THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY -- VOLUMES 1 & 2
DIVISION III: THE STRUGGLE
WITH this division we enter a new field -- the purely historical. Although the legacy of antiquity and its heirs were manifestations of history, it was possible to free these manifestations from their surroundings and so to consider them under the light of history, and yet not quite as history. Henceforth we have to deal with a succession of events and processes of development, that is to say, with history pure and simple. But there will be a certain sameness in the method, because, just as we formerly noted what remains constant in the stream of time, we shall now choose out only individual points in the incalculable crowd of events that hurry past our mental eye, points which have permanent significance and are, so to speak, "constant." The philosopher might offer the objection that every impulse, even the smallest, exercises perpetual influence; the answer is that in history almost every individual force very soon loses it. separate importance and possesses only the value of one component among countless others which are only present as ideas, while one single great "resultant" remains behind as the perceptible issue of many manifestations of contradictory powers. But now -- to maintain the mechanical comparison -- these resulting lines unite again to form new parallelograms of forces and produce new, greater, more evident events, which have a deeper influence upon history and more enduring importance -- and that goes on until certain heights of power-manifestation are reached, which cannot be surpassed. Only the highest of these must be dealt with here. I shall take it for granted that the historical facts are known; and my task consists merely in properly emphasising and grouping what appears indispensable for an intelligent judgment of the nineteenth century with its contrary currents, its crossing resultants and its leading ideas.
I intended originally to call this third and last division of the first part "The Time of Wild Ferment." I felt, however, that this wild ferment continued long after the year 1200. In fact, even at the present day in many places there seems to be quite enough and to spare. I had also to give up the plan of three chapters -- the Struggle in the State, the Struggle in the Church, the Struggle between State and Church -- since this would have led me much deeper into history than I could have reconciled with the purpose of my work. But I thought it proper in these introductory words to mention my original plan and the studies that it involved, in order that the far simpler method which I have adopted with the division into two chapters "Religion" and "State" may be accepted as the final result of my studies, while some criticism may be disarmed. At the same time it will be understood how far the idea of "The Struggle" has been the leading motive of my exposition.
Goethe in one passage describes the Middle Ages as a conflict between powers which to some extent already possessed, and to some extent endeavoured to gain, considerable independence, and calls the whole an "aristocratic anarchy."  I do not like the expression "aristocratic," for it always implies -- even when viewed as aristocracy of intellect -- rights of birth; in contradiction to which that mighty power, the Church, denies all hereditary rights: even the right of succession, recognised by a whole people, does not confer legitimacy on a monarch unless the Church of its own free will ratifies it; that was and still is the Roman theory of the legal powers of the Church, and history offers many examples of Popes freeing nations from their oath of allegiance and inciting them to rebel against their lawful king. In its own midst the Church recognises no individual rights of any kind; neither nobility of birth nor of mind is of any moment. And though we certainly cannot call it a democratic power, yet still less is it aristocratic; all logocracies have been essentially anti-aristocratic and at the same time anti-democratic. Moreover, other powers, genuinely democratic, were beginning to assert themselves in the period which Goethe calls aristocratic. The Teutonic races had entered history as free men, and for many centuries their kings possessed much less power over them than over the subjects whom they had conquered in the various countries of the Roman Empire. The double influence of Rome -- as Church and Law -- sufficed to weaken and soon to abolish these rights.  But the impulse towards freedom could never be entirely checked; we see it assert itself in every century, now in the north, now in the south, at one time as freedom of thought and faith, at another as a struggle for city privileges, such as commerce, the defence of rights of class, or a revolt against them, occasionally too in the form of inroads of rude, unconquered tribes into the half-organised mass of the post-Roman Empire. But we must agree with Goethe when he says that this prevailing state of warfare is anarchy. Individual great men had scarcely time to think of justice; moreover every power fought unscrupulously for its own ends, regardless of the rights of others: that was a necessity of existence. We must not let moral scruples bias us : the more unscrupulously a power asserted itself, the greater was its capacity of life. Beethoven says in one passage, "Power is the morality of men who excel others"; and power was the morality of that epoch of the first wild ferment. It was only when nations began to take shape, when in art, science and philosophy man became once more conscious of himself, when, through organisation for the purpose of work, the exercise of his inventive gifts, and the grasping of ideal aims, he entered once more into the magic circle of genuine culture, into "the daylight of life," that anarchy began to give way, or rather to be gradually dammed up in the interests of a new world and a new culture which were assuming final form. This process is still going on, for we are living in all respects in a "Middle Age,"  but the contrast between the pure anarchy of former times and the moderate anarchy of to-day is so striking that the fundamental difference must be very obvious. Political anarchy probably reached its height in the ninth century; compare the nineteenth with it and we shall be forced to admit that in spite of our revolutions and bloody reactions, in spite of tyranny and regicide, in spite of the uninterrupted ferment here and there, in spite of the shiftings of property, the nineteenth century is to the ninth as day is to night.
In this section I have to deal with a time when there was hardly anything but conflict. In a later age, as soon in fact as the dawn of culture began to appear, there was a shifting of the centre of gravity; the outward conflict still continued and many an honest historian sees even in this age only Popes and Kings, Princes and Bishops, nobility and corporations, battles and treaties; but henceforth there is side by side with these a new invisible power, remodelling the spirit of humanity, and yet making no use of the anarchical morality of force. However slowly this may reveal itself, the sum of intellectual work, which led to the discovery of the heliocentric system .of the world,  has entirely under. mined the foundations on which Church theology and Church power rested. The introduction of paper and the invention of printing have raised thought to a world power; out of the lap of pure science have come those discoveries which, like steam and electricity, completely transform the life of humanity as well as the purely material relations of power;  the influence of art and of philosophy. -- e.g., of such personalities as Goethe and Kant -- is incalculably great. But I return to this in the second part of these "Foundations," which discusses the rise of a new Germanic world; this section has to deal solely with the struggle of the great powers for possession and supremacy.
If I were to follow the usual custom and, as I had originally planned, contrast State and Church, not State and Religion, we should be in danger of dealing with mere forms. For the Roman Church is first and foremost a political, i.e., a national power; it inherited the Roman idea of imperium, and, in league with the Emperor it represented the rights of an absolute universal empire, supposed to be established by God. It thus conflicted with Germanic tradition and the Germanic impulse to form a nation. Religion it regarded as a means of closely uniting all peoples. Since earliest times the Pontifex maximus in Rome was the chief official in the hierarchy, judex atque arbiter rerum divinarum humanarumque, to whom (according to the legal theory) the King and later the Consuls were subordinate.  Of course the remarkably developed political sense of the old Romans had prevented the Pontifex maximus from ever abusing his theoretical power as judge of all things divine and human, just in the same way as the unlimited power (according to the legal fiction) of the paterfamilias over the life and death of his family never gave rise to excesses;  the Romans in fact had been the very reverse of anarchists. But now, in the unfettered human chaos, the title and its legal claims were revived; never before or since has such weight been attached to theoretical "law"; vested legal rights were never so much flaunted and insisted upon as at this time, when violence and malice were the sole ruling forces. Pericles had expressed the opinion that the unwritten law stood higher than the written; now only the written word was valid; a commentary of Ulpian, a gloss of Tribonian -- intended for quite different conditions -- was ratio scripta and decided the rights of whole peoples; a parchment with a seal on it legalised every crime. The heiress, administrator and advocate of this view of political law was the city of Rome with her Pontifex maximus, and it stands to reason that she employed these principles to her own advantage. But at the same time the Church inherited the Jewish hierocratic idea of State, with the High Priest as supreme power; the writings of the Church fathers from the third century onwards are full of Old Testament utterances and ideas; and there cannot be the shadow of a doubt that the Roman ideal was the establishment of a universal State with the Jewish priestly rule as a foundation. Here, therefore, the Roman Church must be viewed as a purely political power: here it is not Church that is opposed to State, but one State to another, one political ideal to another.
But apart from the political struggle, which never raged so bitterly and irreconcilably as when the Roman imperial idea came in conflict with Germanic national aspirations, and the Jewish theocracy with Christ's pronouncement, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's," there broke out another very important battle, that about religion itself. And in the nineteenth century this struggle is no more at an end than the other. In our secular States at the beginning of the century the religious contrasts seemed to have lost all acuteness, the nineteenth century had the appearance of an epoch of unconditional tolerance; but during the last thirty years the Church agitators have been once more zealously at work, and the night of the Middle Ages still lies so black around us that in this field every weapon is considered good, and actually proves itself good, though it may be lying, falsification of history, political pressure or social compulsion. It is no mere trifle that lies at the root of this religious strife. Underneath a dogmatic strife, so subtle that it seems to the layman senseless and indifferent, there slumbers not seldom one of those fundamental spiritual questions which decide the whole tendency of a nation's life. How many laymen, for instance, are there in Europe who are capable of understanding the conflict concerning the nature of communion? And yet it was the dogma of transubstantiation (issued in the year 1215, exactly at the moment when the English forced the Magna Charta from their king), which inevitably broke up Europe into several hostile camps. Race differences are at the bottom of this. But race is, as we have seen, plastic, inconstant and composed of manifold elements almost always striving with each other for the mastery; frequently the victory of a religious dogma has given one element preponderance over the others and thus determined the whole further development of a race or nation. Perhaps even the greatest thinker of the time has not quite understood the dogma in question: for dogma deals with the Inexpressible and Unthinkable; but in such cases the direction is the important matter -- the orientation of the will, if I may so express it. Thus we can easily understand how State and Religion can and must affect each other, and that not only in the sense of a tussle between universal Church and national Government: there is also the troublous fact that the State possesses the means (and till lately possessed almost unlimited means) of checking a moral and intellectual movement revealing itself in religion: friction may also arise through the complete victory of some religious view directing the State itself into an entirely new course. Any one who glances impartially at the map of Europe cannot doubt that religion was and is a powerful factor in the growth of States and the development of culture.  It not only reveals, but makes, character.
I think that I shall be doing justice to the object which I have in view if, when dealing with this epoch, I choose for special treatment the two great objects of contention -- State and Religion, the struggle in Religion and for Religion, the struggle in the State and for the State. But I must defend myself from the appearance of postulating two separate entities, which became a unity only by their capability of influencing each other; I am rather of the opinion that the complete separation of religious from civic life, which is so popular to-day, rests upon a dangerous error of judgment. It is in reality impossible. In former centuries it was the custom to call Religion the soul and the State the body;  but to-day, when the intimate connection of soul and body in the individual becomes more and more present to us, so that we scarcely know where we are to assume the boundary-line to be, such a distinction should make us pause. We know that behind a dispute about justification by faith and justification by works, which is apparently carried on entirely and exclusively in the forum of the soul, very "corporeal" things may be concealed; the course of history has shown us this; and on the other hand we see the moulding and the mechanism of the corporate State having a great and decisive influence upon the nature of the soul (e.g., France since the night of St. Bartholomew and the Dragonades). In decisive moments the ideas State and Religion coalesce completely; we can without figure of speech assert that for the ancient Roman his State was his Religion, and that for the Jew his Religion was his State; and even to-day, when a soldier rushes to battle with the cry: for God, King and Fatherland! that is at the same time Religion and State. Nevertheless in spite of the importance of this caveat, the maintenance of a distinction between the two ideas is a practical necessity; practical for a rapid survey of the summits of history, and practical for a later attempt to connect them with the phenomena and currents of our century.
1. Annalen, 1794.
2. This can be followed more clearly in Savigny's Geschichte des romischen Rechtes im Mittelalter than in general works of history, because he gives a fuller and more vivid account: see especially in the fourth chapter of the first volume the division dealing with "The Freemen" and "the Counts."
3. See vol. i. p. lxix.
4. Augustine comprehended quite well and admitted expressly (De Civitate Dei xvi. 9) that if the world is round and men live at the Antipodes, "whose feet are opposite our feet, separated from us by oceans, their development going on apart from us," then the sacred writings have "lied." Augustine in fact must admit as an honest man that in such an event the plan of salvation, as the Church represents it, is inadequate, and so he hastens to the conclusion that the idea of such antipodes and unknown human races is absurd, nimis absurdum est. What would he have said if he had lived to see the heliocentric system established as well as the fact that untold millions of worlds move in space?
5. Thus poor Switzerland is on the point of becoming one of the richest industrial States, since it can transform its huge water-supply into electricity at almost no cost.
6. See especially Leist: Graeco-italische Rechtsgeschichte, § 69.
7. See vol. i. p. 162.
8. Naturally the oldest are to be excepted, who, like Origenes, Tertullian, &c., had no idea of the possible predominant position of Christianity.
9. Very beautifully shown by Schiller at the beginning of the first part of his Thirty Years War.
10. E.g., Gregory II. in his frequently mentioned letter to Emperor Leo the Isaurian.