Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XI. - Goethe's Works, vol. 5 (W. Meister's Travels; Elective Affinities)
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CHAPTER XI. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe’s Works, vol. 5 (W. Meister’s Travels; Elective Affinities) 
Goethe’s Works, illustrated by the best German artists, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: G. Barrie, 1885). Vol. 5: W. Meister’s Travels; Elective Affinities.
Part of: Goethe’s Works, 5 vols.
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Lenardo and Odoard also were for some days very busily occupied, the former in providing the emigrants with everything necessary, the latter in making the acquaintance of those who remained at home, and in judging of their capacities, in order to give them adequate information as to his own aims. In the meantime for Friedrich and our friend there was left opportunity and leisure for quiet discourse. Wilhelm got him to describe the plan in general, and when he had been made sufficiently familiar with the country and surroundings, and the hope had been expressed that they should see a large number of inhabitants dispersed in a widely extended domain, the conversation at last turned, as was natural, upon that which in point of fact holds men together—namely, religion and morality. Of this the lively Friedrich was able to give a sufficient account; and we should perhaps earn gratitude if we could give the progress of the conversation, which, by question and answer, objections and corrections, meandered on in a really commendable way, and with sundry deviations made its way pleasantly to the special end in view. In the meantime we must not linger so long, and we give its results at once rather than be obliged to let them come to view only little by little in our readers’ minds. The following was the essence of what was dealt with:—
That man should accommodate himself to the inevitable, all religions require: each one in its fashion attempts to solve this problem. The Christian religion contributes most pleasingly to this by means of faith, love and hope: therefrom ensues patience, a sweet feeling of what a priceless gift existence still is, even though, in place of the desired enjoyment, the most hateful sorrows are laid upon it. To this religion we firmly hold, but in a peculiar way: we teach our children, from youth upwards, the great advantages that it has brought us; on the other hand we ultimately impart knowledge as to its origin and progress; only then does its Founder become dear and precious to us, and all information that relates to Him becomes holy. In this sense, which perhaps may be called pedantic, but yet must be recognized as logical, we endure no Jew amongst us: for how are we to allow him participation in the highest culture, the fountain-head and origin of which he denies?
From this our moral theory is entirely apart: it is purely a matter of deeds, and is comprised in the few commandments—Moderation in what is arbitrary, diligence in what is necessary. Now, everyone in the course of his life may assist himself of these laconic precepts after his own fashion, and he has a fruitful text for unlimited application.
The greatest reverence is impressed on all for Time, as the highest gift of God and Nature, and the most assiduous handmaid of existence. Clocks have been multiplied amongst us, and one and all indicate the quarters with hand and stroke: and in order to multiply such signals to the utmost, telegraphs are created in our country which if they are not deranged give, and truly by a very ingenious contrivance, the course of the hours by day and night.
Our moral theory, which is also quite practical, aims mainly at thoughtfulness; and this is furthered in the highest degree by division of time and attention to every hour. Something must be done at every moment, and how could this be effected if attention were not paid to the work as well as to the time.
Considering that we are only beginning, we lay great stress upon the family circle. On fathers and mothers of families we intend to impose great responsibilities: with us education becomes all the easier, as everyone must provide men and maids, men-servants and women-servants for himself.
It is true that certain things must be taught with a certain uniform sameness. To read, write, and reckon with facility, the abbé undertakes to teach the masses: his method is suggestive of mutual instruction, yet it is more intelligent: but, in fact, it all depends on educating teachers and scholars at the same time.
But there is another form of mutual instruction that I will mention: the practice of attack and self-defence. Here Lothario is in his element. His manœuvres have some similarity to those of our skirmishers, yet he cannot be otherwise than original.
Here I remark that in our civil life we have no bells, in military no drums: in one as in the other the human voice combined with wind instruments suffices. All this has for some time existed and still exists; but its proper application is left to the mind that would probably in any case have originated it.
The first requirement of a State is that of a courageous magistracy, and in that ours is not to be deficient; we are all impatient to approach the business, cheerful and convinced that one must begin simply. So we do not think about justice, but about police. Its fundamental principle is vigorously expressed. No one shall annoy another. Whoever makes himself a nuisance is kept apart, until he understands how a man must conduct himself in order to be endured. If there is anything lifeless, unreasoning, in point, this in like manner is put away.
In every district* there are three directors of police, who change with each other every eight hours, shift-wise as in mining, which also must never stand still, and one of our men will especially at night-time be ready.
They have the right to admonish, to blame, to scold and to reconcile. If they find it necessary they call together a larger or smaller number of the confraternity. If the votes are equal the president does not decide, but lots are drawn, because we are convinced that when opinions are directly opposed to each other, it is always a matter of indifference which will be followed. As for the majority we have altogether peculiar opinions: we let it hold good, it is true, in the necessary course of affairs; but in the higher sense we have not much confidence in it. However I must not expatiate further on this point.
If you ask about the higher authority that guides everything, it is never found in one place. It is continually moving about in order to maintain uniformity in the main thing, and in things permissible to grant everyone his will. This is a thing that has already been done once in the course of history: the German emperors travelled about; and this institution is in the closest conformity with the idea of free States. We are afraid of a chief-town, although we already see the point in our possessions where the greatest number of people will collect together. But this we keep to ourselves: this will happen by degrees and will still be soon enough.
These are, in the most general way, the points about which we are for the most part agreed: yet whenever members come together in larger or smaller numbers they are always talked over again anew. But the main thing will be, when shall we find ourselves at the place and spot? The new state of things, which is however to last, is in fact expressed by the law. Our penalties are mild, admonition is allowed to everyone who has a certain age behind him: only the recognized elders may disapprove and blame, only a number convened can punish.*
It is noticed that severe laws are very soon blunted, and little by little become laxer, since Nature always asserts her rights. We have indulgent laws, so as to be able to get gradually more severe: our penalties consist first and foremost of a separation from civil society, milder or more vigorous, shorter or longer, as found necessary. If the property of the burgher citizen grows, little by little, something is nipped off here too, less or more as they deserve, so that they may suffer something from this point also.
Information on these points is given to all the members of the association, and in an examination that has been instituted it has been found that they all make the most appropriate application of the main points to themselves. The main thing always is only this, that we retain with ourselves the advantages of culture, and leave behind its disadvantages. Dram-drinking and circulating libraries are not allowed with us, but how we demean ourselves towards bottles and books, I would rather not disclose. Suchlike things will have to be done, if we are to criticise them.
And in just the same sense the collector and editor of these papers keeps back other regulations, which still circulate among the Society itself, as problems which perhaps it is not prudent to attempt at the present time and place; and so much the less approval could one anticipate if one ventured to mention such things circumstantially.
[* ] Large provincial districts; Pennsylvania originally consisted of six such divisions.
[* ]i.e. A sworn court summoned from the elders.