1902 Encyclopedia > Ernst Moritz Arndt

Ernst Moritz Arndt
German patriot, poet and writer

ERNST MORITZ ARNDT, a distinguished German patriot, poet, and historical and miscellaneous writer, was a native of the island of Rügen in the Baltic, which at the time of his birth belonged to Sweden. He was born at Schoritz on the 26th December 1769. The second of a family of eight, he inherited from his father the sound mind in the sound body, good sense, practical sagacity, warm feeling, and a strong will ; and from his mother the earnest, devout, and Christian spirit which animated all his words and deeds. After passing his boyhood in his father's house, familiar with the solitudes of sea and wood, trained in habits of accurate observation and cheerful activity, and stimulated by books to literary attempts of his own, he was sent, in 1787, to the gymnasium of Stralsund. There he studied for two years, and, after spending the next two years in the old home, he en-tered, in the spring of 1791, the university of Greifswald, whence he removed to Jena. There he fell under the influence of Fichte, whose teachings he received with eager love, and whose memory remained ever dear to him. Destined for the church, he applied himself at first to the study of theology, but after some years, conscious of no inward call, he renounced that pursuit. In 1796 he became a private tutor at Altenkirchen ; visited afterwards Austria, Hungary, Italy, and France, giving to the world the fruits of his observation in a series of remarkable volumes published in the course of the following years ; and in 1800 settled at Greifswald as " privat-docent" of history and philology. In 1806 he was named professor extraordinary. His special faculty and vocation distinctly revealed themselves in his bold History of Serfdom in Pomerania and Rügen (1803), for which he was denounced by the nobles to the king of Sweden. So convincing was the book that, in 1806, serfdom was abolished. In his next work, Geist der Zeit (1807), he aimed at a higher mark. He flung down the gauntlet to Napoleon I. who, in the campaigns of Austerlitz and Jena, had laid Germany prostrate before him, and in burning words he called on his countrymen to rise and shake off the hateful yoke. So great was the excitement produced by this appeal that Arndt, to escape the vengeance of Napoleon, took refuge in Sweden. The work passed through fifteen editions, and grew into four volumes, to which a fifth part, entitled Pro Populo Germanico, was added in 1854. Arndt having thus erected the banner of German freedom and unity, devoted himself thenceforth with unflagging courage to the great cause. In pamphlets, poems, and songs he com- municated his own enthusiasm to his countrymen ; and he zealously co-operated with Stein in the reorganisation of the army and preparation for the final struggle. The War of Liberation followed, and Germany was free. Long years were, however, to pass before unity was attained. One of the most famous of Arndt's songs was that commencing, " Was ist der Deutschen Vaterland. " After the peace he returned to Germany, edited at Cologne a political journal, entitled Der Wächter (1815-16), and in 1818 was appointed to the chair of history at Bonn. But his bold demands for constitutional reform offended the Diet, and being deprived in the following year, he passed twenty years in retirement and literary activity. In 1840 he was reinstated in his professorship, and in 1841 he was chosen rector of the university. The revolutionary outbreak of 1848 rekindled in the venerable patriot his old hopes and energies, and he took his seat as one of the deputies to the National Assembly at Frankfort. Seeing no prospect of a satisfactory issue he retired with the adherents of Von Gagern. With rare freshness and vigour he continued to lecture and to write, and on his 90th birthday received from all parts of Germany good wishes and love-tokens. About a month later, January 29, 1860, he made a peace- ful departure out of the world. Arndt was twice married, first in 1800, but his wife died in the following year in giving birth to a son; he married a second time in 1817.

Among his numerous works, in addition to those already named, are—Nebenstunden, eine Beschreibung und Geschichte der Schottländischen Inseln und der Orkaden (1820); Die Frage über die Niederlande (1831); Erinnerungen aus dem äussern Leben (1843); Wanderungen und Wandlungen mit dem Reichsfreiherrn H. K. F. von Stein (1858); and a com- plete edition of his Gedichte (1860). Lives of Arndt have been written by W. Neumann and Wilhelm Baur; and statues have been erected to his memory at Schoritz, his birth-place, and at Bonn, where he lies buried. (W. L. R. C.)

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