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Imperial Germany; a critical study of fact and character online

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the same way. He would fain be rich. He dislikes
the Jews because they are rich. And vet ilu- cIkuk es
arc the Philistine.- will even lake his dail\- (opinions

> As aldo were formerly many Gcrmai) r.-is (oinpaiiics.


Imperial Germany.

Harmfulness of
Ihe Philistine.


from a Jewish paper, and \ote for a Jewish town coun-
cihiian (U' member of ParHament. He will even at a
pinch employ a Jewish lawyer and call in a doctor of
the Hebrew persuasion ; in fact, it throws a lurid light
on the helplessness of the Philistine that the Jews — a
foreign but homogeneous element — have gained such
ground in the midst of them, notwithstanding all such


Such is the inconsistency of the German Philistine ;
and yet, in the aggregate, he is a powerful animal for
harm. He has given Prince Bismarck a lot of trouble
in his time. He actually chuckled with delight in those
days when the great man was irritated by the venomous
onslaughts of Liberal orators. To-day he gloats over
the discontent of the working classes as evidenced by
the spread of social democracy ; he loves to exaggerate
it and to foretell the ruin of the future. He does not
know that the narrow-minded apathy and incapacity of
his class are in part responsible for the growth of what he
deplores. It is in part owing to his want of stamina and
national feeling that the Social Democrats have had
such easy play. In fact, the Philistine petty middle
class is already being gradually absorbed by the Social
Democrats ; for manv Philistine characteristics have
found a congenial field in the new movement : one in
particular, the gospel of hate.

When imperial measures are proposed which seem to
curtail the privileges of his own petty sovereign, he rails
and throws himself in the breach, or, more literally,
buries his head in his beer-mug and mutters his impre-
cations at Prussian arrogance. Not that his meager
loyalty will hold water, for in his own narrow circle he is

The Philistine. 249

the life and soul of opposition to the powers that be.
He hates and detests the "beggarly" aristocracy, and
sneers at its pretensions to refinement. And at the bot-
tom of it all there is a sneaking fondness for the Aus-
trians, and even for the French ; for until lately there
was a Chinese wall of Philistinism between Prussia and
some of the other states, where even to-day patriotism
is yet a sickly plant.

Bismarck is reported to have once said, " Germany is
being ruined by the beer plague," and beer is indeed a beer

. . . ... ... politician.

the spirit that inspires the Philistine, the beer politician
par excellence I It nourishes his envy. He wonders
how much money his neighbors are making. If he
hears that one of them is in the habit of having hot
suppers at home, he spreads the report that he is living
beyond his means. If he thinks the proprietor of his
favorite beer-house is making too much money, this
also is apt to disagree with him, and lie aiul his boon
companions will suddenly transfer their patronage to the
opposite side of the street, in order to show mine host
that, although he may have taken their money, he is
nobody after all. If anything irritates the Philistine
more than the knowledge that anybody is making
money, it is to have to admit the political success of an
opponent. Wiien a German member of I'arlianuMit
told Bismarck that (icrnian unity had fallen like a ripe
fruit into his lap — when Windhorst, the great Catholic
parliamentary leader, told Bismarck that it was easy to
do what he had done, witii the Prussian army at his
back — that sentiment found a ready echo in the IMiilis-
tine heart throughcjut llie I-'atherland.

-Slander is the favorite pastime of the Philislinc, and
the smaller fry of local lawyers arc sujjported b)- the ',",V""i'.""ii.r
endless despicable (juarrels which np and omtIIou


Imperial Germany.


out of the caldron of hate into the pubhc press. German
laws against defamation of character are so vexatious,
and at the same time so inadequate, that although you
can hardly say an unkind thing of a neighbor with-
out being liable to pay a fine of three marks (seventy-
five cents), yet you can indulge in a cataract of in-
vective and insidiously endeavor to ruin a person's
character, and the law is almost powerless to afford
adequate protection to the slandered ; for the Philistine
originates as well as propagates slander. This state of
things suits the temperament of the Philistine, whose de-
light is to serve out his neighbor in a mean, contempt-
ible spirit. Thus, you can hardly turn over the leaves
of the smaller provincial papers without "apologies"
and "retractions" of the flimsiest kind meeting your
eye. A common form is the following : " Herewith I
withdraw my slanders against X, and warn everybody
against circulating them any further." We translate
the following three notices from the columns of a single
number of the leading Saxon newspaper :

Declaration of Honor. — I regret the insults that I gave
expression to, under excitement, with regard to Messrs.
Naumann, hotel keepers, in Leutewitz.

A. O. Seifert.

We herewith withdraw the insuking remarks made by us
with regard to Mrs. Ida Schetel, nee Schulze.

(Signed) R. Bohme.
H. Bohme.

L. Hoenig herewith withdraws the viUfications expressed by
him with regard to the Club.

Keniency of
penal laws.

In Germany it cannot be said, " De minimis non
curat lex " ; ' also, it is to be deplored that the compara-
tive cheapness and leniency of the penal laws pander to

1 The law does not concern itself about verv small matters.

The Philistine. 251

the Philistine and othtr \icious instincts. The law,
to our idea, attacks the individual too readily in trivial
prosecutions, and in serious offenses its punishments are
not severe enough. In this, there is too much humani-
tarianism. A form of crime very common in Germany
— stabbing (often with fatal results) — is treated far too
leniently. The policy of hanging a few to encourage
the others would be efficacious.

The founders of German unity are under no illusions
as to the dangers to which their labors are still exposed Fear of the
from the spirit of hatred, of en\y, and of dogmatic
obstinacy in the Philistine. They fear it more than
French battalions and Russian Cossacks. And well
they may. It is widespread, and although not particu-
larly demonstrative at present, it is by no means ex-
tirjjated, much less powerless for harm in the future. It
is doubly dangerous, as it appeals even to intellectual
men on their weakest side — their vanity. Such an
instance, already cited, is that of an eminent German
professor, of European reputation, the strong advocate
of a great and powerful Germany, who hurried off to
Italy in a fit of the sulks when once it came to be,
merely because his vanity was wounded that it had
not come about in his scholarly fashion. Men of this
stamp are prone to hold forth on the sanctity of moral
conviction, but fail to .see the line that separates this qual-
ity from an exaggerated sense of stubborn dogmatism
and vanity. German vanity is a very different thing
from French vanity, but it is none the better for that.
If Hismarck had been possessed of more \anity, lie
would ha\'e also shown more consistency of the kind
that passes fiMTent with the Philistines — the cf)nsistcncy
of oblirjuity and greenness of vision.

Those verv elements in Germanv (hat wire most

(iciinaii vaiiilv.


Imperial Gennany.

False patriot-

Its origin.

obstinate in opposing Bismarck's plans are now the
ones which are constantly lauding everything German,
and rending the air on festive occasions with their
appeals to every German virtue. A German steamer
is wrecked in the Red Sea, and aggressive newspaper
articles hasten to reassure the public that such disasters

I will not influence

the " civilizing"

I mission (that bit

of French prosti-
tution of lan-
guage) Germany
has over the seas.
We have even
heard it soberly
stated that the
German lan-
guage is rapidly
gaining ground
in the United
States! Such
talk is not natural
to the hardy

Pomeranian or
"Rheinstein," A Famous Castle ON THE Rhink. i • i i c

kuidred men or
arms, whose broken bones have furnished the cement of
unity. Such stuff has been gleaned from the cosmo-
politan braggarts of other countries, and finds parrot-
like currency among German Philistines. It has not
even the merit of originality.

The Germans who go to the United States lose
their national individuality, and that, together with
their working capacity, goes to swell the great aggre-
gate of the English-speaking race there. Alas, for the

The Philistine. 253

\ain hopes of the PhiHstine ! Bismarck knows this, as
he knows most other things — notably, the pecuHarities
of the German PhiUstines. He knows that, side by side
with the great quahties of the nation, there lurks a
good portion of paltry egotism in public as well as in j,^j
private life. He is the one great man of his time who
has dared to tell his countrymen of their failings. We
know of no other ])ublic man in any country who has
had similar courage. But he could do it, and they have
had to hear it, for they knew that they could not bluster
and intimidate the man of iron. And many like him all
the better for this. They instinctively feel that he has
earned the right to tell them the truth, though they are
loth to admit it.

The late emperor William, as well as Bismarck, felt
that the social e\ils of the age will not be met by ap-
peals to the Philistine spirit, much less by any initiative
from that quarter. This is why they strove to take the
initiati\e, an act for which so many doctrinaires con-
demn them. Whether it will succeed the future will
show, but it only wants an acquaintance with the Philis-
tine to understand the attempt being made.


Altiiuugh tlic Philistine is a coarse animal, lie is yet a
very sensitive one. For although education is supposed Philistine sen-

- .'..,. , sitivciicss.

to rehne outward manners, it is mainly owing to tlie
Philistine influence that we meet coarseness and arro-
gance allied to a high standard of book education in
Germany more than elsewhere. An average English-
man will stand any anK)unt of censure if he sees at the
outset that he is in the wrong. .Somehow common
sense tells him that is the main i.ssue, and tlie censure
merely a natural consequence. Not so the German

254 Imperial Germany.

Philistine : you must not trespass on his sensitiveness,
be he never so much at fault ; you must remember his
dignity. Thus it will not surprise us to learn that the

i.ack oi humor. Philistine is devoid of humor. Over-sensitive people
never have any humor. True humor is good-natured
and does not mind being the subject of laughter. In his
soft moments he is sensible to lyric poetry, especially of
a sickly, namby-pamby kind. In fact, it must have been
a German Philistine recovering from one of his fits of the
lyrical blues who invented the national proverb, "In
money matters there is an end of sentiment," a sober,
utilitarian dogma, which cannot be surpassed in the
works of the late John Stuart Mill or of Professor Clifford.
But over practical utilitarianism the Philistine cannot
afford to lose sight of the "ideal," so he has initiated a
crusade against the use of foreign words in the lan-
guage. Everything foreign must be extirpated root
and branch ! This would seem less unnatural were it
not that, until yesterday, the Philistine would have
hailed the French or Austrians with open arms if they
had come and given the Prussians a thrashing. But

Kxtirpation oi that was yesterday ! To-day even the French language
must be tabooed, and, if possible, discarded. A con-
gress of card-players is held in Leipzig, and although it
hesitates to banish ' ' all ' ' foreign denominations from
the popular game of scat, it yet decides to do away with
every term of French origin.

Naturally, such crazes find no footing in the army,
where many denominations are French. .In fact, a
German army corps is a mighty German creation, al-
though the name is French.

Tile recognition and adaptation of what is foreign is a
two-edged sword. It may be a sign of mental breadth,
but it is likely to go too far ; with the Germans It

The Philistine. 255

has often verged on the ridiculous. The opposition of

the PhiUstines to the use of the French languaee will opposition

* i^' to French

not instantly obliterate that fact. They are the people language.
who until lately would accept nothing indigenous with-
out strong reservations of " ifs " and "buts," while
often taking a worthless article unquestioned if guaran-
teed English or French.

That the preference for what is foreign has been a
great failing of the Germans is undoubted. The intelli-
gence of Germany has endeavored to derive benefit
from its attention to foreign matters, whereas the Phil-
istine has learned nothing but the cheap art of ranting
in unison with the beer-house cry of the time.


The far-sighted genius of Germany foresaw that the
French would sooner or later endeavor to obtain the
left bank of the Rhine. The Philistine saw nothing of
the sort : he would even have preferred the rule of Louis
Napoleon to the hegemony of Prussia. But Germany's
leaders knew even more than that : they knew that,
once the French gained the left bank of the Rhine, it The left bank
would not take long to Frenchify it. The left-bank
Philistine would not have taken long to assimilate ; arc-
there none living now who still remember the French
sympathies on the left bank of the Rhine long after
1 81 5? IjiU (iod willed it otherwise, and to-day the Philis-
tine on the banks of the Rhine is strictly German, and as
such is at liberty to impair his digestion and lo nniddli
his brain with his mi.xture of beer and cheap patriotism.

The late Lord Lytton praised the Germans as critics.
No wonder they have become cc-lebrated in that rapacity,
for have they not one half of the critic's functions the
quality of detraction ready-made in the Philistine?



Nil sine labore."

There can be no doubt that the manufacture, export,
Increase of Ger- and general consumption of German goods has increased

man commerce. . ... . , r i i

enormously, ni one steady nsmg tide, say for the last
fifteen years. But quite as interesting as these un-
doubted facts are some of their causes, and with regard
to these very hazy notions seem to exist.

It is not that England no longer alone possesses the
(jualities that made her merchants and manufacturers
the greatest of the globe : it is not that the mantle with
these qualities has suddenly fallen on the shoulders of
Germany, or that technical education, or that state
assistance, or that protective tariffs, or cheap labor,
either are, in themselves, the only causes of this high
tide of German commerce, though they all undoubtedly
have something to do with it.

The fact is, the conditions of trade have changed

Changes in ...

conditions almost as Completely as has the method of travehng

oftrade. ' ■'

1 The fact that this chapter was first written nearly nine years ago lends, I
venture to think, more interest to the views expressed and the data cited
than if compiled to-day ; they had thus not yet stood the test of time. There-
fore, in revising its contents, I have strictly confined myself to a few correc-
tions, suggestive foot-notes, and unimportant eliminations, preferring to leave
the reader to form his judgment by the light of to-day on the presentation of
the subject as it impressed me at the time of first conception. The additional
matter which might possibly have been included in this chapter will be found
in the Summary and Conclusion.
- Nothing is gained without labor.


Co))ivierce and Manufacture. 257

since the introduction of railways. The spirit of enter-
prise, which was long England's monopoly, has spread
all over the world. The earnest honesty which delights
in producing the best possible article as a matter of pride
is hers still ; the commercial aptitude in subdividing and
controlling labor is hers still ; the splendid machinery
in all branches of manufacture is also hers still ;' but
these are no loneer, as formerly, her monopoly. We England

, . . commercially

have had too good a time of it in the past ; we have spoiled.
been commercially spoiled, and hence have little experi-
ence of the trouble and effort it requires to wrest a
market from the grasp of a rival who has hitherto
monopolized it. This task the Germans have had.
Other nations, and especially the Germans, doubtless
assisted by their excellent technical schools, " have learned
from us, and with this our supreme advantage under
these headings, in the past, have gone from us, possibly

That all this means a comparative retrograde move-

A retrograde

ment there can be no doubt. That is to say, although movement,
our returns increase, they do not increase in the same
proportion as those of other nations, who up to yester-
day showed no export trade worth enumerating. This
state of things has been held up both here and in Ger-
many — here by alarmists, and in Germany by enthu-
siastic optimises — as meaning that the days of our
commercial and manufacturing superiority are over.

I This is (ifily true to a certain extent to-day. In many branches of m.inu-
facturc the machinery in Germany and also in America is far ahead of thai in
use in England. *

I Not oidy their splendid colleges (Polytrchnikutii) for te.-iching engineering,
chemistry, and physical science applied to commerce call for mention, luil
also their art-industry schools (Kunstgewerheschulrn). These are most num-
erous in the South, where in towns such as Frankfort, Nuremberg, Carlsruhe,
Stuttgart, I'forzhcim, llanau. these schools have contributed to an extraor-
dinary development in dcsigiiitig and particularly modeling, a specialty Eng-
lish skilled workmen arc most defi 'lent in.


Factors in



Imperial Germany.

Nothing could be farther from the truth, as a little
insij^ht will tend to show.

To begin with, material advantages alone do not
make a great commercial nation, or Austria and Spain
or Turkey might be on a level with England, and the
Germans would be nowhere. Breadth of character and
conception count for a great deal — in fact, are insepa-
rable from great commercial enterprise. All great
commercial communities of the past have possessed a
backbone of strong, far-seeing character.

The lack of that daring necessary to successful trade
is noticeable among the Latin nations, who have not the


Daring an


to trade.

boldness to throw a si.xpence out of the window in order
that a shilling may come in at the door. Neither do
they possess, in the same degree as the Germans and
English, the discipline and character which are neces-
sary to control labor. Hence these nations do not
excel in the production of manufactured goods ; and
even in France it is peculiar to note how many great

Commerce and Manufacture. 259



manufactories are owned by names of German origin.

In this particular the Germans are rivals England has
every reason to take note of, but that does not say that
they are likely to supplant her, notwithstanding their
excelling in the production of medium-class goods. In
the meantime, our sudden newspaper panic has pro-
vided them with an excellent advertisement wherever
newspapers are read.

Some people aver that even now there are very few
items the Germans produce which do not owe their
latest improvements to English or American ideas.


We are aware that German commerce has invaded
many domains hitherto more or less English, but that En™shc
is far from showing that they are equal or on equal
terms. This we doubt. E\en up to the present day it
is an open question how far they would be able to
compete, if excellence of quality and cheapness were the
only things in request. Unfortunately for us they are
not always the only points to be considered, and that
bringi:' us to the main explanation of Germany's success
in foreign trade ; it is to be sought and found not so
much in the cheapness as in the superior "adaptability"
(jf the German as a producer. As a German has ever "adaptability.
l)een apt to lose his nationality and adapt himself more
readily to the country of his adoption, so also in his
manufacturing [)roducc' he has a greater talent for adapt-
ing his wares to the demands and taste of the hour than
the more conservative Anglo-Saxon.

It is not cheap labor alone that can explain the latest
trade successes of the Germans, ' for there are de|)art-

1 The truth of thin statement has ben since abundantly demonstrated by tlie
different English trade commissions whicli, from time to time, li:ive visited
CTcrniaiiy ami fi>und wages in some "tpei iai liade cvi-n hinber than in l'.ii;;Ian(l

( .erman

26o Imperial Germany.

Cheap labor. mcnts ill manufacture.' in which our home production has
been partly ruined by countries where labor is far dearer
than in our own. Witness the depression in the Eng-
Hsli watch trade, caused not by cheap German articles,
Init by the importation of American watches. The
.Swiss themselves were, it may be remembered, being
beaten out of the field by the United States until they
adopted the American system of manufacture. Does
not England take her sewing machines from America
still, although the Germans in their own protected
country are supposed to manufacture a much cheaper
kind? Yes, it is the English race — not so much the
Germans — whicli in America often shows a greater skill
in the utilization of labor-saving contrivances and con-
trol of skilled workmen than at home. Among the
advantages the Germans possess cheapness of their
labor must certainly be noted, but we must not forget
their excellent technical school nor, above all, their
adaptability in applying their skilled knowledge to the
changing demands of the market.

One branch of trade in which the Germans have

Manufacture made extraordinary ijrogress is the manufacture of

of pianos. . .

pianos. ' The most expensive and elaborate pianos in
the world are made in New York, and the Germans
have not been slow to adopt the mechanical improve-
ments one by one as they appeared in America. Pos-
sibly many of them were the inventions of hard-working
German mechanics in New York ; in every case there
can be no doubt that the Germans lost no time in cast-
ing the framework in one piece, and adopting one after
the other all the little mechanical improvements that
go to make the best pianos what they are.

1 According to the Cologne (iazetlf, 7,500 German pianos, and only 900 Eng-
lish ones, were sold in AustraHa in 1877.

Commerce and Mamifactiire . 261

During all this time most of England's conservative
piano-makers have been content to revel in the unctuous R"R'and the

* _ , , richest market.

satisfaction of being the happy possessors of the richest
market in the world. They allow heavy trade discounts
to fashionable musicians who recommend their pianos
and negotiate a sale, and in the meantime the grand
pianos of Bechstein, Bliither, and others have come over
and invaded the concert-rooms, and divided honors,
to say the least of it, with those of English make.'

Textile industries supply another instance of the for-
midable character of German ' ' adaptability, ' ' which is Textile

... industries.

the more remarkable, bearing in mind England's former
supremacy. The textile industries are, moreover, the
better suited to the Germans, as they enable them to
avoid one of the disadvantages to which German labor
is said to be specially exposed — namely, the tendency to
produce inferior goods. In textile industries the supply
can be strictly regulated b\- the demand. The plant of
machinery is always, thanks to the excellent technical
education in Germany, the latest and the best. With it
can be produced the simplest and the most expensive
and best goods, immaterial whether the works are situ-
ated in Barmen or Crefeld, or on the Polish frontier,
where we have seen the finest wool spun from plant that
came from Muhlhausen in Alsace.

And this is done in such t(j\vns as Crefeld, Barmen,
antl Elberfeld, which send tons upon tons of goods to Exports to

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Online LibrarySidney WhitmanImperial Germany; a critical study of fact and character → online text (page 17 of 23)