Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Hour Of Destiny
by [?]

We are already free to speak of this war as if it were ended and of victory as if it were assured. In principle, in the region of moral certainties, Germany has been beaten since the battle of the Marne; and reality, which is always slower, because it goes burdened beneath the weight of matter, must needs come obediently to join the ranks of those certainties. The last agony may be prolonged for weeks and months, for the animal is endowed with the stubborn and almost inextinguishable vitality of the beasts of prey; but it is wounded to the death; and we have only to wait patiently, weapon in hand, for the final convulsions that announce the end. The historic event, the greatest beyond doubt since man possessed a history, is therefore accomplished; and, strange to say, it seems as though it had been accomplished in spite of history, against its laws and contrary to its wishes. It is rash, I know, to speak of such things; and it behoves us to be very cautious in these speculations which pass the scope of human understanding; but, when we consider what the annals of this earth of ours have taught us, it seemed written in the book of the world’s destinies that Germany was bound to win. It was not only, as we are too ready at the first glance to believe, the megalomania of an autocrat drunk with vanity, the gross vanity of some brainless buffoon; it was not the warlike impulses, the blind infatuation and egoism of a feudal caste; it was not even the impatient and deliberately fanned envy and covetousness of a too prolific race close-cramped on a dreary and ungrateful soil: it was none of these that let loose the hateful war. All these causes, adventitious or fortuitous as they were, only settled the hour of the decision; but the decision itself was taken and written, probably ages ago, in other spheres which cannot be reached by the conscious will of man, spheres in which dark and mighty laws hold sway over illimitable time and space. The whole line, the whole huge curve of history showed to the mind of whosoever tried to read its sacred and fearful hieroglyphics that the day of a new, a formidable and inexorable event was at hand.

The theories built up on this point in the last sixty years by the German professors, notably by Giesbrecht, the historian of the Ottos and the Hohenstaufens, and Treitschke, the historian of the Hohenzollerns, do not necessarily carry conviction but are at least impressive; and the work of these two writers, which we do not know as well as we should, and of Treitschke in particular possessed in Germany an influence that sank deep into every mind, far exceeding that of Nietzsche, which we looked upon as preponderant.

But let us ignore for the moment all that belongs to a remote past, the study of which would call for more space than we have at our disposal. Let us not question the empire of the Ottos, the Hohenstaufens or the Hapsburgs, in which Germany, at least as a nation and a race, played but a secondary part and was still unconscious of her existence. Let us rather see what is happening nearer to us and, so to speak, before our very eyes.

A hundred years ago, under Napoleon, France enjoyed her spell of hegemony, which she was not able to prolong because this hegemony was more the work of a prodigious but accidental genius than the fruit of a real and intrinsic power. Next came the turn of England, who to-day possesses the greatest empire that the world has seen since the days of ancient Rome, that is to say, more than a fifth part of the habitable globe. But this vast empire rests no more than did Napoleon’s upon an incontestible force, inasmuch as up to this day it was defended only by an army less numerous and less well-equipped than that of many a smaller nation, thus almost inevitably inviting war, as Professor Cramb pointed out a year or two ago in his prophetic book, Germany and England, which has only recently aroused the interest which it deserves.