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The Appetite of Tyranny by G.K. Chesterton

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Produced by Robert Shimmin, Piotr Przemyslaw Karwasz and PG Distributed


_Including Letters to an Old Garibaldian_











Unless we are all mad, there is at the back of the most bewildering
business a story: and if we are all mad, there is no such thing as madness.
If I set a house on fire, it is quite true that I may illuminate many other
people's weaknesses as well as my own. It may be that the master of the
house was burned because he was drunk; it may be that the mistress of the
house was burned because she was stingy, and perished arguing about the
expense of the fire-escape. It is, nevertheless, broadly true that they
both were burned because I set fire to their house. That is the story of
the thing. The mere facts of the story about the present European
conflagration are quite as easy to tell.

Before we go on to the deeper things which make this war the most sincere
war of human history, it is easy to answer the question of why England came
to be in it at all, as one asks how a man fell down a coal-hole, or failed
to keep an appointment. Facts are not the whole truth. But facts are facts,
and in this case the facts are few and simple. Prussia, France, and
England had all promised not to invade Belgium. Prussia proposed to invade
Belgium, because it was the safest way of invading France. But Prussia
promised that if she might break in, through her own broken promise and
ours, she would break in and not steal. In other words, we were offered at
the same instant a promise of faith in the future and a proposal of perjury
in the present. Those interested in human origin may refer to an old
Victorian writer of English, who, in the last and most restrained of his
historical essays, wrote of Frederick the Great, the founder of this
unchanging Prussian policy. After describing how Frederick broke the
guarantee he had signed on behalf of Maria Theresa, he then describes how
Frederick sought to put things straight by a promise that was an insult.
"If she would but let him have Silesia, he would, he said, stand by her
against any power which should try to deprive her of her other dominions,
as if he was not already bound to stand by her, or as if his new promise
could be of more value than the old one." That passage was written by
Macaulay, but so far as the mere contemporary facts are concerned, it might
have been written by me.

Upon the immediate logical and legal origin of the English interest there
can be no rational debate. There are some things so simple that one can
almost prove them with plans and diagrams, as in Euclid. One could make a
kind of comic calendar of what would have happened to the English
diplomatist if he had been silenced every time by Prussian diplomacy.
Suppose we arrange it in the form of a kind of diary.

July 24. Germany invades Belgium.

July 25. England declares war.

July 26. Germany promises not to annex Belgium.

July 27. England withdraws from the war.

July 28. Germany annexes Belgium. England declares war.

July 29. Germany promises not to annex France. England withdraws from the

July 30. Germany annexes France. England declares war.

July 31. Germany promises not to annex England.

Aug. 1. England withdraws from the war. Germany invades England...

How long is anybody expected to go with that sort of game, or keep peace at
that illimitable price? How long must we pursue a road in which promises
are all fetishes in front of us and all fragments behind us? No: upon the
cold facts of the final negotiations, as told by any of the diplomatists in
any of the documents, there is no doubt about the story. And no doubt about
the villain of the story.

These are the last facts--the facts which involved England. It is equally
easy to state the first facts--the facts which involved Europe. The Prince
who practically ruled Austria was shot by certain persons whom the Austrian
Government believed to be conspirators from Servia. The Austrian Government
piled up arms and armies, but said not a word either to Servia their
suspect or Italy their ally. From the documents it would seem that Austria
kept everybody in the dark, except Prussia. It is probably nearer the truth
to say that Prussia kept everybody in the dark, including Austria. But all
that is what is called opinion, belief, conviction or common-sense, and we
are not dealing with it here. The objective fact is that Austria told
Servia to permit Servian officers to be suspended by the authority of
Austrian officers, and told Servia to submit to this within forty-eight
hours. In other words, the sovereign of Servia was practically told to take
off not only the laurels of two great campaigns but his own lawful and
national crown, and to do it in a time in which no respectable citizen is
expected to discharge an hotel bill. Servia asked for time, for
arbitration--in short, for peace. But Prussia had already begun to
mobilise; and Prussia, presuming that Servia might thus be rescued,
declared war.

Between these two ends of fact, the ultimatum to Servia, the ultimatum to
Belgium, any one so inclined can of course talk as if everything were
relative. If any one ask why the Czar should rush to the support of Servia,
it is as easy to ask why the Kaiser should rush to the support of Austria.
If any one say that the French would attack the Germans, it is sufficient
to answer that the Germans did attack the French. There remain, however,
two attitudes to consider, even perhaps two arguments to counter, which can
best be considered and countered under this general head of facts. First of
all, there is a curious, cloudy sort of argument, much affected by the
professional rhetoricians of Prussia, who are sent out to instruct and
correct the minds of Americans or Scandinavians. It consists of going into
convulsions of incredulity and scorn at the mention of Russia's
responsibility for Servia or England's responsibility for Belgium; and
suggesting that, treaty or no treaty, frontier or no frontier, Russia would
be out to slay Teutons or England to steal colonies. Here, as elsewhere, I
think the professors dotted all over the Baltic plain fail in lucidity, and
in the power of distinguishing ideas. Of course it is quite true that
England has material interests to defend, and will probably use the
opportunity to defend them: or, in other words, of course England, like
everybody else, would be more comfortable if Prussia were less predominant.
The fact remains that we did not do what the Germans did. We did not
invade Holland to seize a naval and commercial advantage: and whether they
say that we wished to do it in our greed, or feared to do it in our
cowardice, the fact remains that we did not do it. Unless this common-sense
principle be kept in view, I cannot conceive how any quarrel can possibly
be judged. A contract may be made between two persons solely for material
advantage on each side: but the moral advantage is still generally supposed
to lie with the person who keeps the contract. Surely it cannot be
dishonest to be honest--even if honesty is the best policy. Imagine the
most complex maze of indirect motives; and still the man who keeps faith
for money cannot possibly be worse than the man who breaks faith for money.
It will be noted that this ultimate test applies in the same way to Servia
as to Belgium and Britain. The Servians may not be a very peaceful people;
but, on the occasion under discussion, it was certainly they who wanted
peace. You may choose to think the Serb a sort of born robber: but on this
occasion it was certainly the Austrian who was trying to rob. Similarly,
you may call England perfidious as a sort of historical summary; and
declare your private belief that Mr. Asquith was vowed from infancy to the
ruin of the German Empire, a Hannibal and hater of the eagles. But, when
all is said, it is nonsense to call a man perfidious because he keeps his
promise. It is absurd to complain of the sudden treachery of a business man
in turning up punctually to his appointment: or the unfair shock given to a
creditor by the debtor paying his debts.

Lastly, there is an attitude not unknown in the crisis against which I
should particularly like to protest. I should address my protest especially
to those lovers and pursuers of Peace who, very short-sightedly, have
occasionally adopted it. I mean the attitude which is impatient of these
preliminary details about who did this or that, and whether it was right or
wrong. They are satisfied with saying that an enormous calamity, called
War, has been begun by some or all of us; and should be ended by some or
all of us. To these people this preliminary chapter about the precise
happenings must appear not only dry (and it must of necessity be the driest
part of the task) but essentially needless and barren. I wish to tell these
people that they are wrong; that they are wrong upon all principles of
human justice and historic continuity: but that they are specially and
supremely wrong upon their own principles of arbitration and international

These sincere and high-minded peace-lovers are always telling us that
citizens no longer settle their quarrels by private violence; and that
nations should no longer settle theirs by public violence. They are always
telling us that we no longer fight duels; and need no longer wage wars. In
short, they perpetually base their peace proposals on the fact that an
ordinary citizen no longer avenges himself with an axe. But how is he
prevented from revenging himself with an axe? If he hits his neighbour on
the head with the kitchen chopper, what do we do? Do we all join hands,
like children playing Mulberry Bush, and say "We are all responsible for
this; but let us hope it will not spread. Let us hope for the happy day
when he shall leave off chopping at the man's head; and when nobody shall
ever chop anything for ever and ever." Do we say "Let byegones be byegones;
why go back to all the dull details with which the business began; who can
tell with what sinister motives the man was standing there within reach of
the hatchet?" We do not. We keep the peace in private life by asking for
the facts of provocation, and the proper object of punishment. We do go
into the dull details; we do enquire into the origins; we do emphatically
enquire who it was that hit first. In short we do what I have done very
briefly in this place.

Given this, it is indeed true that behind these facts there are truths;
truths of a terrible, of a spiritual sort. In mere fact, the Germanic power
has been wrong about Servia, wrong about Russia, wrong about Belgium, wrong
about England, wrong about Italy. But there was a reason for its being
wrong everywhere; and of that root reason, which has moved half the world
against it, I shall speak later. For that is something too omnipresent to
be proved, too indisputable to be helped by detail. It is nothing less than
the locating, after more than a hundred years of recriminations and wrong
explanations, of the modern European evil: the finding of the fountain from
which poison has flowed upon all the nations of the earth.



It will hardly be denied that there is one lingering doubt in many, who
recognise unavoidable self-defence in the instant parry of the English
sword, and who have no great love for the sweeping sabre of Sadowa and
Sedan. That doubt is the doubt whether Russia, as compared with Prussia, is
sufficiently decent and democratic to be the ally of liberal and civilised
powers. I take first, therefore, this matter of civilisation.

It is vital in a discussion like this, that we should make sure we are
going by meanings and not by mere words. It is not necessary in any
argument to settle what a word means or ought to mean. But it is necessary
in every argument to settle what we propose to mean by the word. So long as
our opponent understands what is the _thing_ of which we are talking, it
does not matter to the argument whether the word is or is not the one he
would have chosen. A soldier does not say "We were ordered to go to
Mechlin; but I would rather go to Malines." He may discuss the etymology
and archaeology of the difference on the march; but the point is that he
knows where to go. So long as we know what a given word is to mean in a
given discussion, it does not even matter if it means something else in
some other and quite distinct discussion. We have a perfect right to say
that the width of a window comes to four feet; even if we instantly and
cheerfully change the subject to the larger mammals; and say that an
elephant has four feet. The identity of the words does not matter, because
there is no doubt at all about the meanings; because nobody is likely to
think of an elephant as four foot long, or of a window as having tusks and
a curly trunk.

It is essential to emphasise this consciousness of the _thing_ under
discussion in connection with two or three words that are, as it were, the
key-words of this war. One of them is the word "barbarian." The Prussians
apply it to the Russians: the Russians apply it to the Prussians. Both, I
think, really mean something that really exists, name or no name. Both mean
different things. And if we ask what these different things are, we shall
understand why England and France prefer Russia; and consider Prussia the
really dangerous barbarian of the two. To begin with, it goes so much
deeper even than atrocities; of which, in the past at least, all the three
Empires of Central Europe have partaken pretty equally, as they partook of
Poland. An English writer, seeking to avert the war by warnings against
Russian influence, said that the flogged backs of Polish women stood
between us and the Alliance. But not long before, the flogging of women by
an Austrian general led to that officer being thrashed in the streets of
London by Barclay and Perkins' draymen. And as for the third power, the
Prussians, it seems clear that they have treated Belgian women in a style
compared with which flogging might be called an official formality. But,
as I say, something much deeper than any such recrimination lies behind the
use of the word on either side. When the German Emperor complains of our
allying ourselves with a barbaric and half-oriental power he is not (I
assure you) shedding tears over the grave of Kosciusko. And when I say (as
I do most heartily) that the German Emperor is a barbarian, I am not merely
expressing any prejudices I may have against the profanation of churches or
of children. My countrymen and I mean a certain and intelligible thing when
we call the Prussians barbarians. It is quite different from the thing
attributed to Russians; and it could not possibly be attributed to
Russians. It is very important that the neutral world should understand
what this thing is.

If the German calls the Russian barbarous he presumably means imperfectly
civilised. There is a certain path along which Western nations have
proceeded in recent times; and it is tenable that Russia has not proceeded
so far as the others: that she has less of the special modern system in
science, commerce, machinery, travel or political constitution. The Russ
ploughs with an old plough; he wears a wild beard; he adores relics; his
life is as rude and hard as that of a subject of Alfred the Great.
Therefore he is, in the German sense, a barbarian. Poor fellows like Gorky
and Dostoieffsky have to form their own reflections on the scenery, without
the assistance of large quotations from Schiller on garden seats; or
inscriptions directing them to pause and thank the All-Father for the
finest view in Hesse-Pumpernickel. The Russians, having nothing but their
faith, their fields, their great courage, and their self-governing
communes, are quite cut off from what is called (in the fashionable street
in Frankfort) The True, The Beautiful and The Good. There is a real sense
in which one can call such backwardness barbaric; by comparison with the
Kaiserstrasse; and in that sense it is true of Russia.

Now we, the French and English, do not mean this when we call the Prussians
barbarians. If their cities soared higher than their flying ships, if
their trains travelled faster than their bullets, we should still call them
barbarians. We should know exactly what we meant by it; and we should know
that it is true. For we do not mean anything that is an imperfect
civilisation by accident. We mean something that is the enemy of
civilisation by design. We mean something that is wilfully at war with the
principles by which human society has been made possible hitherto. Of
course it must be partly civilised even to destroy civilisation. Such ruin
could not be wrought by the savages that are merely undeveloped or inert.
You could not have even Huns without horses; or horses without
horsemanship. You could not have even Danish pirates without ships, or
ships without seamanship. This person, whom I may call the Positive
Barbarian, must be rather more superficially up-to-date than what I may
call the Negative Barbarian. Alaric was an officer in the Roman legions:
but for all that he destroyed Rome. Nobody supposes that Eskimos could have
done it at all neatly. But (in our meaning) barbarism is not a matter of
methods but of aims. We say that these veneered vandals have the perfectly
serious aim of destroying certain ideas which, as they think, the world has
outgrown; without which, as we think, the world will die.

It is essential that this perilous peculiarity in the Pruss, or Positive
Barbarian, should be seized. He has what he fancies is a new idea; and he
is going to apply it to everybody. As a fact it is simply a false
generalisation; but he is really trying to make it general. This does not
apply to the Negative Barbarian: it does not apply to the Russian or the
Servian, even if they are barbarians. If a Russian peasant does beat his
wife, he does it because his fathers did it before him: he is likely to
beat less rather than more as the past fades away. He does not think, as
the Prussian would, that he has made a new discovery in physiology in
finding that a woman is weaker than a man. If a Servian does knife his
rival without a word, he does it because other Servians have done it. He
may regard it even as piety, but certainly not as progress. He does not
think, as the Prussian does, that he founds a new school of horology by
starting before the word "Go." He does not think he is in advance of the
world in militarism, merely because he is behind it in morals. No; the
danger of the Pruss is that he is prepared to fight for old errors as if
they were new truths. He has somehow heard of certain shallow
simplifications; and imagines that we have never heard of them. And, as I
have said, his limited but very sincere lunacy concentrates chiefly in a
desire to destroy two ideas, the twin root ideas of rational society. The
first is the idea of record and promise: the second is the idea of

It is plain that the promise, or extension of responsibility through time,
is what chiefly distinguishes us, I will not say from savages, but from
brutes and reptiles. This was noted by the shrewdness of the Old Testament,
when it summed up the dark irresponsible enormity of Leviathan in the words
"Will he make a pact with thee?" The promise, like the wheel, is unknown in
Nature: and is the first mark of man. Referring only to human civilisation
it may be said with seriousness, that in the beginning was the Word. The
vow is to the man what the song is to the bird, or the bark to the dog; his
voice, whereby he is known. Just as a man who cannot keep an appointment is
not fit even to fight a duel, so the man who cannot keep an appointment
with himself is not sane enough even for suicide. It is not easy to mention
anything on which the enormous apparatus of human life can be said to
depend. But if it depends on anything, it is on this frail cord, flung from
the forgotten hills of yesterday to the invisible mountains of to-morrow.
On that solitary string hangs everything from Armageddon to an almanac,
from a successful revolution to a return ticket. On that solitary string
the Barbarian is hacking heavily, with a sabre which is fortunately blunt.

Any one can see this well enough, merely by reading the last negotiations
between London and Berlin. The Prussians had made a new discovery in
international politics: that it may often be convenient to make a promise;
and yet curiously inconvenient to keep it. They were charmed, in their
simple way, with this scientific discovery, and desired to communicate it
to the world. They therefore promised England a promise, on condition that
she broke a promise, and on the implied condition that the new promise
might be broken as easily as the old one. To the profound astonishment of
Prussia, this reasonable offer was refused! I believe that the astonishment
of Prussia was quite sincere. That is what I mean when I say that the
Barbarian is trying to cut away that cord of honesty and clear record, on
which hangs all that men have made.

The friends of the German cause have complained that Asiatics and Africans
upon the very verge of savagery have been brought against them from India
and Algiers. And, in ordinary circumstances, I should sympathise with such
a complaint made by a European people. But the circumstances are not
ordinary. Here, again, the quite unique barbarism of Prussia goes deeper
than what we call barbarities. About mere barbarities, it is true, the
Turco and the Sikh would have a very good reply to the superior Teuton.
The general and just reason for not using non-European tribes against
Europeans is that given by Chatham against the use of the Red Indian: that
such allies might do very diabolical things. But the poor Turco might not
unreasonably ask, after a weekend in Belgium, what more diabolical things
he _could_ do than the highly cultured Germans were doing themselves.
Nevertheless, as I say, the justification of any extra-European aid goes
deeper than any such details. It rests upon the fact that even other
civilisations, even much lower civilisations, even remote and repulsive
civilisations, depend as much as our own on this primary principle on which
the super-morality of Potsdam declares open War. Even savages promise
things; and respect those who keep their promises. Even Orientals write
things down: and though they write them from right to left, they know the
importance of a scrap of paper. Many merchants will tell you that the word
of the sinister and almost unhuman Chinaman is often as good as his bond:
and it was amid palm trees and Syrian pavilions that the great utterance
opened the tabernacle, to him that sweareth to his hurt and changeth not.
There is doubtless a dense labyrinth of duplicity in the East, and perhaps
more guile in the individual Asiatic than in the individual German. But we
are not talking of the violations of human morality in various parts of the
world. We are talking about a new and inhuman morality, which denies
altogether the day of obligation. The Prussians have been told by their
literary men that everything depends upon Mood: and by their politicians
that all arrangements dissolve before "necessity." That is the importance
of the German Chancellor's phrase. He did not allege some special excuse in
the case of Belgium, which might make it seem an exception that proved the
rule. He distinctly argued, as on a principle applicable to other cases,
that victory was a necessity and honour was a scrap of paper. And it is
evident that the half-educated Prussian imagination really cannot get any
further than this. It cannot see that if everybody's action were entirely
incalculable from hour to hour, it would not only be the end of all
promises, but the end of all projects. In not being able to see that, the
Berlin philosopher is really on a lower mental level than the Arab who
respects the salt, or the Brahmin who preserves the caste. And in this
quarrel we have a right to come with scimitars as well as sabres, with bows
as well as rifles, with assegai and tomahawk and boomerang, because there
is in all these at least a seed of civilisation that these intellectual
anarchists would kill. And if they should find us in our last stand girt
with such strange swords and following unfamiliar ensigns, and ask us for
what we fight in so singular a company, we shall know what to reply: "We
fight for the trust and for the tryst; for fixed memories and the possible
meeting of men; for all that makes life anything but an uncontrollable
nightmare. We fight for the long arm of honour and remembrance; for all
that can lift a man above the quicksands of his moods, and give him the
mastery of time."



In the last summary I suggested that Barbarism, as we mean it, is not mere
ignorance or even mere cruelty. It has a more precise sense, and means
militant hostility to certain necessary human ideas. I took the case of the
vow or the contract, which Prussian intellectualism would destroy. I urged
that the Prussian is a spiritual Barbarian, because he is not bound by his
own past, any more than a man in a dream. He avows that when he promised to
respect a frontier on Monday, he did not foresee what he calls "the
necessity" of not respecting it on Tuesday. In short, he is like a child,
who at the end of all reasonable explanations and reminders of admitted
arrangements, has no answer except "But I _want_ to."

There is another idea in human arrangements so fundamental as to be
forgotten; but now for the first time denied. It may be called the idea of
reciprocity; or, in better English, of give and take. The Prussian appears
to be quite intellectually incapable of this thought. He cannot, I think,
conceive the idea that is the foundation of all comedy; that, in the eyes
of the other man, he is only the other man. And if we carry this clue
through the institutions of Prussianised Germany, we shall find how
curiously his mind has been limited in the matter. The German differs from
other patriots in the inability to understand patriotism. Other European
peoples pity the Poles or the Welsh for their violated borders; but Germans
pity only themselves. They might take forcible possession of the Severn or
the Danube, of the Thames or the Tiber, of the Garry or the Garonne--and
they would still be singing sadly about how fast and true stands the watch
on Rhine; and what a shame it would be if any one took their own little
river away from them. That is what I mean by not being reciprocal: and you
will find it in all that they do: as in all that is done by savages.

Here, again, it is very necessary to avoid confusing this soul of the
savage with mere savagery in the sense of brutality or butchery; in which
the Greeks, the French and all the most civilised nations have indulged in
hours of abnormal panic or revenge. Accusations of cruelty are generally
mutual. But it is the point about the Prussian that with him nothing is
mutual. The definition of the true savage does not concern itself even with
how much more he hurts strangers or captives than do the other tribes of
men. The definition of the true savage is that he laughs when he hurts you;
and howls when you hurt him. This extraordinary inequality in the mind is
in every act and word that comes from Berlin. For instance, no man of the
world believes all he sees in the newspapers; and no journalist believes a
quarter of it. We should, therefore, be quite ready in the ordinary way to
take a great deal off the tales of German atrocities; to doubt this story
or deny that. But there is one thing that we cannot doubt or deny: the seal
and authority of the Emperor. In the Imperial proclamation the fact that
certain "frightful" things have been done is admitted; and justified on the
ground of their frightfulness. It was a military necessity to terrify the
peaceful populations with something that was not civilised, something that
was hardly human. Very well. That is an intelligible policy: and in that
sense an intelligible argument. An army endangered by foreigners may do the
most frightful things. But then we turn the next page of the Kaiser's
public diary, and we find him writing to the President of the United
States, to complain that the English are using Dum-dum bullets and
violating various regulations of the Hague Conference. I pass for the
present the question of whether there is a word of truth in these charges.
I am content to gaze rapturously at the blinking eyes of the True, or
Positive, Barbarian. I suppose he would be quite puzzled if we said that
violating the Hague Conference was "a military necessity" to us; or that
the rules of the Conference were only a scrap of paper. He would be quite
pained if we said that Dum-dum bullets, "by their very frightfulness,"
would be very useful to keep conquered Germans in order. Do what he will,
he cannot get outside the idea that he, because he is he and not you, is
free to break the law; and also to appeal to the law. It is said that the
Prussian officers play at a game called Kriegsspiel, or the War Game. But
in truth they could not play at any game; for the essence of every game is
that the rules are the same on both sides.

But taking every German institution in turn, the case is the same; and it
is not a case of mere bloodshed or military bravado. The duel, for
example, can legitimately be called a barbaric thing; but the word is here
used in another sense. There are duels in Germany; but so there are in
France, Italy, Belgium, and Spain; indeed, there are duels wherever there
are dentists, newspapers, Turkish baths, time-tables, and all the curses of
civilisation; except in England and a corner of America. You may happen to
regard the duel as a historic relic of the more barbaric States on which
these modern States were built. It might equally well be maintained that
the duel is everywhere the sign of high civilisation; being the sign of its
more delicate sense of honour, its more vulnerable vanity, or its greater
dread of social disrepute. But whichever of the two views you take, you
must concede that the essence of the duel is an armed equality. I should
not, therefore, apply the word barbaric, as I am using it, to the duels of
German officers, or even to the broadsword combats that are conventional
among the German students. I do not see why a young Prussian should not
have scars all over his face if he likes them; nay, they are often the
redeeming points of interest on an otherwise somewhat unenlightening
countenance. The duel may be defended; the sham duel may be defended.

What cannot be defended is something really peculiar to Prussia, of which
we hear numberless stories, some of them certainly true. It might be called
the one-sided duel. I mean the idea that there is some sort of dignity in
drawing the sword upon a man who has not got a sword; a waiter, or a shop
assistant, or even a schoolboy. One of the officers of the Kaiser in the
affair at Saberne was found industriously hacking at a cripple. In all
these matters I would avoid sentiment. We must not lose our tempers at the
mere cruelty of the thing; but pursue the strict psychological distinction.
Others besides German soldiers have slain the defenceless, for loot or lust
or private malice, like any other murderer. The point is that nowhere else
but in Prussian Germany is any theory of honour mixed up with such things;
any more than with poisoning or picking pockets. No French, English,
Italian or American gentleman would think he had in some way cleared his
own character by sticking his sabre through some ridiculous greengrocer who
had nothing in his hand but a cucumber. It would seem as if the word which
is translated from the German as "honour" must really mean something quite
different in German. It seems to mean something more like what we should
call "prestige."

The fundamental fact, however, is the absence of the reciprocal idea. The
Prussian is not sufficiently civilised for the duel. Even when he crosses
swords with us his thoughts are not as our thoughts; when we both glorify
war, we are glorifying different things. Our medals are wrought like his,
but they do not mean the same thing; our regiments are cheered as his are,
but the thought in the heart is not the same; the Iron Cross is on the
bosom of his king, but it is not the sign of our God. For we, alas, follow
our God with many relapses and self-contradictions, but he follows his very
consistently. Through all the things that we have examined, the view of
national boundaries, the view of military methods, the view of personal
honour and self-defence, there runs in their case something of an atrocious
simplicity; something too simple for us to understand: the idea that glory
consists in holding the steel, and not in facing it.

If further examples were necessary, it would be easy to give hundreds of
them. Let us leave, for the moment, the relation between man and man in
the thing called the duel. Let us take the relation between man and woman,
in that immortal duel which we call a marriage. Here again we shall find
that other Christian civilisations aim at some kind of equality; even if
the balance be irrational or dangerous. Thus, the two extremes of the
treatment of women might be represented by what are called the respectable
classes in America and in France. In America they choose the risk of
comradeship; in France the compensation of courtesy. In America it is
practically possible for any young gentleman to take any young lady for
what he calls (I deeply regret to say) a joy-ride; but at least the man
goes with the woman as much as the woman with the man. In France the young
woman is protected like a nun while she is unmarried; but when she is a
mother she is really a holy woman; and when she is a grandmother she is a
holy terror. By both extremes the woman gets something back out of life.
There is only one place where she gets little or nothing back; and that is
the north of Germany. France and America aim alike at equality; America by
similarity; France by dissimilarity. But North Germany does definitely
aim at inequality. The woman stands up, with no more irritation than a
butler; the man sits down, with no more embarrassment than a guest. This is
the cool affirmation of inferiority, as in the case of the sabre and the
tradesman. "Thou goest with women; forget not thy whip," said Nietzsche. It
will be observed that he does not say "poker"; which might come more
naturally to the mind of a more common or Christian wife-beater. But then a
poker is a part of domesticity; and might be used by the wife as well as
the husband. In fact, it often is. The sword and the whip are the weapons
of a privileged caste.

Pass from the closest of all differences, that between husband and wife, to
the most distant of all differences, that of the remote and unrelated races
who have seldom seen each other's faces, and never been tinged with each
other's blood. Here we still find the same unvarying Prussian principle.
Any European might feel a genuine fear of the Yellow Peril; and many
Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Russians have felt and expressed it. Many might
say, and have said, that the Heathen Chinee is very heathen indeed; that if
he ever advances against us he will trample and torture and utterly
destroy, in a way that Eastern people do, but Western people do not. Nor do
I doubt the German Emperor's sincerity when he sought to point out to us
how abnormal and abominable such a nightmare campaign would be, supposing
that it could ever come. But now comes the comic irony; which never fails
to follow on the attempt of the Prussian to be philosophic. For the Kaiser,
after explaining to his troops how important it was to avoid Eastern
Barbarism, instantly commanded them to become Eastern Barbarians. He told
them, in so many words, to be Huns: and leave nothing living or standing
behind them. In fact, he frankly offered a new army corps of aboriginal
Tartars to the Far East, within such time as it may take a bewildered
Hanoverian to turn into a Tartar. Any one who has the painful habit of
personal thought, will perceive here at once the non-reciprocal principle
again. Boiled down to its bones of logic, it means simply this: "I am a
German and you are a Chinaman. Therefore I, being a German, have a right
to be a Chinaman. But you have no right to be a Chinaman; because you are
only a Chinaman." This is probably the highest point to which the German
culture has risen.

The principle here neglected, which may be called Mutuality by those who
misunderstand and dislike the word Equality, does not offer so clear a
distinction between the Prussian and the other peoples as did the first
Prussian principle of an infinite and destructive opportunism; or, in other
words, the principle of being unprincipled. Nor upon this second can one
take up so obvious a position touching the other civilisations or
semi-civilisations of the world. Some idea of oath and bond there is in the
rudest tribes, in the darkest continents. But it might be maintained, of
the more delicate and imaginative element of reciprocity, that a cannibal
in Borneo understands it almost as little as a professor in Berlin. A
narrow and one-sided seriousness is the fault of barbarians all over the
world. This may have been the meaning, for aught I know, of the one eye of
the Cyclops: that the Barbarian cannot see round things or look at them
from two points of view; and thus becomes a blind beast and an eater of
men. Certainly there can be no better summary of the savage than this,
which as we have seen, unfits him for the duel. He is the man who cannot
love--no, nor even hate--his neighbour as himself.

But this quality in Prussia does have one effect which has reference to the
same question of the lower civilisations. It disposes once and for all at
least of the civilising mission of Germany. Evidently the Germans are the
last people in the world to be trusted with the task. They are as
shortsighted morally as physically. What is their sophism of "necessity"
but an inability to imagine to-morrow morning? What is their
non-reciprocity but an inability to imagine, not a god or devil,
but merely another man? Are these to judge mankind? Men of two tribes
in Africa not only know that they are all men, but can understand
that they are all black men. In this they are quite seriously in
advance of the intellectual Prussian; who cannot be got to see
that we are all white men. The ordinary eye is unable to perceive
in the North-East Teuton anything that marks him out especially
from the more colourless classes of the rest of Aryan mankind. He is simply
a white man, with a tendency to the grey or the drab. Yet he will explain,
in serious official documents, that the difference between him and us is a
difference between "the master-race and the inferior-race." The collapse of
German philosophy always occurs at the beginning rather than the end of an
argument; and the difficulty here is that there is no way of testing which
is a master-race except by asking which is your own race. If you cannot
find out (as is usually the case) you fall back on the absurd occupation of
writing history about pre-historic times. But I suggest quite seriously
that if the Germans can give their philosophy to the Hottentots, there is
no reason why they should not give their sense of superiority to the
Hottentots. If they can see such fine shades between the Goth and the
Gaul, there is no reason why similar shades should not lift the savage
above other savages; why any Ojibway should not discover that he is one
tint redder than the Dacotahs; or any nigger in the Cameroons say he is not
so black as he is painted. For this principle of a quite unproved racial
supremacy is the last and worst of the refusals of reciprocity. The
Prussian calls all men to admire the beauty of his large blue eyes. If they
do, it is because they have inferior eyes: if they don't, it is because
they have no eyes.

Wherever the most miserable remnant of our race, astray and dried up in
deserts, or buried forever under the fall of bad civilisations, has some
feeble memory that men are men, that bargains are bargains, that there are
two sides to a question, or even that it takes two to make a quarrel--that
remnant has the right to resist the New Culture, to the knife and club and
the splintered stone. For the Prussian begins all his culture by that act
which is the destruction of all creative thought and constructive action.
He breaks that mirror in the mind, in which a man can see the face of his
friend or foe.



The German Emperor has reproached this country with allying itself with
"barbaric and semi-oriental power." We have already considered in what
sense we use the word barbaric: it is in the sense of one who is hostile to
civilisation, not one who is insufficient in it. But when we pass from the
idea of the barbaric to the idea of the oriental, the case is even more
curious. There is nothing particularly Tartar in Russian affairs, except
the fact that Russia expelled the Tartars. The Eastern invader occupied
and crushed the country for many years; but that is equally true of Greece,
of Spain and even of Austria. If Russia has suffered from the East she has
suffered in order to resist it: and it is rather hard that the very miracle
of her escape should make a mystery about her origin. Jonah may or may not
have been three days inside a fish, but that does not make him a merman.
And in all the other cases of European nations who escaped the monstrous
captivity, we do admit the purity and continuity of the European type. We
consider the old Eastern rule as a wound, but not as a stain.
Copper-coloured men out of Africa overruled for centuries the religion and
patriotism of Spaniards. Yet I have never heard that Don Quixote was an
African fable on the lines of Uncle Remus. I have never heard that the
heavy black in the pictures of Velasquez was due to a negro ancestry. In
the case of Spain, which is close to us, we can recognise the resurrection
of a Christian and cultured nation after its age of bondage. But Russia is
rather remote; and those to whom nations are but names in newspapers can
really fancy, like Mr. Baring's friend, that all Russian churches are
"mosques." Yet the land of Turgenev is not a wilderness of fakirs; and even
the fanatical Russian is as proud of being different from the Mongol, as
the fanatical Spaniard was proud of being different from the Moor.

The town of Reading, as it exists, offers few opportunities for piracy on
the high seas: yet it was the camp of the pirates in Alfred's day. I should
think it hard to call the people of Berkshire half-Danish, merely because
they drove out the Danes. In short, some temporary submergence under the
savage flood was the fate of many of the most civilised states of
Christendom; and it is quite ridiculous to argue that Russia, which
wrestled hardest, must have recovered least. Everywhere, doubtless, the
East spread a sort of enamel over the conquered countries, but everywhere
the enamel cracked. Actual history, in fact, is exactly opposite to the
cheap proverb invented against the Muscovite. It is not true to say
"Scratch a Russian and you find a Tartar." In the darkest hour of the
barbaric dominion it was truer to say, "Scratch a Tartar and you find a
Russian." It was the civilisation that survived under all the barbarism.
This vital romance of Russia, this revolution against Asia, can be proved
in pure fact: not only from the almost superhuman activity of Russia during
the struggle, but also (which is much rarer as human history goes) by her
quite consistent conduct since. She is the only great nation which has
really expelled the Mongol from her country, and continued to protest
against the presence of the Mongol in her continent. Knowing what he had
been in Russia, she knew what he would be in Europe. In this she pursued a
logical line of thought which was, if anything, too unsympathetic with the
energies and religions of the East. Every other country, one may say, has
been an ally of the Turk; that is, of the Mongol and the Moslem. The French
played them as pieces against Austria; the English warmly supported them
under the Palmerston regime; even the young Italians sent troops to the
Crimea; and of Prussia and her Austrian vassal it is nowadays needless to
speak. For good or evil, it is the fact of history that Russia is the only
Power in Europe that has never supported the Crescent against the Cross.

That, doubtless, will appear an unimportant matter; but it may become
important under certain peculiar conditions. Suppose, for the sake of
argument, that there were a powerful prince in Europe who had gone
ostentatiously out of his way to pay reverence to the remains of the
Tartar, Mongol and Moslem, left as an outpost in Europe. Suppose there were
a Christian Emperor who could not even go to the tomb of the Crucified,
without pausing to congratulate the last and living crucifier. If there
were an Emperor who gave guns and guides and maps and drill instructors to
defend the remains of the Mongol in Christendom, what should we say to him?
I think at least we might ask him what he meant by his impudence, when he
talked about supporting a semi-oriental power. That we support a
semi-oriental power, we deny. That he has supported an entirely oriental
power cannot be denied--no, not even by the man who did it.

But here is to be noted the essential difference between Russia and
Prussia; especially by those who use the ordinary Liberal arguments against
the latter. Russia has a policy which she pursues, if you will, through
evil and good; but at least so as to produce good as well as evil. Let it
be granted that the policy has made her oppressive to the Finns and the
Poles--though the Russian Poles feel far less oppressed than do the
Prussian Poles. But it is a mere historic fact, that if Russia has been a
despot to some small nations, she has been a deliverer to others. She did,
so far as in her lay, emancipate the Servians or the Montenegrins. But
whom did Prussia ever emancipate--even by accident? It is indeed somewhat
extraordinary that in the perpetual permutations of international politics
the Hohenzollerns have never gone astray into the path of enlightenment.
They have been in alliance with almost everybody off and on; with France,
with England, with Austria, with Russia. Can any one candidly say that they
have left on any one of these people the faintest impress of progress or
liberation? Prussia was the enemy of the French Monarchy; but a worse
enemy of the French Revolution. Prussia had been an enemy of the Czar; but
she was a worse enemy of the Duma. Prussia totally disregarded Austrian
rights; but she is to-day quite ready to inflict Austrian wrongs. This is
the strong particular difference between the one empire and the other.
Russia is pursuing certain intelligible and sincere ends, which to her at
least are ideals, and for which, therefore, she will make sacrifices and
will protect the weak. But the North German soldier is a sort of abstract
tyrant, everywhere and always on the side of materialistic tyranny. This
Teuton in uniform has been found in strange places; shooting farmers before
Saratoga and flogging soldiers in Surrey, hanging niggers in Africa and
raping girls in Wicklow; but never, by some mysterious fatality, lending a
hand to the freeing of a single city or the independence of one solitary
flag. Wherever scorn and prosperous oppression are, there is the Prussian;
unconsciously consistent, instinctively restrictive, innocently evil;
"following darkness like a dream."

Suppose we heard of a person (gifted with some longevity) who had helped
Alva to persecute Dutch Protestants, then helped Cromwell to persecute
Irish Catholics, and then helped Claverhouse to persecute Scotch Puritans,
we should find it rather easier to call him a persecutor than to call him a
Protestant or a Catholic. Curiously enough this is actually the position in
which the Prussian stands in Europe. No argument can alter the fact that in
three converging and conclusive cases he has been on the side of three
distinct rulers of different religions, who had nothing whatever in common
except that they were ruling oppressively. In these three Governments,
taken separately, one can see something excusable or at least human. When
the Kaiser encouraged the Russian rulers to crush the Revolution, the
Russian rulers undoubtedly believed they were wrestling with an inferno of
atheism and anarchy. A Socialist of the ordinary English kind cried out
upon me when I spoke of Stolypin, and said he was chiefly known by the
halter called "Stolypin's Necktie." As a fact, there were many other things
interesting about Stolypin besides his necktie: his policy of peasant
proprietorship, his extraordinary personal courage, and certainly none more
interesting than that movement in his death agony, when he made the sign of
the cross towards the Czar, as the crown and captain of his Christianity.
But the Kaiser does not regard the Czar as the captain of Christianity. Far
from it. What he supported in Stolypin was the necktie and nothing but the
necktie: the gallows and not the cross. The Russian ruler did believe that
the Orthodox Church was orthodox. The Austrian Archduke did really desire
to make the Catholic Church catholic. He did really believe that he was
being Pro-Catholic in being Pro-Austrian. But the Kaiser cannot be
Pro-Catholic, and therefore cannot have been really Pro-Austrian, he was
simply and solely Anti-Servian. Nay, even in the cruel and sterile strength
of Turkey, any one with imagination can see something of the tragedy and
therefore of the tenderness of true belief. The worst that can be said of
the Moslems is, as the poet put it, they offered to man the choice of the
Koran or the sword. The best that can be said for the German is that he
does not care about the Koran, but is satisfied if he can have the sword.
And for me, I confess, even the sins of these three other striving empires
take on, in comparison, something that is sorrowful and dignified: and I
feel they do not deserve that this little Lutheran lounger should patronise
all that is evil in them, while ignoring all that is good. He is not
Catholic, he is not Orthodox, he is not Mahomedan. He is merely an old
gentleman who wishes to share the crime though he cannot share the creed.
He desires to be a persecutor by the pang without the palm. So strongly do
all the instincts of the Prussian drive against liberty, that he would
rather oppress other people's subjects than think of anybody going without
the benefits of oppression. He is a sort of disinterested despot. He is as
disinterested as the devil who is ready to do any one's dirty work.

This would seem obviously fantastic were it not supported by solid facts
which cannot be explained otherwise. Indeed it would be inconceivable if we
were thinking of a whole people, consisting of free and varied individuals.
But in Prussia the governing class is really a governing class: and a very
few people are needed to think along these lines to make all the other
people act along them. And the paradox of Prussia is this: that while its
princes and nobles have no other aim on this earth but to destroy democracy
wherever it shows itself, they have contrived to get themselves trusted,
not as wardens of the past but as forerunners of the future. Even they
cannot believe that their theory is popular, but they do believe that it is
progressive. Here again we find the spiritual chasm between the two
monarchies in question. The Russian institutions are, in many cases,
really left in the rear of the Russian people, and many of the Russian
people know it. But the Prussian institutions are supposed to be in advance
of the Prussian people, and most of the Prussian people believe it. It is
thus much easier for the warlords to go everywhere and impose a hopeless
slavery upon every one, for they have already imposed a sort of hopeful
slavery on their own simple race.

And when men shall speak to us of the hoary iniquities of Russia and of how
antiquated is the Russian system, we shall answer "Yes; that is the
superiority of Russia." Their institutions are part of their history,
whether as relics or fossils. Their abuses have really been uses: that is
to say, they have been used up. If they have old engines of terror or
torment, they may fall to pieces from mere rust, like an old coat of
armour. But in the case of the Prussian tyranny, if it be tyranny at all,
it is the whole point of its claim that it is not antiquated, but just
going to begin, like the showman. Prussia has a whole thriving factory of
thumbscrews, a whole humming workshop of wheels and racks, of the newest
and neatest pattern, with which to win back Europe to the Reaction ...
_infandum renovare dolorem_. And if we wish to test the truth of this, it
can be done by the same method which showed us that Russia, if her race or
religion could sometimes make her an invader and an oppressor, could also
be made an emancipator and a knight errant. In the same way, if the Russian
institutions are old-fashioned, they honestly exhibit the good as well as
the bad that can be found in old-fashioned things. In their police system
they have an inequality which is against our ideas of law. But in their
commune system they have an equality that is older than law itself. Even
when they flogged each other like barbarians, they called upon each other
by their Christian names like children. At their worst they retained all
the best of a rude society. At their best, they are simply good, like good
children or good nuns. But in Prussia all that is best in the civilised
machinery is put at the service of all that is worst in the barbaric mind.
Here again the Prussian has no accidental merits, none of those lucky
survivals, none of those late repentances, which make the patchwork glory
of Russia. Here all is sharpened to a point and pointed to a purpose and
that purpose, if words and acts have any meaning at all, is the destruction
of liberty throughout the world.



In considering the Prussian point of view we have been considering what
seems to be mainly a mental limitation: a kind of knot in the brain.
Towards the problem of Slav population, of English colonisation, of French
armies and reinforcements, it shows the same strange philosophic sulks. So
far as I can follow it, it seems to amount to saying "It is very wrong that
you should be superior to me, because I am superior to you." The spokesmen
of this system seem to have a curious capacity for concentrating this
entanglement or contradiction, sometimes into a single paragraph, or even a
single sentence. I have already referred to the German Emperor's celebrated
suggestion that in order to avert the peril of Hunnishness we should all
become Huns. A much stronger instance is his more recent order to his
troops touching the war in Northern France. As most people know, his words
ran "It is my Royal and Imperial command that you concentrate your
energies, for the immediate present, upon one single purpose, and that is
that you address all your skill and all the valour of my soldiers to
exterminate first the treacherous English and to walk over General French's
contemptible little Army." The rudeness of the remark an Englishman can
afford to pass over; what I am interested in is the mentality; the train of
thought that can manage to entangle itself even in so brief a space. If
French's little Army is contemptible, it would seem clear that all the
skill and valour of the German Army had better not be concentrated on it,
but on the larger and less contemptible allies. If all the skill and
valour of the German Army are concentrated on it, it is not being treated
as contemptible. But the Prussian rhetorician had two incompatible
sentiments in his mind; and he insisted on saying them both at once. He
wanted to think of an English Army as a small thing; but he also wanted to
think of an English defeat as a big thing. He wanted to exult, at the same
moment, in the utter weakness of the British in their attack; and the
supreme skill and valour of the Germans in repelling such an attack.
Somehow it must be made a common and obvious collapse for England; and yet
a daring and unexpected triumph for Germany. In trying to express these
contradictory conceptions simultaneously, he got rather mixed. Therefore he
bade Germania fill all her vales and mountains with the dying agonies of
this almost invisible earwig; and let the impure blood of this cockroach
redden the Rhine down to the sea.

But it would be unfair to base the criticism on the utterance of any
accidental and hereditary prince: and it is quite equally clear in the case
of the philosophers who have been held up to us, even in England, as the
very prophets of progress. And in nothing is it shown more sharply than in
the curious confused talk about Race and especially about the Teutonic
Race. Professor Harnack and similar people are reproaching us, I
understand, for having broken "the bond of Teutonism": a bond which the
Prussians have strictly observed both in breach and observance. We note it
in their open annexation of lands wholly inhabited by negroes, such as
Denmark. We note it equally in their instant and joyful recognition of the
flaxen hair and light blue eyes of the Turks. But it is still the abstract
principle of Professor Harnack which interests me most; and in following it
I have the same complexity of enquiry, but the same simplicity of result.
Comparing the Professor's concern about "Teutonism" with his unconcern
about Belgium, I can only reach the following result: "A man need not keep
a promise he has made. But a man must keep a promise he has not made."
There certainly was a treaty binding Britain to Belgium; if it was only a
scrap of paper. If there was any treaty binding Britain to Teutonism it is,
to say the least of it, a lost scrap of paper: almost what one might call a
scrap of waste-paper. Here again the pendants under consideration exhibit
the illogical perversity that makes the brain reel. There is obligation and
there is no obligation: sometimes it appears that Germany and England must
keep faith with each other; sometimes that Germany need not keep faith with
anybody and anything; sometimes that we alone among European peoples are
almost entitled to be Germans; sometimes that beside us Russians and
Frenchmen almost rise to a Germanic loveliness of character. But through
all there is, hazy but not hypocritical, this sense of some common

Professor Haeckel, another of the witnesses raised up against us, attained
to some celebrity at one time through proving the remarkable resemblance
between two different things by printing duplicate pictures of the same
thing. Professor Haeckel's contribution to biology, in this case, was
exactly like Professor Harnack's contribution to ethnology. Professor
Harnack knows what a German is like. When he wants to imagine what an
Englishman is like, he simply photographs the same German over again. In
both cases there is probably sincerity as well as simplicity. Haeckel was
so certain that the species illustrated in embryo really are closely
related and linked up, that it seemed to him a small thing to simplify it
by mere repetition. Harnack is so certain that the German and Englishman
are almost alike, that he really risks the generalisation that they are
exactly alike. He photographs, so to speak, the same fair and foolish face
twice over; and calls it a remarkable resemblance between cousins. Thus he
can prove the existence of Teutonism just about as conclusively as Haeckel
has proved the more tenable proposition of the non-existence of God. Now
the German and the Englishman are not in the least alike--except in the
sense that neither of them are negroes. They are, in everything good and
evil, more unlike than any other two men we can take at random from the
great European family. They are opposite from the roots of their history,
nay, of their geography. It is an understatement to call Britain insular.
Britain is not only an island, but an island slashed by the sea till it
nearly splits into three islands; and even the Midlands can almost smell
the salt. Germany is a powerful, beautiful and fertile inland country,
which can only find the sea by one or two twisted and narrow paths, as
people find a subterranean lake. Thus the British Navy is really national
because it is natural; it has co-hered out of hundreds of accidental
adventures of ships and shipmen before Chaucer's time and after it. But the
German Navy is an artificial thing; as artificial as a constructed Alp
would be in England. William II has simply copied the British Navy as
Frederick II copied the French Army: and this Japanese or anti-like
assiduity in imitation is one of the hundred qualities which the Germans
have and the English markedly have not. There are other German
superiorities which are very much superior. The one or two really jolly
things that the Germans have got are precisely the things which the English
haven't got: notably a real habit of popular music and of the ancient songs
of the people, not merely spreading from the towns or caught from the
professionals. In this the Germans rather resemble the Welsh: though heaven
knows what becomes of Teutonism if they do. But the difference between the
Germans and the English goes deeper than all these signs of it; they differ
more than any other two Europeans in the normal posture of the mind. Above
all, they differ in what is the most English of all English traits; that
shame which the French may be right in calling "the bad shame"; for it is
certainly mixed up with pride and suspicion, the upshot of which we call
shyness. Even an Englishman's rudeness is often rooted in his being
embarrassed. But a German's rudeness is rooted in his never being
embarrassed. He eats and makes love noisily. He never feels a speech or a
song or a sermon or a large meal to be what the English call "out of place"
in particular circumstances. When Germans are patriotic and religious they
have no reactions against patriotism and religion as have the English and
the French. Nay, the mistake of Germany in the modern disaster largely
arose from the facts that she thought England was simple when England is
very subtle. She thought that because our politics have become largely
financial that they had become wholly financial; that because our
aristocrats had become pretty cynical that they had become entirely
corrupt. They could not seize the subtlety by which a rather used-up
English gentleman might sell a coronet when he would not sell a fortress;
might lower the public standards and yet refuse to lower the flag. In
short, the Germans are quite sure that they understand us entirely, because
they do not understand us at all. Possibly if they began to understand us
they might hate us even more: but I would rather be hated for some small
but real reason than pursued with love on account of all kinds of qualities
which I do not possess and which I do not desire. And when the Germans get
their first genuine glimpse of what modern England is like they will
discover that England has a very broken, belated and inadequate sense of
having an obligation to Europe, but no sort of sense whatever of having any
obligation to Teutonism.

This is the last and strongest of the Prussian qualities we have here
considered. There is in stupidity of this sort a strange slippery
strength: because it can be not only outside rules but outside reason. The
man who really cannot see that he is contradicting himself has a great
advantage in controversy; though the advantage breaks down when he tries to
reduce it to simple addition, to chess, or to the game called war. It is
the same about the stupidity of the one-sided kinship. The drunkard who is
quite certain that a total stranger is his long-lost brother, has a greater
advantage until it comes to matters of detail. "We must have chaos within"
said Nietzsche, "that we may give birth to a dancing star."

In these slight notes I have suggested the principal strong points of the
Prussian character. A failure in honour which almost amounts to a failure
in memory: an egomania that is honestly blind to the fact that the other
party is an ego; and, above all, an actual itch for tyranny and
interference, the devil which everywhere torments the idle and the proud.
To these must be added a certain mental shapelessness which can expand or
contract without reference to reason or record; a potential infinity of
excuses. If the English had been on the German side, the German professors
would have noted what irresistible energies had evolved the Teutons. As the
English are on the other side, the German professors will say that these
Teutons were not sufficiently evolved. Or they will say that they were
just sufficiently evolved to show that they were not Teutons. Probably they
will say both. But the truth is that all that they call evolution should
rather be called evasion. They tell us they are opening windows of
enlightenment and doors of progress. The truth is that they are breaking up
the whole house of the human intellect, that they may abscond in any
direction. There is an ominous and almost monstrous parallel between the
position of their over-rated philosophers and of their comparatively
under-rated soldiers. For what their professors call roads of progress are
really routes of escape.


Italy, twice hast thou spoken; and time is athirst
for the third.

My Dear ------

It is a long time since we met; and I fear these letters may never reach
you. But in these violent times I remember with a curious vividness how you
brandished a paintbrush about your easel when I was a boy; and how it
thrilled me to think that you had so brandished a bayonet against the
Teutons--I hope with the same precision and happy results. Round about
that period, the very pigments seemed to have some sort of picturesque
connection with your national story. There seemed to be something gorgeous
and terrible about Venetian Red; and something quite catastrophic about
Burnt Sienna. But somehow or other, when I saw in the street yesterday the
colours on your flag, it reminded me of the colours on your palette.

You need not fear that I shall try to entangle you or your countrymen in
the matters which it is for Italians alone to decide. You know the perils
of either course much better than I do. Italy, most assuredly, has no need
to prove her courage. She has risked everything in standing out that she
could risk by coming in. The proclamations and press of Germany make it
plain that the Germans have risen to a height of sensibility hardly to be
distinguished from madness. Supposing the nightmare of a Prussian victory,
they will revenge themselves on things more remote than the Triple
Alliance. There was a promise of peace between them and Belgium; there was
none between them and England. The promise to Belgium they broke. The
promise of England they invented. It is called the Treaty of Teutonism. No
one ever heard of it in this country; but it seems well known in academic
circles in Germany. It seems to be something, connected with the colour of
one's hair. But I repeat that I am not concerned to interfere with your
decision, save in so far as I may provide some materials for it by
describing our own.

For I think the first, perhaps the only, fruitful work an Englishman can do
now for the formation of foreign opinion is to talk about what he really
understands, the condition of British opinion. It is as simple as it is
solid. For the first time, perhaps, what we call the United Kingdom
entirely deserves its name. There has been nothing like such unanimity
within an Englishman's recollection. The Irish and even the Welsh were
largely pro-Boers, so were some of the most English of the English. No one
could have been more English than Fox, yet he denounced the war with
Napoleon. No one could be more English than Cobden, but he denounced the
war in the Crimea. It is really extraordinary to find a united England.
Indeed, until lately, it was extraordinary to find a united Englishman.
Those of us who, like the present writer, repudiated the South African war
from its beginnings, had yet a divided heart in the matter, and felt
certain aspects of it as glorious as well as infamous. The first fact I can
offer you is the unquestionable fact that all these doubts and divisions
have ceased. Nor have they ceased by any compromise; but by a universal
flash of faith--or, if you will, of suspicion. Nor were our internal
conflicts lightly abandoned; nor our reconciliations an easy matter. I am,
as you are, a democrat and a citizen of Europe; and my friends and I had
grown to loathe the plutocracy and privilege which sat in the high places
of our country with a loathing which we thought no love could cast out. Of
these rich men I will not speak here; with your permission, I will not
think of them. War is a terrible business in any case; and to some
intellectual temperaments this is the most terrible part of it. That war
takes the young; that war sunders the lovers; that all over Europe brides
and bridegrooms are parting at the church door: all that is only a
commonplace to commonplace people. To give up one's love for one's country
is very great. But to give up one's hate for one's country, this may also
have in it something of pride and something of purification.

What is it that has made the British peoples thus defer not only their
artificial parade of party politics but their real social and moral
complaints and demands? What is it that has united all of us against the
Prussian, as against a mad dog? It is the presence of a certain spirit, as
unmistakable as a pungent smell, which we feel is capable of withering all
the good things in this world. The burglary of Belgium, the bribe to
betray France, these are not excuses; they are facts. But they are only
the facts by which we came to know of the presence of the spirit. They do
not suffice to define the whole spirit itself. A good rough summary is to
say that it is the spirit of barbarism; but indeed it is something worse.
It is the spirit of second-rate civilisation; and the distinction involves
the most important differences. Granted that it could exist, pure barbarism
could not last long; as pure babyhood cannot last long. Of his own nature
the baby is interested in the ticking of a watch; and the time will come
when you will have to tell him, if you only tell him the wrong time. And
that is exactly what the second-rate civilisation does.

But the vital point is here. The abstract barbarian would copy. The cockney
and incomplete civilisation always sets itself up to be copied. And in the
case here considered, the German thinks that it is not only his business to
spread education, but to spread compulsory education. "Science combined
with organisation," says Professor Ostwald of Berlin University, "makes us
terrible to our opponents and ensures a German future for Europe." That is,
as shortly as it can be put, what we are fighting about. We are fighting to
prevent a German future for Europe. We think it would be narrower, nastier,
less sane, less capable of liberty and of laughter, than any of the worst
parts of the European past. And when I cast about for a form in which to
explain shortly why we think so, I thought of you. For this is a matter so
large that I know not how to express it except in terms of artists like
you, in the service of beauty and the faith in freedom. Prussia, at least
cannot help me; Lord Palmerston, I believe, called it a country of damned
professors. Lord Palmerston, I fear, used the word "damned" more or less
flippantly. I use it reverently.

Rome, at her very weakest, has always been a river that wanders and widens
and that waters many fields. Berlin, at its strongest, will never be
anything but a whirlpool, which seeks its own centre, and is sucked down.
It would only narrow all the rest of Europe, as it has already narrowed all
the rest of Germany. There is a spirit of diseased egoism, which at last
makes all things spin upon one pin-point in the brain. It is a spirit
expressed more often in the slangs than in the tongues of men. The English
call it a fad. I do not know what the Italians call it; the Prussians call
it philosophy.

Here is the sort of instance that made me think of you. What would you feel
first, let us say, if I mentioned Michael Angelo? For the first moment,
perhaps, boredom: such as I feel when Americans ask me about
Stratford-on-Avon. But, supposing that just fear quieted, you would feel
what I and every one else can feel. It might be the sense of the majestic
hands of Man upon the locks of the last doors of life; large and terrible
hands, like those of that youth who poises the stone above Florence, and
looks out upon the circle of the hills. It might be that huge heave of
flank and chest and throat in "The Slave," which is like an earthquake
lifting a whole landscape; it might be that tremendous Madonna, whose
charity is more strong than death. Anyhow, your thoughts would be something
worthy of the man's terrible paganism and his more terrible Christianity.
Who but God could have graven Michael Angelo; who came so near to graving
the Mother of God?

German culture deals with the matter as follows:--"Michelangelo Buonarotti
(1475-1564).--(=Bernhard) ancestor of the family, lived in Florence about
1210. He had two sons, Berlinghieri and Buonarrota. By this name recurring
frequently in later generations, the family came to be called. It is a
German name, compounded of Bona (=Bohn) and Hrodo, Roto (=Rohde, Rothe)
Bona and Rotto are cited as Lombard names. Buonarotti is perhaps the old
Lombard Beonrad, corresponding to the word Bonroth. Corresponding names are
Mackrodt, Osterroth, Leonard." And so on, and so on, and so on. "In his
face he has always been well-coloured...the eyes might be called small
rather than large, of the colour of horn, but variable with 'flecks' of
yellow and blue. Hair and beard are black. These particulars are confirmed
by the portraits. First and foremost take the portrait of Bugiardini in
Museo Buonarotti. Here comes to view the 'flecked' appearance of the iris,
especially in the right eye. The left may be described as almost wholly
blue." And so on, and so on, and so on. "In the Museo Civico at Pavia, is a
fresco likeness by an unknown hand, in which this fresh red is distinctly
recognisable on the face. Taking all these bodily characteristics into
consideration, it must be said from an anthropological point of view that
though originally of German family he was a hybrid between the North and
West brunette race."

Would you take the trouble to prove that Michael Angelo was an Italian that
this man takes to prove that he was a German? Of course not. The only
impression this man (who is a recognised Prussian historian) produces on
your mind or mine is that he does not care about Michael Angelo. For you,
being an Italian, are therefore something more than an Italian; and I being
an Englishman, something more than an Englishman. But this poor fellow
really cannot be anything more than a Prussian. He digs and digs to find
dead Prussians, in the catacombs of Rome or under the ruins of Troy. If he
can find one blue eye lying about somewhere, he is satisfied. He has no
philosophy. He has a hobby, which is collecting Germans. It would probably
be vain for you and me to point out that we could prove anything by the
sort of ingenuity which finds the German "rothe" in Buonarotti. We could
have great fun depriving Germany of all her geniuses in that style. We
could say that Moltke must have been an Italian, from the old Latin root
_mol_--indicating the sweetness of that general's disposition. We might say
Bismarck was a Frenchman, since his name begins with the popular theatrical
cry of "Bis!" We might say Goethe was an Englishman, because his name
begins with the popular sporting cry "Go!" But the ultimate difference
between us and the Prussian professor is simply that we are not mad.

The father of Frederick the Great, the founder of the more modern
Hohenzollerns, was mad. His madness consisted of stealing giants; like an
unscrupulous travelling showman. Any man much over six foot high, whether
he were called the Russian Giant or the Irish Giant or the Chinese Giant or
the Hottentot Giant, was in danger of being kidnapped and imprisoned in a
Prussian uniform. It is the same mean sort of madness that is working in
Prussian professors such as the one I have quoted. They can get no further
than the notion of stealing giants. I will not bore you now with all the
other giants they have tried to steal; it is enough to say that St. Paul,
Leonardo da Vinci, and Shakespeare himself are among the monstrosities
exhibited at Frederick-William fair--on grounds as good as those quoted
above. But I have put this particular case before you, as an artist rather
than an Italian, to show what I mean when I object to a "German future for
Europe." I object to something which believes very much in itself, and in
which I do not in the least believe. I object to something which is
conceited and small-minded; but which also has that kind of pertinacity
which always belongs to lunatics. It wants to be able to congratulate
itself on Michael Angelo; never to congratulate the world. It is the spirit
that can be seen in those who go bald trying to trace a genealogy; or go
bankrupt trying to make out a claim to some remote estate. The Prussian has
the inconsistency of the _parvenu_; he will labour to prove that he is
related to some gentleman of the Renaissance, even while he boasts of being
able to "buy him up." If the Italians were really great, why--they were
really Germans; and if they weren't really Germans, well then, they weren't
really great. It is an occupation for an old maid.

Three or four hundred years ago, in the sad silence that had followed the
comparative failure of the noble effort of the Middle Ages, there came upon
all Europe a storm out of the south. Its tumult is of many tongues; one can
hear in it the laughter of Rabelais, or, for that matter, the lyrics of
Shakespeare; but the dark heart of the storm was indeed more austral and
volcanic; a noise of thunderous wings and the name of Michael the
Archangel. And when it had shocked and purified the world and passed, a
Prussian professor found a feather fallen to earth; and proved (in several
volumes) that it could only have come from a Prussian Eagle. He had seen
one--in a cage.

Yours ------,

* * * * *

My Dear ------

The facts before all Europeans to-day are so fundamental that I still find
it easier to talk about them to you as to an old friend, rather than put it
in the shape of a pamphlet. In my last letter I pointed out two facts
which are pivots. The first is that, to any really cultured person, Prussia
is second-rate. The second is that to almost any Prussian, Prussia is
really first-rate; and is prepared, quite literally, to police the rest of
the world.

For the first matter, the comparative inferiority of German culture cannot
be doubted by people like you. One of the German papers pathetically said
that, though the mangling of Malines and Rheims was very sad, it was a
comfort to think that yet nobler works of art would spring up wherever the
German culture had passed in triumph. From the point of view of humour, it
is really rather sad that they never will. The German Emperor's idea of a
Gothic cathedral is as provocative to the fancy as Mrs. Todgers' idea of a
wooden leg. But I think it perfectly probable that they really intended to
set up such beautiful buildings as they could. Having been blasphemous
enough to ruin such things, they might well be blasphemous enough to
replace them. Even if the Prussian attempt on Paris had not wholly
collapsed as it has, I doubt whether the Prussians would have destroyed
everything. I doubt whether they would even have destroyed the Venus de
Milo. More probably they would have put a pair of arms on it, designed by
some rising German artist--the Emperor or somebody. And the two arms thus
added would look at once like the arms of a woman at a wash-tub. The
destroyers of the tower of Rheims are quite capable of destroying the Tower
of Giotto. But they are equally capable of the greater crime of completing
it. And if they put on a spire, what a spire it would be! What an
extinguisher for that clear and almost transparent Christian candle! Have
you read some of the German explanations of Hamlet? Did I tell you that
Leonardo's hair must have been German hair, because so many of his
contemporaries said it was beautiful? This is what I call being
second-rate. All the German excitement about the colonies of England is
only a half understanding of what was once heroic and is now largely
caddish. The German Emperor's naval vision is a bad copy of Nelson, as
certainly as Frederick the Great's verses were a bad copy of Voltaire.

But the second point was even more important; that weak as the thing is
mentally it is strong materially; and will impose itself materially if we
permit it. The Prussians have failed in everything else; but they have not
failed in getting their subject thousands to do as they are told. They
cannot put up black and white towers in Florence; but they can really put
up black and white posts in Alsace. They have failed in diplomacy. I
suppose it might be called a failure in diplomacy to come into the fight
with two enemies extra and one ally the less. If the Germans, instead of
sending spies to study the Belgian soil, had sent spies to consider the
Belgian soul, they would have been saved hard work for a week or two. They
have failed in controversy. I suppose it might be called a failure in
controversy to say that England may be keeping her word for some wicked
purpose; while Germany may be breaking her word for some noble purpose. And
that is practically all that the Germans can manage to say. They say that
we are an insatiable, unscrupulous, piratical power; and this wild spirit
whirled us into the mad course of respecting a treaty we had signed. They
can find in us no treason except that we keep our treaties: failing to do
this I call failing in controversy. They have failed in popular persuasion.
They have had a very good opportunity. The British Empire does contain many
people who have been badly treated in various ways: the Irish, the Boers;
nay, the Americans themselves, whose national existence began with being
badly treated. With these the Prussians have done comparatively little; and
with Europeans of your sort nothing. They have never once really
sympathised with the feeling of a Switzer for Switzerland; the feeling of a
Norwegian for Norway; the feeling of a Tuscan for Tuscany. Even when
nations are neutral, Prussia can hardly bear them to be patriotic. Even
when they are courting every one else they can praise no one but
themselves. They fail in diplomacy, they fail in debate, they fail even in
demagogy. They have stupid plots, stupid explanations, and even stupid
apologies. But there is one thing they really do not fail in. They do not
fail in finding people stupid enough to carry them out.

Now, it is this question I would ask you to consider; you, as a good middle
type of the Latins, a Liberal but a Catholic, an artist but a soldier. The
danger to the whole civilisation of which Rome was the fountain lies in
this. That the more this strange Pruss people fail in all the other things,
the more they will fall back on this mere fact of a brutal obedience. They
will give orders; they have nothing else to give. I say that this is the
question for you; I do not say, I do not dream of saying, that the answer
is for me. It is for you to weigh the chance that their very failures in
the arts of peace will drive them back upon the arts of war. They could
not, and they did not, dupe your people in diplomacy. They did the most
undiplomatic thing that can be done; they concealed a breach of partnership
without even concealing the concealment. They instigated the intrigue in
Austria in such a way that Italy could honestly claim all the freedom of
past ignorance, combined with all the disillusionment of present knowledge.
They so ran the Triple Alliance that they had to admit your grievance, at
the very moment when they claimed your aid. The English are stupider and
less sensitive than you are; but even the English found the German
Chancellor's diplomacy not insinuating but simply insulting; I swear I
would be a better diplomatist myself. In the same way, there is no danger
of people like you being corrupted in controversy. There is no fear that
the professors who pullulate all over the Baltic Plain will overcome the
Latins in logic. Some of them even claim to be super-logical; and say they
are too big for syllogisms; generally having found even one syllogism too
big for them. If they complain either of your abstention from their cause
or your adhesion to any other, you have an unanswerable answer. You will
say, as you did say, that you did not break the Triple Alliance, even for
the sake of peace. It was they who broke it for the sake of war. You,
obviously, had as much right to be consulted about Servia as Austria had;
and on the mere chess-board of argument it is mate in one move. Nor are
they in the least fitted to make an appeal to the popular sentiment of your
people. The English, I dare say, and the French, have talked an amazing
amount of nonsense about you; but they understand a little better. They do
not write exactly like this, which is from the most public and accepted
Prussian political philosopher (Chamberlain). "Who can live in Italy
to-day and mix with its amiable and highly gifted inhabitants without
feeling with pain that here a great nation is lost, irredeemably lost,
because it lacks the inner driving power," etc., which has brought Von
Kluck so triumphantly through Paris. Even a half-educated Englishman, who
has heard of no Italian poet except Dante, knows that he was something more
than amiable. Even a positively illiterate Frenchman, who has heard of no
Italian warrior except Napoleon, knows that it was not in "inner driving
force" that the artilleryman in question was deficient. "Who can live in
Italy to-day?" Evidently the Prussian philosopher can't. His impressions
are taken from Italian operas; not from Italian streets; certainly not from
Italian fields. As a matter of fact such images of Italy as burn in the
memories of most open-minded Northerners who have been there, are of
exactly the other kind. I for one should be inclined to say, "Who can live
in Italy to-day without feeling that a woman feeding children, or a man
chopping wood, may almost touch him with fear with the fulness of their
humanity: so that he can almost smell blood, as one smells burning?"
Italians often look lazy; that is, they look as if they would not move; but
not as if they could not move, as many Germans do. But even though this
formula fitted the Italians, it seems scarcely calculated to please them.
For the Prussians, then, with the failure of their diplomacy, the failure
of their philosophy, we may also place the failure of their appeals to a
foreign people. The Prussian writer may continue his attempts to soothe
and charm you by telling you that you are irredeemably lost, and that all
great Italians must have been something else. But the method seems to me
ill adapted to popular propaganda; and I cannot but say that on this third
point of persuasion, the German attempt is not striking.

Now all this is important for this reason. If you consider it carefully
you will see why Europe must, at whatever cost, break Germany in battle:
and put an end to her military and material power to _do_ things. If we all
have to fight for it, if we all have to die for it, it must be done. If we
find allies in the dwarfs of Greenland or the giants of Patagonia, it must
be done. And the reason is that unless it is literally and materially done,
other things will be literally and materially done; and horrify the
heavens. They will be silly things; they will be benighted and limited and
laughable things; but they will be accomplished things. Nothing could be
more ridiculous, if that is all, than the moral position of the Prussian in
Poland; where a magnificent officer, making a vast parade of "ruling,"
tries to cheat poor peasants out of their fields (and gets cheated) and
then takes refuge in beating little boys for saying their prayers in their
native tongue. All who remember anything of dignity, of irony, in short of
Rome and reason, can see why an officer need not, should not, had better
not, and generally does not, beat little boys. But an officer _can_ beat
little boys: and a Prussian officer will go on doing it until you take away
the stick. Nothing could be more comic, if that is all, than the position
of Prussians in Alsace: which they declare to be purely German and admit to
be furiously French; so that they have to terrorise it by sabring anybody,
including cripples. Again, any of us can see why an officer need not,
should not, had better not, and generally does not, sabre a cripple. But an
officer _can_ sabre a cripple; and a Prussian officer will go on doing it
until you take away the sabre. It is this insane and rigid realism that
makes their case peculiar: like that of a Chinaman copying something, or a
half-witted servant taking a message. If they had the power to put black
and white posts round the grave of Virgil, or dig up Dante to see if he had
yellow hair, the mere _doing_ of it which for some of us would be the most
unlikely, would for them be the least unlikely thing. They do not hear the
laughter of the ages. If they had the power to treat the English or Italian
Premier quite literally as a traitor, and shoot him against a wall, they
are quite capable of turning such hysterical rhetoric into reality: and
scattering his brains before they had collected their own. They do not feel
atmospheres. They are all a little deaf; as they are all a little
short-sighted. They are annoyed when their enemies, after such experiences
as those of Belgium, accuse them of breaking their promises. And in one
sense they are right; for there are some sorts of promises they probably
would keep. If they have promised to respect a free country, or an old
friend, to observe a sworn partnership, or to spare a harmless population,
they will find such restrictions chilling and irksome. They will ask some
professor on what principle they are discarding it. But if they have
promised to shoot the cross off a church spire, or empty the inkpot into
somebody's beer, or bring home somebody's ears in their pocket for the
pleasure of their families, I think in these cases they would feel a sort
of a shadow of what civilised men feel in the fulfilment of a promise, as
distinct from the making of it. And, in consideration of such cases, I
cannot go the whole length of those severe critics who say that a Prussian
will never keep his promise.

Unfortunately, it is precisely this sort of actuality and fulfilment that
makes it urgent that Europe should put forth her whole energy to drag down
these antique demoniacs; these idiots filled with force as by fiends. They
_will_ do things, as a maniac will, until he cannot do them. To me it
seemed that some things could not be said and done. I thought a man would
have been ashamed to bribe a new enemy like England to betray an old enemy
like France. I thought a man would have been ashamed to punish the pure
self-defence of folk so offenceless as the Belgians. These hopes must go
from us, my friend. There is only one thing of which the Prussian would be
ashamed; and of that, we have sworn to God, he shall taste before the end.

* * * * *

My Dear ------

The Prussianised German, of whatever blend of races he may be, has one
quality which may perhaps be racially simple; but which is, at any rate,
very plain. Chamberlain, the German philosopher or historian (I know not
which to call him or how to call him either) remarks somewhere that
purebred races possess fidelity; he instances the negro and the dog--and, I
suppose, the German. Anyhow, it is true that there is a recognisable and
real thing which might be called fidelity (or perhaps monotony) which
exists in Germans in about the same style as in dogs and niggers. The North
Teuton really has in this respect the simplicities of the savage and the
lower animals; that he has no reactions. He does not laugh at himself. He
does not want to kick himself. He does not, like most of us, repent--or
occasionally even repent of repenting. He does not read his own works and
find them much worse or much better than he had expected. He does not feel
a faint irrational sense of debauch, after even divine pleasures of this
life. Watch him at a German restaurant, and you will satisfy yourself that
he does not. In short, both in the most scientific and in the most casual
sense of the word, he does not know what it is to have a _temper_. He does
not bend and fly back like steel; he sticks out, like wood. In this he
differs from any nation I have known, from your nation and mine, from the
French, the Spanish, the Scotch, the Welsh and the Irish. Bad luck never
braces him as it does us. Good luck never frightens him as it does us. It
can be seen in what the French call Chauvinism and we call Jingoism. For us
it is fireworks; for him it is daylight. On Mafeking Night, celebrating a
small but picturesque success against the Boers, nearly everybody in London
came out waving little flags. Nearly everybody in London is now heartily
ashamed of it. But it would never occur to the Prussians not to ride their
high horses with the freshest insolence for the far-off victory of Sedan;
though on that very anniversary the star of their fate had turned scornful
in the sky, and Von Kluck was in retreat from Paris. Above all, the
Prussian does not feel annoyed, as I do, when foreigners praise his country
for all the wrong reasons. The Prussian will allow you to praise him for
any reasons, for any length of time, for any eternity of folly; he is there
to be praised. Probably he is proud of this; probably he thinks he has a
good digestion, because the poison of praise does not make him sick. He
thinks the absence of such doubt, or self-knowledge, makes for composure,
grandeur, a colossal calm, a superior race--in short, the whole claim of
the Teutons to be the highest spiritual product of Nature and Evolution.
But as I have noticed a calm unity even more complete, not only in dogs and
negroes, but in slugs, slow-worms, mangoldwurzels, moss, mud and bits of
stone, I am a sceptic about this test for the marshalling in rank of all
the children of God. Now I point this out to you here for a very practical
reason. The Prussian will never understand revolutions--which are
generally reactions. He regards them, not only with dislike, but with a
mysterious kind of pity. Throughout his confused popular histories, there
runs a strange suggestion that civic populations have failed hitherto, and
failed because they were always fighting. The population of Berlin does not
fight, or can't; and therefore Berlin will succeed where Greece and Rome
have failed. Hitherto it is plain enough that Berlin has succeeded in
nothing except in bad copies of Greece and Rome; and Prussians would be
wiser to discuss the details of the Greek and Roman past, which we can
follow, rather than the details of their own future, about which we are
naturally not so well informed. Well, every dome they build, every pillar
they put upright, every pedestal for epitaph or panel for decoration, every
type of church, Catholic or Protestant, every kind of street, large or
small, they have copied from the old Pagan or Catholic cities; and those
cities, when they made those things, were boiling with revolutions. I
remember a German professor saying to me, "I should have no scruple about
extinguishing such republics as Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua; they
are perpetually rioting for one thing or another." I said I supposed he
would have had no scruple in extinguishing Athens, Rome, Florence and
Paris; for they were always rioting for one thing or another. His reply
indicated, I thought, that he felt about Caesar or Rienzi very much as the
Scotch Presbyterian Minister felt about Christ, when he was reminded of the
corn-plucking on the Sabbath, and said, "Weel, I dinna think the better of
him." In other words he was quite positive, like all his countrymen, that
he could impose a sort of Pax Germanica, which would satisfy all the needs
of order and of freedom forever; leaving no need for revolutions or
reactions. I am myself of a different opinion. When I was a child, when the
toy-trade of Germany had begun to flood this country, there was a priggish
British couplet, engraven on the minds of governesses, which ran--

What the German children delight to make
The English children delight to break.

I can answer for the delight of the English children; a just and godlike
delight. I am not so sure about the delight of the German children, when
they were caught in the infernal wheels of the modern civilisation of
factories. But, for the present, I am only concerned to say that I do not
accept this line of historical division. I do not think history supports
the view that those who could break things could not make them.

This is the least intrusive approach by which I can touch on a topic that
must of necessity be a delicate one; yet which may well be a difficulty
among Latins like yourself. Against this preposterous Prussian upstart we
have not only to protect our unity; we have even to protect our quarrels.
And the deepest of the reactions or revolts of which I have spoken is the
quarrel which (very tragically as I think) has for some hundred years
cloven the Christian from the Liberal ideal. It would ill become me, in
whose country there is neither such clear doctrine nor such combative
democracy, to suppose it can be easy for any of you to close up such sacred
wounds. There must still be Catholics who feel they can never forgive a
Jacobin. There must still be old Republicans who feel that they could never
endure a priest. And yet there is something, the mere sight of which should
lock them both in an instant alliance. They have only to look northward and
hold the third thing, which thinks itself superior to either: the enormous
turnip-face of _ce type la_, as the French say, who conceives that he can
make them both like himself and yet remain superior to both.

I implore you to keep out of the hands of this Fool the quarrel of the
great saints and of the great blasphemers. He will do to religion what he
will do to art; mix up all the colours on your palette into the colour of
mud: and then say that only the purified eyes of Teutons can see that it is
pure white. The other day the Director of Museums in Berlin was said to be
setting about the creation of a new kind of Art: German Art. Philosophers
and men of science were at the same time directed to meet round the table
and found a new Religion: German Religion. How can such people appreciate
art; how can they appreciate religion--nay, how can they appreciate
irreligion? How does one invent a message? How does one create a Creator?
Is it not the plain meaning of the Gospel that it is good news? And is it
not the plain meaning of good news that it must come from outside oneself?
Otherwise I could make myself happy this moment, by inventing an enormous
victory in Flanders. And I suppose (now I come to think of it) that the
Germans do.

By the fulness of your faith and even the fulness of your despair, you that
remember Rome, have earned a right to prevent all our quarrels being
quenched in such cold water from the north. But it is not too much to say
that neither religion at its worst nor republicanism at its worst ever
offered the coarse insult to all mankind that is offered by this new and
nakedly universal monarchy.

There has always been something common to civilised men, whether they
called it being merely a citizen; or being merely a sinner. There has
always been something which your ancestors called _Verecundia_; which is at
once humility and dignity. Whatever our faults, we do not do exactly as
the Prussians do. We do not bellow day and night to draw attention to our
own stern silence. We do not praise ourselves solely because nobody else
will praise us. I, for one, say at the end of these letters, as I said at
the beginning; that in these international matters I have often differed
from my countrymen; I have often differed from myself. I shall not claim
the completeness of this silly creature we discuss. I shall not answer his
boasts with boasts; but with blows.

My front-door is beaten in and broken down suddenly. I see nothing outside,
except a sort of smiling, straw-haired commercial traveller with a notebook
open, who says, "Excuse me, I am a faultless being, I have persuaded
Poland; I can count on my respectful Allies in Alsace. I am simply loved in
Lorraine. _Quae reggio in terris_ ... What place is there on earth where
the name of Prussia is not the signal for hopeful prayers and joyful
dances? I am that German who has civilised Belgium; and delicately trimmed
the frontiers of Denmark. And I may tell you, with the fulness of
conviction, that I have never failed, and shall never fail in anything.
Permit me, therefore, to bless your house by the passage of my beautiful
boots; that I may burgle the house next door."

And then something European that is prouder than pride will rise up in me;
and I shall answer:--

"I am that Englishman who has tortured Ireland, who has been tortured by
South Africa; who knows all his mistakes, who is heavy with all his sins.
And he tells you, Faultless Being, with a truth as deep as his own guilt,
and as deathless as his own remembrance, that you shall not pass this way."

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