So stands Germany to-day, torn by internal dissensions, yet full of sustained strength; threatened on all sides by dangers, compressed into narrow, unnatural limits, she still is filled with high aspirations, in her nationality, her intellectual development, in her science, industries, and trade.
And now, what paths does this history indicate to us for the future? What duties are enforced on us by the past?
It is a question of far-reaching importance; for on the way in which the German State answers this question, depend not only our own further development, but to some extent the subsequent shaping of the history of the world.
GERMANY’S HISTORICAL MISSION
Let us pass before our mind’s eye the whole course of our historical development, and let us picture to ourselves the life-giving streams of human beings, that in every age have poured forth from the Empire of Central Europe to all parts of the globe; let us reflect what rich seeds of intellectual and moral development were sown by the German intellectual life: the proud conviction forces itself upon us with irresistible power that a high, if not the highest, importance for the entire development of the human race is ascribable to this German people.
This conviction is based on the intellectual merits of our nation, on the freedom and the universality of the German spirit, which have ever and again been shown in the course of its history. There is no nation whose thinking is at once so free from prejudice and so historical as the German, which knows how to unite so harmoniously the freedom of the intellectual and the restraint of the practical life on the path of free and natural development. The Germans have thus always been the standard-bearers of free thought, but at the same time a strong bulwark against revolutionary anarchical outbreaks. They have often been worsted in the struggle for intellectual freedom, and poured out their best heart’s blood in the cause. Intellectual compulsion has sometimes ruled the Germans; revolutionary tremors have shaken the life of this people—the great peasant war in the sixteenth century, and the political attempts at revolution in the middle of the nineteenth century. But the revolutionary movement has been checked and directed into the paths of a healthy natural advancement. The inevitable need of a free intellectual self-determination has again and again disengaged itself from the inner life of the soul of the people, and broadened into world-historical importance.