Infomotions, Inc.The Crimes of England / Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith), 1874-1936

Author: Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith), 1874-1936
Title: The Crimes of England
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): prussia; germany; prussian; england; napoleon; ireland
Contributor(s): Seaman, Owen [Editor]
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Identifier: etext11554
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Title: The Crimes of England

Author: G.K. Chesterton

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The German Professor, his need of Education
for Debate--Three Mistakes of German
Controversialists--The Multiplicity of
Excuses--Falsehood against Experience--
Kultur preached by Unkultur--The Mistake
about Bernard Shaw--German Lack of
Welt-Politik--Where England is really



Suitable Finale for the German Emperor--Frederick
II. and the Power of
Fear--German Influence in England since
Lather--Our German Kings and Allies--
Triumph of Frederick the Great.



How we helped Napoleon--The Revolution
and the Two Germanics--Religious
Resistance of Austria and Russia--Irreligious
Resistance of Prussia and England--Negative
Irreligion of England--its Idealism
in Snobbishness--Positive Irreligion of
Prussia; no Idealism in Anything--Allegory
and the French Revolution--The Dual
Personality of England; the Double Battle--Triumph
of Blucher.



The Sad Story of Lord Salisbury--Ireland
and Heligoland--The Young Men of
Ireland--The Dirty Work--The Use of
German Mercenaries--The Unholy Alliance--Triumph
of the German Mercenaries.



Truth about England and Ireland--Murder
and the Two Travellers--Real Defence
of England--The Lost Revolution--Story
of Cobbett and the Germans--Historical
Accuracy of Cobbett--Violence of the English
Language--Exaggerated Truths versus
Exaggerated Lies--Defeat of the People--Triumph
of the German Mercenaries.



Degeneration of Grimm's Fairy Tales--From
Tales of Terror to Tales of Terrorism--German
Mistake of being Deep--The
Germanisation of Shakespeare--Carlyle and
the Spoilt Child--The Test of Teutonism--
Hell or Hans Andersen--Causes of English
Inaction--Barbarism and Splendid Isolation--
The Peace of the Plutocrats--Hamlet
the Englishman--The Triumph of Bismarck.



The Two Napoleons--Their Ultimate
Success--The Interlude of Sedan--The
Meaning of an Emperor--The Triumph of
Versailles--The True Innocence of England--
Triumph of the Kaiser.



Lord Salisbury Again--The Influence of
1870--The Fairy Tale of Teutonism--The
Adoration of the Crescent--The Reign of
the Cynics--Last Words to Professor



The March of Montenegro--The Anti-Servile
State--The Prussian Preparation--The
Sleep of England--The Awakening of



The Hour of Peril--The Human Deluge--The
English at the Marne.


I--_Some Words to Professor Whirlwind_


Your name in the original German is too much for me; and this is the
nearest I propose to get to it: but under the majestic image of pure
wind marching in a movement wholly circular I seem to see, as in a
vision, something of your mind. But the grand isolation of your thoughts
leads you to express them in such words as are gratifying to yourself,
and have an inconspicuous or even an unfortunate effect upon others. If
anything were really to be made of your moral campaign against the
English nation, it was clearly necessary that somebody, if it were only
an Englishman, should show you how to leave off professing philosophy
and begin to practise it. I have therefore sold myself into the Prussian
service, and in return for a cast-off suit of the Emperor's clothes (the
uniform of an English midshipman), a German hausfrau's recipe for poison
gas, two penny cigars, and twenty-five Iron Crosses, I have consented
to instruct you in the rudiments of international controversy. Of this
part of my task I have here little to say that is not covered by a
general adjuration to you to observe certain elementary rules. They are,
roughly speaking, as follows:--

First, stick to one excuse. Thus if a tradesman, with whom your social
relations are slight, should chance to find you toying with the coppers
in his till, you may possibly explain that you are interested in
Numismatics and are a Collector of Coins; and he may possibly believe
you. But if you tell him afterwards that you pitied him for being
overloaded with unwieldy copper discs, and were in the act of replacing
them by a silver sixpence of your own, this further explanation, so far
from increasing his confidence in your motives, will (strangely enough)
actually decrease it. And if you are so unwise as to be struck by yet
another brilliant idea, and tell him that the pennies were all bad
pennies, which you were concealing to save him from a police prosecution
for coining, the tradesman may even be so wayward as to institute a
police prosecution himself. Now this is not in any way an exaggeration
of the way in which you have knocked the bottom out of any case you may
ever conceivably have had in such matters as the sinking of the
_Lusitania_. With my own eyes I have seen the following explanations,
apparently proceeding from your pen, (i) that the ship was a troop-ship
carrying soldiers from Canada; (ii) that if it wasn't, it was a
merchant-ship unlawfully carrying munitions for the soldiers in France;
(iii) that, as the passengers on the ship had been warned in an
advertisement, Germany was justified in blowing them to the moon; (iv)
that there were guns, and the ship had to be torpedoed because the
English captain was just going to fire them off; (v) that the English or
American authorities, by throwing the _Lusitania_ at the heads of the
German commanders, subjected them to an insupportable temptation; which
was apparently somehow demonstrated or intensified by the fact that the
ship came up to schedule time, there being some mysterious principle by
which having tea at tea-time justifies poisoning the tea; (vi) that the
ship was not sunk by the Germans at all but by the English, the English
captain having deliberately tried to drown himself and some thousand of
his own countrymen in order to cause an exchange of stiff notes between
Mr. Wilson and the Kaiser. If this interesting story be true, I can only
say that such frantic and suicidal devotion to the most remote interests
of his country almost earns the captain pardon for the crime. But do you
not see, my dear Professor, that the very richness and variety of your
inventive genius throws a doubt upon each explanation when considered in
itself? We who read you in England reach a condition of mind in which it
no longer very much matters what explanation you offer, or whether you
offer any at all. We are prepared to hear that you sank the _Lusitania_
because the sea-born sons of England would live more happily as deep-sea
fishes, or that every person on board was coming home to be hanged. You
have explained yourself so completely, in this clear way, to the
Italians that they have declared war on you, and if you go on explaining
yourself so clearly to the Americans they may quite possibly do the

Second, when telling such lies as may seem necessary to your
international standing, do not tell the lies to the people who know the
truth. Do not tell the Eskimos that snow is bright green; nor tell the
negroes in Africa that the sun never shines in that Dark Continent.
Rather tell the Eskimos that the sun never shines in Africa; and then,
turning to the tropical Africans, see if they will believe that snow is
green. Similarly, the course indicated for you is to slander the
Russians to the English and the English to the Russians; and there are
hundreds of good old reliable slanders which can still be used against
both of them. There are probably still Russians who believe that every
English gentleman puts a rope round his wife's neck and sells her in
Smithfield. There are certainly still Englishmen who believe that every
Russian gentleman takes a rope to his wife's back and whips her every
day. But these stories, picturesque and useful as they are, have a limit
to their use like everything else; and the limit consists in the fact
that they are not _true_, and that there necessarily exists a group of
persons who know they are not true. It is so with matters of fact about
which you asseverate so positively to us, as if they were matters of
opinion. Scarborough might be a fortress; but it is not. I happen to
know it is not. Mr. Morel may deserve to be universally admired in
England; but he is not universally admired in England. Tell the Russians
that he is by all means; but do not tell us. We have seen him; we have
also seen Scarborough. You should think of this before you speak.

Third, don't perpetually boast that you are cultured in language which
proves that you are not. You claim to thrust yourself upon everybody on
the ground that you are stuffed with wit and wisdom, and have enough for
the whole world. But people who have wit enough for the whole world,
have wit enough for a whole newspaper paragraph. And you can seldom get
through even a whole paragraph without being monotonous, or irrelevant,
or unintelligible, or self-contradictory, or broken-minded generally. If
you have something to teach us, teach it to us now. If you propose to
convert us after you have conquered us, why not convert us before you
have conquered us? As it is, we cannot believe what you say about your
superior education because of the way in which you say it. If an
Englishman says, "I don't make no mistakes in English, not me," we can
understand his remark; but we cannot endorse it. To say, "Je parler le
Frenche language, non demi," is comprehensible, but not convincing. And
when you say, as you did in a recent appeal to the Americans, that the
Germanic Powers have sacrificed a great deal of "red fluid" in defence
of their culture, we point out to you that cultured people do not employ
such a literary style. Or when you say that the Belgians were so
ignorant as to think they were being butchered when they weren't, we
only wonder whether _you_ are so ignorant as to think you are being
believed when you aren't. Thus, for instance, when you brag about
burning Venice to express your contempt for "tourists," we cannot think
much of the culture, as culture, which supposes St. Mark's to be a thing
for tourists instead of historians. This, however, would be the least
part of our unfavourable judgment. That judgment is complete when we
have read such a paragraph as this, prominently displayed in a paper in
which you specially spread yourself: "That the Italians have a perfect
knowledge of the fact that this city of antiquities and tourists is
subject, and rightly subject, to attack and bombardment, is proved by
the measures they took at the beginning of the war to remove some of
their greatest art treasures." Now culture may or may not include the
power to admire antiquities, and to restrain oneself from the pleasure
of breaking them like toys. But culture does, presumably, include the
power to think. For less laborious intellects than your own it is
generally sufficient to think once. But if you will think twice or
twenty times, it cannot but dawn on you that there is something wrong in
the reasoning by which the placing of diamonds in a safe proves that
they are "rightly subject" to a burglar. The incessant assertion of such
things can do little to spread your superior culture; and if you say
them too often people may even begin to doubt whether you have any
superior culture after all. The earnest friend now advising you cannot
but grieve at such incautious garrulity. If you confined yourself to
single words, uttered at intervals of about a month or so, no one could
possibly raise any rational objection, or subject them to any rational
criticism. In time you might come to use whole sentences without
revealing the real state of things.

Through neglect of these maxims, my dear Professor, every one of your
attacks upon England has gone wide. In pure fact they have not touched
the spot, which the real critics of England know to be a very vulnerable
spot. We have a real critic of England in Mr. Bernard Shaw, whose name
you parade but apparently cannot spell; for in the paper to which I have
referred he is called Mr. Bernhard Shaw. Perhaps you think he and
Bernhardi are the same man. But if you quoted Mr. Bernard Shaw's
statement instead of misquoting his name, you would find that his
criticism of England is exactly the opposite of your own; and naturally,
for it is a rational criticism. He does not blame England for being
against Germany. He does most definitely blame England for not being
sufficiently firmly and emphatically on the side of Russia. He is not
such a fool as to accuse Sir Edward Grey of being a fiendish Machiavelli
plotting against Germany; he accuses him of being an amiable
aristocratic stick who failed to frighten the Junkers from their plan of
war. Now, it is not in the least a question of whether we happen to like
this quality or that: Mr. Shaw, I rather fancy, would dislike such
verbose compromise more than downright plotting. It is simply the fact
that Englishmen like Grey are open to Mr. Shaw's attack and are not open
to yours. It is not true that the English were sufficiently clearheaded
or self-controlled to conspire for the destruction of Germany. Any man
who knows England, any man who hates England as one hates a living
thing, will tell you it is not true. The English may be snobs, they may
be plutocrats, they may be hypocrites, but they are not, as a fact,
plotters; and I gravely doubt whether they could be if they wanted to.
The mass of the people are perfectly incapable of plotting at all, and
if the small ring of rich people who finance our politics were plotting
for anything, it was for peace at almost any price. Any Londoner who
knows the London streets and newspapers as he knows the Nelson column or
the Inner Circle, knows that there were men in the governing class and
in the Cabinet who were literally thirsting to defend Germany until
Germany, by her own act, became indefensible. If they said nothing in
support of the tearing up of the promise of peace to Belgium, it is
simply because there was nothing to be said.

You were the first people to talk about World-Politics; and the first
people to disregard them altogether. Even your foreign policy is
domestic policy. It does not even apply to any people who are not
Germans; and of your wild guesses about some twenty other peoples, not
one has gone right even by accident. Your two or three shots at my own
not immaculate land have been such that you would have been much nearer
the truth if you had tried to invade England by crossing the Caucasus,
or to discover England among the South Sea Islands. With your first
delusion, that our courage was calculated and malignant when in truth
our very corruption was timid and confused, I have already dealt. The
case is the same with your second favourite phrase; that the British
army is mercenary. You learnt it in books and not in battlefields; and I
should like to be present at a scene in which you tried to bribe the
most miserable little loafer in Hammersmith as if he were a cynical
condottiere selling his spear to some foreign city. It is not the fact,
my dear sir. You have been misinformed. The British Army is not at this
moment a hireling army any more than it is a conscript army. It is a
volunteer army in the strict sense of the word; nor do I object to your
calling it an amateur army. There is no compulsion, and there is next to
no pay. It is at this moment drawn from every class of the community,
and there are very few classes which would not earn a little more money
in their ordinary trades. It numbers very nearly as many men as it would
if it were a conscript army; that is with the necessary margin of men
unable to serve or needed to serve otherwise. Ours is a country in which
that democratic spirit which is common to Christendom is rather
unusually sluggish and far below the surface. And the most genuine and
purely popular movement that we have had since the Chartists has been
the enlistment for this war. By all means say that such vague and
sentimental volunteering is valueless in war if you think so; or even
if you don't think so. By all means say that Germany is unconquerable
and that we cannot really kill you. But if you say that we do not really
want to kill you, you do us an injustice. You do indeed.

I need not consider the yet crazier things that some of you have said;
as that the English intend to keep Calais and fight France as well as
Germany for the privilege of purchasing a frontier and the need to keep
a conscript army. That, also, is out of books, and pretty mouldy old
books at that. It was said, I suppose, to gain sympathy among the
French, and is therefore not my immediate business, as they are
eminently capable of looking after themselves. I merely drop one word in
passing, lest you waste your powerful intellect on such projects. The
English may some day forgive you; the French never will. You Teutons are
too light and fickle to understand the Latin seriousness. My only
concern is to point out that about England, at least, you are invariably
and miraculously wrong.

Now speaking seriously, my dear Professor, it will not do. It could be
easy to fence with you for ever and parry every point you attempt to
make, until English people began to think there was nothing wrong with
England at all. But I refuse to play for safety in this way. There is a
very great deal that is really wrong with England, and it ought not to
be forgotten even in the full blaze of your marvellous mistakes. I
cannot have my countrymen tempted to those pleasures of intellectual
pride which are the result of comparing themselves with you. The deep
collapse and yawning chasm of your ineptitude leaves me upon a perilous
spiritual elevation. Your mistakes are matters of fact; but to enumerate
them does not exhaust the truth. For instance, the learned man who
rendered the phrase in an English advertisement "cut you dead" as "hack
you to death," was in error; but to say that many such advertisements
are vulgar is not an error. Again, it is true that the English poor are
harried and insecure, with insufficient instinct for armed revolt,
though you will be wrong if you say that they are occupied literally in
shooting the moon. It is true that the average Englishman is too much
attracted by aristocratic society; though you will be in error if you
quote dining with Duke Humphrey as an example of it. In more ways than
one you forget what is meant by idiom.

I have therefore thought it advisable to provide you with a catalogue of
the real crimes of England; and I have selected them on a principle
which cannot fail to interest and please you. On many occasions we have
been very wrong indeed. We were very wrong indeed when we took part in
preventing Europe from putting a term to the impious piracies of
Frederick the Great. We were very wrong indeed when we allowed the
triumph over Napoleon to be soiled with the mire and blood of Blucher's
sullen savages. We were very wrong indeed when we allowed the peaceful
King of Denmark to be robbed in broad daylight by a brigand named
Bismarck; and when we allowed the Prussian swashbucklers to enslave and
silence the French provinces which they could neither govern nor
persuade. We were very wrong indeed when we flung to such hungry
adventurers a position so important as Heligoland. We were very wrong
indeed when we praised the soulless Prussian education and copied the
soulless Prussian laws. Knowing that you will mingle your tears with
mine over this record of English wrong-doing, I dedicate it to you, and
I remain,

Yours reverently,


II--_The Protestant Hero_

A question is current in our looser English journalism touching what
should be done with the German Emperor after a victory of the Allies.
Our more feminine advisers incline to the view that he should be shot.
This is to make a mistake about the very nature of hereditary monarchy.
Assuredly the Emperor William at his worst would be entitled to say to
his amiable Crown Prince what Charles II. said when his brother warned
him of the plots of assassins: "They will never kill me to make you
king." Others, of greater monstrosity of mind, have suggested that he
should be sent to St. Helena. So far as an estimate of his
historical importance goes, he might as well be sent to Mount Calvary.
What we have to deal with is an elderly, nervous, not unintelligent
person who happens to be a Hohenzollern; and who, to do him justice,
does think more of the Hohenzollerns as a sacred caste than of his own
particular place in it. In such families the old boast and motto of
hereditary kingship has a horrible and degenerate truth. The king never
dies; he only decays for ever.

If it were a matter of the smallest importance what happened to the
Emperor William when once his house had been disarmed, I should satisfy
my fancy with another picture of his declining years; a conclusion that
would be peaceful, humane, harmonious, and forgiving.

In various parts of the lanes and villages of South England the
pedestrian will come upon an old and quiet public-house, decorated with
a dark and faded portrait in a cocked hat and the singular inscription,
"The King of Prussia." These inn signs probably commemorate the visit of
the Allies after 1815, though a great part of the English middle classes
may well have connected them with the time when Frederick II. was
earning his title of the Great, along with a number of other territorial
titles to which he had considerably less claim. Sincere and
simple-hearted Dissenting ministers would dismount before that sign (for
in those days Dissenters drank beer like Christians, and indeed
manufactured most of it) and would pledge the old valour and the old
victory of him whom they called the Protestant Hero. We should be using
every word with literal exactitude if we said that he was really
something devilish like a hero. Whether he was a Protestant hero or not
can be decided best by those who have read the correspondence of a
writer calling himself Voltaire, who was quite shocked at Frederick's
utter lack of religion of any kind. But the little Dissenter drank his
beer in all innocence and rode on. And the great blasphemer of Potsdam
would have laughed had he known; it was a jest after his own heart. Such
was the jest he made when he called upon the emperors to come to
communion, and partake of the eucharistic body of Poland. Had he been
such a Bible reader as the Dissenter doubtless thought him, he might
haply have foreseen the vengeance of humanity upon his house. He might
have known what Poland was and was yet to be; he might have known that
he ate and drank to his damnation, discerning not the body of God.

Whether the placing of the present German Emperor in charge of one of
these wayside public-houses would be a jest after _his_ own heart
possibly remains to be seen. But it would be much more melodious and
fitting an end than any of the sublime euthanasias which his enemies
provide for him. That old sign creaking above him as he sat on the bench
outside his home of exile would be a much more genuine memory of the
real greatness of his race than the modern and almost gimcrack stars and
garters that were pulled in Windsor Chapel. From modern knighthood has
departed all shadow of chivalry; how far we have travelled from it can
easily be tested by the mere suggestion that Sir Thomas Lipton, let us
say, should wear his lady's sleeve round his hat or should watch his
armour in the Chapel of St. Thomas of Canterbury. The giving and
receiving of the Garter among despots and diplomatists is now only part
of that sort of pottering mutual politeness which keeps the peace in an
insecure and insincere state of society. But that old blackened wooden
sign is at least and after all the sign of something; the sign of the
time when one solitary Hohenzollern did not only set fire to fields and
cities, but did truly set on fire the minds of men, even though it were
fire from hell.

Everything was young once, even Frederick the Great. It was an
appropriate preface to the terrible epic of Prussia that it began with
an unnatural tragedy of the loss of youth. That blind and narrow savage
who was the boy's father had just sufficient difficulty in stamping out
every trace of decency in him, to show that some such traces must have
been there. If the younger and greater Frederick ever had a heart, it
was a broken heart; broken by the same blow that broke his flute. When
his only friend was executed before his eyes, there were two corpses to
be borne away; and one to be borne on a high war-horse through victory
after victory: but with a small bottle of poison in the pocket. It is
not irrelevant thus to pause upon the high and dark house of his
childhood. For the peculiar quality which marks out Prussian arms and
ambitions from all others of the kind consists in this wrinkled and
premature antiquity. There is something comparatively boyish about the
triumphs of all the other tyrants. There was something better than
ambition in the beauty and ardour of the young Napoleon. He was at
least a lover; and his first campaign was like a love-story. All that
was pagan in him worshipped the Republic as men worship a woman, and all
that was Catholic in him understood the paradox of Our Lady of
Victories. Henry VIII., a far less reputable person, was in his early
days a good knight of the later and more florid school of chivalry; we
might almost say that he was a fine old English gentleman so long as he
was young. Even Nero was loved in his first days: and there must have
been some cause to make that Christian maiden cast flowers on his
dishonourable grave. But the spirit of the great Hohenzollern smelt from
the first of the charnel. He came out to his first victory like one
broken by defeats; his strength was stripped to the bone and fearful as
a fleshless resurrection; for the worst of what could come had already
befallen him. The very construction of his kingship was built upon the
destruction of his manhood. He had known the final shame; his soul had
surrendered to force. He could not redress that wrong; he could only
repeat it and repay it. He could make the souls of his soldiers
surrender to his gibbet and his whipping-post; he could 'make the souls
of the nations surrender to his soldiers. He could only break men in as
he had been broken; while he could break in, he could never break out.
He could not slay in anger, nor even sin with simplicity. Thus he stands
alone among the conquerors of their kind; his madness was not due to a
mere misdirection of courage. Before the whisper of war had come to him
the foundations of his audacity had been laid in fear.

Of the work he did in this world there need be no considerable debate.
It was romantic, if it be romantic that the dragon should swallow St.
George. He turned a small country into a great one: he made a new
diplomacy by the fulness and far-flung daring of his lies: he took away
from criminality all reproach of carelessness and incompleteness. He
achieved an amiable combination of thrift and theft. He undoubtedly gave
to stark plunder something of the solidity of property. He protected
whatever he stole as simpler men protect whatever they have earned or
inherited. He turned his hollow eyes with a sort of loathsome affection
upon the territories which had most reluctantly become his: at the end
of the Seven Years' War men knew as little how he was to be turned out
of Silesia as they knew why he had ever been allowed in it. In Poland,
like a devil in possession, he tore asunder the body he inhabited; but
it was long before any man dreamed that such disjected limbs could live
again. Nor were the effects of his break from Christian tradition
confined to Christendom; Macaulay's world-wide generalisation is very
true though very Macaulayese. But though, in a long view, he scattered
the seeds of war all over the world, his own last days were passed in a
long and comparatively prosperous peace; a peace which received and
perhaps deserved a certain praise: a peace with which many European
peoples were content. For though he did not understand justice, he could
understand moderation. He was the most genuine and the most wicked of
pacifists. He did not want any more wars. He had tortured and beggared
all his neighbours; but he bore them no malice for it.

The immediate cause of that spirited disaster, the intervention of
England on behalf of the new Hohenzollern throne, was due, of course,
to the national policy of the first William Pitt. He was the kind of man
whose vanity and simplicity are too easily overwhelmed by the obvious.
He saw nothing in a European crisis except a war with France; and
nothing in a war with France except a repetition of the rather fruitless
glories of Agincourt and Malplaquet. He was of the Erastian Whigs,
sceptical but still healthy-minded, and neither good enough nor bad
enough to understand that even the war of that irreligious age was
ultimately a religious war. He had not a shade of irony in his whole
being; and beside Frederick, already as old as sin, he was like a rather
brilliant schoolboy.

But the direct causes were not the only causes, nor the true ones. The
true causes were connected with the triumph of one of the two traditions
which had long been struggling in England. And it is pathetic to record
that the foreign tradition was then represented by two of the ablest men
of that age, Frederick of Prussia and Pitt; while what was really the
old English tradition was represented by two of the stupidest men that
mankind ever tolerated in any age, George III. and Lord Bute. Bute was
the figurehead of a group of Tories who set about fulfilling the fine if
fanciful scheme for a democratic monarchy sketched by Bolingbroke in
"The Patriot King." It was bent in all sincerity on bringing men's minds
back to what are called domestic affairs, affairs as domestic as George
III. It might have arrested the advancing corruption of Parliaments and
enclosure of country-sides, by turning men's minds from the foreign
glories of the great Whigs like Churchill and Chatham; and one of its
first acts was to terminate the alliance with Prussia. Unfortunately,
whatever was picturesque in the piracy of Potsdam was beyond the
imagination of Windsor. But whatever was prosaic in Potsdam was already
established at Windsor; the economy of cold mutton, the heavy-handed
taste in the arts, and the strange northern blend of boorishness with
etiquette. If Bolingbroke's ideas had been applied by a spirited person,
by a Stuart, for example, or even by Queen Elizabeth (who had real
spirit along with her extraordinary vulgarity), the national soul might
have broken free from its new northern chains. But it was the irony of
the situation that the King to whom Tories appealed as a refuge from
Germanism was himself a German.

We have thus to refer the origins of the German influence in England
back to the beginning of the Hanoverian Succession; and thence back to
the quarrel between the King and the lawyers which had issue at Naseby;
and thence again to the angry exit of Henry VIII. from the mediaeval
council of Europe. It is easy to exaggerate the part played in the
matter by that great and human, though very pagan person, Martin Luther.
Henry VIII. was sincere in his hatred for the heresies of the German
monk, for in speculative opinions Henry was wholly Catholic; and the two
wrote against each other innumerable pages, largely consisting of terms
of abuse, which were pretty well deserved on both sides. But Luther was
not a Lutheran. He was a sign of the break-up of Catholicism; but he was
not a builder of Protestantism. The countries which became corporately
and democratically Protestant, Scotland, for instance, and Holland,
followed Calvin and not Luther. And Calvin was a Frenchman; an
unpleasant Frenchman, it is true, but one full of that French capacity
for creating official entities which can really act, and have a kind of
impersonal personality, such as the French Monarchy or the Terror.
Luther was an anarchist, and therefore a dreamer. He made that which is,
perhaps, in the long run, the fullest and most shining manifestation of
failure; he made a name. Calvin made an active, governing, persecuting
thing, called the Kirk. There is something expressive of him in the fact
that he called even his work of abstract theology "The Institutes."

In England, however, there were elements of chaos more akin to Luther
than to Calvin. And we may thus explain many things which appear rather
puzzling in our history, notably the victory of Cromwell not only over
the English Royalists but over the Scotch Covenanters. It was the
victory of that more happy-go-lucky sort of Protestantism, which had in
it much of aristocracy but much also of liberty, over that logical
ambition of the Kirk which would have made Protestantism, if possible,
as constructive as Catholicism had been. It might be called the victory
of Individualist Puritanism over Socialist Puritanism. It was what
Milton meant when he said that the new presbyter was an exaggeration of
the old priest; it was his _office_ that acted, and acted very harshly.
The enemies of the Presbyterians were not without a meaning when they
called themselves Independents. To this day no one can understand
Scotland who does not realise that it retains much of its mediaeval
sympathy with France, the French equality, the French pronunciation of
Latin, and, strange as it may sound, is in nothing so French as in its

In this loose and negative sense only it may be said that the great
modern mistakes of England can be traced to Luther. It is true only in
this, that both in Germany and England a Protestantism softer and less
abstract than Calvinism was found useful to the compromises of courtiers
and aristocrats; for every abstract creed does something for human
equality. Lutheranism in Germany rapidly became what it is to-day--a
religion of court chaplains. The reformed church in England became
something better; it became a profession for the younger sons of
squires. But these parallel tendencies, in all their strength and
weakness, reached, as it were, symbolic culmination when the mediaeval
monarchy was extinguished, and the English squires gave to what was
little more than a German squire the damaged and diminished crown.

It must be remembered that the Germanics were at that time used as a
sort of breeding-ground for princes. There is a strange process in
history by which things that decay turn into the very opposite of
themselves. Thus in England Puritanism began as the hardest of creeds,
but has ended as the softest; soft-hearted and not unfrequently
soft-headed. Of old the Puritan in war was certainly the Puritan at his
best; it was the Puritan in peace whom no Christian could be expected to
stand. Yet those Englishmen to-day who claim descent from the great
militarists of 1649 express the utmost horror of militarism. An
inversion of an opposite kind has taken place in Germany. Out of the
country that was once valued as providing a perpetual supply of kings
small enough to be stop-gaps, has come the modern menace of the one
great king who would swallow the kingdoms of the earth. But the old
German kingdoms preserved, and were encouraged to preserve, the good
things that go with small interests and strict boundaries, music,
etiquette, a dreamy philosophy, and so on. They were small enough to be
universal. Their outlook could afford to be in some degree broad and
many-sided. They had the impartiality of impotence. All this has been
utterly reversed, and we find ourselves at war with a Germany whose
powers are the widest and whose outlook is the narrowest in the world.

It is true, of course, that the English squires put themselves over the
new German prince rather than under him. They put the crown on him as an
extinguisher. It was part of the plan that the new-comer, though royal,
should be almost rustic. Hanover must be one of England's possessions
and not England one of Hanover's. But the fact that the court became a
German court prepared the soil, so to speak; English politics were
already subconsciously committed to two centuries of the belittlement of
France and the gross exaggeration of Germany. The period can be
symbolically marked out by Carteret, proud of talking German at the
beginning of the period, and Lord Haldane, proud of talking German at
the end of it. Culture is already almost beginning to be spelt with a k.
But all such pacific and only slowly growing Teutonism was brought to a
crisis and a decision when the voice of Pitt called us, like a trumpet,
to the rescue of the Protestant Hero.

Among all the monarchs of that faithless age, the nearest to a man was a
woman. Maria Theresa of Austria was a German of the more generous sort,
limited in a domestic rather than a national sense, firm in the ancient
faith at which all her own courtiers were sneering, and as brave as a
young lioness. Frederick hated her as he hated everything German and
everything good. He sets forth in his own memoirs, with that clearness
which adds something almost superhuman to the mysterious vileness of his
character, how he calculated on her youth, her inexperience and her lack
of friends as proof that she could be despoiled with safety. He invaded
Silesia in advance of his own declaration of war (as if he had run on
ahead to say it was coming) and this new anarchic trick, combined with
the corruptibility of nearly all the other courts, left him after the
two Silesian wars in possession of the stolen goods. But Maria Theresa
had refused to submit to the immorality of nine points of the law. By
appeals and concessions to France, Russia, and other powers, she
contrived to create something which, against the atheist innovator even
in that atheist age, stood up for an instant like a spectre of the
Crusades. Had that Crusade been universal and whole-hearted, the great
new precedent of mere force and fraud would have been broken; and the
whole appalling judgment which is fallen upon Christendom would have
passed us by. But the other Crusaders were only half in earnest for
Europe; Frederick was quite in earnest for Prussia; and he sought for
allies, by whose aid this weak revival of good might be stamped out, and
his adamantine impudence endure for ever. The allies he found were the
English. It is not pleasant for an Englishman to have to write the

This was the first act of the tragedy, and with it we may leave
Frederick, for we are done with the fellow though not with his work. It
is enough to add that if we call all his after actions satanic, it is
not a term of abuse, but of theology. He was a Tempter. He dragged the
other kings to "partake of the body of Poland," and learn the meaning of
the Black Mass. Poland lay prostrate before three giants in armour, and
her name passed into a synonym for failure. The Prussians, with their
fine magnanimity, gave lectures on the hereditary maladies of the man
they had murdered. They could not conceive of life in those limbs; and
the time was far off when they should be undeceived. In that day five
nations were to partake not of the body, but of the spirit of Poland;
and the trumpet of the resurrection of the peoples should be blown from
Warsaw to the western isles.

III--_The Enigma of Waterloo_

That great Englishman Charles Fox, who was as national as Nelson, went
to his death with the firm conviction that England had made Napoleon. He
did not mean, of course, that any other Italian gunner would have done
just as well; but he did mean that by forcing the French back on their
guns, as it were, we had made their chief gunner necessarily their chief
citizen. Had the French Republic been left alone, it would probably have
followed the example of most other ideal experiments; and praised peace
along with progress and equality. It would almost certainly have eyed
with the coldest suspicion any adventurer who appeared likely to
substitute his personality for the pure impersonality of the Sovereign
People; and would have considered it the very flower of republican
chastity to provide a Brutus for such a Caesar. But if it was
undesirable that equality should be threatened by a citizen, it was
intolerable that it should be simply forbidden by a foreigner. If
France could not put up with French soldiers she would very soon have to
put up with Austrian soldiers; and it would be absurd if, having decided
to rely on soldiering, she had hampered the best French soldier even on the
ground that he was not French. So that whether we regard Napoleon as a
hero rushing to the country's help, or a tyrant profiting by the
country's extremity, it is equally clear that those who made the war
made the war-lord; and those who tried to destroy the Republic were
those who created the Empire. So, at least, Fox argued against that much
less English prig who would have called him unpatriotic; and he threw
the blame upon Pitt's Government for having joined the anti-French
alliance, and so tipped up the scale in favour of a military France. But
whether he was right or no, he would have been the readiest to admit
that England was not the first to fly at the throat of the young
Republic. Something in Europe much vaster and vaguer had from the first
stirred against it. What was it then that first made war--and made
Napoleon? There is only one possible answer: the Germans. This is the
second act of our drama of the degradation of England to the level of
Germany. And it has this very important development; that Germany means
by this time _all_ the Germans, just as it does to-day. The savagery of
Prussia and the stupidity of Austria are now combined. Mercilessness and
muddleheadedness are met together; unrighteousness and unreasonableness
have kissed each other; and the tempter and the tempted are agreed. The
great and good Maria Theresa was already old. She had a son who was a
philosopher of the school of Frederick; also a daughter who was more
fortunate, for she was guillotined. It was natural, no doubt, that her
brother and relatives should disapprove of the incident; but it occurred
long after the whole Germanic power had been hurled against the new
Republic. Louis XVI. himself was still alive and nominally ruling when
the first pressure came from Prussia and Austria, demanding that the
trend of the French emancipation should be reversed. It is impossible to
deny, therefore, that what the united Germanics were resolved to destroy
was the reform and not even the Revolution. The part which Joseph of
Austria played in the matter is symbolic. For he was what is called an
enlightened despot, which is the worst kind of despot. He was as
irreligious as Frederick the Great, but not so disgusting or amusing.
The old and kindly Austrian family, of which Maria Theresa was the
affectionate mother, and Marie Antoinette the rather uneducated
daughter, was already superseded and summed up by a rather dried-up
young man self-schooled to a Prussian efficiency. The needle is already
veering northward. Prussia is already beginning to be the captain of the
Germanics "in shining armour." Austria is already becoming a loyal

But there still remains one great difference between Austria and Prussia
which developed more and more as the energy of the young Napoleon was
driven like a wedge between them. The difference can be most shortly
stated by saying that Austria did, in some blundering and barbaric way,
care for Europe; but Prussia cared for nothing but Prussia. Austria is
not a nation; you cannot really find Austria on the map. But Austria is
a kind of Empire; a Holy Roman Empire that never came, an expanding and
contracting-dream. It does feel itself, in a vague patriarchal way, the
leader, not of a nation, but of nations. It is like some dying Emperor
of Rome in the decline; who should admit that the legions had been
withdrawn from Britain or from Parthia, but would feel it as
fundamentally natural that they should have been there, as in Sicily or
Southern Gaul. I would not assert that the aged Francis Joseph imagines
that he is Emperor of Scotland or of Denmark; but I should guess that he
retains some notion that if he did rule both the Scots and the Danes, it
would not be more incongruous than his ruling both the Hungarians and
the Poles. This cosmopolitanism of Austria has in it a kind of shadow of
responsibility for Christendom. And it was this that made the difference
between its proceedings and those of the purely selfish adventurer from
the north, the wild dog of Pomerania.

It may be believed, as Fox himself came at last to believe, that
Napoleon in his latest years was really an enemy to freedom, in the
sense that he was an enemy to that very special and occidental form of
freedom which we call Nationalism. The resistance of the Spaniards, for
instance, was certainly a popular resistance. It had that peculiar,
belated, almost secretive strength with which war is made by the people.
It was quite easy for a conqueror to get into Spain; his great
difficulty was to get out again. It was one of the paradoxes of history
that he who had turned the mob into an army, in defence of its rights
against the princes, should at last have his army worn down, not by
princes but by mobs. It is equally certain that at the other end of
Europe, in burning Moscow and on the bridge of the Beresina, he had
found the common soul, even as he had found the common sky, his enemy.
But all this does not affect the first great lines of the quarrel, which
had begun before horsemen in Germanic uniform had waited vainly upon the
road to Varennes or had failed upon the miry slope up to the windmill of
Valmy. And that duel, on which depended all that our Europe has since
become, had great Russia and gallant Spain and our own glorious island
only as subordinates or seconds. That duel, first, last, and for ever,
was a duel between the Frenchman and the German; that is, between the
citizen and the barbarian.

It is not necessary nowadays to defend the French Revolution, it is not
necessary to defend even Napoleon, its child and champion, from
criticisms in the style of Southey and Alison, which even at the time
had more of the atmosphere of Bath and Cheltenham than of Turcoing and
Talavera. The French Revolution was attacked because it was democratic
and defended because it was democratic; and Napoleon was not feared as
the last of the iron despots, but as the first of the iron democrats.
What France set out to prove France has proved; not that common men are
all angels, or all diplomatists, or all gentlemen (for these inane
aristocratic illusions were no part of the Jacobin theory), but that
common men can all be citizens and can all be soldiers; that common men
can fight and can rule. There is no need to confuse the question with
any of those escapades of a floundering modernism which have made
nonsense of this civic common-sense. Some Free Traders have seemed to
leave a man no country to fight for; some Free Lovers seem to leave a
man no household to rule. But these things have not established
themselves either in France or anywhere else. What has been established
is not Free Trade or Free Love, but Freedom; and it is nowhere so
patriotic or so domestic as in the country from which it came. The poor
men of France have not loved the land less because they have shared it.
Even the patricians are patriots; and if some honest Royalists or
aristocrats are still saying that democracy cannot organise and cannot
obey, they are none the less organised by it and obeying it, nobly
living or splendidly dead for it, along the line from Switzerland to the

But for Austria, and even more for Russia, there was this to be said;
that the French Republican ideal was incomplete, and that they
possessed, in a corrupt but still positive and often popular sense, what
was needed to complete it. The Czar was not democratic, but he was
humanitarian. He was a Christian Pacifist; there is something of the
Tolstoyan in every Russian. It is not wholly fanciful to talk of the
White Czar: for Russia even destruction has a deathly softness as of
snow. Her ideas are often innocent and even childish; like the idea of
Peace. The phrase Holy Alliance was a beautiful truth for the Czar,
though only a blasphemous jest for his rascally allies, Metternich and
Castlereagh. Austria, though she had lately fallen to a somewhat
treasonable toying with heathens and heretics of Turkey and Prussia,
still retained something of the old Catholic comfort for the soul.
Priests still bore witness to that mighty mediaeval institution which
even its enemies concede to be a noble nightmare. All their hoary
political iniquities had not deprived them of that dignity. If they
darkened the sun in heaven, they clothed it with the strong colours of
sunrise in garment or gloriole; if they had given men stones for bread,
the stones were carved with kindly faces and fascinating tales. If
justice counted on their shameful gibbets hundreds of the innocent dead,
they could still say that for them death was more hopeful than life for
the heathen. If the new daylight discovered their vile tortures, there
had lingered in the darkness some dim memory that they were tortures of
Purgatory and not, like those which Parisian and Prussian diabolists
showed shameless in the sunshine, of naked hell. They claimed a truth
not yet disentangled from human nature; for indeed earth is not even
earth without heaven, as a landscape is not a landscape without the sky.
And in, a universe without God there is not room enough for a man.

It may be held, therefore, that there must in any case have come a
conflict between the old world and the new; if only because the old are
often broad, while the young are always narrow. The Church had learnt,
not at the end but at the beginning of her centuries, that the funeral
of God is always a premature burial. If the bugles of Bonaparte raised
the living populace of the passing hour, she could blow that yet more
revolutionary trumpet that shall raise all the democracy of the dead.
But if we concede that collision was inevitable between the new Republic
on the one hand and Holy Russia and the Holy Roman Empire on the other,
there remain two great European forces which, in different attitudes and
from very different motives, determined the ultimate combination.
Neither of them had any tincture of Catholic mysticism. Neither of them
had any tincture of Jacobin idealism. Neither of them, therefore, had
any real moral reason for being in the war at all. The first was
England, and the second was Prussia.

It is very arguable that England must, in any case, have fought to keep
her influence on the ports of the North Sea. It is quite equally
arguable that if she had been as heartily on the side of the French
Revolution as she was at last against it, she could have claimed the
same concessions from the other side. It is certain that England had no
necessary communion with the arms and tortures of the Continental
tyrannies, and that she stood at the parting of the ways. England was
indeed an aristocracy, but a liberal one; and the ideas growing in the
middle classes were those which had already made America, and were
remaking France. The fiercest Jacobins, such as Danton, were deep in the
liberal literature of England. The people had no religion to fight for,
as in Russia or La Vendee. The parson was no longer a priest, and had
long been a small squire. Already that one great blank in our land had
made snobbishness the only religion of South England; and turned rich
men into a mythology. The effect can be well summed up in that decorous
abbreviation by which our rustics speak of "Lady's Bedstraw," where they
once spoke of "Our Lady's Bedstraw." We have dropped the comparatively
democratic adjective, and kept the aristocratic noun. South England is
still, as it was called in the Middle Ages, a garden; but it is the kind
where grow the plants called "lords and ladies."

We became more and more insular even about our continental conquests; we
stood upon our island as if on an anchored ship. We never thought of
Nelson at Naples, but only eternally at Trafalgar; and even that Spanish
name we managed to pronounce wrong. But even if we regard the first
attack upon Napoleon as a national necessity, the general trend remains
true. It only changes the tale from a tragedy of choice to a tragedy of
chance. And the tragedy was that, for a second time, we were at one with
the Germans.

But if England had nothing to fight for but a compromise, Prussia had
nothing to fight for but a negation. She was and is, in the supreme
sense, the spirit that denies. It is as certain that she was fighting
against liberty in Napoleon as it is that she was fighting against
religion in Maria Theresa. What she was fighting for she would have
found it quite impossible to tell you. At the best, it was for Prussia;
if it was anything else, it was tyranny. She cringed to Napoleon when he
beat her, and only joined in the chase when braver people had beaten
him. She professed to restore the Bourbons, and tried to rob them while
she was restoring them. For her own hand she would have wrecked the
Restoration with the Revolution. Alone in all that agony of peoples, she
had not the star of one solitary ideal to light the night of her

The French Revolution has a quality which all men feel; and which may be
called a sudden antiquity. Its classicalism was not altogether a cant.
When it had happened it seemed to have happened thousands of years ago.
It spoke in parables; in the hammering of spears and the awful cap of
Phrygia. To some it seemed to pass like a vision; and yet it seemed
eternal as a group of statuary. One almost thought of its most strenuous
figures as naked. It is always with a shock of comicality that we
remember that its date was so recent that umbrellas were fashionable
and top-hats beginning to be tried. And it is a curious fact, giving a
kind of completeness to this sense of the thing as something that
happened outside the world, that its first great act of arms and also
its last were both primarily symbols; and but for this visionary
character, were in a manner vain. It began with the taking of the old
and almost empty prison called the Bastille; and we always think of it
as the beginning of the Revolution, though the real Revolution did not
come till some time after. And it ended when Wellington and Blucher met
in 1815; and we always think of it as the end of Napoleon; though
Napoleon had really fallen before. And the popular imagery is right, as
it generally is in such things: for the mob is an artist, though not a
man of science. The riot of the 14th of July did not specially deliver
prisoners inside the Bastille, but it did deliver the prisoners outside.
Napoleon when he returned was indeed a _revenant_, that is, a ghost. But
Waterloo was all the more final in that it was a spectral resurrection
and a second death. And in this second case there were other elements
that were yet more strangely symbolic. That doubtful and double battle
before Waterloo was like the dual personality in a dream. It
corresponded curiously to the double mind of the Englishman. We connect
Quatre Bras with things romantically English to the verge of
sentimentalism, with Byron and "The Black Brunswicker." We naturally
sympathise with Wellington against Ney. We do not sympathise, and even
then we did not really sympathise, with Blucher against Napoleon.
Germany has complained that we passed over lightly the presence of
Prussians at the decisive action. And well we might. Even at the time
our sentiment was not solely jealousy, but very largely shame.
Wellington, the grimmest and even the most unamiable of Tories, with no
French sympathies and not enough human ones, has recorded his opinion of
his Prussian allies in terms of curt disgust. Peel, the primmest and
most snobbish Tory that ever praised "our gallant Allies" in a frigid
official speech, could not contain himself about the conduct of
Blucher's men. Our middle classes did well to adorn their parlours with
the picture of the "Meeting of Wellington and Blucher." They should
have hung up a companion piece of Pilate and Herod shaking hands. Then,
after that meeting amid the ashes of Hougomont, where they dreamed they
had trodden out the embers of all democracy, the Prussians rode on
before, doing after their kind. After them went that ironical aristocrat
out of embittered Ireland, with what thoughts we know; and Blucher, with
what thoughts we care not; and his soldiers entered Paris, and stole the
sword of Joan of Arc.

IV--_The Coming of the Janissaries_

The late Lord Salisbury, a sad and humorous man, made many public and
serious remarks that have been proved false and perilous, and many
private and frivolous remarks which were valuable and ought to be
immortal. He struck dead the stiff and false psychology of "social
reform," with its suggestion that the number of public-houses made
people drunk, by saying that there were a number of bedrooms at
Hatfield, but they never made him sleepy. Because of this it is possible
to forgive him for having talked about "living and dying nations":
though it is of such sayings that living nations die. In the same spirit
he included the nation of Ireland in the "Celtic fringe" upon the west
of England. It seems sufficient to remark that the fringe is
considerably broader than the garment. But the fearful satire of time
has very sufficiently avenged the Irish nation upon him, largely by the
instrumentality of another fragment of the British robe which he cast
away almost contemptuously in the North Sea. The name of it is
Heligoland; and he gave it to the Germans.

The subsequent history of the two islands on either side of England has
been sufficiently ironical. If Lord Salisbury had foreseen exactly what
would happen to Heligoland, as well as to Ireland, he might well have
found no sleep at Hatfield in one bedroom or a hundred. In the eastern
isle he was strengthening a fortress that would one day be called upon
to destroy us. In the western isle he was weakening a fortress that
would one day be called upon to save us. In that day his trusted ally,
William Hohenzollern, was to batter our ships and boats from the Bight
of Heligoland; and in that day his old and once-imprisoned enemy, John
Redmond, was to rise in the hour of English jeopardy, and be thanked in
thunder for the free offer of the Irish sword. All that Robert Cecil
thought valueless has been our loss, and all that he thought feeble our
stay. Among those of his political class or creed who accepted and
welcomed the Irish leader's alliance, there were some who knew the real
past relations between England and Ireland, and some who first felt
them in that hour. All knew that England could no longer be a mere
mistress; many knew that she was now in some sense a suppliant. Some
knew that she deserved to be a suppliant. These were they who knew a
little of the thing called history; and if they thought at all of such
dead catchwords as the "Celtic fringe" for a description of Ireland, it
was to doubt whether we were worthy to kiss the hem of her garment. If
there be still any Englishman who thinks such language extravagant, this
chapter is written to enlighten him.

In the last two chapters I have sketched in outline the way in which
England, partly by historical accident, but partly also by false
philosophy, was drawn into the orbit of Germany, the centre of whose
circle was already at Berlin. I need not recapitulate the causes at all
fully here. Luther was hardly a heresiarch for England, though a hobby
for Henry VIII. But the negative Germanism of the Reformation, its drag
towards the north, its quarantine against Latin culture, was in a sense
the beginning of the business. It is well represented in two facts; the
barbaric refusal of the new astronomical calendar merely because it was
invented by a Pope, and the singular decision to pronounce Latin as if
it were something else, making it not a dead language but a new
language. Later, the part played by particular royalties is complex and
accidental; "the furious German" came and passed; the much less
interesting Germans came and stayed. Their influence was negative but
not negligible; they kept England out of that current of European life
into which the Gallophil Stuarts might have carried her. Only one of the
Hanoverians was actively German; so German that he actually gloried in
the name of Briton, and spelt it wrong. Incidentally, he lost America.
It is notable that all those eminent among the real Britons, who spelt
it right, respected and would parley with the American Revolution,
however jingo or legitimist they were; the romantic conservative Burke,
the earth-devouring Imperialist Chatham, even, in reality, the jog-trot
Tory North. The intractability was in the Elector of Hanover more than
in the King of England; in the narrow and petty German prince who was
bored by Shakespeare and approximately inspired by Handel. What really
clinched the unlucky companionship of England and Germany was the first
and second alliance with Prussia; the first in which we prevented the
hardening tradition of Frederick the Great being broken up by the Seven
Years' War; the second in which we prevented it being broken up by the
French Revolution and Napoleon. In the first we helped Prussia to escape
like a young brigand; in the second we helped the brigand to adjudicate
as a respectable magistrate. Having aided his lawlessness, we defended
his legitimacy. We helped to give the Bourbon prince his crown, though
our allies the Prussians (in their cheery way) tried to pick a few
jewels out of it before he got it. Through the whole of that period, so
important in history, it must be said that we were to be reckoned on for
the support of unreformed laws and the rule of unwilling subjects. There
is, as it were, an ugly echo even to the name of Nelson in the name of
Naples. But whatever is to be said of the cause, the work which we did
in it, with steel and gold, was so able and strenuous that an Englishman
can still be proud of it. We never performed a greater task than that
in which we, in a sense, saved Germany, save that in which a hundred
years later, we have now, in a sense, to destroy her. History tends to
be a facade of faded picturesqueness for most of those who have not
specially studied it: a more or less monochrome background for the drama
of their own day. To these it may well seem that it matters little
whether we were on one side or the other in a fight in which all the
figures are antiquated; Bonaparte and Blucher are both in old cocked
hats; French kings and French regicides are both not only dead men but
dead foreigners; the whole is a tapestry as decorative and as arbitrary
as the Wars of the Roses. It was not so: we fought for something real
when we fought for the old world against the new. If we want to know
painfully and precisely what it was, we must open an old and sealed and
very awful door, on a scene which was called Ireland, but which then
might well have been called hell.

Having chosen our part and made war upon the new world, we were soon
made to understand what such spiritual infanticide involved; and were
committed to a kind of Massacre of the Innocents. In Ireland the young
world was represented by young men, who shared the democratic dream of
the Continent, and were resolved to foil the plot of Pitt; who was
working a huge machine of corruption to its utmost to absorb Ireland
into the Anti-Jacobin scheme of England. There was present every
coincidence that could make the British rulers feel they were mere
abbots of misrule. The stiff and self-conscious figure of Pitt has
remained standing incongruously purse in hand; while his manlier rivals
were stretching out their hands for the sword, the only possible resort
of men who cannot be bought and refuse to be sold. A rebellion broke out
and was repressed; and the government that repressed it was ten times
more lawless than the rebellion. Fate for once seemed to pick out a
situation in plain black and white like an allegory; a tragedy of
appalling platitudes. The heroes were really heroes; and the villains
were nothing but villains. The common tangle of life, in which good men
do evil by mistake and bad men do good by accident, seemed suspended for
us as for a judgment. We had to do things that not only were vile, but
felt vile. We had to destroy men who not only were noble, but looked
noble. They were men like Wolfe Tone, a statesman in the grand style who
was not suffered to found a state; and Robert Emmet, lover of his land
and of a woman, in whose very appearance men saw something of the eagle
grace of the young Napoleon. But he was luckier than the young Napoleon;
for he has remained young. He was hanged; not before he had uttered one
of those phrases that are the hinges of history. He made an epitaph of
the refusal of an epitaph: and with a gesture has hung his tomb in
heaven like Mahomet's coffin. Against such Irishmen we could only
produce Castlereagh; one of the few men in human records who seem to
have been made famous solely that they might be infamous. He sold his
own country, he oppressed ours; for the rest he mixed his metaphors, and
has saddled two separate and sensible nations with the horrible mixed
metaphor called the Union. Here there is no possible see-saw of
sympathies as there can be between Brutus and Caesar or between Cromwell
and Charles I.: there is simply nobody who supposes that Emmet was out
for worldly gain, or that Castlereagh was out for anything else. Even
the incidental resemblances between the two sides only served to sharpen
the contrast and the complete superiority of the nationalists. Thus,
Castlereagh and Lord Edward Fitzgerald were both aristocrats. But
Castlereagh was the corrupt gentleman at the Court, Fitzgerald the
generous gentleman upon the land; some portion of whose blood, along
with some portion of his spirit, descended to that great gentleman,
who--in the midst of the emetic immoralism of our modern politics--gave
back that land to the Irish peasantry. Thus again, all such
eighteenth-century aristocrats (like aristocrats almost anywhere) stood
apart from the popular mysticism and the shrines of the poor; they were
theoretically Protestants, but practically pagans. But Tone was the type
of pagan who refuses to persecute, like Gallio: Pitt was the type of
pagan who consents to persecute; and his place is with Pilate. He was an
intolerant indifferentist; ready to enfranchise the Papists, but more
ready to massacre them. Thus, once more, the two pagans, Tone and
Castlereagh, found a pagan end in suicide. But the circumstances were
such that any man, of any party, felt that Tone had died like Cato and
Castlereagh had died like Judas.

The march of Pitt's policy went on; and the chasm between light and
darkness deepened. Order was restored; and wherever order spread, there
spread an anarchy more awful than the sun has ever looked on. Torture
came out of the crypts of the Inquisition and walked in the sunlight of
the streets and fields. A village vicar was slain with inconceivable
stripes, and his corpse set on fire with frightful jests about a roasted
priest. Rape became a mode of government. The violation of virgins
became a standing order of police. Stamped still with the same terrible
symbolism, the work of the English Government and the English settlers
seemed to resolve itself into animal atrocities against the wives and
daughters of a race distinguished for a rare and detached purity, and of
a religion which makes of innocence the Mother of God. In its bodily
aspects it became like a war of devils upon angels; as if England could
produce nothing but torturers, and Ireland nothing but martyrs. Such
was a part of the price paid by the Irish body and the English soul, for
the privilege of patching up a Prussian after the sabre-stroke of Jena.

But Germany was not merely present in the spirit: Germany was present in
the flesh. Without any desire to underrate the exploits of the English
or the Orangemen, I can safely say that the finest touches were added by
soldiers trained in a tradition inherited from the horrors of the Thirty
Years' War, and of what the old ballad called "the cruel wars of High
Germanie." An Irishman I know, whose brother is a soldier, and who has
relatives in many distinguished posts of the British army, told me that
in his childhood the legend (or rather the truth) of '98 was so
frightfully alive that his own mother would not have the word "soldier"
spoken in her house. Wherever we thus find the tradition alive we find
that the hateful soldier means especially the German soldier. When the
Irish say, as some of them do say, that the German mercenary was worse
than the Orangemen, they say as much as human mouth can utter. Beyond
that there is nothing but the curse of God, which shall be uttered in
an unknown tongue.

The practice of using German soldiers, and even whole German regiments,
in the make-up of the British army, came in with our German princes, and
reappeared on many important occasions in our eighteenth-century
history. They were probably among those who encamped triumphantly upon
Drumossie Moor, and also (which is a more gratifying thought) among
those who ran away with great rapidity at Prestonpans. When that very
typical German, George III., narrow, serious, of a stunted culture and
coarse in his very domesticity, quarrelled with all that was spirited,
not only in the democracy of America but in the aristocracy of England,
German troops were very fitted to be his ambassadors beyond the
Atlantic. With their well-drilled formations they followed Burgoyne in
that woodland march that failed at Saratoga; and with their wooden faces
beheld our downfall. Their presence had long had its effect in various
ways. In one way, curiously enough, their very militarism helped England
to be less military; and especially to be more mercantile. It began to
be felt, faintly of course and never consciously, that fighting was a
thing that foreigners had to do. It vaguely increased the prestige of
the Germans as the military people, to the disadvantage of the French,
whom it was the interest of our vanity to underrate. The mere mixture of
their uniforms with ours made a background of pageantry in which it
seemed more and more natural that English and German potentates should
salute each other like cousins, and, in a sense, live in each other's
countries. Thus in 1908 the German Emperor was already regarded as
something of a menace by the English politicians, and as nothing but a
madman by the English people. Yet it did not seem in any way disgusting
or dangerous that Edward VII. should appear upon occasion in a Prussian
uniform. Edward VII. was himself a friend to France, and worked for the
French Alliance. Yet his appearance in the red trousers of a French
soldier would have struck many people as funny; as funny as if he had
dressed up as a Chinaman.

But the German hirelings or allies had another character which (by that
same strain of evil coincidence which we are tracing in this book)
encouraged all that was worst in the English conservatism and
inequality, while discouraging all that was best in it. It is true that
the ideal Englishman was too much of a squire; but it is just to add
that the ideal squire was a good squire. The best squire I know in
fiction is Duke Theseus in "The Midsummer Night's Dream," who is kind to
his people and proud of his dogs; and would be a perfect human being if
he were not just a little bit prone to be kind to both of them in the
same way. But such natural and even pagan good-nature is consonant with
the warm wet woods and comfortable clouds of South England; it never had
any place among the harsh and thrifty squires in the plains of East
Prussia, the land of the East Wind. They were peevish as well as proud,
and everything they created, but especially their army, was made
coherent by sheer brutality. Discipline was cruel enough in all the
eighteenth-century armies, created long after the decay of any faith or
hope that could hold men together. But the state that was first in
Germany was first in ferocity. Frederick the Great had to forbid his
English admirers to follow his regiments during the campaign, lest they
should discover that the most enlightened of kings had only excluded
torture from law to impose it without law. This influence, as we have
seen, left on Ireland a fearful mark which will never be effaced.
English rule in Ireland had been bad before; but in the broadening light
of the revolutionary century I doubt whether it could have continued as
bad, if we had not taken a side that forced us to flatter barbarian
tyranny in Europe. We should hardly have seen such a nightmare as the
Anglicising of Ireland if we had not already seen the Germanising of
England. But even in England it was not without its effects; and one of
its effects was to rouse a man who is, perhaps, the best English witness
to the effect on the England of that time of the Alliance with Germany.
With that man I shall deal in the chapter that follows.

V--_The Lost England_

Telling the truth about Ireland is not very pleasant to a patriotic
Englishman; but it is very patriotic. It is the truth and nothing but
the truth which I have but touched on in the last chapter. Several
times, and especially at the beginning of this war, we narrowly escaped
ruin because we neglected that truth, and would insist on treating our
crimes of the '98 and after as very distant; while in Irish feeling, and
in fact, they are very near. Repentance of this remote sort is not at
all appropriate to the case, and will not do. It may be a good thing to
forget and forgive; but it is altogether too easy a trick to forget and
be forgiven.

The truth about Ireland is simply this: that the relations between
England and Ireland are the relations between two men who have to travel
together, one of whom tried to stab the other at the last stopping-place
or to poison the other at the last inn. Conversation may be courteous,
but it will be occasionally forced. The topic of attempted murder, its
examples in history and fiction, may be tactfully avoided in the
sallies; but it will be occasionally present in the thoughts. Silences,
not devoid of strain, will fall from time to time. The partially
murdered person may even think an assault unlikely to recur; but it is
asking too much, perhaps, to expect him to find it impossible to
imagine. And even if, as God grant, the predominant partner is really
sorry for his former manner of predominating, and proves it in some
unmistakable manner--as by saving the other from robbers at great
personal risk--the victim may still be unable to repress an abstract
psychological wonder about when his companion first began to feel like
that. Now this is not in the least an exaggerated parable of the
position of England towards Ireland, not only in '98, but far back from
the treason that broke the Treaty of Limerick and far onwards through
the Great Famine and after. The conduct of the English towards the Irish
after the Rebellion was quite simply the conduct of one man who traps
and binds another, and then calmly cuts him about with a knife. The
conduct during the Famine was quite simply the conduct of the first man
if he entertained the later moments of the second man, by remarking in a
chatty manner on the very hopeful chances of his bleeding to death. The
British Prime Minister publicly refused to stop the Famine by the use of
English ships. The British Prime Minister positively spread the Famine,
by making the half-starved populations of Ireland pay for the starved
ones. The common verdict of a coroner's jury upon some emaciated wretch
was "Wilful murder by Lord John Russell": and that verdict was not only
the verdict of Irish public opinion, but is the verdict of history. But
there were those in influential positions in England who were not
content with publicly approving the act, but publicly proclaimed the
motive. The _Times_, which had then a national authority and
respectability which gave its words a weight unknown in modern
journalism, openly exulted in the prospect of a Golden Age when the kind
of Irishman native to Ireland would be "as rare on the banks of the
Liffey as a red man on the banks of the Manhattan." It seems
sufficiently frantic that such a thing should have been said by one
European of another, or even of a Red Indian, if Red Indians had
occupied anything like the place of the Irish then and since; if there
were to be a Red Indian Lord Chief Justice and a Red Indian
Commander-in-Chief, if the Red Indian Party in Congress, containing
first-rate orators and fashionable novelists, could have turned
Presidents in and out; if half the best troops of the country were
trained with the tomahawk and half the best journalism of the capital
written in picture-writing, if later, by general consent, the Chief
known as Pine in the Twilight, was the best living poet, or the Chief
Thin Red Fox, the ablest living dramatist. If that were realised, the
English critic probably would not say anything scornful of red men;
or certainly would be sorry he said it. But the extraordinary avowal
does mark what was most peculiar in the position. This has not been the
common case of misgovernment. It is not merely that the institutions we
set up were indefensible; though the curious mark of them is that they
were literally indefensible; from Wood's Halfpence to the Irish Church
Establishment. There can be no more excuse for the method used by Pitt
than for the method used by Pigott. But it differs further from
ordinary misrule in the vital matter of its object. The coercion was not
imposed that the people might live quietly, but that the people might
die quietly. And then we sit in an owlish innocence of our sin, and
debate whether the Irish might conceivably succeed in saving Ireland.
We, as a matter of fact, have not even failed to save Ireland. We have
simply failed to destroy her.

It is not possible to reverse this judgment or to take away a single
count from it. Is there, then, anything whatever to be said for the
English in the matter? There is: though the English never by any chance
say it. Nor do the Irish say it; though it is in a sense a weakness as
well as a defence. One would think the Irish had reason to say anything
that can be said against the English ruling class, but they have not
said, indeed they have hardly discovered, one quite simple fact--that it
rules England. They are right in asking that the Irish should have a say
in the Irish government, but they are quite wrong in supposing that the
English have any particular say in English government. And I seriously
believe I am not deceived by any national bias, when I say that the
common Englishman would be quite incapable of the cruelties that were
committed in his name. But, most important of all, it is the historical
fact that there was another England, an England consisting of common
Englishmen, which not only certainly would have done better, but
actually did make some considerable attempt to do better. If anyone asks
for the evidence, the answer is that the evidence has been destroyed, or
at least deliberately boycotted: but can be found in the unfashionable
corners of literature; and, when found, is final. If anyone asks for the
great men of such a potential democratic England, the answer is that the
great men are labelled small men, or not labelled at all; have been
successfully belittled as the emancipation of which they dreamed has
dwindled. The greatest of them is now little more than a name; he is
criticised to be underrated and not to be understood; but he presented
all that alternative and more liberal Englishry; and was enormously
popular because he presented it. In taking him as the type of it we may
tell most shortly the whole of this forgotten tale. And, even when I
begin to tell it, I find myself in the presence of that ubiquitous evil
which is the subject of this book. It is a fact, and I think it is not a
coincidence, that in standing for a moment where this Englishman stood,
I again find myself confronted by the German soldier.

The son of a small Surrey farmer, a respectable Tory and churchman,
ventured to plead against certain extraordinary cruelties being
inflicted on Englishmen whose hands were tied, by the whips of German
superiors; who were then parading in English fields their stiff foreign
uniforms and their sanguinary foreign discipline. In the countries from
which they came, of course, such torments were the one monotonous means
of driving men on to perish in the dead dynastic quarrels of the north;
but to poor Will Cobbett, in his provincial island, knowing little but
the low hills and hedges around the little church where he now lies
buried, the incident seemed odd--nay, unpleasing. He knew, of course,
that there was then flogging in the British army also; but the German
standard was notoriously severe in such things, and was something of an
acquired taste. Added to which he had all sorts of old grandmotherly
prejudices about Englishmen being punished by Englishmen, and notions of
that sort. He protested, not only in speech, but actually in print. He
was soon made to learn the perils of meddling in the high politics of
the High Dutch militarists. The fine feelings of the foreign mercenaries
were soothed by Cobbett being flung into Newgate for two years and
beggared by a fine of L1000. That small incident is a small transparent
picture of the Holy Alliance; of what was really meant by a country,
once half liberalised, taking up the cause of the foreign kings. This,
and not "The Meeting of Wellington and Blucher," should be engraved as
the great scene of the war. From this intemperate Fenians should learn
that the Teutonic mercenaries did not confine themselves solely to
torturing Irishmen. They were equally ready to torture Englishmen: for
mercenaries are mostly unprejudiced. To Cobbett's eye we were suffering
from allies exactly as we should suffer from invaders. Boney was a
bogey; but the German was a nightmare, a thing actually sitting on top
of us. In Ireland the Alliance meant the ruin of anything and
everything Irish, from the creed of St. Patrick to the mere colour
green. But in England also it meant the ruin of anything and everything
English, from the Habeas Corpus Act to Cobbett.

After this affair of the scourging, he wielded his pen like a scourge
until he died. This terrible pamphleteer was one of those men who exist
to prove the distinction between a biography and a life. From his
biographies you will learn that he was a Radical who had once been a
Tory. From his life, if there were one, you would learn that he was
always a Radical because he was always a Tory. Few men changed less; it
was round him that the politicians like Pitt chopped and changed, like
fakirs dancing round a sacred rock. His secret is buried with him; it is
that he really cared about the English people. He was conservative
because he cared for their past, and liberal because he cared for their
future. But he was much more than this. He had two forms of moral
manhood very rare in our time: he was ready to uproot ancient successes,
and he was ready to defy oncoming doom. Burke said that few are the
partisans of a tyranny that has departed: he might have added that fewer
still are the critics of a tyranny that has remained. Burke certainly
was not one of them. While lashing himself into a lunacy against the
French Revolution, which only very incidentally destroyed the property
of the rich, he never criticised (to do him justice, perhaps never saw)
the English Revolution, which began with the sack of convents, and ended
with the fencing in of enclosures; a revolution which sweepingly and
systematically destroyed the property of the poor. While rhetorically
putting the Englishman in a castle, politically he would not allow him
on a common. Cobbett, a much more historical thinker, saw the beginning
of Capitalism in the Tudor pillage and deplored it; he saw the triumph
of Capitalism in the industrial cities and defied it. The paradox he was
maintaining really amounted to the assertion that Westminster Abbey is
rather more national than Welbeck Abbey. The same paradox would have led
him to maintain that a Warwickshire man had more reason to be proud of
Stratford-on-Avon than of Birmingham. He would no more have thought of
looking for England in Birmingham than of looking for Ireland in

The prestige of Cobbett's excellent literary style has survived the
persecution of his equally excellent opinions. But that style also is
underrated through the loss of the real English tradition. More cautious
schools have missed the fact that the very genius of the English tongue
tends not only to vigour, but specially to violence. The Englishman of
the leading articles is calm, moderate, and restrained; but then the
Englishman of the leading articles is a Prussian. The mere English
consonants are full of Cobbett. Dr. Johnson was our great man of letters
when he said "stinks," not when he said "putrefaction." Take some common
phrase like "raining cats and dogs," and note not only the extravagance
of imagery (though that is very Shakespearean), but a jagged energy in
the very spelling. Say "chats" and "chiens" and it is not the same.
Perhaps the old national genius has survived the urban enslavement most
spiritedly in our comic songs, admired by all men of travel and
continental culture, by Mr. George Moore as by Mr. Belloc. One (to
which I am much attached) had a chorus--

  "O wind from the South
  Blow mud in the mouth
  Of Jane, Jane, Jane."

Note, again, not only the tremendous vision of clinging soils carried
skywards in the tornado, but also the suitability of the mere sounds.
Say "bone" and "bouche" for mud and mouth and it is not the same.
Cobbett was a wind from the South; and if he occasionally seemed to stop
his enemies' mouths with mud, it was the real soil of South England.

And as his seemingly mad language is very literary, so his seemingly mad
meaning is very historical. Modern people do not understand him because
they do not understand the difference between exaggerating a truth and
exaggerating a lie. He did exaggerate, but what he knew, not what he did
not know. He only appears paradoxical because he upheld tradition
against fashion. A paradox is a fantastic thing that is said once: a
fashion is a more fantastic thing that is said a sufficient number of
times. I could give numberless examples in Cobbett's case, but I will
give only one. Anyone who finds himself full in the central path of
Cobbett's fury sometimes has something like a physical shock. No one who
has read "The History of the Reformation" will ever forget the passage
(I forget the precise words) in which he says the mere thought of such a
person as Cranmer makes the brain reel, and, for an instant, doubt the
goodness of God; but that peace and faith flow back into the soul when
we remember that he was burned alive. Now this is extravagant. It takes
the breath away; and it was meant to. But what I wish to point out is
that a much more extravagant view of Cranmer was, in Cobbett's day, the
accepted view of Cranmer; not as a momentary image, but as an immovable
historical monument. Thousands of parsons and penmen dutifully set down
Cranmer among the saints and martyrs; and there are many respectable
people who would do so still. This is not an exaggerated truth, but an
established lie. Cranmer was not such a monstrosity of meanness as
Cobbett implies; but he was mean. But there is no question of his being
less saintly than the parsonages believed; he was not a saint at all;
and not very attractive even as a sinner. He was no more a martyr for
being burned than Crippen for being hanged.

Cobbett was defeated because the English people was defeated. After the
frame-breaking riots, men, as men, were beaten: and machines, as
machines, had beaten them. Peterloo was as much the defeat of the
English as Waterloo was the defeat of the French. Ireland did not get
Home Rule because England did not get it. Cobbett would not forcibly
incorporate Ireland, least of all the corpse of Ireland. But before his
defeat Cobbett had an enormous following; his "Register" was what the
serial novels of Dickens were afterwards to be. Dickens, by the way,
inherited the same instinct for abrupt diction, and probably enjoyed
writing "gas and gaiters" more than any two other words in his works.
But Dickens was narrower than Cobbett, not by any fault of his own, but
because in the intervening epoch of the triumph of Scrooge and Gradgrind
the link with our Christian past had been lost, save in the single
matter of Christmas, which Dickens rescued romantically and by a
hair's-breadth escape. Cobbett was a yeoman; that is, a man free and
farming a small estate. By Dickens's time, yeomen seemed as antiquated
as bowmen. Cobbett was mediaeval; that is, he was in almost every way
the opposite of what that word means to-day. He was as egalitarian as
St. Francis, and as independent as Robin Hood. Like that other yeoman in
the ballad, he bore in hand a mighty bow; what some of his enemies would
have called a long bow. But though he sometimes overshot the mark of
truth, he never shot away from it, like Froude. His account of that
sixteenth century in which the mediaeval civilisation ended, is not more
and not less picturesque than Froude's: the difference is in the dull
detail of truth. That crisis was _not_ the foundling of a strong Tudor
monarchy, for the monarchy almost immediately perished; it _was_ the
founding of a strong class holding all the capital and land, for it
holds them to this day. Cobbett would have asked nothing better than to
bend his mediaeval bow to the cry of "St. George for Merry England," for
though he pointed to the other and uglier side of the Waterloo medal,
he was patriotic; and his premonitions were rather against Blucher than
Wellington. But if we take that old war-cry as his final word (and he
would have accepted it) we must note how every term in it points away
from what the modern plutocrats call either progress or empire. It
involves the invocation of saints, the most popular and the most
forbidden form of mediaevalism. The modern Imperialist no more thinks of
St. George in England than he thinks of St. John in St. John's Wood. It
is nationalist in the narrowest sense; and no one knows the beauty and
simplicity of the Middle Ages who has not seen St. George's Cross
separate, as it was at Crecy or Flodden, and noticed how much finer a
flag it is than the Union Jack. And the word "merry" bears witness to an
England famous for its music and dancing before the coming of the
Puritans, the last traces of which have been stamped out by a social
discipline utterly un-English. Not for two years, but for ten decades
Cobbett has been in prison; and his enemy, the "efficient" foreigner,
has walked about in the sunlight, magnificent, and a model for men. I
do not think that even the Prussians ever boasted about "Merry Prussia."

VI--_Hamlet and the Danes_

In the one classic and perfect literary product that ever came out of
Germany--I do not mean "Faust," but Grimm's Fairy Tales--there is a
gorgeous story about a boy who went through a number of experiences
without learning how to shudder. In one of them, I remember, he was
sitting by the fireside and a pair of live legs fell down the chimney
and walked about the room by themselves. Afterwards the rest fell down
and joined up; but this was almost an anti-climax. Now that is very
charming, and full of the best German domesticity. It suggests truly
what wild adventures the traveller can find by stopping at home. But it
also illustrates in various ways how that great German influence on
England, which is the matter of these essays, began in good things and
gradually turned to bad. It began as a literary influence, in the lurid
tales of Hoffmann, the tale of "Sintram," and so on; the revisualising
of the dark background of forest behind our European cities. That old
German darkness was immeasurably livelier than the new German light. The
devils of Germany were much better than the angels. Look at the Teutonic
pictures of "The Three Huntsmen" and observe that while the wicked
huntsman is effective in his own way, the good huntsman is weak in every
way, a sort of sexless woman with a face like a teaspoon. But there is
more in these first forest tales, these homely horrors. In the earlier
stages they have exactly this salt of salvation, that the boy does _not_
shudder. They are made fearful that he may be fearless, not that he may
fear. As long as that limit is kept, the barbaric dreamland is decent;
and though individuals like Coleridge and De Quincey mixed it with worse
things (such as opium), they kept that romantic rudiment upon the whole.
But the one disadvantage of a forest is that one may lose one's way in
it. And the one danger is not that we may meet devils, but that we may
worship them. In other words, the danger is one always associated, by
the instinct of folk-lore, with forests; it is _enchantment_, or the
fixed loss of oneself in some unnatural captivity or spiritual
servitude. And in the evolution of Germanism, from Hoffmann to
Hauptmann, we do see this growing tendency to take horror seriously,
which is diabolism. The German begins to have an eerie abstract sympathy
with the force and fear he describes, as distinct from their objective.
The German is no longer sympathising with the boy against the goblin,
but rather with the goblin against the boy. There goes with it, as
always goes with idolatry, a dehumanised seriousness; the men of the
forest are already building upon a mountain the empty throne of the
Superman. Now it is just at this point that I for one, and most men who
love truth as well as tales, begin to lose interest. I am all for "going
out into the world to seek my fortune," but I do not want to find
it--and find it is only being chained for ever among the frozen figures
of the Sieges Allees. I do not want to be an idolator, still less an
idol. I am all for going to fairyland, but I am also all for coming
back. That is, I will admire, but I will not be magnetised, either by
mysticism or militarism. I am all for German fantasy, but I will resist
German earnestness till I die. I am all for Grimm's Fairy Tales; but if
there is such a thing as Grimm's Law, I would break it, if I knew what
it was. I like the Prussian's legs (in their beautiful boots) to fall
down the chimney and walk about my room. But when he procures a head and
begins to talk, I feel a little bored. The Germans cannot really be deep
because they will not consent to be superficial. They are bewitched by
art, and stare at it, and cannot see round it. They will not believe
that art is a light and slight thing--a feather, even if it be from an
angelic wing. Only the slime is at the bottom of a pool; the sky is on
the surface. We see this in that very typical process, the Germanising
of Shakespeare. I do not complain of the Germans forgetting that
Shakespeare was an Englishman. I complain of their forgetting that
Shakespeare was a man; that he had moods, that he made mistakes, and,
above all, that he knew his art was an art and not an attribute of
deity. That is what is the matter with the Germans; they cannot "ring
fancy's knell"; their knells have no gaiety. The phrase of Hamlet about
"holding the mirror up to nature" is always quoted by such earnest
critics as meaning that art is nothing if not realistic. But it really
means (or at least its author really thought) that art is nothing if not
artificial. Realists, like other barbarians, really _believe_ the
mirror; and therefore break the mirror. Also they leave out the phrase
"as 'twere," which must be read into every remark of Shakespeare, and
especially every remark of Hamlet. What I mean by believing the mirror,
and breaking it, can be recorded in one case I remember; in which a
realistic critic quoted German authorities to prove that Hamlet had a
particular psycho-pathological abnormality, which is admittedly nowhere
mentioned in the play. The critic was bewitched; he was thinking of
Hamlet as a real man, with a background behind him three dimensions
deep--which does not exist in a looking-glass. "The best in this kind
are but shadows." No German commentator has ever made an adequate note
on that. Nevertheless, Shakespeare was an Englishman; he was nowhere
more English than in his blunders; but he was nowhere more successful
than in the description of very English types of character. And if
anything is to be said about Hamlet, beyond what Shakespeare has said
about him, I should say that Hamlet was an Englishman too. He was as
much an Englishman as he was a gentleman, and he had the very grave
weaknesses of both characters. The chief English fault, especially in
the nineteenth century, has been lack of decision, not only lack of
decision in action, but lack of the equally essential decision in
thought--which some call dogma. And in the politics of the last century,
this English Hamlet, as we shall see, played a great part, or rather
refused to play it.

There were, then, two elements in the German influence; a sort of pretty
playing with terror and a solemn recognition of terrorism. The first
pointed to elfland, and the second to--shall we say, Prussia. And by
that unconscious symbolism with which all this story develops, it was
soon to be dramatically tested, by a definite political query, whether
what we really respected was the Teutonic fantasy or the Teutonic fear.

The Germanisation of England, its transition and turning-point, was well
typified by the genius of Carlyle. The original charm of Germany had
been the charm of the child. The Teutons were never so great as when
they were childish; in their religious art and popular imagery the
Christ-Child is really a child, though the Christ is hardly a man. The
self-conscious fuss of their pedagogy is half-redeemed by the
unconscious grace which called a school not a seed-plot of citizens, but
merely a garden of children. All the first and best forest-spirit is
infancy, its wonder, its wilfulness, even its still innocent fear.
Carlyle marks exactly the moment when the German child becomes the
spoilt child. The wonder turns to mere mysticism; and mere mysticism
always turns to mere immoralism. The wilfulness is no longer liked, but
is actually obeyed. The fear becomes a philosophy. Panic hardens into
pessimism; or else, what is often equally depressing, optimism.

Carlyle, the most influential English writer of that time, marks all
this by the mental interval between his "French Revolution" and his
"Frederick the Great." In both he was Germanic. Carlyle was really as
sentimental as Goethe; and Goethe was really as sentimental as Werther.
Carlyle understood everything about the French Revolution, except that
it was a French revolution. He could not conceive that cold anger that
comes from a love of insulted truth. It seemed to him absurd that a man
should die, or do murder, for the First Proposition of Euclid; should
relish an egalitarian state like an equilateral triangle; or should
defend the Pons Asinorum as Codes defended the Tiber bridge. But anyone
who does not understand that does not understand the French
Revolution--nor, for that matter, the American Revolution. "We hold
these truths to be self-evident": it was the fanaticism of truism. But
though Carlyle had no real respect for liberty, he had a real reverence
for anarchy. He admired elemental energy. The violence which repelled
most men from the Revolution was the one thing that attracted him to it.
While a Whig like Macaulay respected the Girondists but deplored the
Mountain, a Tory like Carlyle rather liked the Mountain and quite unduly
despised the Girondists. This appetite for formless force belongs, of
course, to the forests, to Germany. But when Carlyle got there, there
fell upon him a sort of spell which is his tragedy and the English
tragedy, and, in no small degree, the German tragedy too. The real
romance of the Teutons was largely a romance of the Southern Teutons,
with their castles, which are almost literally castles in the air, and
their river which is walled with vineyards and rhymes so naturally to
wine. But as Carlyle's was rootedly a romance of conquest, he had to
prove that the thing which conquered in Germany was really more poetical
than anything else in Germany. Now the thing that conquered in Germany
was about the most prosaic thing of which the world ever grew weary.
There is a great deal more poetry in Brixton than in Berlin. Stella said
that Swift could write charmingly about a broom-stick; and poor Carlyle
had to write romantically about a ramrod. Compare him with Heine, who
had also a detached taste in the mystical grotesques of Germany, but who
saw what was their enemy: and offered to nail up the Prussian eagle like
an old crow as a target for the archers of the Rhine. Its prosaic
essence is not proved by the fact that it did not produce poets: it is
proved by the more deadly fact that it did. The actual written poetry of
Frederick the Great, for instance, was not even German or barbaric, but
simply feeble--and French. Thus Carlyle became continually gloomier as
his fit of the blues deepened into Prussian blues; nor can there be any
wonder. His philosophy had brought out the result that the Prussian was
the first of Germans, and, therefore, the first of men. No wonder he
looked at the rest of us with little hope.

But a stronger test was coming both for Carlyle and England. Prussia,
plodding, policing, as materialist as mud, went on solidifying and
strengthening after unconquered Russia and unconquered England had
rescued her where she lay prostrate under Napoleon. In this interval the
two most important events were the Polish national revival, with which
Russia was half inclined to be sympathetic, but Prussia was implacably
coercionist; and the positive refusal of the crown of a united Germany
by the King of Prussia, simply because it was constitutionally offered
by a free German Convention. Prussia did not want to lead the Germans:
she wanted to conquer the Germans. And she wanted to conquer other
people first. She had already found her brutal, if humorous, embodiment
in Bismarck; and he began with a scheme full of brutality and not
without humour. He took up, or rather pretended to take up, the claim of
the Prince of Augustenberg to duchies which were a quite lawful part of
the land of Denmark. In support of this small pretender he enlisted two
large things, the Germanic body called the Bund and the Austrian Empire.
It is possibly needless to say that after he had seized the disputed
provinces by pure Prussian violence, he kicked out the Prince of
Augustenberg, kicked out the German Bund, and finally kicked out the
Austrian Empire too, in the sudden campaign of Sadowa. He was a good
husband and a good father; he did not paint in water colours; and of
such is the Kingdom of Heaven. But the symbolic intensity of the
incident was this. The Danes expected protection from England; and if
there had been any sincerity in the ideal side of our Teutonism they
ought to have had it. They ought to have had it even by the pedantries
of the time, which already talked of Latin inferiority: and were never
weary of explaining that the country of Richelieu could not rule and the
country of Napoleon could not fight. But if it was necessary for
whosoever would be saved to be a Teuton, the Danes were more Teuton than
the Prussians. If it be a matter of vital importance to be descended
from Vikings, the Danes really were descended from Vikings, while the
Prussians were descended from mongrel Slavonic savages. If Protestantism
be progress, the Danes were Protestant; while they had attained quite
peculiar success and wealth in that small ownership and intensive
cultivation which is very commonly a boast of Catholic lands. They had
in a quite arresting degree what was claimed for the Germanics as
against Latin revolutionism: quiet freedom, quiet prosperity, a simple
love of fields and of the sea. But, moreover, by that coincidence which
dogs this drama, the English of that Victorian epoch had found their
freshest impression of the northern spirit of infancy and wonder in the
works of a Danish man of genius, whose stories and sketches were so
popular in England as almost to have become English. Good as Grimm's
Fairy Tales were, they had been collected and not created by the modern
German; they were a museum of things older than any nation, of the
dateless age of once-upon-a-time. When the English romantics wanted to
find the folk-tale spirit still alive, they found it in the small
country of one of those small kings, with whom the folk-tales are almost
comically crowded. There they found what we call an original writer, who
was nevertheless the image of the origins. They found a whole fairyland
in one head and under one nineteenth-century top hat. Those of the
English who were then children owe to Hans Andersen more than to any of
their own writers, that essential educational emotion which feels that
domesticity is not dull but rather fantastic; that sense of the
fairyland of furniture, and the travel and adventure of the farmyard.
His treatment of inanimate things as animate was not a cold and awkward
allegory: it was a true sense of a dumb divinity in things that are.
Through him a child did feel that the chair he sat on was something like
a wooden horse. Through him children and the happier kind of men did
feel themselves covered by a roof as by the folded wings of some vast
domestic fowl; and feel common doors like great mouths that opened to
utter welcome. In the story of "The Fir Tree" he transplanted to
England a living bush that can still blossom into candles. And in his
tale of "The Tin Soldier" he uttered the true defence of romantic
militarism against the prigs who would forbid it even as a toy for the
nursery. He suggested, in the true tradition of the folk-tales, that the
dignity of the fighter is not in his largeness but rather in his
smallness, in his stiff loyalty and heroic helplessness in the hands of
larger and lower things. These things, alas, were an allegory. When
Prussia, finding her crimes unpunished, afterwards carried them into
France as well as Denmark, Carlyle and his school made some effort to
justify their Germanism, by pitting what they called the piety and
simplicity of Germany against what they called the cynicism and ribaldry
of France. But nobody could possibly pretend that Bismarck was more
pious and simple than Hans Andersen; yet the Carlyleans looked on with
silence or approval while the innocent toy kingdom was broken like a
toy. Here again, it is enormously probable that England would have
struck upon the right side, if the English people had been the English
Government. Among other coincidences, the Danish princess who had
married the English heir was something very like a fairy princess to the
English crowd. The national poet had hailed her as a daughter of the
sea-kings; and she was, and indeed still is, the most popular royal
figure in England. But whatever our people may have been like, our
politicians were on the very tamest level of timidity and the fear of
force to which they have ever sunk. The Tin Soldier of the Danish army
and the paper boat of the Danish navy, as in the story, were swept away
down the great gutter, down that colossal _cloaca_ that leads to the
vast cesspool of Berlin.

Why, as a fact, did not England interpose? There were a great many
reasons given, but I think they were all various inferences from one
reason; indirect results and sometimes quite illogical results, of what
we have called the Germanisation of England. First, the very insularity
on which we insisted was barbaric, in its refusal of a seat in the
central senate of the nations. What we called our splendid isolation
became a rather ignominious sleeping-partnership with Prussia. Next, we
were largely trained in irresponsibility by our contemporary historians,
Freeman and Green, teaching us to be proud of a possible descent from
King Arthur's nameless enemies and not from King Arthur. King Arthur
might not be historical, but at least he was legendary. Hengist and
Horsa were not even legendary, for they left no legend. Anybody could
see what was obligatory on the representative of Arthur; he was bound to
be chivalrous, that is, to be European. But nobody could imagine what
was obligatory on the representative of Horsa, unless it were to be
horsy. That was perhaps the only part of the Anglo-Saxon programme that
the contemporary English really carried out. Then, in the very real
decline from Cobbett to Cobden (that is, from a broad to a narrow
manliness and good sense) there had grown up the cult of a very curious
kind of peace, to be spread all over the world not by pilgrims, but by
pedlars. Mystics from the beginning had made vows of peace--but they
added to them vows of poverty. Vows of poverty were not in the
Cobdenite's line. Then, again, there was the positive praise of Prussia,
to which steadily worsening case the Carlyleans were already committed.
But beyond these, there was something else, a spirit which had more
infected us as a whole. That spirit was the spirit of Hamlet. We gave
the grand name of "evolution" to a notion that things do themselves. Our
wealth, our insularity, our gradual loss of faith, had so dazed us that
the old Christian England haunted us like a ghost in whom we could not
quite believe. An aristocrat like Palmerston, loving freedom and hating
the upstart despotism, must have looked on at its cold brutality not
without that ugly question which Hamlet asked himself--am I a coward?

                      It cannot be
  But I am pigeon-livered and lack gall
  To make oppression bitter; or 'ere this
  I should have fatted all the region kites
  With this slave's offal.

We made dumb our anger and our honour; but it has not brought us peace.

VII--_The Midnight of Europe_

Among the minor crimes of England may be classed the shallow criticism
and easy abandonment of Napoleon III. The Victorian English had a very
bad habit of being influenced by words and at the same time pretending
to despise them. They would build their whole historical philosophy upon
two or three titles, and then refuse to get even the titles right. The
solid Victorian Englishman, with his whiskers and his Parliamentary
vote, was quite content to say that Louis Napoleon and William of
Prussia both became Emperors--by which he meant autocrats. His whiskers
would have bristled with rage and he would have stormed at you for
hair-splitting and "lingo," if you had answered that William was German
Emperor, while Napoleon was not French Emperor, but only Emperor of the
French. What could such mere order of the words matter? Yet the same
Victorian would have been even more indignant if he had been asked to
be satisfied with an Art Master, when he had advertised for a Master of
Arts. His irritation would have increased if the Art Master had promised
him a sea-piece and had brought him a piece of the sea; or if, during
the decoration of his house, the same aesthetic humourist had undertaken
to procure some Indian Red and had produced a Red Indian.

The Englishman would not see that if there was only a verbal difference
between the French Emperor and the Emperor of the French, so, if it came
to that, it was a verbal difference between the Emperor and the
Republic, or even between a Parliament and no Parliament. For him an
Emperor meant merely despotism; he had not yet learned that a Parliament
may mean merely oligarchy. He did not know that the English people would
soon be made impotent, not by the disfranchising of their constituents,
but simply by the silencing of their members; and that the governing
class of England did not now depend upon rotten boroughs, but upon
rotten representatives. Therefore he did not understand Bonapartism. He
did not understand that French democracy became more democratic, not
less, when it turned all France into one constituency which elected one
member. He did not understand that many dragged down the Republic
because it was not republican, but purely senatorial. He was yet to
learn how quite corruptly senatorial a great representative assembly can
become. Yet in England to-day we hear "the decline of Parliament" talked
about and taken for granted by the best Parliamentarians--Mr. Balfour,
for instance--and we hear the one partly French and wholly Jacobin
historian of the French Revolution recommending for the English evil a
revival of the power of the Crown. It seems that so far from having left
Louis Napoleon far behind in the grey dust of the dead despotisms, it is
not at all improbable that our most extreme revolutionary developments
may end where Louis Napoleon began.

In other words, the Victorian Englishman did not understand the words
"Emperor of the French." The type of title was deliberately chosen to
express the idea of an elective and popular origin; as against such a
phrase as "the German Emperor," which expresses an almost
transcendental tribal patriarchate, or such a phrase as "King of
Prussia," which suggests personal ownership of a whole territory. To
treat the _Coup d'etat_ as unpardonable is to justify riot against
despotism, but forbid any riot against aristocracy. Yet the idea
expressed in "The Emperor of the French" is not dead, but rather risen
from the dead. It is the idea that while a government may pretend to be
a popular government, only a person can be really popular. Indeed, the
idea is still the crown of American democracy, as it was for a time the
crown of French democracy. The very powerful official who makes the
choice of that great people for peace or war, might very well be called,
not the President of the United States, but the President of the
Americans. In Italy we have seen the King and the mob prevail over the
conservatism of the Parliament, and in Russia the new popular policy
sacramentally symbolised by the Czar riding at the head of the new
armies. But in one place, at least, the actual form of words exists; and
the actual form of words has been splendidly justified. One man among
the sons of men has been permitted to fulfil a courtly formula with
awful and disastrous fidelity. Political and geographical ruin have
written one last royal title across the sky; the loss of palace and
capital and territory have but isolated and made evident the people that
has not been lost; not laws but the love of exiles, not soil but the
souls of men, still make certain that five true words shall yet be
written in the corrupt and fanciful chronicles of mankind: "The King of
the Belgians."

It is a common phrase, recurring constantly in the real if rabid
eloquence of Victor Hugo, that Napoleon III. was a mere ape of Napoleon
I. That is, that he had, as the politician says, in "L'Aiglon," "le
petit chapeau, mais pas la tete"; that he was merely a bad imitation.
This is extravagantly exaggerative; and those who say it, moreover,
often miss the two or three points of resemblance which really exist in
the exaggeration. One resemblance there certainly was. In both Napoleons
it has been suggested that the glory was not so great as it seemed; but
in both it can be emphatically added that the eclipse was not so great
as it seemed either. Both succeeded at first and failed at last. But
both succeeded at last, even after the failure. If at this moment we owe
thanks to Napoleon Bonaparte for the armies of united France, we also
owe some thanks to Louis Bonaparte for the armies of united Italy. That
great movement to a freer and more chivalrous Europe which we call
to-day the Cause of the Allies, had its forerunners and first victories
before our time; and it not only won at Arcola, but also at Solferino.
Men who remembered Louis Napoleon when he mooned about the Blessington
_salon_, and was supposed to be almost mentally deficient, used to say
he deceived Europe twice; once when he made men think him an imbecile,
and once when he made them think him a statesman. But he deceived them a
third time; when he made them think he was dead; and had done nothing.

In spite of the unbridled verse of Hugo and the even more unbridled
prose of Kinglake, Napoleon III. is really and solely discredited in
history because of the catastrophe of 1870. Hugo hurled any amount of
lightning on Louis Napoleon; but he threw very little light on him. Some
passages in the "Chatiments" are really caricatures carved in eternal
marble. They will always be valuable in reminding generations too vague
and soft, as were the Victorians, of the great truth that hatred is
beautiful, when it is hatred of the ugliness of the soul. But most of
them could have been written about Haman, or Heliogabalus, or King John,
or Queen Elizabeth, as much as about poor Louis Napoleon; they bear no
trace of any comprehension of his quite interesting aims, and his quite
comprehensible contempt for the fat-souled senatorial politicians. And
if a real revolutionist like Hugo did not do justice to the
revolutionary element in Caesarism, it need hardly be said that a rather
Primrose League Tory like Tennyson did not. Kinglake's curiously acrid
insistence upon the _Coup d'etat_ is, I fear, only an indulgence in one
of the least pleasing pleasures of our national pen and press, and one
which afterwards altogether ran away with us over the Dreyfus case. It
is an unfortunate habit of publicly repenting for other people's sins.
If this came easy to an Englishman like Kinglake, it came, of course,
still easier to a German like Queen Victoria's husband and even to
Queen Victoria herself, who was naturally influenced by him. But in so
far as the sensible masses of the English nation took any interest in
the matter, it is probable that they sympathised with Palmerston, who
was as popular as the Prince Consort was unpopular. The black mark
against Louis Napoleon's name until now, has simply been Sedan; and it
is our whole purpose to-day to turn Sedan into an interlude. If it is
not an interlude, it will be the end of the world. But we have sworn to
make an end of that ending: warring on until, if only by a purgatory of
the nations and the mountainous annihilation of men, the story of the
world ends well.

There are, as it were, valleys of history quite close to us, but hidden
by the closer hills. One, as we have seen, is that fold in the soft
Surrey hills where Cobbett sleeps with his still-born English
Revolution. Another is under that height called The Spy of Italy, where
a new Napoleon brought back the golden eagles against the black eagles
of Austria. Yet that French adventure in support of the Italian
insurrection was very important; we are only beginning to understand
its importance. It was a defiance to the German Reaction and 1870 was a
sort of revenge for it, just as the Balkan victory was a defiance to the
German Reaction and 1914 was the attempted revenge for it. It is true
that the French liberation of Italy was incomplete, the problem of the
Papal States, for instance, being untouched by the Peace of Villafranca.
The volcanic but fruitful spirit of Italy had already produced that
wonderful, wandering, and almost omnipresent personality whose red shirt
was to be a walking flag: Garibaldi. And many English Liberals
sympathised with him and his extremists as against the peace. Palmerston
called it "the peace that passeth all understanding": but the profanity
of that hilarious old heathen was nearer the mark than he knew: there
were really present some of those deep things which he did not
understand. To quarrel with the Pope, but to compromise with him, was an
instinct with the Bonapartes; an instinct no Anglo-Saxon could be
expected to understand. They knew the truth; that Anti-Clericalism is
not a Protestant movement, but a Catholic mood. And after all the
English Liberals could not get their own Government to risk what the
French Government had risked; and Napoleon III. might well have retorted
on Palmerston, his rival in international Liberalism, that half a war
was better than no fighting. Swinburne called Villafranca "The Halt
before Rome," and expressed a rhythmic impatience for the time when the

  "Shall ring to the roar of the lion
  Proclaiming Republican Rome."

But he might have remembered, after all, that it was not the British
lion, that a British poet should have the right to say so imperiously,
"Let him roar again. Let him roar again."

It is true that there was no clear call to England from Italy, as there
certainly was from Denmark. The great powers were not bound to help
Italy to become a nation, as they were bound to support the unquestioned
fact that Denmark was one. Indeed the great Italian patriot was to
experience both extremes of the English paradox, and, curiously enough,
in connection with both the two national and anti-German causes. For
Italy he gained the support of the English, but not the support of
England. Not a few of our countrymen followed the red shirt; but not in
the red coat. And when he came to England, not to plead the cause of
Italy but the cause of Denmark, the Italian found he was more popular
with the English than any Englishman. He made his way through a forest
of salutations, which would willingly have turned itself into a forest
of swords. But those who kept the sword kept it sheathed. For the ruling
class the valour of the Italian hero, like the beauty of the Danish
Princess, was a thing to be admired, that is enjoyed, like a novel--or a
newspaper. Palmerston was the very type of Pacifism, because he was the
very type of Jingoism. In spirit as restless as Garibaldi, he was in
practice as cautious as Cobden. England had the most prudent
aristocracy, but the most reckless democracy in the world. It was, and
is, the English contradiction, which has so much misrepresented us,
especially to the Irish. Our national captains were carpet knights; our
knights errant were among the dismounted rabble. When an Austrian
general who had flogged women in the conquered provinces appeared in
the London streets, some common draymen off a cart behaved with the
direct quixotry of Sir Lancelot or Sir Galahad. He had beaten women and
they beat him. They regarded themselves simply as avengers of ladies in
distress, breaking the bloody whip of a German bully; just as Cobbett
had sought to break it when it was wielded over the men of England. The
boorishness was in the Germanic or half-Germanic rulers who wore crosses
and spurs: the gallantry was in the gutter. English draymen had more
chivalry than Teuton aristocrats--or English ones.

I have dwelt a little on this Italian experiment because it lights up
Louis Napoleon as what he really was before the eclipse, a
politician--perhaps an unscrupulous politician--but certainly a
democratic politician. A power seldom falls being wholly faultless; and
it is true that the Second Empire became contaminated with cosmopolitan
spies and swindlers, justly reviled by such democrats as Rochefort as
well as Hugo. But there was no French inefficiency that weighed a hair
in the balance compared with the huge and hostile efficiency of
Prussia; the tall machine that had struck down Denmark and Austria, and
now stood ready to strike again, extinguishing the lamp of the world.
There was a hitch before the hammer stroke, and Bismarck adjusted it, as
with his finger, by a forgery--for he had many minor accomplishments.
France fell: and what fell with her was freedom, and what reigned in her
stead only tyrants and the ancient terror. The crowning of the first
modern Kaiser in the very palace of the old French kings was an
allegory; like an allegory on those Versailles walls. For it was at once
the lifting of the old despotic diadem and its descent on the low brow
of a barbarian. Louis XI. had returned, and not Louis IX.; and Europe
was to know that sceptre on which there is no dove.

The instant evidence that Europe was in the grip of the savage was as
simple as it was sinister. The invaders behaved with an innocent impiety
and bestiality that had never been known in those lands since Clovis was
signed with the cross. To the naked pride of the new men nations simply
were not. The struggling populations of two vast provinces were simply
carried away like slaves into captivity, as after the sacking of some
prehistoric town. France was fined for having pretended to be a nation;
and the fine was planned to ruin her forever. Under the pressure of such
impossible injustice France cried out to the Christian nations, one
after another, and by name. Her last cry ended in a stillness like that
which had encircled Denmark.

One man answered; one who had quarrelled with the French and their
Emperor; but who knew it was not an emperor that had fallen. Garibaldi,
not always wise but to his end a hero, took his station, sword in hand,
under the darkening sky of Christendom, and shared the last fate of
France. A curious record remains, in which a German commander testifies
to the energy and effect of the last strokes of the wounded lion of
Aspromonte. But England went away sorrowful, for she had great

VIII--_The Wrong Horse_

In another chapter I mentioned some of the late Lord Salisbury's remarks
with regret, but I trust with respect; for in certain matters he
deserved all the respect that can be given to him. His critics said that
he "thought aloud"; which is perhaps the noblest thing that can be said
of a man. He was jeered at for it by journalists and politicians who had
not the capacity to think or the courage to tell their thoughts. And he
had one yet finer quality which redeems a hundred lapses of anarchic
cynicism. He could change his mind upon the platform: he could repent in
public. He could not only think aloud; he could "think better" aloud.
And one of the turning-points of Europe had come in the hour when he
avowed his conversion from the un-Christian and un-European policy into
which his dexterous Oriental master, Disraeli, had dragged him; and
declared that England had "put her money on the wrong horse." When he
said it, he referred to the backing we gave to the Turk under a
fallacious fear of Russia. But I cannot but think that if he had lived
much longer, he would have come to feel the same disgust for his long
diplomatic support of the Turk's great ally in the North. He did not
live, as we have lived, to feel that horse run away with us, and rush on
through wilder and wilder places, until we knew that we were riding on
the nightmare.

What was this thing to which we trusted? And how may we most quickly
explain its development from a dream to a nightmare, and the
hair's-breadth escape by which it did not hurl us to destruction, as it
seems to be hurling the Turk? It is a certain spirit; and we must not
ask for too logical a definition of it, for the people whom it possesses
disown logic; and the whole thing is not so much a theory as a confusion
of thought. Its widest and most elementary character is adumbrated in
the word Teutonism or Pan-Germanism; and with this (which was what
appeared to win in 1870) we had better begin. The nature of
Pan-Germanism may be allegorised and abbreviated somewhat thus:

The horse asserts that all other creatures are morally bound to
sacrifice their interests to his, on the specific ground that he
possesses all noble and necessary qualities, and is an end in himself.
It is pointed out in answer that when climbing a tree the horse is less
graceful than the cat; that lovers and poets seldom urge the horse to
make a noise all night like the nightingale; that when submerged for
some long time under water, he is less happy than the haddock; and that
when he is cut open pearls are less often found in him than in an
oyster. He is not content to answer (though, being a muddle-headed
horse, he does use this answer also) that having an undivided hoof is
more than pearls or oceans or all ascension or song. He reflects for a
few years on the subject of cats; and at last discovers in the cat "the
characteristic equine quality of caudality, or a tail"; so that cats
_are_ horses, and wave on every tree-top the tail which is the equine
banner. Nightingales are found to have legs, which explains their power
of song. Haddocks are vertebrates; and therefore are sea-horses. And
though the oyster outwardly presents dissimilarities which seem to
divide him from the horse, he is by the all-filling nature-might of the
same horse-moving energy sustained.

Now this horse is intellectually the wrong horse. It is not perhaps
going too far to say that this horse is a donkey. For it is obviously
within even the intellectual resources of a haddock to answer, "But if a
haddock is a horse, why should I yield to you any more than you to me?
Why should that singing horse commonly called the nightingale, or that
climbing horse hitherto known as the cat, fall down and worship you
because of your horsehood? If all our native faculties are the
accomplishments of a horse--why then you are only another horse without
any accomplishments." When thus gently reasoned with, the horse flings
up his heels, kicks the cat, crushes the oyster, eats the haddock and
pursues the nightingale, and that is how the war began.

This apologue is not in the least more fantastic than the facts of the
Teutonic claim. The Germans do really say that Englishmen are only
Sea-Germans, as our haddocks were only sea-horses. They do really say
that the nightingales of Tuscany or the pearls of Hellas must somehow be
German birds or German jewels. They do maintain that the Italian
Renaissance was really the German Renaissance, pure Germans having
Italian names when they were painters, as cockneys sometimes have when
they are hair-dressers. They suggest that Jesus and the great Jews were
Teutonic. One Teutonist I read actually explained the fresh energy of
the French Revolution and the stale privileges of its German enemies by
saying that the Germanic soul awoke in France and attacked the Latin
influence in Germany. On the advantages of this method I need not dwell:
if you are annoyed at Jack Johnson knocking out an English
prize-fighter, you have only to say that it was the whiteness of the
black man that won and the blackness of the white man that was beaten.
But about the Italian Renaissance they are less general and will go into
detail. They will discover (in their researches into 'istry, as Mr.
Gandish said) that Michael Angelo's surname was Buonarotti; and they
will point out that the word "roth" is very like the word "rot." Which,
in one sense, is true enough. Most Englishmen will be content to say it
is all rot and pass on. It is all of a piece with the preposterous
Prussian history, which talks, for instance, about the "perfect
religious tolerance of the Goths"; which is like talking about the legal
impartiality of chicken-pox. He will decline to believe that the Jews
were Germans; though he may perhaps have met some Germans who were Jews.
But deeper than any such practical reply, lies the deep inconsistency of
the parable. It is simply this; that if Teutonism be used for
comprehension it cannot be used for conquest. If all intelligent peoples
are Germans, then Prussians are only the least intelligent Germans. If
the men of Flanders are as German as the men of Frankfort, we can only
say that in saving Belgium we are helping the Germans who are in the
right against the Germans who are in the wrong. Thus in Alsace the
conquerors are forced into the comic posture of annexing the people for
being German and then persecuting them for being French. The French
Teutons who built Rheims must surrender it to the South German Teutons
who have partly built Cologne; and these in turn surrender Cologne to
the North German Teutons, who never built anything, except the wooden
Aunt Sally of old Hindenburg. Every Teuton must fall on his face before
an inferior Teuton; until they all find, in the foul marshes towards the
Baltic, the very lowest of all possible Teutons, and worship him--and
find he is a Slav. So much for Pan-Germanism.

But though Teutonism is indefinable, or at least is by the Teutons
undefined, it is not unreal. A vague but genuine soul does possess all
peoples who boast of Teutonism; and has possessed ourselves, in so far
as we have been touched by that folly. Not a race, but rather a
religion, the thing exists; and in 1870 its sun was at noon. We can most
briefly describe it under three heads.

The victory of the German arms meant before Leipzic, and means now, the
overthrow of a certain idea. That idea is the idea of the Citizen. This
is true in a quite abstract and courteous sense; and is not meant as a
loose charge of oppression. Its truth is quite compatible with a view
that the Germans are better governed than the French. In many ways the
Germans are very well governed. But they might be governed ten thousand
times better than they are, or than anybody ever can be, and still be
as far as ever from governing. The idea of the Citizen is that his
individual human nature shall be constantly and creatively active in
_altering_ the State. The Germans are right in regarding the idea as
dangerously revolutionary. Every Citizen _is_ a revolution. That is, he
destroys, devours and adapts his environment to the extent of his own
thought and conscience. This is what separates the human social effort
from the non-human; the bee creates the honey-comb, but he does not
criticise it. The German ruler really does feed and train the German as
carefully as a gardener waters a flower. But if the flower suddenly
began to water the gardener, he would be much surprised. So in Germany
the people really are educated; but in France the people educates. The
French not only make up the State, but make the State; not only make it,
but remake it. In Germany the ruler is the artist, always painting the
happy German like a portrait; in France the Frenchman is the artist,
always painting and repainting France like a house. No state of social
good that does not mean the Citizen _choosing_ good, as well as getting
it, has the idea of the Citizen at all. To say the Germanies are
naturally at war with this idea is merely to respect them and take them
seriously: otherwise their war on the French Revolution would be only an
ignorant feud. It is this, to them, risky and fanciful notion of the
critical and creative Citizen, which in 1870 lay prostrate under United
Germany--under the undivided hoof.

Nevertheless, when the German says he has or loves freedom, what he says
is not false. He means something; and what he means is the second
principle, which I may summarise as the Irresponsibility of Thought.
Within the iron framework of the fixed State, the German has not only
liberty but anarchy. Anything can be said although, or rather because,
nothing can be done. Philosophy is really free. But this practically
means only that the prisoner's cell has become the madman's cell: that
it is scrawled all over inside with stars and systems, so that it looks
like eternity. This is the contradiction remarked by Dr. Sarolea, in his
brilliant book, between the wildness of German theory and the tameness
of German practice. The Germans _sterilise_ thought, making it active
with a wild virginity; which can bear no fruit.

But though there are so many mad theories, most of them have one root;
and depend upon one assumption. It matters little whether we call it,
with the German Socialists, "the Materialist Theory of History"; or,
with Bismarck, "blood and iron." It can be put most fairly thus: that
all _important_ events of history are biological, like a change of
pasture or the communism of a pack of wolves. Professors are still
tearing their hair in the effort to prove somehow that the Crusaders
were migrating for food like swallows; or that the French Revolutionists
were somehow only swarming like bees. This works in two ways often
accounted opposite; and explains both the German Socialist and the
Junker. For, first, it fits in with Teutonic Imperialism; making the
"blonde beasts" of Germania into lions whose nature it is to eat such
lambs as the French. The highest success of this notion in Europe is
marked by praise given to a race famous for its physical firmness and
fighting breed, but which has frankly pillaged and scarcely pretended
to rule; the Turk, whom some Tories called "the gentleman of Europe."
The Kaiser paused to adore the Crescent on his way to patronise the
Cross. It was corporately embodied when Greece attempted a solitary
adventure against Turkey and was quickly crushed. That English guns
helped to impose the mainly Germanic policy of the Concert upon Crete,
cannot be left out of mind while we are making appeals to Greece--or
considering the crimes of England.

But the same principle serves to keep the internal politics of the
Germans quiet, and prevent Socialism being the practical hope or peril
it has been in so many other countries. It operates in two ways; first,
by a curious fallacy about "the time not being ripe"--as if _time_ could
ever be ripe. The same savage superstition from the forests had infected
Matthew Arnold pretty badly when he made a personality out of the
Zeitgeist--perhaps the only ghost that was ever entirely fabulous. It is
tricked by a biological parallel, by which the chicken always comes out
of the egg "at the right time." He does not; he comes out when he comes
out. The Marxian Socialist will not strike till the clock strikes; and
the clock is made in Germany, and never strikes. Moreover, the theory of
all history as a search for food makes the masses content with having
food and physic, but not freedom. The best working model in the matter
is the system of Compulsory Insurance; which was a total failure and
dead letter in France but has been, in the German sense, a great success
in Germany. It treats employed persons as a fixed, separate, and lower
caste, who must not themselves dispose of the margin of their small
wages. In 1911 it was introduced into England by Mr. Lloyd George, who
had studied its operations in Germany, and, by the Prussian prestige in
"social reform," was passed.

These three tendencies cohere, or are cohering, in an institution which
is not without a great historical basis and not without great modern
conveniences. And as France was the standard-bearer of citizenship in
1798, Germany is the standard-bearer of this alternative solution in
1915. The institution which our fathers called Slavery fits in with, or
rather logically flows from, all the three spirits of which I have
spoken, and promises great advantages to each of them. It can give the
individual worker everything except the power to alter the State--that
is, his own status. Finality (or what certain eleutheromaniacs would
call hopelessness) of status is the soul of Slavery--and of Compulsory
Insurance. Then again, Germany gives the individual exactly the liberty
that has always been given to a slave--the liberty to think, the liberty
to dream, the liberty to rage; the liberty to indulge in any
intellectual hypotheses about the unalterable world and state--such as
have always been free to slaves, from the stoical maxims of Epictetus to
the skylarking fairy tales of Uncle Remus. And it has been truly urged
by all defenders of slavery that, if history has merely a material test,
the material condition of the subordinate under slavery tends to be good
rather than bad. When I once pointed out how precisely the "model
village" of a great employer reproduces the safety and seclusion of an
old slave estate, the employer thought it quite enough to answer
indignantly that he had provided baths, playing-grounds, a theatre,
etc., for his workers. He would probably have thought it odd to hear a
planter in South Carolina boast that he had provided banjos, hymn-books,
and places suitable for the cake-walk. Yet the planter must have
provided the banjos, for a slave cannot own property. And if this
Germanic sociology is indeed to prevail among us, I think some of the
broad-minded thinkers who concur in its prevalence owe something like an
apology to many gallant gentlemen whose graves lie where the last battle
was fought in the Wilderness; men who had the courage to fight for it,
the courage to die for it and, above all, the courage to call it by its

With the acceptance by England of the German Insurance Act, I bring this
sketch of the past relations of the two countries to an end. I have
written this book because I wish, once and for all, to be done with my
friend Professor Whirlwind of Prussia, who has long despaired of really
defending his own country, and has fallen back upon abusing mine. He has
dropped, amid general derision, his attempt to call a thing right when
even the Chancellor who did it called it wrong. But he has an idea that
if he can show that somebody from England somewhere did another wrong,
the two wrongs may make a right. Against the cry of the Roman Catholic
Poles the Prussian has never done, or even pretended to do, anything but
harden his heart; but he has (such are the lovable inconsistencies of
human nature) a warm corner in his heart for the Roman Catholic Irish.
He has not a word to say for himself about the campaign in Belgium, but
he still has many wise, reproachful words to utter about the campaign in
South Africa. I propose to take those words out of his mouth. I will
have nothing to do with the fatuous front-bench pretensions that our
governors always govern well, that our statesmen are never whitewashed
and never in need of whitewash. The only moral superiority I claim is
that of not defending the indefensible. I most earnestly urge my
countrymen not to hide behind thin official excuses, which the sister
kingdoms and the subject races can easily see through. We can confess
that our crimes have been as mountains, and still not be afraid of the
present comparison. There may be, in the eyes of some, a risk in
dwelling in this dark hour on our failures in the past: I believe
profoundly that the risk is all the other way. I believe that the most
deadly danger to our arms to-day lies in any whiff of that self-praise,
any flavour of that moral cowardice, any glimpse of that impudent and
ultimate impenitence, that may make one Boer or Scot or Welshman or
Irishman or Indian feel that he is only smoothing the path for a second
Prussia. I have passed the great part of my life in criticising and
condemning the existing rulers and institutions of my country: I think
it is infinitely the most patriotic thing that a man can do. I have no
illusions either about our past or our present. _I_ think our whole
history in Ireland has been a vulgar and ignorant hatred of the
crucifix, expressed by a crucifixion. I think the South African War was
a dirty work which we did under the whips of moneylenders. I think
Mitchelstown was a disgrace; I think Denshawi was a devilry.

Yet there is one part of life and history in which I would assert the
absolute spotlessness of England. In one department we wear a robe of
white and a halo of innocence. Long and weary as may be the records of
our wickedness, in one direction we have done nothing but good. Whoever
we may have wronged, we have never wronged Germany. Again and again we
have dragged her from under the just vengeance of her enemies, from the
holy anger of Maria Teresa, from the impatient and contemptuous common
sense of Napoleon. We have kept a ring fence around the Germans while
they sacked Denmark and dismembered France. And if we had served our God
as we have served _their_ kings, there would not be to-day one remnant
of them in our path, either to slander or to slay us.

IX--_The Awakening of England_

In October 1912 silent and seemingly uninhabited crags and chasms in the
high western region of the Balkans echoed and re-echoed with a single
shot. It was fired by the hand of a king--real king, who sat listening
to his people in front of his own house (for it was hardly a palace),
and who, in consequence of his listening to the people, not unfrequently
imprisoned the politicians. It is said of him that his great respect for
Gladstone as the western advocate of Balkan freedom was slightly
shadowed by the fact that Gladstone did not succeed in effecting the
bodily capture of Jack the Ripper. This simple monarch knew that if a
malefactor were the terror of the mountain hamlets, his subjects would
expect him personally to take arms and pursue the ruffian; and if he
refused to do so, would very probably experiment with another king. And
the same primitive conception of a king being kept for some kind of
purpose, led them also to expect him to lead in a foreign campaign, and
it was with his own hand that he fired the first shot of the war which
brought down into the dust the ancient empire of the Grand Turk.

His kingdom was little more than the black mountain after which it was
named: we commonly refer to it under its Italian translation of
Montenegro. It is worth while to pause for a moment upon his picturesque
and peculiar community, because it is perhaps the simplest working model
of all that stood in the path of the great Germanic social machine I
have described in the last chapter--stood in its path and was soon to be
very nearly destroyed by its onset. It was a branch of the Serbian stock
which had climbed into this almost inaccessible eyrie, and thence, for
many hundred years, had mocked at the predatory empire of the Turks. The
Serbians in their turn were but one branch of the peasant Slavs,
millions of whom are spread over Russia and subject on many sides to
empires with which they have less sympathy; and the Slavs again, in the
broad features which are important here, are not merely Slavonic but
simply European. But a particular picture is generally more pointed and
intelligible than tendencies which elsewhere are mingled with subtler
tendencies; and of this unmixed European simplicity Montenegro is an
excellent model.

Moreover, the instance of one small Christian State will serve to
emphasise that this is not a quarrel between England and Germany, but
between Europe and Germany. It is my whole purpose in these pages not to
spare my own country where it is open to criticism; and I freely admit
that Montenegro, morally and politically speaking, is almost as much in
advance of England as it is of Germany. In Montenegro there are no
millionaires--and therefore next to no Socialists. As to why there are
no millionaires, it is a mystery, and best studied among the mysteries
of the Middle Ages. By some of the dark ingenuities of that age of
priestcraft a curious thing was discovered--that if you kill every
usurer, every forestaller, every adulterater, every user of false
weights, every fixer of false boundaries, every land-thief, every
water-thief, you afterwards discover by a strange indirect miracle, or
disconnected truth from heaven, that you have no millionaires. Without
dwelling further on this dark matter, we may say that this great gap in
the Montenegrin experience explains the other great gap--the lack of
Socialists. The Class-conscious Proletarian of All Lands is curiously
absent from this land. The reason (I have sometimes fancied) is that the
Proletarian is class-conscious, not because he is a Proletarian of All
Lands, but because he is a Proletarian with no lands. The poor people in
Montenegro have lands--not landlords. They have roots; for the peasant
is the root of the priest, the poet, and the warrior. And _this_, and
not a mere recrimination about acts of violence, is the ground of the
age-long Balkan bitterness against the Turkish conqueror. Montenegrins
are patriotic for Montenegro; but Turks are not patriotic for Turkey.
They never heard of it, in fact. They are Bedouins, as homeless as the
desert. The "wrong horse" of Lord Salisbury was an Arab steed, only
stabled in Byzantium. It is hard enough to rule vagabond people, like
the gypsies. To be ruled by them is impossible.

Nevertheless what was called the nineteenth century, and named with a
sort of transcendental faith (as in a Pythagorean worship of number),
was wearing to its close with reaction everywhere, and the Turk, the
great type of reaction, stronger than ever in the saddle. The most
civilised of the Christian nations overshadowed by the Crescent dared to
attack it and was overwhelmed in a catastrophe that seemed as
unanswerable as Hittin. In England Gladstone and Gladstonism were dead;
and Mr. Kipling, a less mystical Carlyle, was expending a type of praise
upon the British Army which would have been even more appropriate to the
Prussian Army. The Prussian Army ruled Prussia; Prussia ruled Germany;
Germany ruled the Concert of Europe. She was planting everywhere the
appliances of that new servile machinery which was her secret; the
absolute identification of national subordination with business
employment; so that Krupp could count on Kaiser and Kaiser on Krupp.
Every other commercial traveller was pathetically proud of being both a
slave and a spy. The old and the new tyrants had taken hands. The "sack"
of the boss was as silent and fatal as the sack of the Bosphorus. And
the dream of the citizen was at an end.

It was under a sky so leaden and on a road so strewn with bones that the
little mountain democracy with its patriarchal prince went out, first
and before all its friends, on the last and seemingly the most hopeless
of the rebellions against the Ottoman Empire. Only one of the omens
seemed other than disastrous; and even that was doubtful. For the
successful Mediterranean attack on Tripoli while proving the gallantry
of the Italians (if that ever needed proving) could be taken in two
ways, and was seen by many, and probably most, sincere liberals as a
mere extension of the Imperialist reaction of Bosnia and Paardeberg, and
not as the promise of newer things. Italy, it must be remembered, was
still supposed to be the partner of Prussia and the Hapsburgs. For days
that seemed like months the microscopic state seemed to be attempting
alone what the Crusades had failed to accomplish. And for days Europe
and the great powers were thunderstruck, again and yet again, by the
news of Turkish forts falling, Turkish cohorts collapsing, the
unconquerable Crescent going down in blood. The Serbians, the
Bulgarians, the Greeks had gathered and risen from their lairs; and men
knew that these peasants had done what all the politicians had long
despaired of doing, and that the spirit of the first Christian Emperor
was already standing over the city that is named after his name.

For Germany this quite unexpected rush was a reversal of the whole tide
of the world. It was as if the Rhine itself had returned from the ocean
and retired into the Alps. For a long time past every important
political process in Europe had been produced or permitted by Prussia.
She had pulled down ministers in France and arrested reforms in Russia.
Her ruler was acclaimed by Englishmen like Rhodes, and Americans like
Roosevelt, as the great prince of the age. One of the most famous and
brilliant of our journalists called him "the Lord Chief Justice of
Europe." He was the strongest man in Christendom; and he had confirmed
and consecrated the Crescent. And when he had consecrated it a few hill
tribes had risen and trampled it like mire. One or two other things
about the same time, less important in themselves, struck in the
Prussian's ear the same new note of warning and doubt. He sought to
obtain a small advantage on the north-west coast of Africa; and England
seemed to show a certain strange stiffness in insisting on its
abandonment. In the councils over Morocco, England agreed with France
with what did not seem altogether an accidental agreement. But we shall
not be wrong if we put the crucial point of the German surprise and
anger at the attack from the Balkans and the fall of Adrianople. Not
only did it menace the key of Asia and the whole Eastern dream of German
commerce; not only did it offer the picture of one army trained by
France and victorious, and another army trained by Germany and beaten.
There was more than the material victory of the Creusot over the Krupp
gun. It was also the victory of the peasant's field over the Krupp
factory. By this time there was in the North German brain an awful
inversion of all the legends and heroic lives that the human race has
loved. Prussia _hated_ romance. Chivalry was not a thing she neglected;
it was a thing that tormented her as any bully is tormented by an
unanswered challenge. That weird process was completed of which I have
spoken on an earlier page, whereby the soul of this strange people was
everywhere on the side of the dragon against the knight, of the giant
against the hero. Anything unexpected--the forlorn hopes, the
eleventh-hour inspirations, by which the weak can elude the strong, and
which take the hearts of happier men like trumpets--filled the Prussian
with a cold fury, as of a frustrated fate. The Prussian felt as a
Chicago pork butcher would feel if the pigs not only refused to pass
through his machine, but turned into romantic wild boars, raging and
rending, calling for the old hunting of princes and fit to be the crests
of kings.

The Prussian saw these things and his mind was made up. He was silent;
but he laboured: laboured for three long years without intermission at
the making of a military machine that should cut out of the world for
ever such romantic accident or random adventure; a machine that should
cure the human pigs for ever of any illusion that they had wings. That
he did so plot and prepare for an attack that should come from him,
anticipating and overwhelming any resistance, is now, even in the
documents he has himself published, a fact of common sense. Suppose a
man sells all his lands except a small yard containing a well; suppose
in the division of the effects of an old friend he particularly asks for
his razors; suppose when a corded trunk is sent him he sends back the
trunk, but keeps the cord. And then suppose we hear that a rival of his
has been lassoed with a rope, his throat then cut, apparently with a
razor, and his body hidden in a well, we do not call in Sherlock Holmes
to project a preliminary suspicion about the guilty party. In the
discussions held by the Prussian Government with Lord Haldane and Sir
Edward Grey we can now see quite as plainly the meaning of the things
that were granted and the things that were withheld, the things that
would have satisfied the Prussian plotter and the things that did not
satisfy him. The German Chancellor refused an English promise not to be
aggressive and asked instead for an English promise to be neutral. There
is no meaning in the distinction, except in the mind of an aggressor.
Germany proposed a pacific arrangement which forbade England to form a
fighting alliance with France, but permitted Germany to retain her old
fighting alliance with Austria. When the hour of war came she used
Austria, used the old fighting alliance and tried to use the new idea of
English neutrality. That is to say, she used the rope, the razor, and
the well.

But it was either by accident or by individual diplomatic skill that
England at the end of the three years even had her own hands free to
help in frustrating the German plot. The mass of the English people had
no notion of such a plot; and indeed regarded the occasional suggestion
of it as absurd. Nor did even the people who knew best know very much
better. Thanks and even apologies are doubtless due to those who in the
deepest lull of our sleeping partnership with Prussia saw her not as a
partner but a potential enemy; such men as Mr. Blatchford, Mr. Bart
Kennedy, or the late Emil Reich. But there is a distinction to be made.
Few even of these, with the admirable and indeed almost magical
exception of Dr. Sarolea, saw Germany as she was; occupied mainly with
Europe and only incidentally with England; indeed, in the first stages,
not occupied with England at all. Even the Anti-Germans were too
insular. Even those who saw most of Germany's plan saw too much of
England's part in it. They saw it almost wholly as a commercial and
colonial quarrel; and saw its issue under the image of an invasion of
England, which is even now not very probable. This fear of Germany was
indeed a very German fear of Germany. This also conceived the English as
Sea-Germans. It conceived Germany as at war with something like
itself--practical, prosaic, capitalist, competitive Germany, prepared to
cut us up in battle as she cut us out in business. The time of our
larger vision was not yet, when we should realise that Germany was more
deeply at war with things quite unlike herself, things from which we
also had sadly strayed. Then we should remember what we were and see
whence we also had come; and far and high upon that mountain from which
the Crescent was cast down, behold what was everywhere the real enemy of
the Iron Cross--the peasant's cross, which is of wood.

Even our very slight ripples of panic, therefore, were provincial, and
even shallow; and for the most part we were possessed and convinced of
peace. That peace was not a noble one. We had indeed reached one of the
lowest and flattest levels of all our undulating history; and it must be
admitted that the contemptuous calculation with which Germany counted on
our submission and abstention was not altogether unfounded, though it
was, thank God, unfulfilled. The full fruition of our alliances against
freedom had come. The meek acceptance of Kultur in our books and schools
had stiffened what was once a free country with a German formalism and a
German fear. By a queer irony, even the same popular writer who had
already warned us against the Prussians, had sought to preach among the
populace a very Prussian fatalism, pivoted upon the importance of the
charlatan Haeckel. The wrestle of the two great parties had long
slackened into an embrace. The fact was faintly denied, and a pretence
was still made that no pact: existed beyond a common patriotism. But the
pretence failed altogether; for it was evident that the leaders on
either side, so far from leading in divergent directions, were much
closer to each other than to their own followers. The power of these
leaders had enormously increased; but the distance between them had
diminished, or, rather, disappeared. It was said about 1800, in derision
of the Foxite rump, that the Whig Party came down to Parliament in a
four-wheeler. It might literally be said in 1900 that the Whig Party and
the Tory Party came to Parliament in a hansom cab. It was not a case of
two towers rising into different roofs or spires, but founded in the
same soil. It was rather the case of an arch, of which the
foundation-stones on either side might fancy they were two buildings;
but the stones nearest the keystone would know there was only one. This
"two-handed engine" still stood ready to strike, not, indeed, the other
part of itself, but anyone who ventured to deny that it was doing so. We
were ruled, as it were, by a Wonderland king and queen, who cut off our
heads, not for saying they quarrelled but for saying they didn't. The
libel law was now used, not to crush lies about private life, but to
crush truths about public life. Representation had become mere
misrepresentation; a maze of loopholes. This was mainly due to the
monstrous presence of certain secret moneys, on which alone many men
could win the ruinous elections of the age, and which were contributed
and distributed with less check or record than is tolerated in the
lowest trade or club. Only one or two people attacked these funds;
nobody defended them. Through them the great capitalists had the handle
of politics, as of everything else. The poor were struggling hopelessly
against rising prices; and their attempts at collective bargaining, by
the collective refusal of badly-paid work, were discussed in the press,
Liberal and Tory, as attacks upon the State. And so they were; upon the
Servile State.

Such was the condition of England in 1914, when Prussia, now at last
armed to the teeth and secure of triumph, stood up before the world, and
solemnly, like one taking a sacrament, consecrated her campaign with a
crime. She entered by a forbidden door, one which she had herself
forbidden--marching upon France through neutralised Belgium, where every
step was on her broken word. Her neutralised neighbours resisted, as
indeed they, like ourselves, were pledged to do. Instantly the whole
invasion was lit up with a flame of moral lunacy, that turned the
watching nations white who had never known the Prussian. The statistics
of non-combatants killed and tortured by this time only stun the
imagination. But two friends of my own have been in villages sacked by
the Prussian march. One saw a tabernacle containing the Sacrament
patiently picked out in pattern by shot after shot. The other saw a
rocking-horse and the wooden toys in a nursery laboriously hacked to
pieces. Those two facts together will be enough to satisfy some of us of
the name of the Spirit that had passed.

And then a strange thing happened. England, that had not in the modern
sense any army at all, was justified of all her children. Respected
institutions and reputations did indeed waver and collapse on many
sides: though the chief of the states replied worthily to a bribe from
the foreign bully, many other politicians were sufficiently wild and
weak, though doubtless patriotic in intention. One was set to restrain
the journalists, and had to be restrained himself, for being more
sensational than any of them. Another scolded the working-classes in the
style of an intoxicated temperance lecturer. But England was saved by a
forgotten thing--the English. Simple men with simple motives, the chief
one a hate of injustice which grows simpler the longer we stare at it,
came out of their dreary tenements and their tidy shops, their fields
and their suburbs and their factories and their rookeries, and asked for
the arms of men. In a throng that was at last three million men, the
islanders went forth from their island, as simply as the mountaineers
had gone forth from their mountain, with their faces to the dawn.

X--_The Battle of the Marne_

The impression produced by the first week of war was that the British
contingent had come just in time for the end of the world. Or rather,
for any sensitive and civilised man, touched by the modern doubt but by
the equally modern mysticism, that old theocratic vision fell far short
of the sickening terror of the time. For it was a day of judgment in
which upon the throne in heaven and above the cherubim, sat not God, but

The British had been posted at the extreme western end of the allied
line in the north. The other end rested on the secure city and fortress
of Namur; their end rested upon nothing. It is not wholly a sentimental
fancy to say that there was something forlorn in the position of that
loose end in a strange land, with only the sad fields of Northern France
between them and the sea. For it was really round that loose end that
the foe would probably fling the lasso of his charge; it was here that
death might soon be present upon every side. It must be remembered that
many critics, including many Englishmen, doubted whether a rust had not
eaten into this as into other parts of the national life, feared that
England had too long neglected both the ethic and the technique of war,
and would prove a weak link in the chain. The enemy was absolutely
certain that it was so. To these men, standing disconsolately amid the
hedgeless plains and poplars, came the news that Namur was gone, which
was to their captains one of the four corners of the earth. The two
armies had touched; and instantly the weaker took an electric shock
which told of electric energy, deep into deep Germany, battery behind
battery of abysmal force. In the instant it was discovered that the
enemy was more numerous than they had dreamed. He was actually more
numerous even than they discovered. Every oncoming horseman doubled as
in a drunkard's vision; and they were soon striving without speech in a
nightmare of numbers. Then all the allied forces at the front were
overthrown in the tragic battle of Mons; and began that black retreat,
in which so many of our young men knew war first and at its worst in
this terrible world; and so many never returned.

In that blackness began to grow strange emotions, long unfamiliar to our
blood. Those six dark days are as full of legends as the six centuries
of the Dark Ages. Many of these may be exaggerated fancies, one was
certainly an avowed fiction, others are quite different from it and more
difficult to dissipate into the daylight. But one curious fact remains
about them if they were all lies, or even if they were all deliberate
works of art. Not one of them referred to those close, crowded, and
stirring three centuries which are nearest to us, and which alone are
covered in this sketch, the centuries during which the Teutonic
influence had expanded itself over our islands. Ghosts were there
perhaps, but they were the ghosts of forgotten ancestors. Nobody saw
Cromwell or even Wellington; nobody so much as thought about Cecil
Rhodes. Things were either seen or said among the British which linked
them up, in matters deeper than any alliance, with the French, who spoke
of Joan of Arc in heaven above the fated city; or the Russians who
dreamed of the Mother of God with her hand pointing to the west. They
were the visions or the inventions of a mediaeval army; and a prose poet
was in line with many popular rumours when he told of ghostly archers
crying "Array, Array," as in that long-disbanded yeomanry in which I
have fancied Cobbett as carrying a bow. Other tales, true or only
symptomatic, told of one on a great white horse who was not the victor
of Blenheim or even the Black Prince, but a faint figure out of far-off
martyrologies--St. George. One soldier is asserted to have claimed to
identify the saint because he was "on every quid." On the coins, St.
George is a Roman soldier.

But these fancies, if they were fancies, might well seem the last sickly
flickerings of an old-world order now finally wounded to the death. That
which was coming on, with the whole weight of a new world, was something
that had never been numbered among the Seven Champions of Christendom.
Now, in more doubtful and more hopeful days, it is almost impossible to
repicture what was, for those who understood, the gigantic finality of
the first German strides. It seemed as if the forces of the ancient
valour fell away to right and left; and there opened a grand, smooth
granite road right to the gate of Paris, down which the great Germania
moved like a tall, unanswerable sphinx, whose pride could destroy all
things and survive them. In her train moved, like moving mountains,
Cyclopean guns that had never been seen among men, before which walled
cities melted like wax, their mouths set insolently upwards as if
threatening to besiege the sun. Nor is it fantastic to speak so of the
new and abnormal armaments; for the soul of Germany was really expressed
in colossal wheels and cylinders; and her guns were more symbolic than
her flags. Then and now, and in every place and time, it is to be noted
that the German superiority has been in a certain thing and of a certain
kind. It is _not_ unity; it is not, in the moral sense, discipline.
Nothing can be more united in a moral sense than a French, British, or
Russian regiment. Nothing, for that matter, could be more united than a
Highland clan at Killiecrankie or a rush of religious fanatics in the
Soudan. What such engines, in such size and multiplicity, really meant
was this: they meant a type of life naturally intolerable to happier and
more healthy-minded men, conducted on a larger scale and consuming
larger populations than had ever been known before. They meant cities
growing larger than provinces, factories growing larger than cities;
they meant the empire of the slum. They meant a degree of detailed
repetition and dehumanised division of labour, to which no man born
would surrender his brief span in the sunshine, if he could hope to beat
his ploughshare into a sword. The nations of the earth were not to
surrender to the Kaiser; they were to surrender to Krupp, his master and
theirs; the French, the British, the Russians were to surrender to Krupp
as the Germans themselves, after a few swiftly broken strikes, had
already surrendered to Krupp. Through every cogwheel in that
incomparable machinery, through every link in that iron and unending
chain, ran the mastery and the skill of a certain kind of artist; an
artist whose hands are never idle through dreaming or drawn back in
disgust or lifted in wonder or in wrath; but sure and tireless in their
touch upon the thousand little things that make the invisible machinery
of life. That artist was there in triumph; but he had no name. The
ancient world called him the Slave.

From this advancing machine of millions, the slighter array of the
Allies, and especially the British at their ultimate outpost, saved
themselves by a succession of hair's-breadth escapes and what must have
seemed to the soldiers the heartrending luck of a mouse before a cat.
Again and again Von Kluck's cavalry, supported by artillery and
infantry, clawed round the end of the British force, which eluded it as
by leaping back again and again. Sometimes the pursuer was, so to speak,
so much on top of his prey that it could not even give way to him; but
had to hit such blows as it could in the hope of checking him for the
instant needed for escape. Sometimes the oncoming wave was so close that
a small individual accident, the capture of one man, would mean the
washing out of a whole battalion. For day after day this living death
endured. And day after day a certain dark truth began to be revealed,
bit by bit, certainly to the incredulous wonder of the Prussians, quite
possibly to the surprise of the French, and quite as possibly to the
surprise of themselves; that there was something singular about the
British soldiers. That singular thing may be expressed in a variety of
ways; but it would be almost certainly expressed insufficiently by
anyone who had not had the moral courage to face the facts about his
country in the last decades before the war. It may perhaps be best
expressed by saying that some thousands of Englishmen were dead: and
that England was not.

The fortress of Maubeuge had gaped, so to speak, offering a refuge for
the unresting and tormented retreat; the British Generals had refused it
and continued to fight a losing fight in the open for the sake of the
common plan. At night an enormous multitude of Germans had come
unexpectedly through the forest and caught a smaller body of the British
in Landrecies; failed to dislodge them and lost a whole battalion in
that battle of the darkness. At the extreme end of the line
Smith-Dorrien's division, who seemed to be nearly caught or cut off, had
fought with one gun against four, and so hammered the Germans that they
were forced to let go their hold; and the British were again free. When
the blowing up of a bridge announced that they had crossed the last
river, something other than that battered remnant was saved; it was the
honour of the thing by which we live.

The driven and defeated line stood at last almost under the walls of
Paris; and the world waited for the doom of the city. The gates seemed
to stand open; and the Prussian was to ride into it for the third and
the last time: for the end of its long epic of liberty and equality was
come. And still the very able and very French individual on whom rested
the last hope of the seemingly hopeless Alliance stood unruffled as a
rock, in every angle of his sky-blue jacket and his bulldog figure. He
had called his bewildered soldiers back when they had broken the
invasion at Guise; he had silently digested the responsibility of
dragging on the retreat, as in despair, to the last desperate leagues
before the capital; and he stood and watched. And even as he watched the
whole huge invasion swerved.

Out through Paris and out and around beyond Paris, other men in dim blue
coats swung out in long lines upon the plain, slowly folding upon Von
Kluck like blue wings. Von Kluck stood an instant; and then, flinging a
few secondary forces to delay the wing that was swinging round on him,
dashed across the Allies' line at a desperate angle, to smash it in the
centre as with a hammer. It was less desperate than it seemed; for he
counted, and might well count, on the moral and physical bankruptcy of
the British line and the end of the French line immediately in front of
him, which for six days and nights he had chased before him like autumn
leaves before a whirlwind. Not unlike autumn leaves, red-stained,
dust-hued, and tattered, they lay there as if swept into a corner. But
even as their conquerors wheeled eastwards, their bugles blew the
charge; and the English went forward through the wood that is called
Crecy, and stamped it with their seal for the second time, in the
highest moment of all the secular history of man.

But it was not now the Crecy in which English and French knights had met
in a more coloured age, in a battle that was rather a tournament. It was
a league of all knights for the remains of all knighthood, of all
brotherhood in arms or in arts, against that which is and has been
radically unknightly and radically unbrotherly from the beginning. Much
was to happen after--murder and flaming folly and madness in earth and
sea and sky; but all men knew in their hearts that the third Prussian
thrust had failed, and Christendom was delivered once more. The empire
of blood and iron rolled slowly back towards the darkness of the
northern forests; and the great nations of the West went forward; where
side by side as after a long lover's quarrel, went the ensigns of St.
Denys and St. George.


_The words "England" and "English" as used here require a word of
explanation, if only to anticipate the ire of the inevitable Scot. To
begin with, the word "British" involves a similar awkwardness. I have
tried to use it in the one or two cases that referred to such things as
military glory and unity: though I am sure I have failed of full
consistency in so complex a matter. The difficulty is that this sense of
glory and unity, which should certainly cover the Scotch, should also
cover the Irish. And while it is fairly safe to call a Scotsman a North
Briton (despite the just protest of Stevenson), it is very unsafe indeed
to call an Irishman a West Briton. But there is a deeper difficulty. I
can assure the Scot that I say "England," not because I deny Scottish
nationality, but because I affirm it. And I can say, further, that I
could not here include Scots in the thesis, simply because I could not
include them in the condemnation. This book is a study, not of a disease
but rather of a weakness, which has only been predominant in the
predominant partner. It would not be true, for instance, to say either
of Ireland or Scotland that the populace lacked a religion; but I do
think that British policy as a whole has suffered from the English lack
of one, with its inevitable result of plutocracy and class contempt_.

End of Project Gutenberg's The Crimes of England, by G.K. Chesterton


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