I do not set down this psychological phenomenon for the mere pleasure of its description, enormous as that phenomenon is, and worthy of description as it is. I set it down because I think that only in an appreciation of it can one understand the future development of the war. After the Battle of Metz, after the sweep down upon Paris from the Sambre, after this immense achievement of Tannenberg, the millioned opinion of a now united North Germany was fixed. It was so fixed that even a dramatically complete disaster (and the German armies have suffered none) might still leave the North German unshaken in his confidence. Defeats would still seem to him but episodes upon a general background, whose texture was the necessary predominance of his race above the lesser races of the world. This is the mood we shall discover in all that Germany does from that moment forward. It is of the first importance to realize it, because that mood is, so to speak, the chemical basis of all the reactions that follow. That mood, disappointed, breeds fury and confusion; in the event of further slight successes, it breeds a vast exaggeration of such success; in the presence of any real though but local advance, it breeds the illusion of a final victory.
It is impossible to set down adequately in these few pages this intoxication of the first German victories. It must be enough to recall to the reader that the strange mood with which we have to deal was also one of a century’s growth, a century during which not only in Germany, but in Scandinavia, in the universities (and many other cliques) of England, even largely in the United States, a theory had grown and prospered that something called “the Teutonic race” was the origin of all we valued; that another thing, called in one aspect “the Latin” or in another aspect “the Celt,” was something in the one case worn out, in the other negligible through folly, instability, and decay. The wildest history gathered round this absurd legend, not only among the Germans but wherever the “Teutonic theory” flourished, and the fatuous vanity of the North German was fed by the ceaseless acceptance of that legend on the part of those who believed themselves to be his kinsmen.
They still believe it. In every day that passes the press of Great Britain reveals the remains of this foolery. And while the real person, England, is at grips with another real thing, Prussia, which is determined to kill her by every means in its power, the empty theorizing of professors who do not see things, but only the imaginary figures of their theories, continues to regard England as in some way under a German debt, and subject to the duty of admiring her would-be murderer.