Clement Theodore Perthes.

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

. (page 29 of 36)
Online LibraryClement Theodore PerthesMemoirs of Frederick Perthes, or, Literary, religious, and political life in Germany, from 1789 to 1843 (Volume 2) → online text (page 29 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

and when it is merely science against science, I tremble for
theology. The gospel history can never be fixed down like
profane history, the life of Jesus like that of Alexander, or
Caesar, or Charlemagne. The events between Zacharias'
vision and the baptism of Christ, as also those between his
resurrection and ascension cannot be brought within the do-


main of historical inquiry. Who heard the prayer on the Mount
of Olives ? Who then can tell us of it ? Whither would the
historico-scientific study of the pentecostal miracle lead the in-
quirer ? As Christian philosophy can shew only the untruth
of objections, not the truth of Christianity itself, so historical
science and criticism can shew only the groundlessness of ob-
jections against the sacred narrative, not the truth of the nar-
rative in general, and much less the actuality of particular
events. Nor should it be otherwise, since the matter on hand
is, not the solution of a scientific problem, but the salvation of
souls. Whoever would make the saving truths of revelation
his own, or lead others to them, must start from facts, coming
under his own immediate knowledge. The depravity of all
mankind, sin, our double nature, wrestling, weakness, and death
in every individual, and the ardent longing of the whole man
for deliverance from such evils, — these are facts, and they form
a basis for faith in the salvation revealed by Scripture. To every
one, in whose soul God has established such a basis of faith,
the life of Jesus and the apostles becomes the key and key-
stone of the world's history, even scientifically regarded ; and
it was this evolution of sacred history, from facts within im-
mediate ken, that I meant, in expressing my joy that, in ad-
dition to your critical history, you contemplated also a positive
treatment of primitive Christianity."

Perthes took a growing interest in the movements which
originated in the publication of Strauss' work. In the autumn
of 1837, he wrote : " I think our divines might have shewn a
greater respect for themselves than they have done in encoun-
tering Strauss. They have simply taken up their position in
the arena of scientific theology, which is common to him and


tliem, whereas tliey, whose vocation it is to defend the truths
insulted, might well have manifested indignation against the
man who con amove and audaciously routs about among the
events and truths on which the whole Christian world believes
its eternal salvation to depend. I can conceive no good or even
noble object which Strauss could have had in view, and am
persuaded that, notwithstanding his acuteness and learning, he
will end lamentably as a writer : there are indications of this
already jn his controversial writings." Again, in January
1838 : " Strauss is, perhaps, the most dangerous foe to Christi-
anity now living, because he combines penetration with learn-
ing, possesses tact, yea cunning, is blameless as a member of
society, and has most attractive manners." In 1840, Strauss'
Dogmatics appeared, and in December of that year Perthes
wrote to his son in Bonn : " The tendency of Strauss to sweep
away all Religions appears unmistakeably in his Dogmatics.
Many of our theologians could very well have put up with a first-
rate man of science like Strauss, and would rather have been
seen arm in arm with him than with a devout Catholic priest ;
but he has come out too strongly for them now. I do not pretend
to criticise his learned works ; but I know that, whatever harm
he may do to Christian theology, or however far he may lead
individual Christians astray, he cannot touch Christian truth.
Nitsch, by the depth and justness of his thinking, by his ear-
nestness and piety, is of all men the best fitted to render
Strauss harmless scientifically. A miscellaneous rabble are
now rifling Strauss' works with a view to their popular inter-
pretation, and universal diffusion; Switzerland, Stuttgart, Leip-
sic, and Brunswick being, as if by a preconcerted plan, the
centres of operation. His doctrines are also pressed upon the


attention of students. Above all, the Halle Annuals are heralds
and apostles of Straussisni, and a sharp eye should be kept
on them, as they have evidently high intellect at command :
whoever does not give himself up blindly to their guidance is
persecuted without mercy, and they unscrupulously aim at
bringing all intellectual minors under the tutelage of the
Straussite Papacy. Whoever, like me, has seen parties rise and
fall during half a century, is not startled at the upblazing of a
meteor. Straussism, however, may become a power for ten
years ; and just because in ten years the devil can destroy
many souls, it is not to be overlooked/'





In one of Rist's letters to Perthes is the following: ''The
rising generation will see no history enacted. Philosophy,
poetry, politics, and war, have been all used up ; and for our
children there remain only steamboats, railways, and machines ;
they will not have even a literature that can stir the soul to
its depths, or so much as attract it." Perthes answered : " I
am of a different opinion. A change is going on in state,
church, and society, such as no former century has witnessed.
The powers of evil are unchained, and are engaged in a life-
and-death struggle, for in every quarter are awaking the good
powers which lay smothered, or seemed dead for centuries.
There is an agony of endeavour in our age, and that is as much
history as ever." Rist replied : " Our children will have no
prominent individuals to admire and love, or to hate and resist,
and that was what I meant in saying that they would have no
history. You surely would not have our youth to feel them-
selves elevated by curiosities, technology, railways, and tele-
scopes ; nor can the past supply what the present refuses. Who
can be always in an ecstasy about Aristides and Themistocles ?
I at least could not ; but my cotemporaries have had a great


influence upon me, and I have drawn inward strength from
their mighty struggle." Perthes answered : " The whole world
is sighing now for great men ; that is, in spite of liberalism,
all are sighing for a master. This feeling is as old as the
human race ; but, as the government of powerful individuals
is always arbitrary, we have to thank God that, in the cause
of human freedom, monarchs, i.e., fictions of powerful indivi-
duals have been found out, who render the really powerful
individuals harmless."

There was no great danger at this time in Germany from
great men, yet the need of political guarantees for the sub-
ject was regarded as the most urgent of all. Every effort
was made in northern Germany to confirm and extend the
constitutions which had been granted since the revolution of
July ; and, on the other hand, the party represented by the
Berlin Weekly Politician opposed them not only with deter-
mination but with passion. A principal question debated was
this, whether the Congress of Vienna in 1815, in the Confede-
ration Act constituting the States, had in view the mediaeval
principle of the Berlin Weekly Politician, or the representative
principle of its opponents. Perthes treats the matter thus in
a letter: " Count Bernstorff once told me that the true key to
the acts and protocols of the Congress of Vienna lay in its
secret history : but that there were two secret histories, in the
second and more intimate of which, the several personages
appear in the strangest, and not always in the most edifying
relations. Gentz, who saw all the cards of all the players, is
the only man competent to write this more secret history. I
ask, then, should this history, which nobody knows, and which
has resulted in nothing satisfactory to a great nation, be made


the standard of right and wrong in our present political insti-
tutions V A friend wrote to Perthes on the same subject :
" It seems to be quite forgotten that, at the time of the Con-
gress of Vienna, results were alone contemplated, theories not
at all. The efforts of criticism have so lamed the fancy that
people cannot transport themselves to a time, when there was
no occasion whatever to consider and discuss those distinctions,
which did not really engage the thoughts of men till a later
period. The great object was to prevent the recurrence of
anything like Napoleon's dominion. Now, that dominion had
been consolidated very markedly by the Confederation of the
Rhine, to which the German princes acceded in the hope of
exercising a satrap's power in their several territories. It was
supposed that, if powerful state-assemblies had existed in these
countries, the Confederation of the Rhine would not have re-
ceived such accessions ; and, accordingly, they were to be re-
established everywhere, except in Prussia and Austria, which
had stood aloof from the Confederation : the mode of their
re-establishment was indifferent, the effect was alone in view.
The subsequent development of the state-assemblies is as little
deducible from what took place at the Congress of Vienna, as
Paganini's playing on the violin from a fiddling school."

Perthes did not deny the importance of the state-assemblies,
but he opposed the prevalent notion that they were the
only and an infallible means of remedying all political evils,
as if the wellbeing of a state did not depend on many
other living influences. Thus in a letter : " The constitu-
tional system encourages the arrogance of the moneyed aristo-
cracy, and is but a feeble barrier against arbitrary princes and
encroaching nobles ; for it requires only a little cunning, or a


little courage to elude its provisions." Again : " The prince is
not to live, like an independent gentleman, from his own pro-
perty, but, for economy's sake, from a civil list. That, however,
is making him a Baal's priest, who must be fed, and does not
even accomplish the object proposed. The people are always
cheated under such an arrangement, for the prince's abettors
always know how to obtain grants of money, or debts are con-
tracted which must then be paid." Again: "You say that
England has a great security for the future in this, that only
those who are rich and permanently settled in the country have
a voice in public affairs. The very same may be said of
Austria which, though without a parliament, has yet no Ireland,
at worst only a Hungary. The danger threatening Austria, as
it appears to me, lies in the corruptibility of her lower officials,
and in the indifference to religion which prevaijs not only
among the people, but also among great part of the clergy.
Neither in Austria however, nor in any other country would
state-assemblies bring about a change in these particulars."
Again : " Help must be sought where the danger arose,
that is, among the lower orders themselves. The populace
in towns can be kept in check only by tlie townspeople pro-
perly so called, i.e., by the tradesmen, masters, and journeymen
together ; and in the country the ministers of religion and the
schoolmasters are always the true leaders of the people. The
position of the former is often too low, and that of the latter
too high, and both of them, in Protestant as well as in Catholic
countries, are often in opposition to the government. There
would be more wisdom in exercising a sound influence in tliese
quarters, than in devising excellent police-regulations, or the
most admirable constitution for the state-assemblies."


When, in 1834, Denmark reorganized the state-assemblies in
Schleswig and Holstein, Perthes expressed in a letter his great
curiosity as to how they would work. The limited political
views and experience of the Holstein population, their tendency
to violent i^artisanship, and their internal divisions, town
against town, were all so many occasions of fear. In 1835 a
friend in Holstein wrote to Perthes : " I see more clearly than
ever that state-assemblies are the necessary complement of an
administration which sees, hears, and acts only through its
liierarchy of officials, and, in fact, needs to be protected against
itself Such is the mistrustful or the indolent taciturnity of
my fellow-countrymen that, with good-will on both sides, people
and government often find themselves, after a number of years,
far advanced in a wrong direction, or alienated from each other.
The more lively Danes promptly, indeed pertly, declare their
opposition to government measures, and the Copenhagen jour-
nalists don't read the French newspapers in vain. Attachment
to the king's person is but a feeble security for the future, and
everybody knows that this attachment is elastic in its nature,
and often more apparent than real. However, my Holsteiners
are sterling coin, and the Schleswig peasantry better still per-
liaps. The ingenuousness, the live-and-let-live way of our
population often surprises strangers ; and I am sure that a
wise and just government will always find support here. The
state-assemblies will be less troublesome in Holstein than in
Schleswig, where the towns are much more inclined to opposi-
tion, though by no means dangerously so."

The much-debated question, how far the new German con-
stitutions would really prove securities against arbitrary power,
received new importance in 1837, when, on the death of Wil-


Ham IV., the Duke of Cumberland succeeded to the throne of
Hanover. On 1st November 1837, the fundamental law of
the state, which had been in force since 1833, was abolished
by royal patent, and all public servants released from the oath,
which they had sworn, to maintain it. On the 18th of the
same month, and before the general discontent had received
any formal expression, seven professors of Gottingen univer-
sity presented a memorial to the effect that they recognised
the fundamental law of the state as still in force, and held
themselves bound by their oath to maintain it. But they had
over-estimated their moral power, and only sacrificed them-
selves ; for when, on the 1 4th December, they were dismissed
from their chairs, only so much interest was manifested in their
behalf as to deter the government from proceeding to farther
depositions. Both in Hanover and in the rest of Germany, an
opposition to the king did spring up. Corporations in town
and country, and a portion of the assembled states applied to
the German Diet ; and some of the German governments ex-
pressed disapprobation of the king's measures. The great object
with the Hanoverian government was to get up a strong party
within the country in its favour, in order, with such support,
to make a better appearance before the Diet. The means em-
ployed to eifect this object excited general indignation. Per-
thes wrote of them : " The Hanoverian fundamental law is not
my golden calf; but cursed be the means which have been
employed to make it a dead letter."

In September 1839, the Diet formally declined to interfere
in Hanoverian affairs. One of Perthes' correspondents wrote
in August of the same year : " It should be publicly known
that the Diet declined to interfere only by a small majority ;


and tliat the majority would have been the other way, had not
certain of the smaller states, feeling their dependence on Aus-
tria and Prussia, blindly followed their guidance. These two
great powers, then, are chiefly to be blamed, and all the more
so, because they are in the habit of throwing all the odium of
unpopular measures on the Diet, and taking all the honour of
acceptable ones to themselves.




Since the Revolution of July, the struggle between Protest-
antism and Catholicism had been less that of Church against
Church, than of individual theologians with one another. In
the Rhenish provinces especially, Archbishop Spiegel's modera-
tion preserved the harmony between the civil and ecclesiastical
powers. But when, in the autumn of 1835, the above dignitary
died, and Droste von Vischering was appointed his successor
in the Archbishopric of Cologne, many feared that the hier-
archy of Rome would now enter the arena already crowded by
theologians. Perthes characterized Droste in a letter as "a
strict Catholic, a pious, earnest Christian, and a man of iron
will." During the first year of his administration, a new spirit
was observed to pervade the diocese, but the angry discussions,
which he even then carried on with the government, were
known to but a few. In the beginning of 1837, however, the
discord broke out. A friend in the Rhenish provinces thus
wrote to Perthes in May of that year : " The controversy be-
tween the Court of Rome and the German State is in full
swing. Where do the rights of the one end, and those of the
other begin ? Any determination of tlie boundary-line is
merely provisional ; for, whenever the Court of Rome thinks


herself sure of victory, she renews the contest, and, when she
yields, it is only from political sagacity, and in anticipation of
a more favourable opportunity."

Another correspondent to Perthes : " The former archbishop
favoured the school of Hermes, and gave all appointments to its
adherents ; even the theological faculty in Bonn, with the excep-
tion of Professor Klee, were Hermesians ; but, under Droste, tlie
opposite party has risen into power, and is breathing vengeance,
not only against the Hermesians, but also against the govern-
ment, which did not persecute, rather indeed favoured them.
Of course there are some truly pious men in this party, as Klee
and Windischmann, but there are also fanatics who would hu-
miliate the Prussian government for the glory of Rome, and
destroy the Hermesians from the face of the earth. These are
pushed forward by ambitious men, who consider themselves
overlooked by the government, and are determined, at all haz-
ards, to play a conspicuous part ; and they are farther encour-
aged by their co-religionists in Bavaria and Belgium. Tlie
first exploit of the Church militant came off on 28th Septem-
ber 1835, when the Court of Rome — which had let both the
doctrine and the adherents of Hermes alone, as long as Hermes
himself, and his protector, the former archbishop of Cologne,
lived — condemned Hermes' writings as inconsistent with the
doctrines of the Catholic Church. Thereupon Droste scored
out all the theological lectures in the university of Bonn, ex-
cepting Klee's : the government, on the other hand, ordered
them all to appear in the printed programme of the university
lectures : but, as Droste then declared his determination never
to give an appointment to any theological student who should
have attended a Hermesian course, the lecturers had no hearers.

VOL. II. 34


Lest the press, too, should be included in the battle-field, the
government imposed silence on all theological professors, under
pain of suspension, and enjoined the divinity students of the
Coenobium in Bonn to obey the regulations of its superintend-
ent, who was a Hermesian. The consequence was, that all ex-
cept seven, abandoned the Coenobium." Perthes' good opinion
of Droste still remained unshaken : " He is not narrow-minded,
but decided and inflexible : the Pope may yield, Droste will not.
He is true to the back-bone : base means he has never used,
nor will he ever resort to them."

The question of mixed marriages was also drawn into the
strife. In 1834, on the basis of a Papal brief dated 25th
March 1830, an agreement was come to on that subject, be-
tween the Prussian government and Archbishop Spiegel. It had
worked pretty well, and was accepted even by Droste at first :
but, towards the end of 1836, he declared that this agreement
was contradicted in some particulars by the Papal brief, and
that in respect to these he would follow the latter. Perthes
had a very decided opinion on the subject of mixed marriages :
" There may be cases in which both Protestants and Catholics
are so penetrated by divine faith and love, that the diversity
of creed loses its sundering power, and mixed marriages be-
come admissible ; but, such exceptional cases apart, mixed
marriages lead only to religious indifferences, or to family
strife. If, unfortunately, one of my daughters should wish to
marry a Catholic, I should first oppose it with all my might ;
and, in case of failure, should then, in consenting, advise her
to become a Catholic ; and, if I could not prevent a son of
mine from marrying a Catholic, I should recommend him to
make her a Protestant."


In negotiating with the archbishop, the government employed
the services of Bunsen, then Prussian ambassador at Rome
In the end of December he spent a few days at Gotha, and
soon after, Perthes thus characterized him in a letter : " He is
worthy of all honour and love for his extraordinary endow-
ments, his fidelity to old friends, his ingenuousness, his youth-
ful elasticity, and his thoroughly German straightforwardness,
which neither high rank nor intercourse with the world has
impaired/' On the 20th November 1837, the public was sur-
prised by a royal order, commanding Droste, archbishop of
Cologne, forthwith to remove his residence to Mindeii : an
order which the archbishop professed his readiness to obey.

The Bavarian government was at this time intimately con-
nected with the ultramontane party, and seemed rather in-
clined to profit by the difficulties in which Prussia was involved.
A correspondent of Perthes in Munich wrote : " In Munich,
and more or less throughout Bavaria, Protestantism wants that
broad basis, which the constant and intimate connexion between
science and modern theology gives it in north Germany. We
have not, indeed, the shallow-pated theological dilettanti, who
are ever ready to put themselves and others off with a few ready-
made formulae and phrases, but this advantage is gained at a
great price, and the zeal of a host of clergymen cannot supply
the defect. After their examinations, the clergy, generally,
become strangers to science, and consequently never attain the
consciousness of occupying a firm historical basis, and forming
part of a great historical whole. They move in a circle of sub-
jective convictions ; and, as they are not called on to submit
their own experience to the touchstone even of such science
as the Church allows, they can hardly learn to be humble.


The kernel of the Protestant community in Munich is com-
posed of the honest but intolerant bourgeoisie, who adhere to the
Protestant dogmas, and see in Catholicism only the opposite
of what they have been taught to consider the one safe way of
salvation. Then come the men of culture, among whom there
reigns a diversity of views : most of them, however, embrace
modern liberalism, and are full of hatred against clerical power,
and ecclesiastical immobility." Again : " The position of the
Protestant Church, of its ministers and divine service in Ba-
varia is truly humiliating, when one considers the outcry made
by Catholics in Prussia, as if against intolerable oppression,
merely because the government refuses to legislate according
to the will of Rome."

On 4th November 1837, Abel, formerly councillor of state,
succeeded Prince von Wallerstein in the Bavarian ministry,
and with Lim the very same party came into power, which was
resisting the Prussian government in the Rhenish provinces.
How the Protestants regarded the advent to power of the ul-
tramontane party will appear by the following letter : — " The
deportation of the archbishop can only strengthen the ultra-
montane party here ; and every attack on Protestantism will
be justified by a reference to Cologne. Only in whispers,
and with shut doors, dare we talk over our situation." Again :
" The party now in power aims at a complete politico-ecclesi-
astical remodelling of the whole country, and is supported
by many Protestants, who will find themselves dupes in the
end. The ministry has all the resources of centralization at
command ; but it has to do with a country in which there are
many elements of culture and nationality, quite opposed to

Online LibraryClement Theodore PerthesMemoirs of Frederick Perthes, or, Literary, religious, and political life in Germany, from 1789 to 1843 (Volume 2) → online text (page 29 of 36)