This etext was produced by David Widger
By Alexander Dumas, Pere
On the 22nd of March, 1819, about nine o'clock in the morning, a
young man, some twenty-three or twenty-four years old, wearing the
dress of a German student, which consists of a short frock-coat with
silk braiding, tight trousers, and high boots, paused upon a little
eminence that stands upon the road between Kaiserthal and Mannheim,
at about three-quarters of the distance from the former town, and
commands a view of the latter. Mannheim is seen rising calm and
smiling amid gardens which once were ramparts, and which now surround
and embrace it like a girdle of foliage and flowers. Having reached
this spot, he lifted his cap, above the peak of which were
embroidered three interlaced oak leaves in silver, and uncovering his
brow, stood bareheaded for a moment to feel the fresh air that rose
from the valley of the Neckar. At first sight his irregular features
produced a strange impression; but before long the pallor of his
face, deeply marked by smallpox, the infinite gentleness of his eyes,
and the elegant framework of his long and flowing black hair, which
grew in an admirable curve around a broad, high forehead, attracted
towards him that emotion of sad sympathy to which we yield without
inquiring its reason or dreaming of resistance. Though it was still
early, he seemed already to have come some distance, for his boots
were covered with dust; but no doubt he was nearing his destination,
for, letting his cap drop, and hooking into his belt his long pipe,
that inseparable companion of the German Borsch, he drew from his
pocket a little note-book, and wrote in it with a pencil: "Left
Wanheim at five in the morning, came in sight of Mannheim at a
quarter-past nine." Then putting his note-book back into his pocket,
he stood motionless for a moment, his lips moving as though in mental
prayer, picked up his hat, and walked on again with a firm step
This young Student was Karl-Ludwig Sand, who was coming from Jena, by
way of Frankfort aid Darmstadt, in order to assassinate Kotzebue.
Now, as we are about to set before our readers one of those terrible
actions for the true appreciation of which the conscience is the sole
judge, they must allow us to make them fully acquainted with him whom
kings regarded as an assassin, judges as a fanatic, and the youth of
Germany as a hero. Charles Louis Sand was born on the 5th of
October, 1795, at Wonsiedel, in the Fichtel Wald; he was the
youngest son of Godfrey Christopher Sand, first president and
councillor of justice to the King of Prussia, and of Dorothea Jane
Wilheltmina Schapf, his wife. Besides two elder brothers, George,
who entered upon a commercial career at St, Gall, and Fritz, who was
an advocate in the Berlin court of appeal, he had an elder sister
named Caroline, and a younger sister called Julia.
While still in the cradle he had been attacked by smallpox of the
most malignant type. The virus having spread through all his body,
laid bare his ribs, and almost ate away his skull. For several
months he lay between life and death; but life at last gained the
upper hand. He remained weak and sickly, however, up to his seventh
year, at which time a brain fever attacked him; and again put his
life in danger. As a compensation, however, this fever, when it left
him, seemed to carry away with it all vestiges of his former illness.
From that moment his health and strength came into existence; but
during these two long illnesses his education had remained very
backward, and it was not until the age of eight that he could begin
his elementary studies; moreover, his physical sufferings having
retarded his intellectual development, he needed to work twice as
hard as others to reach the same result.
Seeing the efforts that young Sand made, even while still quite a
child, to conquer the defects of his organisation, Professor
Salfranck, a learned and distinguished man, rector of the Hof
gymnasium [college], conceived such an affection for him, that when,
at a later time, he was appointed director of the gymnasium at
Ratisbon, he could not part from his pupil, and took him with him.
In this town, and at the age of eleven years, he gave the first proof
of his courage and humanity. One day, when he was walking with some
young friends, he heard cries for help, and ran in that direction: a
little boy, eight or nine years old, had just fallen into a pond.
Sand immediately, without regarding his best clothes, of which,
however, he was very proud, sprang into the water, and, after
unheard-of efforts for a child of his age, succeeded in bringing the
drowning boy to land.
At the age of twelve or thirteen, Sand, who had become more active,
skilful, and determined than many of his elders, often amused himself
by giving battle to the lads of the town and of the neighbouring
villages. The theatre of these childish conflicts, which in their
pale innocence reflected the great battles that were at that time
steeping Germany in blood, was generally a plain extending from the
town of Wonsiedel to the mountain of St. Catherine, which had ruins
at its top, and amid the ruins a tower in excellent preservation.
Sand, who was one of the most eager fighters, seeing that his side
had several times been defeated on account of its numerical
inferiority, resolved, in order to make up for this drawback, to
fortify the tower of St. Catherine, and to retire into it at the next
battle if its issue proved unfavourable to him. He communicated this
plan to his companions, who received it with enthusiasm. A week was
spent, accordingly, in collecting all possible weapons of defence in
the tower and in repairing its doors and stairs. These preparations
were made so secretly that the army of the enemy had no knowledge of
Sunday came: the holidays were the days of battle. Whether because
the boys were ashamed of having been beaten last time, or for some
other reason, the band to which Sand belonged was even weaker than
usual. Sure, however, of a means of retreat, he accepted battle,
notwithstanding. The struggle was not a long one; the one party was
too weak in numbers to make a prolonged resistance, and began to
retire in the best order that could be maintained to St. Catherine's
tower, which was reached before much damage had been felt. Having
arrived there, some of the combatants ascended to the ramparts, and
while the others defended themselves at the foot of the wall, began
to shower stones and pebbles upon the conquerors. The latter,
surprised at the new method of defence which was now for the first
time adopted, retreated a little; the rest of the defenders took
advantage of the moment to retire into the fortress and shut the
door. Great was the astonishment an the part of the besiegers: they
had always seen that door broken down, and lo! all at once it was
presenting to them a barrier which preserved the besieged from their
blows. Three or four went off to find instruments with which to
break it down and meanwhile the rest of the attacking farce kept the
At the end of half an hour the messengers returned not only with
levers and picks, but also with a considerable reinforcement composed
of lads from, the village to which they had been to fetch tools.
Then began the assault: Sand and his companions defended themselves
desperately; but it was soon evident that, unless help came, the
garrison would be forced to capitulate. It was proposed that they
should draw lots, and that one of the besieged should be chosen, who
in spite of the danger should leave the tower, make his way as best
he might through the enemy's army, and go to summon the other lads of
Wonsiedel, who had faint-heartedly remained at home. The tale of the
peril in which their Comrades actually were, the disgrace of a
surrender, which would fall upon all of them, would no doubt overcome
their indolence and induce them to make a diversion that would allow
the garrison to attempt sortie. This suggestion was adopted; but
instead of leaving the decision to chance, Sand proposed himself as
the messenger. As everybody knew his courage, his skill, and his
lightness of foot, the proposition was unanimously accepted, and the
new Decius prepared to execute his act of devotion. The deed was not
free from danger: there were but two means of egress, one by way of
the door, which would lead to the fugitive's falling immediately into
the hands of the enemy; the other by jumping from a rampart so high
that the enemy had not set a guard there. Sand without a moment's
hesitation went to the rampart, where, always religious, even in his
childish pleasures, he made a short prayer; then, without fear,
without hesitation, with a confidence that was almost superhuman, he
sprang to the ground: the distance was twenty-two feet. Sand flew
instantly to Wonsiedel, and reached it, although the enemy had
despatched their best runners in pursuit. Then the garrison, seeing
the success of their enterprise, took fresh courage, and united their
efforts against the besiegers, hoping everything from Sand's
eloquence, which gave him a great influence over his young
companions. And, indeed, in half an hour he was seen reappearing at
the head of some thirty boys of his own age, armed with slings and
crossbows. The besiegers, on the point of being attacked before and
behind, recognised the disadvantage of their position and retreated.
The victory remained with Sand's party, and all the honours of the
day were his.
We have related this anecdote in detail, that our readers may
understand from the character of the child what was that of the man.
Besides, we shall see him develop, always calm and superior amid
small events as amid large ones.
About the same time Sand escaped almost miraculously from two
dangers. One day a hod full of plaster fell from a scaffold and
broke at his feet. Another day the Price of Coburg, who during the
King of Prussia's stay at the baths of Alexander, was living in the
house of Sand's parents, was galloping home with four horses when he
came suddenly upon young Karl in a gateway; he could not escape
either on the right or the left, without running the risk of being
crushed between the wall and the wheels, and the coachman could not,
when going at such a pace, hold in his horses: Sand flung himself on
his face, and the carriage passed over him without his receiving so
much as a single scratch either from the horses or the wheels. From
that moment many people regarded him as predestined, and said that
the hand of God was upon him.
Meanwhile political events were developing themselves around the boy,
and their seriousness made him a man before the age of manhood.
Napoleon weighed upon Germany like another Sennacherib. Staps had
tried to play the part of Mutius Scaevola, and had died a martyr.
Sand was at Hof at that time, and was a student of the gymnasium of
which his good tutor Salfranck was the head. He learned that the man
whom he regarded as the antichrist was to come and review the troops
in that town; he left it at once and went home to his parents, who
asked him for what reason he had left the gymnasium.
"Because I could not have been in the same town with Napoleon," he
answered, "without trying to kill him, and I do not feel my hand
strong enough for that yet."
This happened in 1809; Sand was fourteen years old. Peace, which was
signed an the 15th of October, gave Germany some respite, and allowed
the young fanatic to resume his studies without being distracted by
political considerations; but in 1811 he was occupied by them again,
when he learned that the gymnasium was to be dissolved and its place
taken by a primary school. To this the rector Salfranck was
appointed as a teacher, but instead of the thousand florins which his
former appointment brought him, the new one was worth only five
hundred. Karl could not remain in a primary school where he could
not continue his education; he wrote to his mother to announce this
event and to tell her with what equanimity the old German philosopher
had borne it. Here is the answer of Sand's mother; it will serve to
show the character of the woman whose mighty heart never belied
itself in the midst of the severest suffering; the answer bears the
stamp of that German mysticism of which we have no idea in France:--
"MY DEAR KARL,--You could not have given me a more grievous piece of
news than that of the event which has just fallen upon your tutor and
father by adoption; nevertheless, terrible though it may be, do not
doubt that he will resign himself to it, in order to give to the
virtue of his pupils a great example of that submission which every
subject owes to the king wham God has set over him. Furthermore, be
well assured that in this world there is no other upright and well
calculated policy than that which grows out of the old precept,
'Honour God, be just and fear not.' And reflect also that when
injustice against the worthy becomes crying, the public voice makes
itself heard, and uplifts those who are cast down.
"But if, contrary to all probability, this did not happen,--if God
should impose this sublime probation upon the virtue of our friend,
if the world were to disown him and Providence were to became to
that, degree his debtor,--yet in that case there are, believe me,
supreme compensations: all the things and all the events that occur
around us and that act upon us are but machines set in motion by a
Higher Hand, so as to complete our education for a higher world, in
which alone we shall take our true place. Apply yourself, therefore,
my dear child, to watch over yourself unceasingly and always, so that
you may not take great and fine isolated actions for real virtue, and
may be ready every moment to do all that your duty may require of
you. Fundamentally nothing is great, you see, and nothing small,
when things are, looked at apart from one another, and it is only the
putting of things together that produces the unity of evil or of
"Moreover, God only sends the trial to the heart where He has put
strength, and the manner in which you tell me that your master has
borne the misfortune that has befallen him is a fresh proof of this
great and eternal truth. You must form yourself upon him, my dear
child, and if you are obliged to leave Hof for Bamberg you must
resign yourself to it courageously. Man has three educations: that
which he receives from his parents, that which circumstances impose
upon him, and lastly that which he gives himself; if that misfortune
should occur, pray to God that you may yourself worthily complete
that last education, the most important of all.
"I will give you as an example the life and conduct of my father, of
whom you have not heard very much, for he died before you were born,
but whose mind and likeness are reproduced in you only among all your
brothers and sisters. The disastrous fire which reduced his native
town to ashes destroyed his fortune and that of his relatives; grief
at having lost everything--for the fire broke out in the next house
to his--cost his father his life; and while his mother, who for six
years had been stretched an a bed of pain, where horrible convulsions
held her fast, supported her three little girls by the needlework
that she did in the intervals of suffering, he went as a mere clerk
into one of the leading mercantile houses of Augsburg, where his
lively and yet even temper made him welcome; there he learned a
calling, for which, however, he was not naturally adapted, and came
back to the home of his birth with a pure and stainless heart, in
order to be the support of his mother and his sisters.
"A man can do much when he wishes to do much: join your efforts to my
prayers, and leave the rest in the hands of God."
The prediction of this Puritan woman was fulfilled: a little time
afterwards rector Salfranck was appointed professor at Richembourg,
whither Sand followed him; it was there that the events of 1813 found
him. In the month of March he wrote to his mother:--
"I can scarcely, dear mother, express to you how calm and happy I
begin to feel since I am permitted to believe in the enfranchisement
of my country, of which I hear on every side as being so near at
hand,--of that country which, in my faith in God, I see beforehand
free and mighty, that country for whose happiness I would undergo the
greatest sufferings, and even death. Take strength for this crisis.
If by chance it should reach our good province, lift your eyes to the
Almighty, then carry them back to beautiful rich nature. The
goodness of God which preserved and protected so many men during the
disastrous Thirty Years' War can do and will do now what it could and
did then. As for me, I believe and hope."
Leipzig came to justify Sand's presentiments; then the year 1814
arrived, and he thought Germany free.
On the 10th of December in the same year he left Richembourg with
this certificate from his master:--
"Karl Sand belongs to the small number of those elect young men who
are distinguished at once by the gifts of the mind and the faculties
of the soul; in application and work he surpasses all his fellow-
students, and this fact explains his rapid progress in all the
philosophical and philological sciences; in mathematics only there
are still some further studies which he might pursue. The most
affectionate wishes of his teacher follow him on his departure.
"J. A. KEYN,
"Rector, and master of the first class.
"Richembourg, Sept. 15, 1814"
But it was really the parents of Sand, and in particular his mother,
who had prepared the fertile soil in which his teachers had sowed the
seeds of learning; Sand knew this well, for at the moment of setting
out for the university of Tubingen, where he was about to complete
the theological studies necessary for becoming a pastor, as he
desired to do, he wrote to them:--
"I confess that, like all my brothers and sisters, I owe to you that
beautiful and great part of my education which I have seen to be
lacking to most of those around me. Heaven alone can reward you by a
conviction of having so nobly and grandly fulfilled your parental
duties, amid many others."
After having paid a visit to his brother at St. Gall, Sand reached
Tubingen, to which he had been principally attracted by the
reputation of Eschenmayer; he spent that winter quietly, and no other
incident befell than his admission into an association of Burschen,
called the Teutonic; then came tester of 1815, and with it the
terrible news that Napoleon had landed in the Gulf of Juan.
Immediately all the youth of Germany able to bear arms gathered once
more around the banners of 1813 and 1814. Sand followed the general
example; but the action, which in others was an effect of enthusiasm,
was in him the result of calm and deliberate resolution. He wrote to
Wonsiedel on this occasion:--
"April 22, 1813
"MY DEAR PARENTS,--Until now you have found me submissive to your
parental lessons and to the advice of my excellent masters; until now
I have made efforts to render myself worthy of the education that God
has sent me through you, and have applied myself to become capable of
spreading the word of the Lord through my native land; and for this
reason I can to-day declare to you sincerely the decision that I lave
taken, assured that as tender and affectionate parents you will calm
yourselves, and as German parents and patriots you will rather praise
my resolution than seek to turn me from it.
"The country calls once more for help, and this time the call is
addressed to me, too, for now I have courage and strength. It cast
me a great in ward struggle, believe me, to abstain when in 1813 she
gave her first cry, and only the conviction held me back that
thousands of others were then fighting and conquering for Germany,
while I had to live far the peaceful calling to which I was destined.
Now it is a question of preserving our newly re-established liberty,
which in so many places has already brought in so rich a harvest.
The all-powerful and merciful Lord reserves for us this great trial,
which will certainly be the last; it is for us, therefore, to show
that we are worthy of the supreme gift which He has given us, and
capable of upholding it with strength and firmness.
"The danger of the country has never been so great as it is now, that
is why, among the youth of Germany, the strong should support the
wavering, that all may rise together. Our brave brothers in the
north are already assembling from all parts under their banners; the
State of Wurtemburg is, proclaiming a general levy, and volunteers
are coming in from every quarter, asking to die for their country.
I consider it my duty, too, to fight for my country and for all the
dear ones whom I love. If I were not profoundly convinced of this
truth, I should not communicate my resolution to you; but my family
is one that has a really German heart, and that would consider me as
a coward and an unworthy son if I did not follow this impulse. I
certainly feel the greatness of the sacrifice; it costs me something,
believe me, to leave my beautiful studies and go to put myself under
the orders of vulgar, uneducated people, but this only increases my
courage in going to secure the liberty of my brothers; moreover, when
once that liberty is secured, if God deigns to allow, I will return
to carry them His word.
"I take leave, therefore, for a time of you, my most worthy parents,
of my brothers, my sisters, and all who are dear to me. As, after
mature deliberation, it seems the most suitable thing for me to serve
with the Bavarians. I shall get myself enrolled, for as long as the
war may last, with a company of that nation. Farewell, then; live
happily; far away from you as I shall be, I shall follow your pious
exhortations. In this new track I shall still I hope, remain pure
before God, and I shall always try to walk in the path that rises
above the things of earth and leads to those of heaven, and perhaps
in this career the bliss of saving some souls from their fall may be
reserved for me.
"Your dear image will always be about me; I will always have the Lord
before my eyes and in my heart, so that I may endure joyfully the
pains and fatigues of this holy war. Include me in your Prayers; God
will send you the hope of better times to help you in bearing the
unhappy time in which we now are. We cannot see one another again
soon, unless we conquer; and if we should be conquered (which God
forbid!), then my last wish, which I pray you, I conjure you, to
fulfil, my last and supreme wish would be that you, my dear and
deserving German relatives, should leave an enslaved country for some
other not yet under the yoke.
"But why should we thus sadden one another's hearts? Is not our
cause just and holy, and is not God just and holy? How then should
we not be victors? You see that sometimes I doubt, so, in your
letters, which I am impatiently expecting, have pity on me and do not
alarm my soul, far in any case we shall meet again in another
country, and that one will always be free and happy.
"I am, until death, your dutiful and grateful son,
These two lines of Korner's were written as a postscript:--
"Perchance above our foeman lying dead
We may behold the star of liberty."
With this farewell to his parents, and with Korner's poems on his
lips, Sand gave up his books, and on the 10th of May we find him in
arms among the volunteer chasseurs enrolled under the command of
Major Falkenhausen, who was at that time at Mannheim; here he found
his second brother, who had preceded him, and they underwent all
their drill together.
Though Sand was not accustomed to great bodily fatigues, he endured
those of the campaign with surprising strength, refusing all the
alleviations that his superiors tried to offer him; for he would
allow no one to outdo him in the trouble that he took for the good of
the country. On the march he invariably shared: anything that he
possessed fraternally with his comrades, helping those who were
weaker than himself to carry their burdens, and, at once priest and
soldier, sustaining them by his words when he was powerless to do
On the 18th of June, at eight o'clock in the evening, he arrived upon
the field of battle at Waterloo, On the 14th of July he entered
On the 18th of December, 1815, Karl Sand and his brother were back at
Wonsiedel, to the great joy of their family. He spent the Christmas
holidays and the end of the year with them, but his ardour for his
new vacation did not allow him to remain longer, and an the 7th of
January he reached Erlangen. Then, to make up for lost time, he
resolved to subject his day to fixed and uniform rules, and to write
down every evening what he had done since the morning. It is by the
help of this journal that we are able to follow the young enthusiast,
not only in all the actions of his life, but also in all the thoughts
of his mind and all the hesitations of his conscience. In it we find
his whole self, simple to naivete, enthusiastic to madness, gentle
even to weakness towards others, severe even to asceticism towards
himself. One of his great griefs was the expense that his education
occasioned to his parents, and every useless and costly pleasure left
a remorse in his heart. Thus, on the 9th of February 1816, he
"I meant to go and visit my parents. Accordingly I went to the
'Commers-haus', and there I was much amused. N. and T. began upon me
with the everlasting jokes about Wonsiedel; that went on until eleven
o'clock. But afterwards N. and T. began to torment me to go to the
wine-shop; I refused as long as I could. But as, at last, they
seemed to think that it was from contempt of them that I would not go
and drink a glass of Rhine wine with them, I did not dare resist
longer. Unfortunately, they did not stop at Braunberger; and while
my glass was still half full, N. ordered a bottle of champagne. When
the first had disappeared, T. ordered a second; then, even before
this second battle was drunk, both of them ordered a third in my name
and in spite of me. I returned home quite giddy, and threw myself on
the sofa, where I slept for about an hour, and only went to bed
"Thus passed this shameful day, in which I have not thought enough of
my kind and worthy parents, who are leading a poor and hard life, and
in which I suffered myself to be led away by the example of people
who have money into spending four florins--an expenditure which was
useless, and which would have kept the whole family for two days.
Pardon me, my God, pardon me, I beseech Thee, and receive the vow
that I make never to fall into the same fault again. In future I
will live even more abstemiously than I usually do, so as to repair
the fatal traces in my poor cash-box of my extravagance, and not to
be obliged to ask money of my mother before the day when she thinks
of sending me some herself."
Then, at the very time when the poor young man reproaches himself as
if with a crime with having spent four florins, one of his cousins, a
widow, dies and leaves three orphan children. He runs immediately to
carry the first consolations to the unhappy little creatures,
entreats his mother to take charge of the youngest, and overjoyed at
her answer, thanks her thus:--
"Far the very keen joy that you have given me by your letter, and for
the very dear tone in which your soul speaks to me, bless you, O my
mother! As I might have hoped and been sure, you have taken little
Julius, and that fills me afresh with the deepest gratitude towards
you, the rather that, in my constant trust in your goodness, I had
already in her lifetime given our good little cousin the promise that
you are fulfilling for me after her death."
About March, Sand, though he did not fall ill, had an indisposition
that obliged him to go and take the waters; his mother happened at
the time to be at the ironworks of Redwitz, same twelve or fifteen
miles from Wonsiedel, where the mineral springs are found. Sand
established himself there with his mother, and notwithstanding his
desire to avoid interrupting his work, the time taken up by baths, by
invitations to dinners, and even by the walks which his health
required, disturbed the regularity of his usual existence and
awakened his remorse. Thus we find these lines written in his
journal for April 13th:
"Life, without some high aim towards which all thoughts and actions
tend, is an empty desert: my day yesterday is a proof of this; I
spent it with my own people, and that, of course, was a great
pleasure to me; but how did I spend it? In continual eating, so that
when I wanted to work I could do nothing worth doing. Full of
indolence and slackness, I dragged myself into the company of two or
three sets of people, and came from them in the same state of mind as
I went to them."
Far these expeditions Sand made use of a little chestnut horse which
belonged to his brother, and of which he was very fond. This little
horse had been bought with great difficulty; for, as we have said,
the whole family was poor. The following note, in relation to the
animal, will give an idea of Sand's simplicity of heart:--
"To-day I have been very happy at the ironworks, and very industrious
beside my kind mother. In the evening I came home on the little
chestnut. Since the day before yesterday, when he got a strain and
hurt his foot, he has been very restive and very touchy, and when he
got home he refused his food. I thought at first that he did not
fancy his fodder, and gave him some pieces of sugar and sticks of
cinnamon, which he likes very much; he tasted them, but would not eat
them. The poor little beast seems to have same other internal
indisposition besides his injured foot. If by ill luck he were to
become foundered or ill, everybody, even my parents, would throw the
blame on me, and yet I have been very careful and considerate of him.
My God, my Lord, Thou who canst do things both great and small,
remove from me this misfortune, and let him recover as quickly as
possible. If, however, Thou host willed otherwise, and if this fresh
trouble is to fall upon us, I will try to bear it with courage, and
as the expiation of same sin. Meanwhile, O my Gad, I leave this
matter in Thy hands, as I leave my life and my soul."
On the 20th of April he wrote:--
"The little horse is well; God has helped me."
German manners and customs are so different from ours, and contrasts
occur so frequently in the same man, on the other side of the Rhine,
that anything less than all the quotations which we have given would
have been insufficient to place before our readers a true idea of
that character made up of artlessness and reason, childishness and
strength, depression and enthusiasm, material details and poetic
ideas, which renders Sand a man incomprehensible to us. We will now
continue the portrait, which still wants a few finishing touches.
When he returned to Erlangen, after the completion of his "cure,"
Sand read Faust far the first time. At first he was amazed at that
work, which seemed to him an orgy of genius; then, when he had
entirely finished it, he reconsidered his first impression, and
"Oh, horrible struggle of man and devil! What Mephistopheles is in
me I feel far the first time in this hour, and I feel it, O God, with
"About eleven at night I finished reading the tragedy, and I felt and
saw the fiend in myself, so that by midnight, amid my tears and
despair, I was at last frightened at myself."
Sand was falling by degrees into a deep melancholy, from which
nothing could rouse him except his desire to purify and preach
morality to the students around him. To anyone who knows university
life such a task will seem superhuman. Sand, however, was not
discouraged, and if he could not gain an influence over everyone, he
at least succeeded in forming around him a considerable circle of the
most intelligent and the best; nevertheless, in the midst of these
apostolic labours strange longings for death would overcome him; he
seemed to recall heaven and want to return to it; he called these
temptations "homesickness for the soul's country."
His favourite authors were Lessing, Schiller, Herder, and Goethe;
after re-reading the two last for the twentieth time, this is what he
"Good and evil touch each other; the woes of the young Werther and
Weisslingen's seduction, are almost the same story; no matter, we
must not judge between what is good and what is evil in others; for
that is what God will do. I have just been spending much time over
this thought, and have become convinced that in no circumstances
ought we to allow ourselves to seek for the devil in others, and that
we have no right to judge; the only creature over wham we have
received the power to judge and condemn is ourself, and that gives us
enough constant care, business, and trouble.
"I have again to-day felt a profound desire to quit this world and
enter a higher world; but this desire is rather dejection than
strength, a lassitude than an upsoaring."
The year 1816 was spent by Sand in these pious attempts upon his
young comrades, in this ceaseless self-examination, and in the
perpetual battle which he waged with the desire for death that
pursued him; every day he had deeper doubts of himself; and on the
1st of January, 1817, he wrote this prayer in his diary :--
"Grant to me, O Lord, to me whom Thou halt endowed, in sending me on
earth, with free will, the grace that in this year which we are now
beginning I may never relax this constant attention, and not
shamefully give up the examination of my conscience which I have
hitherto made. Give me strength to increase the attention which I
turn upon my own life, and to diminish that which I turn upon the
life of others; strengthen my will that it may become powerful to
command the desires of the body and the waverings of the soul; give
me a pious conscience entirely devoted to Thy celestial kingdom, that
I may always belong to Thee, or after failing, may be able to return
Sand was right in praying to God for the year 1817, and his fears
were a presentiment: the skies of Germany, lightened by Leipzig and
Waterloo, were once more darkened; to the colossal and universal
despotism of Napoleon succeeded the individual oppression of those
little princes who made up the Germanic Diet, and all that the
nations had gained by overthrowing the giant was to be governed by
dwarfs. This was the time when secret societies were organised
throughout Germany; let us say a few words about them, for the
history that we are writing is not only that of individuals, but also
that of nations, and every time that occasion presents itself we will
give our little picture a wide horizon.
The secret societies of Germany, of which, without knowing them, we
have all heard, seem, when we follow them up, like rivers, to
originate in some sort of affiliation to those famous clubs of the
'illumines' and the freemasons which made so much stir in France at
the close of the eighteenth century. At the time of the revolution
of '89 these different philosophical, political, and religious sects
enthusiastically accepted the republican doctrines, and the successes
of our first generals have often been attributed to the secret
efforts of the members. When Bonaparte, who was acquainted with
these groups, and was even said to have belonged to them, exchanged
his general's uniform for an emperor's cloak, all of them,
considering him as a renegade and traitor, not only rose against him
at home, but tried to raise enemies against him abroad; as they
addressed themselves to noble and generous passions, they found a
response, and princes to whom their results might be profitable
seemed for a moment to encourage them. Among others, Prince Louis of
Prussia was grandmaster of one of these societies.
The attempted murder by Stops, to which we have already referred, was
one of the thunderclaps of the storm; but its morrow brought the
peace of Vienna, and the degradation of Austria was the death-blow of
the old Germanic organisation. These societies, which had received a
mortal wound in 1806 and were now controlled by the French police,
instead of continuing to meet in public, were forced to seek new
members in the dark. In 1811 several agents of these societies were
arrested in Berlin, but the Prussian authorities, following secret
orders of Queen Louisa, actually protected them, so that they were
easily able to deceive the French police about their intentions.
About February 1815 the disasters of the French army revived the
courage of these societies, for it was seen that God was helping
their cause: the students in particular joined enthusiastically in
the new attempts that were now begun; many colleges enrolled
themselves almost entire, anal chose their principals and professors
as captains; the poet, Korner, killed on the 18th of October at
Liegzig, was the hero of this campaign.
The triumph of this national movement, which twice carried the
Prussian army--largely composed of volunteers--to Paris, was
followed, when the treaties of 1815 and the new Germanic constitution
were made known, by a terrible reaction in Germany. All these young
men who, exiled by their princes, had risen in the name of liberty,
soon perceived that they had been used as tools to establish European
despotism; they wished to claim the promises that had been made, but
the policy of Talleyrand and Metternich weighed on them, and
repressing them at the first words they uttered, compelled them to
shelter their discontent and their hopes in the universities, which,
enjoying a kind of constitution of their own, more easily escaped the
investigations made by the spies of the Holy Alliance; but, repressed
as they were, these societies continued nevertheless to exist, and
kept up communications by means of travelling students, who, bearing
verbal messages, traversed Germany under the pretence of botanising,
and, passing from mountain to mountain, sowed broadcast those
luminous and hopeful words of which peoples are always greedy and
kings always fear.
We have seen that Sand, carried away by the general movement, had
gone through the campaign of 1815 as a volunteer, although he was
then only nineteen years old. On his return, he, like others, had
found his golden hopes deceived, and it is from this period that we
find his journal assuming the tone of mysticism and sadness which our
readers must have remarked in it. He soon entered one of these
associations, the Teutonia; and from that moment, regarding the great
cause which he had taken up as a religious one, he attempted to make
the conspirators worthy of their enterprise, and thus arose his
attempts to inculcate moral doctrines, in which he succeeded with
some, but failed with the majority. Sand had succeeded, however, in
forming around him a certain circle of Puritans, composed of about
sixty to eighty students, all belonging to the group of the
'Burschenschaft' which continued its political and religious course
despite all the jeers of the opposing group--the 'Landmannschaft'.
One of his friends called Dittmar and he were pretty much the chiefs,
and although no election had given them their authority, they
exercised so much influence upon what was decided that in any
particular case their fellow-adepts were sure spontaneously to obey
any impulse that they might choose to impart. The meetings of the
Burschen took place upon a little hill crowned by a ruined castle,
which was situated at some distance from Erlangen, and which Sand and
Dittmar had called the Ruttli, in memory of the spot where Walter
Furst, Melchthal, and Stauffacher had made their vow to deliver their
country; there, under the pretence of students' games, while they
built up a new house with the ruined fragments, they passed
alternately from symbol to action and from action to symbol.
Meanwhile the association was making such advances throughout Germany
that not only the princes and kings of the German confederation, but
also the great European powers, began to be uneasy. France sent
agents to bring home reports, Russia paid agents on the spot, and the
persecutions that touched a professor and exasperated a whole
university often arose from a note sent by the Cabinet of the
Tuileries or of St. Petersburg.
It was amid the events that began thus that Sand, after commending
himself to the protection of God, began the year 1817, in the sad
mood in which we have just seen him, and in which he was kept rather
by a disgust for things as they were than by a disgust for life. On
the 8th of May, preyed upon by this melancholy, which he cannot
conquer, and which comes from the disappointment of all his political
hopes, he writes in his diary:
"I shall find it impassible to set seriously to work, and this idle
temper, this humour of hypochondria which casts its black veil over
everything in life,--continues and grows in spite of the moral
activity which I imposed on myself yesterday."
In the holidays, fearing to burden his parents with any additional
expense, he will not go home, and prefers to make a walking tour with
his friends. No doubt this tour, in addition to its recreative side,
had a political aim. Be that as it may, Sand's diary, during the
period of his journey, shows nothing but the names of the towns
through which he passed. That we may have a notion of Sand's
dutifulness to his parents, it should be said that he did not set out
until he had obtained his mother's permission. On their return,
Sand, Dittmar, and their friends the Burschen, found their Ruttli
sacked by their enemies of the Landmannschaft; the house that they
had built was demolished and its fragments dispersed. Sand took this
event for an omen, and was greatly depressed by it.
"It seems to me, O my God!" he says in his journal, "that everything
swims and turns around me. My soul grows darker and darker; my moral
strength grows less instead of greater; I work and cannot achieve;
walk towards my aim and do not reach it; exhaust myself, and do
nothing great. The days of life flee one after another; cares and
uneasiness increase; I see no haven anywhere for our sacred German
cause. The end will be that we shall fall, for I myself waver. O
Lord and Father! protect me, save me, and lead me to that land from
which we are for ever driven back by the indifference of wavering
About this time a terrible event struck Sand to the heart; his friend
Dittmar was drowned. This is what he wrote in his diary on the very
morning of the occurrence:
"Oh, almighty God! What is going to become of me? For the last
fortnight I have been drawn into disorder, and have not been able to
compel myself to look fixedly either backward or forward in my life,
so that from the 4th of June up to the present hour my journal has
remained empty. Yet every day I might have had occasion to praise
Thee, O my God, but my soul is in anguish. Lord, do not turn from
me; the more are the obstacles the more need is there of strength."
In the evening he added these few words to the lines that he had
written in the morning:--
"Desolation, despair, and death over my friend, over my very deeply
This letter which he wrote to his family contains the account of the
"You know that when my best friends, A., C., and Z., were gone, I
became particularly intimate with my well-beloved Dittmar of Anspach;
Dittmar, that is to say a true and worthy German, an evangelical
Christian, something more, in short, than a man! An angelic soul,
always turned toward the good, serene, pious, and ready for action;
he had come to live in a room next to mine in Professor Grunler's
house; we loved each other, upheld each other in our efforts, and,
well or ill, bare our good or evil fortune in common. On this last
spring evening, after having worked in his room and having
strengthened ourselves anew to resist all the torments of life and to
advance towards the aim that we desired to attain; we went, about
seven in the evening, to the baths of Redwitz. A very black storm
was rising in the sky, but only as yet appeared on the horizon. E.,
who was with us, proposed to go home, but Dittmar persisted, saying
that the canal was but a few steps away. God permitted that it
should not be I who replied with these fatal words. So he went on.
The sunset was splendid: I see it still; its violet clouds all
fringed with gold, for I remember the smallest details of that
"Dittmar went down first; he was the only one of us who knew how to
swim; so he walked before us to show us the depth. The water was
about up to our chests, and he, who preceded us, was up to his
shoulders, when he warned us not to go farther, because he was
ceasing to feel the bottom. He immediately gave up his footing and
began to swim, but scarcely had he made ten strokes when, having
reached the place where the river separates into two branches, he
uttered a cry, and as he was trying to get a foothold, disappeared.
We ran at once to the bank, hoping to be able to help him more
easily; but we had neither poles nor ropes within reach, and, as I
have told you, neither of us could swim. Then we called for help
with all our might. At that moment Dittmar reappeared, and by an
unheard-of effort seized the end of a willow branch that was hanging
over the water; but the branch was not strong enough to resist, and
our friend sank again, as though he had been struck by apoplexy. Can
you imagine the state in which we were, we his friends, bending over
the river, our fixed and haggard eyes trying to pierce its depth? My
God, my God! how was it we did not go mad?
"A great crowd, however, had run at our cries. For two hours they
sought far him with boats and drag-hooks; and at last they succeeded
in drawing his body from the gulf. Yesterday we bore it solemnly to
the field of rest.
"Thus with the end of this spring has begun the serious summer of my
life. I greeted it in a grave and melancholy mood, and you behold me
now, if not consoled, at least strengthened by religion, which,
thanks to the merits of Christ, gives me the assurance of meeting my
friend in heaven, from the heights of which he will inspire me with
strength to support the trials of this life; and now I do not desire
anything more except to know you free from all anxiety in regard to
Instead of serving to unite the two groups of students in a common
grief, this accident, on the contrary, did but intensify their hatred
of each other. Among the first persons who ran up at the cries of
Sand and his companion was a member of the Landmannschaft who could
swim, but instead of going to Dittmar's assistance he exclaimed, "It
seems that we shall get rid of one of these dogs of Burschen; thank
God!" Notwithstanding this manifestation of hatred, which, indeed,
might be that of an individual and not of the whole body, the
Burschen invited their enemies to be present at Dittmar's funeral.
A brutal refusal, and a threat to disturb the ceremony by insults to
the corpse, formed their sole reply. The Burschen then warned the
authorities, who took suitable measures, and all Dittmar's friends
followed his coffin sword in hand. Beholding this calm but resolute
demonstration, the Landmannschaft did not dare to carry out their
threat, and contented themselves with insulting the procession by
laughs and songs.
Sand wrote in his journal:
"Dittmar is a great loss to all of us, and particularly to me; he
gave me the overflow of his strength and life; he stopped, as it
were, with an embankment, the part of my character that is irresolute
and undecided. From him it is that I have learned not to dread the
approaching storm, and to know how to fight and die."
Some days after the funeral Sand had a quarrel about Dittmar with one
of his former friends, who had passed over from the Burschen to the
Landmannschaft, and who had made himself conspicuous at the time of
the funeral by his indecent hilarity. It was decided that they
should fight the next day, and on the same day Sand wrote in his
"To-morrow I am to fight with P. G.; yet Thou knowest, O my God, what
great friends we formerly were, except for a certain mistrust with
which his coldness always inspired me; but on this occasion his
odious conduct has caused me to descend from the tenderest pity to
the profoundest hatred.
"My God, do not withdraw Thy hand either from him or from me, since
we are both fighting like men! Judge only by our two causes, and
give the victory to that which is the more just. If Thou shouldst
call me before Thy supreme tribunal, I know very well that I should
appear burdened with an eternal malediction; and indeed it is not
upon myself that I reckon but upon the merits of our Saviour Jesus
"Come what may, be praised and blessed, O my God!
"My dear parents, brothers, and friends, I commend you to the
protection of God."
Sand waited in vain for two hours next day: his adversary did not
come to the meeting place.
The loss of Dittmar, however, by no means produced the result upon
Sand that might have been expected, and that he himself seems to
indicate in the regrets he expressed for him. Deprived of that
strong soul upon which he rested, Sand understood that it was his
task by redoubled energy to make the death of Dittmar less fatal to
his party. And indeed he continued singly the work of drawing in
recruits which they had been carrying on together, and the patriotic
conspiracy was not for a moment impeded.
The holidays came, and Sand left Erlangen to return no more. From
Wonsiedel he was to proceed to Jena, in order to complete his
theological studies there. After some days spent with his family,
and indicated in his journal as happy, Sand went to his new place of
abode, where he arrived some time before the festival of the
Wartburg. This festival, established to celebrate the anniversary of
the battle of Leipzig, was regarded as a solemnity throughout
Germany, and although the princes well knew that it was a centre for
the annual renewal of affiliation to the various societies, they
dared not forbid it. Indeed, the manifesto of the Teutonic
Association was exhibited at this festival and signed by more than
two thousand deputies from different universities in Germany. This
was a day of joy for Sand; for he found in the midst of new friends a
great number of old ones.
The Government, however, which had not 'dared to attack the
Association by force, resolved to undermine it by opinion. M. de
Stauren published a terrible document, attacking the societies, and
founded, it was said, upon information furnished by Kotzebue. This
publication made a great stir, not only at Jena, but throughout all
Germany. Here is the trace of this event that we find in Sand's
"Today, after working with much ease and assiduity, I went out about
four with E. As we crossed the market-place we heard Kotzebue's new
and venomous insult read. By what a fury that man is possessed
against the Burschen and against all who love Germany!"
Thus far the first time and in these terms Sand's journal presents
the name of the man who, eighteen months later, he was to slay.
The Government, however, which had not 'dared to attack the
Association by force, resolved to undermine it by opinion. M. de
Stauren published a terrible document, attacking the societies, and
founded, it was said, upon information furnished by Kotzebue. This
publication made a great stir, not only at Jena, but throughout all
Germany. Here is the trace of this event that we find in Sand's
"To-day, after working with much ease and assiduity, I went out about
four with E. As we crossed the market-place we heard Kotzebue's new
and venomous insult read. By what a fury that man is possessed
against the Burschen and against all who love Germany!"
Thus for the first time and in these terms Sand's journal presents
the name of the man who, eighteen months later, he was to slay.
On the 29th, in the evening, Sand writes again:
"To-morrow I shall set out courageously and joyfully from this place
for a pilgrimage to Wonsiedel; there I shall find my large-hearted
mother and my tender sister Julia; there I shall cool my head and
warm my heart. Probably I shall be present at my good Fritz's
marriage with Louisa, and at the baptism of my very dear Durchmith's
first-born. God, O my Father, as Thou hast been with me during my
sad course, be with me still on my happy road."
This journey did in fact greatly cheer Sand. Since Dittmar's death
his attacks of hypochondria had disappeared. While Dittmar lived he
might die; Dittmar being dead, it was his part to live.
On the 11th of December he left Wonsiedel, to return to Jena, and on
the 31st of the same month he wrote this prayer in his journal.
"O merciful Saviour! I began this year with prayer, and in these
last days I have been subject to distraction and ill-disposed. When
I look backward, I find, alas! that I have not become better; but I
have entered more profoundly into life, and, should occasion present,
I now feel strength to act.
"It is because Thou hast always been with me, Lord, even when I was
not with Thee."
If our readers have followed with some attention the different
extracts from the journal that we have placed before them, they must
have seen Sand's resolution gradually growing stronger and his brain
becoming excited. From the beginning of the year 1818, one feels his
view, which long was timid and wandering, taking in a wider horizon
and fixing itself on a nobler aim. He is no longer ambitious of the
pastor's simple life or of the narrow influence which he might gain
in a little community, and which, in his juvenile modesty, had seemed
the height of good fortune and happiness; it is now his native land,
his German people, nay, all humanity, which he embraces in his
gigantic plans of political regeneration. Thus, on the flyleaf of
his journal for the year 1818, he writes:
"Lord, let me strengthen myself in the idea that I have conceived of
the deliverance of humanity by the holy sacrifice of Thy Son. Grant
that I may be a Christ of Germany, and that, like and through Jesus,
I may be strong and patient in suffering."
But the anti-republican pamphlets of Kotzebue increased in number and
gained a fatal influence upon the minds of rulers. Nearly all the
persons who were attacked in these pamphlets were known and esteemed
at Jena; and it may easily be comprehended what effects were produced
by such insults upon these young heads and noble hearts, which
carried conviction to the paint of blindness and enthusiasm to that
Thus, here is what Sand wrote in his diary on the 5th of May.
"Lord, what causes this melancholy anguish which has again taken
possession of me? But a firm and constant will surmounts everything,
and the idea of the country gives joy and courage to the saddest and
the weakest. When I think of that, I am always amazed that there is
none among us found courageous enough to drive a knife into the
breast of Kotzebue or of any other traitor."
Still dominated by the same thought, he continues thus on the 18th of
"A man is nothing in comparison with a nation; he is a unity compared
with millions, a minute compared with a century. A man, whom nothing
precedes and nothing follows, is born, lives, and dies in a longer or
shorter time, which, relatively to eternity, hardly equals the
duration of a lightning flash. A nation, on the contrary, is
From time to time, however, amid these thoughts that bear the impress
of that political fatality which was driving him towards the deed of
bloodshed, the kindly and joyous youth reappears. On the 24th of
June he writes to his mother:--
"I have received your long and beautiful letter, accompanied by the
very complete and well-chosen outfit which you send me. The sight of
this fine linen gave me back one of the joys of my childhood. These
are fresh benefits. My prayers never remain unfulfilled, and I have
continual cause to thank you and God. I receive, all at once,
shirts, two pairs of fine sheets, a present of your work, and of
Julia's and Caroline's work, dainties and sweetmeats, so that I am
still jumping with joy and I turned three times on my heels when I
opened the little parcel. Receive the thanks of my heart, and share,
as giver, in the joy of him who has received.
"Today, however, is a very serious day, the last day of spring and
the anniversary of that on which I lost my noble and good Dittmar. I
am a prey to a thousand different and confused feelings; but I have
only two passions left in me which remain upright and like two
pillars of brass support this whole chaos--the thought of God and the
love of my country."
During all this time Sand's life remains apparently calm and equal;
the inward storm is calmed; he rejoices in his application to work
and his cheerful temper. However, from time to time, he makes great
complaints to himself of his propensity to love dainty food, which he
does not always find it possible to conquer. Then, in his
self-contempt, he calls himself "fig-stomach" or "cake-stomach." But
amid all this the religious and political exaltation and visits all
the battlefields near to the road that he follows. On the 18th of
October he is back at Jena, where he resumes his studies with more
application than ever. It is among such university studies that the
year 1818 closes far him, and we should hardly suspect the terrible
resolution which he has taken, were it not that we find in his
journal this last note, dated the 3lst of December:
"I finish the last day of this year 1818, then, in a serious and
solemn mood, and I have decided that the Christmas feast which has
just gone by will be the last Christmas feast that I shall celebrate.
If anything is to come of our efforts, if the cause of humanity is to
assume the upper hand in our country, if in this faithless epoch any
noble feelings can spring up afresh and make way, it can only happen
if the wretch, the traitor, the seducer of youth, the infamous
Kotzebue, falls! I am fully convinced of this, and until I have
accomplished the work upon which I have resolved, I shall have no
rest. Lord, Thou who knowest that I have devoted my life to this
great action, I only need, now that it is fixed in my mind, to beg of
Thee true firmness and courage of soul."
Here Sand's diary ends; he had begun it to strengthen himself; he had
reached his aim; he needed nothing more. From this moment he was
occupied by nothing but this single idea, and he continued slowly to
mature the plan in his head in order to familiarise himself with its
execution; but all the impressions arising from this thought remained
in his own mind, and none was manifested on the surface. To everyone
else he was the same; but for some little time past, a complete and
unaltered serenity, accompanied by a visible and cheerful return of
inclination towards life, had been noticed in him. He had made no
charge in the hours or the duration of his studies; but he had begun
to attend the anatomical classes very assiduously. One day he was
seen to give even more than his customary attention to a lesson in
which the professor was demonstrating the various functions of the
heart; he examined with the greatest care the place occupied by it in
the chest, asking to have some of the demonstrations repeated two or
three times, and when he went out, questioning some of the young men
who were following the medical courses, about the susceptibility of
the organ, which cannot receive ever so slight a blow without death
ensuing from that blow: all this with so perfect an indifference and
calmness that no one about him conceived any suspicion.
Another day, A. S., one of his friends, came into his room. Sand,
who had heard him coming up, was standing by the table, with a
paper-knife in his hand, waiting for him; directly the visitor came
in, Sand flung himself upon him, struck him lightly on the forehead;
and then, as he put up his hands to ward off the blow, struck him
rather more violently in the chest; then, satisfied with this
"You see, when you want to kill a man, that is the way to do it; you
threaten the face, he puts up his hands, and while he does so you
thrust a dagger into his heart."
The two young men laughed heartily over this murderous demonstration,
and A. S. related it that evening at the wine-shop as one of the
peculiarities of character that were common in his friend. After the
event, the pantomime explained itself.
The month of March arrived. Sand became day by day calmer, more
affectionate, and kinder; it might be thought that in the moment of
leaving his friends for ever he wished to leave them an ineffaceable
remembrance of him. At last he announced that on account of several
family affairs he was about to undertake a little journey, and set
about all his preparations with his usual care, but with a serenity
never previously seen in him. Up to that time he had continued to
work as usual, not relaxing for an instant; for there was a
possibility that Kotzebue might die or be killed by somebody else
before the term that Sand had fixed to himself, and in that case he
did not wish to have lost time. On the 7th of March he invited all
his friends to spend the evening with him, and announced his
departure for the next day but one, the 9th. All of them then
proposed to him to escort him for some leagues, but Sand refused; he
feared lest this demonstration, innocent though it were, might
compromise them later on. He set forth alone, therefore, after
having hired his lodgings for another half-year, in order to obviate
any suspicion, and went by way of Erfurt and Eisenach, in order to
visit the Wartburg. From that place he went to Frankfort, where he
slept on the 17th, and on the morrow he continued his journey by way
of Darmstadt. At last, on the 23rd, at nine in the morning, he
arrived at the top of the little hill where we found him at the
beginning of this narrative. Throughout the journey he had been the
amiable and happy young man whom no one could see without liking.
Having reached Mannheim, he took a room at the Weinberg, and wrote
his name as "Henry" in the visitors' list. He immediately inquired
where Kotzebue lived. The councillor dwelt near the church of the
Jesuits; his house was at the corner of a street, and though Sand's
informants could not tell him exactly the letter, they assured him it
was not possible to mistake the house. [At Mannheim houses are marked
by letters, not by numbers.]
Sand went at once to Kotzebue's house: it was about ten o'clock; he
was told that the councillor went to walk for an hour or two every
morning in the park of Mannheim. Sand inquired about the path in
which he generally walked, and about the clothes he wore, for never
having seen him he could only recognise him by the description.
Kotzebue chanced to take another path. Sand walked about the park
for an hour, but seeing no one who corresponded to the description
given him, went back to the house.
Kotzebue had come in, but was at breakfast and could not see him.
Sand went back to the Weinberg, and sat down to the midday table
d'hote, where he dined with an appearance of such calmness, and even
of such happiness, that his conversation, which was now lively, now
simple, and now dignified, was remarked by everybody. At five in the
afternoon he returned a third time to the house of Kotzebue, who was
giving a great dinner that day; but orders had been given to admit
Sand. He was shown into a little room opening out of the anteroom,
and a moment after, Kotzebue came in.
Sand then performed the drama which he had rehearsed upon his friend
A. S. Kotzebue, finding his face threatened, put his hands up to it,
and left his breast exposed; Sand at once stabbed him to the heart;
Kotzebue gave one cry, staggered, arid fell back into an arm-chair:
he was dead.
At the cry a little girl of six years old ran in, one of those
charming German children, with the faces of cherubs, blue-eyed, with
long flowing hair. She flung herself upon the body of Kotzebue,
calling her father with piercing cries. Sand, standing at the door,
could not endure this sight, and without going farther, he thrust the
dagger, still covered with Kotzebue's blood, up to the hilt into his
own breast. Then, seeing to his surprise that notwithstanding the
terrible wound--he had just given himself he did not feel the
approach of death, and not wishing to fall alive into the hands of
the servants who were running in, he rushed to the staircase. The
persons who were invited were just coming in; they, seeing a young
man, pale and bleeding with a knife in his breast, uttered loud
cries, and stood aside, instead of stopping him. Sand therefore
passed down the staircase and reached the street below; ten paces
off, a patrol was passing, on the way to relieve the sentinels at the
castle; Sand thought these men had been summoned by the cries that
followed him; he threw himself on his knees in the middle of the
street, and said, "Father, receive my soul!"
Then, drawing the knife from the wound, he gave himself a second blow
below the former, and fell insensible.
Sand was carried to the hospital and guarded with the utmost
strictness; the wounds were serious, but, thanks to the skill of the
physicians who were called in, were not mortal; one of them even
healed eventually; but as to the second, the blade having gone
between the costal pleura and the pulmonary pleura, an effusion of
blood occurred between the two layers, so that, instead of closing
the wound, it was kept carefully open, in order that the blood
extravasated during the night might be drawn off every morning by
means of a pump, as is done in the operation for empyaemia.
Notwithstanding these cares, Sand was for three months between life
When, on the 26th of March, the news of Kotzebue's assassination came
from Mannheim to Jena, the academic senate caused Sand's room to be
opened, and found two letters--one addressed to his friends of the
Burschenschaft, in which he declared that he no longer belonged to
their society, since he did not wish that their brotherhood should
include a man about to die an the scaffold. The other letter, which
bore this superscription, "To my nearest and dearest," was an exact
account of what he meant to do, and the motives which had made him
determine upon this act. Though the letter is a little long, it is
so solemn and so antique in spirit, that we do not hesitate to
present it in its entirety to our readers:--
"To all my own
"Loyal and eternally cherished souls
"Why add still further to your sadness? I asked myself, and I
hesitated to write to you; but my silence would have wounded the
religion of the heart; and the deeper a grief the more it needs,
before it can be blotted out, to drain to the dregs its cup of
bitterness. Forth from my agonised breast, then; forth, long and
cruel torment of a last conversation, which alone, however, when
sincere, can alleviate the pain of parting.
"This letter brings you the last farewell of your son and your
"The greatest misfortune of life far any generous heart is to see the
cause of God stopped short in its developments by our fault; and the
most dishonouring infamy would be to suffer that the fine things
acquired bravely by thousands of men, and far which thousands of men
have joyfully sacrificed themselves, should be no more than a
transient dream, without real and positive consequences. The
resurrection of our German life was begun in these last twenty years,
and particularly in the sacred year 1813, with a courage inspired by
God. But now the house of our fathers is shaken from the summit to
the base. Forward! let us raise it, new and fair, and such as the
true temple of the true God should be.
"Small is the number of those who resist, and who wish to oppose
themselves as a dyke against the torrent of the progress of higher
humanity among the German people. Why should vast whole masses bow
beneath the yoke of a perverse minority? And why, scarcely healed,
should we fall back into a worse disease than that which we are
"Many of these seducers, and those are the most infamous, are playing
the game of corruption with us; among them is Kotzebue, the most
cunning and the worst of all, a real talking machine emitting all
sorts of detestable speech and pernicious advice. His voice is
skillful in removing from us all anger and bitterness against the
most unjust measures, and is just such as kings require to put us to
sleep again in that old hazy slumber which is the death of nations.
Every day he odiously betrays his country, and nevertheless, despite
his treason, remains an idol for half Germany, which, dazzled by him,
accepts unresisting the poison poured out by him in his periodic
pamphlets, wrapped up and protected as he is by the seductive mantle
of a great poetic reputation. Incited by him, the princes of
Germany, who have forgotten their promises, will allow nothing free
or good to be accomplished; or if anything of the kind is
accomplished in spite of them, they will league themselves with the
French to annihilate it. That the history of our time may not be
covered with eternal ignominy, it is necessary that he should fall.
"I have always said that if we wish to find a great and supreme
remedy for the state of abasement in which we are, none must shrink
from combat nor from suffering; and the real liberty of the German
people will only be assured when the good citizen sets himself or
some other stake upon the game, and when every true son of the
country, prepared for the struggle for justice, despises the good
things of this world, and only desires those celestial good things
which death holds in charge.
"Who then will strike this miserable hireling, this venal traitor?
"I have long been waiting in fear, in prayer, and in tears--I who am
not born for murder--for some other to be beforehand with me, to set
me free, and suffer me to continue my way along the sweet and
peaceful path that I had chosen for myself. Well, despite my prayers
and my tears, he who should strike does not present himself; indeed,
every man, like myself, has a right to count upon some other, and
everyone thus counting, every hour's delay, but makes our state
worse; far at any moment--and how deep a shame would that be for us!
Kotzebue may leave Germany, unpunished, and go to devour in Russia
the treasures for which he has exchanged his honour, his conscience,
and his German name. Who can preserve us from this shame, if every
man, if I myself, do not feel strength to make myself the chosen
instrument of God's justice? Therefore, forward! It shall be I who
will courageously rush upon him (do not be alarmed), on him, the
loathsome seducer; it shall be I who will kill the traitor, so that
his misguiding voice, being extinguished, shall cease to lead us
astray from the lessons of history and from the Spirit of God. An
irresistible and solemn duty impels me to this deed, ever since I
have recognised to what high destinies the German; nation may attain
during this century, and ever since I have come to know the dastard
and hypocrite who alone prevents it from reaching them; for me, as
for every German who seeks the public good, this desire has became a
strict and binding necessity. May I, by this national vengeance,
indicate to all upright and loyal consciences where the true danger
lies, and save our vilified and calumniated societies from the
imminent danger that threatens them! May I, in short, spread terror
among the cowardly and wicked, and courage arid faith among the good!
Speeches and writings lead to nothing; only actions work.
"I will act, therefore; and though driven violently away from my fair
dreams of the future, I am none the less full of trust in God; I even
experience a celestial joy, now that, like the Hebrews when they
sought the promised land, I see traced before me, through darkness
and death, that road at the end of which I shall have paid my debt to
"Farewell, then, faithful hearts: true, this early separation is
hard; true, your hopes, like my wishes, are disappointed; but let us
be consoled by the primary thought that we have done what the voice
of our country called upon us to do; that, you knew, is the principle
according to which I have always lived. You will doubtless say among
yourselves, 'Yes, thanks to our sacrifices, he had learned to know
life and to taste the joys of earth, and he seemed: deeply to love
his native country and the humble estate to which he was called'.
Alas, yes, that is true! Under your protection, and amid your
numberless sacrifices, my native land and life had become profoundly
dear to me. Yes, thanks to you, I have penetrated into the Eden of
knowledge, and have lived the free life of thought; thanks to you, I
have looked into history, and have then returned to my own conscience
to attach myself to the solid pillars of faith in the Eternal.
"Yes, I was to pass gently through this life as a preacher of the
gospel; yes, in my constancy to my calling I was to be sheltered from
the storms of this existence. But would that suffice to avert the
danger that threatens Germany? And you yourselves, in your infinite
lave, should you not rather push me on to risk my life for the good
of all? So many modern Greeks have fallen already to free their
country from the yoke of the Turks, and have died almost without any
result and without any hope; and yet thousands of fresh martyrs keep
up their courage and are ready to fall in their turn; and should I,
then, hesitate to die?
"That I do not recognise your love, or that your love is but a
trifling consideration with me, you will not believe. What else
should impel me to die if not my devotion to you and to Germany, and
the need of proving this devotion to my family and my country?
"You, mother, will say, 'Why have I brought up a son whom I loved and
who loved me, for whom I have undergone a thousand cares and toils,
who, thanks to my prayers and my example, was impressionable to good
influences, and from whom, after my long and weary course, I hoped to
receive attentions like those which I have given him? Why does he
now abandon me?'
"Oh, my kind and tender mother! Yes, you will perhaps say that; but
could not the mother of anyone else say the same, and everything go
off thus in words when there is need to act for the country? And if
no one would act, what would become of that mother of us all who is
"But no; such complaints are far from you, you noble woman! I
understood your appeal once before, and at this present hour, if no
one came forward in the German cause, you yourself would urge me to
the fight. I have two brothers and two sisters before me, all noble
and loyal. They will remain to you, mother; and besides you will
have for sons all the children of Germany who love their country.
"Every man has a destiny which he has to accomplish: mine is devoted
to the action that I am about to undertake; if I were to live another
fifty years, I could not live more happily than I have done lately.
Farewell, mother: I commend you to the protection of God; may He
raise you to that joy which misfortunes can no longer trouble! Take
your grandchildren, to whom I should so much have liked to be a
loving friend, to the top of our beautiful mountains soon. There, on
that altar raised by the Lord Himself in the midst of Germany, let
them devote themselves, swearing to take up the sword as soon as they
have strength to lift it, and to lay it down only when our brethren
are all united in liberty, when all Germans, having a liberal
constitution; are great before the Lord, powerful against their
neighbours, and united among themselves.
"May my country ever raise her happy gaze to Thee, Almighty Father!
May Thy blessing fall abundantly upon her harvests ready to be cut
and her armies ready for battle, and recognising the blessings that
Thou host showered upon us, may the German nation ever be first among
nations to rise and uphold the cause of humanity, which is Thy image
"Your eternally attached son, brother and friend,
" KARL-LUDWIG SAND.
" JENA, the beginning of March, 1819."
Sand, who, as we have said, had at first been taken to the hospital,
was removed at the end of three months to the prison at Mannheim,
where the governor, Mr. G----, had caused a room to be prepared for
him. There he remained two months longer in a state of extreme
weakness: his left arm was completely paralysed; his voice was very
weak; every movement gave him horrible pain, and thus it was not
until the 11th of August--that is to say, five months after the event
that we have narrated--that he was able to write to his family the
"MY VERY DEAR PARENTS:--The grand-duke's commission of inquiry
informed me yesterday that it might be possible I should have the
intense joy of a visit from you, and that I might perhaps see you
here and embrace you--you, mother, and some of my brothers and
"Without being surprised at this fresh proof of your motherly love, I
have felt an ardent remembrance reawaken of the happy life that we
spent gently together. Joy and grief, desire and sacrifice, agitate
my heart violently, and I have had to weigh these various impulses
one against the other, and with the force of reason, in order to
resume mastery of myself and to take a decision in regard to my
"The balance has inclined in the direction of sacrifice.
"You know, mother, how much joy and courage a look from your eyes,
daily intercourse with you, and your pious and high-minded
conversation, might bring me during my very short time. But you also
know my position, and you are too well acquainted with the natural
course of all these painful inquiries, not to feel as I do, that such
annoyance, continually recurring, would greatly trouble the pleasure
of our companionship, if it did not indeed succeed in entirely
destroying it. Then, mother, after the long and fatiguing journey
that you would be obliged to make in order to see me, think of the
terrible sorrow of the farewell when the moment came to part in this
world. Let us therefore abide by the sacrifice, according to God's
will, and let us yield ourselves only to that sweet community of
thought which distance cannot interrupt, in which I find my only
joys, and which, in spite of men, will always be granted us by the
Lord, our Father.
"As for my physical state, I knew nothing about it. You see,
however, since at last I am writing to you myself, that I have come
past my first uncertainties. As for the rest, I know too little of
the structure of my own body to give any opinion as to what my wounds
may determine for it. Except that a little strength has returned to
me, its state is still the same, and I endure it calmly and
patiently; for God comes to my help, and gives me courage and
firmness. He will help me, believe me, to find all the joys of the
soul and to be strong in mind. Amen.
"May you live happy!--Your deeply respectful son,
A month after this letter came tender answers from all the family.
We will quote only that of Sand's mother, because it completes the
idea which the reader may have formed already of this great-hearted
woman, as her son always calls her.
"DEAR, INEXPRESSIBLY DEAR KARL,--How Sweet it was to me to see the
writing of your beloved hand after so long a time! No journey would
have been so painful and no road so long as to prevent me from coming
to you, and I would go, in deep and infinite love, to any end of the
earth in the mere hope of catching sight of you.
"But, as I well know both your tender affection and your profound
anxiety for me, and as you give me, so firmly and upon such manly
reflection, reasons against which I can say nothing, and which I can
but honour, it shall be, my well-beloved Karl, as you have wished and
decided. We will continue, without speech, to communicate our
thoughts; but be satisfied, nothing can separate us; I enfold you in
my soul, and my material thoughts watch over you.
"May this infinite love which upholds us, strengthens us, and leads
us all to a better life, preserve, dear Karl, your courage and
"Farewell, and be invariably assured that I shall never cease to love
you strongly and deeply.
"Your faithful mother, who loves you to eternity."
January 1820, from my isle of Patmos.
"MY DEAR PARENTS, BROTHERS, AND SISTERS,--
"In the middle of the month of September last year I received, through
the grand-duke's special commission of inquiry, whose humanity you
have already appreciated, your dear letters of the end of August and
the beginning of September, which had such magical influence that
they inundated me with joy by transporting me into the inmost circle
of your hearts.
"You, my tender father, you write to me on the sixty-seventh
anniversary of your birth, and you bless me by the outpouring of your
most tender love.
"You, my well-beloved mother, you deign to promise the continuance of
your maternal affection, in which I have at all times constantly
believed; and thus I have received the blessings of both of you,
which, in my present position, will exercise a more beneficent
influence upon me than any of the things that all the kings of the
earth, united together, could grant me. Yes, you strengthen me
abundantly by your blessed love, and I render thanks to you, my
beloved parents, with that respectful submission that my heart will
always inculcate as the first duty of a son.
"But the greater your love and the more affectionate your letters,
the more do I suffer, I must acknowledge, from the voluntary
sacrifice that we have imposed upon ourselves in not seeing one
another; and the only reason, my dear parents, why I have delayed to
reply to you, was to give myself time to recover the strength which I
"You too, dear brother-in-law and dear sister, assure me of your
sincere and uninterrupted attachment. And yet, after the fright that
I have spread among you all, you seem not to know exactly what to
think of me; but my heart, full of gratitude for your past kindness,
comforts itself; for your actions speak and tell me that, even if
you wished no longer to love me as I love you, you would not be able
to do otherwise. These actions mean more to me at this hour than any
possible protestations, nay, than even the tenderest words.
"And you also, my kind brother, you would have consented to hurry
with our beloved mother to the shores of the Rhine, to this place
where the real links of the soul were welded between us, where we
were doubly brothers; but tell me, are you not really here, in
thought and in spirit, when I consider the rich fountain of
consolation brought me by your cordial and tender letter?
"And, you, kind sister-in-law, as you showed yourself from the first,
in your delicate tenderness, a true sister, so I find you again at
present. There are still the same tender relations, still the same
sisterly affection; your consolations, which emanate from a deep and
submissive piety, have fallen refreshingly into the depths of my
heart. But, dear sister-in-law, I must tell you, as well as the
others, that you are too liberal towards me in dispensing your esteem
and praises, and your exaggeration has cast me back face to face with
my inmost judge, who has shown me in the mirror of my conscience the
image of my every weakness.
"You, kind Julia, you desire nothing else but to save me from the
fate that awaits me; and you assure me in your own name and in that
of you all, that you, like the others, would rejoice to endure it in
my place; in that I recognise you fully, and I recognise, too, those
sweet and tender relations in which we have been brought up from
childhood. Oh, be comforted, dear Julia; thanks to the protection of
God, I promise you: that it will be easy for me, much easier than I
should have thought, to bear what falls to my lot. Receive, then,
all of you, my warm and sincere thanks for having thus rejoiced my
"Now that I know from these strengthening letters that, like the
prodigal son, the love and goodness of my family are greater on my
return than at my departure, I will, as carefully as possible, paint
for you my physical and moral state, and I pray God to supplement my
words by His strength, so that my letter may contain an equivalent of
what yours brought to me, and may help you to reach that state of
calm and serenity to which I have myself attained.
"Hardened, by having gained power over myself, against the good and
ill of this earth, you knew already that of late years I have lived
only for moral joys, and I must say that, touched by my efforts,
doubtless, the Lord, who is the sacred fount of all that is good, has
rendered me apt in seeking them and in tasting them to the full. God
is ever near me, as formerly, and I find in Him the sovereign
principle of the creation of all things; in Him, our holy Father, not
only consolation and strength, but an unalterable Friend, full of the
holiest love, who will accompany me in all places where I may need
His consolations. Assuredly, if He had turned from me, or if I had
turned away my eyes from Him, I should now find myself very
unfortunate and wretched; but by His grace, on the contrary, lowly
and weak creature as I am, He makes me strong and powerful against
whatever can befall me.
"What I have hitherto revered as sacred, what I have desired as good
what I have aspired to as heavenly, has in no respect changed now.
And I thank God for it, for I should now be in great despair if I
were compelled to recognise that my heart had adored deceptive images
and enwrapped itself in fugitive chimeras. Thus my faith in these
ideas and my pure love far them, guardian angels of my spirit as they
are, increase moment by moment, and will go on increasing to my end,
and I hope that I may pass all the more easily from this world into
eternity. I pass my silent life in Christian exaltation and
humility, and I sometimes have those visions from above through which
I have, from my birth, adored heaven upon earth, and which give me
power to raise myself to the Lord upon the eager wings of my prayers.
My illness, though long, painful, and cruel, has always been
sufficiently mastered by my will to let me busy myself to some result
with history, positive sciences, and the finer parts of religious
education, and when my suffering became more violent and for a time
interrupted these occupations, I struggled successfully,
nevertheless, against ennui; for the memories of the past, my
resignation to the present, and my faith in the future were rich
enough and strong enough in me and round me to prevent my falling
from my terrestrial paradise. According to my principles, I would
never, in the position in which I am and in which I have placed
myself, have been willing to ask anything for my own comfort; but so
much kindness and care have been lavished upon me, with so much
delicacy and humanity,--which alas! I am unable to return--by every
person with whom I have been brought into contact, that wishes which
I should not have dared to frame in the mast private recesses of my
heart have been more than exceeded. I have never been so much
overcome by bodily pains that I could not say within myself, while I
lifted my thoughts to heaven, 'Come what may of this ray.' And great
as these gains have been, I could not dream of comparing them with
those sufferings of the soul that we feel so profoundly and
poignantly in the recognition of our weaknesses and faults.
"Moreover, these pains seldom now cause me to lose consciousness; the
swelling and inflammation never made great headway, and the fever has
always been moderate, though for nearly ten months I have been forced
to remain lying on my back, unable to raise myself, and although more
than forty pints of matter have come from my chest at the place where
the heart is. No, an the contrary, the wound, though still open, is
in a good state; and I owe that not only to the excellent nursing
around me, but also to the pure blood that I received from you, my
mother. Thus I have lacked neither earthly assistance nor heavenly
encouragement. Thus, on the anniversary of my birth, I had every
reason--oh, not to curse the hour in which I was born, but, on the
contrary, after serious contemplation of the world, to thank God and
you, my dear parents, for the life that you have given me! I
celebrated it, on the 18th of October, by a peaceful and ardent
submission to the holy will of God. On Christmas Day I tried to put
myself into the temper of children who are devoted to the Lord; and
with God's help the new year will pass like its predecessor, in
bodily pain, perhaps, but certainly in spiritual joy. And with this
wish, the only one that I form, I address myself to you, my dear
parents, and to you and yours, my dear brothers and sisters.
"I cannot hope to see a twenty-fifth new year; so may the prayer that
I have just made be granted! May this picture of my present state
afford you some tranquillity, and may this letter that I write to you
from the depths of my heart not only prove to you that I am not
unworthy of the inexpressible love that you all display, but, on the
contrary, ensure this love to me for eternity.
"Within the last few days I have also received your dear letter of
the 2nd of December, my kind mother, and the grind-duke's commission
has deigned to let me also read my kind brother's letter which
accompanied yours. You give me the best of news in regard to the
health of all of you, and send me preserved fruits from our dear
home. I thank you for them from the bottom of my heart. What causes
me most joy in the matter is that you have been solicitously busy
about me in summer as in winter, and that you and my dear Julia
gathered them and prepared them for me at home, and I abandon my
whole soul to that sweet enjoyment.
"I rejoice sincerely at my little cousin's coming into the world; I
joyfully congratulate the good parents and the grandparents; I
transport myself, for his baptism, into that beloved parish, where I
offer him my affection as his Christian brother, and call down on him
all the blessings of heaven.
"We shall be obliged, I think, to give up this correspondence, so as
not to inconvenience the grand-duke's commission. I finish,
therefore, by assuring you, once more, but for the last time,
perhaps, of my profound filial submission and of my fraternal
affection.--Your most tenderly attached
Indeed, from that moment all correspondence between Karl and his
family ceased, and he only wrote to them, when he knew his fate, one
more letter, which we shall see later on.
We have seen by what attentions Sand was surrounded; their humanity
never flagged for an instant. It is the truth, too, that no one saw
in him an ordinary murderer, that many pitied him under their breath,
and that some excused him aloud. The very commission appointed by
the grand-duke prolonged the affair as much as possible; for the
severity of Sand's wounds had at first given rise to the belief that
there would be no need of calling in the executioner, and the
commission was well pleased that God should have undertaken the
execution of the judgment. But these expectations were deceived: the
skill of the doctor defeated, not indeed the wound, but death: Sand
did not recover, but he remained alive; and it began to be evident
that it would be needful to kill him.
Indeed, the Emperor Alexander, who had appointed Kotzebue his
councillor, and who was under no misapprehension as to the cause of
the murder, urgently demanded that justice should take its course.
The commission of inquiry was therefore obliged to set to work; but
as its members were sincerely desirous of having some pretext to
delay their proceedings, they ordered that a physician from
Heidelberg should visit Sand and make an exact report upon his case;
as Sand was kept lying down and as he could not be executed in his
bed, they hoped that the physician's report, by declaring it
impossible for the prisoner to rise, would come to their assistance
and necessitate a further respite.
The chosen doctor came accordingly to Mannheim, and introducing
himself to Sand as though attracted by the interest that he inspired,
asked him whether he did not feel somewhat better, and whether it
would be impossible to rise. Sand looked at him for an instant, and
then said, with a smile--
"I understand, sir; they wish to know whether I am strong enough to
mount a scaffold: I know nothing about it myself, but we will make
the experiment together."
With these words he rose, and accomplishing, with superhuman courage,
what he had not attempted for fourteen months, walked twice round the
room, came back to his bed, upon which he seated himself, and said
"You see, sir, I am strong enough; it would therefore be wasting
precious time to keep my judges longer about my affair; so let them
deliver their judgment, for nothing now prevents its execution."
The doctor made his report; there was no way of retreat; Russia was
becoming more and more pressing, and an the 5th of May 1820 the high
court of justice delivered the following judgment, which was
confirmed on the 12th by His Royal Highness the Grand-Duke of Baden:
"In the matters under investigation and after administration of the
interrogatory and hearing the defences, and considering the united
opinions of the court of justice at Mannheim and the further
consultations of the court of justice which declare the accused, Karl
Sand of Wonsiedel, guilty of murder, even on his own confession, upon
the person of the Russian imperial Councillor of State, Kotzebue; it
is ordered accordingly, for his just punishment and for an example
that may deter other people, that he is to be put from life to death
by the sword.
"All the costs of these investigations, including these occasioned by
his public execution, will be defrayed from the funds of the law
department, on account of his want of means."
We see that, though it condemned the accused to death, which indeed
could hardly be avoided, the sentence was both in form and substance
as mild as possible, since, though Sand was convicted, his poor
family was not reduced by the expenses of a long and costly trial to
Five days were still allowed to elapse, and the verdict was not
announced until the 17th. When Sand was informed that two
councillors of justice were at the door, he guessed that they were
coming to read his sentence to him; he asked a moment to rise, which
he had done but once before, in the instance already narrated, during
fourteen months. And indeed he was so weak that he could not stand
to hear the sentence, and after having greeted the deputation that
death sent to him, he asked to sit down, saying that he did so not
from cowardice of soul but from weakness of body; then he added, "You
are welcome, gentlemen; far I have suffered so much for fourteen
months past that you come to me as angels of deliverance."
He heard the sentence quite unaffectedly and with a gentle smile upon
his lips; then, when the reading was finished, he said--
"I look for no better fate, gentlemen, and when, more than a year
ago, I paused on the little hill that overlooks the town, I saw
beforehand the place where my grave would be; and so I ought to thank
God and man far having prolonged my existence up to to-day."
The councillors withdrew; Sand stood up a second time to greet them
on their departure, as he had done on their entrance; then he sat
down again pensively in his chair, by which Mr. G, the governor of
the prison, was standing. After a moment of silence, a tear appeared
at each of the condemned man's eyelids, and ran down his cheeks;
then, turning suddenly to Mr. G----, whom he liked very much, he
said, "I hope that my parents would rather see me die by this violent
death than of some slow and shameful disease. As for me, I am glad
that I shall soon hear the hour strike in which my death will satisfy
those who hate me, and those wham, according to my principles, I
ought to hate."
Then he wrote to his family.
"17th of the month of spring, 1820
"DEAR PARENTS, BROTHERS, AND SISTERS,--You should have received my
last letters through the grand-duke's commission; in them I answered
yours, and tried to console you for my position by describing the
state of my soul as it is, the contempt to which I have attained for
everything fragile and earthly, and by which one must necessarily be
overcome when such matters are weighed against the fulfilment of an
idea, or that intellectual liberty which alone can nourish the soul;
in a word, I tried to console you by the assurance that the feelings,
principles, and convictions of which I formerly spoke are faithfully
preserved in me and have remained exactly the same; but I am sure all
this was an unnecessary precaution on my part, for there was never a
time when you asked anything else of me than to have God before my
eyes and in my heart; and you have seen how, under your guidance,
this precept so passed into my soul that it became my sole object of
happiness for this world and the next; no doubt, as He was in and
near me, God will be in and near you at the moment when this letter
brings you the news of my sentence. I die willingly, and the Lord
will give me strength to die as one ought to die.
"I write to you perfectly quiet and calm about all things, and I hope
that your lives too will pass calmly and tranquilly until the moment
when our souls meet again full of fresh force to love one another and
to share eternal happiness together.
"As for me, such as I have lived as long as I have known myself--that
is to say, in a serenity full of celestial desires and a courageous
and indefatigable love of liberty, such I am about to die.
"May God be with you and with me!--Your son, brother, and friend,
From that moment his serenity remained un troubled; during the whole
day he talked more gaily than usual, slept well, did not awake until
half-past seven, said that he felt stronger, and thanked God for
visiting him thus.
The nature of the verdict had been known since the day before, and it
had been learned that the execution was fixed for the 20th of May
--that is to say, three full days after the sentence had been read to
Henceforward, with Sand's permission, persons who wished to speak to
him and whom he was not reluctant to see, were admitted: three among
these paid him long and noteworthy visits.
One was Major Holzungen, of the Baden army, who was in command of the
patrol that had arrested him, or rather picked him up, dying, and
carried him to the hospital. He asked him whether he recognised him,
and Sand's head was so clear when he stabbed himself, that although
he saw the major only for a moment and had never seen him again
since, he remembered the minutest details of the costume which he had
been wearing fourteen months previously, and which was the full-dress
uniform. When the talk fell upon the death to which Sand was to
submit at so early an age, the major pitied him; but Sand answered,
with a smile, "There is only one difference between you and me,
major; it is that I shall die far my convictions, and you will die
for someone else's convictions."
After the major came a young student from Jena whom Sand had known at
the university. He happened to be in the duchy of Baden and wished
to visit him. Their recognition was touching, and the student wept
much; but Sand consoled him with his usual calmness and serenity.
Then a workman asked to be admitted to see Sand, on the plea that he
had been his schoolfellow at Wonsiedel, and although he did not
remember his name, he ordered him to be let in: the workman reminded
him that he had been one of the little army that Sand had commanded
on the day of the assault of St. Catherine's tower. This indication
guided Sand, who recognised him perfectly, and then spoke with tender
affection of his native place and his dear mountains. He further
charged him to greet his family, and to beg his mother, father,
brothers, and sisters once more not to be grieved on his account,
since the messenger who undertook to deliver his last wards could
testify in how calm and joyful a temper he was awaiting death.
To this workman succeeded one of the guests whom Sand had met on the
staircase directly after Kotzebue's death. He asked him whether he
acknowledged his crime and whether he felt any repentance. Sand
replied, "I had thought about it during a whole year. I have been
thinking of it for fourteen months, and my opinion has never varied
in any respect: I did what I should have done."
After the departure of this last visitor, Sand sent for Mr. G----,
the governor of the prison, and told him that he should like to talk
to the executioner before the execution, since he wished to ask for
instructions as to how he should hold himself so as to render the
operation most certain and easy. Mr. G---- made some objections, but
Sand insisted with his usual gentleness, and Mr. G---- at last
promised that the man in question should be asked to call at the
prison as soon as he arrived from Heidelberg, where he lived.
The rest of the day was spent in seeing more visitors and in
philosophical and moral talks, in which Sand developed his social and
religious theories with a lucidity of expression and an elevation of
thought such as he had, perhaps, never before shown. The governor of
the prison from whom I heard these details, told me that he should
all his life regret that he did not know shorthand, so that he might
have noted all these thoughts, which would have formed a pendant to
Night came. Sand spent part of the evening writing; it is thought
that he was composing a poem; but no doubt he burned it, for no trace
of it was found. At eleven he went to bed, and slept until six in
the morning. Next day he bore the dressing of his wound, which was
always very painful, with extraordinary courage, without fainting, as
he sometimes did, and without suffering a single complaint to escape
him: he had spoken the truth; in the presence of death God gave him
the grace of allowing his strength to return. The operation was
over; Sand was lying down as usual, and Mr. G---- was sitting on the
foot of his bed, when the door opened and a man came in and bowed to
Sand and to Mr. G----. The governor of the prison immediately stood
up, and said to Sand in a voice the emotion of which he could not
conceal, "The person who is bowing to you is Mr. Widemann of
Heidelberg, to whom you wished to speak."
Then Sand's face was lighted up by a strange joy; he sat up and said,
"Sir, you are welcome." Then, making his visitor sit down by his
bed, and taking his hand, he began to thank him for being so
obliging, and spoke in so intense a tone and so gentle a voice, that
Mr. Widemann, deeply moved, could not answer. Sand encouraged him to
speak and to give him the details for which he wished, and in order
to reassure him, said, "Be firm, sir; for I, on my part, will not
fail you: I will not move; and even if you should need two or three
strokes to separate my head from my body, as I am told is sometimes
the case, do not be troubled on that account."
Then Sand rose, leaning on Mr. G----, to go through with the
executioner the strange and terrible rehearsal of the drama in which
he was to play the leading part on the morrow. Mr. Widemann made him
sit in a chair and take the required position, and went into all the
details of the execution with him. Then Sand, perfectly instructed,
begged him not to hurry and to take his time. Then he thanked him
beforehand; "for," added he, "afterwards I shall not be able." Then
Sand returned to his bed, leaving the executioner paler and more
trembling than himself. All these details have been preserved by Mr.
G----; for as to the executioner, his emotion was so great that he
could remember nothing.
After Mr. Widemann, three clergymen were introduced, with whom Sand
conversed upon religious matters: one of them stayed six hours with
him, and on leaving him told him that he was commissioned to obtain
from him a promise of not speaking to the people at the place of
execution. Sand gave the promise, and added, "Even if I desired to
do so, my voice has become so weak that people could not hear it."
Meanwhile the scaffold was being erected in the meadow that extends
on the left of the road to Heidelberg. It was a platform five to six
feet high and ten feet wide each way. As it was expected that,
thanks to the interest inspired by the prisoner and to the nearness
to Whitsuntide, the crowd would be immense, and as some movement from
the universities was apprehended, the prison guards had been trebled,
and General Neustein had been ordered to Mannheim from Carlsruhe,
with twelve hundred infantry, three hundred and fifty cavalry, and a
company of artillery with guns.
On, the afternoon of the 19th there arrived, as had been foreseen, so
many students, who took up their abode in the neighbouring villages,
that it was decided to put forward the hour of the execution, and to
let it take place at five in the morning instead of at eleven, as had
been arranged. But Sand's consent was necessary for this; for he
could not be executed until three full days after the reading of his
sentence, and as the sentence had not been read to him till half-past
ten Sand had a right to live till eleven o'clock.
Before four in the morning the officials went into the condemned
man's room; he was sleeping so soundly that they were obliged to
awaken him. He opened his eyes with a smile, as was his custom, and
guessing why they came, asked, "Can I have slept so well that it is
already eleven in the morning?" They told him that it was not, but
that they had come to ask his permission to put forward the time;
for, they told him, same collision between the students and the
soldiers was feared, and as the military preparations were very
thorough, such a collision could not be otherwise than fatal to his
friends. Sand answered that he was ready that very moment, and only
asked time enough to take a bath, as the ancients were accustomed to
do before going into battle. But as the verbal authorisation which
he had given was not sufficient, a pen and paper were given to Sand,
and he wrote, with a steady hand and in his usual writing:
"I thank the authorities of Mannheim for anticipating my most eager
wishes by making my execution six hours earlier.
"Sit nomen Domini benedictum.
"From the prison room, May 20th, day of my deliverance.
When Sand had given these two lines to the recorder, the physician
came to him to dress his wound, as usual. Sand looked at him with a
smile, and then asked, "Is it really worth the trouble?"
"You will be stronger for it," answered the physician.
"Then do it," said Sand.
A bath was brought. Sand lay down in it, and had his long and
beautiful hair arranged with the greatest care; then his toilet being
completed, he put on a frock-coat of the German shape--that is to
say, short and with the shirt collar turned back aver the shoulders,
close white trousers, and high boots. Then Sand seated himself on
his bed and prayed some time in a low voice with the clergy; then,
when he had finished, he said these two lines of Korner's:
"All that is earthly is ended,
And the life of heaven begins."
He next took leave of the physician and the priests, saying to them,
"Do not attribute the emotion of my voice to weakness but to
gratitude." Then, upon these gentlemen offering to accompany him to
the scaffold, he said, "There is no need; I am perfectly prepared, at
peace with God and with my conscience. Besides, am I not almost a
Churchman myself?" And when one of them asked whether he was not
going out of life in a spirit of hatred, he returned, "Why, good
heavens! have I ever felt any?"
An increasing noise was audible from the street, and Sand said again
that he was at their disposal and that he was ready. At this moment
the executioner came in with his two assistants; he was dressed in a
long wadded black coat, beneath which he hid his sword. Sand offered
him his hand affectionately; and as Mr. Widemann, embarrassed by the
sword which he wished to keep Sand from seeing, did not venture to
come forward, Sand said to him, "Come along and show me your sword; I
have never seen one of the kind, and am curious to know what it is
Mr. Widemann, pale and trembling, presented the weapon to him; Sand
examined it attentively, and tried the edge with his finger.
"Come," said he, "the blade is good; do not tremble, and all will go
well." Then, turning to Mr. G----, who was weeping, he said to him,
"You will be good enough, will you not, to do me the service of
leading me to the scaffold?"
Mr. G---- made a sign of assent with his head, for he could not
answer. Sand took his arm, and spoke for the third time, saying once
more, "Well, what are you waiting for, gentlemen? I am ready."
When they reached the courtyard, Sand saw all the prisoners weeping
at their windows. Although he had never seen them, they were old
friends of his; for every time they passed his door, knowing that the
student who had killed Kotzebue lay within, they used to lift their
chain, that he might not be disturbed by the noise.
All Mannheim was in the streets that led to the place of execution,
and many patrols were passing up and down. On the day when the
sentence was announced the whole town had been sought through for a
chaise in which to convey Sand to the scaffold, but no one, not even
the coach-builders, would either let one out or sell one; and it had
been necessary, therefore, to buy one at Heidelberg without saying
for what purpose.
Sand found this chaise in the courtyard, and got into it with Mr.
G----. Turning to him, he whispered in his ear, "Sir, if you see me
turn pale, speak my name to me, my name only, do you hear? That will
The prison gate was opened, and Sand was seen; then every voice cried
with one impulse, "Farewell, Sand, farewell!"
And at the same time flowers, some of which fell into the carriage,
were thrown by the crowd that thronged the street, and from the
windows. At these friendly cries and at this spectacle, Sand, who
until then had shown no moment of weakness, felt tears rising in
spite of himself, and while he returned the greetings made to him on
all sides, he murmured in a low voice, "O my God, give me courage!"
This first outburst over, the procession set out amid deep silence;
only now and again same single voice would call out, "Farewell,
Sand!" and a handkerchief waved by some hand that rose out of the
crowd would show from what paint the last call came. On each side of
the chaise walked two of the prison officials, and behind the chaise
came a second conveyance with the municipal authorities.
The air was very cold: it had rained all night, and the dark and
cloudy sky seemed to share in the general sadness. Sand, too weak to
remain sitting up, was half lying upon the shoulder of Mr. G-----,
his companion; his face was gentle, calm and full of pain; his brow
free and open, his features, interesting though without regular
beauty, seemed to have aged by several years during the fourteen
months of suffering that had just elapsed. The chaise at last
reached the place of execution, which was surrounded by a battalion
of infantry; Sand lowered his eyes from heaven to earth and saw the
scaffold. At this sight he smiled gently, and as he left the
carriage he said, "Well, God has given me strength so far."
The governor of the prison and the chief officials lifted him that he
might go up the steps. During that short ascent pain kept him bowed,
but when he had reached the top he stood erect again, saying, "Here
then is the place where I am to die!"
Then before he came to the chair on which he was to be seated for the
execution, he turned his eyes towards Mannheim, and his gaze
travelled over all the throng that surrounded him; at that moment a
ray of sunshine broke through the clouds. Sand greeted it with a
smile and sat down.
Then, as, according to the orders given, his sentence was to be read
to him a second time, he was asked whether he felt strong enough to
hear it standing. Sand answered that he would try, and that if his
physical strength failed him, his moral strength would uphold him.
He rose immediately from the fatal chair, begging Mr. G----to stand
near enough to support him if he should chance to stagger. The
precaution was unnecessary, Sand did not stagger.
After the judgment had been read, he sat down again and said in a
laud voice, "I die trusting in God."
But at these words Mr. G------ interrupted him.
"Sand," said he, "what did you promise?"
"True," he answered; "I had forgotten." He was silent, therefore, to
the crowd; but, raising his right hand and extending it solemnly in
the air, he said in a low voice, so that he might be heard only by
those who were around him, "I take God to witness that I die for the
freedom of Germany."
Then, with these words, he did as Conradin did with his glove; he
threw his rolled-up handkerchief over the line of soldiers around
him, into the midst of the people.
Then the executioner came to cut off his hair; but Sand at first
"It is for your mother," said Mr. Widemann.
"On your honour, sir?" asked Sand.
"On my honour."
"Then do it," said Sand, offering his hair to the executioner.
Only a few curls were cut off, those only which fell at the back, the
others were tied with a ribbon on the top of the head. The
executioner then tied his hands on his breast, but as that position
was oppressive to him and compelled him an account of his wound to
bend his head, his hands were laid flat on his thighs and fixed in
that position with ropes. Then, when his eyes were about to be
bound, he begged Mr. Widemann to place the bandage in such a manner
that he could see the light to his last moment. His wish was
Then a profound and mortal stillness hovered over the whole crowd and
surrounded the scaffold. The executioner drew his sword, which
flashed like lightning and fell. Instantly a terrible cry rose at
once from twenty thousand bosoms; the head had not fallen, and though
it had sunk towards the breast still held to the neck. The
executioner struck a second time, and struck off at the same blow the
head and a part of the hand.
In the same moment, notwithstanding the efforts of the soldiers,
their line was broken through; men and women rushed upon the
scaffold, the blood was wiped up to the last drop with handkerchiefs;
the chair upon which Sand had sat was broken and divided into pieces,
and those who could not obtain one, cut fragments of bloodstained
wood from the scaffold itself.
The head and body were placed in a coffin draped with black, and
carried back, with a large military escort, to the prison. At
midnight the body was borne silently, without torches or lights, to
the Protestant cemetery, in which Kotzebue had been buried fourteen
months previously. A grave had been mysteriously dug; the coffin was
lowered into it, and those who were present at the burial were sworn
upon the New Testament not to reveal the spot where Sand was buried
until such time as they were freed from their oath. Then the grave
was covered again with the turf, that had been skilfully taken off,
and that was relaid on the same spat, so that no new grave could be
perceived; then the nocturnal gravediggers departed, leaving guards
at the entrance.
There, twenty paces apart, Sand and Kotzebue rest: Kotzebue opposite
the gate in the most conspicuous spot of the cemetery, and beneath a
tomb upon which is engraved this inscription:
"The world persecuted him without pity,
Calumny was his sad portion,
He found no happiness save in the arms of his wife,
And no repose save in the bosom of death.
Envy dogged him to cover his path with thorns,
Love bade his roses blossom;
May Heaven pardon him
As he pardons earth!"
In contrast with this tall and showy monument, standing, as we have
said, in the most conspicuous spot of the cemetery, Sand's grave must
be looked far in the corner to the extreme left of the entrance gate;
and a wild plum tree, some leaves of which every passing traveller
carries away, rises alone upon the grave, which is devoid of any
As far the meadow in which Sand was executed, it is still called by
the people "Sand's Himmelsfartsweise," which signifies "The manner of
Toward the end of September, 1838, we were at Mannheim, where I had
stayed three days in order to collect all the details I could find
about the life and death of Karl-Ludwig Sand. But at the end of
these three days, in spite of my active investigations, these details
still remained extremely incomplete, either because I applied in the
wrong quarters, or because, being a foreigner, I inspired same
distrust in those to whom I applied. I was leaving Mannheim,
therefore, somewhat disappointed, and after having visited the little
Protestant cemetery where Sand and Kotzebue are buried at twenty
paces from each other, I had ordered my driver to take the road to
Heidelberg, when, after going a few yards, he, who knew the object of
my inquiries, stopped of himself and asked me whether I should not
like to see the place where Sand was executed. At the same time he
pointed to a little mound situated in the middle of a meadow and a
few steps from a brook. I assented eagerly, and although the driver
remained on the highroad with my travelling companions, I soon
recognised the spot indicated, by means of some relics of cypress
branches, immortelles, and forget-me-nots scattered upon the earth.
It will readily be understood that this sight, instead of diminishing
my desire for information, increased it. I was feeling, then, more
than ever dissatisfied at going away, knowing so little, when I saw a
man of some five-and-forty to fifty years old, who was walking a
little distance from the place where I myself was, and who, guessing
the cause that drew me thither, was looking at me with curiosity.
I determined to make a last effort, and going up to him, I said, "Oh,
sir, I am a stranger; I am travelling to collect all the rich and
poetic traditions of your Germany. By the way in which you look at
me, I guess that you know which of them attracts me to this meadow.
Could you give me any information about the life and death of Sand?"
"With what object, sir?" the person to whom I spoke asked me in
almost unintelligible French.
"With a very German object, be assured, sir," I replied. "From the
little I have learned, Sand seems to me to be one of those ghosts
that appear only the greater and the more poetic for being wrapped in
a shroud stained with blood. But he is not known in France; he might
be put on the same level there with a Fieschi or a Meunier, and I
wish, to the best of my ability, to enlighten the minds of my
countrymen about him."
"It would be a great pleasure to me, sir, to assist in such an
undertaking; but you see that I can scarcely speak French; you do not
speak German at all; so that we shall find it difficult to understand
"If that is all," I returned, "I have in my carriage yonder an
interpreter, or rather an interpretress, with whom you will, I hope,
be quite satisfied, who speaks German like Goethe, and to whom, when
you have once begun to speak to her, I defy you not to tell
"Let us go, then, sir," answered the pedestrian. "I ask no better
than to be agreeable to you."
We walked toward the carriage, which was still waiting on the
highroad, and I presented to my travelling companion the new recruit
whom I had just gained. The usual greetings were exchanged, and the
dialogue began in the purest Saxon. Though I did not understand a
word that was said, it was easy for me to see, by the rapidity of the
questions and the length of the answers, that the conversation was
most interesting. At last, at the end of half an hours growing
desirous of knowing to what point they had come, I said, "Well?"
"Well," answered my interpreter, "you are in luck's way, and you
could not have asked a better person."
"The gentleman knew Sand, then?"
"The gentleman is the governor of the prison in which Sand was
"For nine months--that is to say, from the day he left the hospital--
this gentleman saw him every day."
"But that is not all: this gentleman was with him in the carriage
that took him to execution; this gentleman was with him on the
scaffold; there's only one portrait of Sand in all Mannheim, and this
gentleman has it."
I was devouring every word; a mental alchemist, I was opening my
crucible and finding gold in it.
"Just ask," I resumed eagerly, "whether the gentleman will allow us
to take down in writing the particulars that he can give me."
My interpreter put another question, then, turning towards me, said,
Mr. G---- got into the carriage with us, and instead of going on to
Heidelberg, we returned to Mannheim, and alighted at the prison.
Mr. G--- did not once depart from the ready kindness that he had
shown. In the most obliging manner, patient over the minutest
trifles, and remembering most happily, he went over every
circumstance, putting himself at my disposal like a professional
guide. At last, when every particular about Sand had been sucked
dry, I began to ask him about the manner in which executions were
performed. "As to that," said he, "I can offer you an introduction
to someone at Heidelberg who can give you all the information you can
wish for upon the subject."
I accepted gratefully, and as I was taking leave of Mr. G----, after
thanking him a thousand times, he handed me the offered letter. It
bore this superscription: "To Herr-doctor Widemann, No. III High
I turned to Mr. G---- once more.
"Is he, by chance, a relation of the man who executed Sand? "I asked.
"He is his son, and was standing by when the head fell.".
"What is his calling, then?"
"The same as that of his father, whom he succeeded."
"But you call him 'doctor'?"
"Certainly; with us, executioners have that title."
"But, then, doctors of what?"
"Really?" said I. "With us it is just the contrary; surgeons are
"You will find him, moreover," added Mr. G----, "a very
distinguished young man, who, although he was very young at that
time, has retained a vivid recollection of that event. As for his
poor father, I think he would as willingly have cut off his own right
hand as have executed Sand; but if he had refused, someone else would
have been found. So he had to do what he was ordered to do, and he
did his best."
I thanked Mr. G----, fully resolving to make use of his letter, and
we left for Heidelberg, where we arrived at eleven in the evening.
My first visit next day was to Dr. Widernann. It was not without
some emotion, which, moreover, I saw reflected upon, the faces of my
travelling companions, that I rang at the door of the last judge, as
the Germans call him. An old woman opened the door to us, and
ushered us into a pretty little study, on the left of a passage and
at the foot of a staircase, where we waited while Mr. Widemann
finished dressing. This little room was full of curiosities,
madrepores, shells, stuffed birds, and dried plants; a double-
barrelled gun, a powder-flask, and a game-bag showed that Mr.
Widemann was a hunter.
After a moment we heard his footstep, and the door opened. Mr.
Widemann was a very handsome young man, of thirty or thirty-two, with
black whiskers entirely surrounding his manly and expressive face;
his morning dress showed a certain rural elegance. He seemed at
first not only embarrassed but pained by our visit. The aimless
curiosity of which he seemed to be the object was indeed odd. I
hastened to give him Mr. G----'s letter and to tell him what reason
brought me. Then he gradually recovered himself, and at last showed
himself no less hospitable and obliging towards us than he to whom we
owed the introduction had been, the day before.
Mr. Widemann then gathered together all his remembrances; he, too,
had retained a vivid recollection of Sand, and he told us among other
things that his father, at the risk of bringing himself into ill
odour, had asked leave to have a new scaffold made at his own
expense, so that no other criminal might be executed upon the altar
of the martyr's death. Permission had been given, and Mr. Widemann
had used the wood of the scaffold for the doors and windows of a
little country house standing in a vineyard. Then for three or four
years this cottage became a shrine for pilgrims; but after a time,
little by little, the crowd grew less, and at the present day, when
some of those who wiped the blood from the scaffold with their
handkerchiefs have became public functionaries, receiving salaries
from Government, only foreigners ask, now and again, to see these
Mr. Widemann gave me a guide; for, after hearing everything, I wanted
to see everything. The house stands half a league away from
Heidelberg, on the left of the road to Carlsruhe, and half-way up the
mountain-side. It is perhaps the only monument of the kind that
exists in the world.
Our readers will judge better from this anecdote than from anything
more we could say, what sort of man he was who left such a memory in
the hearts of his gaoler and his executioner.