These are heavy and complicated duties, which have devolved on us from the entire past development of our nation, and are determined by its present condition as regards the future. We must be quite clear on this point, that no nation has had to reckon with the same difficulties and hostility as ours. This is due to the many restrictions of our political relations, to our unfavourable geographical position, and to the course of our history. It was chiefly our own fault that we were condemned to political paralysis at the time when the great European States built themselves up, and sometimes expanded into World Powers. We did not enter the circle of the Powers, whose decision carried weight in politics, until late, when the partition of the globe was long concluded. All which other nations attained in centuries of natural development—political union, colonial possessions, naval power, international trade—was denied to our nation until quite recently. What we now wish to attain must be fought for, and won, against a superior force of hostile interests and Powers.
It is all the more emphatically our duty plainly to perceive what paths we wish to take, and what our goals are, so as not to split up our forces in false directions, and involuntarily to diverge from the straight road of our intended development.
The difficulty of our political position is in a certain sense an advantage. By keeping us in a continually increasing state of tension, it has at least protected us so far from the lethargy which so often follows a long period of peace and growing wealth. It has forced us to stake all our spiritual and material forces in order to rise to every occasion, and has thus discovered and strengthened resources which will be of great value whenever we shall be called upon to draw the sword.
WORLD POWER OR DOWNFALL
In discussing the duties which fall to the German nation from its history and its general as well as particular endowments, we attempted to prove that a consolidation and expansion of our position among the Great Powers of Europe, and an extension of our colonial possessions, must be the basis of our future development.
The political questions thus raised intimately concern all international relations, and should be thoroughly weighed. We must not aim at the impossible. A reckless policy would be foreign to our national character and our high aims and duties. But we must aspire to the possible, even at the risk of war. This policy we have seen to be both our right and our duty. The longer we look at things with folded hands, the harder it will be to make up the start which the other Powers have gained on us.
“The man of sense will by the
Whatever lies within his power,
Stick fast to it, and neither shirk,
Nor from his enterprise be thrust,
But, having once begun to work,
Go working on because he must.”
(translated by Sir Theodore Martin).