German Nationalism

A German philosopher and supporter of the French revolution, Johann Gottlieb Fichte wrote his series of addresses to the German Nation in 1806. During this time, France was under the rule of Napoleon who had set about on different conquests across Europe, Germany included. The French invasion of Germany caused Fichte to think twice about his feelings towards the French and the French revolution and force the German nation to ask themselves what it truly means to be German.

Fichte’s address to the German nation is more of a persuasion as he explains the ways in which the German people need to embrace their own nationality and defer away from the French. Fichte goes about this by stating “Those who speak the same language are joined to each other by a multitude of invisible bonds by nature herself” (Fichte 1). Continuing this statement, he argues that people of the same country have a similar understanding and they belong together, becoming an “inseparable whole” (Fichte 1). The problem however, is that the whole becomes disrupted and confused when others, the French, try and interfere. Fichte states that the French have taken advantage of the Germans, pillaging their villages and using their men to fight in wars. Rather than accept the French into the German nation, Fichte argues for the Germans to unite and form their own nationality.

2 thoughts on “German Nationalism

  1. The language barrier between Napoleon and his captured soldiers made commanding difficult, and prevented many soldiers from having a will to fight. The lack of common language alienated the Germans from Napoleon. It yielded a lack of cohesion in the French army, which was one of the causes of it’s defeat.

  2. It is also important to take the enormous size of Napoleon’s army into consideration while examining the German argument for the creation of a united nation-state. For the first time the world history people witnessed the massive military might that is possible when the immense resources of a nation-state are at a leaders disposal. Napoleon made the famous quote, “You cannot stop me, I spend 30,000 men a month” in regards to the fact that the nation-state has provided him with bountiful resources, especially in the areas of human capital while waging war. I assume that many foreign thinkers saw Napoleon’s new army as a grave threat, and thus sought to apply a similar model themselves.

    Do you believe I am correct in my assessment? And that this was perhaps a significant factor that affected Germany?

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