Johann Gottlieb Fichte.

Addresses to the German nation online

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a German and to bring up his children as Germans.

They did not all die ; they did not see slavery ; they
bequeathed freedom to their children. It is their
unyielding resistance which the whole modern world has
to thank for being what it now is. Had the Romans
succeeded in bringing them also under the yoke and in
destroying them as a nation, which the Roman did in
every case, the whole development of the human race
would have taken a different course, a course that one
cannot think would have been more satisfactory. It is
/they whom wc must thank — ^we, the immediate heirs of
their soil, their language, and their Way of thinking —
for being Germans still, for being still borne along on
the stream of original and independent life. It is they
whom we must thank for everything that we have been
as a nation since those days, and to them we shall be
indebted for everything that we shall be in the future.

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unless things have come to an end with us now and the
last drop of blood inherited from them has dried up in
our veins. To them the other branches of the race,
whom we now look upon as foreigners, but who by descent
from them are our brothers, are indebted for their very
existence. When our ancestors triumphed over Roma the
eternal, not one of all these peoples was in existence, but
the possibility of their existence in the future was won for
them in the same fight.

122. These men, and all others of like mind in the
history of the world, won the victory because eternity^
inspired them, and this inspiration always does, and always
must, defeat him who is not so inspired. It is neither the
strong right arm nor the efficient weapon that wins
victories, but only the power of the soul. He who sets
a limit to his sacrifices, and has no wish to venture beyond
a certain point, ceases to resist as soon as he finds himself in
danger at this point, even though it be one which is vital
to him and which ought not to be surrendered. He who
sets no limit whatever for himself, but on the contrary
stakes everything he has, including the most precious
possession granted to dwellers here below, namely, life
itself, never ceases to resist, and. will undoubtedly win the
victory over an opponent whose goal is more limited.
A people that is capable of firmly bcjiolding the counten-
ance of that vision from the spiritual world, independence,
even though it be only its highest representatives and
leaders who are capable of perceiving it — ^a people capable
of being possessed by love of this vision, as our earliest
forefathers were, will undoubtedly win the victory over
.a people that is used, as were the Roman armies, only as
the tool of foreign ambition to bring independent people
under the yoke ; for the former have everything to lose,
and the latter merely something to gain. But the way




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of thinking which regards war as a game of chance, where
the stakes are temporal gain or loss, and which fixes the
amount to be staked on the cards even before it begins
the game — such a way of thinking is defeated even by a
whim. Think, for example, of a Mahomet — not the
Mahomet of history, about whom I confess I have no
opinion, but the Mahomet of a well-known French poet.*
He takes it firmly into his head once for all that he is one
of those exceptional beings who are called to lead the
obscure and common folk of the earth, and in accordance
with this preliminary assumption all his notions, no matter
how mean and limited they may be in reality, of necessity
seem to him, just because they are his own, great and sub-
lime ideas full of blessings for mankind ; all who set
themselves against these notions seem to him obscure and
common people, enemies of their own good, evil-minded,
and hateful. Then, in order to justify this conceit of
himself as a divine call, he lets this thought absorb his
whole life ; he must stake everything on it, and cannot
rest until he has trodden underfoot all who refuse to
think as highly of him as he does of himself, and until he
sees his own belief in his divine mission reflected in the
whole contemporary worljl. I will not say what would
happen to him if a spiritual vision, true and clear to itself,
entered the lists agaii\st him, but he is sure to be victorious
over those gamesters with limited stakes, for he stakes
everything against them and they do not stake everything.
No spirit drives them, but he is driven by a spirit, though
it be but a raving one, the violent and powerful spirit of
his own conceit.

123. From all this it follows that the State, merely as
the government of human life in its progress along the
ordinary peaceful path, is not something which is primary
^ [The reference is apparently to Voluire's tragedy MabomitJ]


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and which exists for its own sake, but is merely the meant
to the higher purpose of the eternal, regular, and con-
tinuous development of what is purely human in this
nation. It follows, too, that the vision and the love of -
this eternal development, and nothing else, should have
the higher supervision of State administration at all
times, not excluding periods of peace, and that this alone
is able to save the people's independence when it is
endangered. In the case of the Germans, among whom^y^
as an original people this love of fatherland was possible
and, as we firmly believe, did actually exist up to the
present time, it has been able up to now to reckon with
great confidence on the security of what was most vital
to it. As was the case with the ancient Greeks alone^
^ith the Germans the State and the nation were actually
separated from each other, and each was represented for
itself, the former in the separate German realms and
principalities, the latter represented visibly in the imperial
connection and invisibly — ^by virtue of a law, not
written, but living and valid in the minds of all, a law
whose results struck the eye everywhere — ^in a mass of
customs and institutions. ^Wherever the.German language
was spoken, everyone who had first seen the light oTday . /
in its domain could consider himself as in a double se^se ^
a citizen, on the one hand, of the State where he was born
and^o whose care he was in the first instance commended,
and, on the other.hand, of the whole common fatherland
of the German nation* To everyone it was permitted
to seek out for himself in the whole length and breadth
of this fatherland the culture most congenial to him or
the sphere of action to which his spirit was best adapted ;
and talent did not root itself like a tree in the place
where it first grew up, but was allowed to seek out its
own place. Anyone who, because of the turn taken by

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his own development, became out of harmony with his
immediate environment, easily found a willing reception
elsewhere, found new friends in place .pf those he had
lost, found time and leisure to make his meaning plainer
and perhaps to win over and to reconcile even those who
were offended with him, and so to unite the whole. No
German-born prince ever took upon himself to mark
out for his subjects as their fatherland, with mountains
or rivers as boundaries, the territory over which he
ruled, and to regard his subjects as bound to the soil.
A truth not permitted to find expression in one place
might find expression in another, where it might happen
that those truths were forbidden which were permitted
in the first. So, in spite of the many instances of one-
sidedness and narrowness of heart in the separate States,
there was nevertheless in Germany, considered as a whole,
. the greatest freedom of investigation and publication that
any people has ever possessed. Everywhere the higher
^Iture was, and continued to be, the result of the inter-
action of the citizens of all German States : and then this
higher culture gradually worked its way down in this
form to the people at large, which thus never ceased,
broadly speaking, to educate itself by itself. This
essential security for the continuance of a German nation
was, as we have said, not impaired by any man of German
spirit seated at the helm of government ; and though
with respect to other original decisions things may not
always have happened as the higher German love of
fatherland could not but wish, at any rate there has been
no act in direct opposition to its interests ; there has
been no attempt to undermine that love or to extirpate
it and put a love of the opposite kind in its place.

124. But what if the original guidance of that higher
culture, as well as of the national power which may not

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be used except to serve that culture and its continuance^
the utilization of German property and blood — what if
this should pass from the control of the German spirit/^
to that of another ? What would then be the inevitable^
results ?

This is the place where there is special need of the
disposition which we invoked in our first address — ^the
disposition not to deceive ourselves wilfully about our
own affairs, and the courage to be willing to behold the
truth and confess it to ourselves. Moreover, it it still
permitted to us, so far as I know, to speak to each other
in the German language about the fatherland^ or at
least to sigh over it, and, in my opinion, we should not
do well if we anticipated of our own accord such a pro*
hibition, or if we were ready to restrain our courage^ ^
which without doubt will already have taken counsel
with itself as to the risk to be run, with the chains forged
by the timidity of some individuals.

Picture to yourselves, then, the new power, which we
are presupposing, as well-disposed and as benevolent as
ever you may wish ; make it as good as God Himself ;
will you be able to impart to it divine understanding as
well ? Even though it wish in all earnestness the greatest
happiness and well-being of everyone, do you suppose
that the greatest well-being it is able to conceive will be
the same thing as German well-being ? In regard to
the main point which I have put before you to-day, I
hope I have been thoroughly well understood by you ;
I hope that several, while they listened to me, thought
and felt that I was only expressing in plain words what
has always lain in their minds ; I hope that the other .
Germans who will some day read this will have the same
feeling — indeed, several Germans have said practically
the same thing before I did, and the unconscious basis of

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the resistance that has been repeatedly manifested to a
purely mechanical constitution and policy of the State
has been the view of things which I have presented to you.
Now, I challenge all those who are acquainted with the
modern literature of foreign countries to show me one
of their poets or legislators who in recent times has ever
betrayed a glimmering of anything similar to the view
that regards the human race as eternally progressing^ and
that refers all its activities in this world solely to this
eternal progress. Even in the period of their boldest
flights of political creation, was there a single one who
demanded more from the State than the abolition of
inequalities, the maintenance of peace within their
borders and of national reputation without, or, in the
extremest case, domestic bliss ? If, as we must conclude
from all these indications, this is their highest good, they
will not attribute to us any higher needs or any higher
demands on life. Assuming they always display that
beneficent disposition towards us and are free from any
selfishness or desire to be greater than we are, they will
think they have provided splendidly for us if we are given
everything that they themselves know to be desirable.
But the thing for which alone the nobler men among
us wish to live is then blotted out of public life ; and as
soon as the people, which has always shown itself responsive
to the stirrings of the noble mind and which we were
entitled to hope might be elevated in a body to that
nobility, is treated as those to whom we are referring
want to be treated, it is degraded and dishonoured, and^
by its confluence with a people of a lower species, it is
blotted out of the universe.

125. But he, in whom those higher demands on life
remain alive and powerful and who has a feeling that
their right is divine, feels himself set back, much against

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his will, into those early days of Christianity, when it was
said : " Resist not evil ; but whosoever shall smite thee
on the right cheek, turn to him the other also ; and if
any man will take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke
also." The latter is well said, for, so long as he sees that
thou still hast a cloke, he seeks to pick a quarrel with thee
so as to take this from thee also, and only when thou art
quite naked wilt thou escape his attention and be left
in peace. To such a man the earth becomes a hell and
a place of horror, just because of his higher mind, which
does him honour. He wishes he had never been born ;
he wishes that his eyes may be closed to the light of day,
and the sooner the better ; his days are filled with ever-
lasting sorrow until he descends to the grave, and for those
whom he loves he can wish no greater boon than a dull
and contented mind, so that with less suffering they may
live for an eternal life beyond the grave.

These addresses lay before you the sole remaining means,
now that the others have been tried in vain, of preventing
this annihilation of every nobler impulse that may breakout
among us in the future, and of preventing this degradation
of our whole nation. They propose that you establish
deeply and indelibly in the hearts of all, by means of
education, the true and all-powerful love of fatherland,
the conception of our people as an eternal people and*^
as the security for our own eternity. What kind of
education can do. this, and how it is to be done, we shall
see in the following addresses.

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126. In our last address several proofs that had been
Promised in the first address were given and completed.
ihc present problem, the first task, we said, is simply
to preserve the existence and continuance of what is
German. All other differences vanished, we said, before
the higher point of view, and thereby no harm would
happen to the special obligations under which anyone
might consider himself to be. If only we keep in mind
the distinction that has been drawn between State and
nation, it is clear that even in the past it was not possible
for their interests ever to come into conflict. Besides, the
higher love of fatherland, love for the whole people of the
German nation, had to reign supreme, and rightly so, in
each particular German State. Not one of them could,
Indeed, lose sight of this higher interest without alienating
everything noble and good, and so hastening its own down-
fall. The more, therefore, anyone was affected and
animated by that higher interest, the better citizen also
he was for (he particular German State, in which his
immediate sphere of action lay. German States might
quarrel among themselves about particular established
privileges. Anyone who wished for the continuance of
the established state of affairs, and this must undoubtedly


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have been the wish of every sensible person for the sake
of the more remote consequences, must have desired
right to prevail, no matter on what side it might be.
A particular German State could, at most, have aimed at
uniting the whole German nation under its sway, and at
introducing autocracy in place of the established republic
of peoples. Suppose, as I for instance of course maintain,
that it is just this republican constitution that has hitherto
been the best source of German civilization and the chief
guarantee of its individuality. Then, if the unity of
government which we are presupposing had itself borne,
not the republican, but the monarchical form, linder
which 'it would have been possible for the autocrat to
nip in the bud for his lifetime any new branch of original
culture throughout the whole German soil — ^if my sup-
position is true, I say, it would certainly have been a
great disaster for the cause of German love of fatherland,
if that plan had succeeded, and every man of noble mind
throughout the whole length and breadth of the common
soil would have been bound to resist it. Yet, even in
this most unfortunate event, it would always have been
Germans who ruled over Germans and were the original
directors of their affairs. Even if for a short period the
characteristic German spirit had been lacking, there would
still have remained the hope that it would awake again,
and every stout heart throughout the whole country
could have expected to get a hearing and to make
itself intelligible. A German nation would always have
remained in existence and have ruled itself, and would
not have sunk into an existence of a lower order. Here

fthe essential point in our calculation is always that German .
national love itself either is at the helm of the German
State or can reach it with its influence. But if, according

-to our previous supposition, the control of the German

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State — ^whether now that State appear as one or as
several does not matter ; in reality it is one— dropped
from German into foreign hands, it is certain — ^for the
opposite would be contrary to all nature and utterly
impossible — ^it is certain, I say, that from that moment
onwards no longer German, but foreign interests would
decide. Whereas formerly the united national interest
of the Germans had its place and was represented at
the helm of the State, it would now be banished. Now,
if it is not to be completely destroyed from off the earth,
another place of refuge must be prepared for it, and that
in what alone remains, with the governed, among the
citizens. If it already existed in the majority of them,
we should not have got into the plight which we are now
considering ; therefore, it does not exist in them, and must
first of all be instilled in theny v^n other words, the
majority of the citizens must be educated to this sense
of fatherland, and, in order that one may be sure of the
majority, this education must be tried on all. y So with
' this it is now plainly and clearly proved, as was likewise
I formerly promised, that education is the only p o ssibl e
' means of saving German independence. Undoubtedly
Ut will not be our fault if anyone has not even yet been
able to grasp the true content and the purpose of these
addresses, and the sense in which all our statements are
to be taken.

127. To put it more briefly. According to our sup-
position, those who need protection are deprived of the
guardianship of their parents and relatives, whose place
has been taken by masters. If they are not to become
absolute slaves, they must be released from guardianship,
and the first step in this direction is to educate them to
manhood. Germanjove of fatherland has lost its^lace ;
it shall get another, a wider and deeper"one^ there in

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peace and obscurity it shall establish itself and harden itsdf
like steel, and at the right moment break forth in youthful
strength and restore to the State its lost independence.
Now, in regard to this restoration foreigners, and also
those among us who have petty and narrow minds and
despairing hearts, need not be alarmed ; one can console
them with the assurance that not one of them will live
to see it, and that the age which will live to see it will
think otherwise than they.

128. Now whether this proof, closely though its parts
hang together, will affect others and stimulate them to
activity, depends first of all upon whether there is such
a thing as the German individuality and German love
of fatherland which we have described, and whether it
is worth preserving and striving after or not. That the
foreigner, abroad or at home, denies this may be taken
for granted ; but his advice is not asked for. Besides,
it is to be noted here that the deciding of this question
does not depend at all upon proof by conceptions; f

these can certainly make us clear in this matter, but can * . i

give no information about real existence or value, which !

can be proved only by the immediate experience of each <

individual. In a case like this, though millions may say
that it does not exist, that can never mean more than that i

it does not exist in them ; by no means, however, that ,

it does not exist at all ; and if a single person rises against
these millions and declares that it does exist, he carries
his point against them all. Nothing prevents me, as
I now speak, from being in the given case that one person
who asserts that he knows from immediate experience '

that there is such a thing as German love of fatherland, :

that he knows the infinite value of its object, that this
love alone has driven him, in spite of every danger, to , « , t

say what he has said and will still say, since nothing else [

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I . !

is left to us now but speech, and even it is checked and
, restrained in every way. Whoever feels this within him

will be convinced ; whoever does not feel it cannot be
convinced, for my proof rests entirely on that supposition ;
on him my words are lost ; but who would not stake
something so insignificant as words ?

129. That definite education, from which we expect
the salvation of the German nation, has been described
in general terms in our second and third addresses. We

^^described it as a complete regeneration of the human race,
and it will be appropriate to link up with this description
j^ . ., a repetition of the general survey.

130. \As.a-£uler the- worH-of the senses was formerly
\ accepted as the only true and really existing world ; it

was the first that was brought before the pupil in educa-

[■ '. tioii>) From it alone was he led on to thought and, for

^ j the most part, to thought that was about it and in its

. ] ; service. Jlhe new education exactly reverses this order. ^

' , , [ For it the world that is jcpmprehended by thought is

* . ' I ! the only true and really existing world, and into this it

V { ; , wishes to introduce the pupil from the very beginning.

I . It is only to this world of the spirit that it wishes to link

his whole love and his whole pleasure, so that with him

there will inevitably begin and develop a life in it alone.

Formerly there lived in the majority naught but flesh,

matter, and nature; through the new education spirit

alone shall live in the majority, yea, very soon in all,

,and spur them on ; the stable and certain spirit, which

^^was mentioned before as the only possible foundation

of a well-organized State, shall be produced everywhere.

131. Such an education undoubtedly achieves the
object which we have specially set before us and from
which our addresses started. That spirit which is to

^ ibe produced includes the higher love of fatherland, the

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conception of its earthly life as eternal and of the father-
land as the support of that eternity. If it is produced in
the Germans, it will include love of the German father-
land as one of its essential elements, and from that love
there spring of themselves the courageous defender of
his country and the peaceful and honest citizen. Such
an education, indeed, achieves even more than that
immediate object ; that is always the case when thorough-
going measures are wdlled for a great purpose ; the whole
man is inwardly perfected and completed in every part,
and outwardly equipped with perfect fitness for all
his purposes in time and eternity. Spiritual nature has
inseparably connected our complete cure from all the
evils that oppress us with our recovery as a nation and

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Online LibraryJohann Gottlieb FichteAddresses to the German nation → online text (page 13 of 22)