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This tendency in a nation to look about for justification and a righteous plea, when it is preparing to possess itself of property belonging to its neighbours, is for the most part a subconscious process, not only {114} among the common people, but also among the leaders themselves. It resembles the instinct among hens which produces in them an appetite for lime when the season has come to begin laying. It was through some natural impulse of this sort, and not through mere cynicism, hypocrisy, or cool calculation, that German publicists discovered all the grievances which have been already touched upon. For even if the possession of these grievances did not altogether give the would-be aggressors right up to the point of righteousness, it certainly put their neighbours in the wrong, and branded the French dove and the British lamb with turpitude in the eyes of the German people. The grievances against France were, that although she had been vanquished in 1870, although her population had actually decreased since that date, and although therefore she had neither the right to nor any need for expansion, she had nevertheless expanded in Africa as well as in the East, to a far greater extent than Germany herself, the victorious power, whose own population had meanwhile been increasing by leaps and bounds.

GRIEVANCES AGAINST ENGLAND

The grievances against Britain were that she was supposed to have made war upon German trade, to have prevented her young rival from acquiring colonies, and to have intrigued to surround the Teuton peoples with a ring of foes. Britain had helped France to occupy and hold her new territories. Britain had been mainly responsible for the diplomatic defeat of Germany at Algeciras in 1905 and again over Agadir in 1911. Moreover when Germany, during the South African war, had attempted, in the interests of international morality, to combine the nations against us, we had foiled her high-minded {115} and unselfish endeavours. When at an earlier date she had sought, by the seizure of Kiao-Chau and by a vigorous concentration, to oust British influence and trade from their position of predominance in China, we had countered her efforts by the occupation of Wei-hai-wei and the Japanese alliance.

As regards command of the sea we had likewise frustrated German ambitions. After a certain amount of vacillation, and a somewhat piteous plea for a general diminution of armaments—backed up by an arrest of our own, which Germany interpreted, perhaps not unnaturally, as a throwing up of the sponge and beginning of the end of our naval supremacy—we had actually had the treachery (for it was nothing less) to upset all her calculations, and turn all her efforts and acceleration to foolishness, by resuming the race for sea-power with redoubled energy. And although to our own eyes, and even possibly to the eyes of impartial observers, none of these doings of ours—in so far as they were truly alleged—could be rightly held to constitute any real grievance, that consideration was irrelevant. For when a man is in search of a grievance he will find it, if he be earnest enough, in the mere fact that his intended adversary stammers, or has a wart upon his nose.

German statesmen were happy in having established these grievances to their own satisfaction; but something more was necessary in order that their morality might rest upon a sure foundation. German policy must be absolutely right, and not merely relatively right by contrast with those neighbours whose power she sought to overthrow, and whose territories she wished to annex. And although this {116} effort to establish German policy on the principle of Right involved a recasting of Christian morality, it was not shirked on that account. On the contrary it was undertaken in a most energetic spirit.

The first great influence in this readjustment of popular conceptions of right and wrong was the historian Heinrich von Treitschke.[1] He boldly differentiated the moral obligations of the private individual from those of a government charged with the destinies of a nation.[2] The duties of a man to his family, neighbours, and society Treitschke left undisturbed. In this sphere of human life the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount not only remained unchallenged, but was upheld and reinforced. Statecraft, however, fell under a different category.

THE STATE IS POWER

The true principle of private conduct was Love for one's Neighbour, but the true principle of the state was Power. The duty of a virtuous ruler was to seek power, more power, and always more power, on behalf of the nation he was called upon to govern. The internal power of the state over the action of its own subjects was absolute, and it was a duty owed by each generation of rulers to posterity, to see to it that in their own time, the external power of the {117} state was increased at the expense of its neighbours.[3] To secure this end wars were inevitable; and despite the sufferings which wars entailed, they were far from regrettable, for the reason that they preserved the vigour, unity, and devotion of the race, while stimulating the virtues of courage and self-sacrifice among private citizens.[4]

Nations, he maintained, cannot safely stand still. They must either increase their power or lose it, expand their territories or be prepared to see them shorn away. No growth of spiritual force or material well-being within the state will preserve it, if it fails to extend its authority and power among its neighbours. Feelings of friendliness, chivalry, and pity are absurd as between nations. To speak even of justice in such a connection is absurd. Need and Might together constitute Right. Nor ought the world to regret the eating-up of weak nations by the strong, of small nations by the great, because—a somewhat bold conclusion—great and powerful nations alone are capable of producing what the world requires in thought, art, action, and virtue. For how can these things flourish nobly in a timid, cowering state, which finds itself driven by force of circumstances to make-believes and fictions, to {118} the meanest supplications and to devices of low cunning, in order to preserve an independence which, as it can only exist on sufferance, is nothing better than a sham?[5]

As the Hohenzollerns, the noblest and most capable of modern dynasties, had never been content merely to reign, but had always maintained their 'divine right' of ruling and dominating the Prussian Kingdom—as Prussia itself, the most manly and energetic of modern nations, had not been content merely to serve as the figurehead of a loose confederation, but had insisted upon becoming supreme master and imposing its own system, policy, and ideals upon all Germany—so was it the duty and destiny of united Germany, under these happy auspices, having been taught and seasoned by long centuries of stern and painful apprenticeship, to issue forth in the meridian vigour of her age and seize upon the Mastery of the World.

FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE

If Treitschke, the eloquent historian, succeeded to his own satisfaction and that of a very large proportion of German statesmen, soldiers, intellectuals, and publicists in taking high policy altogether out of the jurisdiction of Christian morals, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche,[6] the even more eloquent and infinitely more subtle poet-philosopher, made a cleaner and {119} bolder cut, and got rid of Christian morality even in the sphere of private conduct.

Nietzsche was but little interested or concerned in the practical problems of statecraft which engrossed the patriotic mind of Treitschke. The destinies of the German nation were for him a small matter in comparison with those of the human race. But nevertheless his vigorously expressed contempt for the English, their ways of life and thought, the meanness of their practical aims, and the degradation of their philosophic ideals,[7] was comforting to his fellow-countrymen, who were relieved to find that the nation whom they desired to despoil was so despicable and corrupt. This train of argument was deceptive and somewhat dangerous; for it led his German readers to overlook the fact, that the broad front of his attack aimed at enveloping and crushing the cherished traditions of the Teuton race no less than those of the Anglo-Saxon.[8]

{120}

Nietzsche's derision and dislike of the Prussian spirit, of militarism, and of what he conceived to be the spurious principle of nationality, his vague, disinterested cosmopolitanism or Europeanism, are as the poles apart from the aims and ideas of Treitschke and the German patriots.[9] Nietzsche is not concerned to evolve a sovereign and omnipotent state, but a high overmastering type of man, who shall inherit the earth and dominate—not for their good, but for his own—the millions who inhabit it. His ideal is a glorious aristocracy of intellect, beauty, courage, self-control, felicity, and power, scornfully smiling, exuberantly vital. The evolution, ever higher and higher, of this fine oligarchy of super-men is the one absolute end of human endeavour. The super-men will use and direct the force and instincts of 'the herd'—even the capacities of kings, soldiers, law-givers, {121} and administrators—to make the world a fit place for their own development. The millions of slaves are to be considered merely as a means to this end. Concern about them for their own sakes, above all pity for their sufferings, or regard on the part of the super-men for their resentment—except to guard against it—is a mistake. The serenity of the superman must not allow itself to be disturbed and distracted by any such considerations. It is for him to take what he needs or desires, to impose order on the world, so that it may be a fit environment for the evolution of his own caste, and, so far as he can compass it, to live like the gods.[10]

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