Page images

national despair, with the sense of the greatness of which human nature is capable.

Such was the lesson taught to downcast Germany at the beginning of last century. It was taught by a succession of great men. The world has hardly before seen a formative influence so powerful brought to bear on the youth of a nation. Its strength lay in the wonderful combination, directed to a common end, of genius of the most diverse kind. In science, in philosophy, in theology, in poetry, in music, the Higher Command was given and obeyed, and the subordinate leaders, penetrated by great ideas, set to work animated by the same spirit. One notable result was the life which, almost from the first, was breathed into the Universities of Germany. The new ideas dominated them, and they were to remain dominated by these ideas for nearly half a century. Along with a conception of the reality and importance of the State, which was of almost exaggerated magnitude, there grew up the reverent acceptance of the necessity of thought as a preliminary to action. The result was a tendency to organization in every direction, and the rule of the organizing spirit. This took hold as it had never before taken hold of any nation. The great thinkers and their disciples were quick to perceive that if Germany could not as she was rival France, with Napoleon as the leader of the French nation, she might yet evolve in course of time a military organization to whose perfection no limit could be set. Scharnhorst and Clausewitz showed the way, and began the work which was to be completed by Moltke and Roon and Bismarck. But it was not to military organization that the German mind turned first of all. The leaders saw clearly that education was the key to all advance, and they set to work to prepare for the education of the people. The work took sixty years to complete, but completed it was at last, with a thoroughness the like of which the world has hardly seen elsewhere. For again the spirit of organization,

of the systematic action which is based on preliminary and systematic thinking, was at work. The German scheme of education stands out to-day as a single whole, containing within itself its three great stages. As a triumph of the spirit of organization it is unrivalled, excepting by that wonderful outcome of scientific arrangement, the German Army. And the means by which all these things were called into existence and brought about was chiefly the co-operation of the University with the State in producing the men who were to lead and to develop the organization.

Germany is to-day immersed in practical affairs. But she cherishes the educational and military institutions, of which the great figures of the early nineteenth century were the real founders. The development of her technical high schools and of her navy, under the brilliant leadership of the Emperor William II., shows that she has not lost the faculty which came to her through them. When the lesson of selforganization is once learned by a people, it is not readily forgotten. The habit survives the effort that initiated it. But this has another side, the drawback of which must not be overlooked. Recent German literature points to effects of organization on the history of German life other than those I have spoken of. When a leader of genius comes forward, the people may bow before him, and surrender their wills, and eagerly obey. Such was the response to the great German leaders of thought of a century since. But men like these dominated because they inspired, and lifted those they inspired to a new sense of freedom gained. To obey the commanding voice was to rise to a further and wider outlook, and to gain a fresh purpose. Organization, were it in daily affairs, or in the national life, or in the pursuit of learning, was a consequence and not a cause. But this happy state of things by degrees passed, as its novelty and the original leaders passed away. It revived for a time later in its national aspect under the inspiration of the struggle for

German unity and supremacy. But, so far as the lead in the region of pure intellect was concerned, the great pioneers had nearly all gone by 1832, and the schools of thought which they had founded had begun rapidly to break up. What did remain were the Universities, and these bore on the torch. Yet even the Universities could not avert a change which was gradually setting in. After 1832 the source of the movement ceased for the time to be personality. A great policy had become merged in habit, and was now the routine of the life of the State. As a consequence, the deadening effect of officialdom had begun to make itself felt. To-day in Germany there are murmurs to be heard on many sides about the extent to which the life and freedom of the individual citizen are hemmed in by the State supervision and control which surround him, and which endure almost from the cradle to the grave. The long period of practically enforced attendance at the secondary school for him who seeks to make anything of life; the terror of failure in that leaving examination, to fail in which threatens to end the young man's career; the feeling that the effect on life of compulsory military service cannot be certainly estimated; the State supervision and control of the citizen in later days; all these are leading some Germans to raise the question whether a great policy has not been pushed forward beyond the limits within which it must be kept if initiative and selfreliance are not to be arrested in their growth. Where we in this country are most formidable as competitors with the Germans is in our dealings with the unforeseen situations which are always suddenly arising in national life, political and commercial alike. We are trained to depend, not on the State, which gives us, perhaps, too little help, but on ourselves. So it has been notably in the story of our Colonial development. The habit of self-reliance and of looking to nothing behind for support has developed with us the capacity of individual initiative and of rule in uncivilized

surroundings in a way which makes some reflecting Germans pause and ask whether all is well with them. They point to our great Public Schools and compare them with their own great secondary schools. They are, many of them, asking to-day whether the German gymnasium, with its faultlessly complete system not only of teaching but of moulding youth, really compares altogether favourably with our unorganized Eton and Harrow, where learning may be loose, but where the boys rule themselves as in a small State, and are encouraged by the teachers to do so. Thus, declare some of the modern German critics, are leaders of men produced and nurtured, with the result that they rule wherever they go, and that when they migrate to distant lands they love their school and their country in a way that is not possible for the German of to-day, who has not in the same fashion known what it is to rely on himself alone.*

I do not desire either to extol or to detract from the spectacle which our great commercial and political rival on the continent of Europe presents. She has to learn from us, as well as we from her. I would only point to the lesson she has taught us of the value of organization and the part the Universities have played in it. Like all valuable principles that of the duty to organize may be ridden too hard, but into this danger our national characteristics are not likely to let us fall. But let us turn from the contemplation of these ideals to the actualities of our Scottish University life, and glance at the possibilities which that life affords. You are, most of you, the sons and daughters of parents whose care has been that you should have the higher education. Riches were not theirs. Perhaps a struggle has been necessary in order to give you your in order to give you your chance. Some of the best of you strive hard to lighten the burden and to make yourselves self-supporting. Bursaries and scholarships

* Cf. Ludwig Gurlitt, 'Der Deutsche und sein Vaterland,' Berlin, 1903.

and employment in private teaching are the aids to which many of you look. Most of you have to content yourselves with necessaries and cannot ask for luxuries, nor do the most eminent among you seek these. Learning is a jealous mistress. The life of the scholar makes more demand for concentration than any other life. He who would really live in the spirit of the classics must toil hard to attain that sense of easy mastery of their language which is vital to his endeavour. The mathematician and the physicist, who seek to wield the potent instruments of the higher analysis, must labour long and devotedly. To contribute to the sum total of science by original research demands not only many hours of the day spent in the laboratory, but, as a rule, vast reading in addition, and that in several languages. The student of philosophy must live for and think of little else before he can get rid of the habit of unconsciously applying in his inquiries categories which are inapplicable to their subject matter. For he has to learn that it is not only in practical life that the abstract and narrow mind is a hindrance to progress, and an obstacle in the way to reality.

And as it is with the finished scholar so it is even with the beginner. He is subject to the same temptations, is apt to be deflected by the same tendencies. Nothing but the passion for excellence, the domination of a single purpose which admits of no foreign intrusion, can suffice for him who would reach the heights. As the older man moulds his life in order that he may pursue his way apart from the distractions of the commonplace, so it is with the best students in the University. They live for their work, and as far as can be, for that alone. They choose their companions with a view to the stimulus of contact with a sympathetic mind. Social intercourse is a means to an end, and that end is the pursuit of the object for which the best kind of student has come to the University. His aim is to grow in mental stature and to enlarge his outlook. This he seeks after quite

« PreviousContinue »