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The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. X. by Kuno Francke

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If you will now keep in mind that the guilds were connected in an
inseparable manner with the whole social arrangement of the Middle
Ages, you will see at once how the first machine, Arkwright's
spinning-jenny, embodied a complete revolution in those social

For how could machine production be possible under the guild system,
in which the number of journeymen and apprentices a master workman
could employ was determined by law in each locality; or how, under
the guild system, in which the different trades were distinguished by
law from one another in the most exact manner, and each master could
carry on only one of them--so that, for instance, the tailors and the
nail-makers of Paris for centuries had lawsuits with the menders of
clothes and the locksmiths, in order to draw lines between their
respective trades--how, under such a guild system, could production be
possible with a system of machines which requires the union of the
most varied departments of work under the control of one and the same

It had come to the point, then, that production itself had called into
being, by its constant and gradual development, instruments of
production which must necessarily destroy the existing condition of
things--instruments and methods of production which, under the guild
system, could no longer find place and opportunity for development.

Thus considered, I call the first machine in itself a revolution; for
it bore in its wheels and cogs, little as this could be seen on
external observation, the germ of the new condition of things, based
upon free competition, which must necessarily develop from this germ
with the power and irresistibility of life itself.

And so, if I am not greatly mistaken, it may be true today that there
exist various phenomena which imply a new condition that must
inevitably develop from them--phenomena which, at this time also,
cannot be understood from external conditions; so that the authorities
themselves, while persecuting insignificant agitators, not only
overlook these phenomena, but even let them stand as necessary
accompaniments of our civilization, hail them as the climax of
prosperity, and, on occasion, make appreciative and approving speeches
in their honor.

After all these discussions you will now understand the true meaning
of the famous pamphlet published by Abbe Sieyes in 1788--and so before
the French Revolution--which was summed up in these words: _"Qu'est-ce
que c'est que le tiers etat? rien! qu' est qu'il doit etre? Tout!"
Tiers etat_, or third class, is what the middle class in France was
called, because they formed, in contrast to the two privileged
classes, the nobility and the clergy, a third class, which meant all
the people without privilege. This pamphlet brings together the two
questions raised by Sieyes, and their answers: "What is the third
class? Nothing! What ought it to be? Everything." This is how Sieyes
formulates these two questions and answers. But from all that has been
said, the true meaning of these questions and answers would be more
clearly and correctly expressed as follows: "What is the third class
_de facto_--in reality? Everything! But what is it _de jure_--legally?

What was to be done, then, was to bring the legal position of the
third class into harmony with its actual meaning; to clothe its
importance, already existing in fact, with legal sanction and
recognition; and just this is the achievement and significance of the
victorious revolution which broke out in France in 1789 and exerted
its transforming influence on the other countries of Europe.

This question arises here: What was this third class, or
_bourgeoisie_, that through the French Revolution obtained victory
over the privileged classes and gained control of the State? Since
this third class stood in contrast to the privileged classes of
society with legal vested rights, it considered itself at that time as
equivalent to the whole people, and its cause as the cause of all
humanity. This explains the exalting and mighty enthusiasm which was
general in that period. The rights of man were proclaimed; and it
seemed as if, with the liberation and sovereignty of this third class,
all legal privileges in society were ended, and as if every legally
privileged distinction had been replaced by its principle of the
universal liberty of man.

At that time, however, in the very beginning of the movement, in
April, 1789, on the occasion of the elections to a parliament which
was summoned by the king under the condition that the third class
should this time send as many representatives as the nobility and
clergy together, a newspaper of a character anything but revolutionary
writes as follows: "Who can tell us whether a despotism of the
bourgeoisie will not follow the so-called aristocracy of the nobles?"

But such cries at that time were drowned in the general enthusiasm.

Nevertheless we must come back to that question, we must put the
question definitely: Was the cause of the third class really the cause
of all humanity; or did this third class, the _bourgeoisie_, bear
within it a fourth class, from which it wished to distinguish itself
clearly, and subject it to its sovereignty?

I must now, if I do not wish to run the risk of subjecting my
presentation to great misunderstandings, explain my own conception of
the word _bourgeoisie_, or upper _bourgeoisie_, as a term for a
political party. The word _bourgeoisie_ may be translated into German
by _Buergertum_ (body of citizens). In my opinion this is not what it
means. We are all _Buerger_ (citizens)--the working man, the
_Kleinbuerger_ (lower middle class), _Grossbuerger_ (upper middle
class), etc. But in the course of history the word _bourgeoisie_ has
acquired the significance of a definite political tendency, which I
will now explain.[47]

The whole class of commoners outside the nobility was divided, when the
French Revolution began, and is still divided in general, into two
subordinate classes--first, those who get their living chiefly or
entirely from their labor, and are supported in this by very little
capital, or none at all, which might give them the possibility of
actively engaging in production for the support of themselves and their
families; to this class, accordingly, belong the laborers, the lower
middle class, the artisans, and, in general, the peasants; second, those
who control a large amount of property and capital, and on that basis
engage in production or receive an income from it. These can be called
the capitalists; but no capitalist is a _bourgeois_ merely because of
his wealth.

No commoner has any objection to a nobleman's rejoicing privately over
his ancestry and his landed estates. But if the nobleman tries to make
these ancestors or these landed estates the condition of special
influence and privilege in the government, of control over public
policy, then the anger of the commoner rises against the nobleman and
he calls him a feudalist.

Conditions are the same with reference to the actual difference of
property within the class of commoners. If the capitalist rejoices in
private over the great convenience and advantage which a large estate
implies for the holder, nothing is more simple, more moral, and more

To whatever extent the laborer and the poorer citizen--in a word, all
classes outside the capitalists--are entitled to demand from the State
that its whole thought and effort be directed toward improving the
lamentable and poverty-stricken material condition of the working
classes and toward assuring to them, through whose hands all the
wealth is produced of which our civilization boasts, to whose hands
all products owe their being, without whom society as a whole could
not exist another day, a more abundant and less uncertain revenue, and
thus the possibility of intellectual culture, and, in time, an
existence really worthy of a human being--however much, I say, the
working classes are entitled to demand this from the State and to
establish this as its true object, the workingmen must and will never
forget that all property once lawfully acquired is completely
inviolable and legitimate.

But if the capitalist, not satisfied with the actual advantages of
large property, tries to establish the possession of capital as a
condition for participation in the control of the State and in the
determination of public policy, then the capitalist becomes a
_bourgeois_, then he makes the fact of possession the legal condition
of political control, then he characterizes himself as a new
privileged class which attempts to put the controlling stamp of its
privileges upon all social institutions in as full a degree as the
nobility in the Middle Ages did with the privilege of landholding.

The question therefore which we must raise with reference to the
French Revolution and the period of history inaugurated by it, is the
following: Has the third class, which came into control through the
French Revolution, looked upon itself as a _bourgeoisie_ in this
sense, and has it attempted successfully to subject the people to its
privileged political control?

The answer is given by the great facts of history, and this answer is
definitely in the affirmative. In the very first constitution which
followed the French Revolution--the one of September 3, 1791--the
difference between _citoyen actif_ and _citoyen passif_--the "active"
and "passive" citizen--is set forth. Only the active citizens received
the franchise, and the active citizen, according to this constitution,
is no other than one who pays a direct tax of a definitely stated

This tax was at that time very moderate. It was only the value of
three days' work: but what was more important was that all those were
declared passive citizens who were _serviteurs a gages_ (wage
earners), a definition by which the working class was expressly
excluded from the franchise. After all, in such questions the
essential point is not the extent, but the principle.

This meant the introduction of a property qualification, the
establishment of a definite amount of property as the condition of the
franchise--this first and most important of all political rights--and
in the determination of public policy.

All those who paid no direct tax at all, or less than this fixed
amount, and those who were wage earners, were excluded from control of
the State and were made a subject body. The ownership of capital had
become the condition for control over the State, as was nobility, or
ownership of land, in the Middle Ages.

This principle of property qualification remains (with the exception
of a very short period during the French Republic of 1793, which
perished from its own indefiniteness and from the whole state of
society at the time, which I cannot here discuss further) the leading
principle of all constitutions which originated in the French

In fact, with the consistency which all principles have, this one was
soon forced to develop into a different quantitative scope. In the
constitution of 1814, according to the classified list promulgated by
Louis XVIII., a direct tax of three hundred francs (eighty thalers)
was established, in place of the value of three days' work, as a
condition of the franchise. The July Revolution of 1830 broke out, and
nevertheless, by the law of April 19, 1831, a direct tax of two
hundred francs (about fifty-three thalers) was required as a condition
of the franchise.

What under Louis Philippe and Guizot was called the _pays legal_--that
is, the country as a legal entity--consisted of 200,000 men; for there
were not more than 200,000 electors in France who could meet the
property requirement, and these exercised sovereignty over more than
30,000,000 inhabitants. It is here to be noted that it makes no
difference whether the principle of property qualification, the
exclusion of those without property from the franchise, appears, as in
the constitutions referred to, in direct and open form, or in a form
in one way or another disguised. The effect is always the same.

So the second French Republic in 1850 could not possibly revoke the
general direct franchise, once proclaimed, which we shall later
consider, but adopted the expedient of granting the franchise (law of
May 31,1850) only to such citizens as had been domiciled in a place
without interruption for at least three years. For, because workingmen
in France are frequently compelled by conditions to change their
domicile and to look for work in another commune, it was hoped, and
with good reason, that extremely large numbers of workingmen, who
could not bring proof of three years uninterrupted residence in the
same place, would be excluded from the franchise.

Here you have a property qualification in disguised form. It is still
worse in our country, since the promulgation of the three-class
election law, under which, with variations according to locality,
three, ten, thirty, or more voters without property, of the third
class of electors, have only the same franchise as one single
capitalist who belongs to the first class; so that, in fact, if the
proportion were only one to ten, nine men out of every ten who had the
franchise in 1848 have lost it through the three-class election law of
1849, and exercise it only in appearance.[48]

But this is only the average situation. In reality, conditions vary
greatly in different localities, and they are often still more
unfavorable, most unfavorable in fact where the inequality of property
is most developed; thus for instance, in Duesseldorf twenty-six voters
of the third class have no more power than one rich man.

If we return from this discussion to our main thought, we have shown,
and shall continue to show, in what manner, since the time when, through
the French Revolution, the capitalist element obtained sovereignty, its
principle, the possession of capital, has now become the controlling
principle of all social institutions; how the capitalist class,
proceeding in just the same manner as the nobility in the Middle Ages
with land ownership, impresses now the controlling and exclusive stamp
of its particular principle, the possession of capital, upon all
institutions of society. The parallel between the nobility and the
capitalist class is, in this respect, complete. We have already seen
this with regard to the most important fundamental point, the
constitution of the Empire. As in the Middle Ages landholding was the
prevailing principle of representation in the German parliaments, so
now, by a direct or disguised property qualification, the amount of tax,
and therefore, since this is determined by the capital of an individual,
the holding of capital, is what, in the last instance, determines the
right of election to legislative bodies and therefore of participation
in the control of the State.

Just so in reference to all other institutions in which I have
demonstrated to you that land ownership was the controlling principle
in the Middle Ages. I called your attention then to the exemption from
taxation of the noble landholders of the Middle Ages, and told you
that every privileged ruling class tries to throw the burden for the
maintenance of public welfare upon the oppressed propertyless class.
Just so the capitalists. To be sure they cannot declare publicly that
they wish to be exempt from taxation. Their expressed principle is
rather the rule that everybody shall be taxed in proportion to income;
but, on the other hand, they attain, at least fairly well, the same
result in disguised form by the distinction between direct and
indirect taxes.

Direct taxes are those which, like the classified income tax, are
collected, and therefore are determined, according to the amount of
income and capital. Indirect taxes, however, are those which are laid
upon any necessity--for instance, salt, grain, beer, meat, fuel; or on
the necessity for legal protection--law costs, stamp taxes, etc., and
which the individual very frequently pays in the price of the
commodity without knowing or perceiving that he is being taxed, that
the tax increases the price.

Now no man, of course, who is twenty, fifty, or a hundred times as
rich as another eats by any means twenty, fifty or a hundred times as
much salt, or bread, or meat; or drinks fifty or a hundred times as
much beer or wine; or has fifty or a hundred times as much need for
heat, and therefore for fuel, as the workingman or the relatively poor

The result of this is that all indirect taxes, instead of falling
upon individuals according to the proportion of their capital and
income, are paid in the main by the propertyless classes, the poorer
classes of the nation. It is true that the capitalists did not invent
indirect taxes--they were already in existence--but they were the
first to develop them into a monstrous system and to throw upon them
nearly the whole cost of government. To make this clear to you, I will
simply allude to the Prussian financial administration of 1855. (Shows
by official statistics that out of a budget of 109,000,000 thalers all
but 12,800,000 were derived from indirect taxes.)

Indirect taxation is therefore the institution through which the
capitalistic class obtains the privilege of exemption for its capital
and lays the cost of the government upon the poorer classes of

Observe, at the same time, Gentlemen, the peculiar contradiction and
the strange kind of justice of the procedure of laying the whole
expense upon indirect taxation, and therefore upon the poor people,
and of setting up as a test and a condition of the franchise, and
therefore of political control, the direct taxes, which contribute for
the total need of the State only the insignificant sum of twelve
million out of one hundred and eight million.

I said further with reference to the nobility of the Middle Ages, that
they held in contempt all activity and industry of the commoners. The
situation is the same today. All kinds of work, to be sure, are
equally esteemed today, and if anybody became a millionaire by
rag-picking he would be sure of obtaining a highly esteemed position
in society.

But what social contempt falls upon those who, no matter at what they
labor or how hard they toil, have no capital to back them--that is a
matter which you, Gentlemen, do not need to be told by me, but can
find often enough, unfortunately, in your daily life. Indeed, in many
respects, the capitalist class asserts the supremacy of its special
privilege with even stricter consistency than the nobility of the
Middle Ages did with its land ownership. The instruction of the
people--I mean here of the adult people--was in the Middle Ages the
work of the clergy. Since then the newspapers have assumed this
function; but through the securities a newspaper must give, and still
more through the stamp tax which is laid in our country, as in France
and elsewhere, on newspapers, a daily newspaper has become a very
expensive institution, which cannot be established without very
considerable capital, with the result that, for this very reason, even
the opportunity to mold public opinion, instruct it, and guide it has
become the privilege of the capitalist class.

Were this not the case, you would have much different and very much
better papers. It is interesting to see how early this attempt of the
_bourgeoisie_ to make the press a privilege of capital appears, and in
what frank and undisguised form. On July 24, 1789, a few days after
the capture of the Bastille, during the first days after the middle
class obtained political supremacy, the representatives of the city of
Paris passed a resolution by which they declared printers responsible
if they published pamphlets or sheets by writers _sans existence
connue_ (without visible means of support). The newly won freedom of
the press, then, was to exist only for writers who had visible means
of support. Property thus appears as the condition of the freedom
of the press, indeed of the morality of the writer. The
straightforwardness of the first days of citizen sovereignty only
expresses in a childishly frank manner what is today artfully obtained
by bonding and stamp taxes. With these main characteristic facts
corresponding to our consideration of the Middle Ages we shall have to
be satisfied here.

What we have seen so far are two historical periods, each of which
stands for the controlling idea of a distinct class, which impresses
its own principle upon all institutions of the time.

First, the idea of the nobility, or land ownership, which forms the
controlling principle of the Middle Ages, and permeates all the
institutions of that time.

This period closed with the French Revolution; though, of course,
especially in Germany, where this revolution came about, not through
the people, but in much slower and more complete reforms introduced by
the governments, numerous and important survivals of that first
historical period still exist, preventing to a large extent, even
today, complete control by the capitalist class.

We observed, second, the period beginning with the French Revolution
at the end of the last century, which has capitalism as its principle
and establishes this as the privilege which permeates all social
institutions and determines participation in the public policy. This
period is also, little as external appearances indicate, essentially
at an end.

On February 24, 1848, the first dawn of a new historical period became
visible, for on that day in France--that land in whose mighty internal
struggles the victories as well as the defeats of liberty indicate
victories and defeats for all mankind--a revolution broke out which
placed a workingman at the head of the provisional government, which
declared the principle of the State to be the improvement of the lot
of the working classes, and proclaimed the universal and direct
franchise, through which every citizen who had attained his
twenty-first year, without regard to property, should receive an equal
share in the control of the State and the determination of public
policy. You see, Gentlemen, if the Revolution of 1789 was the
revolution of the _tiers etat_ (the third class), this time it is the
fourth class--which in 1789 was still undistinguished from the third
class and seemed to coincide with it--that now attempts to establish
its own principle as the controlling one of society and to make it
pervade all institutions.

But here, in the case of the supremacy of the fourth class, we find
the tremendous distinction that this class is the final and
all-inclusive disinherited class of humanity, which can set up no
further exclusive condition, either of legal or actual kind, neither
nobility, land ownership, nor capital, which it might establish as a
new privilege and carry through the institutions of society.
Workingmen we all are, so far as we have the desire to make ourselves
useful to human society in any way whatsoever.

This fourth class, in whose bosom therefore no possible germ of a new
order of privilege is concealed, is for that very reason synonymous
with the whole human race. Its class is, in truth, the class of all
humanity, its liberty is the liberty of humanity itself, its
sovereignty is the sovereignty of all. Whoever hails the principle of
the working class, in the sense in which I have developed it, as a
controlling principle of society, utters no cry which separates and
makes hostile to another the classes of society. He utters, rather, a
cry of reconciliation, a cry which includes all society, a cry for the
leveling of all hostilities among the social strata, a cry of accord,
in which all should join who do not wish privilege and the oppression
of the people by privileged classes, a cry of love, which, ever since
it spoke for the first time from the heart of the people, will always
remain the true voice of the people, and, on account of its meaning,
will still be a cry of love, even if it sounds the battle-cry of the

The principle of the working class as a controlling principle of
society we have still to consider from three points of view--first, as
to the formal means of its realization; second, as to its moral
significance; third, as to its political conception of public policy.

The formal means for carrying out this principle is the universal and
direct franchise already discussed--I say the universal and direct
franchise, not merely the general franchise such as we had in 1848.
The introduction in elections of two steps--of voters and of
electors--is nothing but an artful means introduced purposely with the
intention of thwarting, so far as possible, the will of the people in
the elections. To be sure, the universal and direct franchise will
be no magic wand, Gentlemen, which can protect you from temporary
mistakes. We have seen in France, in the years 1848 and 1849, two
unfavorable elections in succession, but the universal and direct
franchise is the only means which automatically corrects, in course of
time, the mistakes and temporary wrong to which this may lead. It is
that legendary lance which itself heals the wounds it makes. In the
course of time it is impossible, with universal and direct franchise,
for chosen representatives not to be a completely faithful reflection
of the people who have elected them. The people, therefore, at every
time will consider universal and direct franchise as an indispensable
political weapon, and as the most fundamental and important of their

Let us now glance at the moral bearing of this social principle which
we are considering.

Perhaps the idea of the lowest classes of society as the controlling
principle of society and of the State may appear very dangerous and
immoral, one which threatens to expose morality and culture to the
danger of being overrun by a "modern barbarism."

And it would be no wonder if this thought should appear so at present.
For even public opinion--I have already indicated by what means,
namely, through the newspapers--receives today its imprint from the
coining-die of capital and from the hands of the privileged capitalist

Nevertheless this fear is only a prejudice; and it can be proved, on
the contrary, that this thought would represent the highest moral
progress and triumph which the world's history has shown. That view is
a prejudice, I say, and it is the prejudice of the present time, which
is still controlled by privilege.

At another time--at the time of the first French Republic of 1793,
which was necessarily forced to fail from its own lack of
clearness--the opposite prejudice prevailed. At that time it was held
as a dogma that all the upper classes were immoral and only the
common people were good and moral. This view is due to Rousseau. In
the new Declaration of Human Rights which the French Convention, that
powerful constitutional assembly, published, it is even set forth in a
special article--Article 19--which reads "_Toute institution, qui ne
suppose le peuple bon et le magistrat corruptible, est vicieuse_."
(Every institution which does not assume that the people is good and
the magistracy corruptible is faulty.) You see that is exactly the
opposite of the confidence which is called for today, according to
which there is no greater crime than to doubt the good-will and the
virtue of the magistrates, while the people are considered on
principle a sort of dangerous beast and centre of corruption.

At that time the opposite dogma even went so far that almost anybody
whose coat was in good repair appeared for that very reason corrupt
and suspicious, and virtue and purity and patriotic morality were
believed to be found only in those who had no good coat. It was the
period of _sans-culottism._

This point of view had really a foundation of truth, which, however,
appears in a false and perverted form. Now there is nothing more
dangerous than a principle which appears in false and perverted form;
for, whatever attitude you take toward it, you are sure to fare badly.
If you adopt this truth in its false, perverted form, then, at certain
times, this will produce the most terrible devastation, as was the
case in the period of _sans-culottism._ If, on account of the false
form, you reject the whole proposition as false, you fare still worse,
for you have rejected a truth, and, in the case which we are
considering, a truth without whose recognition no wholesome progress
is possible in modern political affairs.

There is therefore no other procedure possible than to overcome the
false and perverted form of that proposition, and to try to establish
clearly its true meaning.

Current public opinion is, as I said, disposed to stamp the whole
proposition as entirely false and as a declamation of the French
Revolution and of Rousseau. However, if this unreceptive attitude
toward Rousseau and the French Revolution were still possible, it
would be entirely impossible with reference to one of the greatest
German philosophers (Fichte), the one hundredth anniversary of whose
birth this State will celebrate next month, one of the most powerful
thinkers of all nations and all times.

Fichte also declares expressly and literally that, with the rising
social scale, a constantly increasing moral deterioration is found,
and that "inferiority of character increases in proportion to the
higher social class."

The final reason of these propositions Fichte has nevertheless not
developed. He gives as the reason of this corruption the selfishness
of the upper classes; but then the question must immediately arise
whether selfishness is not also to be found in the lower classes, or
why less in these classes. Now it must immediately appear as a strong
contradiction that less selfishness should prevail in the lower
classes than in the upper, who have in large measure the advantage of
them in the well-recognized moral elements, culture and education.

The real reason, and the explanation of this contradiction, which
appears at first so strong, is the following:

For a long time, as we have seen, the development of nations, the
tendency of history, has been toward a constantly extending abolition
of the privileges which guarantee to the higher classes their position
as higher and ruling classes. The wish for perpetuation of these, or
personal interest, brings therefore every member of the upper classes
who has not once for all, by a wide outlook upon his whole personal
existence, raised himself above such considerations (and you will
understand, Gentlemen, that these can form only very unusual
exceptions) into a position which is from principle hostile to the
progress of the people, to the extension of education and science, to
the advance of culture, to all tendencies and victories of historical

This opposition of the personal interest of the upper classes to the
progress of culture in the nation produces the great and inevitable
immorality of the upper classes. It is a life whose daily requirements
you only need picture to yourselves in order to feel the deep decline
of character to which it must lead. To be obliged daily to take an
attitude of opposition to everything great and good, to bewail its
success, to rejoice at its failures, to check its further progress, to
make futile or to curse the progress which has already been made, is
like a continual existence in the enemy's country; and this enemy is
the moral fellowship of the whole country in which you live, for which
all true morality urges support. It is a continual existence, I say,
in an enemy's country. This enemy is your own people, who must be
looked upon and treated as an enemy, and this hostility must, at least
in the long run, be craftily concealed and more or less artfully

From this arises the necessity either of doing what is against the
voice of your own conscience, or of stifling this voice from the force
of custom in order not to be annoyed by it, or, finally, of never
knowing this voice, never knowing anything better or having anything
better than the religion of your own advantage.

This life, Gentlemen, therefore leads necessarily to a complete lack
of appreciation and a contempt for all ideal efforts, to a pitying
smile when the great word "ideal" is even mentioned; to a deep lack of
appreciation and of sympathy for everything beautiful and great; to a
complete transformation of all moral elements in us into the one
passion of selfish opportunism and the pursuit of pleasure.

This conflict between personal interest and the cultural development
of the nation is, fortunately, not to be found in the lower classes of

In the lower classes, to be sure, there is, unfortunately, selfishness
enough, much more than there should be; but this selfishness, if it
exists, is the fault of individuals and not the inevitable fault of
the class.

Even a very slight instinct tells the members of the lower classes
that, so far as each one of them depends merely upon himself and
merely thinks of himself, he can hope for no considerable improvement
of his situation; but so far as the lower classes of society aim at
the improvement of their condition as a class, so far does this
personal interest, instead of opposing the course of history and
therefore of being condemned to the aforesaid immorality, coincide in
its tendency completely with the development of the people as a whole,
with the victory of the ideal, with the progress of culture, with the
vital principle of history itself--which is nothing else than the
development of liberty. Or, as we have already seen, their cause is
the cause of all humanity.

You are therefore in the fortunate position, Gentlemen, instead of
being compelled to be dead to the idea, of being destined rather,
through your own personal interests, to a greater receptiveness for
it. You are in the fortunate position that that which forms your own
true personal interest coincides with the throbbing heart-beat of
history--with the active, vital principle of moral development. You
can therefore devote yourself to historical development with personal
passion and be sure that the more fervent and consuming this passion
is, the more moral is your position, in the true sense which I have
explained to you.

These are the reasons why the control of the fourth class over the
State must produce a fullness of morality and culture and knowledge
such as never yet existed in history.

But still another reason points in the same direction, which again is
most intimately connected with all the considerations which we have
stated and forms their keystone.

The fourth class has not only a different formal political principle
from the capitalist class--namely, the universal direct franchise in
place of the property qualification of the capitalist class; it has,
further, not only through its social position a different relation to
moral forces than the upper classes, but also, and partly in
consequence of this, a conception of the moral purpose of the State
entirely different from that of the capitalist class. The moral idea
of the capitalist is this--that nothing whatsoever is to be guaranteed
to any individual but the unimpeded exercise of his faculties.

If we were all equally strong, equally wise, equally educated, and
equally rich, this idea might be regarded as a sufficient and a moral
one; but since we are not so, and cannot be so, this thought is not
sufficient, and therefore, in its consequences, leads necessarily to a
serious immorality; for its result is that the stronger, abler, richer
man exploits the weaker and becomes his master.

The moral idea of the working class, on the other hand, is that the
unimpeded and free exercise of individual faculties by the individual
is not sufficient, but that in a morally adjusted community there must
be added to it solidarity of interests, mutual consideration, and
mutual helpfulness in development.

In contrast to such a condition the capitalist class has this
conception of the moral purposes of the State--that it consists
exclusively and entirely in protecting the personal liberty of the
individual and his property.

This is a policeman's idea, Gentlemen--a policeman's idea because the
State can think of itself only in the guise of a policeman whose whole
office consists in preventing robbery and burglary. Unfortunately this
conception is to be found, in consequence of imperfect thinking, not
only among acknowledged liberals, but, often enough, even among many
supposed to be democrats. If the capitalist class were to carry their
thought to its logical extreme they would have to admit that,
according to their idea, if there were no thieves or robbers the State
would be entirely unnecessary.

The fourth class conceives of the purpose of the State in a quite
different manner, and its conception of it is the true one.

History is a struggle with nature--that is, with misery, with
ignorance, with poverty, with weakness, and, accordingly, with
restrictions of all kinds to which we were subject when the human race
appeared in the beginning of history. A constantly advancing victory
over this weakness--that is the development of liberty which history

In this struggle we should never have taken a step forward, nor should
we ever take another, if we had carried it on, or tried to carry it
on, as individuals, each for himself alone.

It is the State which has the office of perfecting this development of
freedom, and of the human race to freedom. The State is this unity of
individuals in a moral composite--a unity which increases a
millionfold the powers of all individuals who are included in this
union, which multiplies a millionfold the powers which are at the
command of them all as individuals.

The purpose of the State, then, is not to protect merely the personal
liberty of the individual and the property which, according to the
idea of the capitalist, he must have before he can participate in the
State; the purpose of the State is, rather, through this union to put
individuals in a position to attain objects, to reach a condition of
existence which they could never reach as individuals, to empower them
to attain a standard of education, power, and liberty which would be
utterly impossible for them, one and all, merely as individuals. The
object of the State is, accordingly, to bring the human being to
positive and progressive development--in a word, to shape human
destiny, i.e., the culture of which mankind is capable, into actual
existence. It is the training and development of the human race for

Such is the real moral nature of the State--its true and higher task.
This is so truly the case that for all time it has been carried out
through the force of circumstances, by the State, even without its
will, even without its knowledge, even against the will of its

But the working class, the lower classes of society in general, have,
on account of the helpless position in which their members find
themselves as individuals, the sure instinct that just this must be
the function of the State--the aiding of the individual, by the union
of all, to such a development as would be unobtainable by him merely
as an individual.

The State then, brought under the control of the idea of the working
class, would no longer be driven on, as all states have been up to
this time, unconsciously and often reluctantly, by the nature of
things and the force of circumstances; but it would make this moral
nature of the State its task, with the greatest clearness and complete
consciousness. It would accomplish with ready willingness and the most
complete consistency that which, up to this time, has been forced only
in the dimmest outlines from the opposing will, and just for this
reason it would necessarily promote a nourishing of intellect, a
development of happiness, education, prosperity, and liberty, such as
would stand without example in the world's history, in comparison with
which the most lauded conditions in earlier times would drop into a
pale shadow.

It is this which must be called the political idea of the working
class, its conception of the purpose of the State, which, as you see,
is just as different, and in a perfectly corresponding manner, from
the conception of the purpose of the State in the capitalist class as
the principle of the working class--a share of all in the
determination of public policy, or universal suffrage--is from the
corresponding principle of the capitalist class--the property

The line of thought here developed is therefore what must be
pronounced the idea of the working class. It is that which I had in
view when, at the beginning, I spoke of the connection between the
particular period of history in which we live and the idea of the
working class. It is this period, beginning with February, 1848, which
has the task of bringing such a political idea to realization, and we
may congratulate ourselves that we have been born in a time which is
destined to see the accomplishment of this most glorious work of
history, and in which we have the privilege of lending a helping hand.

But for all who belong to the working class there follows from what I
have said the duty of an entirely new attitude. Nothing is more
effective in impressing upon a class a dignified and deeply moral
stamp than the consciousness that it is destined to be the ruling
class; that it is called upon to elevate the principle of its class to
the principle of the whole historical period; to make its idea the
leading truth of the whole of society, and so, in turn, to shape
society into a reflection of its own character. The lofty historical
honor of this destiny must lay hold upon all your thoughts. It is no
longer becoming to you to indulge in the vices of the oppressed, or
the idle distractions of the thoughtless, or even the harmless
frivolity of the insignificant. You are the rock upon which the church
of the present is to be built.

The lofty moral earnestness of this thought should entirely fill your
mind, should fill your hearts and shape your whole life to be worthy
of it and conformable to it. The moral earnestness of this thought,
without ever leaving you, must stand for better thoughts in your shop
during your work, in your leisure hours, your walks, your meetings;
and, even when you lie down to rest on your hard couch, it is this
thought which must fill and occupy your soul until it passes into the
realm of dreams. The more exclusively you fill your minds with this
moral earnestness, the more undividedly you are influenced by its
warmth--of this you may be assured--the more you will hasten the time
in which our present historical period has to accomplish its task, the
sooner you will bring about the fulfilment of this work.

If, among those who listen to me today, there were even two or three
in whom I have succeeded in kindling the moral warmth of this thought,
with that fullness which I mean and which I have described to you, I
should consider even that a great gain, and account myself richly
rewarded for my presentation.

Above all, your soul must be free from discouragement and doubt, to
which an insufficiently valid consideration of historical efforts
might easily lead. So, for instance, it is absolutely false that in
France the Republic was overthrown by the _coup d'etat_ of December,

What could not maintain itself in France, what really was destroyed at
that time, was not _the_ Republic but _that_ republic, which, as I
have already shown you, abolished, by the law of May 30, 1850, the
universal franchise, and introduced a disguised property qualification
for the exclusion of the workingman. It was the capitalist republic
which wished to put the stamp of the _bourgeoisie_--the domination of
capital--upon the republican forms of the State; it was this which
gave the French usurper the possibility, under an apparent restoration
of the universal franchise, to overthrow the Republic, which otherwise
would have found an invincible bulwark in the breast of the French
workingman. So what in France could not maintain itself, and was
overthrown, was not the Republic, but the _bourgeois_ republic; and,
on really correct consideration, the fact is confirmed, even by this
example, that the historical period which began with February, 1848,
will no longer tolerate any State which, whether in monarchical or in
republican form, tries to impress upon it, or maintain within it, the
controlling political stamp of the third class of society.

From the lofty mountain tops of science the dawn of a new day is seen
earlier than below in the turmoil of daily life.

Have you ever beheld a sunrise from the top of a high mountain? A
purple line colors blood-red the farthest horizon, announcing the new
light. Clouds and mists collect and oppose the morning red, veiling
its beams for a moment; but no power on earth can prevail against the
slow and majestic rising of the sun which, an hour later, visible to
all the world, radiating light and warmth, stands bright in the
firmament. What an hour is, in the natural phenomena of every day, a
decade or two is in the still more impressive spectacle of a sunrise
in the world's history.


[Footnote 47: The word _bourgeoisie_ is henceforth used throughout the
discussion to designate the political party now defined.--TRANSLATOR.]

[Footnote 48: Here the speaker quotes statistics showing that, on the
average, throughout Prussia, a vote by a man of the first class has as
much weight as seventeen votes by men of the third class.--TRANSLATOR.]

* * * * *


[A speech delivered by Lassalle in his own defense before the Criminal
Court of Berlin on the charge of having incited to class hatred.]

University of Missouri

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Court:

I shall have to make my beginning with an appeal to your indulgence.
My defense will go somewhat into detail. It will, on that account,
necessarily be somewhat long. But I consider myself justified in
pursuing this course, first, by the magnitude of the penalty with
which I am threatened under Section 100 of the Criminal Code--the full
extent of this penalty amounting to no less than two years'
imprisonment. In the second place, and more particularly, I consider
my course justified by the fact that this trial by no means centres
about a man and the imposition of a penalty.

You will, therefore, permit me, without further preliminary, to carry
the discussion from the region of ordinary court-room routine to that
higher level on which it properly belongs.

The indictment brought against me is an evil and deplorable sign of
the times. It not only offends the common law, but it is a notable
violation of the Constitution. This is the first count in the defense
which I have to offer.

I. Article 20 of the Constitution reads: "Science and its teaching is

What may be the meaning of this phrase in the Constitution, "is free,"
unless it means that science and its teaching are not subject to the
ordinary provisions of the Criminal Code? Is this expression, "Science
and its teaching is free," perhaps to be taken as meaning "free within
the limits of the general provisions of the criminal code?" But
within these limits every expression of opinion is absolutely
free--not only science and its teaching. So long as they live within
the general specifications of the criminal code, every newspaper
writer and every market woman is quite free to write and say whatever
they choose. This liberty, which is conceded to all expressions of
opinion, need not and could not be proclaimed by a special article of
the Constitution as a peculiar concession to "science and its

To put such a construction upon this article of the Constitution
amounts to reading it out of the Constitution, to so interpreting it
that it has nothing to say,--which is in our time by no means a
neglected method of quietly putting the Constitution out of the way.

Now, the first principle of legal interpretation is that a provision
of law must not be so interpreted as to make it superfluous or absurd,
or to virtually expunge it. This, of course, applies with peculiar
force to an article of the Constitution. There can accordingly be no
doubt, Gentlemen, that precisely this was the intention of this
provision of the Constitution; namely, that the prerogative was to be
conceded to science that it should not lie under the limitations which
the general criminal code imposes upon every-day, trivial expressions
of opinion.

It is easy to understand that the legislature of any country will seek
to protect the institutions of the country. In the nature of the case,
the laws forbid inciting the citizens of a country to disorderly
outbreak against the constituted authority.

Indeed, if we accept certain current views of law and order we have no
difficulty in understanding that the law may consistently forbid all
such appeal to the passions as is designed to foster contempt and
disregard of existing conventions, or to stir up sentiments of hatred
and distrust in their populace through a direct appeal to the unstable

But what is in the eternal nature of things free, on which no limits
must be imposed, the importance of which to the State itself is
greater than that of any single provision of law, to the free exercise
of which no provision of law can set bounds--that is the impulse to
scientific investigation.

No situation and no institution is perfect. Such a thing may happen as
that an institution which we are accustomed to consider the most
unimpeachable and indispensable, may, in fact, be vicious in the
highest degree, and be most seriously in need of reform.

Will any one deny this whose view comprehends the changes which
history records since the days of the Hindus or the Egyptians? Or even
if he looks no further than the narrow space of the past one hundred

The Egyptian fellah warms the hearth of his squalid mud hut with the
mummies of the Pharaohs of Egypt, the all-powerful builders of the
everlasting pyramids. Customs, conventions, codes, dynasties, states,
nations come and go in incontinent succession. But, stronger than
these, never disappearing, forever growing, from the earliest
beginnings of the Ionic philosophy, unfolding in an ever-increasing
amplitude, outleaping all else, spreading from one nation and from one
people to another, and handed down, with devout reverence, from age to
age, there remains the stately growth of scientific knowledge.

And what is the source of all that unremitting progress, of all that
uninterruptedly, but insensibly, broadening amelioration which we see
peacefully accomplishing itself in the course of history, if it is not
this same scientific knowledge? And, this being so, science must have
its way without restraint; for science there is nothing fixed and
definite, to which its process of chemical analysis may not be
applied, nothing sacred, no _noli me tangere_. Without free scientific
inquiry, therefore, there is no outcome but stagnation, decline and
barbarism. And, while free scientific inquiry is the perennial
fountain-head of all progress in human affairs, this inquiry and its
gradually extending sway over men's convictions, is at the same time
the only guarantee of a peaceable advance. Whoever stops up this
fountain, whoever attempts to prevent its flowing at any point, or to
restrain its bearing upon any given situation, is not only guilty of
cutting off the sources of progress, but he is guilty of a breach of
the public peace and of endangering the stability of the State. It is
through the means of such scientific inquiry and its work of
painstaking elaboration that the exigencies of a progressively
changing situation are enabled gradually, and without harm, to have
their effect upon men's thinking and upon human relations, and so to
pass into the life of society. Whoever obstructs scientific inquiry
clamps down the safety valve of public opinion, and puts the State in
train for an explosion. He prohibits science from finding out the
malady and its remedy, and he thereby substitutes the resulting
convulsions of the death struggle for a diagnosis and a judicious

Unrestrained freedom of scientific teaching is, accordingly, not only
an inalienable right of the individual, but, what is more to the
point, it is, primarily and most particularly, a necessity of life to
the community; it involves the life of the State itself.

Therefore has society formulated the provision that "Science and its
teaching is free," without qualification, without condition, without
limits; and this proviso is incorporated into the Constitution, in
order to make it plain that it must remain inviolate even at the hands
of the law-giver himself, that even he must not for a moment overlook
or disregard it. And so it serves as pledge of the continual peaceable
development of social life down to the remotest generations.

Does a question present itself at this point, Gentlemen? Am I setting
up a new and unheard-of theory on this head?

Am I, possibly, misconstruing the wording of the Constitution in order
to extricate myself from an embarrassing criminal process?

On the contrary, nothing is easier than to prove to you from the
evidences of history that this provision of the Constitution has never
been taken in any other sense; that for long centuries before the days
of the Constitution this theory has been current among us in usage
and practice; that it is by ancient tradition a characteristic feature
of the culture of all Germanic peoples.

In the days of Socrates, it was still possible to be indicted for
having taught new gods (Greek: katnos theous), and Socrates drank
the hemlock under such an indictment.

In antiquity all this was natural enough. The genius of antiquity was
so utterly identified with the conditions of its political life, and
religion was so integral an element in the foundations of the ancient
State, that the ancient mind was quite incapable of divesting itself
of these convictions, and so getting out of its integument. The spirit
of antiquity must stand or fall with its particular political
conventions, and, in the event, it fell with them.

Such being the spirit of those times, it follows that any scientific
doctrine which carried a denial of any element of the foundations of
the State was in effect an attack upon the nation's life and must
necessarily be dealt with as such.

All this changes when the ancient world passes away and the Germanic
peoples come upon the scene. These latter are peoples gifted with a
capacity to change their integument. By virtue of that faculty for
development that belongs to the guiding principle of their life, viz.:
the principle of the subjective spirit,--by virtue of this, these
latter are possessed of a flexibility which enables them to live
through the most widely varied metamorphoses. These peoples have
passed through many and extreme transformations, and, instead of
meeting their death and dissolution in the process, they have by force
of it ever emerged on a higher plane of development and into a richer
unfolding of life.[49]

The means by which these peoples are able to prepare the way for and
to achieve these transmutations through which they constantly emerge
to that fuller life, the rudiments of which are inborn in them, is the
principle of an unrestrained freedom of scientific research and

Hence it comes that this instinct of free thought among these peoples
reaches expression very early, much earlier than the modern learned
world commonly suspects. "We are mistakenly in the habit of thinking
of free scientific inquiry as a fruitage of modern times. But among
these peoples that instinct is an ancient one which asserts that free
inquiry must be bound neither by the authority of a person nor by a
human ordinance; that, on the contrary, it is a power in itself,
resting immediately upon its own divine right, superior to and
antedating all human institutions whatever.

"_Quasi lignum vitae_," says Pope Alexander IV. in a constitution
addressed to the University of Paris in 1256, "_Quasi lignum vitae in
Paradiso Dei, et quasi lucerna fulgoris in Domo Domini, est in Sancta
Ecclesia Parisiensis Studii disciplina_." "As the tree of life in God's
Paradise and the lamp of glory in the house of God, such in the Holy
Church is the place of the Parisian corporation of learning." To
appreciate the import of these words of the holy father, it should be
borne in mind that in the Middle Ages all things whatever lived only by
virtue of a corporate existence, so that learning existed only as
incorporated in a university.

It would be a serious mistake to believe that the universities of the
Middle Ages rested that prerogative of scientific censure--_censura
doctrinatis_--to which they laid claim in such a comprehensive way,
upon these and other like papal or imperial and royal decrees of
establishment. Petrus Alliacensis, a man whom the University of Paris
elected as its _magnus magister_ in 1381, and who afterward wore the
archiepiscopal and also the cardinal's hat, tells us that not _ex jure
humano_, not from human legislation, but _ex jure divino_, from divine
law, does science derive its competence to exercise the _censura_; and
the privileges and charters granted by popes, emperors and kings are
nothing more than the acts of recognition of this prerogative of
science that comes to it _ex jure divino_, or, as an alternative
expression has it, _ex jure naturali_, by the law of nature. And in
this, Petrus Alliacensis is substantially borne out by all the later

Gentlemen, we are in the habit of giving ourselves airs and of looking
down on the Middle Ages as a time of darkness and barbarism. But in so
doing we are frequently in the wrong, and in no respect are we more
thoroughly in the wrong than in passing such an opinion upon the
position of science in the Middle Ages. Frequent and most solemn are
the cases in which recognition is made of the right of science to
raise her voice without all regard to king and pope, and even against
king and pope.

We have recently witnessed a conflict between the government and the
house of deputies as to the meeting of expenditures not granted by the
house. An impression has been diligently spread abroad through the
country that this is an unheard of piece of boldness and a subversive
assumption of power on the part of the house of deputies, and indeed
there have not been wanting deputies who have been astonished at
their own daring, and have taken some pride in it.

But, on the other hand, Gentlemen, in February, 1412, the University
of Paris, which was in no way intrusted with an oversight or a control
of this country's fiscal affairs, took occasion to address a memorial
to the King of France, Charles VI., as it said: "_pour la chose
publique du votre royaume_"--on the public concerns of the realm. And
in this memorial the university subjects the fiscal administration of
the country, together with other branches of the administration, to a
drastic criticism, and passes a verdict of unqualified condemnation
upon it. This _remonstrance_ of the University of Paris rises to a
degree of boldness, both in its demands and in its tone, that is quite
foreign to anything which our house of deputies has done or might be
expected to do. It points out that the revenues have not been expended
for the purposes for which they were levied--"_on appert clairement,
que les dictes finances ne sont point employees a choses dessus
dictes_," etc.--and it closes this its review with the peremptory
demand: "_Item, et il fault savoir, ou est cette finance,"--"Now, we
have a right to know what has become of these funds." It describes the
king's fiscal administration, including the highest officials, the
finance ministers, gouverneurs and treasurers, as a gang of lawless
miscreants, a band of rogues conspiring together for the ruin of the
country. It upbraids the king himself with having packed the
parliament of Paris, and so having corrupted the administration of
justice. It points out to him that his predecessors carried on the
government by means of much smaller revenues: "_au quel temps estoit
le royaume bien gouverne, autrement que maintenant_"--"when the
country was well governed, as is not the case today." The
_remonstrance_ goes on to picture the burdens which rest upon the
poor, and to demand that these burdens be lightened by means of a
forced loan levied upon the rich. And the _remonstrance_ closes with
the declaration that all this, which it has set forth is, in spite of
its length, but a very adequate presentation of the matter, in so
much that it would require several days to describe all the
misgovernment the country suffered.

[Illustration: THE IRON FOUNDRY _From the Painting by Adolph von

The university rests its right to make such a _remonstrance_ upon this
ground alone,--that it is the spokesman of science, of which all men
know that it is without selfish interest, that there are neither
public offices nor emoluments in its keeping, and that it is not
concerned with these matters in any connection but that of their
investigation; but precisely for this reason, it is incumbent upon
science to speak out openly when the case demands it.

And the conclusion to which it comes is of no less serious import than
this: It is the king's duty, without all delay (_sans quelque
dilacion_) to dismiss all comptrollers (_gouverneurs)_ of finance from
office, without exception (_sans nul excepter_), to apprehend their
persons and provisionally to sequestrate their goods, and, under
penalty of death and confiscation of property, to forbid all
communication between the lower officials of the fisc and these

If you will read this voluminous _remonstrance_, Gentlemen--you may
find it in the annals of that time by Enguerrand de Monstrelet (liv.
I. c. 99, Tom. II. p. 307 _et seq_., ed. Douet d'Aroy)--you cannot
avoid seeing that, had this memorial been promulgated in our time,
e.g., by the University of Berlin, there is scarce an offense
enumerated in the code but would have been found in it by the public
prosecutor. Defamation and insult of officials in the execution of
their office, contempt and abuse of the government's regulations and
the disposition taken by the officials, lese majeste, incitement of
the subjects of the State to hatred and disrespect--and, indeed, I
know not what all would be the offenses which our prosecutors would
have discovered in the document. It is less than a year since,
according to the newspapers, a disciplinary inquiry was instituted
with respect to a memorial of a very different tenor, wherein one of
our universities declined the mandatory suggestions addressed to the
university by the ministers in regard to a given appointment. But,
at that earlier day, in the dark ages, such was not the custom. On the
other hand, in compliance with the university's demands, the treasurer
of the crown, Audry Griffart, together with many others of the high
officers of finance, was taken into custody, while others avoided a
like fate only by escaping into a church vested with the right of

That was in 1412. But already eighty years before that date there
occurred another, and perhaps even more significant case, which I may
touch upon more briefly. Pope John XXII. promulgated a new
construction of the dogma of _visio beatifica_ and had it preached in
the churches. The University of Paris,--_nec pontificis reverentia
prohibuit_, says the report, _quominus veritati insistereat_,--"reverence
of the holy father prevented not the university from declaring the
truth"--, although the matter then in question was an article of the
faith and lay within a field within which the competence of the pope
could not be doubted, still the university, on the 22d of January, 1332,
put forth a decree in which this construction of the dogma was classed
to be erroneous.

Philip VI. served this decree upon the pope, then resident at Avignon,
with the declaration that, unless he recanted as the decree required,
he would have him burned as a heretic. And the pope, in fact,
recanted, although he was then on his deathbed. All of which you may
find set forth in Bulas, _Historia Universitatis Parisiensis_. (Paris,
1668, fol. Tom. IV. p. 375 _et seq_.)

These instances, which might be multiplied at will, may suffice to
show how unqualified was the freedom of science even in early days,
constrained by no punitive limitation at the hands of pope or king;
for, be it remembered, in the Middle Ages, science had, as I have
before remarked, only a corporate existence in its bearers, the
universities. So that the view for which I speak has practically been
accepted as much as five hundred years back, even in Catholic times
and among Latin peoples.

But now comes Protestantism and creates its political structure,
which it erects on precisely this broad principle of free thought and
free research. This principle has since that epoch been the foundation
upon which our entire political life has rested. A protestant State
has no other claim to existence than precisely this--cannot possibly
exist on other ground. When has there, since that time, been talk of a
penal prosecution in Prussia on account of a scientific doctrine?

Christian Wolf, at Halle, popularized the Leibnizian philosophy, and
it was then brought to the notice of the soldier-king, Frederick
William I., that, according to Wolf's teaching of preestablished
harmony, deserting soldiers did not desert by their own free will but
by force of this peculiar divine arrangement of a preestablished
harmony;[50] wherefore this doctrine, being spread abroad among the
military, could not but be very detrimental to the maintenance of
military discipline. It is true, this soldier-king, whose regiments
were his State, was incensed at all this in the highest degree, and
that he forthwith, in November, 1723, issued an order-in-council
against Wolf, ordering him on penalty of the halter, to leave Prussian
ground within twice twenty-four hours--and Wolf was obliged to flee.
But, inasmuch as the king's _lettres de cachet_ in that time permitted
no appeal, they are also passed over in history as being devoid of
interest or historic significance. It may be added that the
soldier-king had simply perpetrated a gratuitous outrage, and had not
set the claims of law and right aside. He threatened to hang Wolf, and
this threat he could have carried out with the help of his soldiers.
Even brute force is not devoid of dignity when it acts openly and
above-board. He did not insult his courts by asking them to condemn
scientific teaching. It did not occur to him to disguise his act of
violence under the forms of law.

Moreover, no sooner had Frederick the Great ascended the throne, 31st
of May, 1740, than he, six days later, 6th of June, 1740, sent a note
to the Councillor of the Consistory, Reinbeck, directing the recall of
Wolf. Even Frederick William I. had repented of his violence against
Wolf and had in vain, in the most honorable terms, addressed letters
of recall to him. But Frederick the Great, while he too had use for
soldiers, was no soldier-king, but a statesman. The note to Reinbeck
runs: "You are requested to use your best endeavor with respect to
this Wolf, who is a person that seeks and loves the truth, who is to
be held in high honor among all men, and I believe you will have
achieved a veritable conquest in the realm of truth if you persuade
Wolf to return to us."

So it appears, then, that also this conflict serves only to add force
to the ancient principle that scientific research and the presentation
of scientific truth is not to be bound by any limitations or by any
considerations of expediency, and must find its sole and all
sufficient justification in itself alone. This principle hereby
achieved a new lustre and gained the full authentication of the crown.

Even the existence of God was not shielded from the discussion of
science. Science was allowed, as it is still allowed, to put forth its
proofs against his existence. The provisions of the new penal code
bear only upon blasphemous utterances, such revilings of God as may
offend those who believe otherwise, not upon the denial of his

For many decades before the days of the Constitution the
unquestioned liberty of science on Prussian ground had served the
antagonists of Prussia as their supreme recourse, their chief
boast and proudest ornament. You will remember the extraordinary
sensation created by the case of Bruno Bauer, the Privat Docent
on the theological faculty at Bonn, whom it was attempted to
deprive of his _licentia docendi_[51] at the ominous instance of
the absolutist-pietistical Eichhorn ministry, because of his
peculiar doctrine concerning the gospel. This was the first case
during the present century in which an assault has been attempted
upon the freedom of scientific teaching, and even this was an
infinitely less heinous one than the present. The faculties of
the university were deeply stirred, and for months together
official pronunciamentos swarmed about the town; men of the
highest standing, such as Marheinecke and others, declared that
protestantism and enlightenment were threatened in their very
foundations in case such usurpation, hitherto unheard of in
Prussia, were allowed to take its course. And even such
expressions of opinion as reached a conclusion subservient to the
ministerial view based their conclusion on the ground that
the case in question concerned a _licentia docendi_ in the
theological faculty, with the fundamental principles of which
Bauer's doctrines were incompatible. They took care expressly to
declare that had the question concerned a _licentia docendi_ in
any one of the nontheological faculties, in a philosophical
faculty, e.g., the decision must necessarily have been reversed.
No one, not even Eichhorn himself, harbored the conceit that this
doctrine and its teaching was to be dealt with by the criminal
court. A teacher who spread abroad scientific teachings
subversive of theological doctrines was deprived of the
opportunity to proclaim his teaching from a theological chair;
but to call in the jailer to suppress him--to that depth of
subservience to absolutism had no one at that time descended.
Alas, that Eichhorn, the much berated, could not have lived to
see this day! With what admiration and with what gratification
would he have looked upon his "constitutional" successors!

Even in the days of Eichhorn's pietistical absolutism, with its
_ecclesia militans_ of obscurantism, there survived so much of a sense
of decency regarding the ancient traditions as to exempt the liberty
of scientific teaching from the indignity of that preventive censure
which in those days rendered repressive legislation superfluous. In
their search for some tenable and tangible criterion of the scientific
character of any publication, the men of that time, it is true, hit
upon a somewhat absurd one in making the test a test of bulk--books of
more than twenty forms were exempt from censure. But however awkward
the outcome, the aim of the provision is not to be denied.

These ancient traditions, with more than five hundred years of
prescriptive standing; this principle which prevailed by usage and
acceptance among all modern peoples long before it was embodied in
legal form; this primordial deliverance of the spiritual life of the
Germanic nations is the substantial fact which our modern society has
now finally embodied in Article 20 of the Constitution and so has
constituted a norm for the guidance of all later law-givers, in other
words: "Science and its teaching is free."

It is free without qualification, without limits, without bolts and
bars. Under established law everything has its limitations,--every
power, every function, every vested authority. The only thing which
remains without bounds or constituted limitation, whose privilege it
is to over-spread and to overlie all established facts, in such
boundless and unhindered freedom as the sun and the air, is the
irradiating force of theoretical research.

Scientific theory must be free even to the length of license.
For, even if we could speak of a license in science and its
teaching,--which, by the way, is most seriously to be
questioned,--this is by all means a point at which an attempt to guard
against abuse in one case would be liable in a million instances to
put a check upon the blessings of rightful use. If any given measures
of state, or any given class institutions, were shielded from
scientific discussion, so that science might not teach that the
arrangements in question are inadequate or detrimental, iniquitous or
destructive,--under these circumstances, what genius could there be of
such comprehensive reach, so far overtopping the spiritual level of
all his contemporaries and all succeeding generations, as even to
surmise the total extent of the loss which would thereby be sustained?
What fruitful discoveries and developments, what growth of spiritual
power and insight would be stifled in the germ by one such rigid
interdict upon abuse; and what violent convulsions and what decay
might not come upon the State in consequence of it?

The question is also fairly to be asked: what is legitimate use and
what is abuse of science? Where lies the line between them, and who
determines it? This discretion would have to lie, not with a court of
law, but with a court made up of the flower of scientific talent of
the time, in all departments and branches of science.

However enlightened your honorable body may be--and indeed the more
enlightened the more unavoidably--this proposition must appeal to you
as beyond question. What am I saying? The flower of the scientific
talent of the time? No; that would not answer. The scientific genius
of all subsequent time would have to be included; for how often does
history show us the pioneers of science in sheer contradiction with
the accepted body of scientific knowledge of their own time! It may
take fifty, and it may often take a hundred years of discussion in
scientific matters to settle the question as to what is true and
legitimate and what is abuse.

In point of fact, there has hitherto been not an attempt, since the
adoption of the constitution, to bring an indictment against any given
scientific teaching.

Gentlemen, since 1848--since 1830--we have here in Prussia had many a
sore and heavy burden to bear, and our shoulders are lame and tired
with the bearing of them. But even under the Manteuffel-Westphalen
administration, and until today, we have been spared this one
indignity, of being called upon to see a scientific doctrine cited
before the court.

The keenest attacks, attacks which, taken by themselves, might easily
have been subject to criminal prosecution, have suffered no
prosecution in any case where they have been embodied in a scientific
work and when promulgated in the form of a scientific doctrine.

I am myself in a position to testify on this point. It is not quite
two years since I published a work in which, I believe, I have
succeeded in contributing something to the advancement of your own
science, Gentlemen,--the science on which the administration of
justice is based. The work of which I speak is my "System of Acquired
Rights." _(System der erworbenen Rechte.)_ In this work I take
occasion to say (Vol. I., p. 238): "Science, whose first duty is the
most searching inquiry and concise thinking, can on this account in no
way deprive itself of the right to formulate its conceptions with all
the definiteness and concision which the clearness of these
conceptions itself requires." And proceeding on this ground I go on,
in the further discussion, to show that the agrarian legislation of
Prussia subsequent to 1850 is nothing else--to quote my own words
literally--than a robbery of the poor for the benefit of the wealthy
landed aristocracy, illegal and perpetrated in violation of the
perpetrators' own sense of equity.

How easy would it not have been, if the expressions had occurred
elsewhere than in a scientific treatise, to find that they embodied
overt contempt of the institutions of the State, and incitement to
hatred and disregard of the regulations of the government. But they
occurred in a scientific treatise--they were the outcome of a
painstaking scientific inquiry,--therefore they passed without

But that was two years ago.

In return for the accusation which has been brought against me, I, in
my turn, retort with the accusation that my accusers have this day
brought upon Prussia the disgrace that now for the first time since
the State came into existence scientific teaching is prosecuted before
a criminal court. For what can the public prosecutor say to my
accusation, since he concedes the substance of my claims, since he is
compelled to acknowledge that science and its teaching is free, and
therefore free from all penal restraint? Will he contend, perhaps,
that I do not represent science? Or will he, possibly, deny that the
work with which this indictment is concerned is a scientific work?
The prosecutor seems to feel himself hampered by the fact that he has
here to do with a scientific production, for he begins his indictment
with the sentence: "While the accused has assumed an appearance of
scientific inquiry, his discussion at all points is of a practical
bearing." The appearance of scientific inquiry? And why is it the
appearance only? I call upon the prosecutor to show why only the
appearance of scientific inquiry is to be imputed to this scientific
publication. I believe that in a question as to what is scientific and
what not, I am more competent to speak than the public prosecutor.

In various and difficult fields of science I have published voluminous
works; I have spared no pains and no midnight vigils in the endeavor
to widen the scope of science itself, and, I believe, I can in this
matter say with Horace: _Militavi non sine gloria_.[52] But I declare
to you: Never, not in the most voluminous of my works, have I written
a line that was more carefully thought out in strict conformity to
scientific truth than this production is from its first page to its
last. And I assert further that not only is this brochure a scientific
work, as so many another may be that presents in combination results
already known, but that it is in many respects a scientific
achievement, a development of new scientific conceptions.

What is the criterion by which the scientific standing of a book is to
be judged? None else, of course, than its contents.

I beg you, therefore, to take a look at the contents of this pamphlet.
Its content is nothing else than a philosophy of history, condensed in
the compass of forty-four pages, beginning with the Middle Ages and
coming down to the present. It is a development of that objective
unfolding of rational thought which has lain at the root of European
history for more than a thousand years past; it is an exposition of that
inner soul of things resident in the process of history that manifests
itself in the apparently opaque, empirical sequence of events and which
has produced this historical sequence out of its own moving, creative
force. It is, in spite of the brief compass of the pamphlet, the
strictly developed proof that history is nothing else than the
self-accomplishing, by inner necessity increasingly progressive
unfolding of reason and of freedom, achieving itself under the mask of
apparently mere external and material relations.

In the brief compass of this pamphlet, I pass three great periods of
the world's history in review before the reader; and for each one I
point out that it proceeds on a single comprehensive idea, which
controls all the various, apparently unrelated, fields of development
and all the different and widely-scattered phenomena that fall within
the period in question; and I show that each of these periods is but
the necessary forerunner and preparation for the succeeding period,
and that each succeeding period is the peculiar and imminently
necessary continuation, the consequence and unavoidable consummation
of the preceding period, and that these together, consequently,
constitute a comprehensive and logically inseparable whole.

First comes the period of feudalism. I here show that feudalism, in
all its variations, rests on the one principle of control of landed
property, and I also show how at that time, owing to the fact that
society's productive work to a preponderating extent consisted in
agriculture, landed property necessarily was the controlling factor,
that is to say, the feature conditioning all political and social
power and standing.

And I beg you, Gentlemen, to take note with what a strict scientific
objectivity of treatment, how free from all propagandist bias, I
proceed with the discussion. If there is any one datum which lends
itself to the purposes of that propagandist bias which the public
prosecutor claims to find in this pamphlet--namely the incitement of
the indigent classes to hatred of the wealthy--it is the peasant wars.
If there is any one fact which has hitherto been accepted, in
scientific and in popular opinion alike, and more particularly among
the unpropertied classes, with, the fondest remembrance, as a national
movement iniquitously put down by the strong hand of violence, it is
the peasant wars.

Now, unmoved by this predilection and this shimmer of sentiment, with
which the science and the popular sense have united in investing the
peasant wars, I go on to divest these wars of this deceptive
appearance and show them up in their true light,--that they were at
bottom a reactionary movement, which, fortunately for the cause of
liberty, was of necessity doomed to failure.

Further: If there exists in Germany an institution which, as a
question of our own times, I abominate with all my heart as the source
of our national decay, our shame and our impotence, it is the
institution of the territorial State.

Now, the pamphlet in question is so strictly scientific and objective
in its method, so far removed from all personal bias, that I therein
go on to show that the institution of the territorial State was, in
its time, historically a legitimate and revolutionary feature; that it
was an ideal advance, in that it embodied and developed the concept of
a State independent of relations of ownership; whereas the peasant
wars sought to place the State, and all political power and standing,
on the basis of property.

I then, further, go on to show how the period of feudalism is
succeeded by a second world-historic period. I show how, while the
peasant wars were revolutionary only in their own delusion, there
begins almost simultaneously with them a real revolution, namely, that
accumulation of capitalistic wealth which arose through the
development of industry. This wrought a thoroughgoing change in the
whole situation,--a change which reached its final act, achieved its
legal acceptance, in the French Revolution of 1789, but which had in
point of fact for three hundred years been imperceptibly advancing
toward its consummation.

I show in detail, which I need not here expound or recapitulate, what
are the economic factors that were destined to push landed property
into the remotest back-ground and leave it relatively powerless,
by making the new industrial activity the great lever and the bearer
of modern social wealth. All this took place by force of the new
industrial activity the great lever and the bearer of methods which
they brought in.

I show how this capitalized wealth, which has come forward as an
outcome of this industrial development and has grown to be the
dominant factor in this second period, must in its turn attain the
position of prerogative as the recognized qualification of political
competence, as the condition of a voice in the councils and policy of
the State; just as was at an earlier time the case with landed
property in relation to the public law of feudalism. I show how,
directly and indirectly in the control of opinion, in the requirement
of bonds and stamp duties, in the public press, in the growth of
individual taxation, etc., capitalized wealth, as a basis of
participation in public affairs, must work out its inherent tendency
with the same thoroughness and the same historical necessity as landed
property had done in its time.

And this second period, which has completed its three hundred and
fifty years, as I further go on to show, is now essentially concluded.
With the French Revolution of 1848 comes the dawning of a new, a third
historical period. By its proclamation of universal and equal
suffrage, regardless of property qualifications, this third period
assigns to each and every one an equal share in the sovereignty, in
the guidance of public affairs and public policy. And so it installs
free labor as the dominating principle of social life, conditioned by
neither the possession of land nor of capital.

I then develop the difference in point of ethical principles between
the _bourgeoisie_ and the laboring class, as well as the resulting
difference in the political ideals of the two classes. The
aristocratic principle assigned the individual his status on the basis
of descent and social rank, whereas the principal for which the
_bourgeoisie_ stands contends that all such legal restriction is
iniquitous, and that the individual must be counted simply as such,
with no prerogative beyond guaranteeing him the unhindered
opportunity to make the most of his capacities as an individual. Now,
I claim, if we all were by native gift equally wealthy, equally
capable, equally well educated, then this principle of equal
opportunity would be adequate to the purpose. But since such equality
does not prevail, and indeed cannot come to pass, and since we do not
come into the world simply as undifferentiated individuals, but
endowed in varying degree with wealth and capacities, which in turn
result in differences of education; therefore, this principle is not
an adequate principle. For, if under these actual circumstances,
nothing were guaranteed beyond the unhindered opportunity of the
individual to make the most of himself, the consequence must be an
exploitation of the weaker by the stronger. The principle for which
the working classes stand is this, that free opportunity alone will
not suffice, but that to this, for the purposes of any morally
defensible organization of society, there must be added the further
principle of a solidarity of interests, a community and mutuality in

From this difference between the two classes, in point of ethical
principle, follows, as a matter of course, the difference in political

The _bourgeoisie_ has elaborated the principle that the end of the
State is to protect the personal liberty of the individual and his
property. This is the doctrine put forth by the scientific spokesmen
of the _bourgeoisie_. This is the doctrine of its political leaders,
of liberalism. But this theory is in a high degree inadequate,
unscientific, and at variance with the essential nature of the State.

The course of history is a struggle against nature, against need,
ignorance and impotence, and, therefore, against bondage of every kind
in which we were held under the state of nature at the beginning of
history. The progressive overcoming of this impotence,--this is the
evolution of liberty, whereof history is an account. In this struggle
we should never have made one step in advance, and we should never
take a further step, if we had gone into the struggle singly, each for

Now the State is precisely this contemplated unity and cooeperation of
individuals in a moral whole, whose function it is to carry on this
struggle, a combination which multiplies a million fold the force of
all the individuals comprised in it, which heightens a million fold
the powers which each individual singly would be able to exert.

The end of the State, therefore, is not simply to secure to each
individual that personal freedom and that property with which the
bourgeois principle assumes that the individual enters the state
organization at the outset, but which in point of fact are first
afforded him in and by the State. On the contrary, the end of the
State can be no other than to accomplish that which, in the nature of
things, is and always has been the function of the State,--in set
terms: by combining individuals into a state organization to enable
them to achieve such ends and to attain such a level of existence as
they could not achieve as isolated individuals.

The ultimate and intrinsic end of the State, therefore, is to further
the positive unfolding, the progressive development of human life. In
other words, its function is to work out in actual achievement the
true end of man; that is to say, the full degree of culture of which
human nature is capable. It is the education and evolution of mankind
into freedom.

As a matter of fact, even the older culture, which has become the
inestimable foundation of the Germanic genius, makes for such a
conception of the State. I may cite the words of the great leader of
our science, August Boeckh: "The concept of the State must," according
to him, "necessarily be so broadened as to make the State the
contrivance whereby all human virtue is to be realized to the full."

But this fully developed conception of the State is, above all and
essentially, a conception that is in a peculiar sense to be ascribed
to the working classes. Others may conceive this conception of the
State by force of insight and education, but to the working
classes it is, by virtue of the helpless condition of their numbers,
given as a matter of instinct; it is forced home upon them by material
and economic facts.

Their economic situation necessarily breeds in these classes an
instinctive sense that the function of the State is and must be that
of helping the individual, through the combined efforts of all, to
reach a development such as the individual in isolation is incapable
of attaining.

In point of fact, however, this ethical conception of the State does
not set up any concept that has not already previously been the real
motor principle in the State. On the contrary, it is plain from what
has already been said, that this, in an unconscious way, has been the
essential nature of the State from the beginning. This essential
character of the State has always in some measure asserted itself
through the logical constraint of the course of events, even when such
an aim has been absent from the conscious purposes of the State, even
when opposed to the will of those in whose hands the power of control
had rested.

In setting up this conception of the working classes as the dominant
concept of the State, therefore, we do nothing more than articularly
formulate what has all along, but obscurely, been the organic nature
of the State, and bring it into the foreground as the consciously
avowed end of society.

Herein lies the comprehensive unity and continuity of all human
development, that nothing drops into the course of development from
the outside. It is only that that is brought clearly into
consciousness, and worked out on the ground of free choice, which has
in substance all along constituted the obscurely and unconsciously
effective organic nature of things.

With the French Revolution of 1848 this clearer consciousness has made
its entry upon the scene and has been proclaimed. In the first place,
this outcome was symbolically represented in that a workman was made a
member of the provisional government; and, further, there was
proclaimed universal, equal and direct suffrage, which is in point of
method the means whereby this conception of the State is to be
realized. February, 1848, therefore, marks the dawning of the
historical period in which the ethical principle of the working
classes is consciously accepted as the guiding principle of society.

We have reason to congratulate ourselves upon living in an epoch
consecrated to the achievement of this exalted end. But, above all, it
is to be said, since it is the destined course of this historical
period to make their conception the guiding principle of society, it
behooves the working classes to conduct themselves with all moral
earnestness, sobriety and studious deliberation.

Such, expressed in the briefest terms, is the content and the course
of argument of the disquisition in question.

What I have sought to accomplish in that argument is nothing else than
to explain to my auditors the intrinsic philosophical content of the
historical development, to initiate them into this most difficult of
all the sciences, to bring home to them the fact that history is a
logical whole which unfolds step by step under the guidance of
inexorable laws.

One who gives himself up to work of this kind is entitled to address
your public prosecutor in the words of Archimedes, when, at the
sacking of Syracuse, he was set upon, sword in hand, by the savage
soldiery while drawing and studying his mathematical figures in the
sand: "_Noli turbare circulos meos_."[53]

To enable me to write this pamphlet, five different sciences, and more
than that, have had to be brought into cooeperation and had to be
mastered: History in the narrower sense of the term, Jurisprudence and
the History of Law, Political Economy, Statistics, Finance, and, last
and most difficult of the sciences, the science of thought, or

What a paragon of scientific erudition must the public prosecutor be,
in whose eyes all this is not sufficient to lend a publication the
attribute of scientific quality.

But the indictment itself, when it is more closely examined, is seen
to assign the ground on which this work is held to lack the requisite
scientific character. The indictment says: "While the defendant,
Lassalle, has been at pains to give himself the appearance of
scientific method in this address, still the address is after all of a
thoroughly practical bearing."

So it appears, then, that, according to the public prosecutor, the
address is not scientific because it is claimed to have a practical
bearing. The test of scientific adequacy, according to the public
prosecutor, is the absence of practical bearing. I may fairly be
permitted to ask the public prosecutor--and it is a Schelling whose
signature this indictment bears--where he has learned all this. From
his father? Assuredly not. Schelling the elder assigns philosophy no
less serious a task than that of transforming the entire cultural
epoch. "It is conceived to be too much," says he in formulating an
anticipated objection, "to expect that philosophy shall rehabilitate
the times." To this his answer is: "But when _I_ claim to see in
philosophy a means whereby to remedy the confusion of the times, I
have, of course, in mind not an impotent philosophy, not simply a
product of workman-like dexterity, but a forceful philosophy which can
face the facts of life, philosophy which, far from feeling itself
impotent before the stupendous realities of life, far from confining
itself to the dreary business of simple negation and destruction,
draws its force from reality and, therefore, reaches effective and
enduring results."

The public prosecutor, with his brand-new and highly extraordinary
discovery, will scarcely find much comfort with the other men of the

In his Address to the German People, Fichte tells us: "What, then, is
the bearing of our endeavors even in the most recondite of the
sciences? Grant that the proximate end of these endeavors is that of
propagating these sciences from generation to generation, and so
conserving them; but why are they to be conserved? Manifestly only in
order that they in the fulness of time shall serve to shape human life
and the entire scheme of human institutions. This is the ulterior end.
Remotely, therefore, even though it may be in distant ages, every
endeavor of science serves to advance the ends of the State."

Now, Your Honor and Gentlemen of the Court, if I were to spend further
speech in the refutation of this discovery of the public
prosecutor--that impracticability is the test of science--I should be
insulting your intelligence.

In the pamphlet in question my aim was the thoroughly practical one of
bringing my readers to a comprehension of the times in which they
live, and thereby permanently to affect their conduct throughout the
course of their life and in whatever direction their activity may lie.

Now, then, what characteristic of scientific work is it which the
public prosecutor finds wanting in all this? Is it, perhaps, that it
falls short in respect of bulk? Is it the circumstance that this work
is only a pamphlet of less than fifty pages, instead of comprising
three folio volumes? But when was it decided that the bulk of a work,
instead of its contents, is to be accepted as a test of its scientific
character? Is the public prosecutor prepared, for instance, to deny
that the papers presented by the members of the Royal Academy at their
sessions are scientific productions? But nearly all of these are
shorter than this of mine.

During the past year, as speaker for the Philosophical Society at the
celebration of Fichte's birthday, it was my fortune to present an
address in which I dealt intimately with the history of German
metaphysics. That address fills only thirty-five pages as against the
forty-four pages of the present pamphlet. Is the public prosecutor
prepared to deny the character of science to that address because of
its brevity?

Who will not, on the contrary, appreciate that the very brevity
imposed by circumstances makes the scientific inquiry contained in
this work all the more difficult and the more considerable? I was
compelled to condense my exposition within the compass of a two-hours'
address, a pamphlet of forty-four pages, at the same time that I was
obliged to conform my presentation of the matter to an audience on
whose part I could assume no acquaintance with scientific methods and
results. To overcome obstacles of this kind and, at the same time, not
to fall short in point of profound scientific analysis, as was the
case in the present instance, requires a degree of precision, close
application and clarity of thought far in excess of what is demanded
in these respects in the common run of more voluminous scientific

I return, therefore, again to the question: What is the requirement of
science with respect to which this address falls short? Is it,
perhaps, that it offends the canons of science in respect of the place
in which it was held?

This, in fact, touches the substantial core of this indictment, and,
at the same time, the sorest spot of the whole. This address might
well--so runs the prosecutor's reflection--have been delivered
wherever you like--from the professor's chair or from the rostrum of
the singing school, before the so-called elite of the educated people;
but that it was actually delivered before the actual people, that it
was held before workingmen and addressed to workingmen, that fact
deprives it of all standing as a scientific work and makes it a
criminal offense,--_crimen novum atque inauditum_.[54]

I might, of course, content myself with the answer that the substance
of an address, and therefore its scientific character, is in no way
affected by the place in which it happens to have been delivered,
whether it is in the Academy of Science, before the cream of the
learned world, or in a hall in the suburbs before an audience of

But I owe you, Gentlemen, a somewhat fuller answer. To begin with, let
me express my amazement at the fact that here in Berlin, in the city
where Fichte delivered his immortal popular lectures on philosophy, his
speeches on the fundamental features of the modern epoch and his
speeches on the German nation before the general public, that in this
place and day it should occur to any one to fancy that the place in
which an address is delivered has anything whatever to do with its
scientific character.

The great destiny of our age is precisely this--which the dark ages
had been unable to conceive, much less to achieve--the dissemination
of scientific knowledge among the body of the people. The difficulties
of this task may be serious enough, and we may magnify them as we
like,--still, our endeavors are ready to wrestle with them and our
nightly vigils will be given to overcoming them.

In the general decay which, as all those who know the profounder
realities of history appreciate, has overtaken European history in all
its bearings, there are but two things that have retained their vigor
and their propagating force in the midst of all that shriveling blight
of self-seeking that pervades European life. These two things are
science and the people, science and the workingman. And the union of
these two is alone capable of invigorating European culture with a new

The union of these two polar opposites of modern society, science and
the workingman,--when these two join forces they will crush all
obstacles to cultural advance with an iron hand, and it is to this
union that I have resolved to devote my life so long as there is
breath in my body.

But, Gentlemen, is this view something new and entirely unheard-of in
the realm of science? Let us see what Fichte himself, in his Addresses
to the German People, has to say to the cultured classes, to whom he
addresses these words: "It is particularly to the cultured classes of
Germany that I wish to direct my remarks in the present address, for
it is to these classes I hope in the first place to make myself
intelligible. And I implore these classes, then, as the first step to
be taken, to take the initiative in the work of reconstruction, and
so, on the one hand, atone for their past deeds, and, on the other
hand, earn the right to continued life in the future.

[Illustration: FLAX BARN IN LAREN _From the Painting by Max

It will appear in the course of this address that hitherto all the
advance in the German nation has originated with the common
people, and that hitherto all the great national interests have, in
the first instance, been the affair of the people, have been taken in
hand and pushed forward by the body of the people; so that today for
the first time does it happen that the initiative in the cultural
advance of the nation is committed to the hands of the cultured
classes, and if they will but accept the commission it will be the
first time when such has been the case. It will presently appear that
it is quite impossible for these classes to determine how long the
matter will yet rest in their discretion, how long the choice will yet
be open to them whether to take the initiative in this matter or not,
for the whole matter is nearly ripe to be taken in hand by the people,
and it will be carried out by men sprung from the body of the people,
who will presently be able to help themselves without assistance from

Fichte, then, knew and proclaimed this fact, that the realization of
all the great national interests in the past has been the work of the
common people and has never been carried out at the hands of the
cultured classes. That, in spite of this knowledge, he turned to the
cultured classes is due, as he himself says, to the hope he had of
first and most readily making himself understood by them. It is
because, in his apprehension, for the presentment of the matter to the
people, the whole was, so he says, "only approaching readiness and
maturity," but not yet ready and mature.

That it is possible today to do what in Fichte's time was recognized
as the only fruitful thing to do, but, at the same time, as not then
ready to be done, and therefore too serious to be undertaken,--this
expresses the whole short step in advance that has been accomplished
in Germany during the past fifty years; for you will seek in vain for
the slightest progress on the part of the German government.

Fichte himself, in the passage cited, says that this advance is coming
in the near future. This "near future" proves to have been fifty years
removed, and I trust, Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Court, that
you will all consider a fifty-years' interval long enough to satisfy
the requirements of the "near future."

But the men who, undeterred by all the difficulties of the task, put
all their energies into this stupendous undertaking of carrying
scientific knowledge and scientific habits of thought among the body
of the people,--are they fairly open to the accusation of having
sought to incite the indigent classes to hatred of the well-to-do? Do
they not thereby really deserve the thanks and the affection of the
propertied classes, and of the bourgeoisie above all?

Whence arises the bourgeoisie's dread of the people in political

Look back, in memory, to the months of March, April, and May, 1848.
Have you forgotten how things looked here at that time? The power of
the police was broken; the people filled all the streets and public
places. And all streets, all public places and all the people in the
hands of Karbe, Lindenmueller, and other reckless agitators like
them,--men without knowledge, without intelligence, without culture,
thrown into prominence by the storm which stirred our political life
to its depths. The _bourgeoisie_, scared and faint hearted, hiding in
their cellars, trembling every instant for fear of their property and
their lives, which lay in the hands of these coarse agitators, and
saved only by the fact that these agitators were too good-natured to
make such use of their power as the bourgeoisie feared they would. The
_bourgeoisie_, secretly praying for the reestablishment of the police
power and quaking with a fright which they have not yet forgotten, the
recollection of which still leaves them incapable of taking up the
political struggle.

How came it that in a city which proudly calls itself the metropolis
of intelligence, in so great a city, in the home of the most brilliant
intellects,--how came it that the people here for months together
could be at the disposal of Karbe and Lindenmueller and could tremble
before them in fear for their life and property. Where was the
intelligence of Berlin? Where were the men of science and of insight?
Where were you, Gentlemen?

A whole city is never cowardly.

But these men reflected and told one another: The people do not
understand our ways of thinking; they do not even understand our
speech. There is a great gulf between our scientific views and the
ways of the multitude, between the speech of scientific discussion and
the habits of thought of the people. They would not understand us.
Therefore the floor belongs to the coarsest.

So they reflected and held their peace. Now, Gentlemen, are you quite
sure that a political upheaval will never recur? Are you ready to
swear that you have reached the end of historical development? Or are
you willing to see your lives and property again at the mercy of a
Karbe and a Lindenmueller?

If not, then your thanks are due to the men who have devoted
themselves to the work of filling up that gulf which separates
scientific thought and scientific speech from the people, and so to
raze the barriers that divide the bourgeoisie and the people. Your
thanks are due these men, who, at the expense of their utmost
intellectual efforts, have undertaken a work whose results will
redound to the profit of each and all of you. These men you should
entertain at the prytaneum, not put under indictment.

The place in which this address was held, therefore, can also not
afford ground for exception as to its scientific character.

I have now shown you conclusively that the production is a scientific

But if, contrary to all expectation, this should still be questioned,
although I do not for a moment consider it possible that it should be
questioned by men as enlightened as you are, Mr. President and
Gentlemen of the Court; now, in such a case, I seek refuge in the
privilege which is accorded every cobbler and which you can all the
less deny me, viz., to submit a question of workmanship in my trade to
the award of men expert in the trade.

In the last resort, the question as to the scientific character of a
given work is a question for the men of the trade, and therefore a
question which may not be decided on a basis of common education and
common culture alone, and therefore also not by a court of law. The
question at issue does not concern jurisprudence, with which you are
necessarily familiar, but it concerns other sciences with which you
may well be unfamiliar, although, as a matter of chance, you may, in
your private capacity, not your capacity as jurists, also be
acquainted with these matters.

It is true, you may answer this question in the affirmative, your
competence extends that far. For in very many cases is the scientific
character of a given work manifest, even to the commonly instructed

But to pass a negative opinion in the face of the expert testimony to
which I provisionally appeal as a subsidiary recourse;[55] to that
your competence does not extend, for the nicer question, whether in a
given case the most profound researches of science may not, with a
view to their readier apprehension, be presented in a facile and
popular form, whether this fact of a facile presentation may not
itself mark a peculiarly high achievement of scientific endeavor, in
which all traces of the struggle, all difficulties and all the
refractoriness of the materials handled have been successfully
eliminated and the whole has in the outcome been reduced to the
simplest and clearest terms; where the result presented is a
scientific work of art, which, in the words of Schiller, has risen
above the limitations of human infirmity and moves with such ease and
freedom as to give the impression that it offers but the free play of
the auditor's own unfolding thought; to decide with confidence whether
you have to deal with a scientific work of this class, and to decide
it with that certainty and security that is required in order to pass
a sentence, that is something of which none but men trained in the
science are capable.

This question, therefore, I beg that the following gentlemen: Privy
Councillor August Boeckh, Efficient Privy Councillor Johannes Schultze,
formerly Director of the Ministry of Public Worship, Professor Adolf
Trendelenburg, Privy Councillor and Chief Librarian Dr. Pertz, Professor
Leopold Ranke, Professor Theodor Mommsen, Privy Councillor Professor
Hanssen, all members of the Royal Academy of Science, and as specialists
capable of judging in the matter, be constituted a subsidiary tribunal
to pass on the question, whether the address in question is not in the
strict sense a scientific production.

But, if such is found to be the case, then, as I have already
explained, it has nothing to do with the penal code.

I have permitted myself to go exhaustively into an exposition of this,
my first ground of defense, because, for the sake of the country
itself and the dignity and liberty of science, and for the sake of
establishing once for all a precedent which shall bar out all similar
endeavors of the public prosecutor in the future, it is incumbent on
me to adjure you to acquit me under Article 20 of the Constitution.

But it is not that recourse to this article is necessary to protect my
person from the penalty of the law.

For, even were it held that the present case comes within the
competence of the penal code, the law appealed to has in no wise been
violated, and the paragraph cited by the public prosecutor has no

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