Johann Gottlieb Fichte.

Addresses to the German nation online

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actual world, or trying to find out how the two might be
brought into connection ; you described your own world,
and left the actual one too much alone, despising and
scorning it. It is true that all regulation and formation
of actual life must proceed from a higher regulating idea,
and that going along in the accustomed way is not enough ;
that is an eternal truth, and in God's name crushes with
unconcealed contempt everyone who dares to occupy him-
self with aflfairs without knowing this. Nevertheless,
between the idea and the act of introducing it into every
separate form of life there lies a great gulf. To fill up

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this gulf is not only the work of the man of afF^^^irs, who
indeed must previously have learnt enough to be able
to understand you, but the work also of you, who in the
world of thought must not forget life. At this point f
both of you meet. Instead of looking askance at each ;
other across the gulf and depreciating each other, rather (
let each party be zealous to fill up the gulf from his side \
and so pave the way to union. Finally, comprehend
that both of you are as necessary to each other as head
and arm are necessary to each other.

These addresses appeal solemnly in other respects as well
to you, thinkers, scholars, and men of letters, to such of you
as are still worthy of the name. Your complaints about
the general shallowness, thoughtlessness, and vagueness,
about conceitedness and the inexhaustible flow of idle
chatter, about the contempt for seriousness and thorough-
ness that prevail in all classes, may be true, as indeed they
are. But then, what class is it which has brought up all
these classes, which has turned everything scientific into 1^

a game for them, and has trained them from their earliest ^^

youth to that conceitedness and idle chatter ? Who is itj^ '

that continues to instruct the generations that have left ^

school ? The most obvious cause of the stupidity of the
age is that it has read itself stupid with the works which ^^

you have written. Why do you, nevertheless, continue /

to make it your business to keep such indolent people
entertained, regardless of the fact that they have learnt
nothing and want to learn nothing ? . Why do you call
them " the public," flatter them by making them your ^

judges, set them on against your rivals, and seek by every
means to win over this blind and confused mob to your
side ? Finally, why do you give them, even in your
reviewing establishments and journals, not only the f

material, but also the model for their -hasty judgments, by ^

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delivering judgment yourselves as the fancy seizes you,
''^without any connecting principle and usually without
taste, in a way that the meanest of your readers could
equal ? If you do not all think like this, if even yet there
-are better-disposed writers among you, why do they not
unite to put an end to the evil ? Especially with refer-
ence to our men of business ; they ran through a course
at school under you ; you say it yourselves. Why did
you not make use of the time they spent with you to instil
into them at any rate some silent respect for the sciences,
and especially to shatter betimes the conceit of high-born
youths and to show them that, when it comes to thinking,
neither rank nor birth are of any avail ? If perchance
even at that time you flattered them and gave them
prominence beyond their merits, you must now bear the
burden of what you yourselves have created*

They are willing to pardon you, these addresses, on
the assumption that you had not grasped the importance
of your business ; they solemnly appeal to you to make
yourselves acquainted from this very hour with its impor-
tance, and no longer to carry it on as if it were merely a
trade. Learn to respect yourselves, show by your actions
that you do so, and the world will respect you. The first
proof of it you will give by the influence you yourselves
exert on the resolution that is here proposed, and by the
way in which you conduct yourselves in connection

225. These addresses appeal solemnly to you, princes
of Germany. Those who in their dealings with you act
as if no one ought to say anything whatever to you, or
could have occasion to say anything, are contemptible
flatterers ; they wickedly slander you and no one else ;
r 7 put them far from you. The truth is that you are born
just as ignorant as all the rest of us, and that you must


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listen and learn just as we must^ if you are to emerge from

this state of natural ignorance. Your share in bringing

about the fate that has befallen you together with your

peoples has been stated here in the mildest and, we f

believe, the only just and equitable way ; and unless you ^

are willing to listen to flattery only, but never to the ^ ^

truth, you can have no complaint to make against these ^

addresses. Let all this be forgotten, in the same way that ^'

all the rest of us wish that our share of the blame may be

forgotten. For you too, as for all of us, a new life now ^

begins. O, that this voice of mine might penetrate to

you through the whole environment which is wont to y^

make you inaccessible ! With proud self-reliance it may

say to you : you rule over peoples more loyal, more docile, 1 '^

more worthy of happiness than any princes have ever ^

ruled over in any age or any nation. They have a sense

of freedom and a capacity for it ; but th^ followed you

into a bloody war against what seemed to them freedom,

because you willed it. Some among you willed otherwise /

later, and they followed you into what must have seemed v

to them a war of extirpation against one of the last *«"

remnants of German independence and autonomy, again t

because you willed it so. Since then they have been bearing

and enduring the oppressive burden of our common woes ; ,>

and they cease not to be loyal to you, to cleave to you

with intense devotion, and to love you as their divinely

appointed guardians. If you could only observe them

without their knowing it ; if you could only escape from *

that environment, which does not always present the

loveliest aspect of humanity to you, and descend into the

houses of the citizen and the cottages of the peasant, f ^ .^

there to follow and reflect upon the quiet and secluded /'

life of these classes of society, with whom the qualities

of loyalty and uprightness, so rare now among the upper ' .^




classes, seem to have taken refuge'/ O, then, beyond a

doubt you would be filled with a resolve to think more
earnestly than ever how help might be brought to them.
These addresses have suggested to you a means of help
which they deem certain, thoroughgoing, and decisive.
Let your counsellors take counsel among themselves as
to whether they too are of this opinion, or whether they
know a better means ; only it must be equally decisive.
But the conviction that something must happen, and must
happen without delay, and that something thorough-
going and decisive must happen, and that the time for
half-measures and temporary expedients is over, this
conviction I would have these addresses bring forth in
you yourselves, if they can, seeing that they still have
the greatest confidence in your uprightness.

226. To all you Germans, whatever position you may
occupy in society, these addresses solemnly appeal ; let
every one of you, who can think, think first of all about
the subject here suggested, and let each do for it
what lies nearest to him individually in the position
he occupies.

227. Your forefathers unite themselves with these
addresses, and make a solemn appeal to you. Think that
in my voice there are mingled the voices of your ancestors
of the hoary past, who with their own bodies stemmed
the onrush of Roman world-dominion, who with their
blood won the independence of those mountains, plains,
and rivers which under you have fallen a prey to the
foreigner. They call to you : " Act for us ; let the
memory of us which you hand on to posterity be just
as honourable and without reproach as it was when it
came to you, when you took pride in it and in your

. descent from us. Until now, the resistance we made has

I been regarded as great and wise and noble ; we seemed

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the consecrated and the inspired in the divine world- ^

purpose. If our race dies out with you, our honour will
be turned to shame and our wisdom to foolishness.
\ For if, indeed, the German stock is to be swallowed up in (\

I Roman civilization, it were better that it had fallen before \.

ithe Rome of old than before a Rome of to-day. The ; «

'former we resisted and conquered; by the latter you %<

have been ground to dust. Seeing that this is so, you
shall now not conquer them with temporal weapons; ^

your spirit alone shall rise up against them and stand
erect. ^ To you has fallen the greater destiny, to found
the empire of the spirit and of reason, and completely to
annihilate the rule of brute physical force in the wor ld.'N
If you do this, then you arc worthy of your descent from




K '

228. Then, too, there mingle with these voices the'
spirits of your more recent forefathers, those who fell in
the holy war for the freedom of belief and of religion.
" Save our honour too,'* they cry to you. "To us it t

was not entirely clear what we fought for ; besides the
lawful resolve not to let ourselves be dictated to by exter-
nal force in matters of conscience, there was another ^
and a higher spirit driving us, which never fully revealed
itself to us. To you it is revealed, this spirit, if you have ^"^
the power of vision in the spiritual world ; it beholds you •'
with eyts clear and sublime. The varied and confused
mixture of sensuous and spiritual motives that has hitherto
ruled the world shall be displaced, and spirit alone, pure
and freed from all sensuous motives, shall take the helm of
human affairs. It was in order that this spirit might
have freedom to develop and grow to independent ^
existence — it was for this that we poured forth our blood.
It is for you to justify and give meaning to our sacrifice, if
by setting this spirit to fulfil its purpose and to rule the P

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world. If this does not come about as the final goal to
which the whole previous development of our nation has
been tending, then the battles we fought will turn out
to be a vain and fleeting farce, and the freedom of
conscience and of spirit that we won is a vain word,
if from now onwards spirit and conscience are to be no

-^ 2Z9. There comes a solemn appeal to you from your
descendants not yet born. " You boast of your fore-
fathers,'* they cry to you, " and link yourselves with pride
to a noble line. Take care that the chain does not
break off with you ; see to it that we, too, may boast of
you and use you as an unsullied link to connect ourselves
with the same illustrious line. Do not force us to be
ashamed of our descent from you as from base and
slavish barbarians ; do not compel us to conceal our
origin, or to fabricate a strange one and to take a strange
name, lest we be at once and without further examina-
tion rejected and trodden underfoot. As the next
generation that proceeds from you turns out to be,
so will your reputation be in history ; honourable, if
they bear honourable witness for you, but disgraceful
even beyond your due, if your descendants may not speak
for you, and the conqueror makes your history. Never
yet has a conqueror had sufiicient inclination or sufiicient
knowledge to judge the conquered justly. The rnore
he depreciates them, the more just does he himself stand
out. Who can know what great deeds, what excellent
institutions, what noble customs of many a people in the
ancient world have fallen, into oblivion, because their
descendants were forced under the yoke, while the
conqueror wrote an account of them that suited his
purpose, and there was none to contradict him 1 "
"230. A solemn appeal comes to you even from foreign

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countries, in so far as they still understand themselves
even to the slightest extent, and still have an eye for
their true advantage. Yea, in all nations there are still
some souls who cannot even yet believe that the great
promises of a realm of justice, reason, and truth for
the human race are vain and naught but a baseless delu-
sion, and who, therefore, assume that the present age of
ironjs but a transition to a better state. These soul^
and in them the whole of modern humanity, count upon
you. A large part of modern humanity is descended
from us, and the rest have received from us their religion
and all their civilization. The former solemnly appeal
to us by the soil of our common fatherland, which was
their cradle, too, and which they have left friee for us,
the latter by the culture they have received from us at
the pledge of a loftier bliss — ^both appeal to us to preserve
ourselves for them too and for their sake, just as we have
always been, and not to let the whole organism of the new
race that has arisen be violently deprived of this member
so important to it ; so that, when they come to need our
counsel, our example, and our co-operation in striving
towards the true goal of earthly life, they will not miss us,
to their pain.

231. All ages, all wise and good men who have ever
breathed upon this earth, all their thoughts and intuitions
of something loftier, mingle with these voices and sur*
round you and lift up imploring hands to you ; even, if
one may say so, providence and the divine plan in creat-
ing a race of men, a plan which exists only to be thought
out by men and to be brought by men into the actual
world — the divine plan, I say, solemnly appeals to you
to save its honour and its existence. Whether those were
right who believed that mankind must always grow
better, and that thoughts of a true order and worth of man





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. ' were no idle dreams, but the prophecy and pledge of the

real world that is to be — whether they' are to be proved

right, or those who continue to slumber in an animal and

vegetable existence and mock at every flight into higher

\ worlds — to give a final and decisive judgment on this

point is a work for you. The old world with its glory

; and its greatness, as well as its defects, has fallen by its

J own unworthiness and by the violence of your fathers.

^ /If there is truth in what has been expounded in these

^ addresses, then are you of all modern peoples the one in

, whom the seed of human perfection most unmistakably

> , I lies, and to whom the lead in its development is committed.

J / ^^ y^^ perish in this your essential nature, then there

! perishes together with you every hope of the whole

V human race for salvation from the depths of its miseries.

Do not console yourselves with an opinion based on thin

, . ^ airland depending on the mere recurrence of cases that

; have already happened ; do not hope that when the old

civilization has fallen a new one will arise once more

[ out of a semi-barbarous nation on the ruins of the first.

In ancient times there was such a people in existence,

equipped with every requirement for such a destiny and

> ; quite well known to the civilized people, who have left

us their description of it ; and they themselves, if they
'^ t ; had been able to imagine their own downfall, would have

.._ been able to discover in this people the means of recon-

struction. To us also the whole surface of the globe is
, quite well known and all the peoples that dwell thereon.

But do we know a people akin to the ancestral stock of
the modern world, of whom we may have « the same
expectation ? I think that everyone who does not merely
base his hopes and beliefs on idle dreaming, but investi-
gates thoroughly and thinks, will be bound to answer this
question with a NO. There is, therefore, no way out ;

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I if you go under, all humanity goes under with you, with-

I out hope of any future restoration.

This it was, gentlemen, which at the end of these
addresses I wanted and was bound to impress upon you,
who to me are the representatives of the nation, and
through you upon the whole nation.





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