruction of Old Prussia ; numbers of them lost their flags ; some 
even, who had been taken prisoner by the enemy and who were then 
rescued by a spirited troop of cavalry, refused to take up arms 
again. When the army drew nearer home, many of the soldiers 
deserted, those of long service saying to themselves that they had 
carried the musket long enough, that the king had plenty of young 
fellows, and that they might fight it out. The magic of the Frederi- 
cian invulnerability had been destroyed, and a warlike fame beyond 
compare had been lost. 

On October I5th Napoleon imposed upon all the Prussian 
provinces on the hither side of the Vistula a tax of 159,000,000 
francs, on the ground that the battle of the day before had signified 
the conquest of the whole of this region. Never had the favourite 
of fortune boasted more audaciously, and yet, through a remarkable 
fatality, the most criminal of lies was to become a literal truth. 
Immediately after the defeat the Court of Dresden carried out its 
long-planned desertion, and went over to Napoleon. A week later, 
the Prussian domains on the left bank of the Elbe, as well as the 
possessions of the House of Orange and the House of Hesse, 
were temporarily annexed to the French empire. The system of 
ambiguous neutrality, which, with Napoleon's consent, had been 
adopted by the elector of Hesse, was now punished ; the conqueror 
would no longer tolerate a secret enemy at his back. In Miinster, 
the devotees of the ancient liberty of the estates rejoiced in the 
throwing off of the Prussian yoke ; the black-and-white turnpikes 
were torn down, the French and Miinsterland flags waved to cele- 
brate the entry of the Napoleonic troops. In Hanover, too, the 
black eagles were hastily removed, and the dismissal of the Prussian 
officials was greeted with unconcealed delight. 

Whilst the new provinces were thus lost, the reserve army 
at Halle underwent a defeat ; and since it withdrew to Magdeburg 
instead of guarding the capital, Napoleon was able to continue 
unhindered his victorious march to Berlin along the chord of the 
wide arc which the beaten forces occupied. Terribly now had to 
be avenged the self-satisfied arrogance of the times of peace None 
of the fortresses were properly armed, for no one had regarded as 
conceivable the entrance of an enemy into the heart of the mon- 
archy ; and the unwieldy fiscal system which, after the method of 
a good domestic economist, measured the expenditure in accordance 
with the income, provided absolutely no means for extraordinary 
expenses. Many of the commanders of the fortresses had been 


History of Germany 

valiant officers, but their sense of duty did not spring from love 
for the fatherland, being due simply to pride of caste. To them 
the army was everything, and in their invincible arrogance they 
calmly awaited the inevitable victory of the Frederician regiments. 
When the alarming intelligence of the defeat spread through the 
country, when the miserable remnants of this invincible army 
reached Magdeburg, filling the whole town with alarm and confusion, 
it seemed to these old officers as if the world were coming to an end ; 
all resistance was useless ; everything on which their life had 
depended for support had crumbled to pieces. After the fall of 
Erfurt, which capitulated disgracefully immediately after the battle, 
the principal fortresses of the old state, Magdeburg, Kiistrin, Stettin, 
and a number of smaller places, opened their gates. 

With a sound good sense the loyal people visited most of its 
wrath upon the generals, for just as the loss of the double battle 
was mainly due to bad leadership, so also was this last disgrace 
attributable to the generals. Everywhere the conduct of the garri- 
sons showed that they were worthy of a better fate. Young officers 
broke their swords in despair, common soldiers placed the muzzles 
of their muskets against their breasts and fired, not wishing to 
survive the shame of the capitulation ; in Kiistrin several 
battalions rose in mutiny against their dishonoured commanders. 
But so ineffective had now become the power of public censure, 
that subsequently not one of these old men who had thus forgotten 
their duty had the courage when overtaken by disgraceful punish- 
ment to atone for the stain on their honour by voluntary death. 
Prince Hohenlohe, even, ended in dishonour. With unspeakable 
privations, he had led the vestiges of his corps by a wide detour 
to the Uckermark, and then the French overtook him at Prenzlau, 
in the marshes by the Ucker See. Exhausted in body and mind, 
profoundly disturbed by the reports of misfortune which reached 
him from all sides, he allowed himself to be discouraged by the 
suggestions of Massenbach, and to be grossly deceived by Murat's 
falsehoods as to the strength of the enemy ; in the true style of 
the adventurer of the empire, the brother-in-law of Napoleon 
pledged his word of honour to a deliberate lie. A last despairing 
attack by Prince August failed, and the army of Hohenlohe capitu- 
lated in the open field. Such was the end of that knightly prince who 
had once been an ornament of the Prussian army, who amid 
the disorder of the days of the Confederation of the Rhine had alone 
among the princes of the South maintained honourable courage 
and German loyalty. 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

The army was annihilated. After the fall of Stettin and 
Kiistrin, the line of the Oder had also become untenable, and it 
seemed hopeless to attempt to offer a last resistance with the aid 
of the East Prussian regiments on the further side of the Vistula. 
Napoleon wrote in a satisfied mood to the Sultan, " Prussia has 
vanished." Even Gentz considered that " it would be ridiculous 
to dream any longer of the revival of Prussia ! " How many 
storms had passed over this State since its rulers had shown it the 
steep path that leads to great things ; often before had the capital 
seen the enemies of the country within its walls ; but now for 
the first time in Prussia's history was disgrace associated with 
misfortune. Shame and rue raged in every heart, and the coarse 
joy of the conqueror made him refrain from nothing which might 
increase these painful sensations. Designedly he displayed his 
contempt for everything Prussian ; in the royal castle of the 
Hohenzollerns he penned new and filthy libels against Queen 
Louise. While sending the coat and sword of Frederick the Great 
to the Invalides, he poured his scorn out oil this people that left 
the grave of its greatest man so unadorned ; the Imperial Guard 
destroyed the obelisk on the battle-field of Rossbach ; the figure 
of Victory was torn down from the Brandenburg Gate, to disappear 
in a shed on the Seine. What a spectacle it was when the brilliant 
regiment of the Gensdarmes, disarmed, ragged, and almost starving, 
was driven up and down Unter den Linden like a drove of beasts. 
To the sound of drums and trumpets, in a ceremonial procession, 
there were carried through the streets the old banners with their 
aspiring eagles and whole baskets full of silver kettledrums and 
trumpets, witnesses of old glory and new shame. Of all the troops 
that had been in the field, the Garde du Corps was the only regiment 
that had saved all its distinctions of honour. It was soon for- 
bidden that any Prussian uniform should be worn in Berlin ; even 
the pensioned officers were to lay aside the blue coat. In addition 
there were intolerable taxes, there were arrogance, debauchery, 
and the oppression of billeting. On November 2ist Napoleon 
issued from Berlin that incredible decree which forbade all trade 
with England, and condemned all English goods to confiscation ; 
the Continental System was founded, and for years to come the 
well-being of Germany was forcibly repressed. 

There were not lacking traits of dishonourable servitude. 
The baseness that is not absent from any nation appeared here 
more hateful than anywhere else, for German uncouthness lacks 
understanding of the dubious art which characterises the more 


History of Germany 

refined culture of the Romans, whereby an outward respectability 
is preserved even amid baseness. Many a man of mean spirit 
crawled to offer his services to the conqueror. Lange, Buchholz, 
and other leaders of Berlin enlightenment, glorified the victory 
of reason over the prejudices of the nobles. The hatred of the 
people for the arrogance of the officers manifested itself in various 
outbreaks of rude mockery. Moreover, the cumbrous pedantry and 
the stupid punctiliousness of the officialdom, paralysed the powers 
of resistance of the state ; in this time of disorder all the authorities 
continued quietly to carry on their daily work, so that the 
conquering invader found everywhere an ordered apparatus and 
administration ready to his hand, and many a well-meaning old 
War Office clerk became, without knowing it, a tool in the 
hands of the enemy. Among the instances of open treachery, none 
appear so shameful as the desertion of Johannes Miiller. The 
triumphs of the Imperator induced in this enthusiastic admirer 
of Old German and of Swiss freedom, a mood of servile admiration ; 
with a complete change of front, he glorified in swelling periods 
Napoleon and Frederick as the heroes of the modern world. His 
old comrade Gentz thereupon broke off their friendship in a rage, 
and wished for him one punishment only, that he might see the 
usurper overthrown and Germany free once again ! Less unworthy 
but no less morbid was the scientific indifference with which Hegel 
regarded the destruction of his fatherland. When Napoleon 
burst over the field of Jena, it seemed to Hegel as if the world's 
soul had been displayed in bodily form, and from the fall of Prussia 
he deduced the sagacious doctrine that spirit always gains the victory 
over spiritless reasoning and sophistry. Generally speaking, in Thur- 
ingia, the first overwhelming impression of misfortune was speedily 
dissipated, and it was only under the pitiless oppression of the 
following years that the people of Mid-Germany came to learn 
how firmly intertwined was its own life with the destiny of the 
Prussian State. 

In the old provinces of Prussia, the change of mood began 
sooner, immediately after the first defeats. Napoleon's unbridled 
and ever-growing hatred for Prussia was nourished upon the secret 
suspicion that in this state, notwithstanding all the shame and the 
folly of recent weeks, there still slumbered an untamable force of 
will, such as the Imperator had never before encountered upon the 
Continent. What the Prussian soldier was capable of under power- 
ful leadership was shown by the retreat of Blucher's army. In 
these battles several young heroes, who were subsequently to help 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

in leading the state towards brighter days, first became known to 
friend and foe. With the remnants of the reserve army and some 
other troops, Blucher crossed the Elbe, near Magdeburg, in order 
to effect a junction with the forces under Hohenlohe ; and while 
the river was being crossed, Colonel York with his yagers held 
off the pursuing army for several hours in the brilliant battle of 
Altenzaun. When the proposed junction with Hohenlohe was 
rendered impossible by the news of the capitulation of Prenzlau, 
Scharnhorst conceived the audacious plan of turning against the 
flank and the rear of the French, in order to divert a portion of the 
hostile army from the Mark. The small force hastened towards 
Mecklenburg, and actually succeeded in luring three French army 
corps in pursuit. Even amid all the troubles and distresses of this 
difficult retreat, in the free spirit of Scharnhorst there began to 
waken the creative ideas of military reform of which he had given 
the first indications in the spring, in his memorial upon the militia. 
With convincing clearness, in a conversation with Muffling held 
in Gadebusch, he showed that in the defeats of the last weeks the 
severest and ultimate source of all the misfortunes had been the 
failure of the common soldier to participate in the action, and that 
what was above all needed was to transform the army in such a 
way that it should come to feel itself at one with the fatherland. x 

Subsequently the army fought with desperate courage at the 
gates and in the streets of Liibeck against a superior force of the 
enemy, and it was only when all provisions and all munitions of 
war had been lost, and when further resistance was utterly 
impossible, that Blucher laid down his arms in Rattkau. This 
was a struggle full of heroic rage, such as the miserable campaign 
of 1805 had never seen ; and altogether different from the thought- 
less curiosity of the Viennese now appeared the worthy conduct of 
the great majority of the people of Berlin, in face of Napoleon's 
entry. Never before had anyone spoken so frankly to the 
Imperator as the preacher Erman, who at the greeting at the gate 
said plainly that a servant of the Gospel could not lie, and that it 
was therefore impossible for him to pretend that he rejoiced at 
the entrance of the enemy. 

The pitiless reality of the war destroyed the phrases of 
enlightened vanity, destroyed that dream-world of the reason, in 
which the over-culture of the great town was accustomed to lose 
its way, and it forced the slack spirits once more to hate and to 

1 Recorded by Muffling in a memorial upon the Landwehr, which he transmitted to 
Hardenberg on July 12, 1821. 


History of Germany 

love cordially. With the well-being of intellectual sociability 
there disappeared also the world of literary make-believe. Now 
that misery dwelt in every home, even the pride of culture recog- 
nised the forcible hand of the living God ; the man of learning came 
to understand just as much as the man of simple mind, what this 
perplexing life of ours becomes without faith, and what a miserable 
creature is man without his nation. The longer the billeting lasted, 
the more serious, the more collected, the more Prussian, became 
the general mood, and soon the town of frivolous criticism was 
hardly to be recognised. All waited in breathless suspense to hear 
the news from the East Prussian theatre of war. The maimed 
veterans played upon their hurdy-gurdys the song of lament for 
Prince Louis Ferdinand, the one folk-song which had come into 
existence in the dull misery of the present war ; and on the birthday 
of the beloved queen, behind all the curtained windows of Berlin, 
lights were burned in defiance of the prohibition of the French 
governor. In the provinces too, there began an awakening from 
the slumber of the times of peace ; many a weatherproof old peasant 
looked with grim hope towards the picture of the great king hanging 
on the wall. 

Thus amid distress and shame did Barthold Niebuhr first 
learn to know the Prussian people and cleave to it with all the 
passion of his great heart, recognising that noble natures appear 
greater in evil fortune than in good. Immediately before the 
battle of Jena, he had left Denmark to enter the service of the 
Prussian state, and when on the retreat to Konigsberg he was asso- 
ciating with the Pomeranians and the Old Prussians, he wrote 
confidently : "I never expected to find in association so much 
energy, seriousness, loyalty, and good humour ; if they had been 
properly led, these people would have been unconquerable by 
the whole world ! " But the crowd must always feel before they can 
hear. As far as the masses were concerned, it was only the endur- 
ing need of the coming year that was to win them fully for the 
ideas of liberation ; and it was among the warlike nobles and among 
the men of learning that anger for the fatherland was aroused far 
sooner and far more easily. The military pride of ancient Prussia 
and the bold idealism of the new German literature suddenly 
encountered one another in a single idea. Amid the destruction 
of the old monarchy, there was already prepared the groundwork 
of that great change which has determined the course of our history 
in the nineteenth century the reconciliation of the Prussian state 
with the freedom of German culture. In the old generation of soldiers 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

there prevailed a savage bitterness against the foreign dominion, 
and many brave men belonging to those circles voluntarily offered 
their services to the king. Fichte, too, went of his own free will 
to Konigsberg, because he could not bend his head beneath the yoke 
of the oppressor. Around Schleiermacher there was quietly assem- 
bling a circle of warm-hearted patriots. This loyal spirit saw " the 
regeneration of Germany arising out of its profound humiliation " ; 
he wished to play his part in speech and writing, and he considered 
this to be the last moment in which he ought to forsake his king. 
" Free speech is the sharpest poison for Napoleon," he said. 
Not for an instant did he believe in the permanence of the triumph 
of France, holding that this conqueror had " too little of the kingly 

Completely overwhelmed by the unexpected defeat, King 
Frederick William had, immediately after the battle, offered peace 
under humiliating conditions. These were the most deplorable 
days of his life. Some of his counsellors even recommended that 
Prussia should join the Confederation of the Rhine. It was the 
arrogance of the conqueror which first restored to the unhappy 
prince a consciousness of his royal duties. Napoleon raised his 
demands in the course of the negotiations, asking not only the 
cession of all the territories westward of the Elbe, but also that 
Prussia should withdraw from the Russian alliance. This touched 
the king's pride. His conscience would not allow him to do what 
the Emperor Francis, in a far more favourable situation, had done 
without a thought a year before ; he could not consent to abandon 
the ally whose help he had so recently besought. On November 
2ist, in the headquarters at Osterode, a council was held concerning 
the acceptance of a truce which Lucchesini and Zastrow had 
pusillanimously subscribed. Then came the moment when the 
men separated themselves from the boys and from the wiseacres. 
Not only did Stein, who had rescued the state treasure, the means 
for the continuation of the war, by moving it into East Prussia, 
advise the rejection of the treaty, but the same course was taken 
by his political opponent, the high tory Count Voss, a leading 
noble of the Mark. The king took the same view, and here in the 
remote eastern Mark, the last bulwark of German freedom, he again 
took up arms. Immediately afterwards he dismissed Haugwitz. 
From this day onwards, the much misunderstood monarch, though 
he may often have erred and vacillated in detail, held firmly and 
invincibly through six terrible years to the idea that no honourable 
peace could be concluded with France until after the re-establishment 


History of Germany 

of Prussia. Thus began the campaign in East Prussia, the first 
in which the sun did not shine uncloudedly upon the Imperator, 
the first which in despairing Europe awakened a glimmer of hope 
that perhaps after all this man of might was not invincible. 

Napoleon's sharp gaze soon led him to recognise that in North 
Germany it was necessary for him to draw the reins of his dominion 
tighter than in the regions of the Confederation of the Rhine. 
In the south he was surrounded by the tried allies of France who 
ruled their new-formed states docilely in accordance with the 
principles freshly imported from France ; in the north he had to 
do with a tougher population, utterly refractory to the French 
system, and he found there a strict Protestant civilisation, cumbrous 
feudal institutions, and ancient princely races which were closely 
allied with Prussia, England, and Russia. In the north, therefore, 
he was from the first more severe, and retained the whole of the 
north-western region, the lands of the Guelphs, the Hesses, and the 
Oranges, at the disposal of his own relatives. One only of the 
established North German dynasties was welcome to him as a 
natural friend, and this was the House of the Albertines, the old 
rivals of the Hohenzollerns, and it was on behalf of the sovereignty 
of the Albertines that he had professedly taken up arms. On 
December nth, by the Peace of Posen, the elector of Saxony was 
admitted into the Confederation of the Rhine, and received a royal 
crown. In order to detach the new king permanently from Prussia, 
Napoleon promised to give him Prussian Lower Lusatia and the 
loyal district of Kottbus in exchange for the Mansfeld territory, 
and bade him send an auxiliary corps into the field against his 
betrayed ally. The Imperator also secured the personal gratitude 
of the bigot Frederick Augustus, in that he ordained the equality 
of the Catholics and the Protestants in Saxony, an innovation which 
the court of Dresden had never been able to carry into effect among 
its rigid Lutheran population. This last step of Napoleon's was, 
moreover, something more than a mere diplomatic move, for from 
year to year there continually became plainer the inner kinship 
which associates every modern world-empire with the Roman world- 
church. Not even the heir of the Revolution could dispense with 
the help of Rome, just as little as could formerly Charles V. His 
letters to the Holy See and his embassies to the Senate, expressly 
drew attention to the fact that he had everywhere delivered our 
holy religion from its Protestant persecutors, and that he was 
unceasingly at war with England, the deadly enemy of the Roman 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

German submissiveness celebrated its saturnalia even more 
meanly in Electoral Saxony than it had done a year earlier in 
Bavaria. How delighted were the Saxons to take an equal rank with 
their proud Prussian neighbours ! In the spring of 1807, whilst the 
fight for the last remnants of German freedom was proceeding along 
the Vistula, the town of Leipzig instituted a magnificent festival in 
honour of the new Saxon crown. The sun of Napoleon, the boastful 
image which he had borrowed from his predecessor Louis XIV, 
shone everywhere over the decorated streets. In the market places 
was erected an altar to the fatherland ; the students marched 
up in festal array, burned torches before the altar, and sang 
exultingly, " Our Fatherland is saved ! " Even the dead bodies 
in the university dissecting-room were to take part in the national 
delight of Saxony, for an illuminated inscription over the entrance 
to the room announced, " Even the dead call out, Hail ! " 

In Napoleon's eyes, the other petty princes of the north were 
no more than Prussian vassals and officers, and he would gladly 
have got rid of them one and all. But these extraordinary state- 
structures were so dispersed that their annexation was difficult ; 
moreover, in the Confederation of the Rhine there was not at the 
moment to be found a trustworthy king to whom they could be 
presented. The Imperator had more serious matters to consider; 
he would not devote to this question more attention than it 
deserved ; and he wished above all to bring the negotiations to a 
speedy conclusion, because he desired to make immediate use of 
the smaller contingents in the Prussian war. For this reason, 
when the petty princes of Thuringia and Westphalia, some of them 
in person and others by proxy, besought the favour of the conqueror 
at the headquarters in Posen, they received a tolerably gracious 
reception. For the third time there began the hateful drama of the 
German land-chaffering, and for the third time the gold of German 
princes poured into the bottomless pockets of Napoleonic diplomacy ; 
and the negotiations went on happily, for in the Nassau statesman 
Hans von Gagern the oppressed little princes found an alert and 
disinterested commission agent. This extraordinary admirer of 
ancient German liberty had derived from his learned historical 
inquiries the conclusion that pure Germanism, the true greatness 
of Germany, consisted in the motley disintegration of its national 
life. When now he heard of the anxieties of the petty lords of the 
north, he hastened to the scene, took the part of those who were 
in danger, and by his busy activities so far held in check his old 
admirer Talleyrand that the Frenchman, in any case a proud 

297 u 

History of Germany 

aristocrat and well-disposed towards the German high nobility, at 
length acceded to all the desires of the indefatigable German. Nor 
was there lacking humour worthy of such a situation. " Give me 
one of your petty princes," once exclaimed Talle}'rand's assistant, 
La Besnardiere ; " Not one," answered the zealous saviour of 
particularism, " you must swallow the whole lot of them, even if 
it should choke you ! " 

Thus it was as sovereigns that the Ernestines and the 
Ascanians, the Reusses and the Schwarzburgs, the Lippes and the 
Waldecks, entered the Confederation of the Rhine. The count of 
Biickeburg at the same time acquired the princely title, for the 
French were carrying on the business in a spirit of contemptuous 
levity, and in the treaty spoke simply of the two Princes of Lippe. 
Subsequently, however, Napoleon complained angrily that in these 
negotiations he had, for the first time, been deceived, and said 
if he had known where Reuss, Lippe, and Waldeck really were, 
their princes would not have received thrones. He never forgot 
that these dynasts of the north had once constituted the nucleus 
of the Prussian party in the empire. For this reason he was always 
a strict master to them, would not allow them any expansion of 
territory, nor would admit them to kinship, whereas after his brutal 
manner he displayed a certain good feeling towards the rulers at 
Dresden and in the South German courts. It was for this reason 
also that the patriarchal little peoples of the North German petty 
states remained quite uninfluenced by the Napoleonic cult which 
found so many advocates in Electoral Saxony and South Germany ; 
the peasants of Thuringia and Mecklenburg felt themselves person- 
ally offended when they saw their tribal dukes humiliated before 
the foreign potentate. But the end of the matter was that even 
while the war continued, Prussia was thrust out of Germany (as 
in the previous autumn Austria had been thrust out), while the 
totality of the petty states of those of medium size were subjected 
to the Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine. 

While the German allies were abandoning Prussia, this unfor- 
tunate state had to atone for the partition of Poland. The Slav 
domains, whose possession during the last decade had brought the 
internal development of the monarchy to a standstill, proved unten- 
able in the hour of danger. Four weeks after the battle of Jena, 
Dombrowski raised the standard of revolt in Poland ; all the nobles 
hastened to place themselves beneath the banner of the white eagle, 
and soon the disturbance extended throughout the territory which 
had been annexed to Prussia in the last two partitions. The king 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

could not endure the burden of his lofty office unless he were secure 
of the love and fidelity of his subjects, and he considered that the 
state must be held together by moral bonds. The spectacle of this 
great defection filled his soul with profound bitterness, but he recog- 
nised with sobriety how this national movement could not possibly 
be restrained, and he paid no attention to the fantastic proposals 
of Prince Radziwill, who dreamed of a royalist counter-movement. 
The revolt of the ancient ally of France was more than welcome to 
the Imperator. He eagerly encouraged the disturbance, dis- 
tributed arms among the rebels, incited the Poles in the Prussian 
regiments to desert, and recorded in his bulletins that the Polish 
people was now showing itself in really interesting colours. At 
the same time he carefully guarded himself against giving the Poles 
any definite pledge. Coldly and distinctly did he see through 
these Sarmatian Junkers, recognising their stormy courage, but 
also their levity, their egoism, their political incapacity. The 
country was valuable to him as a source of excellent auxiliary 
troops, and as a means for preparing the long-planned humilia- 
tion of Russia; he was ready, if circumstances should make it 
seem desirable, to restore to the Poles the semblance of political 

The Polish rebellion at length made it necessary for the czar 
to furnish the assistance which he had promised his Prussian 
friend. But it was not as mere auxiliaries as had been assumed in the 
previous autumn, that the Russian forces appeared upon Prussian 
soil. The Russians had to bear the burden and heat of the day, and 
payment must now be made for the light-heartedness with which the 
Turkish War had been begun, since only a portion of the Russian 
army was available for Prussia. In the unhappy frontier land 
there were renewed the horrors of the Seven Years' War. Before 
long the undisciplined roughness of the Russian friends became 
even more detestable to the plundered Prussian countryman than 
was the rage of the enemy ; and there had also to be endured the 
spectacle of the bad leadership of the Russians and the intolerable 
arrogance which their officers displayed towards the valiant little 
Prussian army of General Lestocq. Nevertheless, this campaign, 
which dragged on indecisively for months upon the devastated plains 
of Poland and Prussia, was the first which shook the victorious 
confidence of the Napoleonic army. The French soldiers, accus- 
tomed to rapid successes and rich booty, to the comfortable life 
of the vine-lands of the south, began to murmur, and to ask if their 
insatiable leader was never going to weary of fighting. For several 


History of Germany 

weeks in succession Lestocq's army defended, with ancient Prussian 
tenacity, the crossing of the Vistula into Kulmerland ; and when at 
length summoned to join the Russian army in the east, these poor 
remnants of the Prussian army proved decisive in the first battle 
which the conqueror failed to win. On February 7 and 8, 1807, 
at Eylau, Napoleon endeavoured by a vigorous attack to drive 
the army of the allies eastward. On the second day of the battle, 
after a murderous struggle, the left wing of the Russian forces had 
been thrown into disorder. Thereupon Scharnhorst recognised 
that the decisive moment had come. He moved the troops of 
Lestocq, which, after an exhausting march, had just arrived upon 
the extreme right wing of the allies, against the enemy's centre. 
Once again did the star of fortune of the Frederician days seem to 
shine over the Germans, when the little Prussian force, with bands 
playing and banners waving, advanced through the ranks of the 
fleeing Russians towards the forest of Kutschitten, and then drove 
the enemy before them, past Anklappen. 

The French attack had failed. In opposition to all his customs, 
the Imperator was compelled, after these undecisive battles, to enter 
winter quarters ; and so powerful was the impression produced 
by this first failure, that immediately after the battle Napoleon 
approached the king with new proposals of peace. Mingling 
flattery with threats, he wrote that this was the finest moment of 
his life ; the Prussian nation must be restored as a protective wall 
between Russia and France, either under the House of Brandenburg 
or any other princely race ; he would restore all the lands on the 
hither side of the Elbe ; he thought no more of Poland now that 
he had come to know the country. Unmistakable, however, was 
the deceiver's intention to separate Prussia from her ally, in order 
subsequently, after the overthrow of Russia, to humiliate further 
the king of Prussia, abandoned by all the world. Frederick William 
did not hesitate for a moment, and firmly rejected the French 
proposals. It was first in misfortune that the passive virtues of 
loyalty and staying power in which the strength of his character 
lay, came to light. The royal house, which was now carrying on 
its impoverished existence in Memel on the last corner of German 
territory, became for the whole country an example of honourable 
resignation, of pious trust in God. More cordially, more intimately 
than in the days of good fortune did the proud people of East 
Prussia adhere to the ruling dynasty. Throughout the country 
everyone related admiringly of the beautiful queen how, though ill 
and though a terrible snow storm was raging, she had fled along 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

the waste of the Kurische Nerung, thinking it better to fall into 
God's hands than into the enemy's ; and how she subsequently 
stood confidently and courageously by the side of her profoundly 
afflicted spouse. 

It was true that a free and courageous spirit was still lacking 
to the guidance of the state. It was not possible that in a moment 
should be overcome the effects of a decade of weakness and of 
half measures. Severe exhortations were issued to the troops, 
and severe punishments were inflicted upon those garrison-com- 
manders of the fortresses who had forgotten their duty. The 
conduct of Lestocq's little army was exemplary ; and Scharnhorst, 
who in the previous year had brought about the formation of large 
divisions composed of all arms, now actually laid aside the old 
cumbrous linear tactics, and directed the movements of the army 
in accordance with the principles of the new and bolder conduct 
of war, which the king himself impressed upon his officers in a 
thoroughgoing course of instruction. But the equipment of nineteen 
reserve battalions was effected so slowly that none of them came to 
be utilised in the field. An appeal for the general arming of the 
people, already signed by the king, was never issued, because the 
loyal estates of East Prussia made urgent representations to the 
effect that the nobles could serve only in the royal army, but never 
in a Landsturm. Nor did the civil administration pass for many 
months out of a moribund state of transition. The monarch was 
not yet able to see that the obsolete cabinet government was 
irreconcilable with the independent responsibility of the ministers ; 
and he dismissed Stein, with harsh and unjust words, when 
the baron openly and passionately advocated the abolition of 
the cabinet. Hardenberg knew better how to manage the king. 
His frankness, which always continued to display itself in amiable 
and quiet forms, at length prevailed, and on April 26, 1807, there 
was quietly effected a change in the constitution, the most significant 
in its consequences which the ancient absolutism had experienced 
since the days of Frederick William I. Cabinet government was 
abolished, and Hardenberg became prime minister and foreign 
secretary and was charged also with all matters concerning the 
conduct of the war. 

Even after the partial success of Eylau, the position of the allies 
remained extremely serious. However successfully the toughest of 
Napoleon's opponents was fighting on the sea, in the management 
of continental affairs the shopkeeping spirit of England showed 
now, as formerly, a maladroitness which was already beginning 


History of Germany 

to become proverbial. Whereas three years earlier not a single 
hand had been raised in London to defend Hanover against the 
French, Prussia was immediately punished by a declaration of war 
for her occupation of the electoral princedom ; and when, in January, 
1807, peace was made between England and the Prussian court, 
and Prussia abandoned her claims to Hanover, the cabinet of St. 
James's did nothing to support her new ally against the common 
enemy. No treaty of subsidies was signed. Count Miinster, whose 
advice was decisive in London regarding all German affairs, could 
not overcome the old Guelph mistrust of Prussia. Austria had not 
been shaken out of her neutrality even by the terrible news of the 
Polish rebellion. Both parties were eagerly wooing the Hofburg. 
Napoleon offered Silesia in exchange for Galicia ; the czar sent 
Pozzo di Borgo, the deadly enemy of the House of Bonaparte, to 
Vienna, with urgent exhortations ; the king of Prussia, in his great 
difficulties, declared himself willing to permit the temporary occu- 
pation of the Silesian forests by an army of Austrian auxiliaries. 
Archduke Charles, however, remained faithful to his pacifist 
policy. To cloak Austrian inactivity, the offer was at length made 
that Austria should intermediate to secure peace, but in such a 
situation this offer was of no avail. The friendship of the czar 
was the last hope of the tottering Prussian monarchy, and the 
enthusiastic young Russian was not sparing of fine words when, 
in the spring, he appeared in person upon the theatre of war. How 
amiably he behaved in his intercourse with the royal family, 
saying fervently to his unhappy friend, " It is true, is it not, neither 
of us can fall alone ? " and to many an honourable Prussian 
it seemed that he now for the first time fully understood Alexander's 
greatness of heart. 

It is characteristic of Hardenberg's nature, of his unshaken 
courage, and of his happy-go-lucky instability, that at such 
a time, when the whole existence of Prussia was still at stake, 
he ventured to bring forward a profound and comprehensive 
plan for the re-ordering of Germany and of the entire state- 
system. For more than ten years he had cherished the hope that 
with the aid of France he might construct a North German great 
power, which should counterbalance the House of Austria. As 
soon as he came to recognise the vanity of this dream, he at once 
adopted a new system of German policy, to which he remained faith- 
ful until his death, the policy of a regulated dualism. Fate, how- 
ever, had spoken with no uncertain voice ; both Austria and 
Prussia were beaten in isolation, and nothing but their faithful 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

co-operation could liberate Germany. During the following years, 
all Prussian patriots without distinction of party united upon this 
idea ; as if by force of nature, it found simultaneous expression 
in a hundred troubled hearts. In the writings of Gentz, the notion 
returns again and again as a ceterum censeo. In the artistic 
drawings in which Colonel Knesebeck loved to represent the future 
of Europe, the European balance was always maintained by the 
alliance between Austria and Prussia. Arndt and Kleist swore to 
restore the two mightiest sons of Germany to mutual harmony. 
Queen Louise longed for the day when the reconciled German 
brethren should join in the holy war. The king alone quietly held 
to his old opinion, and when he thought of an anti-French European 
league, Russia always came first in his mind. Hardenberg, on the 
other hand, now considered the rivalry of the two German powers 
as an obsolete and unhappy prejudice, for their interests were 
identical. Simply, magnanimously, and without any ulterior 
motive, he prepared these plans ; not one of his state-papers shows 
any kind of concealed hostility towards Austria. He believed that 
by maintaining friendly and neighbourly relations, the ancient 
opposition of interests might be completely allayed, and it is 
undeniable that his policy corresponded to the needs of the 
immediate future. 

It was in this spirit also that the new treaty of alliance was 
drawn up which was signed on April 26th at Bartenstein by Prussia 
and Russia. The two powers pledged themselves not to lay down 
their arms until Germany had been liberated, and the French had 
been driven back across the Rhine ; the German domain was to 
be safeguarded by a chain of fortresses along the left bank of the 
Rhine, whilst Austria was to be secured in the south-west by Tyrol 
and the line of the Mincio ; instead of the Confederation of the 
Rhine there was to be constituted a German league of sovereign 
states under the common leadership of the two great powers, in 
such a way that Austria should be supreme in the south and Prussia 
in the north ; as regards the dominion of Prussia, this was to be 
restored to the status quo of 1805, with rounded off and strengthened 
frontiers ; finally, there was to be an increase of the Guelph domain 
on German soil and, if at all possible, the independence of Holland 
was to be restored. By a special article, the door was left open 
for the accession of the Hofburg to the league ; the adhesion of 
England and Sweden was also securely counted on. With remark- 
able confidence there were manifested here almost all the ideas which 
were to be actually realised in the year 1814. 


History of Germany 

The court of Vienna, however, was alarmed by the rashness of 
this policy. Count Stadion's sympathies were estranged when he 
heard that such audacious plans had been made without the assent 
of the Hofburg, and would not go beyond the terms of the Peace of 
Pressburg. How little, too, did the Russian conduct of the war cor- 
respond to the bold flight of Hardenberg's proposals. It was only 
the co-operation of fortune and the valour of the soldiers which 
had enabled the mediocre capabilities of General Bennigsen to win 
the laurels of Eylau. This leader carefully guarded himself against 
putting his fame to further hazard, and for four long months 
remained almost stationary. Meanwhile Napoleon, in his winter 
quarters at Osterode, displayed a feverish activity. He 
strengthened his army, raised the conscription levies of 1808 in 
advance, made the princes of the Confederation of the Rhine 
constitute a reserve army, conducted from afar the defence of 
Constantinople against the English fleet, and at the same time 
carried on the investment of Danzig. Since this place was to serve 
him as a point of support for the continuation of the campaign, 
he determined for the second and last time in his military career 
to undertake the weary work of a formal siege, which he had always 
shunned since the battles round Mantua. The fortress was 
bravely defended by General Kalckreuth, and in the attempts to 
relieve the siege, Colonel Biilow, already a distinguished officer in 
the new German army, gained great renown. But since Bennigsen 
would venture nothing to liberate this important place, Kalckreuth 
was forced on May 27th into an honourable capitulation. 

The fierce old General Courbiere defended himself with better 
success in Graudenz. In the mountains of the Silesian frontier, 
Count Gotzen, a fiery spirit in a weak frame, also maintained a 
petty warfare with far-sighted boldness. But of all the deeds of 
the allied armies, the most conspicuous was the heroic defence of 
the little Farther Pomeranian fortress of Kolberg. Here, in this 
loyal town, which during the Seven Years' War had thrice with- 
stood a superior force of the enemy, was the cradle of the new 
Prussian military renown ; here there first awakened that sacred 
wrath of the nation, which after six painful years was to compel 
the liberation of the world ; here was to appear upon the stage 
of history a man who better than any other embodied the true 
spirit of the Prussian soldier, combining incisive courage with clear 
insight. Twenty years of tedium in garrison-life as a subaltern 
had not destroyed the youthful freshness of Gneisenau. Kindly 
and frank, altogether free from selfishness, and a man of modest 

Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

disposition though inclined to exercise an ironical wit upon stupidity 
and meanness, he stood on the very summit of culture. His com- 
prehensive vision embraced the whole circle of the national history 
of a gigantic time, but his wealth in ideas did not lead him astray 
from the happy belief that the energies of a strong people are 
inexhaustible, and did not disturb his bold delight in adventure 
and fighting. In the fire of his glance, in the serene majesty of his 
appearance, there was to be found some of that charm which had 
once radiated from the young king Frederick. In the threatened 
fortress, everything suddenly assumed a new aspect when the 
unknown major came to take command of the despairing garrison; 
when out of the motley force in Kolberg he speedily constituted 
a fine body of men, inspired by a sentiment of victory ; and when he 
induced the valiant burghers, led by the daring old seaman, Nettel- 
beck, to take part in the work of defence. " I took everything into 
my own hands," so he tells us, " behaved like an independent 
prince, being even somewhat despotic ; I cashiered cowardly 
officers ; lived happily among the brave fellows ; did not bother 
myself about the future, and kept a sturdy front." The enemy's 
generals noted with astonishment how this man of genius was 
able to carry on war in a manner which placed his soldiers on an 
equal footing with the French. The defender changed roles wih 
the attacker, harassed the besiegers by surprise-sallies, threw 
up earthworks in the open country, which for many weeks kept the 
enemy away from the walls of the fortress. The high-spirited love 
of song characteristic of the old German soldiers, which in this melan- 
choly war had elsewhere been in abeyance, was now revived ; 
mockingly the men sang on their unconquered walls 

"We've plenty of cannon, we're all free from care, 
So toddle off homewards, and don't waste time here." 

Simultaneously, not far from Kolberg, Schill, the bold hussar, 
was engaged in adventurous skirmishing, and Gneisenau learnt with 
a delight altogether free from envy how the masses were hailing 
this brave but narrow man as the hero of the fatherland. He was 
well satisfied as long as the oppressed soul of our people was once 
more hopefully aspiring, no matter upon whose image their gaze 
was fixed. In Hither Pomerania, Marwitz got together a volunteer 
corps, " for the liberation of the German fatherland," as the brave 
young fellow said to his men. In Westphalia, the faithful Vincke 
endeavoured to raise a revolt. Blucher, with a small Prussian 


History of Germany 

force, with the aid of auxiliary Swedish troops, and in the hope of 
further help from an English army which was expected at Riigen, 
devoted himself to making a diversion in Napoleon's rear. To 
the Imperator the tenacious Prussian nature became daily more 
detestable. In a terrible rage, he termed Schill a robber ; in his 
newspapers he had the king described as a simpleton, who hardly 
deserved to rank as an adjutant beside Alexander ; he was resolved 
to destroy utterly this inconvenient state which he could no longer 

Then came the decisive moment in East Prussia. In June, 
the general uneasiness about the fall of Danzig made it necessary 
for the Russian commander-in-chief at length to set his army in 
motion. The French attack was happily defeated at Heilsberg. 
When Napoleon now advanced down the Alle, in order to surround 
the Russians, Bennigsen, ignorant of the enemy's strength, under- 
took an ill-advised attack against the French columns, and at 
Friedland, on June I4th, was completely defeated. On the anni 
versary of Marengo, the Prussian War came to an end, for after 
this one battle, Alexander's courage collapsed, as suddenly as it had 
formerly after the battle of Austerlitz. His own land was still 
untouched by the enemy, but he dreaded a revolution in Russian 
Poland. His brother Constantine and the great majority of the 
generals were openly opposing this war for foreign ends, and even 
Stadion had already asked the Russian ambassador why the czar 
wished to sacrifice himself for Prussia. The fickle minded man 
considered that he had done all that generosity demanded. With- 
out notifying the king, who continued to believe firmly in the 
affectionate assurances of his friend, Alexander offered a truce. 
Napoleon eagerly accepted the offer. He was not now in a posi- 
tion to carry the war into the interior of Russia, and he was also 
anxious about the vacillating position of Austria, which at this 
time was despatching a negotiator to the allies. In a few days he 
succeeded in gaining over the czar for the French alliance. It 
was not that Alexander's shrewdness had ever trusted this ally. 
It was only that he hoped for a few years to derive advantage from 
the new friendship. If, with the help of France, two wishes dear 
to the heart of the young emperor could be fulfilled, if Finland 
could be conquered, and if a firm foot could be planted in the Balkan 
peninsula, Russia, thus strengthened, might hope to resume the 
war for the liberation of the world with better success. Blinded 
by such alluring prospects, Alexander hardly noticed that the 
Napoleonic world-empire and the Continental System could not 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

exist without overthrowing Russia, and that by the occupation of 
Danzig, and the reconstruction of a Polish state, the Imperator was 
already preparing, long in advance, a decisive war against his new 

After the two emperors had united in an offensive and 
defensive alliance and in a common war against England, Russia's 
forsaken ally was summoned to the council. The king had behaved 
in knightly fashion, continuing the struggle until almost the last foot 
oi his country had been lost. Now it was inevitable that he should 
give way, for what could an appeal to the Germans, such as Harden- 
berg wished him to make, avail at this hour ? When upon the raft 
in the Memel, Frederick William met the conqueror, he could not 
conceal the profound antipathy in his honourable heart, whilst 
for the beaten enemy the conqueror could exhibit only an ill-natured 
contempt, and could utter only growling proposals. Even the 
requests of the ill-used queen, who on behalf of her country sacri- 
ficed even her woman's pride, and who personally interceded with 
the rude oppressor, had as much effect upon Napoleon, as he wrote 
himself in malicious amusement, " as water upon a duck's back." 

On July 7 and 9, 1807, the Peace of Tilsit was signed, the 
most cruel of all the treaties of peace with France, unparalleled 
both in form and content. It was not to the rightful king of Prussia 
that the conqueror returned certain portions of land ; but out of 
respect for the emperor of all the Russias he restored the lesser 
half of the Prussian state to its king. And this ignominious phrase 
which, to contemporaries, seemed merely the outcome of Napoleon's 
ill-bred arrogance, expressed the naked truth, for it was indeed 
only out of regard for the czar that Napoleon consented for the 
moment to be content with no more than half of that destruction 
of Prussia upon which he had firmly resolved. He needed the 
Russian alliance in order to be able to undertake undisturbed his 
great attack upon Spain. Alexander, on his side, did not wish to 
allow the last narrow dam which still separated the Russian empire 
from the vassal lands of France to be completely demolished, and 
he did not conceal his uneasiness when Napoleon proposed to detach 
Silesia and East Prussia from the Prussian monarchy. Of the five 
thousand seven hundred square miles [German] which, not including 
Hanover, the state had possessed before the war, there were left 
about two thousand eight hundred ; of the twenty-three war 
and domain chambers only the eight largest ; of nine and 
three quarter million inhabitants, only four and a half million. 
The work of Frederick the Great seemed to have been altogether 


History of Germany 

annihilated. The state was but a trifle larger than it had been in 
the year 1740, and was far more unfavourably situated. Pushed 
back to the right bank of the Elbe, and robbed of all its outposts 
in the west, it stood under the point of the French sword. Its 
rescued province, Silesia, the reduced Old Prussia, the still remain- 
ing parts of Brandenburg and Pomerania, were connected only by 
narrow strips, like the segments of a trefoil. At any moment, 
upon a nod of the Imperator, Berlin could be simultaneously 
attacked by the Poles from the east, the Saxons from the south, 
the Westphalians from Magdeburg, and the French from Mecklen- 
burg, and the net be thus drawn together round the Hohenzollerns. 
All the Polish provinces of the monarchy, with the exception 
of parts of West Prussia, were allotted to the king of Saxony, 
who assumed the title of Duke of Warsaw. Thus this fourth 
partition of Poland reconstituted the pernicious union between 
Poland and Saxony, and at the same time gave to the House of 
Wettin a military road through Silesia, that via regia which had 
been so often desired by the Polish Augustuses. The new duchy, 
following the French example, speedily constituted a vigorous 
army such as had never been known to the old Nobles' Republic. 
Beneath the feeble rule of the timid House of Wettin, the anti- 
German sentiments of the Sarmatian nobility were altogether 
unbridled, for the Wettins were quite unable to control the proud 
electors ; all the German officers were at once driven out of the 
country, in opposition to the express terms of the Treaty of Tilsit, 
and with the secret approval of the French Protector. To secure 
a fulcrum for Polish fanaticism, Napoleon made the fortress of 
Danzig a free town, and provided it with a strong French garrison. 
To separate the czar for ever from his Prussian friend, Napoleon 
counselled him to enrich himself at the cost of his unhappy ally, 
and to unite the district of Bialystock to the Russian empire. 
The detestable exaction thus urged by Napoleon was followed by 
Alexander as accommodatingly as had been the corresponding advice 
by Frederick Augustus of Saxony ; he consoled his conscience with 
the consideration that if he had refused, this territory would 
certainly have been united to Warsaw. Out of the Prussian lands 
on the left bank of the Elbe and from the territories of Electoral 
Hesse, with portions of the Guelph lands, a kingdom of Westphalia 
was constituted, and handed over to the Imperator's brother 
Jerome, with the intimation that he must regard obedience 
to France as the first of his princely duties. A " regular constitu- 
tion " was here to put an end to " all those vain and ridiculous 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

distinctions " of the estates and of the territorial jurisdictions 
which seemed dangerous to the bureaucratic centralisation of the 

In the courts of the Confederation of the Rhine, there was 
nothing but rejoicing, now that the only German state which 
possessed a history and a life of its own was submerged in the 
general German misery. The Middle States had attained the goal 
of their desires, for they had no longer any German power either 
to fear or to envy. Their officers gladly boasted how bravely they 
had helped in person in the humiliation of North German arrogance, 
and they could not tell enough of the wonders of Prussian stupidity. 
If one were to believe the voice of the official press in Munich and 
Stuttgart the battle of Jena had been the one memorable event in 
the history of Prussian warfare. In superficial area, the Confedera- 
tion of the Rhine was twice as great as this reduced Prussia, whilst 
the population of the Confederation was three times as numerous ; 
Bavaria alone could now regard itself as the equal of the state 
of Frederick, for this land of the Confederation of the Rhine 
had a population which was only a million smaller than that of 
Prussia, whilst Bavaria was incomparably more prosperous. The 
wags of Dresden and Leipzig loved to contemplate the English 
humorous cartoon, representing the meeting on the raft at Tilsit. 
Here was seen the boastful little " Boney " embracing the young 
czar so vigorously that the raft was set shaking, and the onlooking 
Frederick William fell miserably into the water. 

Of all the princes of the Confederation of the Rhine, the 
new king of Saxony was the most humble servant of France. The 
slow-minded, painfully conscientious man had grown grey in the 
traditions of the ancient imperial law, in the stiff formulas of a 
Spanish etiquette ; he alone among the greater princes of the empire 
had taken no part in the great spoliation of the spiritual states 
which was not difficult in his case, for he had no indemnities to 
demand. In the previous autumn he had resolved, though with 
difficulty, to pay homage to the victorious plebeian. When he 
at length came to Berlin, the Imperator was no longer there, and 
all he could do in his perplexity was to ask the ever-obliging Gagern : 
" How can one really get on with this man ? " When subsequently 
his treachery to Prussia was rewarded with rich gifts, when upon 
the homeward journey Napoleon personally appeared in Dresden, 
and, speedily seeing through the thick-headedness of the king, 
assumed the mien of the kindly well-wisher, the weakly prince was 
completely blinded by the imperial grandeur of the Protector, and 


History of Germany 

came to build with superstitious confidence upon the fortune of 
his " great ally." Contrary to all precedent in this slow-moving 
state system, ambitious young men were advanced to the head of 
the army, and they soon filled the minds of their men, who had gone 
over to the French side somewhat unwillingly, with the unprincipled 
lust of adventure of the troops of the Confederation of the Rhine ; 
here, as in Bavaria and Wiirtemberg, the red ribbon of the Legion 
of Honour was regarded as the highest distinction obtainable by a 
soldier. In everything Frederick Augustus did the will of his master, 
and it was hardly necessary for the Imperator to utter his warning, 
" What you do for Prussia you do against yourself ! " 

Thus amid the rejoicings of the German particularists, the 
partial destruction of Prussia was effected. But the inhabitants of 
the older Prussian provinces had different feelings when the king 
notified them with the dignified words : " That which centuries 
of faithful forefathers, that which treaties, love, and confidence 
had united, must now be dismembered." With a dull inertia had 
the people of the hundreds of German states which in the storms of 
this wild time had been overwhelmed, borne their fate ; but those 
that were now torn asunder from Prussia, felt in the very marrow 
or their lives what it signified to men to belong to an honourable 
state. The unhappy monarch could scarcely maintain his com- 
posure when from East Prussia and Magdeburg, from Thorn and 
Westphalia, from all his lost German lands, there came letters full 
of ardent thanks, full of touching lamentations. The faithful 
peasants of the County Mark wrote in their rough style : " Our 
hearts are breaking as we take leave of you, as truly as we are 
alive the fault is not yours ! " So, too, the German emigrants into 
the Polish provinces were heavy-hearted at the separation from the 
old monarchy. How terribly devastated, too, was the territory 
that still remained to the king. A single year had destroyed the 
rich fruits of the peaceful work of three decades. It was first as 
a result of this war that the domestic life of North Germany assumed 
the characteristics of utter penury. Previously, some of the 
branches of artistic life had at least shown tolerable blossoms, 
but now came the epoch of general shapelessness and lack of taste. 
Poverty was everywhere visible. It was displayed in the unadorned 
buildings, in the wretched furniture, in the restricted diet ; an 
anxious economy dictated all the conduct of daily life. In 
unhappy East Prussia, whole areas of land seemed as if dead ; 
entire villages on the Passarge had disappeared. The preachers 
announced from the pulpit that anyone who wished could there 


Revolution and Foreign Dominion 

reap the corn lest all should perish in the standing crop. But even 
after the peace the conqueror devoted himself with meticulous 
care to the plundering of the detested land. All the sick from the 
hospitals of Warsaw and Westphalia were immediately sent to 
Prussia ; when one of his regiments was withdrawn, a sale was 
first effected of all the royal stores and provisions, down to the 
stocks of the salt-works and the china factories. He ordered that 
no flintlocks and no powder should be left in the country, not 
even if the Prussians were willing to pay cash for them, for he said 
he had no longer any reason to spare Prussia. In contradiction 
to the plain wording of the Treaty of Tilsit, New Silesia was at once 
united to Warsaw. The complaints of the king were regarded 
as senseless and not worth a reply. 

The worst remained, namely, that with all these sacrifices the 
quiet of peace was not even yet secured. The Prussian plenipo- 
tentiary, Field-Marshal Kalckreuth, a warm admirer of Napoleon, 
had conducted the negotiations at Tilsit with a trustful levity which 
overshadowed all the military services of the defender of Danzig, 
and which had to be paid for heavily by the state. The evacuation 
of the country and of the fortresses was to take place on the first 
of October, but only if the whole of the war indemnity had previously 
been paid, and since no definite arrangement had been made as to 
the amount of this sum, afterwards as before the whole Prussian 
domain was occupied by Napoleon's army. Thus the Imperator 
gained a free hand for his Spanish plans, since the grande armee 
in Prussia sufficed to keep quiet the two imperial powers of the east, 
whilst from the Prussian taxes he gained the money he needed for 
the Spanish War. 

Disarmed, gagged, and mutilated, the Prussian monarchy lay 
at the feet of Napoleon ; with finished cunning he had prepared 
everything in order to destroy it completely at the chosen hour. 
One thing only eluded the keen insight of the contemner of ideas, 
namely, that this state had gained in internal unity and moral 
energy what it had lost in external power. Prussia was quit of the 
untrustworthy Poles ; such of the old German tribal lands as 
remained, held together like one man. It was from these lands of 
the eagle that formerly had proceeded the victorious plan of the 
Great Elector, the bold endeavour to constitute a new German 
state ; upon these now rested the whole future of Germany. They 
alone, among all the purely German territories, would have nothing 
to do with the Confederation of the Rhine. The honourable senti- 
ments of Frederick William had preserved his Prussia from the 

History of Germany 

ultimate disgrace of voluntary servitude. The grave errors of the 
last years had not only been atoned for but had been recognised ; 
even in Tilsit, on the advice of Hardenberg, the king had resolved 
to entrust the reconstruction of the administration to Baron von 
Stein. All things that could animate a strong people to despairing 
resolve, pride and hatred, pain and repentance, were fermenting 
in a thousand valiant spirits, and every new misdeed of the 
foreign oppressor increased the bitterness, until at length all that 
was Prussian was united in the passionate desire for reprisal. If 
only it were possible to assemble and to organise the powerful 
energies of this wrathful people, if only it were possible to 
rejuvenate the state by the idealism of the new culture, Germany 
could yet be saved. Even during the war, a talented Frenchman, 
who had found a new home in German science, Charles de Villers, 
wrote warningly: "The French armies have beaten the German 
because they are stronger, but for the same reason the German 
spirit will ultimately conquer the French I believe that some 
indications of this development are already visible. Providence 
chooses its own paths." 




SEVERAL times before, Prussia had astonished the German world 
by a sudden disclosure of its hidden moral energies. This had 
happened when the elector, Frederick William, forced his little 
state into the ranks of the old powers. It had happened again 
when King Frederick hazarded the struggle for Silesia. But none 
of the great surprises of Prussian history were so unexpected by 
the Germans as the rapid and proud uprising of the half-destroyed 
great power after the profound reverse of Jena. Whilst the cele- 
brated names of the old time were all committed to contempt and 
oblivion, and whilst everyone in Prussia was complaining of the 
complete lack of capable young men, a new generation suddenly 
rallied round the throne. There appeared men of powerful 
character, enthusiastic spirit, and clear intelligence, an unending 
abundance of them, a crowd of persons brilliant in camp and in 
council, who could take equal rank with the literary great ones 
of the nation. And just as formerly Frederick had merely reaped 
upon the battle-fields of Bohemia what his father had laboriously 
sown in the quiet times of peace, so now this speedy recovery of 
strength on the part of the humiliated monarchy was no more than 
the ripe fruit of long years of arduous work. When the state 
thus pulled itself together, it was realising all that German thinkers 
and poets had thought and uttered during the last decades concern- 
ing human dignity and human freedom, concerning the moral 
aims of life. It put its trust in the liberating power of the spirit, 
and let the full stream of the ideas of the new Germany flow through 
its life. 

Now for the first time Prussia became in reality the German 
state. The best and the boldest of all the sons of the fatherland, 
the last of the Germans, assembled under the black-and-white 
flags. Upon the ancient Prussian valiancy and loyalty, the 

313 x 

History of Germany 

vigorous idealism of a distinctive culture superimposed new duties 
and new aims ; and in the discipline of political life the Prussian 
spirit was quickened to activity and learned to rejoice in self- 
sacrifice. The state abandoned its petty preference for the 
immediately useful ; science recognised that it had need of the 
fatherland in order to become truly human. The old, hard, war- 
like Prussiandom, and the richness of ideas of the modern German 
culture, at length found themselves at one, never again to separate. 
The reconciliation between the two poietic powers of our new 
history, gives to those painful years which followed the Peace of 
Tilsit their historic grandeur. In this time of sorrow and self- 
knowledge were first formed all the political ideals for whose 
realisation the German nation is working to this day. 

Never did the arbitrary will of the conqueror display itself 
more cruelly than in Prussia ; for this reason nowhere else was the 
great significance of the struggle which was shaking the world felt 
more keenly and more passionately than among the German patriots. 
In opposition to the adventurous plans of the Napoleonic world- 
empire, there arose the idea of national freedom, the same idea 
which the founder of the Prussian State had once defended against 
Louis XIV. In opposition to the cosmopolitan doctrines of the 
armed revolution, there displayed itself the national sentiment, 
the enthusiasm for fatherland, for folk-life, and for the peculi- 
arities of the home. In the struggle against the oppressive universal 
domination of Bonapartism, there came into existence a new and 
really living conception of the state, a conception which found 
the moral force of the nations in the free unfolding of personal 
energy. The great contrasts which here encountered one another 
were faithfully reflected in the persons of the leading men. On the 
one side was a man who believed himself to be destiny personified, 
that the nature of things spoke through his mouth and worked 
through his hands the man of power, who, with the force of 
his masterful genius, oppressed all opposing wills. Far beneath 
him stood his servants, valiant soldiers and useful men of affairs, 
but hardly one of them possessed of an independent character, 
and hardly one whose inner life rose above the dullness of the 
daily commonplace. On the other side was a long series of excep- 
tional men, men of strongly developed and peculiar natures, each 
one a little world in himself, full of German defiance and German 
criticism, each one worthy of a biography, too independent and too 
full of ideas to be simply obedient, yet all united in the ardent 
desire to restore liberty and honour to their disgraced fatherland. 


The Rise of Prussia 

In this circle there was one who was not the commander but 
was first among equals, Baron von Stein, the pioneer of the age of 
reform. His ancestral castle was in Nassau, amid the motley 
groups of the petty particularist states ; from the bridge across 
the Lahn in the neighbouring town of Ems, the boy could simul- 
taneously look upon the dominions of eight German princes and 
lords. Here he grew to manhood, in the free air, in the strict 
discipline of a proud, pious, and honourable ancient knightly house, 
which regarded itself as the equal of all the princes in the empire. 
Did not the hereditary fortresses of the Houses of Stein and Nassau 
stand close beside one another upon the same rock ? why then 
should the old coat of arms with the roses and the chevrons be 
regarded as of less importance than the Saxon lozenge-crown, or 
the antlers of the armorial bearings of the Wiirtemburger ? The idea 
of German unity, to which those born in subjection could attain only 
by the devious paths of historical culture, was instilled in the cradle 
into this proud lord who was subject to the emperor alone. He 
could see the matter in no other way ; "I have but one fatherland, 
Germany, and just as in accordance with the ancient constitution 
I belong to Germany alone and to no particular part of Germany, 
so also do I give my heart to Germany alone and to no part of 
Germany." But little influenced by the aesthetic enthusiasm of 
his contemporaries, his active spirit, concentrated upon reality, 
early became immersed in historical affairs. All the wonders of 
the history of the fatherland, from the overthrow of the Roman 
legions by the Germans of the Teutoburger Wald down to the 
grenadiers of Frederick the Great, appeared vividly before his eyes. 
The whole of greater Germany, as far as the German tongue is heard, 
was the object of his ardent love. He excluded from his affection 
not one of those who had ever manifested the energy and grandeur 
of the German nature. When in old age, in his own Nassau, he 
built a tower in honour of the memorable deeds of Germany, the 
pictures of Frederick the Great and of Maria Theresa, of Scharn- 
horst and of Wallenstein, hung there peaceably side by side. His 
ideal was the powerful German kingship of the Saxon emperors ; 
the newly constituted states which had since then arisen upon the 
ruins of the monarchy all seemed to him arbitrary structures, the 
product of secret treason, of foreign intrigue, ripe for destruction 
when anywhere and in any way the majesty of the ancient rightful 
kingship should come to its own again. His unsparing frankness 
towards crowned heads arose, not only from the inborn valiancy 
of a heroic spirit, but also from the pride of an imperial knight who 

History of Germany 

in all these princes could see only men who had forgotten their 
duty, co-estates who had enriched themselves at the expense of 
the empire, and he could not understand why anyone should make 
such a fuss about these kinglets. 

He had watched the Rhenish campaigns from close at hand, 
and had attained to the conviction, which he once expressed to the 
empress of Russia before the assembled court, that the German 
people was loyal and vigorous, and that only the poor-spiritedness 
of its princes was the cause of Germany's corruption. He detested 
the foreign dominion with the elemental power of a passionate 
nature which when it once broke out flowed irresistibly like a 
mountain torrent ; but he expected the salvation of Europe neither 
from the restoration of the ancient and outworn state authorities, 
nor yet from the artificial doctrines of the balance of power 
characteristic of the old diplomacy. His free and great spirit 
always went straight to the moral nucleus of things. With the 
vision of the seer he already recognised, as did Gneisenau, the 
elements of a permanent reconstruction of the comity of nations. 
In his view, the unnatural preponderance of France would stand 
or fall with the weakness of Germany and Italy. A new balance 
of power could not arise until each of the two great nations of middle 
Europe was united to form a powerful state. Stein was the first 
statesman who recognised the driving force of the new century, 
the impulse towards the formation of national states ; and it was 
not till two generations later that the course of history was to 
justify his brilliant vaticinations. His dream of a united Germany 
was still rather the conception of a high-minded enthusiast, than a 
clear political ideal ; he did not yet know how estranged Austria 
had become from the modern life of the nation, and in the struggles 
for Silesia he could see no more than a regrettable civil war. 

Nevertheless, in recent years, he had come to recognise the 
living power of the Prussian state ; and, diverging in this from 
the ordinary views of the imperial nobles, he had devoted himself 
to the service of the Protestant great power. He was well suited 
by the fresh, natural life of the mining districts, one which was 
fortifying to his physical constitution ; and subsequently, when 
he found a second home among the free peasants and the proud, 
ancient nobility of the Westphalian territories, he was always 
personally on the spot, whatever might be the state of the weather, 
in order to look after affairs with his own masterful personality ; 
he was restless and ardent, but also good-natured and loyal ; 
thoroughly practical, concerned just as much about the cattle 

The Rise of Prussia 

of the petty cottars, as about the aqueducts for the rich coal- 
mines a true nobleman at once distinguished and affable, magnan- 
imous in all things, a king in his own province. He knew little of 
the east of the monarchy. The Rhenish Franconian was for long 
unable to overcome his territorial prejudice against the needy 
colonial lands across the Elbe. He believed himself able to recognise 
a furtive and lupine glance in the serious, weatherbeaten traits 
of the Brandenburg peasants, who did indeed bear the traces of 
prolonged poverty and serfdom ; and with the native pride of an 
imperial knight, he looked down upon the poor and needy Junkers 
of the Mark, who had none the less done far more for Germany's 
new history than all the imperial nobles put together. It was con- 
stitutionally difficult to this baron of the empire to receive pay 
and to bend his stiff neck beneath the yoke of service. When he 
became personally acquainted with the still vital remnants of old 
German communal freedom and of feudal institutions, when he 
observed the generally useful efficiency of the provincial diets and 
the peasant folk-sittings, of the town councils and church synods, 
and when he compared with these the stiff and formal pettiness 
and the ubiquitous intrusiveness of the royal officialdom, he became 
inspired with a profound contempt for the nullity of literalism 
and of red tape. With severe and even unjustified words he censures 
the salaried official, " a man learned in books, without interests, 
without property, who, whether it rains or whether the sun is shining, 
receives his pay regularly from the state treasury, and spends his 
whole life in writing, writing, writing." 

Thus in vigorous activity, in lively intercourse with all classes 
of the people, he gradually attained to an independent view of the 
nature of political freedom, which bore the same relationship to 
the democratic doctrines of the Revolution as the German sense of 
the state did to the French. WTien he was still quite a young man, 
Adam Smith's doctrine of the free mobility of economic forces had 
made a strong and permanent impression upon his mind ; but 
nothing was further from the German baron than that over-estima- 
tion of economic goods, to which the blind followers of the Scotsman 
were prone, and he openly adhered to the Frederician idea that 
excessive wealth is the destruction of the nations. He was pro- 
foundly impressed by Justus Moser's vivid descriptions of the 
peasant freedom of ancient Germany ; the study of German and of 
English constitutional history, helped forward his political culture ; 
and there can be no doubt that the romantic conception of the 
world -order characteristic of the epoch, the general enthusiasm for 

History of Germany 

the unbroken energy of a youthful popular life, also exercised an 
unconscious influence upon him. But the true source of his political 
convictions was a powerful moral idealism, which was steeled 
to a far greater extent than the baron himself was aware by the hard 
school of the Prussian official service. 

The administration of the first Frederick William had long 
ago forced the people, who were then altogether estranged from 
public life, to take an interest in the affairs of the community. 
Stein recognised that those who had been thus educated were now 
capable, by themselves, under the supervision of the state, of look- 
ing after the affairs of the circles and communes. In place of 
the outworn class-differences, he wished to introduce the equality 
before the law characteristic of modern bourgeois society. This, 
however, was not to result in the creation of an undifferentiated 
mass of sovereign individuals, but in the production of a new and 
juster subdivision of society, which should impose upon the 
propertied members of the community, upon the well-to-do, and 
especially upon the landed proprietors, the burden and the honour 
of communal service, and which should thus furnish these with 
powers, constituting a young aristocracy based upon the idea of 
political duty. He thought that it was possible to fight the 
Revolution with its own weapons, to put an end to the struggle 
between the classes, to realise in its completeness throughout the 
administration the idea of the unified state. Yet with the vigorous 
activity of the innovator, he combined a profound affection for 
historical institutions, and above all for the power of the crown. 
" To form a constitution," he often said, " consists in developing 
the present out of the past." He endeavoured to pass back, from 
those artificial conditions of tutelage and compulsion which had 
formerly come into existence out of the miseries of the Thirty 
Years' War, to the simple and free views of our German ancestors, 
to whom service in arms was the honourable right of every freeman, 
and to whom care for the communal economy seemed to be the 
natural task of the burgher and of the peasant. To the greedy 
revolutionary sentiment, which demanded from the state unending 
human rights, he opposed the ancient Prussian sense of duty. To 
the impudent dilettantism of the political philosophers, he opposed 
the knowledge of affairs and knowledge of men acquired by a shrewd 
official who had won his insight out of the experience of life, learning 
that the reconstruction of the state must begin from below, and 
that constitutional forms are valueless if they lack the foundation 
of a free administration. 

The Rise of Prussia 

These ideas, however new and even rash they might appear, 
were the necessary outcome of the internal evolution which the 
Prussian State had undergone from the time of the destruction of 
the old feudal dominion down to the formulation of the common 
law. They were so closely akin at once to the moral earnestness 
of the Kantian philosophy and to the re-awakening historical sense 
of German science, that to us who come afterwards, they seem 
to be as it were a political precipitate from the classical age of 
our literature. Simultaneously, as if upon a word of command, 
immediately after the overthrow of the old order, the same ideas 
were uttered by the best men alike of the sword and of the pen, but 
by no one so comprehensively and with such marked individuality 
as by Stein. In the letters and memorials of Scharnhorst and 
Gneisenau, Vincke and Niebuhr, we everywhere find recurring the 
same leading idea. The nation must be awakened to independent 
and responsible political activity ; and there must thus be aroused 
the self-confidence, the courage, and the spirit of sacrifice 
characteristic of a living love of the fatherland. It was not after 
the manner of these practical statesmen to attempt to construct 
a closed system of political ideas ; they regarded it rather as a great 
advantage of English life that in England political theorising was 
so little respected. Thus the one literary work that came into 
existence under Stein's own eyes, Vincke's Treatise on the British 
Constitution, was devoted to the study of the real. This little 
work gave for the first time a faithful picture of the self-government 
of the English counties, which had hitherto received no attention 
among the wonderful subdivisions of authority in the typical con- 
stitutional state. The book contained so unmistakable a declaration 
of war against the French bureaucracy of the Confederation of the 
Rhine, that it could not be printed until after the overthrow of the 
Napoleonic dominion. Consequently the profundity of Stein's 
ideas upon statecraft were never really perceived by the baron's 
own contemporaries. Only in the present day has it been recog- 
nised that this great man was not merely an advocate of the 
conception of the national state, but that he also rescued for the 
European continent the ideas of self-government, and a notion o 
popular freedom based upon ancient and unforgotten traditions of 
Teutonic history. Every advance in our political life has brought 
the nation back to Stein's ideals. 

It was the defect of his merits that he did not find himself at 
home in the tortuous paths of foreign policy, and that he despised 
as sordid trickery the indispensable arts of diplomatic astuteness. 


History of Germany 

To him were lacking cunning, caution, and gifts of hesitancy and 
restraint. In the domain of administration, he moved with complete 
certainty. But when there seemed to open a prospect for the 
liberation of his fatherland, his equanimity was disturbed ; and, 
carried away by the wild impetuosity of his patriotic enthusiasm, 
he readily expected the impossible. 

It was not given to this hero of holy wrath and stormy veracity 

to steer the state cautiously through the rocks till the propitious 

moment arrived for the uprising. Yet no one else was born as 

he was born for the task of political reform. To restore to the 

distracted monarchy its power of direction towards high moral 

aims, to invigorate its slumbering magnificent energies with the 

awakening power of an ardent will this was possible to Stein alone, 

for no other possessed the same moving and overwhelming might 

of a great personality. No ignoble word could be heard, no excuse 

for weakness or selfishness ventured to raise itself, when he expressed 

his serious ideas in his old-fashioned German, in a speech altogether 

free from artificiality, rough with the roughness of the people, in 

that weighty brevity which is natural to the wealth of ideas and 

the restrained passion of the genuine Teuton. Vulgarity trembled 

before the pitilessness of his thorny wit, before the crushing blows 

of his anger. But anyone who was really a man, and came into 

contact with this spirit strong in faith, always went on his way 

with a brighter glance and with heightened courage. The image 

of this baron of the empire was immovably enshrined in the hearts 

of the best men of Germany. His figure was firm and compact, 

his shoulders were powerful, as if created to wear a cuirass ; his 

brown eyes sparkled beneath the dominant brow, and his aquiline 

nose surmounted narrow and mobile lips that were full of 

expression; every movement of the great hands was firm and 

commanding. He seemed a character out of the spirited sixteenth 

century, reminding us involuntarily of Diirer's picture of Ritter 

Franz von Sickingen, so talented and so simple, so brave among men 

and so humble before God, the whole man a wonderful synthesis of 

natural energy and of culture, of liberal-mindedness and justice, 

of ardent passion and equitable consideration. His was a nature 

which, with its incapacity for any selfish calculation, must ever 

remain an insoluble riddle to Napoleon and his companions in 

fortune. He was the man for the situation ; even his weaknesses 

and the one-sidedness of his views, corresponded to the needs of 

the moment. If he judged the officialdom and the petty nobility 

with undue harshness, and if he regarded the Austrians simply as 


The Rise of Prussia 

Prussia's German brethren, all the better for the state, which had 
now to destroy the privileges of the nobility and the sole dominion 
of the bureaucracy, and which must magnanimously forget every- 
thing which was a barrier between the two German great powers. 

After his vain struggle against cabinet government and his 
contumelious dismissal, Stein had lived quietly in Nassau, and 
there, in a comprehensive memorial, had compiled certain sketches 
for the reconstitution of the state ; then came the news of the 
disastrous peace, which actually made the hot-blooded man 
seriously ill. Soon afterwards came his recall to power. He 
speedily recovered ; his illness was forgotten ; after three days 
his will mastered the fever. On September 30, 1807, he arrived 
at Memel, and the king, full of confidence, entrusted him with the 
leadership of the whole state. What a situation ! On his last 
birthday, Frederick William, since the French evacuation of the 
country had not been begun, had written an autograph letter to 
the Imperator, asking him the plain question whether it was his 
intention to annihilate Prussia. Napoleon remained dumb, deeds 
gave the answer. In the midst of the peace there were 160,000 
Frenchmen in the fortresses and in great camps, distributed over the 
whole Prussian dominion, East Prussia alone excepted. The 
nucleus of the old Prussian army, numbering more than 15,000 
men, was still held prisoner at Nancy, and whence should the 
plundered monarchy obtain means for the formation of a new 
army ? Of disposable annual income, there remained to the 
state only thirteen and a half million thalers, barely two-thirds of 
its former revenue. Everywhere where Napoleon's troops were in 
possession, the income of the state was impounded for France, 
as if the war were still in progress, so that the king received nothing, 
and hundreds of the officers who had been discharged on half- 
pay, could not be paid at all. The once greatly envied Oversea 
Trading Company had, like the Bank, suspended payment ; 
its shares fell to 25 ; the Treasury Bills fell to 27, since 
it was impossible to think of redeeming them, and the French 
authorities made use of the paper money for usurious business. 
Masses of depreciated small coin streamed from the ceded pro- 
vinces back into the country ; and to make matters worse, the 
French had an additional quantity of small change, to the amount 
of three million thalers, coined in the Berlin mint. The state credit 
was so completely destroyed that a premium loan of one million, 
issued in small shares of twenty-five thalers each, had not been taken 
up at the end of three years. In the diplomatic world, Prussia 


History of Germany 

was now hardly esteemed as highly as one of the kingdoms of the 
Confederation of the Rhine ; in the year 1808, the Dutch ambas- 
sador, a French consul, and an Austrian commercial attache, 
constituted the whole foreign diplomatic corps at the court of 
Konigsberg. The French military administration, under the 
brutal leadership of Daru, was even worse in peace than it had been 
in war, and every one of its excesses was undertaken at Napoleon's 
express command. One tax pressed on the heels of another, and 
for months it remained impossible to say how much the insatiable 
enemy would still demand from the exhausted country. In East 
and in West Prussia a progressive income-tax was imposed, rising 
to 20 per cent., to pay off the burdens of the war ; a certain mer- 
chant of Stettin, who was far from being a rich man, paid during 
the year following the peace more than fifteen thousand thalers for 
taxes and billeting. 

Business was at a standstill. British mercantile competition 
had availed itself of the previous war to destroy the strongest 
mercantile marine of the Baltic coasts. When subsequently the 
war broke out with France, and peace with England had not yet 
been concluded, the Prussian flag was threatened simultaneously 
by the British cruisers and by the French. Then came the 
distresses of the Continental System. Within a brief space, the 
shipping of the Pomeranian harbours fell from a tonnage of sixty- 
eight thousand to forty thousand. The old, natural routes of world- 
commerce lay unused. The Baltic provinces, since good roads 
were still almost entirely wanting, had no way open for 1heir 
one article of export, grain. Colonial produce was smuggled into 
the country from Gothenburg and Heligoland, the new Little- 
London ; other goods came from Malta and Corfu, by way of 
Bosnia and Hungary. The middle classes of Prussia could no longer 
pay the prices of the customary luxuries ; people drank an infusion 
of chicory, and smoked colt's-foot and walnut leaves. Poverty 
reigned in every house and in every industry. The printers of 
Konigsberg required three weeks in order to print a law occupying 
six folios, for they had type enough for but one folio at a time. 
Schon, the able minister of finance, who prided himself on his 
reputation for old Prussian courage, found the posture of affairs 
so hopeless that, four months after the peace, he issued a memorial 
to the effect that the conqueror must be satisfied by the cession 
of the Magdeburg region on the right bank of the Elbe and portions 
of Upper Silesia, as otherwise the country would be absolutely 
ruined by the burden of taxation. 


The Rise of Prussia 

Everything recalled those lamentable days when Wallenstein 
had occupied the Mark and George William had passed his days 
in Konigsberg as a prince without a country. But what an abun- 
dance of love and loyalty had come into existence in the subsequent 
six generations. Then the diet of Konigsberg had bluntly defied 
the will of its elector. Now, prince and people stood together, 
like one great family. The poor country house at Memel and the 
gloomy rooms of the old castle of the Teutonic Knights at Konigs- 
berg, did not lack visitors, who wished to give pleasure to their 
king in his need and to say a kindly word. At the baptism of the 
new-born princess, the estates of East Prussia appeared as sponsors. 
In all the shop windows there was hanging the new picture which 
represented the king standing among his children, dressed in the 
hideous uniform of the day, and how much more royally did 
Frederick William know how to endure his hard lot than did the 
father of the Great Elector. He was filled with profound bitterness 
of spirit ; more than ever did he need the cordial encouragement 
of his spouse ; there were hours when it seemed to him as if he 
could succeed in nothing, as if he had been born only for misfor- 
tune. When in the cathedral of Konigsberg he read the inscrip- 
tions upon the tombs of the Prussian dukes, he chose as a motto 
for his own hard life, " My days are passed in disquiet, my hope is 
in God ! " Yet this hope sustained him. He could never accept 
the conviction that the common souls of the family of Bonaparte 
who now wore the crowns of Europe were really princes, that in 
the reasonable world of God, this adventurer of the Napoleonic 
world-empire, who for all his brilliancy and glory was so inflated 
and so specious, could permanently continue to exist. He never 
allowed himself to be persuaded into any personal friendliness 
towards Napoleon. Even Stein once advised that the mood of 
the Imperator should be rendered milder by a little timely flattery, 
and that Napoleon should be invited to act as sponsor at the 
baptism of the new-born princess. The king rejected the idea 
unhesitatingly. But to the political proposals of his great minister, 
he adhered willingly and without reserve. He had a far greater 
share in Stein's legislation than his contemporaries were aware. 
Much which now came to perfection was merely the bold execution 
of those ideas of reform over which the irresolute prince had been 
brooding for a decade. Thus only do the rapid and striking successes 
of a single year of Stein's administration become comprehensible. 

The new minister found willing helpers also among the officials. 
It was fortunate for him that it was on East Prussian soil that he 


History of Germany 

had to begin his work of reform. Here, in especial, was keenly felt 
the untenability of the old division of classes, for the province pos- 
sessed in its Kollmers a number of free landowners who were com- 
moners. Here had the cultured classes, and especially the officials, 
long been well-acquainted with the free moral and political views 
which the two most efficient teachers of the University of Konigs- 
berg, Kant and the recently deceased Kraus, had diffused for many 
years. Most of Stein's laws were prepared in the East Prussian 
provincial department. At the head of this administration was the 
minister von Schrotter, an exemplary official of astonishing activity, 
who had retained even into old age a youthful receptivity for new 
ideas ; under him were working Friese and Wilckens. l Schon was 
completely filled with the ideas of Kant. In many respects he was 
a faithful representative of the vig'orous, enlightened, and intelli- 
gent East Prussian character, but he was a doctrinaire advocate 
of unrestricted free trade, he was immeasurably vain, was incapable 
of modestly recognising the services of another, and, moreover, 
quite in conflict with the characteristics of his fine stock, was 
untruthful. Beside him worked Staegemann, a highly-cultured 
and able man of business, endowed with rare industry and rare 
modesty, who sometimes gave expression to his faithful affection 
for the Prussian state in profoundly felt, but clumsy, poems. There 
was also Niebuhr, the man of brilliant learning, too sensitive, too 
dependent upon the moods of the moment, to find himself readily 
at home in the equable activity of the office, but invaluable to all 
by the inexhaustible wealth of his living knowledge, by the width 
of his outlook, by the nobility of his lofty passion. There was 
Nicolovius, a profound spirit, strongly affected by the religious 
tendency of the time. There were Sack, Klewitz, and many others, 
a brilliant company of exceptional powers. Nearest to the views 
of Stein among them all, was the Westphalian, Baron von Vincke. 
He also had formed his views of the state in contact with the nobles 
and with the peasants of the countryside, but the born Prussian 
recognised far more frankly than did the imperial knight the services 
of the salaried officialdom. Vincke could not be reckoned among 
the poietic intelligences ; his strength lay in kinesis, in the un- 
resting activity of the administrative official. 

Hardenberg, who upon Napoleon's orders had for the second 
time been obliged to leave the ministry, sent from Riga a great 
memorial on the reorganisation of the Prussian state which he had 

1 Recently shown in the remarkable book by Ernst Meier, D:e Rejorm dcr 
Verwal>ung$-Organisation unter Stein und Hardenberg, Leipzig, 1881. 


The Rise of Prussia 

there composed in collaboration with Altenstein. In many respects 
this corresponded with the ideas of the new minister of state ; 
many of its proposals were taken word for word from Stein's own 
utterances, such as the idea of an assembly of the estates for the 
whole country. Here also, however, there was akeady manifest 
that intimate and profound contrast which always separated the 
disciples of the enlightenment from Stein's historical conception 
of the state. Hardenberg was first of all a diplomatist. In 
administrative affairs he was far from being so well-informed as 
Stein, and for this reason in his memorial he inconsiderately incor- 
porated certain general theoretical proposals dear also to Alten- 
stein, the friend of Fichte. His scheme of reform was conceived 
" in accordance with the highest idea of the state " ; in commercial 
policy the principle of laisser-faire was to prevail without restric- 
tion. Whereas Stein had from the first regarded the Revolution 
with the mistrust of the aristocrat, and desired to transplant to 
German soil a few only of its tried results, Hardenberg had been 
much more strongly influenced by French ideas. He definitely 
indicated as the goal of reform, " the introduction of democratic 
principles in a monarchical government " ; in matters of detail, 
he wished to follow closely the French example, demanded for the 
army conscription with right of purchasing substitutes, and would 
gladly have abolished the honorary Landrate (the old-established 
administrative chiefs-of-district in Prussia) to replace them by 
bureaucratic district officials. He said nothing at all concerning 
self-government by the commons. A point common to both these 
statesmen was, however, the moral altitude of then* sense of the 
state. Both of them desired, as Altenstein's proposal expressed 
it, "a revolution in a good sense, leading directly towards the 
supreme goal of the ennoblement of humanity " ; both of them 
knew that France pursued a tendency of secondary import- 
ance, directed to the simple manifestation of power ; and they 
demanded from the rejuvenated German state that it should 
protect religion, art, and science, all the ideal aims of the human 
race, for their own sake, and that it should thus secure a victory 
over the foreign dominion by means of moral energies. 

Stein possessed in a high degree the art indispensable to the 
statesman of making a good use of the ideas of others. He allowed 
all the proposals which were brought to him from the circles of the 
officials to influence his mind, but his ultimate decisions were deter- 
mined by his own consideration. He laid down the broad line of 
the leading ideas, but committed the carrying out of these to the 


History of Germany 

councils, and intervened personally only when it was necessary 
to push the completed work through in opposition to doubt and 
active resistance. When he came to Memel there was already on 
foot a proposal for the abolition of hereditary servitude in East and 
West Prussia. Schon, Staegemann, and Klewitz had worked out 
the plan upon the king's instructions, appealing especially to the 
fact that in the neighbouring duchy of Warsaw, the abolition of 
serfdom was imminent The new minister at once gave a wider 
scope to the law, demanding the extension of the reform to the 
whole area of the state. Since he had begun to think for himself 
in political matters, he had regarded the lack of freedom of the 
country people as the curse of north-eastern Germany. The moment 
seemed to him propitious for the permanent cure of the ancient 
evil, and with one bold step to attain the end towards which the 
laws of the Hohenzollerns from the time of Frerderick William I 
had ever advanced with partial success. The king joyfully agreed ; 
the bold confidence of his minister awakened in him the courage 
to will effectively that which all his life he had merely hoped for. 
Thus there was promulgated on October 9, 1807, an edict con- 
cerning the facilitated ownership and the free utilisation of landed 
property, or, as Schon called it, the Prussian habeas corpus act. 
Thus in unassuming forms there was completed a far-reaching 
social revolution. About two-thirds of the population of the 
state now acquired unrestricted personal freedom. On and after 
Martinmas, 1810, there were to be none in Prussia but freemen. 
This same law destroyed at a single blow the feudal ordering of 
the Frederician state. The nobleman received the right to become 
a peasant and to carry on bourgeois industries, and this right was 
to be considered a compensation for the privileges previously enjoyed 
by the nobility in the army. Every kind of landed proprietorship, 
and every kind of occupation, was henceforward to be open to 
every Prussian. 

But Stein was not inclined to discard the old national principles 
of the monarchy, and to allow the destruction of petty proprietor- 
ship to be effected under the cloak of free competition. It seemed 
to him that a free and vigorous estate of peasants was the firmest 
prop of the state, and the nucleus of its powers of military defence. 
For this reason the right to purchase the lands of the peasants was 
granted to the larger landed proprietors, but only under restriction 
and with the consent of the authorities. Whereas Schon, faithful 
to the dogmas of the English free-traders, desired to accelerate the 
destruction of the old generation of settlers on the land, as an 


The Rise of Prussia 

unavoidable economic necessity, Stein came to the rescue of the 
indebted great landed proprietors with a General Indulgence. Thus 
it became possible to assist the landed gentry through the difficulties 
of the immediate future, and to retain most of them in the posses- 
sion of their ancient lands. No less moderate despite its boldness 
was the new edict which provided free property for the peasants 
on the domains in East and West Prussia, about forty-seven 
thousand families ; they were to redeem three-fourths of the 
services and charges attached to their lands within the space of 
four-and-twenty years by monetary payments. The remaining 
fourth was to continue as an irremovable tax. Stein rejected as 
too radical a disturbance of the accepted relationships of property, 
the idea of a complete abolition of all the encumbrances upon 
peasant property. He also determined upon the abolition of 
thirlage, of the guilds and the selling monopolies of bakers, butchers, 
and hucksters. His aim was to effect the transformation of all 
services and payments in kind into money payments, and to 
abolish the rights to forced labour and other manorial rights, to 
abolish all servitude and all communal dues ; private property 
was everywhere to come into its own. In sharp contrast with the 
Frederician system of the monarchical organisation of labour, the 
new laws were " to get rid of everything which had hitherto stood 
in the way of the individual's acquirements of such a degree of well- 
being as he was competent to acquire in accordance with the measure 
of his energies." The instructions issued to the executive authori- 
ties after Stein's resignation, expressed doubtless in a somewhat 
more abstract form than Stein had himself used, ran simply : 
" Industry must be left to take its natural course ; it is not 
necessary to favour trade, all that we have to do is to see that 
no difficulties are put in its way." 

The remarkable change thus effected in the ancient social 
system of Prussia, was hardly noticed abroad. This quickly 
moving epoch had experienced a sufficient number of radical 
innovations, and how many of them which had been introduced 
with a great deal of noise had after all come to nothing. The 
French made fun of the caution with which in Konigsberg the 
footsteps of the Great Revolution were being followed. In Prussia 
itself, however, the feeling was all the more vivid that the new 
legislation was profoundly affecting all the relationships of life. The 
cultured bourgeoisie hailed with gladness the liberation of the 
country folk ; in Breslau the deeds of the royal reformer were 
commemorated on the stage. But the nobles of the Electoral 


History of Germany 

Mark, led by the valiant Marwitz, raged against the audacious 
foreigner who, with his school of Franconian and East Prussian 
officials, was disturbing the good old Brandenburger way. No less 
unheard-of seemed the Jacobinical phrasing than the revolutionary 
content of Stein's new laws, which, in accordance with the ancient 
custom of Prussian absolutism, endeavoured to explain to the 
people the monarch's intentions in detail, and which in doing this 
repeatedly referred to the good of the state and to the progress of 
the spirit of the time. In Priegnitz, the peasants even raised a 
disturbance against " the new freedom," and the king had to send 
a force to keep them in order. In the Junkergasse at Konigsberg, 
at the Perponcher Club, worthy gentlemen of the court, of the 
landed gentry, of the army, were profoundly incensed at the 
" viper's brood " of the reformer. No one there scolded more 
fiercely than General York, to whom it seemed that the severe old- 
time discipline was disappearing from the world, that the time was 
coming when every cornet would begin to stick up for the rights of 
man. Even Gneisenau could not follow the minister in all these 
bold ventures, and it seemed to him that the destruction of great 
landed proprietorship was imminent, until experience taught him 
his error. Some of the finest men of the East Prussian stocks 
of the Dohna, the Auerswald, and the Finkenstein, sent a petition 
to the king, imploring him to protect the rights of the nobility, 
and at least to save the noble from military service and from the 
patrimonial courts. Nor were justified complaints lacking, for 
although the legislator everywhere expressed his leading ideas with 
businesslike clearness and definiteness, there were nevertheless in 
certain matters of detail, owing to the haste with which the work 
was done, many obscurities and contradictions. But the prestige 
of the royal command was as firmly established as was the con- 
fidence in the justice of Frederick William. Even those who were 
personally dissatisfied could not imagine that this prince could 
order an open act of .injustice. The reform ran its course. Once 
again, as so often before, it was by the will of the crown that an act 
of liberation was effected for the Prussian people. 

The second great task which Stein undertook was the com- 
pletion of the unity of the state. From the proceedings of the 
Paris National Assembly, he had learned the necessity for a 
centralised financial system, and from a study of the executive 
organisation of the First Consul he had come to recognise that the 
business of the state must be so carried on as to render a unified 
supervision possible. Even before the war he had recommended 


The Rise of Prussia 

the appointment of departmental ministers for the whole state. 
The extraordinary juxtaposition of provincial ministers and 
departmental ministers, the intermingling of the real system 
with the provincial system, was no longer adequate to the needs 
of an active modern administration. The anxious preservation 
of territorial peculiarities had been carried so far during recent 
decades, that the officials of the old school could even speak of the 
Prussian monarchy as a " federal state." Yet closer examination 
showed how healthy and full of life was the executive organisation 
founded by Frederick William I. Now that the undertaking was 
ventured of carrying his work a stage further, full justice was for 
the first time done to the remarkable insight of the strict old 
organiser. Schon esteemed him as the greatest king of Prussia 
as far as internal affairs were concerned. What was resolved on 
was not a revolution, but the progressive development and sim- 
plification of the ancient institutions. The law of December 16, 
1808, concerning the changed constitution of the supreme state 
authorities decreed that there should be five departmental 
ministers, for home affairs, finance, foreign affairs, war, and justice, 
at the head of the entire administration of the state, and the old 
general treasuries were to be united into a single general state 
treasury, under the charge of the minister of finance. Stein foresaw 
how dangerous might become the power of these five men, and he 
therefore intended to constitute, as the supreme authority of the 
monarchy, a council of state which should unite in itself all the 
leading energies of the state service, including the ministers, should 
advise as to legislative proposals, and should decide the great 
disputed questions of public law. But his successors failed to cany 
out this part of his proposals. 

Through the appointment of the departmental ministers, the 
general directory was abolished. There remained, however, the 
old war chambers, and domain chambers, under the new names of 
" administrations." The judiciary and the executive were com- 
pletely separated ; the judicial business of the old chambers was 
allotted to the " administrations " ; they were purged of useless 
members (for Stein everywhere fought against the practical irre- 
movability of the old officialdom, and reserved to the crown the 
right of dismissing the executive officials at will); the course of 
business was simplified, and greater independence was secured 
for the presidents and the heads of departments in the individual 
branches of the executive. But the advantages of the German 
collegial system, its lack of partisanship, and its careful regard 

329 y 

History of Germany 

for all the circumstances of the individual case, were too highly 
esteemed by Stein for him to be willing to exchange that system 
for the readier mobility of a bureaucratic prefectural administra- 
tion. The intermediate authorities of the Prussian executive 
remained colleges and in this form continued to work beneficially 
for two generations. Instead of the vain display of the general 
councils which stood beside the Napoleonic prefects giving diffident 
advice, the German statesmen demanded the active and regular 
participation of the nation in administrative affairs. Thus there 
would flow in to the men of the boardroom a wealth of views and 
feelings derived from the outside world, whilst the people itself 
would become animated with the sense of fatherland, of indepen- 
dence, and of national honour. 

But how was this vigorous activity on the part of the ruled 
to be incorporated in the firmly ordered hierarchy of the paid 
officialdom ? It was obviously impossible to transfer to the 
provincial diets the conduct of individual executive affairs ; 
nepotism, cumbrousness, the commercial spirit of the old feudal 
committees, still gave to these bodies an evil repute. For this 
reason Stein and Hardenberg both conceived the remarkable idea 
of proposing that in every government nine of the representatives 
sitting in the provincial diets should be co-opted upon the boards 
for three years, and that these co-opted members should take full 
part in all the work of the boards. This idea shows very clearly 
how complete a breach had been made with the old views of bureau- 
cratic self-satisfaction, but it led to nothing. The new institu- 
tion came into existence in East Prussia alone ; elsewhere the 
provincial diets showed little inclination to provide the daily 
allowance of money for the notables. The East Prussian representa- 
tives soon found themselves to be extremely isolated among their 
far more numerous bureaucratic official colleagues ; they felt 
themselves to be dilettanti among experts ; those from the country 
would not work long in their offices ; the monetary allowances 
were not forthcoming ; zeal soon cooled, and in the year 1812 the 
unlucky experiment was abandoned. 1 Nor did the new office 
of lord-lieutenant at first prove very satisfactory. Whereas 
revolutionary France had subdivided its ancient provinces into 
powerless departments, Stein, in deliberate contrast, wished to 
unite the weakly governmental areas into great and vigorous 
provinces. Three lords-lieutenant, for Silesia, for Old Prussia, and 
for the territories of Pomerania and the Mark, respectively, were 

1 Report of Minister von Schuckmann to the king, May 24, 1812. 


- The Rise of Prussia 

to supervise the government, not as intermediaries but as permanent 
commissaries of the ministry, and as representatives of the common 
interests of their provinces. The institution was plainly based 
upon the wider relationships of a great state. In the narrow 
circumstances of the diminished monarchy, its only effect was to 
render more difficult the conduct of business ; not until after the 
restoration of Prussia to the position of a great power, did its 
utility become manifest. 

The social reforms of Stein and the consolidation of the unity 
of the state, proceeded from the independent and peculiar working 
out of ideas which had been in the air since the outbreak of the 
revolution and which were a common possession of all clear intelli- 
gences among the Prussian officials. But a thoroughly creative 
action, the free work of Stein's own genius, was the Towns' Ordi- 
nance of November 19, 1808. x He regarded the elevation of the 
nation out of the dull narrowness of its domestic life, as the last and 
highest task of his political activity. He saw that the country was 
in danger of falling into a condition of sensuality, or of attributing 
an exaggerated worth to the speculative sciences, and he wished to 
lead it on towards a vigorous activity which should be of value 
to the community. By a happy practical insight, he was led to 
begin his work with the towns. Only after an independent com- 
munal life had been awakened among the cultured townsmen, 
would it be possible for the rude peasants who had but recently 
been delivered from hereditary servitude, and who still regarded 
their landlords with great hostility, to be awakened to the rights 
and duties of self-government. Wilckens played the principal 
part in the working out of this law. The towns were given the 
independent control of their finances, of their poor relief, and of 
their educational activities ; and on the demand of the state, they 
might also carry on police affairs in the state's name. They were 
thus to be in a position of almost complete independence vis-d-vis 
the state authority, and were even granted autonomous rights in 
matters of taxation, no one yet foreseeing how injurious to the com- 
munity would be the effect of this last privilege. The various 
ancient gradations of civil right were done away with, and the 
privileges of the guilds were also abolished. The inhabitants 
of the towns consisted now of two classes only, citizens and 
denizens. One who had acquired the freedom of the city, and 

1 Stein always definitely described the Towns' Ordinance as his own creation. 
It is simply owing to the way in which the work of his office was carried on that 
the documents contain so few autograph comments of the minister's (E. Meier 
op. cit., page 147 ) 


History of Germany 

this was not difficult to obtain, was bound to undertake all communal 
duties ; for whilst the freedom of property was a leading idea of 
Stein's law, no less important in that law was the principle that upon 
the property owner was imposed the duty of service to the 
community. An elected magistracy, whose members were partly 
unpaid and partly paid on a very moderate scale, with a representa- 
tive assembly elected by all the burgesses (who for electoral purposes 
were listed in separate constituencies), conducted the administra- 
tion of the town. Thus the atrophy of German communal life 
which had endured for two centuries came at length to an 

This reform seems all the more remarkable in its simple clear- 
ness and directness of aim since Stein had no example to follow 
anywhere in Europe. The careless English municipal constitu- 
tions were of as little value to him as examples as was the patrician 
domination in his own beloved Westphalian towns. Now for the 
first time did there come into existence in Germany modern urban 
communities, independent corporations which, nevertheless, were 
at the same time trustworthy organs to fulfil the will of the central 
authority, and which remained subject to governmental super- 
vision. Hitherto some of the towns had been completely deprived 
of independence. Others, like the baronial country-towns, con- 
stituted petty states within the state, with their own patrimonial 
jurisdiction and their own police, and only too often had the com- 
mands of the king to " our vassals, officials, magistrates, and 
beloved subjects " been thwarted by the passive resistance of these 
ancient municipal dominions. Now at length in the administra- 
tion of the towns the centralised authority obtained a powerful 
prop, and one which corresponded to its own national charac- 

This reform also had to be imposed upon the nation by the 
king's command. The gentry of the Mark, and the officers of the 
old school, complained of the republican principles of the Towns' 
Ordinance. What horror was felt in these circles when it was learned 
that one of the first state officials, the president von Gerlach, had 
accepted the election to the position of chief burgomaster of 
Berlin ! The exhausted communal sentiment of the bourgeoisie 
showed at first very little inclination for the enforced honorary 
services ; and it soon became apparent that self-government is 
expensive ; whereas Stein and his friends had rather anticipated 
a diminution in the cost. The towns, which under the rule of 
Frederick William I had been accustomed to strict economy, were 


The Rise of Prussia 

for the most part better disposed towards the new ordinance than 
were the old rural communes, which were accustomed to the nepotist 
rule of independent magistrates. It was only during the War of 
Liberation that a true understanding of the blessings of freedom 
awakened among the townsfolk, when the central authority had 
almost everywhere to discontinue its work, and when every town 
was forced to look after itself. Since then there has become 
manifest in our municipal life a second flowering, less brilliant, but 
not less honourable than the great epoch of the Hanseatic League. 
In educational matters, in the relief of destitution, in foundations 
of general utility, the German bourgeoisie once more endeavoured 
to compete with the older and richer urban culture of the Romans. 
Just as Frederick William I had created the modern German 
executive officialdom, so did Stein's Towns' Ordinance prove the 
starting-point for German municipal self-government. Upon this 
were based the new by-laws, which for two generations, so long as 
parliamentarism still remained immature, constituted the best 
and the most secure element of German national freedom. Through 
Stein's reforms there was reawakened in the German bourgeoisie 
a lively communal sense and a delight in responsible political 
activity. It is to these reforms that we owe the fact that the Ger- 
man constitutional state is to-day established upon a firm founda- 
tion, that our views as to the nature of political freedom, however 
erroneous they may at times have been, have never become so 
vain and formalised as were the doctrines of the French Revolution. 
Through the losses of the Treaty of Tilsit, Prussia had once 
more become a mainly agricultural country. For this reason it 
was Stein's intention that the Towns' Ordinance should be followed 
as soon as possible by a Rural Districts' Ordinance. A proposal 
by von Schrotter and the East Prussian provincial department 
had already been drafted. Stein demanded free rural com- 
munes with village-mayors and village-courts. The last and 
strongest props of the old feudal order of society, the territorial 
police and patrimonial courts, must be abolished, for power must be 
derived only from the highest authority. Stein's plans involved 
no alteration in the ancient historical character of the office of 
Landrat ; as formerly, so now, the Landrat was to be a servant 
of the state, but he was to be at the same time a moderately paid 
official, a landlord resident in the circles, and the trusted adviser 
of its inhabitants. But to the experienced eye of the minister, the 
existing circles seemed too large for the energies of a single man, 
and he was already considering, in conjunction with his friend 


History of Germany 

Vincke, the appointment of several Landrats in each district ; like 
the English justices of the peace, they were from time to time to 
assemble to hold quarter sessions. In addition to the Landrats, 
there was to be a provincial assembly, constituted of all the 
principal landowners and of a number of representatives from the 
towns and villages. The strong representation given to landed 
property was obviously necessary, for no one yet knew whether 
the rude peasantry, who had only just become freemen, were 
competent for representation in the provincial assembly. For 
this reform also the indefatigable Schrotter had already drawn up 
a detailed plan which in essential respects proceeded from the 
same principles as the Circle Ordinance of 1872. 

Stein desired that the lord-lieutenant should be assisted by 
a provincial diet, so that the peculiarities and the separate interests 
of the great territories should be properly represented within the 
unified state. He gladly boasted that his scheme for this institu- 
tion was based upon free property ; he gave the suffrage to all 
" property holders," and in his mouth this term meant exclusively 
or chiefly those who held real property in town or country. With 
a bold hand he had overthrown the legal barriers between the 
ancient classes. There no longer existed in Prussia any hereditary 
class differences ; and yet he did not wish in any spirit of levity 
to overthrow the distinction between the professional classes on 
the one hand and groups of interests on the other, for this distinction 
was still a marked one in the popular consciousness. For this reason 
he demanded a class representation for the provincial diets, in such 
a way that the country gentry, the towns, and the peasantry, were 
to name their representatives separately ; and he rejected the 
proposals of his Silesian friend, Rhediger, who wished to do away 
completely with the old division of classes. It was enough for 
Stein if the totality of the burgesses of the town and of the peasants 
obtained class representation, whereas only a few privileged towns 
that were immediates of the empire, and among the peasantry 
only the Kollmers, had taken part in the old feudal diets. Whilst 
he was still in power the first step was taken towards this end. 
" In order that the government may be supported by general 
assent," East Prussia received a new Territorial Ordinance, which 
secured for the Kollmers equal political rights with the nobles, 
and gave them the right to representation on the territorial 

Finally, over these new provincial estates were to be super- 
posed the Prussian estates of the realm, as a support for the throne, 


The Rise of Prussia 

and as an indispensable means for awakening andjx invigorating 
the national spirit. In these disordered times, the old absolutism 
was everywhere feeling its powerlessness. When the stringency 
of the national finances made it necessary to sell the domains, the 
king was unwilling to take upon his own shoulders the responsi- 
bility for so venturesome a step, and he therefore had the new 
domestic law concerning the sale of the domains laid before the 
estates of all the provinces for their acceptance, although he 
expressly declared that he did this as an act of grace and not as a 
duty. (In Silesia, which had no estates, the proposal was laid 
before the representatives of the mortgage institute and of some of 
the towns.) It was impossible that such a state of insecurity in 
public law should persist. Stein cherished the idea of a great 
reform of taxation ; he desired to break with the anxious domestic 
economy which measured the expenses in accordance with the 
income, and he wished to introduce for Prussia the bold principle 
which applies to every national fiscal system which is run on broad 
lines, that the income must be regulated in accordance with the 
expenditure. For this reform, and for all the other sacrifices which 
seemed to him to be required of the reawakening nation, he con- 
sidered that the approval of an assembly of the estates of the realm 
was indispensable. For the moment, however, owing to the imma- 
turity of the people, the powers of this body must be deliberative 

Such, in essentials, were Stein's proposals for a thorough-going 
reform, the greatest and the boldest which the political idealism 
of the Germans had ever conceived. By similar plans Turgot had 
once hoped to avert the approaching Revolution, but the proposals 
of the German statesman far transcended the ideas of the French- 
man, in modest greatness, in logical definiteness, and in regard for 
that which was historically extant. The king was in agreement 
with all these proposals, but that to which he was least inclined 
was the summoning of the estates of the realm. It was not that 
he feared a limitation of his power ; but to his retiring nature, the 
noise of the debates, the passion of the parliamentary struggle, the 
necessity for his own public appearance, were repugnant. Brought 
up in the traditions of a mild absolutism, full of antipathy to the 
sins of the Revolution, he could not yet completely convince him- 
self that the representative system had become indispensable. It 
was in fact questionable, in view of the lamentable state of political 
culture, whether the influence of the estates of the realm would not 
prove rather a hindrance than a help. From the gentry which, 


History of Germany 

according to Stein's proposals, was to constitute the most powerful 
element of the united diet, the free assent to a juster system of 
taxation and to the other innovations proposed by the minister, 
was hardly to be expected. Even the towns and the peasants 
showed only too often how little they were able to follow the reform- 
ing ideas of the crown. 

If, however, Stein's own vigorous personality were to remain 
in control, if the reform were to proceed as he planned, step by 
step, if, first of all, by the abolition of the territorial police, the 
dominant position of the country gentry were to be destroyed, and 
if then the district assemblies and the provincial diets were to spread 
through the liberated areas, he might hope to bring the king to 
understand that the summoning of an assembly of the estates of 
the realm was necessary on behalf of the unity of the state, as a 
counterpoise to the centrifugal forces of the provincial diets. In 
this way, by the free choice of the crown, might be effected the 
transition from absolute monarchy to a representative system, and 
the Prussian state might perhaps be spared a whole generation of 
tentative proceedings. Stein was prepared to build upon the 
awakening insight in the loj-al and good-hearted people. He did 
not fail to recognise the deep chasm which existed between the 
over-refined and unworldly culture of the men of learning and 
the esential roughness of the masses ; but he hoped to bridge this 
chasm by the reconstitution of the educational system, and it was 
only his sudden fall which prevented these plans from coming to 
maturity. Years before, in Miinster, he had shown that this 
branch of internal administration was within the purview of his 
free and comprehensive spirit, for in Miinster he had fought 
Jesuitism at the University, and had awakened a new life in this 
ossified institution. 

Hand in hand with administrative reform, there proceeded the 
reorganisation of the army, this also being effected under Stein's 
personal supervision. The king himself gave the first impetus. 
In this department, which he regarded as peculiarly his own, he 
always retained the immediate direction, and never failed to display 
an apt power of judgment and a penetrating knowledge of affairs. 
As early as July, 1807, he appointed Scharnhorst to the presidency 
of a commission for army reorganisation, and submitted to this 
commission an autograph memorial in which he clearly pointed out 
all the defects of the existing military system, and rightly indicated 
the means for its improvement. There were associated with 


The Rise of Prussia 

Scharnhorst in this work a number of younger men of talent, who 
followed with a lively understanding, as did Scharnhorst himself, 
all the intellectual work of the time, men of statesmanlike intelli- 
gence who regarded the army as a popular school, and the art of 
war as a branch of politics. Their quiet activity served, not merely 
to sharpen the weapons for the War of Liberation, but also to bring 
the Prussian army once more into harmony with the new culture, 
and to endow the German military system for all future time with 
the characteristics of serious culture and intellectual freshness and 

These officers were united from the outset with the leading 
statesman by a remarkable and instinctive agreement of moral and 
political conviction. It sounded like one of Stein's own utter- 
ances when Gneisenau, apropos of the French Rights of Man, ex- 
claimed, " First make the human race enthusiasts for duty, and 
only after that for rights ! " Just as the disciple of Adam Smith 
was unwilling to apply the principle of the division of labour 
unconditionally to the national administration, esteeming the skilled 
business ability of the professional official less highly than that 
popular maturity which is acquired in self-government, so also did 
these military experts cherish the belief that it is moral force which 
ultimately proves decisive in war. However highly they esteemed 
the essentials of technical training, they regarded as still more 
important, to use Scharnhorst 's own words, " the intimate union 
of the army with the nation." Scharnhorst wrote soon after the 
peace : " The sense of independence must be instilled into the 
nation, which must be given an opportunity of becoming acquainted 
with itself, of standing on its own feet ; then only will it respect 
itself, and learn how to gain respect from others. All that we can 
do is to work towards this end. We must loosen the bonds of 
prejudice, guide the rebirth of the nation ; care for its growth, 
and not hinder its free development ; more than this it is not in our 
power to do." 

Scharnhorst had long been recognised as the first military 
writer of his country, as the most brilliant authority among the 
German officers, but after an extremely varied life he also had at 
his disposal an exceptional wealth of practical experience. He had 
seen service in every arm, in the general staff, and in the military 
colleges. During his training at the military college of Wil- 
helmstein, he had become acquainted with that exemplary little 
troop which the talented old warrior Count Wilhelm von Biickeburg 
had formed out of the young men of his own petty territory ; next 


History of Germany 

as a Hanoverian officer, in the Netherlands theatre of war, he had 
become closely acquainted with the English Army, which among 
all the armies of Europe still preserved most faithfully the charac- 
teristics of the ancient mercenary system ; he had seen active 
service against the loosely organised militia of the Republic and 
also against the well-trained conscripts of Napoleon, and in the 
war of 1806 he was sufficiently near to the leadership to have learned 
completely to understand the errors of the Frederician army and 
the ultimate grounds of its overthrow. To the simple Saxon, that 
stiff military conduct which the king demanded from his officers 
was repugnant. He went about in an inconspicuous, and almost 
untidy, dress, with his head hanging down, and his deep-set 
thinker's eyes turned quite inward. His hair fell in disorder over 
his forehead ; his speech was gentle and slow. In Hanover he 
was often seen knocking at the doors of the baker's shop, and 
then sitting quietly with his wife and children at supper under 
the [trees of the Eilenride. Thus he remained throughout life, 
straightforward and unadorned in all things. The simplicity and 
tenderness of his private correspondence reminds us of the men of 
antiquity ; in his writings, as in everything else, matter is every- 
thing 'and form nothing. But the superiority of a powerful, 
continuously productive and thoroughly independent spirit, the 
nobility of a moral disposition which simply did not know what 
self-seeking is, gave to this unpretentious man a natural charm 
which, repellent to men of common mind, slowly and surely 
attracted magnanimous spirits. His daughter, Countess Julie Dohna, 
owed everything to her widowed father ; she was spoken of as a 
royal woman, and was accepted in distinguished circles as if she 
had indeed been of royal blood. 

The equable temperament of the general was more agreeable 
to the king than was Stein's stimulating and stimulated nature ; 
none among his counsellors was so near to Frederick William. 
Scharnhorst returned the confidence of his royal friend without 
restraint. It would have seemed to him base to think any longer 
of past errors ; he admired the moral strength of the unfortunate 
monarch ; and he never swerved in his loyalty, not even when, in 
their patriotic impatience, many of his friends became disaffected 
towards the over-cautious prince. A true Low German, he was of a 
retiring disposition, quiet, and reserved by nature. Praise sounded 
to him almost like an insult, and a gentle word as a profanation of 
friendship. His life led him along a rough road, always among 
enemies. In Hanover, the plebeian had had to contend with the ill- 


The Rise of Prussia 

favour of the nobility ; whilst in Prussia the innovator had to fight 
against the arrogance of the old generals. When now, by the 
confidence of the king and by the general acclamation of the army, 
he was placed at the head of military affairs, for five years he had 
to carry on the obscure activity of a conspirator, preparing for the 
War of Liberation under the very eyes of the enemy. He thus 
learned to control every word and every gesture, and the simple- 
minded man who despised on his own account every kind of 
duplicity, became, for the sake of his country, a master in the arts 
of concealment, unrivalled in the faculty of holding his tongue, 
cunning and world-wise. With a rapid and searching glance he 
read the thoughts of those with whom he came in contact ; 
whereas, when on his side he had to conceal one of the king's 
secrets, it was necessary for him with ambiguous phrase to lure 
friend and foe alike upon a false scent. The officers said very 
truly, that his soul was as full of furrows as his face ; he reminded 
them of William of Orange, who long before in a similar situation, 
quiet and self-contained, had prepared for the struggle with the 
world-empire of Spain. And just like William the Silent, Scharn- 
horst hid within his bosom the lofty passion, the love of struggle, 
characteristic of the hero, and during the last war these traits had 
acquired for him the friendship of the active-minded Blucher. 
He did not know fear, he would not admit how stultifying can be 
the anxiety that follows a defeat ; in the courts-martial his 
sentence was always the most severe against cowardice and breach 
of faith. In a strange and yet harmonious manner there were 
combined in this great soul a petty-bourgeois simplicity, and a 
world-embracing breadth of view ; a yearning for peace, and 
courage in war ; philanthropic tenderness of heart, and the ele- 
mental energy of the national hatred. Perhaps no one suffered so 
bitterly from the distresses of the time as did this man of silence ; 
day and night he was never free from the thought of the disgrace 
of his country. Everyone approached him with reverence, for all 
felt involuntarily that upon him depended the future of the army. 

Among the men who assisted him in the work of army re- 
organisation, four proved equally the heirs of his spirit, so that 
each one of the four received a portion of the comprehensive talents 
of the master. These were Gneisenau and Grolman, the born 
commanders ; Bo}'en, the organiser ; and Clausewitz, the man 
of learning. All four of them were, like Scharnhorst himself, poor 
and temperate, men of few needs, free from all self-seeking, looking 
only to the end which had to be gained, and with all their candour, 


History of Germany 

men of profound modesty as is natural to the gifted soldier for 
whilst the solitary poietic activity of the artist and of the man of 
learning very readily leads to vanity, the soldier works only as a 
member of the great whole, and is unable to show what he is worth 
unless an inscrutable destiny leads him to the right place at the 
right moment. With an excess of modesty, Gneisenau declared 
himself to be merely a pigmy beside the giant Scharnhorst. He 
lacked the profound erudition of the master, and like so many men 
of action, he felt the gaps in his knowledge as if they were a lack 
of capacity ; on the other hand, he possessed in a far greater measure 
the inspiriting confidence of the hero, that joyful fatalism which 
makes the great commander. How proudly and securely did he 
now spread his sails when he at length emerged from the erroneous 
wanderings of a passionate youth, and when after the long and 
dreary calm of a subaltern service, he had attained to the high seas 
of life. Every task that destiny offered him he undertook with 
a happy facility and readiness ; unhesitatingly the infantry soldier 
took over the command of the engineers and the supervision of 
the fortresses. Whilst Scharnhorst was cautiously weighing the 
dangers of the immediate future, Gneisenau always looked forward 
with ardent yearning to the hour of the uprising, and suffered even 
fools gladly if they would only take part in the great conspiracy. 

A kindred nature was that of Grolman, magnanimous, serene, 
and happy, incisive and unsparing in act and speech, created for 
the melee, for the bold seizure of the fortune of the moment ; yet 
he was to experience to the full the cruelty of the soldier's destiny, 
and never in war was he to occupy the first place. In his general 
demeanour, Boy en appeared to resemble the general most closely ; 
he was a serious and reserved East Prussian who had sat at the 
feet of Kant and Kraus, and who, as a poet, was also in close touch 
with the new literature. It was only the ardent eyes under his 
bushy eyebrows which betrayed the stormy courage that slum- 
bered in the simple and silent man. After his quiet manner he had 
turned over in his own mind the organising ideas of Scharnhorst, 
had developed them further, and after the wars he helped to give 
its permanent form to the new people's army. Finally, the youngest 
of this circle of friends, Carl von Clausewitz, was more than any of 
the others the trusted pupil of Scharnhorst, deeply initiated into 
the new scientific theories of war to which Scharnhorst was devoted. 
Subsequently Clausewitz developed these theories independently, 
and in a series of works, which in respect of classic form greatly 
excel those of the master, he secured for the theory of war its place 


The Rise of Prussia 

among the number of state-sciences. His was a profound intel- 
ligence, and he was a master of historical judgment ; but he was 
perhaps too critical and too cautious to grasp, as did Gneisenau, 
the fortune of battle at the propitious moment ; yet he was far 
from being simply a man of books, for he was a practical and valiant 
soldier, looking with wide-open eyes upon the tumult of life. He 
had just returned with Prince Augustus from duress as a prisoner 
of war. While he was in France, his love for the youthful candour 
and freshness of the Teutons had risen to the point of enthusiasm. 
He returned home with the conviction that the French were still 
in essentials as unmilitary a people as they had been formerly in 
the days of the wars of the Huguenots when they trembled before 
the German infantry and cavalry. How can the primitive character 
of nations alter in ten years ? How could those who had been 
conquered one hundred times permanently control Germany mighty 
in arms ? 

It was with the aid of such forces as these that the king under- 
took the work of reconstruction. The whole army was formed 
anew. Six brigades, two Silesian, two Old Prussian, one from 
Pomerania, and one from the Mark, were all that still remained of 
the Frederician army, and constituted the last anchor for German 
hopes. The troops were given more practical weapons and cloth- 
ing, the pigtail was done away with, the arts of the parade-ground 
passed into abeyance, and their place was taken by the strenuous 
work of field service. All the stores had to be provided anew ; 
Napoleon's marshals had carried out their work of plunder so 
thoroughly that the Silesian artillery was unable for many months 
to undertake any practice for lack of powder. A commission of 
inquiry made a thorough examination of the conduct during the 
war of individual officers, and pitilessly cashiered all who were 
blameworthy or suspect. In the newspaper Der Volksfreund, 
edited by the valiant Barsch, Gneisenau demanded the abolition of 
flogging in the army, asking bitterly whether the Prussian soldier 
was to continue to seek the stimulus of good conduct in the cane 
instead of in the sense of honour. His views found acceptance, 
the new articles of war abolished the old and cruel corporal punish- 
ments. How changed was the world when Prussian officers could 
now venture to discuss in the press the defects of the military 
system ! 

In another article, Gneisenau sarcastically alluded to the con- 
venient system by which the sons of the Junkers could, while still 
children, exercise a hereditary right to command the soldiers of 


History of Germany 

the king. In these words he merely gave open expression to what 
all intelligent officers were thinking. The abolition of the privileged 
position of the Junkers, and of all the other military privileges of 
the gentry, was a necessary consequence of the spirit of the new 
legislation ; and since the Prussians had taken practical note of 
the efficiency of Napoleon's youthful commanders many Hotspurs 
demanded that the renowned free promotion of the French should 
be imitated in Prussia. Scharnhorst, however, went his own way ; 
he saw the moral evils which had resulted from the adoption of 
the Napoleonic principle, " young generals, old captains " ; he 
saw how many rough and unwholesome elements had found their 
way into the lower strata of the French officers' corps, and how 
seriously in the French army unbridled ambition had loosened the 
bonds of true comradeship. The son of the German peasant was 
well aware why Washington had exclaimed to the Americans, " Take 
only gentlemen for your officers." He understood why King 
Frederick William I had allowed his officers to disobey orders 
when these orders touched their honour. It was not his desire to 
destroy the ancient aristocratic character of the Prussian officers' 
corps, but only to substitute the aristocracy of culture for the 
aristocracy of the privileged nobility. 

The regulation of August 6, 1808, concerning the appoint- 
ment of ensigns, established the principle that in time of peace only 
knowledge and culture, and in time of war only distinguished 
bravery and intelligence, could give a claim to officer's rank ; no 
Junker could now become an ensign simply on the ground of here- 
ditary right, for the position of ensign could not be attained before 
the age of seventeen years, and only then after a scientific examina- 
tion ; whilst not until a second examination had been passed, and 
upon a proposal from the officers' corps, could a young man win 
his epaulettes. The king impressed it upon the officers that 
they should never cease to realise their honourable position as 
educators and teachers of a noteworthy portion of the nation. In 
the lower grades up to the rank of captain, promotion usually 
occurred by seniority, but in the selection of the staff-officers and 
in the filling of the higher posts of command, service was alone 
determinative. Through these inconspicuous proposals, the 
officer's position acquired a new character which to us to-day seems 
a matter of course, since it constitutes a distinctive national feature 
of the German military system. Now for the first time did the 
officers' corps gain an inner correspondence with the civil official- 
dom, now first did it acquire a definite intellectual superiority over 


The Rise of Prussia 

the rank and file. The prospect of rapid promotion was open to 
talent ; and yet the slowness of promotion in the lower grades, 
the general similarity of culture and of manner of life, resulted in 
this, that every member of the officers' corps had a definite sense 
of his position, and that an aristocratic class-consciousness per- 
meated the whole body. The social barrier which in France 
separated the officer promoted from the ranks from his more 
cultured fellows, could not here exist. 

For no one was the transformation of the military system so 
momentous, as for the older generation of the landed gentry, whose 
members still continued to form the majority of the officers' corps. 
Many years passed away before the actual favouring of the nobility 
in the army ceased to exist. But the principle was none the less 
firmly established that even the noble must acquire his commis- 
sion by the proof of scientific knowledge, and only men of a con- 
siderable degree of culture could show themselves adequate for the 
new and more severe ordering of the service. No longer did the 
state service offer an asylum for the ignorant, and the reformers 
already began to speak of the new Prussia as an intelligent state. 
It was by Scharnhorst that the excessive roughness of the eastern 
German Junkerdom was first smoothed away, for the house of 
cadets instituted by Frederick William I had but half succeeded in 
effecting this change. The old generation, which had despised the 
quill-drivers, died out, and their youthful successors recognised 
and revered the power of knowledge. 

The fundamental idea of all these reforms was that hence- 
forward the army was to consist of the people in arms, it was to be 
a national army, to which everyone capable of bearing arms must 
belong. Recruiting was abolished, the enlisting of foreigners was 
forbidden ; only a few volunteers of German blood were still 
admitted. The new articles of war and the ordinance concerning 
military punishments started with the premise that in future all 
subjects, even young persons of good education, should serve as 
common soldiers, and this established the need for a gentler treat- 
ment of the rank and file. All thinking officers were at one as to 
the need for abolishing the old exemptions from military service. 
The idea of the general liability to service had even before the war 
been defended by Scharnhorst himself, by Boyen, by Loussau, and 
by other officers, and it was fully considered by the king. During 
the unfortunate campaign, this idea had quietly been gaining 
ground, and it was now clear to every intelligent soldier that the 
unequal war could only be resumed through the utilisation of the 


History of Germany 

entire energy of the nation. Immediately after the peace, Blucher 
begged his dear Scharnhorst, " to provide for a national army ; no 
one must be exempt on any account, it must be a disgrace to anyone 
not to have served." Prince Augustus, while still a prisoner of 
war, transmitted a plan for the reconstitution of the army, in which 
universal military service was the leading idea. Scharnhorst 
knew, however, what most of his contemporaries had completely 
forgotten, that this was merely the revival of an ancient Prussian 
principle. He reminded the king that his ancestor Frederick 
William I had, first of all the princes of Europe, introduced general 
conscription ; it was this principle whose application had once 
made Prussia great, and here Austria and France were merely 
imitators. It now appeared to be necessary to return to the old 
Prussian system, and straightway to abolish the misuse of exemp- 
tions. Thus only could be constituted a true standing army, an 
army which would be of equal strength at all times. Almost with 
the very words of the old soldier-king did Scharnhorst begin his 
proposal for the formation of a reserve army. The first section 
opened with the words : "All the inhabitants of the state are by 
birth defenders of the state." 

From the first, the Prussian officers conceived the ideas of 
universal military service in a freer and juster sense than did the 
bourgeoisie under the French Directory. The conquered were too 
proud-spirited to imitate the institutions of the conqueror. It had 
been bearable that the king's command should except from cantonal 
duty certain classes of people, either on account of class-privilege 
or else for economic reasons. But the proposal that a man of 
means should be able to buy himself exemption from military 
service, that one subject should sell his skin to another, was 
utterly un-Prussian, and in conflict with all the traditions of the 
army. The French system of substitution was indeed recommended 
by a few civil officials, but not by any single officer of note. Here 
ideas were more democratic than among the heirs of the revolu- 
tion ; in plain terms it was demanded that all should be liable to 
military service, and this demand was made, not simply as a means 
to the ends of the War of Liberation, but as a permanent institution 
for the education of the people. Notwithstanding his contempt for 
military superficialities, Scharnhorst was ever a trained expert ; 
he was well aware to how small an extent unaided enthusiasm was 
able to replace the staying power, the skill, and the discipline, of 
the trained soldier. With his rich historical knowledge he had 
attained to the conviction that the gentler the manners of the 


The Rise of Prussia 

times, the more necessary for the nation was a military education, 
so that the civilised world might retain the virile virtues of simpler 
times, so that the vigorous energy of body and soul should not be 
lost by culture. Gneisenau joyfully acclaimed this manly view of 
historic life ; it was his desire that military training should begin 
even at the elementary school, for was the heroic glory of the 
Spartans no longer attainable to modern humanity ? From his 
soul, Boyen wrote for all friends of Scharnhorst the verses : 

"Valiant men throughout the country wield ye every one the sword; 
Let all classes, as is fitting, fight for hearth and sov'reign lord ! " 

Thus there was no dispute about the principle. But how were 
the enormous difficulties in the way of its execution to be over- 
come ? To this age, which had so recently emerged from the 
barbarism of the ancient military discipline, it seemed an intolerable 
severity that the sons of the cultured classes should be enrolled 
straightway in the standing army ; moreover, in September, 1808, 
Napoleon forced the acceptance of the Treaty of Paris, in accord- 
ance with which the ill-used state was forced to pledge itself not 
to keep an armed force larger than forty-two thousand men. 

Thus the only thing that remained, was to overreach the con- 
queror by cunning, to find a way round the treaty, and to create, 
beside the standing army, a reserve army, a Landwehr, for use in 
case of war. And yet even for this end the direct road was closed. 
Scharnhorst at once recognised that the simplest plan would be to 
provide the Landwehr through the school of the standing army, 
to constitute the reserve army out of the trained soldiers who had 
served then: tune. Yet for the moment this was impossible. The 
calling up of so great a number of recruits would at once have 
aroused the suspicions of Napoleon ; and moreover, a Landwehr 
constituted in this way would obviously not attain a notable 
strength until many years had passed, whilst month by month a 
fresh outbreak of the war was anticipated. For this reason, the 
Prussians must content themselves with a militia without any 
apparent connection with the standing army, ostensibly intended 
only for the maintenance of internal peace, but trained for military 
purposes by repeated drills, and with a sufficient supply of arms to 
be able to take the field as a reserve army immediately after the 
outbreak of war. Four times during the years 1807 and 1810 did 
Scharnhorst resume these Landwehr plans, and confer upon 
them with the monarch. His first proposal came into effect on 

345 z 

History of Germany 

July 31, 1807, quite independently, and long before the Austrian 
Landwehr came into existence. 

The earlier plans pursued as their main purpose the prepara- 
tion for military service of the sons of the well-to-do classes, who 
would be able to provide their own arms and uniform ; this force 
was to be drilled in tune of peace under the harmless name of a 
" burgher guard " or of the " national watch." In the summer of 
1809, the restless military reformer gave a wider scope to these 
proposals, in which could already be recognised the elements of 
the organisation of 1813. He set a high value upon the heroic 
energy of a wrathful people, but he also had a sober vision of the 
length of time that would be requisite before he could transform 
an armed mob into troops ready and fit for war. His plan was that 
the standing army should begin the attack ; meanwhile the reserve 
army was to be constituted out of the soldiers that had served their 
term, out of the supernumeraries, and also out of all the younger 
men liable to cantonal service ; the well-to-do were to join as 
volunteer yagers. This Landwehr was to take over service 
in the fortresses, and was to effect the investment of places 
garrisoned by the enemy ; as soon as it was sufficiently developed, 
it was to follow the army, and its place was to be taken by the 
militia, or Landsturm, which had meanwhile been assembled and 
was to comprise all those still fit to bear arms. Scharnhorst knew 
how disagreeable to Napoleon were his memories of the campaign 
of La Vendee, and how greatly he dreaded a popular uprising. It 
was Scharnhorst 's hope to open the War of Liberation with a small 
army which should base its actions upon a few fortresses or 
entrenched camps, and with such an end in view, he had an 
extremely careful study made of the unfavourable ground of the 
North German plain. When Gneisenau learned of Wellington's 
Portuguese victories, he even hoped to reconstitute a Torres Vedras 
upon this plain, out of the little town of Spandau. 

All these hopes came to nought. As soon as Napoleon was 
informed of the Prussian plans for a new Landwehr, he at once 
uttered masterful threats. His detested opponent was not to go 
a single step outside the provisions of the Treaty of Paris while 
he reserved to himself the right to trample these provisions under 
foot. At length it became clear that the constitution of a Land- 
wehr remained impossible so long as Prussia was not yet in a 
position to declare war against France. Until then, all that could 
be attained without arousing the suspicion of the Imperator, was 
to undertake a more rapid training of the men of the standing army. 


The Rise of Prussia 

The legally established age for the service of those liable to military 
duty was twenty years, and this was left unchanged ; but as many 
of them were called up as possible, and were sent home again in 
a few months when they had received a tolerable training. The 
strength of the army allowed by the treaty was not observed with 
undue strictness. For years, the bodyguard in Berlin, whenever 
the force went out into the field for manoeuvres, left a portion of the 
men in barracks, so that Napoleon's spies could not ascertain the 
strength of the battalions. It was impossible to avoid that many of 
those fit for service should evade the more severe levies by flight, 
whilst on the other hand many conscripts entered Prussia from the 
territories of the Confederation of the Rhine. On the whole the 
people showed a self-sacrificing loyalty towards the king. It 
happened on one occasion that the peasants of the neighbourhood 
stole a cannon during the night from the ramparts of the West- 
phalian fortress of Magdeberg, and brought it by boat to Spandau 
their tribal lord needed weapons to use against the Frenchmen. 
Through this system of partial training Scharnhorst gradually 
succeeded in building up a force of 150,000 soldiers. It was a 
tragical spectacle, that of this great man endeavouring year after 
year to elude the notice of his omniscient enemy by a thousand 
wiles and tricks. His soul longed for the joy of battle ; he was 
willing to sacrifice the last man and horse in the country so that 
Germany might once more be free ; yet ever again and again the 
watchful opponent rendered vain his plans of military preparation. 
It was not until the hour of open battle struck that in a moment 
there sprang to life all that had been quietly prepared in five years 
full of arduous labour, full of nameless anxieties. Scharnhorst and 
no other was the father of the Landwehr of 1813. , . 

Meanwhile hatred and poverty brought about a profound 
transformation in the mood of the cultured classes of North Ger- 
many, a transformation for which the way had long been prepared 
by the ideas of the Romantic literature. After great tribulations 
of popular life there always ensues a storm of complaints and accusa- 
tions, the tormented consciences endeavouring to lay upon the 
shoulders of isolated individuals the blame which belongs to all ; 
invectives and foul lampoons crawled like loathsome worms out 
of the corpse of the fallen old order. Thus there threw themselves 
upon the humiliated Prussian state a number of miscreants, for the 
most part the same persons who had before the war been loud in 
their advocacy of an alliance between North Germany and France. 


History^of Germany 

Colln's Neue Feuerbrdnde, Massenbach's Historische Denkwurdig- 
keiten, Buchholz's Galerie preussischer Charaktere, and similar 
writings, busily unearthed all the garbage that could be discovered 
in any neglected corners of the old monarchy, down to the domain- 
purchasers of the days of Frederick William II. 1 That conceited 
and barren precocity, which since the days of Nicolai had persisted 
in the circles of the half-cultured of Berlin, had now found its 
political expression. Just as those of this way of thinking had 
formerly contested, in the name of enlightenment, everything that 
was free and vital in the new poetry, so now was the war against 
Napoleon censured in the name of freedom. It was only the 
mercantile egoism of England, and the arrogance of the Prussian 
officers, which had forced war upon peace-loving France ; and 
there was nothing that Buchholz was less willing to pardon to the 
state of Frederick than the unworthy alliance with Russian bar- 
barism against French civilisation. 

The authors of these libels were the intellectual forefathers 
of a new political tendency which has since that time, under mani- 
fold shapes and names, continued to flourish secretly in the soil 
of Berlin, and to be a cancer in the Prussian state. This takes 
the form of a professional desire to criticise, of an unwearied search 
for scandals, infinitely conceited, and yet utterly under the dominion 
of phrases, flourishing great words of freedom and progress, and 
yet continually failing to understand the signs of the times. In 
all these writings there was also a genuinely German characteristic, 
a national weakness, of which but a few of our publicists have 
remained altogether free. I refer to the peculiar incapacity for 
rightly judging the dimensions of men and things, the failure to 
distinguish the great and the genuine from the small and the 
ephemeral. Just in the same tone as Lombard and Haugwitz 
had been blamed were Hardenberg and Blucher now abused by 
these perpetual critics, and the readers of their works were left 
with the despairing impression that in the rotten wood of this 
state no nail could any longer obtain a hold. 

The needs of the moment, however, were all too pressing ; 
the sense of the people was too honourable for them to be satisfied 
with nothing more than retrospective blame. Whoever among 
them was a man, looked forward towards the day of liberation. 
The lampoons had comparatively little effect ; even in Berlin the 

1 No one acquainted with Buchholz's other writings can doubt that the Galerie 
is the work of his pen. We have in addition the testimony of Gentz (Ompteda 
NacMasr, I, -362). 


The Rise of Prussia 

criticisms received scant attention. A profoundly earnest senti- 
ment prevailed ; it was as if all men wished to be purer and better, 
as if rage concerning the overthrow of the fatherland had com- 
pletely overcome all mean and base inclinations of the spirit. 
Never before had so lively a sentiment of equality united high and 
low in the German north ; people drew sadly together, like the 
members of a bereaved household. There had been enormous 
losses of property, the whole wealth of the Prussian gentry had 
disappeared ; the arbitrary new territorial divisions had annihilated 
the customary channels of intercourse of whole regions ; the 
mutilated state could no longer furnish occupation for thousands 
of its faithful servants. Those among the younger members of 
the community who would not follow the star of disloyalty which 
flamed over the Confederation of the Rhine, found nowhere scope 
for their activities. As Dahlmann, thinking of his own youthful 
days, expressed it, in these Napoleonic times no one knew what 
to do. The sense of bitterness grew and grew, and the longer the 
decisive issue was postponed, the more powerful and the more 
passionate became the belief that the ephemeral structure of foreign 
dominion could not and must not continue, that this dissolution 
of all German life was a sin against God and against history, that 
it was the febrile dream of an insane criminal. 

It was during these days of convulsive excitement that there 
first awakened in North Germany the idea of German unity. It 
was in truth the child of sorrow, of historic yearning ; but no less 
was it the child of poetical and political enthusiasm. How firmly 
did the eighteenth century believe in the eternity of its Roman 
Empire. With what docility, content, and affection had the genera- 
tion of the nineties still adhered to its principles when George 
Forster in his memorials of the year 1790 described in moving 
terms " the amiable behaviour of a German prince," and when 
Chodoviecki immortalised Archduke Max in an engraving as a 
great friend of humanity, showing how he helped a market woman 
to lift her basket on to her head ! Now the empire had perished ; 
the Germans were no longer a people, merely comrades in speech. 
How soon was even this last bond of community likely to be torn 
asunder, since the left bank of the Rhine seemed for ever handed 
over to French civilisation, and in the kingdom of Westphalia, the 
French official speech was dominant as far as the Elbe. All but 
two of our princes now wore the chains of the foreigner. Yet amid 
the destruction of their old nationality, the Germans were still 
inspired by the proud sentiment that the world could not do without 


History of Germany 

them, that in spite of all, through their poets and thinkers, they 
had done more for humanity than ever had done their conquerors. 
Amid the sorrows of the present, they yearningly looked back into 
the remote periods of German greatness ; the empire which so 
recently had been a mock for children, now seemed to them a glory 
of the nation. In all the moving letters, speeches, and writings 
of this period of oppression, the two bitter questions recurred again 
and again : Why is it that individually the Germans are so great 
whilst as a nation they coimt for nothing at all? why is it that 
those who once gave laws to the rest of the world are now beneath 
the feet of the stranger ? 

Poets and men of learning were accustomed to speak of an 
ideal Germany, to turn in imagination to all the sons of German 
blood, ignoring the territorial divisions of German soil. Now that 
literature was filled with political passion, these views were trans- 
mitted to the state. Fichte directed his admonitions as a German 
to Germans, refusing to recognise, and simply putting on one side, 
all the distinctive divisions which unhappy experience had for 
centuries made in the one nation. Germanism, the genuine ancient 
and uncorrupted German kind, should once more attain to honour. 
A magnanimous enthusiasm celebrated the inborn nobility of the 
German nature, and did so in terms of exaggeration, for only 
through hyperbole could so unpolitical a race once more attain to 
a right esteem for the concerns of its own home, to natural con- 
sciousness of self. The old, endurable resignation was replaced by 
a bold radicalism which despised all the structures of our recent 
history as works of chance and crime. What was there that was 
worthy of veneration, what was there that was worth sparing, in 
this Germany of the Confederation of the Rhine ? If only the 
foreign tyrants could be overthrown, if their voluntary slaves could 
be chastised and their reluctant slaves liberated, there would 
reconstitute itself a new and powerful Germany, brilliant with the 
adornments of clear thought and military glory. No matter what 
precise form it should assume, so long as it was unified and was 
derived from the primitive spirit of the nation. Then would the 
Germans, if they were left free to develop, win also in art and 
science the laurels which had once decked the foreheads of the 
Hellenes and add them to their own crowns of victory. People 
were loth to speak of the man of might, who had once before led 
our nation upwards along the road to political power. It seemed 
that what this generation required was the very opposite of the 
Frederician idea. The work of Frederick appeared to be destroyed, 


The Rise of Prussia 

and many of the young enthusiasts could never forgive him for 
having raised his sword against the anointed imperial majesty. 
A magnanimous oblivion for the old fraternal strife, a true harmony 
between all of German stock, this was what was necessary for 
the common struggle ; it must not be directed from any one chosen 
political centre, but the world empire must be overthrown by the 
uprising of the whole nation, and then everything would come 
right of itself. 

It was of great moment for our political life, and continues 
to influence us at the present day, that in the case of Germany the 
idea of national unity was not, as it had been in France, the out- 
come of the slow ripening of centuries, the natural fruit of a con- 
tinuous monarchical policy directed always towards the same goal, 
but that it reawakened suddenly after a prolonged slumber, amid 
passionate tears, amid dreams of times that had passed away. 
Hence arose that touching characteristic of idealist enthusiasm, 
of loyal inspiration, which makes the German patriots of the fol- 
lowing generations so lovable. Hence also its morbid bitterness, 
for even after the rude hatred of the French which was the issue of 
that tormented time had passed away, there still remained in the 
hearts of the spirited Teutons a profound rancour against the 
foreign world. It seemed impossible to dream of Germany's future 
greatness without railing at the foreign nations which had sinned 
so often and so grossly against Central Europe. Hence, also, the 
remarkably confused nature of the political aspirations of the Ger- 
mans. An enthusiasm inflamed by indefinite historical images led 
to an intoxication for the idea of a great fatherland in the clouds 
which in one way or another was to renew the glories of the Othos 
and the Hohenstaufen, and animated all who were able to join in 
the same complaints and the same yearning, men of the most 
varied political tendencies, who united voluntarily as party com- 
rades. These enthusiasts hardly noticed the while the living forces 
of genuine German unity which were actively at work in the Prus- 
sian state. From this, finally, came the weakness of the German 
national feeling, which even to this hour has not yet attained to 
the invaluable certainty of an automatic instinct. Very slowly 
did the dream of German unity pass from the cultured classes 
into the masses of the people, and even then the great name of the 
fatherland long remained an indefinite word to the common man, 
a miraculous land of promise, and the honourable love for a united 
Germany was often led astray into a narrow-minded, grasping 

History of Germany 

In Prussia the old loyalty to the king was too firmly estab- 
lished for it to be possible that the hopes of the patriots should be 
so completely diverted towards the realm of the indefinite. It 
was not by mere chance that none among the publicists and popular 
orators of the time displayed so much sober insight as did 
Schleiermacher, a Prussian by birth. If he spoke of the liberation 
of Germany, it was always on the understanding that the restora- 
tion of the old Prussian power was a self-evident pre-condition. 
When Schenkendorf preached of emperor and empire in inspired 
verses, when Heinrich Kleist urged Germans to draw " first of all 
the emperor into the holy war," they tacitly assumed that in this 
new empire, Prussia must occupy a worthy place. Upon the athletic 
ground on the Hasenheide, in the circles of Jahn, Harnisch, and 
Friesen, there was already to be heard the confident prophecy, that 
Prussia had always carried Germany's sword, and that in the new 
empire Prussia must bear the crown. It was, however, very gradually 
that Fichte came to accept these Prussian views, and it was not until 
1813 that he recognised that no one but the king of Prussia could 
be " the despot to impose Germanism." Arndt, also, first learned 
through the victories of Prussia to understand the necessity of the 
Frederician structure of the state. Common, however, to all the 
youthful patriots, even to those of Prussia, was the childish belief 
in some miraculous good fortune to be realised only when Ger- 
many should once more belong to herself. The whole energy of 
luxuriant sentiment which had been accumulating throughout the 
classical period of our poetic literature, now streamed into political 
life. Never had the youth of North Germany had such large and 
proud ideas of themselves and of the future of their nation as now 
when this country seemed to be annihilated. They had no doubt 
whatever that the whole great land of Germany which had as a 
single community hearkened to the words of its poets must 
necessarily re-enter the ranks of the nations as a single united power. 
Nowhere, however, was any attempt made towards the formation 
of a political party with clearly restricted and attainable ends, 
nowhere was there any intelligent discussion of the question in 
what forms the rejuvenated fatherland was to be reconstituted. 
Out of the abundance of anticipations and hopes which moved 
impatient spirits, there emerged only one palpable political plan, 
and this plan was indeed conceived with serious earnestness, the 
resolution to undertake a fight against the dominion of the 

The enemy continued to occupy the country for a year and a 


The Rise of Prussia 

half after the declaration of peace ; and even for a long time after 
this, when the French troops had at length evacuated Prussia, 
the whole of Germany was closely watched by Napoleon's spies. 
All the French diplomatists and those of the Confederation of 
the Rhine must continually send reports as to the feeling among 
the people. Bignon in Stuttgart, and Linden, the Westphalian 
envoy in Berlin, were particularly zealous in this unsavoury occu- 
pation ; Napoleon's envoy in Cassel, Reinhard the talented 
Swabian and friend of Goethe, utilised his relationships with the 
German world of letters in order to keep the Imperator informed 
regarding all the movements of German thought. For this 
reason it was necessary that the patriots, altogether in opposition 
to the tendencies and gifts of the German nature, should meet 
in secret societies. Hardenberg himself, in his Riga memorial to 
the king, declared that at such a time as this, secret societies 
were indispensable, and especially recommended the freemasons' 
lodges to diffuse sound political principles, since Napoleon knew 
how to utilise for his own purposes the still considerable influence 
of the freemasons, and had his brother-in-law, Murat, appointed 

So long as the enemy continued to occupy the country, 
very few among the Prussians inspired with a genuine German 
sentiment held altogether aloof from this subterranean activity. 
Schon relates that even Stein had profoundly secret inter- 
views in Konigsberg with Gneisenau, Silvern, and other friends, 
in order to discuss the position of the fatherland and the possi- 
bility of its restoration. So intense was the excitement that even 
those with clear heads could not completely abandon the groundless 
hope that perhaps some fortunate coup de main, some sudden 
uprising of the people, might lay the French spectre. In the circles 
of the nobles of Berlin there were some, and especially women, who 
were moved by the enormous vigour of their hatred for the French 
to loud complaints against the men of half-measures and the 
weaklings ; by outsiders these extremists were spoken of as the 
Tugendbund [League of Virtue] ; everyone knew when they met 
in secret, for the German sense of honour lent itself very badly to 
the obscure arts of the conspirator. More serious plans! were 
pursued by a number of other amorphous patriotic clubs, to which 
Liitzow and Chasot, Reimer, Eichhorn, Schleiermacher, and a 
number of valiant soldiers, burghers, and men of science belonged. 
They bought arms, in so far as their scanty means allowed ; they 
endeavoured to get into touch with men of the same way of 


History of Germany 

thinking elsewhere in Germany, to exhort them, to encourage them. 
How often did Lieutenant Hiiser ride from Berlin to Baruth, in 
order to commit to the Saxon post, letters to the fellow- conspirator 
Heinrich Kleist. Subsequently Jahn and some of his gymnastic 
friends constituted a German league. Like the Swiss Confederates 
in the meadows of Riitli, the conspirators assembled at night in 
the woods near Berlin and consecrated themselves to the struggle 
for the fatherland. As the outbreak of the war was further and 
further postponed, the word was sometimes passed round among 
the Hotspurs that if this procrastinator Frederick William could 
not make up his mind, his brother, the knightly Prince William, 
must ascend the throne. 

The epoch was one of fever. Among the patriots there was 
an everlasting secret coming and going. They went about in 
disguise, carried news about the position of the enemy, about the 
strength of the fortified places, even the open-minded must learn 
to write with sympathetic ink, and to travel under a false name. 
How profoundly transformed was now the quiet world of North 
Germany ; what savage elemental passion now flamed in these 
once so peaceful hearts ! The whole new order of things was in 
suspense ; involuntarily the thought found expression, Is this 
to go on for ever ? Countess Voss, praying in her own 
chamber, besought God to remove the man of ill-omen from the 
world. Among the young people in Magdeburg, among the friends 
of Immermann, it became a common subject of discussion as to 
how it might be possible to get rid of the Corsican, and no one took 
the discussion amiss. More serious natures embraced the thought 
in deadly earnest ; for months Heinrich Kleist had it as the 
dominant idea in his obscured soul. Subsequently Napoleon 
learned with horror, from the murderous attack of the unhappy 
Staps, how profoundly hatred can transform even pious and 
straightforward natures. It was a matter of course that the uni- 
versity students should, after their manner, take part in these 
forbidden societies. Even before the disaster of Jena, the students 
of Marburg, influenced by the murder of Palm, had constituted a 
secret league to preserve Germany and German freedom. The 
most celebrated among these secret societies, the one whose name 
the French employed to denote them all, the Tugendbund of 
Konigsberg, never contained more than three hundred and fifty 
members, of whom four only belonged to Berlin. A few well- 
meaning but uninfluential patriots, such as Barsch, Lehmann, 
Mosqua, and the young lawyer Bardeleben, had founded this society 


The Rise of Prussia 

with the king's permission, to encourage moral and patriotic 
sentiments, but had obediently dissolved it as soon as the legal 
state-authorities returned on the withdrawal of the French, and 
when the old prohibition of secret societies came once more into 
operation. Neither Stein nor Scharnhorst were members of the 
Tugendbund ; and of their intimate friends two only belonged to 
the society, Grolman and Boyen. 

In general, the effectiveness of the secret societies was far 
less considerable than the anxious French were inclined to believe ; 
there were those in France who after the fall of the Napoleonic 
dominion could explain this only as the outcome of secret influences. 
Many fine fellows were won over to the cause of the fatherland 
by this life of secret societies ; some of the best of the younger 
generation who, at a later date, took leading places in the adminis- 
tration, Eichhorn, Merckel, and Ribbentrop graduated in this 
school. Scharnhorst, who saw everything and knew everything, 
now and again entrusted some of the conspirators with dangerous 
duties, as for instance when it was necessary to bring arms across 
the frontier. In the year 1812, the secret activity took a new 
direction ; aid was given to the German officers who desired to 
enter the Russian service ; in the rear of the grande armee, news 
of defeat was disseminated, and once a French courier was cut off. 
On the whole, however, the immediate result was trifling ; but 
all the stronger was the repercussion, and it was by no means 
one for rejoicing. Through the secret societies that fantastical 
tendency, already natural to Young Germany, gained new energy. 
A portion of the young men became accustomed to play with 
impossibilities, to despise the hard facts of the existing relationships 
of power, and after a fortunate peace had been secured by hard 
fighting they continued to carry on an activity which could only 
have been justified under the pressure of foreign dominion. Among 
the Governments, on the other hand, when subsequently disaffec- 
tion began to spread among the liberated peoples, a pusillanimous 
sentiment of anxiety was strengthened by the recollection of these 
days of fermentation. 

In any case, even in this time of stress, the Prussian state 
remained true to its monarchical character. Whatever plans 
individuals might make on their own initiative for the liberation 
of the fatherland, their most daring hopes went no further than 
to carry the monarch with them ; even if they should take up arms 
without the king's orders, it was for the king that they wished 
to fight. The loyal people, however, could never repose confidence 


History of Germany 

in attempts at an independent drawing of the sword ; the move- 
ment succeeded only when the king himself called his subjects 
to arms. The lack of freedom that lies in the very nature of every 
secret society was antipathetic to the bold sentiments of the 
Germans. It was the best and the strongest who therefore refused 
to tie their hands, who said with Gneisenau : " My league is 
of another kind, without signs and without mysteries ; it is in 
harmony with the sentiments of all those who will not bear the 
foreign yoke." Far more powerful than the activity of the secret 
societies, was that great conspiracy under the free air of heaven 
which wove its threads everywhere where loyal Prussians were 
living. Everyone who was inclined to despond could find a 
comforter who urged him to put his trust in the fulfilment of time. 
But there was no one in the whole country who looked for the day 
of decision with more invincible and brilliant confidence than 
General Blucher. With profound insight he knew how to dis- 
cover the essential amid all transitory phenomena, and the 
internal weakness and impossibility of the Napoleonic world-empire 
was to him unquestionable. Timorous natures regarded him 
as mad when in his rough way he bluntly ejaculated concerning 
the ruler of the world : " Let him do what he likes, he is only a 

In the old days of the intellectual enthusiasts, a highly 
cultured inhabitant of Berlin could not easily accept the idea 
that it was a matter of duty to abandon the delights of intellectual 
society for the salvation of the dull and ossified state. But now 
everyone felt that the wealth of culture could secure peace of soul 
for no one, that the disgrace of the fatherland disturbed the joy and 
quiet of everyone's existence, and Schleiermacher's sermons found 
a powerful response in the heavy-laden hearts of all. He more 
than all others was the political teacher of the cultured people of 
Berlin. The devout crowded into the narrow little church of 
the Holy Trinity when Schleiermacher was expounding in his 
sonorous and truly eloquent periods new and ever new applications 
of moral ideas to the needs of the time ; when he insisted that all 
human worth was to be found in the energy and purity of the will, 
in a free self-surrender to the great whole ; that now more than 
ever was applicable the scriptural exhortation, that we should 
possess as if we did not possess, that we should regard our goods 
and our life merely as things held in trust which must lead us 
towards higher things, and that we should not fear " them which 
kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul : but rather fear him 


The Rise of Prussia 

which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell " ; that the 
moral value was incomparably greater of those who lived for the 
love of theu: country, whereas those who thought only of them- 
selves degenerated into a weakly sensuality ; how fine an object 
for love and loyalty was this state which had once been an example 
to other Germans, and which had ever remained a place open for 
every creed, the embodiment of justice and honourable candour. 
All this was said with such simple piety, in a way comprehensible 
to the most ordinary intelligence, and yet was put so spiritually, 
and was drawn from the very source of the new culture ; was at 
once so accordant with religious faith and so brilliantly adapted to 
the political needs of the moment. Practical theology, which had 
so long stood in the background, remote from the intellectual 
struggles of the time, now once more advanced into the very fore- 
ground of German culture, and the enheartened hearers realised 
that amid all the changes of history Christianity was able [to 
remain ever new and vigorous, ever fit to exercise an influence 
upon contemporary life. 

The enormous change in opinion, the forcible turning of the 
age from self-satisfied culture to the exercise of political will, is 
perhaps shown more clearly in Fichte's essay on Machiavelli than 
in any other writing of the period. The Icarus of the German 
idealists, the despiser of reality, now extolled the hardest of all 
the apostles of matter-of-fact politics, because in the strong-willed 
Florentine, Fichte recognised the prophet of his fatherland. Whilst 
the drums of the French garrison were sounding beneath the 
windows of the Academy, Fichte gave his lectures to the German 
nation. Remorseful and profoundly stirred, touched in conscience, 
was the assembly when the fierce-eyed man unsparingly passed 
judgment upon the profoundly debased time, in which excessive 
egoism had wrought its own destruction. But he restored hope 
to the discouraged by describing for them the invincible energy 
and majesty of the German nature in terms of such grandeur, of 
such boldness, of such conscious understanding as during these last 
two centuries of cosmopolitanism no one had ventured to use to 
our people doing all this with the extravagance of the national 
pride characteristic of the new literature. The Germans alone, 
he said, were still men of primitive strength, not enthralled by 
arbitrary phrases, the people of ideals, of true force of character ; 
if they were to perish, the whole human race must perish with 
them. If any hope were still left for mankind, a new German race 
must be brought to life, a race which should honour its fatherland 


History of Germany 

as the bearer and the security of earthly immortality, and which 
in that faith should take up the battle against the irrational and 
detestable idea of universal monarchy. 

Schleiermacher's sermons aroused the suspicions of the 
French spies. The foreigners did not know what to make of the 
lofty emotion of this orator who postponed the fulfilment of his 
dreams to a future age ; they did not understand how irresistibly 
the emotions of this philosophical generation were affected precisely 
by such exaggerated idealism. The youth of the time assented 
whole-heartedly to the doctrine that it was the triumph of culture 
and the happiness of the individual ego to sacrifice oneself on 
behalf of the species. Fichte referred with philosophical con- 
descension to " the rare case in which government and science 
are at one " ; his audience felt that the restoration of the German 
state was even more a moral task than a political one ; they felt 
that there was nothing more urgently needed than that " firm 
and conscious spirit " which the orator attempted to awaken. 
When faced by the masterful nature and the crushing moral 
severity of the philosopher, his hearers involuntarily thought of 
Baron von Stein. 

It was in the same sense that, during and after the war, Arndt 
wrote new volumes of his Geist der Zeit. He took the field 
against our polyarchy which had become a universal servitude, 
against the unpolitical fair-mindedness of the Germans which con- 
scientiously spared the obsolete until foreigners cleared it away 
for them ; and, above all, against the over-spiritualised and over- 
delicate culture, which fancied that fame in war was a trifle, that 
valiancy was too venturesome, that manliness was defiance, and 
that firmness was more trouble than it was worth. " Advance 
to the Rhine," thus ran his conclusion, " and then call out : 
' Freedom and Austria ! Francis for our Emperor, not Bona- 
parte !'" 

In the blustering activity of the valiant Jahn, there were 
manifest some of the most ludicrous traits which marred the new 
Germanism : rough and arrogant hatred of the foreigner, noisy 
boasting, contempt for all that was graceful and refined. This 
was a man of uncouth nature, whose influence upon our young 
people was necessarily all the more harmful in that the Teuton 
is spontaneously inclined to mistake coarseness for frankness. 
It was most unfortunate that the sons of a richly endowed nation 
should honour a noisy barbarian as their teacher. Nevertheless, 
during these early years of Jahn's activity, the preponderant 


The Rise of Prussia 

result was good. His crude peasant's understanding was com- 
petent to grasp the one idea which was then of importance, the 
need for resolute fighting ; and he possessed a rare gift for 
disciplining young men, for instilling into them an honourable 
hatred for all slackness and softness. The new athleticism did 
not merely serve to strengthen the bodies of those belonging to a 
slack generation. It was soon noted that the morals of the youth 
of Berlin became purer and more manly after, in the year 1811, 
the Turnplatz or open-air gymnasium had been opened on the 
Hasenheide ; and this gain was of more importance than the ill 
wrought by the confusion which the Turnvater had introduced 
into many a youthful head. His book, Das deutsche Volkstum, 
amid an extraordinary jumble of whimsical conceits, contained 
many vivid descriptions of the energy and soundness of ancient 
Teutonic civilisation. 

Horrible, indeed, was the way in which the rough primitive, 
always in honour of the true Germanism, kneaded with his hard 
fists the delicate leaves and blossoms of our speech. Everything 
was to be rubbed off which German had acquired in the interchange 
of ideas with other nations. It sometimes happened to him to 
coin a new primevally German word out of Romance roots as 
in the case of his beloved Turnen (gymnastic exercises). But, 
like Luther, he made many fortunate ventures in speech ; for 
instance, the good word Volkstum ( = nationality) was discovered 
by him. So all-powerful, moreover, was still the idealistic ten- 
dency of the time that even this buffoon sought the true 
grandeur of his nation in its spiritual activity ; he extolled the 
Greeks and the Germans as the sacred peoples of humanity, and 
termed Goethe the most German of all the poets. Like many a 
greater one among his contemporaries, and as harmlessly as they, 
he could see nothing in the great struggles between Austria and 
Prussia beyond a scrimmage between two vigorous young fellows 
who sparred at one another for a while in their exuberance of spirits, 
and then behaved themselves as soon as they had come to their 
senses. Yet he had enough mother-wit to recognise the profound 
difference between the two powers. The great jumble of people 
which was Austria could never be completely Germanised ; it 
was from Prussia that the rejuvenation of the old empire had 
proceeded, and it was Prussia alone which could rouse Germans 
to become once more a great nation. We must get rid of the 
German national cancer, the childish petty territorialism, the 
patriotism of the small districts ; there must be one single supreme 


History of Germany 

authority in the empire, one national capital, unity of customs, 
coinage, and weights and measures ; there must be Reichstags 
and provincial diets and a powerful Landwehr composed of all 
fit to bear arms, " for it is an essential principle among the Teutons 
that he who is weaponless is without honour ! " 

Such were the ideas which, with a berserker confidence, he 
threw into the world as if moved by an irresistible inner impulse, 
such were the ideas which were greeted by our young men with 
jubilant enthusiasm. And this was at a time when Prussia con- 
tained a population of little more than four millions, and when 
no one had given a thought to the question as to how the Austrian 
jumble of peoples could be brought into harmonious union with 
the true Germany ! How painfully must these proud dreams 
conflict with the hard reality of the particularist state authorities. 
Even if liberation from the foreign dominion could be effected, 
there still remained a cruel disillusionment for this hopeful 
generation, for it was inevitable that there should be a long period 
of bitter civil struggle. 

It was not the publicists alone whose writings displayed the 
national passion, for this affected the whole of our literature. To 
the scions of the Romantic school, Achim von Arnim proposed 
the task of breathing the fresh morning air of the old German 
life, of entering devoutly into the glories of the sagas and chronicles 
of their ancient homeland. Thus should we learn to understand 
how we had come to be, and thus could we gain new confidence 
for the struggles of the present. It was in the consciousness of a 
lofty patriotic call, and with all the overstrained self-consciousness 
peculiar to our nineteenth century literature, that the young poets 
and men of learning set to work. Just as happened at a later 
date in the case of the orators of liberalism and the writers of Young 
Germany, they always retained the firm, conviction that the new 
order of German affairs was in reality created by themselves ; 
that the statesmen and the soldiers had merely carried out what 
they had themselves conceived in thought much more finely and far 
more grandly. Once more there came to German literature a period 
of youth. As formerly the generation of 1750 had discovered the 
world of the heart, and with naive wonderment had dug into its 
treasures, so now the new Romanticism greeted with intoxicated 
delight the even more joyful discovery of the ancient glories 
of the fatherland. They contemplated German antiquity with 
the wondering, wide-open eyes of childhood ; through all which 
they thought and dreamed there flowed a sentiment of historical 


The Rise of Prussia 

affection, a feeling of deliberate 'contrast to the recent culture 
and to the fosteri