1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Arndt, Ernst Moritz
ARNDT, ERNST MORITZ (1769–1860), German poet and patriot, was born on the 26th of December 1769 at Schoritz in the island of Rügen, which at that time belonged to Sweden. He was the son of a prosperous farmer, and emancipated serf of the lord of the district, Count Putbus; his mother came of well-to-do German yeoman stock. In 1787 the family removed into the neighbourhood of Stralsund, where Arndt was enabled to attend the academy. After an interval of private study he went in 1791 to the university of Greifswald as a student of theology and history, and in 1793 removed to Jena, where he fell under the influence of Fichte. On the completion of his university course he returned home, was for two years a private tutor in the family of Ludwig Kosegarten (1758–1818), pastor of Wittow and poet, and having qualified for the ministry as a “candidate of theology,” assisted in the church services. At the age of twenty-eight he renounced the ministry, and for eighteen months he led a wandering life, visiting Austria, Hungary, Italy, France and Belgium. Returning homewards up the Rhine, he was moved by the sight of the ruined castles along its banks to intense bitterness against France. The impressions of this journey he later described in Reisen durch einen Theil Teutschlands, Ungarns, Italiens und Frankreichs in den Jahren 1798 und 1799 (1802–1804). In 1800 he settled in Greifswald as privat-docent in history, and the same year published Über die Freiheit der alten Republiken. In 1803 appeared Germanien und Europa, ”a fragmentary ebullition,” as be himself called it, of his views on the French aggression. This was followed by one of the most remarkable of his books, Versuch einer Geschichte der Leibeigenschaft in Pommern und Rügen (Berlin, 1803), a history of serfdom in Pomerania and Rügen, which was so convincing an indictment that King Gustavus Adolphus IV. in 1806 abolished the evil. Arndt had meanwhile risen from privat-docent to extraordinary professor, and in 1806 was appointed to the chair of history at the university. In this year he published the first part of his Geist der Zeit, in which he flung down the gauntlet to Napoleon and called on his countrymen to rise and shake off the French yoke. So great was the excitement it produced that Arndt was compelled to take refuge in Sweden to escape the vengeance of Napoleon. Settling in Stockholm, he obtained government employment, but devoted himself to the great cause which was nearest his heart, and in pamphlets, poems and songs communicated his enthusiasm to his countrymen. Schill’s heroic death at Stralsund impelled him to return to Germany and, under the disguise of “Almann, teacher of languages,” he reached Berlin in December 1809. In 1810 he returned to Greifswald, but only for a few months. He again set out on his adventurous travels, lived in close contact with the first men of his time, such as Blücher, Gneisenau and Stein, and in 1812 was summoned by the last named to St Petersburg to assist in the organization of the final struggle against France. Meanwhile, pamphlet after pamphlet, full of bitter hatred of the French oppressor, came from his pen, and his stirring patriotic songs, such as Was ist das deutsche Vaterland? Der Gott, der Eisen wachsen liess, and Was blasen die Trompeten? were on all lips. When, after the peace, the university of Bonn was founded in 1818, Arndt was appointed to the chair of modern history. In this year appeared the fourth part of his Geist der Zeit, in which he criticized the reactionary policy of the German powers. The boldness of his demands for reform offended the Prussian government, and in the summer of 1819 he was arrested and his papers confiscated. Although speedily liberated, he was in the following year, at the instance of the Central Commission of Investigation at Mainz, established in accordance with the Carlsbad Decrees, arraigned before a specially constituted tribunal. Although not found guilty, he was forbidden to exercise the functions of his professorship, but was allowed to retain the stipend. The next twenty years he passed in retirement and literary activity. In 1840 he was reinstated in his professorship, and in 1841 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. He formed one of the deputation that offered the imperial crown to Frederick William IV., and indignant at the king’s refusal to accept it, he retired with the majority of von Gagern’s adherents from public life. He continued to lecture and to write with freshness and vigour, and on his 90th birthday received from all parts of Germany good wishes and tokens of affection. He died at Bonn on the 29th of January 1860. Arndt was twice married, first in 1800, his wife dying in the following year; a second time in 1817.
Arndt’s untiring labour for his country rightly won for him the title of “the most German of all Germans.” His lyric poems are not, however, all confined to politics. Many among the Gedichte (1803–1818; complete edition, 1860) are religious pieces of great beauty. Among his other works are Reise durch Schweden (1797); Nebenstunden, eine Beschreibung und Geschichte der schottländischen Inseln und der Orkaden (1820); Die Frage über die Niederlande (1831); Erinnerungen aus dem äusseren Leben (an autobiography, and the most valuable source of information for Arndt’s life, 1840); Rhein- und Ahrwanderungen (1846), Wanderungen und Wandlungen mit dem Reichsfreiherrn von Stein (1858), and Pro populo Germanico (1854), which was originally intended to form the fifth part of the Geist der Zeit. Arndt’s Werke have been edited by H. Rösch and H. Meisner in 8 vols. (not complete) (1892–1898). Biographies have been written by E. Langenberg (1869) and Wilhelm Baur (5th ed., 1882); see also H. Meisner and R. Geerds, E. M. Arndt, ein Lebensbild in Briefen (1898), and R. Thiele, E. M. Arndt (1894). There are monuments to his memory at Schoritz, his birthplace, and at Bonn, where he is buried.