Clement Theodore Perthes.

Memoirs of Frederick Perthes, or, Literary, religious, and political life in Germany, from 1789 to 1843 (Volume 2) online

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right direction as tlic Ilildburgliaus Village Journal has acted
in a wrong one."

After despatching the above, Perthes wrote to Rist, on tlie
20th September, thus : " My stay in Berlin has made me ac-
quainted with many weak points and personages, but I am
still convinced that there lies concealed in the Prussian go-
vernment a germ of truth and honesty, which, to sprout up
and grow apace, needs only the dew of heaven. Eichhorn is a
rare and noble man, fresh-hearted, judicious, genuine through
and through, and of toughest j)erseverance : it would not be
easy to weary him out. Certainly there is no state in Europe
which can command the services of so many men combin-
ing clear intelligence and extensive knowledge with noble
aims ; but a strong will is wanting to unite and give effect to
all these powers. In the king the state has a worthy head ;
but he is no head of the government, nor is there any prime
minister or chancellor to su2)ply his place. The government is
divided into various branches, and the several Ministries, hav-
ing no common direction, work at best alongside of one another,
often apart, and sometimes even against one another. The
ministers seldom meet in council, and, when they do, some are
always absent, from old age, or illness, or because they simply
prefer to stay away, whilst those who are present speak with
the utmost reserve. Each is anxious to keep his own depart-
ment, as far as possible, independent of the ministry in council
assembled ; and hence power and unity are wanting in the
government. Whatever might be said against the Hardcnberg
administration in other respects, it certainly had a fixed centre
and a coherence, which are wanting now. The conviction is
gaining ground that a president must be appointed over the


ministry ; and in Prussia lie must be a general, or other sol-
dier of merit. As to the affair which I went specially to urge,
nothing will come of it immediately, unless some accident give
a new impulse. If only a literary child should bo born and
nothing else, there is no reason why I should stand its god-

Rist answered : " Your scheme has hands and feet, yet I
hesitate not to say that it cannot be put in motion, and that,
if the attempt be made, it will turn out quite otherwise than
you intend. 1. Because, since every government has its weak
point, and sore bits, which it cannot bear should be touched,
such as an ill-managed department, some signal blunder, or a
useless member, no government can grant full liberty of thought
and speech to its organs. Ministers are, after all, but men.
2. Because, in our day, every party, yea, every particular view
and colour of a party, is subdivided into innumerable shades,
Avhich, as having been won by individual speculation or endea-
vour, are retained with passion and propagated with zeal. In
consequence of this, persons Avho, on the whole, ao-ree, fre-
quently differ from one another in their judgment of particu-
lar events, and are sometimes even more alienated from one
another than from those of an entirely opposite party ; whereas
in former times — times of imperfect individual develoimiont, —
the party-man went through thick and thin with his party,
and co-operation was easy and powerful. 3. Because the very
sense of writing under superior suggestion and authority robs
the mind, in proportion to its nobility, of that creative rapture
which is the real two-edged sword, piercing into the heart, and
dividing the joint and marrow."

From Berlin itself, Perthes received likewise the most


discouraging accounts, as if the wliole matter had gone to
sleep. A letter dated 16th September, has the following : " The
quasi friends of your proposal are not hearty: its enemies are
powerful and decided. I give it in fact entirely up, for it has
been signified to me from a quarter which has every title to my
respect, that I had better take no step which is not expressly
and officially commanded. That is a sorry hunt, says the pro-
verb, to which the hounds must be carried ; but it must be still
sorrier when the hunters, themselves averse, set on the hounds
against their will." However, Count Bernstorff wrote to Per-
thes on the 14th October, authorizing him to proceed with his
arrangements. Whilst he was doing so, and endeavouring to
procure the appointment of an experienced statesman, belong-
ing to the Ministry of foreign affairs, as superintendent-in-
chief of the undertaking, certain new suggestions proceed-
ing from the editors, and from other quarters, gave quite a
new turn to the whole project. Perthes thus describes this
phase of the affair : " It is now quite a drama : ministers
and generals, diplomatists and savans, poets and personages
of all sorts appear on the stage, working with and against one
another ; and the simple prose of the affair is at present in the
background. Such articles as they contemplate will certainly
not be in vain ; but they are adapted only for the higher state-
officials, for special men ; I called into action the ministerial re-
sources for the accomplishment of a far greater scheme. Writers
and booksellers could themselves have brought out a new Quar-
terly without any ministerial aid. For these and some personal
reasons, I retire : it will be easy to find another good pub-

General Riilil endeavoured to shake Perthes' purpose of with-


dravval by representing that, without his co-operation, progress
could not be made towards the ultimate realization, however re-
mote, of his plan ; that he was the very soul of the undertaking,
and that his withdrawal would alienate from it the favour of
Count Bernstorff, which was founded chiefly on Perthes' partici-
pation, Perthes, however, remained firm. Meanwhile the pre-
parations went on in Berlin, and, when all was ready for the
announcement of the periodical, Perthes was again communi-
cated with. It was strongly represented to him that both the
undertaking and his friends would suffer by liis standing aloof;
and he at length consented in the following terms : — " I will,
then, because I must ; I would not appear obstinate, and I
cannot explain the grounds on which I would rather have no-
thing to do with the undertaking. The periodical may then be
entitled ' Historico-Political Journal, edited by L. Ranke.
First year. Hamburgh : F. Perthes, publisher.' "

The Journal appeared in the spring of 1832, and contained
a series of first-rate articles, some of which now form an integral
part of German historical literature. However, in the spring
of 1833, Perthes withdrew as publisher, and, not long after, the
Journal was abandoned.




In 1831 ami 1832, journals and periodicals were started in
all parts of Germany to give expression and effect to the views,
liopes, and struggles of the various political parties. Of course
their contents, taken as a whole, were a perfect chaos of j^ro.s
and cons ; for, since the July revolution, a war of opinion raged
in Germany, all against all. The Liberals, who found their
expression in Rousseau, and the Constitutionalists who found
theirs in Montesquieu, began to swarm off in opposite direc-
tions. In the very ranks of Liberalism, the Liberals, properly
so called, dreaded the Radicals, and the Radicals despised the
Liberals ; and in those of Constitutionalism the Doctrinaires
affected a superiority to the ordinary Constitutionalists, who
again scented in the Doctrinaires a new form of the aristocracy.
From all these parties Perthes stood aloof: he shall speak for
himself: " Among those who call themselves, and are called
by others, Liberals, great contrasts may no doubt ]jc found,
rudeness and culture, &c. ; but they are, without exception,
unconscious of the sinfulness of our race : they know what peni-
tence is, but they feel no n<xd of redemption : they all imagine
that the wisdom of this world is adequate to its government.


and tliey are all trying to realize an earthly paradise iu wliieli
the utmost possible satisfaction shall be given to the temporal
wants of each." Again : " Men are often unconsciously in love
with the revolutionary state ; and hence the constitutions
novv-a-days attained, are often nothing else than a means of
prolonging the revolutionary moment." Perthes wrote to Sa-
vigny thus : " Mistrust is tlic essence of constitutional mon-
archy, as the ' National' very plainly and tellingly puts it in
one of the August numbers : ' Confidence is a very fine thing,
but the principle of every constitution is quite the opposite.
Trust not ! history cries from every decade ; trust not ! cries
every sentence of the charter; and we, for our part, are de-
termined not to trust, cry all who demand a guarantee.' Yes,
indeed, mistrust is the soul of every constitutional state, and
mistrust is a principle of decay. Constitutions will issue in
tyrannical institutions, a tyrant will succeed to these, and he
will be driven away by insurrection ; so it will go on ever faster
and faster, till princes and people learn that mistrust is not the
soul of political life, and that human wisdom is not adequate
to build up a state."

The opponents of Liberalism were few, and also divided
among themselves. The historical school, represented by Nie-
buhr, Savigny, and Eichhorn, and the school of Haller, gave
rise to parties strongly opposed to each other. Looking at this
chaos of opinion, Perthes is reminded of a saying, attributed to
an old Hamburgh barber in 1813, who, when hard pressed on all
sides by partisans, cried out in despair : " Every one is right ;
all are wrong," The political doctrines of Haller had brought
together in Berlin a small but influential knot of men, distin-
guished by their position, their talents, and their energy

VOL. II. 30


Accordingly, wlien Haller heard of the politico-historical jour-
nal as about to be established, he immediately set to work, and
so early as October 1831, put forth a prospectus of the " Berlin
Weekly Politician." Jarke was named editor, and the object
Avas declared to be the counteraction of the Revolution under
its every form, the historico-political journal being evidently
regarded as one of these forms. Many of Perthes' corre-
spondents, by their decided language, their denial of national
rights, their contempt of the national spirit, and sometimes by
their attacks on the attitude of the historico-political journal,
betrayed the influence of Haller's school. Here is one of them :
" I would have nothing to do with your politico-historical folks.
The self-complacency and affectation of superior wisdom on the
part of these people, who are half fish, half flesh, and no bones,
is ever growing more intolerable ; the contempt, the downright
laughter, in fact, with which they treat whatever has not ori-
ginated with themselves, renders peace impossible. As for
N, N., I really think he should be dissected after death, to see
if he have not eleven vertebrae, for the like has not yet been
found in any of the mammalia, save in the most wicked and
malicious monkeys." Perthes answered such letters thus:
'' Liberalism and every other political tendency I can under-
derstand and excuse, but I am a bitter and irreconcilable foe
to all who deride or neglect nationality, and forget that they
are Germans ; whatever is to pass as true and right must be
native." Again : " When the danger is at hand of the foreigner
insinuating or forcing himself in among us, then every one
must sacrifice himself and his opinions, in order to make com-
mon cause against the foe ; if he do not, he is a traitor to his
country. Ye who are richly endowed with intellect, know-


ledge, and eloquence, cease quarrelling among yourselves, and
let each do in liis station what he can."

About the time when the " Weekly Politician" was set on
foot, the Haller school viewed Russia with decided favour ; not
that they approved the state of things in Russia, but that they
saw in her a sure defence against revolutign in the west. In
opposition to the attacks which were made with unbounded
licence against Russia, they brought into prominence the bright
side of the Russian government and dynasty. One of them
wrote thus to Perthes : " Many years' personal observation has
made me acquainted with the difficulties which the Russian
government has had to overcome at home ; but I have no hesita-
tion in ascribing the reproaches, which the newspapers of half
Europe hurl against her, to ignorance and prejudice. Such
reproaches are unworthy of the Germans, but may be pardoned
in the French ; for the French cannot but hate a nation which
is sound at heart without being insolent in manner, which has
much loyalty and not a little godliness." Again : " Few courts
have such a domestic circle to shew as the Russian ; there is
no reserve, respect does not involve stiffness, and the emperor
appears as a paternal friend. On three evenings of last week,
the grand duke and his fellow-pupils were examined, and the
heir-apparent distinguished himself, particularly in history. A
special text-book had been prepared, of which only fifteen
copies were printed, a notable document, especially on account
of the object for which it was drawn up. The emperor himself
called attention to particular points, and discussions arose
between the pupils and their teachers, in which the Emperor
and Empress, Count Gollowkin and General Neidhart took
part. The scene was not only interesting, but such as would


Lave put to sliame those who lend a willing ear to calumnies
against the imperial family."

By means of the " Berlin Weekly Politician," the Haller
school exercised a mighty influence during the next ten years
on the history of Prussia and Germany. Violent attacks upon
it were not wanting, and here are examples of such from letters
to Perthes : " It is not fair to treat the revolution as a finished
whole, to bring it upon the stage as a person, and make it say,
' 1 will this, and I do that.' Were I to hear such language
among the common people, I should know that some particular
party, as Jacobins or Liberals, or some particular individuals
were meant, and should make allowance for looseness of ex-
pression ; but when an educated man, who is a politician to
boot, uses such language, I know that he has an object in view.
Everywhere and always there is a certain movement against
the powers that be, and the. existing order of things, — ever
nascent, never exhausted, and, because it springs not from one
cause but from many, always changing. Whoever, then, treats
a vast and manifold spiritual phenomenon as one definite, handy
little thing, must simply intend to give himself the diversion
of knocking down his own man of straw." Again, from a
Prussian government councillor : " The abuse of tlie Rhenish
jjrovinces, in which the ' Weekly Politician' and its admirers
daily indulge, is simply absurd. No doubt, though edited by
so good Catholics as Jarke, Phillips, and Radowitz, that journal
is either neglected or regarded with aversion throughout the
Rhenish provinces, but that implies no hostility to Prussia ;
and it is certain that, in no part of Prussia, are the laws more
faithfully executed, and the taxes more regularly paid." Again :
" You and your Berlin friends will be compelled to break fairly


and for ever witli the Haller school. You don't, in fact, belong-
to it, and your hanging back can only damage the good and
noble cause which you serve ; only frank, fearless speech moots
with a response. It cannot be any longer concealed tliat a real
social want, long felt and never satisfied, has been the yeast of
the fermentations that liave overflowed in revolution since
1789. The dangerous theories which were invented, or rather
revived, were not the cause of the fermentation, but the work-
ing of the yeast." — When, in December 1833, the speech de-
livered by Ringseis, in Munich, on the revolutionary spirit in
German universities, appeared in print, a friend wrote thus to
Perthes : " This speech is nothing else at bottom than a new
manifesto of the Haller school. Keep the mediaeval glories in
their own era, I can love and admire them ; but I see fresher
powers and a deeper significance in the present age, than in
the phenomena of an epoch the close of which is as distinctly
notified to us by history as the beginning. In reading through
NN.'s manuscript, I shuddered at the self-deception to which
well-meaning and talented men are exposed, when they endea-
vour to elevate individual interests into laws of nature, and
order of Providence. The will of God is laid down with as much
assurance and decision as if it had been supernaturally com-
municated to the author over an afternoon cup of coffee, and all
this for the purpose of bringing eternal motion to rest, and pre-
serving intact the divine right of noble proprietors. Ringseis,
too, is up to the neck in similar trash : the divine-right school
is, in fact, pretty numerous among our learned men, whilst, on
the other hand, our nobility, or the men of mark among them,
are seeking help where alone it can be found, viz., in the com-
preliension and improvement of the j^i'osent time, which is all


tlie more instructive on this account that, instead of receiving
a completed history, and handing it down to posterity un-
changed, it is creating a history of its own."

The divisions among those who stood aloof from Liberalism,
were so much the more perilous, as the condition of Germany
and Europe during the years 1831-1833 gave little reason to
hope for a peaceful future. Wlien, after the fall of Warsaw,
the Emperor of Russia declared, on the 28th October 1831, the
Polish war at an end, and when, on the 15th November, a
treaty of peace and amity was concluded between the five great
powers and Belgium, Germany seemed to be secured against
external dangers. But new complications quickly sprang up
on all sides. In February 1832, Don Pedro declared his inten-
tion of prosecuting his daughter's claims in opposition to those
of Don Miguel, by force of arms : in the previous month Papal
troops were fighting with insurgents, and a few weeks later the
French took possession of Ancona, and the Austrians of
Bologna : on the 26th February, Poland was incorporated with
the Russian empire ; whilst Greece, still without a king, was
cutting its own throat : all England was intent on the passing of
the Reform Bill ; and France was in Republican and Legitimist
convulsions by turns — Casimir Perier died in May, and in June
Paris was declared in a state of siege. "The plot thickens,"
Perthes wrote ; " where shall we be within a year ? A great
change is at hand, and things cannot remain long as they are,
in Germany. Who will put them into a new shape ? Tlie Diet
cannot. Will Prussia be compelled to do it V A letter from
Berlin to Perthes contains the following : " The Duchess of
Berri's abortive attempt is, in my opinion, a successful begin-
ning towards the dethronement of Louis Philippe, whose in-


dulgent liberation of his enemy is an acknowledgment to the
world of doubt as to his own position. Such crowns are more
fatal to monarchy than republics themselves/' A man inti-
mately acquainted with the state of France, wrote to Perthes :
" I know not whether it will be possible to establish order per-
manently on this occasion, without passing through anarchy and
a dictatorship ; but if there were any way by which anarchy
could be avoided, it is that which Casimir Perier, to his immor-
tal honour, and with unswerving consistency, has pursued.
Who can foresee the consequences of a revolution, which has to
do not only with the dregs of all former revolutions, with the
mob which is always ready for disturbance, and with a mul-
titude of operatives suddenly thrown idle, but also with a
generation of young men, to whom the excitement of an oppo-
sition at one time victorious, and at another defeated, has
become an absolute necessity ? All these elements are at pre-
sent in immediate hostility to the government, crowded to-
gether in the capital, whence they exercise a pernicious influ-
ence over the whole kingdom. The obstacles in the way of a
permanent political order, seem to me insuperable : force and
fraud may keep down insurrection for a few years ; but a single
mistake, a single weakness on the ruler's part, would be the
signal for an outbreak." An Austrian statesman thus expressed
his views to Perthes : " The French government has need of
order, and has instructed all its ambassadors to keep aloof from
revolutionary leaders. The French nation, too, is tired of dis-
turbance, but both the nation and the government are too weak
to set at defiance that tiger-monkey, Paris." Again : " Since
the fall of Napoleon, much has occurred to shake the confidence
of European nations in the good-will of their governments : for


instance, tlie Vienna patchwork of 1815, so inconsistent with
the principles declared, — the degradation of the Diet to the
status of a taskmaster over the Germans — the Carlsbad resolu-
tions — the thouglitlcss intermeddling with Spanish affairs — the
favour shewn to the despot's authority in Portugal — the long
toleration of disorder in Brunswick — the scandal in Cassel —
the proceedings in respect to Holland and Belgium, the sixty
protocols, these monuments of weakness and dishonesty — the
folly of allowing Poland to bleed away its strength, only that
whatever remained might go to the aggrandizement of her
oppressor — and, above all, the silent patience with which Russia
was allowed, step by step, to acquire a paramount authority
over the internal affairs of Germany ; Europe could not have
taken a more effectual method of promoting the Paris propa-
o-anda. The governments cannot suddenly resile from the
path in which they have been moving since 1815, nor can the
revolutionary party cease resisting the governments ; for a long
time to come the alternating victory and defeat of these adver-
saries will constitute the history of Europe."

When all Europe was in movement, Germany could not be
at rest. North Germany indeed seemed secure against any
violent revolution ; for although, in Brunswick, Saxony, Han-
over, and Cassel, princes, or at least prime ministers, succeeded
one another, and new constitutions were introduced, yet the
people were not disposed to violence. This clearly appeared
in the wide and favourable reception of the Hanover Journal,
issued by Pertz in 1832, the tone of which may be gathered
from the following passages in the prospectus. " Fidelity is
the basis of the German character, and is also the higliest
freedom ; the hereditary and time-consecrated claims of the


German people to justice and peace, on the satisfaction of
which all princely power reposes, could not be lost for ever
with the forced abdication of the German emperor, and what
could not be accomplished for the whole fatherland at once,
the princes may accomplish in detail, each for his own pro-
vince : they, as being attached to their lands by indissoluble
bonds, have the high vocation of supplying to the whole father-
land and to individuals those securities which were lost with
the empire." In a letter Perthes makes these sentiments his
own, and remarks that a man like Pertz, independent of the
government, and ruled only by his own convictions, when he
condescends to edit a journal, may be expected to exert a
powerful influence on his cotemporaries. Foreigners, too, on
visiting Northern Germany, were struck with the composed
attitude of the population. In September 1832, Hormayr
wrote to Perthes : " The north and the south form a contrast,
such as would comport with a diversity of language and race.
The political fermentation throughout the north is much less
than is supposed in Vienna and Munich." Another writes:
" The Hanoverian Diet is a very remarkable phenomenon for
all Northern Germany, particularly for Prussia ; and all the
more so, because it is backed by England. I think that we Ger-
mans of the north will cut a more rational and dignified figure
before the world than those of the south, whose palaver about

Online LibraryClement Theodore PerthesMemoirs of Frederick Perthes, or, Literary, religious, and political life in Germany, from 1789 to 1843 (Volume 2) → online text (page 26 of 36)