Continental Europe was a mystery to English-speaking people. Those who traveled abroad took their own servants with them, spoke only English, and went through the whole European maze with absolute indifference. To them the socialist, who had scarcely received a name, was an imaginary being. If he existed, he was only a sort of offspring of the Napoleonic wars—a creature who had not yet fitted into the ordinary course of things. He was an anomaly, a person who howled in beer-houses, and who would presently be regulated, either by the statesmen or by the police.
When our old friend, Mark Tapley, was making with his master a homeward voyage to Britain, what did he know or even care about the politics of France, or Germany, or Austria, or Russia? Not the slightest, you may he sure. Mark and his master represented the complete indifference of the Englishman or American—not necessarily a well-bred indifference, but an indifference that was insular on the one hand and republican on the other. If either of them had heard of a gentleman who pillaged an unmarried lady’s luggage in order to secure a valuable paper for another lady, who was married, they would both have looked severely at this abnormal person, and the American would doubtless have added a remark which had something to do with the matchless purity of Columbia’s daughters.
If, again, they had been told that Ferdinand Lassalle had joined in the great movement initiated by Karl Marx, it is absolutely certain that neither the Englishman nor the American could have given you the slightest notion as to who these individuals were. Thrones might be tottering all over Europe; the red flag might wave in a score of cities—what would all this signify, so long as Britannia ruled the waves, while Columbia’s feathered emblem shrieked defiance three thousand miles away?
And yet few more momentous events have happened in a century than the union which led one man to give his eloquence to the social cause, and the other to suffer for that cause until his death. Marx had the higher thought, but his disciple Lassalle had the more attractive way of presenting it. It is odd that Marx, today, should lie in a squalid cemetery, while the whole western world echoes with his praises, and that Lassalle—brilliant, clear-sighted, and remarkable for his penetrating genius—should have lived in luxury, but should now know nothing but oblivion, even among those who shouted at his eloquence and ran beside him in the glory of his triumph.
Ferdinand Lassalle was a native of Breslau, the son of a wealthy Jewish silk-merchant. Heymann Lassal—for thus the father spelled his name—stroked his hands at young Ferdinand’s cleverness, but he meant it to be a commercial cleverness. He gave the boy a thorough education at the University of Breslau, and later at Berlin. He was an affectionate parent, and at the same time tyrannical to a degree.