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Celts and Teutons
By Rev. MacGregor


The history of Europe for the last fifteen centuries has been mainly the history of the two races whom we know as the Celts and the Teutons. Before that epoch, of course, the Latin power was supreme over the greater part of the world, and all other nations were of comparatively little account. But when the Roman Empire was at the height of its greatness, signs were not wanting to show that the inheritance of the Caesars was soon to pass away into the hands of others. As early as the year 9 a.d., tidings came to the imperial city that a great disaster had befallen the empire. The army of Varus—the whole forces of the hitherto unconquered Rome—had been defeated, and nearly exterminated by the Germans, amid the dark forests and treacherous morasses of their Fatherland. It was the first serious check which had been given to a people whose career for many generations had been one brilliant success. The Rhine from that day became the eastern boundary of the Roman territory, and the ancient Germania remained, what the modem Germany is to this day, the home of a free and a mighty nation. This event may be called the turning point in the history of Rome. It was the first step in the decline, that ended in the fall of Rome centuries later. The warrior, whose campaign came to such a disastrous end, is said to have killed himself in despair, and the Emperor Augustus never ceased grieving for the loss of his splendid legions. He had cause to grieve, for the loss was all the harder to bear, because it meant the loss of prestige and the beginning of national ruin. The Germans still remember with pardonable pride the glory of that day; and Herman, who led his countrymen to victory at the battle, which is known as Herman-Schlacht, or Herman’s fight, has been immortalised, as the Wallace, or King Arthur of his native country.

So much for the first decisive blow that was struck by the Teuton for liberty and fame. Symptoms had begun long before this time to show that the Celt also was destined to achieve greatness. Many ages before the time of Herman, the Gauls had struck terror into the hearts of the Senators in the City of the Seven Hills. Brennus, a Gaulish chief, whose name is evidently the Latin form of Bran, or Brian, a well-known Celtic title, was the hero of this adventure. At the head of a mighty army he invaded Italy, and subdued it easily. Rome fell before him in the year 390 b.c., and the Senate was glad to pay a heavy ransom to propitiate the conqueror, and save the country from further loss. This brought the wav to an end for a time. The invaders returned to their homes, and allowed their discomfited enemies to rest, and gain strength for new enterprises. It is very remarkable how, on this occasion, the Gauls showed the invariable characteristics of their race. With them it was simply an impetuous attack, victorious, of course, but not followed by any permanent advantage. The fight being over, and the booty won, they were quite content to give up the conquered territory and enjoy the profits of their raid, without any thought of improving their position for the future.

Many years passed away, and many changes came over the spirit of their dream. Rome grew stronger. Carthage fell into her hands, and the classic land of Greece was added to her possessions. Her armies triumphed over the land that had not only overthrown the whole force of Persia at Marathon and Salamis, but had carried the fame of her heroes to the borders of India. The wealth of Corinth and the wisdom of Athens were not able to save them from the terrible legions of the consuls. Still more wonderful to say, the Empire of Alexander the Great crumbled into dust almost as quickly as it had risen. The conquests of the Macedonian King, divided under the sway of several smaller men, were swallowed up, kingdom after kingdom, by the all-powerful republic of the west. And Gaul had her own turn of adversity. Julius Caesar came, saw, and conquered. We cannot venture to give implicit trust to his own accounts of that war, for they are no doubt highly tinted by the exuberance of his sublime self-conceit. Still, it was clear that Caesar's conquest vas very decided. The Celts of Gaul were rent asunder by internal strife, as the Celts everywhere have so often been, and the perfect discipline of the Romans gained the day. It was of no avail that the Gauls, in their desperation, forgot their rivalries, and banded themselves together against the common enemy. In the acords of Motley, the historian of the Dutch Republic, the frail confederacy fell asunder like a rope of sand, at the first blow of Caesar’s sword. The southern invaders became the undisputed masters of Gaul.

And yet the Celts were by no means wiped out of the map of the world. Across the English Channel were other families of the same warlike people, who had not learned to submit to a foreign Power, and who have not yet learned that bitter lesson. So the sea of war was transferred to Britain, and the first of a series of invasions took place. The success of the Roman arms was only partial. Contrary to all that might have been expected, the islanders made a stubborn resistance, which was not wholly without, avail. Their courage and endurance must have been of a high order when they could make such a stand as they did, considering the disadvantages under which they had to meet the invaders. The Romans were strong in numbers, in discipline, in implements, of war, in confidence arising from recent victory—in short, they were strong in all that constitutes the strength of an army. The Britons, on the other hand, were divided into a number of petty States; they were poorly armed, unpractised in scientific warfare, and their personal courage, great as it undoubtedly was, could not compensate altogether for defects such as these. Still, it may be claimed for our hardy ancestors that, like the Germans, they refused to be conquered. The Romans might ravage the low countries, and might boast that, with all the resources of their comparative civilisation, they were more than a match for the barbarians of the North. But the spirit of the Celts remained unbroken. Retiring to the mountains of Scotland and Wales, or to the distant island of Hibernia, they refused to confess themselves beaten, and it may fairly be said that they never were really subject to the yoke of the foreign intruders. The Celts and the Teutons were the most indomitable foes that the Romans, ever met in the tented field.

Before coming to the period where the two races began to come into close relations with each other, we may try what we can learn about their origin. That they, along with most of the other European nations, emigrated from Asia at a remote period in the past is pretty clear. This has been often disputed, but the balance of evidence is in favour of the opinion that the emigration did take place. But further details are obscure and undefined. The time at which the successive waves of invasion passed on towards the west can hardly be brought to the accuracy of given dates, and the order in which the several tribes made their journeys has not yet been quite determined. The science of Ethnology, if indeed it can properly be called a science, is a most fascinating study, but unfortunately it cannot be reduced to anything like an actual demonstration of undoubted truths. All that is known of it with certainty is but the skeleton of a system, to which the details have to be adapted, partly from bold guesses at probabilities, and partly, it is to be feared, from vivid imagination. All this, however, while it forbids us to regard the study as an exact science, makes it all the more interesting from a sentimental point of view. Where exactness is wanting there is room for the play of thought, wandering from point to point, spelling out here and there a known fact, and adorning it with a multitude of possibilities, any one of which may be true, and any one of which can hardly be proved to be untrue.

How, then, shall we trace the two tribes of which we have spoken to their origin? History is available only to a limited extent, for the history of ancient times is concerned, for the most part, with totally different people. The inhabitants of many eastern lands have had their records written during ages before either Germany or England had a literature. Greece and Egypt have left us some monuments of venerable antiquity to tell us of the fame of their philosophers and poets. What though printing was unheard of, and remained to be invented in an age that was yet far away on the horizon of time, these countries had historical records, carved on stately piles of stone, more lasting than brass. The worthy who, in Goldsmith’s immortal romance, spoke so learnedly of Sanchoniathon, Manetho, and Berosus, brings to mind some names of men who actually did leave testimony to the events of their time. If we had authorities such as these to guide us in our present enquiry, we might be able to feel our wav better than we now can do, through the darkness of ages, in which so little that is not fabulous can be distinguished.

We are indebted to Jewish annals for the first notice that we have to guide us. In the tenth chapter of Genesis we read that Gomer, the eldest son of Japhet, had three sons, two of whom have a special interest for us at present. It is to be observed that Gomer was the son of the patriarch from whom we believe the Aryan races to be descended. His name is identified with the early Cimmerians, with the later Cimbri, and with the modern Cymri, all of whose names are strikingly like that of their distant ancestor. His two sons, to whom we have referred, were Ashkenaz and Riphath. They were the two oldest branches of the family of Japhet. From the former are descended the Teutons, and from the latter the Celts have their origin. Authority for these statements are to be found in Smith’s well known Dictionary of the Bible, and in the Hebrew Lexicon of Dr Julius Fuerst. An echo of the name of the elder brother is heard in the word Scandinavia, that of the younger is repeated in the Khipean mountains, which are known to us as the Carpathians. It may be too much to say that the names of the patriarchs were in any way indicative of the character of their descendants. But it is worthy of remark that Ashkenaz suggests a derivation from the Hebrew root, shakan, a root which means to rest; while Riphath is probably related to the verb riph or ruph, which means to flutter, or move about restlessly. If these derivations be accurate, they point with great force to the distinctive characteristics of the two tribes—the one patient, methodical, and persevering, while the other is quick, lively, courageous, and eager for change. Anyone who has studied history must know how marked these characteristics have always been.

It is to be regretted that so little is known with certainty about the fortunes of the tribes down to a period comparatively modern. Fain would we roll away the cloud of darkness that hangs over the past, that we might see the gradual rise of the tribes of the east, and their successive movements in quest of new homes, when their early abodes had become too narrow to contain them. It is strange to see how often history repeats itself. The leading families of mankind, in the very early ages of the world, had to move to the west, in order to find new openings for their energies, just as their descendants at the present day have to flock in thousands to America, there to settle, and lay the foundations, it may be, of many new nations, in the twentieth century and in the ages that are to follow it. The very name of Europe is to us a reminder of the feelings that rose in the minds of the first travellers when they drew near the Hellespont, and saw, across the waves, what was to them indeed a new world. The Wide Prospect —such is the meaning of the Greek words which, according to Matthew Arnold, have given a name to that continent on which the Celts and Teutons have acted such a distinguished part ever 'since the Christian era. It is by no means a great effort of the imagination to call up some of the thoughts that must have filled the minds of the wanderers when they looked at the view that lay before their eyes. Journeying from we know not how far, they •came to a point where further march was stopped by the sea. There it became necessary either to stop their career or to find a means of crossing to the opposite shore. When navigation was in its infancy it must have been an arduous work to move a multitude of people even across the narrow strip of sea that separates the two continents, near the place where Constantinople now stands. Yet it was the destiny of both Celts and Teutons to leave their first homes far behind, and seek their fortune in an unknown land, that was by and by to be very well known by their families in future ages. They made their way across, and proceeded to take possession A new inheritance lay before them, and we may well believe that they were prepared to make a vigorous effort to secure them.

Teuton. This feud appears in history as early as the fourth century A.D., when the Franks, a German tribe, began to threaten the decaying power of Rome in Gaul. These Franks, with the firmness and energy of their race, made themselves masters of the land, to which they gave the mediaeval name of France, which it is likely to bear during the rest of its history. France did not lose her identity as a nation when thus overrun. On the contrary, this was the turning point at which her career began as one of the great Powers of the world. From the fifth century to the close of the eighteenth the French monarchs held the reins, many of them with great ability and distinguished success, raising their country step by step, till France, under Louis XIV., was perhaps the most powerful nation in Europe. The age of splendour was followed by the disastrous war of the Spanish succession; and the misrule of Louis XV. and Louis XVI. brought the kingdom of Clovis to an end.

Not to digress any further, it is interesting to notice the results of the Frankish invasion. As the Norman conquerors of England combined with the Saxons whom they found there, so the Franks, on assuming the sovereignty of France, became part of the people over whom they ruled. Hence the greatness to which the country attained. The two essentials were introduced. Freedom and order were established, and the heavy yoke of Rome was thrown off for ever. But France was, and still is, Celtic to the core. Consequently she has never been able to keep up a good understanding with Germany. As the Normanised England became the inveterate foe of France, so the German power, once set up in France, became more Celtic than the Celts themselves in hating the country beyond the Rhine. It is not difficult to see circumstances that tended to strengthen this mutual distrust. There was, for one thing, the rivalry that was natural, and almost inevitable, between the two leading nations of the continent. Further, in process of time a sort of alliance sprang up between England and Germany, which was equally natural between two countries who had a common ancestry, whose languages were closely connected, and who latterly were drawn together by the Reformation in the sixteenth century. It was not possible that the friend of England could at any time be the friend of France. With all these considerations, it is not strange that the French and Germans should for so long a time have lived in a state of chronic warfare. The fire has not yet burnt out. The stirring scenes of Metz and Sedau were the consequences of the strife that led to the battle of Jena, and the fall of the Prussian capital before Napoleon Bonaparte. And when the Prussian king was crowned as Emperor, in the palace of Versailles, a new score was begun, which France is only too eager to wipe out again.

Union between the two races has often been tried on the continent of Europe, but never with decided success. The attempt has generally been like trying to unite fire and water. Charlemagne, King of the Franks, was also Emperor of Germany from the year 800 till his death in 814. But the wide dominion which yielded to his valour and genius, was again divided almost as soon as his master hand was taken away. Anyone who has read “Morley’s Dutch Republic,” knows what was the result of the endeavours made by Philip the Second of Spain to hold the Teutons of Holland in the same leash with the Belgian Celts. That was a most striking instance of failure, for it was one in which the outside pressure was so tremendous that, if it had been possible to weld the two into one, the thing would have been done. The whole power of Spain was brought down upon William the Silent, Prince of Orange, and his faithful Hollanders—and Spain was a much greater Power in those days than she has ever been since then. Indeed, it may be said that the desperate effort that she made at that time to hold the Dutch in bondage was too much for her, and that she has not yet recovered from the effects of the struggle. During the present century again, the experiment has been tried of making a kingdom of the Netherlands out of Holland and Belgium. The union lasted for about half a generation, and then the two ill-assorted partners separated, not to be united again, in our time at least. And the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 became the occasion of separating another connection of a somewhat similar kind. Alsace, a German province, with strictly German inhabitants, became a part of France in the time of Louis XIV., about two centuries earlier. France’s difficulty became Germany’s opportunity, and the Alsatians once more entered into the community of the German States, that were joined into a mighty empire under the veteran Kaiser William, the fame of whose army made all the world to ring.

Enough has been said on this point. We have spoken of the relations of the two races in foreign lands. It remains to be seen, and will perhaps be more interesting to know, how they have fared in our own country. Here we find that the course of events has been different, and that the difference has been for the most part to our advantage. Owing to our insular position, a coalition of Celts and Teutons in Great Britain was possible, and in process of time became an accomplished fact. Yet even here the rivalry was difficult to kill, and it retained its vitality for many ages, to the great loss of both races. We have a deeply rooted habit of thinking of our own nation as the greatest in the world. This is certainly pardonable, as we have good grounds for our belief. But we are apt also to think that this pre-eminence has been ours for an indefinite period, extending to remote antiquity, which is an error as ridiculous as it is gigantic. If we look back for three hundred years we find that England and Scotland were two separate nations that had, from the dawn of their history, been almost constantly at war with each other. Divided as they were, it was not possible for either of them to exercise much influence in the councils of Europe. Scotland had a kind of alliance with France for many years, partly, no doubt, owing to the Celtic element in the two nations, but chiefly due to the fact that England was the common enemy of both. This alliance may have been very profitable to France, but was not at all beneficial to the smaller country. It could never make up for the want of power that was caused by the constant jealousy and enmity that our ancestors cherished against their neighbours on the south of the Tweed.

In the year 1603 the two crowns were united, and James VI. became the sole monarch of Great Britain. But for the next hundred years things were worse than before. The union of the crowns did not bring with it a union of the people. Disunion bore its natural fruit, and England became a smaller power than she had ever been since the Norman conquest. It is only when we read history with attention that we see how low our standing as a nation was during the reigns of the Stuart dynasty. Spain, and France, and Holland, by turns swayed the destinies of the world, while we were exercised with contests between Cavaliers and Roundheads, or between Resolutioners and Protesters. Even at this distance of time it is with a sense of humiliation that we remember how the Dutch sent their fleet into the Thames, and threatened the liberty of the Metropolis, while Charles the Second was trifling his life away in the palace. We may be glad that the follies of those days gave place to something like earnestness of purpose in a succeeding age.

The fusion of races was a work of time, and till it was carried out there was little but violence and disorder to be recorded in our annals. It is interesting to notice how the two contending races at last came to be made one, and what happy results followed from the change. With the union of the crowns came a sense of power in the minds of the people. It is not to be supposed that the union alone brought this about, for there were other causes at work. During the second half of the sixteenth century an enormous advance had been made in learning and civilisation. The art of printing had made knowledge more easy of attainment than it had ever been before. And it is hardly necessary to do more than mention that the literature of the Elizabethan age will be famous so long as the English language is remembered. All this, of course, opened the eyes of the people to see their own power, to the existence of which they had in the past been strangely blinded. The Stuarts—most unwisely for themselves— tried to stem the current of public feeling. The result was civil war, followed by a series of revolutions. A king was beheaded, and it seemed as if the monarchy was overthrown for ever. A short term of republicanism was followed by the restoration of the royal house to power, a restoration which only paved the way for the great revolution of 1688. The throes and convulsions through which the nation passed while these events were taking place, had one good effect which compensates for all the evil which they did. The troubles of the seventeenth century made it impossible for Celts and Teutons to remain separate any longer. It was evident that national ruin was at the door unless national union were resorted to. That union came about in 1707, when the two Parliaments were made one, and the Scottish legislature in Edinburgh ceased to exist. The change was, to use words that have become famous, “the end of an auld sang.”

But it was a great deal more than that, for it was the birth of a new nation, the greatest that the world has ever seen. To unite the Celts with the Teutons was a work that had often been tried in vain. The attempt failed on the Continent because on the Continent there was always plenty of elbow room. When one race was worsted by the other the vanquished people could simply move a little further away. There was plenty of natural boundaries of mountain ranges and mighty rivers that helped to keep up the separation. To this day, then, we see the French and Germans continuing, not at all to the credit either of their heads or their hearts, the feud of their ancestors of a thousand years ago. In our island circumstances were different. Here the bounds were narrow, and encircled by the adamantine wall of the ocean. Fusion was inevitable in “this precious stone set in the silver sea.” It was only a question of time, and that time came in the days of Queen Anne, when Britain first became the ruling power of the world. The splendid series of victories achieved by Marlborough, the first really great triumphs of our arms since Agincourt, in the middle ages, were only the precursors of still greater events in coming years. The British empire was not much longer to be confined to the old world, or to the lands that had felt the iron hand of Rome. Regions that Caesar never knew, and where his eagles had never flown, were to be possessed by the descendants of the rude tribes of the North, whom he tried so hard to subdue. The valour of the one, with the steady perseverance of the other, made the united nation irresistible, and her people are now dominant in every quarter of the globe.

It is not to be forgotten, indeed, that a violent rupture took place last century between the North American colonies and the mother country. Nor is it at all unlikely that in process of time other colonies, both in the New World and at the Antipodes, may spring up into new nations. All this is part of the general law of nature, in virtue of which new life springs out of the old, and children grown to manhood cease to depend upon the parent. This should be no cause for serious regret, and it is certainly no cause for thinking that the Anglo-Saxon, or rather the Anglo-Celtic race, has begun to decline from its eminence. The right view to take is, that new nations springing from the old stock serve to carry the vigour and the enterprise of the races from which they have sprung, in a chain of increasing strength around the world. If it be the case, as perhaps it is, that this is not a statesmanlike opinion, it is also the case that statesmanship has often failed to see what has been apparent to common sense. The independence of the United States was for years a cause of grief to the people of the old country. It seemed like a breaking up of the established order of things, and a step towards ultimate ruin. It was certainly a misfortune that the division was made with such a wrench, and that we did not part on good terms with our kinsmen beyond the Atlantic. But after all, a few years of war, followed by an international misunderstanding for a generation or two, is but a small thing in the history of a world. Such events bulk largely in the annals of a reign, and in the memories of those in whose days they happen, but in the general progress of humanity they are but as pebbles in a stream. They cause a ripple for a little while and then the waters move onward, never stopping, never turning back till they reach at last the ocean.

Even so has been the progress of the races formed by the union of the Celts and Teutons. Troubles have befallen them, but out of the nettle of danger the flower of safety has been plucked. Not only has a great country grown out of the American Colonies, but the country that was left has grown more powerful than it was before. The people of the United States, made up as they are from a happy combination of the two best tribes of the old world, have risen into a nation that still continues to grow in strength, and which promises to maintain beyond the seas the fame of that from which it had its beginning. And as far as can be seen from the evidence of history, and the present course of events, the extension of the Anglo-Celtic race must go on till the language of Britain becomes the universal language, and British civilisation rules mankind.

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