and the United States
the people who dwelt between the Alps
the northern seas, between France
and the Slaves, founded no colonies in America
; but, in part, gave to the rising country its laws of being.
Let us trace them to their origin, not recounting the annals of the German nation, but searching for the universal interests which the eternal Providence
confided to their keeping.
We spell the record of our long descent,
More largely conscious of the life that is.1
The oldest monument of the Germans is their language, which, before untold centuries, was the companion of their travels from central Asia
; a language, copious, elastic, inviting self-explaining combinations and independent development; lending itself alike to daily life and imagination, to description and abstract thought.
They had a class of
but their tongue knew no word for slave.
The earliest foreign observers, who described their customs, relate that their leaders in war, their judges, and, within narrower limits, their kings,3
were elective officers, liable to be displaced.
They tempered monarchical power by deliberative assemblies and by a free people.
To the first Roman intruder, a German matron spoke the command, ‘Turn back!’4
and Roman organization never passed the southern and western skirts of their land.
They became the hardiest nation in Europe
For four or five centuries some of their branches repelled their Latin invaders; and then, feeling their strength and inclining to roam, they overthrew the Western Empire
; crossed the Mediterranean to Carthage
; followed the setting sun to the ocean; gave to Aquitania and Gaul
the name of one of their tribes; and mastered England
and the lowland of the Scots.
The territory more immediately and permanently occupied by the Germanic race bristled with sombre forests, and was parted by dismal morasses and pathless chains of mountains, which they had not sufficient mastery of nature to overcome.
Broken into tribes in the wilderness, these emigrants from the same distant lands lost the tradition that they were brothers, and knew no more that they were one.
From the fifth to the twelfth century, the freemen, removing at will, reduced the unoccupied soil into possession by their labor, recording their title-deeds on the bosom of the earth which they tilled.
Before Christianity, which is a religion of war
against the sins of the world, became the established religion of the Roman
empire, it found its way, as if by instinct, into the minds of the Goths;5
and fragments of their version of the Bible
are the oldest written monument of the German tongue.
It was diffused more slowly through the northern tribes.
, the great Anglo-Saxon
missionary, won more and more of his kindred to the new faith: but with him came a centralizing power; for the German bishoprics and cloisters, which were founded through him, were, from their origin, connected with the see of Rome
by vows of obedience.
In the life struggle between the Islam and Christianity, between a form of religion bounded by the material world and the religion which sanctifies the intuitions of reason, Charles Martel
, a German warrior, leading into the field men of the Christianized tribes of his country, won the victory for that side which teaches that the light of ideal truth is ever present with the human race.
The world had for centuries been distracted by the want of the elements of safe existence: and the hope of central and western Europe
knew but two great forces which could introduce the reign of law and protect the growth of culture, universal monarchy and catholic Christianity; and they both centred in the name of Rome
Humanity bore in its memory no form under which the civil rights of the various peoples had been maintained in their strength and unity, except that of the Roman
Christian church proclaimed the brotherhood of all
men as members of a catholic religion.
At the time when society longed for regeneration through the establishment of order, it needed only a prince of sympathy with the common man,7
unclouded vision, inventive genius, and irresistible will,8
to make his way with the acclamations of the world to the nearest possible realization of these two ideas.
As the reward of the German who smote the Saracens at Poitiers
, the office and title of king, with the concurrence of the pope, passed into his family.
His grandson, Charlemagne, carried Christianity to the North Sea
by force of arms, prescribing to the lowland Saxons alike religion and allegiance; and dividing their territory into bishoprics, with endowments of land and local authority.
Having achieved the union of Germany
, he laid the foundations of his power in the class of free Germans.
Of these he would not suffer the number to be diminished, or the rights to be abridged.
After gaining the sway over western Europe
, he crossed the Alps
, brought back the fugitive head of the church to the city of Rome
, and on Christmas eve of the year 800, which then was the eve of the new year and the new century, in the basilica of St. Peter
, with an acclaiming congregation, who were present to represent all western Christendom, he was crowned by his client the pope as emperor of Rome
and of the world.
The crown signified the highest authority over Rome
and over Italy
The pope of the day, who was his dependent
and his beneficiary, made to him the sign of adora-
The old Roman emperor was the highest pontiff: with the charge of universal monarchy, Charlemagne, who held the keys of the grave of St. Peter
, took to himself the supreme direction of the church.10
Orthodox Christendom saw in this new Roman empire the eternal ordinance of God which was to endure to the end of time, so that every prophecy might be fulfilled and Christ
become the lord of the whole earth.
Leo the Third recognised in him the sovereignty over every temporal authority; but the line of the emperors was hardly acknowledged at Rome
to be by a fixed rule entitled evermore to unqualified allegiance as lords over the church.
Nor was it for the interest of mankind, nor of the empire itself, that the popes should have made such abdication of their independence; for, though by the ensuing conflict it was compelled to pass through centuries of sorrow, it escaped that which was worse.
has been ordained by fate to illuminate the nations;’11
but not in this way was it to spread light and freedom.
Could Charlemagne, by renewing Roman caesarism, have joined dominion over the individual and collective conscience to the fulness of military, legislative, and administrative power, a sameness of forms, a stagnant monotony of thought, and the slumber of creative genius might have lasted for thousands of years.
Justice and truth are the same,
everywhere, at all times, and for every mind.
make the emperor their authoritative custodian and interpreter for a universal monarchy would have been to overthrow the rights of reason, establish a despotism without check or barrier, and bring on a ruin of the moral and political world, like that state of rest which philosophers of nature predict for the heavens and the earth, if nothing exists beyond what the senses reach.12
Of the two great ideas which Charlemagne had united in his crown, the universal monarchy was a creature of the irrevocable past, never destined to be renewed.
It was broken in pieces and for ever by the selfishness of his descendants, by geographical divisions, and by the rivalry of nationalities.
Christianity, on the other hand, had a life of its own. It had struggled into being in defiance of the Roman
empire, by which it was never absorbed or deprived of self-existence.
After a century of seemingly hopeless confusion on each side of the Alps
, the House of Saxony
, under the headship of Henry the Fowler, than whom, according to a wise historian,13
never had a greater or a worthier king,’ restored union and order to the Teutonic
His son, Otho
the First, having in a reign of a quarter of a century riveted Germany
still more closely together and secured its borders against hostile races, was invited by the pope to pass the Alps
for the pacification of Italy
; and one hundred and forty-eight years after the death of Charlemagne, but only after a formal compact to respect the independence of the
he was crowned at Rome
as the first holy
Roman emperor of the German nation.
Invited only as a liberator, he, like Charlemagne, made himself the master alike over the church and the state.
But he could not renew the authority of Charlemagne; for he in no wise represented universal monarchy.
Kingdoms collectively greater than his own, and independent of him,—Hungary
,—could never acknowledge his supremacy over a church which claimed to be catholic.
Yet, as if his twofold dominion had been permanent, Otho
sought to balance the power of his princely feudatories by that of the bishops, who were likewise bound to send vassals to his army.
The annexation of the crown of Italy
to that of Germany
, while it opened to the latter many avenues to culture, was also attended with infinite sorrows.
It yoked together the two powers of emperor and pope, not with a balance of authority nor in a mutually beneficial alliance, but for an inevitable and irrepressible conflict, in which the emperor could not gain the field.
In the contest between the emperor and the separate princes, the result could not in the end be doubtful; for the latter held power by inheritance according to fixed law, while the former gained his crown only by an election in which princes took part and might assume to prescribe capitulations as the price of their votes.
In the continued antagonism between the pope and the emperor the issue was equally certain.
The pope reduced his adversary to helplessness by winning the
princes of the empire through favoring their separate
ambition; and he controlled the prelates and clergy by the strength of ties of which they acknowledged the paramount force.
Moreover, the idea of universality was on the side of the pope.
did indeed look upon himself as the successor of Augustus Caesar
; but all his dealings with other kingdoms confessed his inheritance to be merely an illusion: the pope represented the kingship of Christ
, which was owned throughout Christendom to be by right without bounds.
The home of the emperor seemed to be properly in the thickly forested regions of the rough northern clime: the pope alone, by ruling in Rome
, was clad with the great prestige of authority over the eternal city and the world.
But what was still more decisive, under the feudal organization, monarchy had no mode of directly invoking popular support: the pope had, through the clergy, dominion over the conscience alike in every cottage and in every castle, and was therefore strong with and through the people.
had the oaths of his vassals: the pope, the allegiance of the churchmilitant.
ruled through subordinates who disputed his commands: the pope, through prelates and clergy, who received his word as the voice of omnipotent infallibility.
Two centuries from the coronation of Charlemagne had not passed away, when Gregory
the Seventh, taking advantage of the enfeeblement of the central government and establishing the celibacy of the clergy, asserted his exclusive right to the investiture of bishops throughout Christendom; and, compelling the emperor, Henry
the Fourth, in his years of youth and weakness, to
do penance at Canossa
, extorted the acknowledgment
of all the pretensions of the Roman
see as lord over conscience and over kings.
A little more than a hundred years after this hasty submissiveness of an inexperienced, imbecile, and dissolute ruler, even Red-Beard
, the wise and powerful Frederic the First, acquiesced in the necessity of giving up his long and fruitless struggle; and at Venice
, in the maturity of his years, surrendered to the pope.
This victory over the mightiest of the Roman
emperors of the German nation could not have been won by the Roman
pontiffs, unless right had in some degree been on their side.15
In contending against the absolute power of the emperor over conscience, they were contending for that which God loves most,— for the sacred rights of our race.
But the despotism which they justly snatched from the sceptre was sequestered and appropriated to their own benefit.
When dominion over conscience was wrested from Caesar
, the work was but half done: the pope should have laid it down at the feet of his fellow-men, and consummated the emancipation of every mind.
Was there nowhere in Christendom a selfdepend-ent people capable of claiming its birthright?
In this contest between emperor and church, the old, free, rural population of Germany
, a body of men as ancient as incipient civilization in central Asia
, was left without protection; and each century saw more and more their numbers diminished, their rights to the soil impaired, their personal liberties endangered.
They had no security against the stronger feudal nobility.
They were everywhere oppressed, often
robbed of their lands, and even reduced to villanage.16
Scattered, and unconnected, and without arms, they were not able to assume their own defence, and they needed some support to which they could cling.
Alone in Switzerland
, which its mountains kept apart alike from Italy
and the north, the free people preserved their ancient character,17
and, being content within themselves, constituted a confederated republic which has outlasted every dynasty and constitution of that day, forming a commonwealth which still stands like their own Alps
But elsewhere in Germany
the nobles took advantage of the period of lawlessness to round off their estates, to wrong their neighbors, to oppress their tenants, to reduce the free rural classes to the condition of adscripts to the glebe.
It went better with the mechanic arts and with trade.
In the troubled centuries when there was no safety for merchants and artisans but in their own courage and union, free cities rose up along the Rhine
and the Danube
in such numbers that the hum of business could be heard from the one to the other.
On the sea free towns leagued together from Flanders
to the Gulf of Finland
,—renewing Dantzic; carrying colonies to Elbing
, and Memel, to Riga
; stretching into the interior so as to include Gottingen
, Erfurt, and Magdeburg
, and Cracow; having marts alike in London
and Novgorod; shaping their constitutions after the great house of merchants of Lubeck, till the consolidated
union of nearly eighty cities became the first mari-
time power in the commercial world.
As in England
, Simon de Montfort
created a place for the representation of the boroughs in parliament, so free imperial cities had benches in the German diet.
In these republics and other towns, not so directly depending on the empire, was to be found whatever was best in local self-government, in orderly industry, in art and science, in wise financial administration, in tolerant wisdom drawn from the observation of many religions and many lands, in free inquiry and intelligence.
had sought to unite in his hands the authority of the highest pontiff and the absolutism of a military despot.
The connection with the nations of Europe
, who were the bearers of the Roman
and the Greek civilization; with Saracens
; with Africa
; with Syria
,—brought into Germany
living seeds of culture, which ripened the most various fruit.
The complete victory of the pope over the emperor substituted for an all-pervading central dominion, not national freedom, but anarchy under princes and nobles, and thousands of separate jurisdictions; not organized public life, but national dissolution; a triumphant hierarchy, not the greatness of a people.18
Thanks to the creative energy of the house of Saxony
, the empire which it founded had lasted so long that the idea of the unity of the German nation had worked its way indissolubly into the blood and marrow of all the people.
But at last the power of this later Roman empire became a phantom; its crown, a decorative bauble; its dignity,
precedence in a diet; and he who possessed the fiction
of the great name strove no more but for separate dynastic gains: he could initiate no patriotic, allpenetrating reform; he was no protector of the German nation.
The empire of the great Otho
belonged as much to the dead past as that of Charlemagne.
The healing draught for the peoples must be drawn from a living spring.
Grant the theory of the sycophants of the Roman
see, that the pope represents on earth the eternal wisdom: it follows necessarily that he may decide every question of morals in private and in public life.
He is responsible for every king.19
He may decree what king is unworthy to reign; and his sentence must bind the conscience of all who accept his infallibility.
He must have power to give and to take away empires, and all possessions of all men;20
to release peoples from their oaths of allegiance; to unbind kings from their oaths of capitulation; to order the German princes whom to elect as emperor, and to order them to elect unanimously; with his cardinals or alone to elect an emperor.
As the sole oracle of truth he may assume to control history itself when it thwarts his purpose; and, though the adamantine door of the past is bolted down for evermore, he may break it open,—
To bind or unbind, add what lacked,
Insert a leaf,21 or forge a name.
Since reasoning on an accepted dogma is forbid, he may command an inquisition into the innermost
thoughts and secret places of every mind, and com-
pel assent by fines, imprisonment, excommunication, but especially by the sword and fire.
The infallible interpreter of morals may, in unbridled licentiousness, order and do what is right in his own eyes;22
ruling in all things and never ruled; judging all things and never judged.
, as may be read in Plato
's Republic, ‘mendicant diviners went to rich men's doors, persuading them that they have received from the gods power to absolve a man himself or his forefathers from sins; and for the living and for the dead there are ceremonies which deliver from pains in the life to come; but dreadful things await those neglecting the rite.’23
The method practised on a small scale by vagabond prophets in Athens
was formed by the papal see into a system for the world; and it filled its treasury by an organized traffic in indulgences and promises of pardon here and beyond the grave.
In a decretal of the ninth of November, 1518, Pope Leo
the Tenth affirmed his power as the successor of St. Peter
and the vicar of Christ
to remit the sins alike of the living and of the dead.24
All absolute power brings its holders, first or last, to perdition: absolute power over mind, conquered from the emperor and continued for centuries, at last
ruined, and could not but ruin, the moral and in-
tellectual faculties of the functionary by whom it was exercised.
The earth, wrapt in thickest darkness, sighed for the dawn.
The son of a miner, of the peasant class in Eisleben, trained in the school of Paul
and the African Augustine
, kindled a light for the world.
He taught that no man impersonates the authority of God; that the pope is right in denying the divinity of the emperor, but that he blasphemes in arrogating divinity to himself.
No power over souls belongs to a priest; ‘any Christian
, be it a woman or a child, can remit sins just as well as a priest;’25
clergy and laity, all are of one condition; all men are equally priests; ‘a bishop's ordination is no better than an election;’26
‘any child that creeps after baptism is an ordained priest, bishop, and pope.’27
‘The priest is nothing but an office-holder.’28
‘The pope is our school-fellow; there is but one master, and his name is Christ
in heaven;’ and, collecting all in one great formulary of freedom, he declared: Justification is by faith; by faith alone, ‘sola fide;’ every man must work out his own salvation; no other—not priest, nor bishop, nor pope, no, not all the prophets—can serve for the direct connection of the intelligent reason of the individual with the infinite and eternal intelligence.
The principle of justification by faith alone solved every problem.
It is freedom against authority; self-activity against superstitious trust in other men.
It was the knell of the departing dominion of an
alien prince over the conscience of the peoples.
But it was more than the termination of a strife of seven centuries between pope and emperor.
The truth spoken by Luther assigned to the pope his true place, as an unconsecrated, fallible, peccant mortal, holding only an office instituted by his erring fellowmortals, and having no functions and no powers except what erring mortals can bestow.
To discard the pope, and keep bishops and priests with superhuman authority derived from ordination, would have been only substituting one supernatural caste for another.
Luther struck superstition at the root.
The popes stripped lordship over conscience from the emperor; and Luther stripped it from pope, prelates, and priests.
His teaching was the rending of the veil which divides the past civilization from the future, a vindication for all mankind of the rights of reason.
The idea of justification by faith alone was censured as fatalism, while in truth it is the strongest possible summons to self-activity.
The principle can never be surrendered so long as the connection between man and eternal truth shall endure.
Well, therefore, did Leibnitz
say of Luther: ‘This is he who, in later times, taught the human race hope and free thought.’29
The medieval church had been, in some sort, the protector of the people.
Luther declared reason to be the ‘well-spring of law,’30
the rule for reforming national codes.
Further; he demanded that truth should be spread by appeals to reason alone.
fire,’ said he, ‘is the right cure for heresy, then the
fagot-burners are the most learned doctors on earth.
Nor need we study any more: he that has brute force on his side may burn his adversary at the stake.’31
‘I will preach the truth, speak the truth, write the truth, but will force the truth on no one; for faith must be accepted willingly and without compulsion.’32
By reason, too, he desired to restrain arbitrary power.
His words are: ‘Where a ruler indulges the conceit that he is a prince, not for the sake of his subjects, but for the sake of his beautiful golden hair, he belongs among the heathen.’33
‘A Christian prince is not a person for himself, but a servant for others.’
must think, “I belong to the land and the people, and will therefore serve them with my office.”
On the right of private judgment, Luther said:
If the emperor or the princes should command me and say: ‘Thus and thus you ought to believe;’ then I speak: ‘Dear emperor, dear princes, your demand is too high;’ they say: ‘ Yes, you must be obedient to us, for we are the higher powers.’
Then I answer: ‘Yes, you are lords over this temporal life, but not over the eternal life;’ they speak further: ‘Yes, peace and unity must be preserved; therefore you must believe as the emperor and princes believe.’ —What do I hear?
The Turk might as well say: ‘Listen, Roman emperor, listen, princes; you ought to believe as the Turks believe for the sake of peace and unity; for what holds good for the one holds
good for the other, for the Turkish emperor and for every nobleman in the village.’
‘No, dear emperor, dear prince, dear lord, dear lady, it does not belong to you to make such a demand.’ Predigt, Die Lehre von dem Verhalten gegen die Obrigkeit, Luther's sammtliche Schriften, ed. Walch, XIII. 2225.
And again: ‘All bishops that take the right of judgment of doctrine from the sheep are certainly to be held as murderers and thieves, wolves and apostate Christians.
gives the right of judgment to the scholars and sheep.
will have no doctrine or proposition held, till it has been proved and recognised as good by the congregation that hears it. Every Christian has God's word, and is taught of God and anointed as a priest.’34
It followed, as the true rule for all Christendom, that the teacher, ‘the minister of the word,’ should be elected by the congregation itself.
This Luther addressed to the emperor and Christian nobles of the German nation in 1520. Three years later, he published proof out of scripture that a Christian congregation ought to have the right to call, induct, and depose teachers.35
And in like manner, with strict consistency, in May, 1525, he wrote to the peasants of Suabia: ‘The whole congregation should have power to choose and to depose a pastor; this article is right.’
‘You, princes and lords, cannot with any color refuse them the right to elect a pastor.’
But it was not then possible in Europe
the church on the principle of its total separa-
tion from tradition and the state.
Did Luther look to the newly discovered world as the resting-place of his teachings?
He certainly devised and proposed the rules for emigration.
When the great revelation of truth was made, ‘a star,’ said he, ‘moved in the sky, and guided the pilgrim wise men to the manger where the Saviour lay.’36
He advised the oppressed country people, taking with them the teacher of their choice and the open Bible, to follow ‘the star’ of freedom to lands where religious liberty could find a home.37
In October of the following year, the little synod held at Homberg by the landgrave Philip
accepted the propositions of Luther, that all Christians share equally in the priesthood, that true churches consist in self-organized, self-governing communities of believers; and that these communities, thus freely formed, may be associated through an annual general meeting
of ministers and delegates.38
The glad lessons of reform went out through all the land, kindling the poor and humble and afflicted with the promise of a happier age. Himself peasantborn, and ever mindful of his lineage, the prophet of German unity and freedom, Luther wrote for his countrymen in their own tongue as no one else could.
His words touched the hearts, and wakened the thoughts, and filled the meditations of all. The man of the people, in 1521 he says of himself: ‘Up
to this time I have always made it my rule to get
the start of the notions of the court.
Not the half would have come about, if I had let myself hang on their counsels.’
Therefore he was able to transform his nation, which was swayed by his words, as the chords of the lyre tremble under the touch of the master.
The principles for which he demanded the active co-operation of every individual struck the deepest root; yet their instant and universal application would have bred civil war rather than wholesome change.
A new nation, free from medieval traditions, must grow up to be the recipient and the bearer of the new system.
But Luther must remain in the land of his birth and of his love, even though, in the years that followed, his relations to princes cost him baleful compromises with the past, and unworthy concessions to the rulers of his day.
Within the empire each separate prince became for his own dominions the highest overseer of the church of the reformation.
In the reformed churches of France
, which struggled into being in permanent conflict with prelates and kings, their constitution grew out of themselves, according to the teachings of Luther in his earlier days.
It is the common principle on which Frenchmen first colonized what is now Nova Scotia
; on which Englishmen and the Dutch
planted the states that lie between Canada
and the head of the Chesapeake
; and it was strongly represented in the settlements further south.
, which appropriated no territory in America
, gave to the colonies of New Netherland and New England
their laws of being.
The holy empire which began with Roman caesarism
had become in temporal power a shadow, in
spiritual power a subject.
If Charles the Fifth had but accepted the reformation, free Germany
from the Vosgic mountains
would at his bidding have been reconstructed as one monarchy on a new and better foundation.
deserted his own standard,—an alien he joined with an alien; and from that time the authority of the imperial crown was used for the aggrandizement of a separate dynasty.
The reformation intrenched itself within the walls of the free cities; and, with them and their kindred in Switzerland
and in the Netherlands for defenders, it could not be trodden out: but in any mortal conflict with the princes the free cities must have succumbed.
The German people, though they had an imperishable life of their own, had not the means of organizing themselves as one body; nor were they trained to be the bearers of political power: they could unite only through a prince.
that will lead Germany
to union must accept reform in religion, and the canon39
that he is there not for himself, but for the land and people.
The hopes of the reformers first rested on Saxony
But one of its electors refused the imperial crown; another betrayed the reformation through fears of ill-directed progress; a third, by further concessions to the reaction and to the emperor, and by consequent indecision, lost for himself army, land, and freedom, and for his electorate the lead in Germany
There was better promise from the house which
a burgrave of Nuremberg
, one of the wisest, most right-minded, and most popular statesmen of his age,40
and whose days in his land were long, had transplanted to Brandenburg
In 1613, when the congregation of the Pilgrims at Leyden
was growing by comers from England
, the elector of Brandenburg
, John Sigismund, after eight years of reflection, adopted the faith of those who were to plant Massachusetts
, and passed with all formality, out of the church in which so much only of the precepts of Luther prevailed as the princes of his day could tolerate, into the more liberal church that had been formed under republican auspices by Calvin.
In 1618, while the Pilgrims were pleading for leave to emigrate with an English charter, according to the rules of colonization of Luther, the elector of Brandenburg
pledged himself anew to the reformation by uniting to his possessions secularized Prussia
Between all whom one and the same renovating principle rules, inspires, and guides, there exists an unwritten alliance or harmony, not registered in the archives of states, showing itself at moments of crisis.
Protestantism struggled for life alike in Germany
and in New England
, not always with equal success.
With the constitution of Plymouth
, which was signed in Cape Cod harbor
, it triumphed in New England
in the same month in which it was struck down on the White Mountain
The year in which the Catholic
reaction crushed the municipal liberties of Protestant Rochelle
, the reformation was rescued in Germany
by the relief of Stralsund, and extended in
America by the planting of a regular government
The day on which Winthrop
sailed into Boston harbor
, Gustavus Adolphus
was landing fifteen thousand men in Pomerania
The thoughts of Germany
and of the new people of America
ran together: one and the same element of life animated them all. The congregations of Massachusetts
, too feeble to send succor to their European
brethren, poured out their souls for them in prayer.
From the free city of Nuremberg
, Gustavus Adolphus
just three weeks before his fall at Lutzen
, recommended to Germans colonization in America
as ‘a blessing to the Protestant world.’
In pursuance of the design of the Swedish king, the chancellor Oxenstiern
, in April, 1633, as we have seen, called on the German people te send from themselves emigrants to America
In December the upper four German circles confirmed the charter, and under its sanction a Protestant colony was planted on the Delaware
What monument has Wallenstein
left like this on the Delaware
The thirty years war was not a civil war: had the Germans been left to themselves, the reformation would have been peacefully embraced by nine-tenths of them.
It was by hordes of other races and tongues that the battle of Jesuit reaction was fought.
was rent in pieces by bloody and relentless feuds, Germany
enjoyed a half century of prosperous peace, and with its kindred in the Netherlands and Switzerland
formed the first nation in the world.
Its universities, relieved from monastic traditions, taught
not theology alone, but the method of the right use
of reason, and sciences pregnant with modern culture.
, a republican of Weil
, the continuator of Copernicus, the forerunner of Newton
, revealed the laws of the planetary motions.
No part of Europe
had so many industrious, opulent, and cultivated free cities, while the empire kept in use the forms and developed the language of constitutional government.
The terrible thirty years effort to restore the old superstition crushed the enlightened middle class of Germany
, destroyed its Hanseatic confederacy, turned its commerce into other channels, ruined its manufactures, arrested its progress in the arts, dismembered its public thought, gave to death one-half or even two-thirds of its inhabitants, transformed large districts of its cultivated country into a wilderness, suspended its unity and imperilled its national life, which was saved only by the indestructible energy of its people.
From 1630, for more than two centuries, it showed no flag on any ocean, planted no colony on any shore; it had and could have no influence abroad, no foreign policy: it had ceased to be a great power.
It lay like the massive remains of the Roman Colosseum
, magnificent ruins, parcelled out among a crowd of rulers, and offering to neighboring princes an inviting quarry.
For German Protestants there were gleams of light from America
and from Brandenburg
Driven by poverty and sorrow, the reckless devastation of foreign invasions, and the oppression of multitudinous domestic petty tyrants, the Germans, especially of the borders of the Rhine
, thronged to America
in such numbers that in the course of a century, preserving
their love of rural life, they appropriated much of the
very best land from the Mohawk
to the valley of Virginia
At the close of the thirty years war, Brandenburg
had for its elector, Prussia
for its duke, a prince by birth and education of the reformed church, trained in the republic of the Netherlands.
‘In my rule,’ said the young man, on first receiving homage, ‘I will always bear in mind that it is not my affair which I administer, but the affair of my people.’42
‘Consciences,’ he owned, ‘belong to God; no worldly potentate may force them.’43
So when the revocation of the edict of Nantes
, in October, 1685, drove out of France
a half million of ‘the best’ of the French
nation, the noble company of exiles found a new country, partly with the Great Elector, and partly with the Protestant colonies in America
The same revolution of 1688, which excluded Papists from the throne of England
, restored liberty to the colonies in America
, and made it safe for the son of the Great Elector to crown himself on his own soil as king of Prussia
As the elector of Saxony
had meantime renounced the reformation, to ride for a few stormy years on the restless waves of Polish anarchy, Leibnitz
could say with truth: ‘The elector of Brandenburg
is now the head of the Protestants in the empire.’44
The pope of the hour, foreshadowing the policy of Kaunitz, denounced his coronation as a shamelessly impudent deed, and his house as one of which the dominion ought never to be increased.45
The peace of Utrecht
called forth the vehement
reprobation of Leibnitz
, and proved that the house of Hapsburg was not the proper guardian of Germany
; yet it was full of good prophecies for the future, and marks the point of time when, in Europe
and in America
, the new civilization compelled the recognition of its right to existence.
it contained the acknowledgment by the Catholic
powers of an exclusively Protestant succession, established by laws in derogation of legitimacy; for Italy
, the elevation of the house of Savoy
in the north, to the rank of an independent and hopeful monarchy.
and for Prussia
, it was the dawn of the new day. In the former, Protestantism took the lead in the work of colonization and the appropriation of territory by the spread of settlements.
Founded on the principle of civil freedom, the latter was received as a kingdom among the powers of the earth.
From the moment when the elector of Brandenburg
was admitted by all Europe
to the society of kings as an equal, the house of Hapsburg knew that it had a rival within Germany
When, in the second quarter of the last century, ecclesiastical intolerance drove the Lutherans of Salzburg
into exile, a part of them found homes on the rivers of America
, a part in the realm of that strange Prussian king, who, by simplicity and purity of life, by economy, strict organization of the government, care for the people and their education, public thrift, and perfect discipline in the army, bequeathed to his successor the most efficient state in Germany
That successor was Frederic the Second, a prince trained alike in the arts of war and administration,
in philosophy and letters.
It should be incredible,
and yet it is true, that, at the moment of the alliance of the Catholic
powers against Protestantism, England
, under the second George and a frivolous minister, was attempting by largesses of subsidies to set the force of Russia
against the most considerable Protestant power in Germany
In the attempt England
shot so wildly from its sphere that Newcastle
was forced to bend to William Pitt
; and then England
, and the embryon United States
,—Pitt, Frederic, and Washington
,—worked together for human freedom.
The seven years war extended the English
colonies to the Mississippi
and gave Canada
‘We conquered America in Germany
,’ said the elder Pitt
, ascribing to Frederic a share in the extension of the Germanic race in the other hemisphere; and in like manner Frederic, in his histories, treats the English
movement in America
and his own struggles in Europe
all as one, so long as Pitt
was at the helm.
To what end would events have been shaped if Pitt
's ministry had continued, and the bonds between England
had been riveted by a common peace?
But here, as everywhere, it is useless to ask what would have happened if the eternal providence had for the moment suspended its rule.
The American colonists were now at variance with the same class of British ministers which had wronged Frederic in 1762.
With which branch of the Teutonic
family would be the sympathy of Germany
The influence of Austria
leaned to England
Where stood the true nobility of the empire, the masters
of German thought and language?
where its ruling
where its one incomparable king?
In the north-east of Germany
the man who, alone of Germans, can with Leibnitz
take a place among the wise by the side of Plato
and Aristotle, reformed philosophy as Luther had reformed the church, on the principle of the self-activity of the individual mind.
As Luther owned neither pope nor prelates for anything more than school-fellows, so Kant
accepted neither Leibnitz
for a master, and passed between dogmatism and doubt to the school of reason.
His method was, mind in its freedom, guided and encouraged, moderated and restrained, by the knowledge of its powers.
Skepticism, he said, only strands the ship and leaves it high and dry to rot: the true inventory of the human faculties is the chart by which the pilot can take the ship safely wherever he will.46
He stopped at criticism as little as the traveller who waits to count his resources before starting on his journey; or as the general who musters his troops before planning his campaign.
The analysis of the acts of thought teaches faith in the intellect itself as the interpreter of nature.
The human mind, having learned the limit of its faculties, and tolerating neither cowardice nor indolence in the use of them,47
goes forth in its freedom to interrogate the moral and material world with the means of compelling an answer48
‘The forms of Kant
's philosophy,’ says Schiller
, ‘may change; its method will last as long as reason itself.’49
‘He was the herald of the laws of reason,
which nature obeys and which mind ought to obey.’
The method of Kant
being that of the employment of mind in its freedom, his fidelity to human freedom has never been questioned and never can be. He accepted the world as it is, only with the obligation that it is to be made better.
His political philosophy enjoins a constant struggle to lift society out of its actual imperfect state, which is its natural condition, into a higher and better one, by deciding every question, as it arises, in favor of reform and progress, and keeping open the way for the elimination of all remaining evil.
Accustomed to contemplate nature in the infinity of its extent as forming one system, governed in all its parts and in its totality by one law, he drew his opinions on questions of liberty from elemental truth, and uttered them as if with the assent of the universe of being.
As he condemned slavery, so he branded the bargaining away of troops51
by one state to another without a common cause.
‘The rights of man,’ he said, ‘are dear to God, are the apple of the eye of God on earth;’52
and he wished an hour each day set aside for all children to learn them and take them to heart.
His friendship for America was therefore inherent and ineradicable.
He was one of the first, perhaps the very first, of the German nation to defend, even at the risk of his friendships, the cause of the United States
Lessing contemplated the education of his race as
carried forward by one continued revelation of truth,
the thoughts of God, present in man, creating harmony and unity, and leading toward higher culture.
In his view, the class of nobles was become superfluous: the lights of the world were they who gave the clearest utterance to the divine ideas.
He held it a folly for men of a republic to wish for a monarchy:53
the chief of a commonwealth, governing a free people by their free choice, has a halo that never surrounded a king.
Though he was in the employ of the Duke
, he loathed from his inmost soul the engagement of troops in a foreign war, either as volunteers or as sold by their prince.
‘How came Othello
,’ he asks, ‘into the service of Venice
Had the Moor no country?
Why did he let out his arm and blood to a foreign state?’54
He published to the German nation his opinion that ‘the Americans
are building in the new world the lodge of humanity,’ and he desired to write more, for, said he, ‘the people is consumed by hunger and thirst;’ but his prince commanded silence.
, in 1779, Herder
, the first who vindicated for the songs of the people their place in the annals of human culture, published these words: ‘The boldest, most godlike thoughts of the human mind, the most beautiful and greatest works, have been perfected in republics; not only in antiquity, but in medieval and more modern times, the best history, the best philosophy of humanity and government, is always republican; and the republic exerts its influence, not by direct intervention, but mediately
by its mere existence.’
The United States
with its mountain ranges, rivers, and chains of lakes in the temperate zone, seemed to him shaped by nature for a new civilization.55
Of the poets of Germany
, the veteran Klopstock
beheld in the American
war the inspiration of humanity and the dawn of an approaching great day. He loved the terrible spirit which emboldens the peoples to grow conscious of their power.
With proud joy he calls to mind that, among the citizens of the young republic, there were many Germans, who gloriously fulfilled their duty in the war of freedom.
‘By the rivers of America
,’ he wrote, ‘light beams forth to the nations, and in part from Germans.’56
Less enthusiastic, but not less consistent, was Goethe
Of plebeian descent, by birth a republican, born like Luther in the heart of Germany
, educated like Leibnitz
in the central university of Saxony
, when seven years old he and his father's house were partisans of Frederic, and rejoiced in his victories as the victories of the German nation.57
In early youth he, like those around him, was interested in the struggles of Corsica
; gave the cry of ‘Long live Paoli
and his heart was drawn towards the patriot in exile.59
The ideas of popular liberty which filled his mind led him, in his twenty-second year60
to select the theme for his first tragedy from
the kindred epoch in the history of the Netherlands.
But the interest of the circle in which he moved became far more lively when, in a remote part of the world,62
a whole people showed signs that it would make itself free.
He classed the Boston tea-party of 1773 among the prodigious events which stamp themselves most deeply on the mind of childhood.63
Like everybody around him he wished the Americans
success, and the names of Franklin
shone and sparkled in his heaven of politics and war.64
When to all this was added reform in France
, he and the youth of Germany
promised themselves and all their fellow-men a beautiful and even a glorious future.65
The thought of emigrating to America
passed placidly over his imagination, leaving no more mark than the shadow of a flying cloud as it sweeps over a flower-garden.
The sale of Hessian soldiers for foreign money called from him words of disdain;66
but his reproof of the young Germans
who volunteered to fight for the American
cause, and then from faint-heartedness drew back, did not go beyond a smile at the contrast between their zeal and their deeds.67
He congratulated America
that it was not forced to bear up the traditions of feudalism;68
and, writing or conversing, used only friendly words of the United States
, as ‘a noble country.’69
During all his life coming in contact with events that were changing the world, he painted
them to his mind in their order and connection.70
Just before the French
revolution of 1830, he published his opinion that the desire for self-government, which had succeeded so well in the colonies of North America
, was sustaining the battle in Europe
without signs of weariness;71
and, twenty years before the movements of 1848, he foretold with passionless serenity that, as certainly as the Americans
had thrown the teachests into the sea, so certainly it would come to a breach in Germany
, if there should be no reconciliation between monarchy and freedom.72
was a native of the part of Germany
most inclined to idealism; in medieval days the stronghold of German liberty; renowned for its numerous free cities, the distribution of land among small freeholders, the total absence of great landed proprietaries, the comparative extinction of the old nobility.
Equally in his hours of reflection and in his hours of inspiration, his sentiments were such as became the poet of the German nation, enlightened by the ideas of Kant
The victory which his countrymen won against the Vatican and against error for the freedom of reason was, as he wrote, a victory for all nations and for endless time.
He was ever ready to clasp the millions of his fellow-men in his embrace, to give a salutation to the whole world; and he glowed with indignation at princes who met the expenses of profligacy by selling their subjects to war against the rights of mankind.
It is known from the writings of Niebuhr
that the political ideas which in his youth most swayed the
mind of Germany
grew out of its fellow-feeling with
the United States
in their struggle for independence.
The truest and best representatives of German intelligence, from every part of the land, joined in a chorus to welcome them to their place among the nations of the earth.