The astute statesman would reason as follows: “That at present this person wields great power is undeniable—entirely disregarding, of course, this notion of his that he is God. Foibles like these, being idiosyncrasies, do not count against a man and concern no one, least of all a statesman. A statesman is concerned only with what power a man wields; and that he does wield great power cannot, as I have remarked, be denied. But what he intends to do, what his aim is, I cannot make out at all. If this be calculation it must be of an entirely new and peculiar order, not so altogether unlike what is otherwise called madness. He possesses points of considerable strength; but he seems to defeat, rather than to use, it; he expends it without himself getting any returns. I consider him a phenomenon with which—as ought to be one’s rule with all phenomena—a wise man should not have anything to do, since it is impossible to calculate him or the catastrophe threatening his life. It is possible that he will be made king. It is possible, I say; but it is not impossible, or rather, it is just as possible, that he may end on the gallows. He lacks earnestness in all his endeavors. With all his enormous stretch of wings he only hovers and gets nowhere. He does not seem to have any definite plan of procedure, but just hovers. Is it for his nationality he is fighting, or does he aim at a communistic revolution? Does he wish to establish a republic or a kingdom? With which party does he affiliate himself to combat which party, or does he wish to fight all parties ?
“I have anything to do with him?—No, that would be the very last thing to enter my mind. In fact, I take all possible precautions to avoid him. I keep quiet, undertake nothing, act as if I did not exist; for one cannot even calculate how he might interfere with one’s undertakings, be they ever so unimportant, or at any rate, how one might become involved in the vortex of his activities. Dangerous, in a certain sense enormously dangerous, is this man. But I calculate that I may ensnare him precisely by doing nothing. For overthrown he must be. And this is done most safely by letting him do it himself, by letting him stumble over himself. I have, at least at this moment, not sufficient power to bring about his fall; in fact, I know no one who has. To undertake the least thing against him now, means to be crushed one’s self. No, my plan is constantly to exert only negative resistance to him, that is, to do nothing, and he will probably involve himself in the enormous consequences he draws after him, till in the end he will tread on his own train, as it were, and thus fall.”
And the steady citizen would reason as follows (which would then become the opinion of his family) : “Now, let us be human, everything is good when done in moderation, too little and too much spoil everything, and as a French saying has it which I once heard a traveling salesman use: every power which exceeds itself comes to a fall—and as to this person, his fall is certainly sure enough. I have earnestly spoken to my son and warned and admonished him not to drift into evil ways and join that person. And why? Because all people are running after him. That is to say, what sort of people? Idlers and loafers, street-walkers and tramps, who run after everything. But mightly few of the men who have house and property, and nobody who is wise and respected, none after whom I set my clock, neither councillor Johnson, nor senator Anderson, nor the wealthy broker Nelson—oh no! they know what’s what. And as to the ministry who ought to know most about such matters—ah, they will have none of him. What was it pastor Green said in the club the other evening? ‘That man will yet come to a terrible end,’ he said. And Green, he can do more than preach, you oughtn’t to hear him Sundays in church so much as Mondays in the club—I just wished I had half his knowledge of affairs! He said quite correctly, and as if spoken out of my own heart: ‘Only idlers and loafers are running after that man.’ And why do they run after him? Because he performs some miracles. But who is sure they are miracles, or that he can confer the same power on his disciples? And, in any case, a miracle is somethng mightly uncertain, whereas the certain is the certain. Every serious father who has grown-up children must be truly alarmed lest his sons be seduced and join that man together with the desperate characters who follow him—desperate characters who have nothing to lose. And even these, how does he help them? Why, one must be mad to wish to be helped in this fashion. Even the poorest beggar is brought to a worse estate than his former one, is brought to a pass he could have escaped by remaining what he was, that is, a beggar and no more.”