To all who speak the English language, the history of the great agony through which the Republic of Holland was ushered into life must have peculiar interest, for it is a portion of the records of the Anglo-Saxon race-essentially the same, whether in Friesland, England, or Massachusetts.
The idea of representativeness was based on a belief in national character. The Frenchman was mercurial; the Spaniard, romantic, haughty, sometimes chivalrous, often cruel, fanatical; the Italian, subtle and crafty; the Dutchman and the Englishman, frank and manly, self-reliant, enterprising, vigorous. The conventional coloring in the historians' portraiture, which placed fair against dark; the qualities of "self-help," frankness, and "enterprise" that they so often praised; and the alignment of powers in the wars between Liberty and Absolutism after the Reformation--all demonstrate that in the histories the enduring progressive traits belong to Dutchmen, Englishmen, and Americans rather than to Frenchmen, Spaniards, or Italians. Principles, the historians believed, were important causes of the differences. But behind the principles lay the answer to a question that Theodore Parker asked in his essay on Buckle's "History of Civilization":
If, in the middle ages, the Angles, Saxons, Danes, and Norsemen had settled in France instead of England, and there mixed their blood, does anyone think this Teutonic people would have now the same character which marks the Celtic French? What a difference between the Spanish and English settlements in America! Is there no odds in the blood?1
Each of the romantic historians thought he saw odds in the blood. Although none of them went
to the theoretical source of the assumption, they all believed that the essential libertarian gene was
Teutonic. Two kinds of evidence seemed to support this conclusion: the kind that Parker cited, the
In the romantic histories this broad racial distinction functioned largely in discussions of the origins of liberty and of the spirit of nationality. Despite the importance of "sticking to the thread of the narrative," discussion of these origins had several important literary advantages. It could demonstrate the "continuity" that Motley believed one must recognize in order to understand history. If the great men of different times could be connected not only by their perception of the eternal moral laws that link the ages, but also by a genealogical relationship, then the epic meaning of an important narrative would be intensified, and the sense of constant progress according to Providential plan would be sharpened. The "clear and harmonious order" in history would be clearer and more harmonious.3 Discussions of the origins of liberty also added the dimension of depth to panoramic narrative history. Both Prescott and Motley set their energetic narratives against a background filled in by long introductory chapters on the origins and development of the people in whose country the action occurred; and Bancroft made his comparisons of this kind in the body of the narrative itself, at moments when the analogy might be most effective. Finally, concern with the origins of liberty had its nationalistic value: Americans were descendants of a "race" that had long been fated to carry liberty across the earth. The historian of other countries and of his own was a more useful teacher when he showed this relationship to his American readers.
Although Prescott wrote about a Southern, Catholic country, he found some opportunity to
apply the basic Teutonic theory to Spanish history. In his preparation for historical writing during
the 1820'S, he had read and admired not only Montesquieu but Sharon Turner, who insisted that
historians should pay less attention to Indians and other savages and more to the "infancy of
celebrated nations," especially "our Saxon ancestors." Prescott justified his choice of a subject
partly by noting its connection with
Given to presenting much of what he called the "philosophical" material in his long introductions, Prescott emphasized the Visigothic ancestry of the Castilians and attributed largely to this lineage the early Castilian traditions of constitutional liberty. When he praised the comparative liberalism of the Visigoths' institutions, he was careful to relate them to "their Teutonic brethren," assuming that his reader already knew of the Teutonic tribes' libertarian reputation. Summarizing the liberal policies of these fifth-century conquerors, he noted their willingness to intermarry with the "Roman inhabitants of the country," and he often referred to the Castilians thereafter as "the Goths."5
The language in which Prescott commended the Visigoths' liberalism is especially interesting. "In short," he said, "their simple polity exhibited the germ of some of those institutions, which, with other nations, and under happier auspices, have formed the basis of a well-regulated constitutional liberty." Not only the idea but the image of the "germ" shows Prescott's awareness of what later became popular among American historians as "the germ theory" of history. The work of Bancroft and Motley as well as Prescott demonstrates that this interest in finding the germs of Western liberty in the customs of Teutonic tribes and in Anglo-Saxon towns was common among American historians at least a generation before the students of Henry Adams' Harvard seminar published a book on the Anglo-Saxon towns.6
More important than dating the early germs of the germ theory is Prescott's reference to the
Goths' "simple polity." The romantic historian, it seems, felt obliged to seek primitive
origins of liberty, among "barbaric" or "simple" people. The theory of racial distinction was thus
merged with the prevailing faith in "natural" peoples. Prescott's chapter on Castile is a good
example. He turned from the polity of the Goths to the apparently calamitous Saracen invasion of
the eighth century, an invasion which, he argued, had greatly "accelerated" the development of
liberal principles in Spain. For the best Castilians--the nobles "of more generous sentiments"--had
retreated to "natural fortresses" in the northern mountains, and in that natural setting their society
had lost all its "artificial distinctions" and returned "at once to its primitive equality."7 The experience had also revived "the moral energies of the nation,
which had been corrupted in the long enjoyment of uninterrupted prosperity." Thus the advantages
of natural simplicity had combined with those of adversity to condition "a
Consistent in this interpretation of prenational Spanish history was the superiority of the northern people. Tribes of Germanic origin had conquered Castile, had imposed their principles on her government, and, when corrupted by uninterrupted prosperity, had been driven into the "barren mountains," there to recover their primitive physical and moral energy. In the next few centuries they demonstrated their superiority to the southern Moors, and later to the Latins of Italy. In The Conquest of Mexico the mountain-dwelling Tlascalans were similarly superior to their southern countrymen.9
My discussion of principles has already shown the value that Prescott placed on national unity as a natural principle; he insisted that Spain was "intended by nature" to be "one great nation," and he remarked that only "an invigorating national feeling" could have saved the Italians from Spanish conquest. In the Introduction to Ferdinand and Isabella he sought to explain the origins of this essential feeling among the Castilian Goths, whose descendants were destined to unite the whole Peninsula. The patriotic spirit was, of course, closely allied with religion, for the usurpers were not only foreigners but infidels. Since the Castilians of the twelfth century were still "a simple people," the "religious fervor" that "exalted" their patriotism was tainted with superstition, but it had not yet become the "fierce fanaticism" of later days.10
Next in importance to religion was the influence of patriotic minstrelsy. The historian of Spain did not need to "discover" an Ossian, for he could praise the author of The Cid. To emphasize the effect of "such popular compositions on a simple people," Prescott cited the conventional example of Homer, referring the reader to Bancroft's translation of Heeren's Politics of Ancient Greece. Although Prescott denied Heeren's contention that Homer's poems had been "the principal bond which united the Grecian states," he insisted that The Cid, "by calling up the most inspiring national recollections in connexion with their favorite hero, must have operated powerfully on the moral sensibilities of the people."11
The very fact that Germanic "blood" is so difficult to recognize in the main arteries of Spanish history makes Prescott's allusions to its importance all the more significant. He discussed it in his history of the rise of Spain to national unity, to world power, to a political position more advanced than that of countries which eventually passed her.12 But he believed that in her conflict with the superior principles and vigor of the more northern peoples, Spain's defeat had been inevitable. Describing the beginnings of Spanish decline in the Dutch rebellion, Prescott observed that the Inquisition, which could not survive in the Netherlands because it was repulsive to the Dutch character, had "succeeded in Spain, for it was suited to the character of the Spaniard." The "oppressive policy and fanaticism of the Austrian dynasty" had overshadowed the early Castilian's "proud sense of independence," and in the nineteenth century all that was left of this Gothic inheritance resided in "that erect, high-minded peasantry" who were not yet wholly subdued.13
The Teutonic germ was most virulent in the histories of Bancroft and Motley. Both wrote
histories of "Germanic" nations that had accelerated "the march of humanity"; both felt obliged to
describe regularly the grand upward curves of the progressive spiral and to acknowledge repeatedly
Bancroft, one must remember, worked from a major premise that asserted the unity of all moral truths in the infinite mind of Providence. The highest function of the historian was to find in events evidence of that unity. For him there were no chance coincidences in history; it was "useless to ask what would have happened if the eternal providence had for the moment suspended its rule." The fundamental cause behind all events, Providence was never at rest. Since Providence worked through principles, which "gain the mastery over events," Bancroft found the continuity of history not in chronological dates and incidents, but in the relation of men in different ages to eternal principles. From this viewpoint he saw a clear relationship between Martin Luther and Thomas Jefferson, between Kant and Franklin, and between Washington and Frederick the Great.15
There is no doubt that the unity of the human race was one of Bancroft's universal truths, or that he looked forward to the day when humanity, "growing conscious of its unity," would snap "the bonds of nationality" and "know itself to be the spirit of the world.''16 But he also believed that the conscious unity of one race, one segment of the whole, was a step toward that higher unity. The achievement of national integrity was a step toward the unity of all nations.
The Providential historical plan had assigned to each division of humanity a function in human
progress; even George III and Philip II had unwillingly done their part. But to Bancroft, as to the
other historians, it seemed that Providence had chosen the members of one race as "the apostles of
the people's liberty." The banner of truth had passed from nation to nation, but some branch of the
Teutonic race had always helped to carry it forward. Besides securing Protestantism and freedom of
mind in America, the Seven Years' War had decided "what race, the Romanic or Teutonic, shall
form the seed" of the American people. To Bancroft
But Bancroft, like Prescott, went back to the origins of liberty, to a time, long before "the mighty mother's" birth, when Providence had anointed the original apostles of Western liberty. The motto that appeared on Bancroft's volumes, "Westward the star of empire takes its way," was the key to his interpretation of progress. Before Christianity had been established in the Roman Empire, it had "found its way, as if by instinct, into the minds of the Goths." The northern Teutonic tribes had then become "the intrepid messengers" of the faith and of personal liberty, and they had carried their system "out of their forests to the councils of Saxon England." In the westward movement of freedom the Teutonic tribes--especially the Anglo-Saxons, "that Germanic race most famed for the love of personal independence"--had served as the missionaries of truth. Freedom was a seed. The Teutonic tribes, "emerging freshly from the wild nurseries of nations," had planted it on the continent and later in England; the German Luther had cut out a weed that threatened to smother it; the Puritans had transplanted it to America, and Washington had harvested its fruit.18
Bancroft was no nativist. But although he boasted that the United States stood, "more than any other [country], as the realization of the unity of the race," his America nevertheless inherited the traditions of the "Teutonic race, with its strong tendency to individuality and freedom"; and the American people succeeded the early Teutons as "the intrepid messengers" of freedom. Though proud that America had welcomed all races, he emphasized repeatedly the predominance of Anglo-Saxons:
The immense majority of American families were not of "the high folk of Normandie," but were of "the low men," who were Saxons. This is true of New England; it is true of the south. Shall the Virginians be described in a word? They were Anglo-Saxons in the woods again, with the inherited culture and intelligence of the seventeenth century.... The Anglo-Saxon mind, in its serenest nationality, neither distorted by fanaticism, nor subdued by superstition, nor wounded by persecution, nor excited by new ideas, but fondly cherishing the active instinct for personal freedom, secure possession, and legislative power, such as belonged to it before the reformation, and existed independent of the reformation, had made its dwelling-place in the empire of Powhatan.
Other minds had been liberated by the Reformation; the Anglo-Saxon
One can see this idea clearly in Bancroft's emphasis on the same relationship in New England towns. In a more "scientific" tone than Bancroft's, Herbert Baxter Adams complained in 1882 that "the older New England historians" had neglected "the Germanic origin of New England towns" and the function of New England's village democracies as the germ of America's democratic system. Bancroft, it is true, did not study the question thoroughly in his narrative history; but one does not need a microscope to see in his second volume the germ of the later theory. At least forty- five years before Adams published his three essays on Germanic origins, Bancroft not only asserted the "Teutonic tradition" of liberty but called the New England town system "the natural reproduction of the system, which the instinct of humanity had imperfectly revealed to our Anglo-Saxon ancestors.20
By recognizing this bond Bancroft gave an added meaning to the "naturalness" of the American people. Both groups of pioneers relied frequently on "the instinct of humanity," and the second system was a natural reproduction of the first. It seemed especially fitting, moreover, that on the virgin continent destined for the fulfillment of all races' hopes by representatives of all races--that here descendants of the first democratic tribes should be the first tenants of "the woods." The connection reemphasized Bancroft's idea that America was the scene of a new beginning for humanity.
Language, too, was a patriotic property. Along with the freest agents of "the Teutonic race"
went the English language, which, after the vast English conquests of the eighteenth century, "was
now to spread more widely than any that had ever given expression to human thought."
Cataloguing "all that was best" in a New England community, Bancroft combined character, race,
and language: "A moral, well-educated, industrious people; . . . all of unmixed lineage, speaking the
language of the English bible." The English Bible proclaimed the highest religious truths; the
mission of the English language as of the Anglo-Saxon people was to proclaim through the world
the highest political truth. Although the search for "an American epic" had failed before Bancroft
began writing his history, he
There is an analogy between early American politics and the earliest heroic poems. Both were spontaneous, and both had the vitality of truth. Long as natural affection endures, the poems of Homer will be read with delight; long as freedom lives on earth, the early models of popular legislation and action in America will be admired.21
During the twelve-year interlude between the appearance of his third and fourth volumes, Bancroft himself served as an agent of progress. As Polk's Secretary of the Navy and Acting Secretary of War, he helped his party work out America's Manifest Destiny at the start of the Mexican War. Minister to England during the revolutions of 1848, he was able to visit Paris during that hopeful summer; for a while he had great hopes for French democracy, and he boasted that at the same time "we are working along toward the [Far] East with the democratic principle." He published his fourth volume, on England's conquest of North America, at the very peak of America's expansionist movement. The comparison between the conquests of 1763 and those of 1848 was too tempting to resist, and in one of the most extravagant effusions in his History he reemphasized the mission of the language:
Go forth, then, language of Milton and Hampden, language of my country, take possession of the North American continent! Gladden the waste places with every tone that has been rightly struck on the English lyre, with every English word that has been spoken well for liberty and for man! . . . Utter boldly and spread widely through the world the thoughts of the coming apostles of liberty, till the sound that cheers the desert shall thrill through the heart of humanity, and the lips of the messengers of the people's power . . . shall proclaim the renovating tidings of equal freedom for the race!22
In the tenth volume of his History, which was published in 1874, Bancroft wrote two
long chapters on the relations between Germany and the American colonies: the first, entirely on
bonds of race and principle; the second, on Germany's moral and diplomatic support during the
Revolution. He had been noticing both kinds of relationship in his History since 1837; and
in stressing Luther's importance as the founder of Protestantism, he had promised to show more
direct German contributions to the United States when the proper time came. Surely, however, his
interest in contemporary world politics and his seven years' experience as Minister to Berlin
Partly, I believe, because he wanted his readers to feel more closely related to the new Germany, Bancroft began this digression by tracing the German people "to their origin, not recounting the annals of the German nation, but searching for the universal interests which the eternal Providence confided to their keeping." After establishing through England the immortality of their customs, the Germanic tribes had unfortunately "lost the tradition that they were brothers." But "the creative energy of the house of Saxony," by establishing a long-lived empire, saw to it that the idea of German unity "worked its way indissolubly into the blood and marrow of all the people."24
The spirit of the race lived on in Germany. Although the Anglo-Saxons had laid the foundation of empire in America, Bancroft argued, the continental Teutons had also made substantial contributions. Mind ruled the world: in the doctrines of Luther, "Germany, which appropriated no territory in America, gave to the colonies of New Netherland and New England their laws of being." Inspired by the same principle of Protestant reformation and belonging to one race, the people of New England and of Germany worked under "an unwritten alliance or harmony, not written in the archives of states, showing itself only in moments of crisis." The crises were the Thirty Years' War, the Seven Years' War, and the American Revolution. Bancroft symbolized the alliance by noting coincidental actions in the Thirty Years' War for Protestant freedom. The New Englanders' function was to open a second front:
The day on which Winthrop sailed into Boston harbor, Gustavus Adolphus was landing fifteen thousand men in Pomerania. The thoughts of Germany and of the new people in America ran together: one and the same element of life animated them all. The congregations of Massachusetts, too feeble to send succor to their European brethren, poured out their souls for them in prayer.
The alignment of "races" in this war showed again that the Teutonic peoples naturally loved
liberty. Ninety per cent of "the Germans," if let alone, would have "peacefully embraced"
Protestantism. "It was by hordes of other races and tongues that the battle of Jesuit reaction was
As Parkman, too, pointed out, Germany made a more tangible contribution to American destiny during the Seven Years' War, when the nations of the Teutonic race were finally allied for the first time in centuries. In that crisis England and Germany stood alone in Europe against the combined forces of Catholicism. The English people, Bancroft believed, recognized their affinity with Germany, and when George II and Newcastle tried to subsidize a Russian attack on Frederick the Great,
. . . England shot so wildly from its sphere that Newcastle was forced to bend to William Pitt; and then England, Prussia, and the embryon United States,--Pitt, Frederic, and Washington,--worked together for human freedom. . . . "We conquered America in Germany," said the elder Pitt, ascribing to Frederic a share in the extension of the Germanic race in the other hemisphere.
Defender of Protestant freedom against seemingly overwhelming odds, and the man who inspired the German people to become once again "the hardiest nation in Europe," Frederick seemed to Bancroft the counterpart of Washington, with the best traits of the representative man. When he had to decide "with which branch of the Teutonic family" to sympathize during the Revolution, Frederick naturally chose the branch that was fighting for freedom. Bancroft rejoiced at finding original evidence that Frederick encouraged France to enter the war on the American side.26
The German people also supported the Americans. In the eighteenth century as in the seventeenth, the "thoughts" of the two peoples "ran together." While Providence guided America's revolt against materialism and despotism in government, it was also guiding in Germany the great philosophical revolution against "the despotism of the senses." The greatest minds in Germany were perpetuating the Teutonic traditions of liberty. Bancroft, himself influenced by "the sublime lessons of Kant," called those lessons the Reformation in philosophy and gave Kant "a place among the wise beside Plato and Aristotle." He declared, moreover, that Kant was "one of the first, perhaps the very first, of the German nation to defend, even at the risk of his friendships, the cause of the United States"; and he demonstrated that Lessing, Herder, Klopstock, Goethe, and Schiller had also spoken for freedom and wished the Americans well.27
The highest unifying force in history was eternal principle. "The movement for intellectual
freedom" was the force, Bancroft said, that "brought
For all one's faith in the unity of the human race, it seemed obvious that the Germanic "races" were at once more energetic and more naturally moderate than the Celtic. Having noted in his early twenties that the Germans' "fondness for abstract studies has given their national character firmness and energy, has lent new vigour to their poets and new force to their historians," Bancroft was bound to be waiting for political evidence of that vigor and the Germans' love of "truth." The revolutions of I848 persuaded him that monarchy was dead in France and Germany and extremely feeble in England, where he was United States Minister. A week after telling Prescott that "Germany is . . . the great imitator just now of the model republic," he wrote a letter to President Polk, congratulating him on the defeat of Mexico and predicting that the United States was elected to bring democracy to the Far East. In Paris when France had no government but the people, he wrote happily that "the moderation of the people is marvelous, and will be rewarded." But when he returned to Paris several months later, he had to admit that "All parties are in the wrong: everybody is in the wrong. Common sense has disappeared: impatience triumphs over reason."29
By the time Bancroft was sent to Berlin as Andrew Johnson's Minister, the theory seemed to be
even more emphatically supported by contemporary evidence. Prussia was moving forward under
Bismarck, who not only
The unification of Germany, Bancroft wrote to the State Department, was "completely in harmony with natural laws" and was "thoroughly the concurrent act of government and people." The system of petty states, under which tyrants like the landgrave of Hesse-Cassel had exploited their people, had to fall before the natural forces of popular will and racial unity. When the Franco- Prussian War was imminent, Bancroft advised Secretary Seward that Napoleon III was pursuing "a policy hostile to any further improvement of the unity of the German people." France, not Germany, was "belligerent." The United States, he said, should try to restrain France for the mutual benefit of Germany and America.31
the peoples are getting stronger. Somehow or other there is a dim consciousness in the Teutonic mind all over the country, from Schleswig to the Carpathians,
that this miraculous success of Prussia is not needle-guns, nor her admirable organisation, nor the genius of Bismarck, nor the blunders of the Bund in all its dotage, but the democratic principle.
And in 1872, after visiting the Bismarcks and attending their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary party, he praised Bismarck's accomplishments in racial terms:
the substitution of the solid, healthful, Teutonic influence for the Latinized Celtic, the control of Central Europe by a united nation of deepthinkers and straightforward, honest strikers for liberty and Fatherland....
These are not dynastic victories, military combinations, cabinet triumphs. They are national, natural achievements, accomplished almost as if by magic by the tremendous concentrated will of one political giant, aided by a perfect military science.33
Bismarck was not only "the greatest living man," but the representative man. His genius, Motley said, "consists in the instinctive power of governing by conforming to the spirit of the age." That spirit was "consolidation." Motley felt so strongly about this principle that when he waved the bloody shirt in a campaign speech for Grant, he appealed to "those holy words--Nation and Union."34
By 1868, then, Motley was able to focus on a contemporary problem the basic values and theories that I have discussed so far: naturalness, inevitable progress, the principle of nationality, America's mission, the theory of Teutonic superiority, and representativeness. "Time will show," he said that year in his speech on "Historic Progress and American Democracy," "that progress and liberty are identical. It is impossible that the success of Prussia is to end in the establishment of one military empire the more. The example and the retroaction of America; the success here of freedom and progress--forbid that result."35
The only new element here was Motley's faith that Prussia's "military despotism" would do "more for liberty than all the Garibaldis, Kossuths, and Mazzinis of half a century." The other ideas had appeared in his histories since the beginning. As the fair heroine in his novel Morton's Hope had been "a perfect incarnation of Germany,--the blonde, blue-eyed, fair-haired Germany"36--so the Dutch people who rebelled against Philip II were the natural heirs to Teutonic libertarianism. The Introduction to The Rise of the Dutch Republic goes conventionally to the origins of the nation and of liberty. But Motley combines naturalism, Teutonism, Protestantism, and libertarianism so tightly that atavism becomes a major theme of his history.
The Introduction begins with a brief description of the natural features of the country, after a reminder in the first two paragraphs that Caesar and Tacitus praised the "heroic" Teutonic "savages" of the Netherlands. Here Motley first sounds the theme of the people's long conflict with Nature, and then he moves to the subject of race. Throughout this discussion of Dutch origins he iterates the superiority of Teutons over Celts. Noting that Caesar called the Belgae the bravest of the Celts, he attributes their superiority partly to "the presence of several Germanic tribes, who, at this period had already forced their way across the Rhine, mingled their qualities with the Belgic material, and lent an additional mettle to the Celtic blood." The Batavians, main stock from which grew the Dutch traditions of liberty and the willingness to defend it, had been forced out of "the Hercynian forest" and had settled in the Netherlands. They and the "free Frisians," with whom they later combined to form the Teutonic group in the Netherlands, were part of a "homogeneous nation of pure German origin." Against this racial group Motley ranged the Celtic or "Gallic" tribes, the other "race" of the Netherlands. Anticipating the male-female racial theory that Bismarck later outlined for Bancroft, he regretted that the two races had not merged to form the most powerful race in Western Europe. But if Providence had really prevented "a fusion of the two races," the decree had done Motley a literary favor.37 Made up of Celts and Teutons, the Netherlands was the perfect literary testing ground for the merits of the two races. And the differences between the early Teutons and the Celts formed a perfect primitive background for Motley's interpretation of the rise of the republic.
Behind the sixteenth-century choice of Catholicism over Protestantism, of obedience over
rebellion, of artificiality over naturalness, lay "racial" traits formed centuries earlier. In his
Introduction Motley was careful to lay the groundwork for every major contrast in the main body of
his history. The Gauls wore flamboyant clothes; the Germans were "simple" and unostentatious.
The Gaul was "irascible, furious in his wrath, but less formidable in a sustained conflict with a
powerful foe." Because the Gaul was "inflammable, but too fickle," his confederacy dissolved
before Caesar's attack; but "the Nervii, true to the German blood in their veins," swore to die rather
than surrender, and they kept their oath. The Gauls, though republican, were an aristocracy, with
two high orders, the nobility and the priesthood; the Germans gave sovereignty to the whole people.
The Gauls were agricultural; the Germans, rugged marauders who lived on "carnage." The Gaul
was "priest-ridden," and with his "smoke-and-blood-stained
The parallel to Motley's view of the sixteenth century was not coincidental. He observed that the religious contrast was the most extreme contrast, and that it was the Celts who later "contaminated" the purer Germanic religion, before both "faded away in the pure light of Christianity." The religious question was the central question, of which political freedom was only a part, in the sixteenth-century war between the Netherlands and Spain. It was well to show that the Celts had always been less natural in both. To forewarn the reader of the Celts' later fate, Motley announced that "time has rather hardened than effaced" their racial traits.39
After discussing the two races' contrasting responses to Caesar's invasion, Motley turned--as Schiller had done before him--to the heroic deeds of Batavia's representative man, Claudius Civilis. He emphasized Civilis' eloquence and love of liberty, his sublime constancy and endurance in pathetic isolation. The battle of Civilis with Rome was "a remarkable foreshadowing of the future conflict with Spain." When he compared Civilis and William of Orange, "two heroes of ancient German stock," Motley brought together individual and racial atavism. For in both the first and the sixteenth centuries, he declared, the "petulant" southern peoples had been the first to "defy the imperial power.... In both wars the southern Celts fell away from the league, their courageous but corrupt chieftains having been purchased with imperial gold."40
Having established the relationship between the old Germans and the Dutch, the old Celts and the obedient provinces, Rome and Spain, Motley contrives to set his history in a still larger framework. For the "free Frisians," into whose group the old Batavians have "melted," are "the nearest blood-relations of the Anglo-Saxon race," and they "now occupy . . . the whole future European territory of the Dutch republic." Blood is so important to at least one Frisian chief, Radbod, that, like some of Cooper's and Parkman's Indians, he refuses to be baptized and go to Heaven when he learns that his ancestors are all in Hell. Only when "their brethren from Britain" come as missionaries do the Frisians accept Christianity.41
This noble choice, however misguided, prepared the way for the largest
The entire Introduction, including the passages on the Catholic excesses that provoked the Reformation, was intended to review sixteen centuries of Dutch adherence to "one master passion--the love of liberty, the instinct of self-government." The source of this passion was racial, the compound of "the bravest Teutonic elements, Batavian and Frisian." It was in the person of these brave Teutons that "Humanity, bleeding but not killed," still stood at bay and defied "the hunters." It was against this inspiring background that Motley, with a fine dramatic sense, placed the theatrical scene of Charles V's abdication; against this history of racial enthusiasm that he brought onstage Philip II, "a prince foreign to their blood, their tongue, their religion, their whole habits of life and thought." It was against this proud lineage that he emphasized and reemphasized Philip's Spanishness; that he found in William "a worthy embodiment of the Christian, national resistance of the German race to a foreign tyranny."43
I have concentrated on this Introduction not only because it contains the basic theory, but also
because it suggests virtually every application of the theory in almost all the romantic histories.
Motley's cross-references go backward as well as forward. Sixteenth-century Dutchmen fight on the
sites of primitive Teutonic battles for liberty; Englishmen rely in crises on their Anglo-Saxon
blood, "ever mounting against oppression"; representing "the best energies of the English people,"
Drake and Frobisher, Hawkins and Essex, Cavendish and Grenfell--all Anglo-Saxons or Anglo-Normans--emulate their primitive kindred as they go out to capture "the old world and the new"
from Spain; Dutchmen are resolute after William's assassination, and Frenchmen fall to pieces after
the murder of Henry IV; Sir Philip Sidney appears as "an Anglo-Norman representative of ancient
Parkman alluded to these racial origins far less frequently than Bancroft or Motley. The main reason seems to be not that he dissented from the common faith in Germanic superiority, but that he saw no need to go back formally to the origins of liberty. Except for a few allusions to "our barbarous ancestors" he stayed out of the Hercynian forest and concentrated on thc American forest--a sufficiently primitive laboratory for the testing of American character. When he contrasted the Frenchman and the Englishman, he was usually content to show each as nationally representative and to focus on the two principles, Absolutism and Liberty, behind which lay the racial distinction. A large part of his history, moreover, described the brave deeds of vigorous Frenchmen from Champlain to Montcalm. Except for his strictures on corrupt French nobles and colonial officials--and for some traits in the heroic Montcalm--it was on the behavior of the peoples of the two colonies that Parkman regularly concentrated his demonstration of racial difference. The difference appears most emphatically in the repeated presentation of energy against passiveness.
But Parkman certainly accepted the conventional theories. His Frenchman was "fiery"; his
Saxon, of "stubborn mettle." His Breton clung to old superstitions with "Celtic obstinacy"; in his
English woodsman he saw "renewed, with all its ancient energy, that wild and daring spirit, that
force and hardihood of mind, which marked our barbarous ancestors of Germany and Norway."
The air of liberty was "malaria" for his colonial Frenchman, because only the Englishman had
"learned to breathe it." Parkman,