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Friedrich Fabri, Does Germany Need Colonies? (1879)

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There is in the new Reich already much that has been so envenomed, so soured and poisoned by futile party bickering, that the opening up of a new and promising path of national development might well have, as it were, a widely liberating effect, in that it would powerfully stimulate the national spirit in new directions. This too would be gratifying, and an advantage. More important, it is true, is the consideration that a people which has been led to the pinnacle of political power, can succeed in maintaining its historic position only for as long as it recognises and asserts itself as the bearer of a cultural mission. This is at the same time the only way of ensuring the continuance and growth of the national prosperity, the necessary basis for the continued exercise of power. The days are past when Germany’s share in carrying out the tasks of our century consisted almost exclusively in intellectual and literary activity. We have become political, and powerful as well. But political power, when it forces itself into the foreground as an end in itself among a nation’s aspirations, leads to cruelty, indeed barbarism, if it is not ready and willing to fulfil the cultural tasks of its age, ethical, moral and economic. The French political economist Leroy Beaulieu concludes his work on colonisation with the words: “That nation is the world’s greatest, which colonises most; if it is not the greatest today, it will be tomorrow.” No-one can deny that in this direction Britain far surpasses all other States. There has admittedly often been talk during the past decade, particularly in Germany, of “the declining power of Britain”. Those who can only estimate the power of a State in terms of the size of its standing army (as has indeed become almost the custom in our iron age), may well regard this opinion as justified. But those who let their gaze wander over the globe and survey Great Britain’s mighty and ever-increasing colonial empire, those who consider what strength she derives from that empire, with what skill she administers it, those who observe how commanding a position the Anglo-Saxon race enjoys in all countries overseas, to them this talk will seem the reasoning of an ignoramus. That Britain, moreover, maintains her world-wide possessions, her position of predominance over the seas of the world, with the aid of troops whose numbers scarce equal one quarter of the armies of one of the military States of our continent, constitutes not only a great economic advantage, but also the most striking testimony to the solid power and the cultural strength of Britain. True, Great Britain today will remain as much as possible aloof from continental mass wars, or at most will only engage in action jointly with allies, which, however, will not harm the island kingdom’s power position. It would, in any case, be advisable for us Germans to learn from the colonial skill of our Anglo-Saxon cousins and begin to emulate them in peaceful competition. When, centuries ago, the German Reich stood at the head of the States of Europe, it was the foremost trading and seagoing Power. If the new German Reich wishes to entrench and preserve its regained power for long years to come, then it must regard that power as a cultural mission and must no longer hesitate to resume its colonising vocation also.

Source: Friedrich Fabri, Bedarf Deutschland der Kolonien? Eine politisch-ökonomische Betrachtung [Does Germany Need Colonies? A Political-Economic Reflection] (orig. 1879), 3rd ed. Gotha, 1883.

Original German text and English translation reprinted in Friedrich Fabri, Bedarf Deutschland der Colonien? / Does Germany Need Colonies? Eine politische-ökonomische Betrachtung von D[r. Theol.] Friedrich Fabri, ed., trans. and intro. by E.C.M. Breuning and M. Chamberlain, Studies in German Thought and History, no. 2. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1998, pp. 46-59, 78-79, 82-85, 148-53, 178-81.

Reproduced here with the permission of Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston, New York (

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