IN the cemetery of Breslau, a plain monument bears the inscription, " Ferdinand Lassalle, thinker and fighter.” The epitaph is from August Boeckh, the great philologist and classical antiquary, whom Lassalle had known in his Berlin days, and it epitomizes the character of a man who was only thirty-nine years of age when he died. Lassalle was wont to resent the application to himself of the epithet “ socialist,” for he claimed to stand on scientific ground, and to be a genuine economist, which he may yet come to be considered. Thus far his fame is associated with the revival and reorganization of the German SocialDemocratic Party, amongst whom his influence is still felt. It is also with weapons of his fabrication that Bismarck strives to overthrow the men whom “ the thinker and fighter ” marshaled upon the political field, and gave the guidons of battle.
Lassalle’s greatest work was done in the last three years of his life, although his previous history was but a preparation for it. Like most other leaders, he made enthusiastic adherents and passionate antagonists, and it is a sign of his greatness that his adversaries steadily diminish in number and cease from personalities. Soon after his death, J. M. Ludlow wrote for English readers a critical notice, which, while admitting his versatility and intellectual strength, attempted to discredit him by accusing him of ambition and an utter absence of the moral sense. Twelve years later, John Rae presented him afresh to the same public, with a far more studious estimate of his work and far fewer insinuations of his depravity. Twice since then Dr. Ingram, of Dublin, has enrolled him among the practical economists of Germany, with simple acceptance of his honorable historical place; abstaining from solicitations for condemnation upon the extraneous grounds of his origin, his gallantries, or his religious deficiencies. If the process goes on, like the once vilified Spinoza or Mazzini, he may yet be revered for his services to mankind.
What Lassalle accomplished in Germany will be better understood if we first gain some idea of his personality. Few men have been more strictly the product of their environment than Ferdinand Lassalle. Even the vices which his foes attributed to him, such as audacity, ambition, and salaciousness, are characteristics of turbulent times. He was a Jew. Many of the first promoters of German socialism were of this race, as Karl Marx and his disciples, Friedrich Engels, Edward Lasker, and Paul Singer, while the basis of their economical arguments is the teaching of David Ricardo, another Israelite. Ferdinand’s father was a prosperous trader in Breslau, where, in his day, reminiscences of the great Frederick’s invasions chilled the attachment of the people to the Hohenzollern house. The grandfather had many times paid the infamous Leibzoll, or tax assessed on every Hebrew as many times as he passed the municipal boundaries, or those of the petty state within which he resided. In his distress, the handsome Frederick William III., anxious to push the French to the wall as they returned from Russia, invited the Jews to help, promising them the civil rights of Gentiles; but a few years later he was compelled by public sentiment to revoke their army commissions, and to exclude their teachers from the universities. To the credit of the royal house of Prussia, it ought to be said that for a century few of its members have been guilty of the savage sentiment which first outlaws and then persecutes the children of Abraham. It was the social influence emanating from the apothegm of the present Crown Prince, that “ educated men could not despise Jews,” which repressed Court Chaplain Stöcker’s late anti-Semitic agitation. This attitude of the reigning house has had much to do with the position of German Israel; for in earlier times a patent of nobility made the Jew “ courtqualified,” and, what was far more important, pointed out the way in which he was to seek civil emancipation. It confirmed his predilection for town life, and stimulated his taste for fashion, learning, and politics.
One other influence must not be lost from sight, and that arose among the educated classes. Scholastic life performs in Germany something of the same function that the Church did for feudal Europe. It is the one domain in Germany where all other distinctions than those of personal ability are leveled. Unusual significance must be attached to this fact in a country which affords no other field for the growth of cosmopolitan standards of manners and intercourse, and where provincialism and caste are factors to be daily confronted. The nobility still cling to court precedence, to army commissions, and to the diplomatic service ; but even hereditary right to a seat in the Herrenhaus has not arrested the lapse of aristocracy into a segregated and uninfluential element of national life, while the crown right to create members of that house greatly enhances the social patronage of the government. In rural and municipal life, the great body of the people is still impotent, for the tax assessor determines what relative weight the voter is to have in the control of public affairs.
Forty years ago, the Church was suffering from the effects of a court Erastianism, and for a generation had dissipated its energies in the petty controversies which arose out of the attempt to enforce a scheme of union conceived in a paralytic stage of rationalism. What influence it had grew out of the force with which its scholars threw themselves into university life. As a social institution, either to bind classes together and promote their intercourse, or to open definite careers to its adherents, its function was small.
The rural population was a peasantry, and the artisan guilds of the towns despotically repressed the enterprise of ingenious mechanics, or slowly crumbled before the concentrations of capital, caused by the introduction of machinery and its attendant subdivisions of labor. While manual toil was daily performing greater services for civilization, the toilers were sinking into a more isolated depression. Indeed, it was to arrest the gradual extinction of the small shops, with their masters, journeymen, and apprentices, and to stay the spread of the English type of industrial centralization, that Schultze-Delitzsch entered upon his tardily recognized coöperative schemes.
The one solvent of outgrown conditions was, and still is, culture. Here men are emancipated from conventional disabilities, here the prizes are open to merit, here affiliations are natural, here a vital reorganization of society seems possible, — a fact which goes far to explain why Germany strode so fast and surely to the front of scholarship. The court affected and patronized learning. Pretensions of birth were scorned in the schools, while the aristocracy, exclusive in temper and impoverished by frequent distribution of ancestral inheritances, was a noblesse fainéante. Examinations were the door to preferment in the gymnasium, the university, the civil service, and the church. While diplomacy and the army commands were tenaciously monopolized by the hereditary nobility, yet there were a few regiments and some staff appointments conceded to those who could win them by scholarship. A man who escaped from the oppressions of the farm or the shop, and from the contempt of hereditary pride, into the democratic air of a university was practically emancipated from all limitations but those of his own faculties. What other career, then, could an ambitious Jew choose in Germany but that of a scholar and a politician ? Ferdinand Lassalle did not hesitate, and it is infinitely to his credit that he became so undisputed a scholar and so disinterested a politician. When he is charged with an insatiable and unscrupulous hankering for notoriety, one may regret that more men do not choose a public life with so little hope of reward, and pursue it with an equal loftiness of spirit.
His father, who wrote the name Lassal, wished the lad to be bred to trade, for which the boy had no liking, and sent him to a commercial school at Leipsic. Among the nobler minds of his race another ambition had been awakened, which one of them traces to Moses Mendelssohn, from whose friendship and character Lessing derived his conception of Nathan the Wise. It produced a Hebrew Culturverein in 1823, two years before Lassalle was born, which, though obnoxious to the orthodox Jews and of ephemeral duration, marked the drift that had already set in, and was, under the Frenkels, Abraham Geiger, Morris Veit, and Leopold Zunz, to influence the ambition of the younger generation. The authority of the Talmud was shaken, and the allurements of song, history, and science were enticing. Lassalle returned from Leipsic to Breslau, a city the synagogues of which were already penetrated with modern tastes. From the University of Breslau he went to that of Berlin, where he completed his studies in his twenty-first year. During his Berlin residence he met the septuagenarian Humboldt, who was attracted by his mental vigor and attainments, and called him a Wunderkind. It was Lassalle’s intention at this time to qualify as a privat-docent in the University, and philosophy was his chosen line of study ; for he had become deeply saturated with Hegelianism as well as with democratic opinions, according to the student fashion of the times, and he had planned a systematic exposition of the Ionian Heracleitus, who, above all Greek philosophers, lent himself most readily to the illustration of Hegel’s conceptions. Thirteen years later, this undertaking was completed by the issue from the Berlin press of the standard work upon the subject, and one which immediately established Lassalle’s position as a scholar.
But a serious interruption to his studies had already begun, and its course throws a strong light upon his character. The Countess Sophie von Hatzfeldt, who was then in the thirty-sixth year of her age, met him during his last term at the University. Her husband’s residence was at Düsseldorf, a circumstance which led Lassalle to make his headquarters in the vicinity with consequences greatly affecting his future career. Here was one of the densest seats of industry in Europe, while the people, enjoying more liberal institutions than any other under the Prussian crown, were also deeply tinged with democratic sentiments. But, above all, here Lassalle was to meet Karl Marx and his intimate Engels, and to receive the impulse which fixed his economic system. The Count of Hatzfeldt was at bitter feud with his wife, who was also his cousin. Their joint estates were large. Whatever the original cause of their dissension, she had been dispossessed of her property ; despoiled one by one of all her children but the youngest son, whom the father was then trying to remove from her custody ; forced to live apart upon an insufficient income, capriciously supplied, and to see the family estates lavished upon her illicit rivals. For twenty years she had endured an exasperating persecution, and under every disadvantage which German customs and tribunals could put in the way of a woman contending for her marital rights. It will not be necessary to recite again the ofttold story of Lassalle’s spirited intervention beyond what is necessary to exhibit his character. Two instincts of his nature were profoundly touched by the Countess’s misfortunes : his chivalrous resentment of a woman’s wrongs, and his hatred of injustice. The social emancipation of his race was but recent, and with the abandon of youth he had thrown himself into the business of making the most of it. His income was generous, bis person was handsome, his manners were captivating, his dress was fashionable, his dinners were artistic, and he loved to pose as a young Gelehrter. With all his dashing audacity, there was beneath the characteristic calculation of his race, which seldom fails to see the substantial good to be gained. His recklessness, although it did not transcend the prudence necessary to his ends, was not an affectation, but rather the policy of an arrogant nature. Under the form of Alcibiades was the heart of Maccabee. The enthusiasms of his own youth were reinforced by those of a rejuvenating race, constituting a kind of primitive exuberance. Lassalle determined to succor the Countess, and for ten years he did not cease to prosecute her cause, nor until justice was secured. He took up the study of law to qualify himself to be her adviser. He infected his companions with his own generous indignations. “ When every human right is violated,” he says, “ when even the voice of blood is mute and helpless and man is forsaken by his born protectors, then there arises with right man’s first and last relation, — man.” That was his warrant for interposition. He opposed truth to appearance, right to rank, mind to money, and averred that had he foreseen all the calumny and its easy credence which awaited him he would not have flinched.
During all this time he was under the bribed espionage of his own valets, and his conduct was subjected to every misconstruction. How violent an enemy he had to fight is shown by the affair of the cassette. The Countess learned in some way that her husband was about to settle an annuity of five thousand dollars upon his mistress, Baroness von Meyerdorff, to the impoverishment of their youngest child. She went to him to remonstrate, and at the first interview obtained a promise to cancel the lien, but on seeking a second interview was contumeliously driven from the door; and soon after the Meyerdorff started for Cologne, it was believed, to secure her bond. At Lassalle’s instigation, the casket containing it was abstracted from her room—stolen, the legal processes said — by two of his companions. All three were tried, but only one — Mendelssohn — was imprisoned. Nevertheless, the odium of theft was never suffered to fall from Lassalle, although the nature of the transaction as the righting of a great wrong was never disputed. He pursued the Countess’s right in thirty-six distinct actions in court, and forced her husband to compromise on unexpectedly favorable terms. As might be anticipated, he was his client’s intimate friend, often her guest, and again and again received from her gratitude moneys which he would not accept as fees. The tongue of scandal was busy with this couple, and had their relations to each other been in any wise immoral, the scrutiny of the powerful and unscrupulous noble whom he attacked would have detected it. Such a charge rests upon no better foundation than that Sophie von Hatzfeldt was fond of horses and rather dashing in manners, while Lassalle was handsome, was in the impressionable age, and perhaps was as salacious as those who suspected him of wrong. But, after the lapse of years, there remains of this affair only the admiration of ingenuous minds for the chivalrous and splendid part which he performed.
Lassalle went to Düsseldorf in the summer of 1846 with a letter from Prince Frederick of Prussia to Hatzfeldt, intending to open negotiations with him for a marital settlement, and there the same business caused him to linger for several years. In the autumn of 1846 he was in Paris, where Heine, in the full brilliance of his journalism, received him with admiration, and sent him back to Varnhagen von Ense, in Berlin ; saying that he united “ with the richest gifts of exposition an energy of the will and an habilité in action which astounded ” him, but that he was a genuine son of the new age, in which there was no pretense of modesty or self-denial. Lassalle himself claimed at that time friendly association with the “ foremost men of learning in Germany.”
Two years later, Marx and Engels left Belgium, and began to edit the Neue Rheinische Zeitung of the democratic party in Rhineland. It was a time of agitation in Europe. At Berlin the government dissolved Parliament, and, with the promise of conceding a constitution, undertook to administer affairs on the primitive basis of royal right. All Germany was in a ferment, and the popular expedient for tying the hands of the government was that of withholding taxes. In Düsseldorf, Lassalle, who derided a “ passive resistance which did not resist,” joined with Cantador, the head of the burgher guard, in proposing barricades, taking possession of the public money, and arming the people. He had just escaped from the custody of the Staatsanwälte on charge of stealing the cassette, when he was thrown into prison for sedition, where he lay for six months before he was brought to trial. On the 3d of May, 1849, he defended himself before the tribunal with a lofty and uncompromising intrepidity. " I am an adherent of the social-democratic republic,” said he. “ When the government confiscates popular freedom, an appeal to arms is a right and a duty.” His invectives of Parliament for its feeble policy of “ ill-will ” were unsparing. For himself, he was a revolutionist on principle.” By this he meant, not necessarily violence, for every fundamental change in principle is a revolution, while a inform is only a modification of method. A reform could be bloody, as was the peasants’ war ; a revolution might be peaceable, as was the Protestant Reformation. The point he wished to make was, that he looked for a reorganization of the state upon new principles, and however that was to be achieved he was for it. His personal defense attracted great attention for its candid avowals, its lofty courage, its brilliance, and its success ; for he was acquitted by the jury, and the government was forced to bring him before an inferior tribunal, where a jury could be dispensed with, and to try him upon a petty accusation of resisting the police. For this minor offense he was incarcerated for six months. He went jubilantly to prison, gave orders to the turnkeys, broke the rules of discipline, made himself comfortable, and, when his sister appealed to the crown for his release, immediately disclaimed her petition. But the trial bore serious consequences. On account of it he was forbidden to come to Berlin, although it is quite probable that the influence of the Count von Hatzfeldt was felt in procuring the prohibition. He therefore returned to Düsseldorf, smarting under his proscription, opening his rooms as an asylum to politieal refugees, imbibing the economy of Marx, and working on his Heracleitus.
After several futile applications for permission to return to Berlin, he disguised himself as a teamster, and thus entered the city. This was in 1859, but John Rae, in his Contemporary Socialism, erroneously puts it two years earlier. It was the publication, in 1858, of Die Philosophie Herakleitos des Dunklen and the intercession of Humboldt upon which he relied to secure his unmolested residence at the capital. Nor was he disappointed in the influence of either. The political agitator was forgotten in the critical and superb scholar.
Now comes an event seemingly out of correspondence with the rest of his public career, but which really had much to do with it, — an event which evinces his marvelous political sagacity. He signalized his return to Berlin by a pamphlet called The Italian War and the Mission of Prussia, a Voice from the Democracy, in which the policy actually followed by Bismarck, who was then in the diplomatic corps, was described and advocated. In July of that year, the Peace of Villafranca was signed. Although the treaty left the boundaries of Victor Emmanuel’s kingdom at the Mincio and the Po, the problem of Italian unity was solved, and it was evident that the whole peninsula would ultimately obey one sceptre. When this was accomplished, the republicans would have a fair field for their operations. Nationality must go before democracy. Such was the procedure which Lassalle commended to Germany. Austria must he driven out of the Confederation, and the hegemony transferred to Prussia, under whose authority alone the aspiration for German unity could be realized. On the new stage the revolutionists could play their part like men.
So far from being ready to receive these counsels were his compatriots that many of them deemed Lassalle to have deserted his standards, and gone over to the monarchy. But there was such sagacious prescience in his views that one would not be surprised to learn that Bismarck inspired them. At all events, it is certain that many points of contact between these two men existed, and at the very time of Lassalle’s pamphlet Bismarck was writing to Schleinitz that a rupture with Austria would be a “ healthy crisis,” for “ Prussia’s connection with the Germanic Confederation was a thing to be cured with blood and fire.”
At this juncture, two publications presented the versatile Lassalle to the world as a jurist and a critic. Neither of them need detain us long. In 1861 appeared The System of Acquired Rights, which traces the philosophical evolution of positive law, and lays the foundation of a new socialistic epoch ; such as dominated, in widely different manners, the dreams of his friends Marx and Rodbertus. The work is not without authority among masters of jurisprudence.
As a critic Lassalle fell foul of poor Heinrich Julian Schmidt, who had been rash enough to attempt the interpretation of German intellectual life to mankind. From Schmidt’s wares he shook the false criticisms, the historical blunders, and the grammatical errors, making them smoke under his sarcasm, until all Germany was filled with the odor of a dissolving literary reputation. “ Divine to man is that which he does not understand,” the hapless Schmidt had said. “Ach! Mein Herr,” retorted his relentless critic, “it is not so, for then all German literature would be divine to you.”
Contemporaneous with the accession of Bismarck to the royal cabinet began Lassalle’s significant public career. Hitherto political activity had been to him chiefly an incident of a scholar’s life. The time had come for his varied labors to bear some practical fruit. There was not a conservative fibre in him, for what had he to conserve? While his venerable father still adhered to the synagogue, he had exchanged the learning of Babylon and Tiberias for the culture of Athens. He was twenty-five years old before he wholly ceased to be an alien in the land of his birth, and he owed its traditions little allegiance. He was a recognized expounder of the only metaphysics that then had any vitality in Germany ; he was a jurist who had traced the orderly growth of law from Solon to Napoleon ; he was an economist who, while not claiming originality, had exploited with rigorous logic the whole orthodox school, and insisted that the “ dismal science ” must be rejuvenated by a larger study. He hated oppression and injustice; he had felt the sinister pervasiveness of aristocratic influence in his own imprisonments ; he had defied absolutism and scorned the penalties it could inflict; he was humane, fearless, of splendid energy, a born leader amongst his companions, fertile in expedients, undaunted and lofty. What place could this exuberant child of revolution and the prisons take in the urgent social life of his times ? Everything in his history converges to one goal. One could predict that his conservatism will be only that of a theorist, that his outlook will be upon a new state, that his method will be bold and energetic, and that his object will be humane.
As president, whether provisional or permanent, of the Staats Ministerium, Bismarck had to release the government from the annoyance of a distracted, doctrinaire, and feeble legislature. The party in that body strongest in numbers was the Fortschritt, or Progressist, which was made up of the burgher class, the lawyers and scholars, men who esteemed themselves liberal, and to them the “ mad Junker ” was a menace. But Bismarck was both a nationalist and an absolutist, — perhaps the one for the sake of the other, — with a splendid courage, and an impatience of sophistries and obstructions which must have fascinated a man of Lassalle’s spirit, Both were men, to use Heine’s thought again, of “ the new age, without pretense of modesty or self-denial.” Both were also, but for different reasons, advocates of universal direct suffrage, and opposed to the classified cumbrous electoral system of the constitution of 1850. Lassalle now began to issue opportune political pamphlets, all of which were contributions to the support of the great minister. In one he insisted on the precedence of might over right, not because the ethical order was good, but because it was the uniform historical order. He would compel right to seek its embodiment in action, without which it is sham. In another he attacked the constitutionalism of the Liberals, because the existing one was a pretense, and blinded men to real issues. A written charter creates nothing; it simply declares what exists. The actual distribution of power is the thing to be looked to. Lassalle had no respect for a constitution which hindered the court and army from achieving national unity, and gave the populace no regulation of their own freedom. That constitution was a lie. Already he was a sufficiently conspicuous figure to incur the wrath of the Progressists, who soon made him feel the weight of their resentment ; but as his attitude promised a diversion in the ranks of his political foes, and the creation of an extreme left to turn their flank, Bismarck has been more than suspected of giving him countenance. For the emergency the men were of one mind.
On October 12,1862, Lassalle, before the Artisans’ Society of the Oranienburg suburb of the capital, delivered a lecture which in a later form is known as the Workingmen’s Programme. It contains his own economic and political theories, and traces out lines of action adhered to by the Social-Democrats to the present day. For this lecture he was arrested, on the charge of inciting the proletariats against the property classes, and condemned to a six months’ imprisonment at Berlin, which he bore with the same lofty hardihood as he had the previous one at Cologne. But the lecture and the imprisonment commended him to the workingmen in a way that first gave him access to their councils and the attitude of a leader. It was the era of Workingmen’s Congresses, and one about to meet at Leipsic invited Lassalle to address it in February, 1863. In his cell he wrote to it a letter of advice. Among the Leipsic artisans, the discussion of their political duties was warmly prosecuted. Some favored adhesion to the Fortschritt party, from which Schultze-Delitzsch had won a little countenance for his tradesunions, savings-funds, and cooperative societies ; others advocated abstinence altogether from political action. Lassalle told these men that both positions were unwise : the Progressist section, because that party was the foe of universal suffrage, in which must be found the solution of the industrial problem, and because the Scliultze-Delitzsch plan of self-help was based upon the fundamentally wrong economical doctrine of competition and its consequent “ law of wages ; ” the abstinence section, because the people were the state, and to ignore the state was self-elimination. No socialism had been laid to the charge of the government for the assistance it gave to railways, to agriculture, or to manufactures ; neither should there he if it should assist laborers’ production. Let the working-people first demand direct universal suffrage ; and when the control of government was by this means placed in their hands, then let them insist that its powers should be used to secure a juster distribution of the annual income than that founded upon the iron law of necessary wages. The letter containing this advice was largely condemned by the journals of the day, and formally rejected by workingmen’s clubs all over the country. Leipsic alone seemed disposed to listen patiently, and thither Lassalle went in April, and addressed a meeting of thirteen hundred men, of whom but seven voted against him. On May 23d he founded the Deutscher Arbeiterverein, of which he became the first president. Fifteen months later he was dead. Into this short period was compressed an astounding amount of propagandist activity. He wrought almost single-handed against the apathy of the class he sought to organize, and against the afflux of visionary, impracticable social agitators of every description. On South Germany he could make no impression ; the chief scenes of his success were Leipsic, Berlin, Frankfort, and the Rhine provinces, where his former career had made him the idol of the workingmen.
Marx was at this time in London, a recognized leader of the communists, and was working away at the organization of the International. His affiliations were largely with the French, and his views were expanded to cover all the working-classes, without regard to race or state limits. Herein Lassalle differed from him, not in theory or economic aims, but in confining his movement to the creation of a German national party, aiming first at the control of the instruments of legislation. His restless energies were occupied with correspondence, public addresses, organization of branches, publication of tracts (many of them from Rodbertus), songs and social romances; with suppressing rivalries, jealousies, and wild schemes of violence ; and with meeting government prosecutions, of which he encountered an average of one about every six weeks. On the other hand, he was probably encouraged by the “ mad Junker ” at the head of the Staats Ministerium ; for it is known that at one time a telegram from Bismarck put a stop to a local police design of interference with one of his public meetings. Moreover, the chief obstructions to Bismarck’s government came from the Fortschritt party, whose hold upon the populace it was his interest to weaken, and this Lassalle’s new organization tended to accomplish.
The Schultze-Delitzsch controversy, which fell in the last year of Lassalle’s life, exhibits the position taken by the founder of the Social-Democrat party, and the fear inspired by his activity and by the ovations tendered him in Rhineland. As soon as the diversion of the artisans from the Fortschritt party threatened to become formidable, it turned to Schultze, whom it had thus far treated with considerable indifference, intending to bring him into the field to neutralize the influence of the “revolutionist on principle.” After a course of six very effective lectures by Lassalle before the Berlin Workingmen’s Union, the Saxon apostle of coöperation was rash enough to assail his position, and, rashest of all, to accuse him of superficial learning. Nothing was better calculated to inflame the polemic ardor of the young Gelehrter than a taunt of ignorance, and Lassalle went to work with piquant zeal, not only to demolish the arguments of his antagonist, but to retort the evidences of his own incompetency upon him. Of the score of original publications belonging to the last fifteen months of his life, the product of this transport is the longest and the best presentation of its author’s economic opinions.
Poor Schultze was a disciple of Frederic Bastiat, the vivacious opponent of French socialism as represented by Louis Blanc, Considérant, and Prudhon. Bastiat had made use of Henry C. Carey’s doctrine of rent, that it rested not upon possession simply, but upon the improvements which had rendered the land arable, and therefore upon the previous labor expended. All natural things he held to be gratuitous to man, like the air or water. Rent, then, was a recognition of labor, the receiver of it a representative of labor, and real property was not, as Prudhon declared, “ robbery.” But this position avails nothing against the scientific socialist, for he does not assail the right of property, but the mode of distributing the national income, by which the laborer receives only what is necessary to maintain him in working condition and in the reproduction of other proletariats, while those who are in command of the instruments of production, such as capital and land, take all the difference between the cost of material and labor and the market value, without any regard to the amount of service they render. Ricardo had taught that labor was the source of all production, though his theory of rent departed from Bastiat’s. Now it was this doctrine which Rodbertus and Marx had seized upon as an economical axiom, and used to show the injustice of free competition as an industrial law. Indeed, it is the basis of all socialistic thinking. Schultze had not removed private property from the arguments of his opponents by following Carey ; on the contrary, he had exposed it still more to their claims.
It was no difficult task to upset the teachings of a superficial follower of the clever but inconsequential French disciple of the English economists. Lassalle set about it characteristically, and entitled his book Herr Bastiat Schultze von Delitzsch, der Oekonomische Julian, oder Capital und Arbeit, thus indicating that Schultze’s information was second hand, that he was to be demolished with the same trenchant sarcasm as poor Schmidt, the literary historian, had been, and that the vital industrial problem was the regulation of the proper share of surplus value to be accorded each to capital and labor. Schultze never entered the field of polemics again, and his leadership amongst workingmen was effectually discredited. Historically, Lassalle’s position was that feudal organization sought solidarity by virtually owning labor ; that the struggle for personal liberty which culminated in the French Revolution of 1789 issued in a practically privileged bourgeois class ; that Abbé Sieyès’s tiers état contained a fourth estate, the working people, who were ninety-six per cent, of the nation, but were practically disfranchised. The French constitution, which distinguished between the active and passive citizen, giving suffrage to payers of a prescribed amount of taxes and withholding it from others, was a proof of this fact, as the electoral system of Prussia still is. Lassalle considered that the incidence of all indirect taxation was upon the consumer ; and as five sixths of the Prussian revenue were derived from such sources, the great body of the workingmen bore the burden of state-support. Schultze’s alleviating schemes had two radical faults : first, they were content with the so-called free competition of the orthodox economists and were based upon the permanence of the existing industrial organization ; secondly, they called upon the workingmen who were without capital to combine for competition with those who were in possession of all the instruments of production in the country. In such a strife, the artisan was foreordained to fail. Competition and the “ necessary law of wages ” were the two things to extirpate, not to build afresh upon. They had been tried, and the result was a bourgeoisie. rapacious and plutocratic, ignorant of the conditions of trade, and therefore speculative. The socialist does not wage war upon private property. He believes in it, and only seeks to make its legitimate acquisition possible to the producing classes. He is charged with atheism, but in the programme of the Socialistic Workingmen’s Party of Germany, which is the platform upon which it has stood ever since the Congress of Gotha in 1875, “ religion is declared to be a private concern ; ” and this, for Americans, is not only sound political doctrine, but indefeasible. Some of Lassalle’s critics have said that he discouraged the Schultze doctrine of self-help to substitute for it state-help. Who is the state ? asked Lassalle. It is the people. Is not the state themselves, and state-help self-help ? What becomes of the prodigious revenues levied upon consumption, of which the poor contribute the greater part to the support of the government ? They are squandered in dynastic squabbles, or employed to aid the enterprises of the capitalistic classes. Would it not be better to spend part of this money in guiding and building up productive enterprises under state regulation, in which profit-sharing should take the place of wages ?
Ethically considered, self-help means individualism. It opposes the selfishness of the individual, as far as practicable, to the welfare of the whole. Socialism seeks solidarity of interests ; and if it be objected that under it the individual will still be guided by self-interest, the answer is that in a socialistic régime it is difficult to extricate personal from the general welfare. Among the bourgeoisie, chance and connections make men wealthy. It beholds the whole trading world linked together, from Berlin to Melbourne and Tacoma. The men in the control of its enterprises are at work in the dark, ignorant of the intricate state of supply and demand, and therefore speculating. The system is anarchic, and should give way to a rational regulation.
Again, society has long been reducing the rights of property. It has forbidden that right in the laborer; it ought also to prohibit it in his labor. It is true, the workingman has technical freedom, but freedom is no boon unless it bring with it the opportunity for development. It is but small gain to put an end to slavery, if a man is still compelled by hopeless necessity to part with his time and faculty for a bare subsistence. To the bourgeoisie the function of the state is simply to stand guard over personal liberty. To the socialist it is something far higher. Without it man has not advanced, and cannot develop. It is the great instrument for the advancement of culture ; and it is only just that those who are the larger part of the state should, in their political capacity, obtain the best means for promoting personal excellence. In all this, Lassalle firmly believed that he was seeking increase of production and a rationally just distribution of income. The method he prescribed for realizing a social republic was agitation for direct universal suffrage. When that was achieved, the ninety-six per cent, of the population would be in possession of the government. Whether they would use their power well is to some a matter of conjecture, to many of foreboding. That they can be trusted the history of our own country, and even the parliamentary reforms of Great Britain, have so far shown, for in both countries direct universal suffrage is now the practical basis of government.
Lassalle died in a duel. The circumstances are these : In 1862, at Berlin, he encountered Helene von Dönnigsen. the daughter, by a Jewish mother, of the Bavarian minister to Switzerland, and an heiress in her own right. She was a fair-haired woman of about twenty-two years, adventurous, keen, and eccentric, but, as Lassalle said and events proved, deficient in resolution. So much did she resemble him that in after-years, when acting on an amateur stage in Breslau, many of the audience spoke of her as the young Lassalle come to life again. At this time, negotiations were already on foot to contract Helene to a Wallachian Count von Racowitza, whom she eventually married. Of all the exclusive circles in Germany, none is more exacting than the diplomatic. When, in 1847. Bismarck, discussing Jewish emancipation in the Prussian Parliament, said that while willing to accord to Hebrews every personal civil right, “ If I should see a Jew a representative of the king’s most sacred majesty, I should feel deeply humiliated,” he circumscribed that sacred area within which none but aristocratic feet might tread. Lassalle sought an alliance within this inviolable caste, and was resolutely repulsed. Helene fell under the spell of his beauty and daring, and all accounts of the courtship represent her as making the first advances, even to a point where a less chivalrous nature than his would have deeply compromised her. In July, 1864, he turned over his duties as head of the Workingmen’s Union to Bernhard Becker, who as his political executor was soon to succeed him, and went to Rhigi Mountain, in the Canton of Schwyz, ostensibly for his health. Thither came Helene in company with some ladies, upon an excursion, and made her presence known to him. They spent a day together. It is probable that this interview was brought about by one of Lassalle’s friends, the fair lady being quite ready for the adventure. A number of encounters succeeded, in one of which Helene came to him, and, foreseeing the inexorable opposition of her parents, proposed an immediate elopement; but he took the Fräulein courteously back to her mother, — a chivalrous act which was the beginning of an estrangement. Lassalle was determined to conquer the reluctance of her family, and to win his bride openly and fairly. On the girl’s return home, two emissaries of her father came to Lassalle to beg him to leave Geneva, where all the parties then were, and to relinquish further pursuit of her hand. He refused, and employed the agency of two friends to obtain for him further intercourse.
Meanwhile, the parents spurred on the Racowitza engagement, and the placid Helene rapidly subsided into unresisting conformity to parental plans, from which state neither Lassalle’s frantic letters nor the eloquence of his friends could rouse her. In vain he invoked the intervention of the Countess von Hatzfeldt; of Baron von Schrenk, the official superior of Dönnigsen ; and of his friend Ketteler, the saintly Bishop of Mainz. It is said that Lassalle proposed to turn Catholic, and seek with Helene the protection of the Church for their nuptials, forgetting that the Dönnigsens were Protestants. But surely no such conjecture is needed. Ketteler was himself of aristocratic birth, of the same faith as the Bavarian court, and also a friend of the Countess von Hatzfeldt. He had already been attracted by Lassalle’s economic doctrines, had expressed his sympathy with them, and was contemplating the organization of a Catholic socialistic movement for his own archdiocese. His was an influence that a Bavarian diplomat would respect, and Lassalle had not to go far out of his way to secure it.
But the Wallachian count arrived on the scene, and the revolutionary suitor received a harsh and peremptory dismissal. The ostensible objection to Lassalle was the odium of the casket theft, yet evidence is not wanting that the real ground of his rejection was the fear of compromising the Dönnigsen social and official position by an alliance with a man of unrecognized family. Lassalle, who could ill brook opposition, let alone contumely, raged, and so far forgot himself as to challenge Helene’s father and successful suitor. He who carried Robespierre’s cane with him ostentatiously, because he had received it in token of approbation of his moral courage in formerly refusing the duello on principle, went into the field with Racowitza, in a Genevan suburb, on the morning of the 28th of August, and there received an abdominal wound, from which, after great torture, he died on the third day. Helene married her Wallachian lover, and soon after nursed him through a fatal illness. She and Herr Becker have given to the public many particulars of this episode in her life, but they are of little permanent interest.
Now follows one of the most singular features of this tumultuous history. A great concourse assembled, from workingmen’s unions, socialistic clubs, and political and learned circles, to attend the funeral ceremonies at Geneva. Under the direction of Countess von Hatzfeldt, the body was borne through Rhineland, and received with pageantry at every town, until at Cologne its progress towards Berlin was interrupted by the police, who in the name of the family bore away the corpse for sepulture at Breslau. Upon Lassalle’s testamentary nomination, Bernhard Becker became president of the German Labor League, and set about enhancing, with perilous arts, the influence of the dead leader. He with others resolved to exalt Lassalle’s ascendency into the domain of faith, and to surround his grave with a glamour like that which once rested upon the tombs of King Arthur of Britain and of Frederic Barbarossa. They instituted festivals in honor of the dead (Todtenfeier), in which he was represented as translated, and his spirit was invoked. It is probable that many of the more superstitious artisans believed that the founder of the Arbeiterverein was sacrificed by aristocratic influence on their account, and even that he would come again from the tomb to lead them to victory. In their clubs, one called him the “ Messiah of the century ; ” another, “ the mighty Titan, who never dies ; ” and a third said, “ The salvation of the people was destined to a man of the seed of Judah.” Semi-religious celebrations were periodically maintained in various parts of Germany, until, at least, the anti-socialist laws of 1878 were put in force, and the very contriver of the cult, eventually thinking it outgrown, undertook to extirpate its last roots by unsavory “ revelations ” of Lassalle’s “ tragic life-ending.” For this misuse of his name the dead man could in no wise be responsible. That his career should readily lend itself to such an apotheosis is evidence of the extraordinary impression made by his energy and genius.
When the results of a man’s life are to be measured, one must look beyond the mere limits of professed discipleship. There are solar agitations above and below the visible spectrum of the sun’s rays. So those who do mankind the greatest services are men whose influence transcends the circles of sect and party. As an organizer of a league, Lassalle died weary with disappointment. He wished to array in one union 100,000 workingmen for his fulcrum, from which to move the Prussian government, and when he perished he had enrolled but 4610 adherents. Three years elapsed before any notable expansion of numbers began, and then a diversion had set in, under the leadership of Bebel and Liebknecht, in favor of Karl Marx’s International Society. Yet to-day it is the political maxims of Lassalle rather than of Marx which direct the aims of the Social-Democrats of Germany towards national rejuvenation. In 1867 that party returned five members to the North German Diet. In 1877 twelve, and in 1884, despite the active repression of the government, twenty-four, of their representatives sat among the deputies of the Reichstag.
When the socialist laws of 1878 were under debate, Prince Bismarck spoke of Lassalle as “a man of the greatest amiability and ability, from whom much could be learned.” The great Chancellor had connived at the formation of Lassalle’s Labor League, and had profited by his policy; but he had also evoked a marshaled strength, fast becoming formidable. He determined to put it down, and his process resolved itself into counterparts : with one hand he would repress it by statute, with the other he would conciliate and control it. To accomplish the latter part of his design, he concocted a measure of national insurance for workingmen, and a council of advice upon questions of social economy. The project is essentially Lassallean in principle, and popular support for it is sought in the opinions and motives which Lassalle disseminated. By becoming a Lassalle himself, Bismarck would overthrow the authority of Lassalle. In introducing the scheme of national insurance, the Chancellor candidly said his plan was only tentative, and that the policy, once entered upon, must draw in its wake further socialistic experiments. Thus Germany begins to domicile the spirit of the great agitator in the central chambers of her authority.
Two other related movements must be referred back to Lassalle. The Catholic socialism of Bishop von Ketteler has already been mentioned, and where it has planted itself the propaganda of the secularists is well-nigh impotent. A like religious organization has sprung up in the Lutheran Church, and at Berlin it is represented by Stöcker, the court chaplain, whose crusade against the Jews has already been mentioned. In each of these movements, the historical startingpoint was the teaching of Ferdinand Lassalle, a man whose theories are now turned to do duty against his adherents.
As an economist Lassalle did not claim originality. There was no need for it: the old orthodoxy devoured itself ; the industrial world needed reconstruction upon contradictions of its definitions ; the last utterances of historical and economic wisdom were on the pages of Rodbertus and Marx. It is due to Lassalle that the researches and conclusions of these scholars have become the possession of German workingmen. To the emphasis which he gave to the historical method of studying social problems it is also largely due that the younger generation of German economists accept the designation of “ Socialists of the Chair,” and recognize as a fundamental postulate that wealth is more than money, because it includes the public weal.
As Abbé Sieyès defined the tiers état and made it visible to France, so within that estate Lassalle found a fourth and greater, — the workingmen ; and he is its political apostle who has made its existence manifest to the world.
D. O. Kellogg.