If I am not mistaken, these words of Germany’s greatest poet express accurately what the German people during the last hundred years has been striving for—national culture and national pre-eminence in every field of human activity. To advocate the reduction of Germany to a land of isolated scientists, poets, artists, and educators is tantamount to a call for the destruction of the German Nation.
Harvard University, Sept. 5, 1914.
The Stout and Warlike Breed
To the Editor of The New York Times:
There is nothing new in the obsession of the principal European nations that, in order to be great and successful in the world as it is, they must possess military power available for instant aggression on weak nations, as well as for effective defense against strong ones.
When Sir Francis Bacon wrote his essay on “The True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates” he remarked that forts, arsenals, goodly races of horses, armaments, and the like would all be useless “except the breed and disposition of the people be stout and warlike.” He denied that money is the sinews of war, giving preference to the sinews of men’s arms, and quoted Solon’s remark to Croesus, “Sir, if any other come that hath better iron than you, he will be master of all this gold”—a truly Bismarckian proposition. Indeed, Sir Francis Bacon says explicitly “that the principal point of greatness in any State is to have a race of military men.”
Goethe, reflecting on the wretchedness of the German people as a whole, found no comfort in the German genius for science, literature, and art, or only a miserable comfort which “does not make up for the proud consciousness of belonging to a nation strong, respected, and feared.” Because Germany in his time was weak in the military sense, he could write: “I have often felt a bitter grief at the thought of the German people, which is so noble individually, and so wretched as a whole”; and he longed for the day when the national spirit, kept alive and hopeful, should be “ready to rise in all its might when the day of glory dawns.”
“The day of glory” was to be the day of military power. Carlyle said of Germany and France in November, 1870, “that noble, patient, deep, pious, and solid Germany should be at length welded into a nation, and become Queen of the Continent, instead of vaporing, vainglorious, gesticulating, quarrelsome, restless, and oversensitive France, seems to me that hopefulest public fact that has occurred in my time.” How did Germany attain to this position of “Queen of the Continent”? By creating and maintaining, with utmost intelligence and skill, the strongest army in Europe—an army which within six years had been used successfully against Denmark, Austria, and France. Germany became “Queen” by virtue of her military power.