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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ultramontanism, and with a constitution which great part of


Bavaria will not easily relinquish. Then the ministry has
powerful enemies, who know how to win the king by supply-
ing him with money for his amours : no reliance, indeed, can
be placed on the king, for he is at any time quite capable of
dismissing a minister for no other reason than that his pecuni-
ary demands are not complied with. He is no stranger to
great conceptions, but the greatest cannot stand against an in-
terest, be it ever so small, which immediately concerns him."

The general fear of grave consequences immediately arising
out of the Cologne affair was disappointed. Provision M^as
made for the episcopal administration of Cologne, and no poli-
tical disturbances ensued.




The important events of the last ten years in religion, poli-
tics, and society, had left the public mind in a very unsettled
state. Perthes wrote : " On one side is secularism, dead to
all but earthly things ; and, on the other, a restless agitation,
which spends its strength in unsettling all that has hitherto
given peace to the soul. Then comes a luxurious light litera-
ture, which ends in despair." A friend in North Germany
wrote to Perthes : " The dreams of a republic, or of a republi-
can monarchy, are not over yet, not even in Northern Germany,
where Norway presents a seductive example. Every new ge-
neration advances the claims and cherishes the hopes of a
Prometheus. Year after year our youths suck the marrow
of the ancient republics out of the bones of Greeks and Ro-
mans ; everywhere the shoe pinches ; the dismal prospect, as
it must appear to youths so trained, of spending their lives in
a government office or in business, is sure to make them dis-
contented, and, from the ranks of the discontented, republicans
are recruited." Another : " Although France is no very brilli-
ant specimen of political amelioration, and her example could
hardly attract other nations into the path of revolution, yet I


often hear people congratulate the age on the existence of such
a state, from the idea that, without it, Europe would become
a heap of dry bones/'

In September 1840, a friend wrote to Perthes : " In ten
days the Schleswig Diet will commence its sittings, and the
relations of Schleswig to Holstein and Denmark will not fail
to be discussed. Because in the northern bailiwicks of Schles-
wig a corrupt Danish is spoken, the radical Danes would like
to absorb that duchy, and make the Danish language para-
mount ; but the feeling of the majority is against it, for the
history, laws, administration, and culture of Schleswig are truly
German. Schleswig labours under the disadvantage of contain-
ing within itself the confines of two languages, out of which a
gibberish, highly obstructive to progress, ensues. Nevertheless,
German culture does advance northwards ; in Anglia, Danish
was the sole language of common life forty years ago, but it is
heard there no more. Now, however, the Danes are active in
defence, flattering, threatening, and distributing books. On
the other hand, a German party in Holstein is advocating
separation from Schleswig, which should be abandoned to its
mongrel fate ; but their secret thought is, that, by the union
of the three provincial assemblies, viz., of the Islands, Jutland,
and Schleswig, the Norwegian constitution would be more
easily introduced. The great majority, however, in Holstein,
are for maintaining the old connexion, and the state-assembly
has pronounced a decided opinion to that effect."

The year 1840 reminded Germany that, situated as she is
between the opposing forces of Europe, she must, sooner or
later, take a part in the solution of problems quite other than
domestic. The successful campaign of Mehemet Ali had awa-


kened a fear lest the Emperor Nicholas should, in defending
the Turkish empire, occupy Constantinople, and so kindle a
great European war. In the spring of 1840, Perthes wrote :
" Russia is no doubt destined to play an important part in the
great historical epoch whicli is opening on Europe, but Ger-
many has no immediate cause to fear, for, as long as European
relations remain as at present, Russia will have every reason
to spare Austria, and to maintain Prussia and Germany in
tlieir present position. On the other hand, too little import-
ance, it seems to me, is attached to the re-union with the
Russian Church of the Polish Greeks, who were formerly
united to the Catholic communion. It is a great step towards
the absorption of the whole Greek Church by the Russian, and
thus the Greek Church, in connexion with tlie Russian power,
may come to play an equally important part with Catholicism
and Protestantism.'' Perthes received in answer : " Russia
cannot overwhelm Germany by its armies ; for it cannot bring
them to the battle-field ; but Russian influence and craft are
perilous, because they can win the favour of princes and their
ministers, though not that of nations. By the monstrous com-
bination of spiritual and temporal power, which were ever
divided in the West, Russia stands anew in contradiction with
Peter and Paul. The freedom of the world may yet have to
take refuge under the Pope's banner, provided always that he
first become a Protestant. At all events, the immediate exi-
gency is to keep away the Russians from the Bosphorus."

As Russia sought to increase her power in the East by de-
fending the Porte, so did France, to increase hers, support
Mehemet Ali ; and when the four great powers, without the
concurrence of the Parisian court, dictated peace to Mehemet


Ali, by the treaty of 15th July 1840, the greatest excitement
naturally arose in France. Thiers, who had been prime minis-
ter since 1st March, urged i^reparations for war, and, as the
prospect of success was not inviting in the east, the frenzy was
directed towards Germany and the Rhine. In October, Thiers
assumed an attitude tantamount to a declaration of war against
Europe, fell in consequence, and his ministry was succeeded by
that of Soult and Guizot. Perthes wrote : " The so-called
peace is secured again ; but I still think that some violent out-
break is at hand. The French nation is certainly hastening
towards dissolution ; but, before going to pieces, it may make
one more attempt at European dominion, and that attempt
may prosper for a time."

Soon after this, Prince Metternich succeeded in bringing
France from a state of isolation into her normal relations witli
the rest of Europe. A friend wrote to Perthes : " The humi-
liation of France was well deserved, but the consequences will
be evil for us. The majority in France are, no doubt, pleased
that peace has been preserved, but the world is governed by
minorities. England, as usual, has the profit, and we Germans,
as usual too, pay the score, if in no other way, at least by the
cost of our warlike preparations."

In the critical year 1840, Prussia, more than any other coun-
try, was the hope of Germany, although in the immediately
preceding years, she had lost much of her authority, and the
Germans much of their confidence in her. In March 1840 Per-
thes wrote: " A complete change must be effected in Berlin, else
things will again come to the same pass as in the decade prior
to 1806, when distinguished men like Gentz and Prince Louis
became roues, and the abuses which afterwards grew to matu-




rity, were sjiringing up in the Hardenberg saloon and its appur-
tenances. Niebuhr, who lived through the years of despair,
1806-13, saw alike state of things returning so long ago as
1820, and for that very reason the events of 1830 overwhelmed
him with anxiety. Throughout all Germany there is a feeling
that the foundations of Prussia are unsound : everything in
the state of the world indicates that an extraordinary epoch
is at hand." A friend wrote to Perthes from Berlin, in March
1840 : " A temper of mind is becoming more and more preva-
lent here, which, for brevity's sake, I may call French. The
Frenchman regards life as a stage, and himself as an actor ;
the idea of freedom has no existence for him, but he de-
lights to beget that idea in others, by affecting it himself,
although the audacious talker about freedom proves a base
crawler in action ; even on his deathbed the Frenchman plays
the comedian with God. In science he cares only for what is
piquant, for what will toll in the conversation of a salon, and
raise a high idea of his own penetration. Something of this
kind is spreading here like a rank weed. To have connexions
with the court, to stand in a multitude of relations, is the
highest object of ambition : religion and politics, science and
art, have importance only as furnishing material for brilliant
conversation ; earnestness and depth are gone, time and power
are wasted, and character has disappeared. How few are there
who, instead of creeping into a mouse-hole, stand upright on
their own two legs, when public opinion is against them !"
Again : " It is a fixed idea with our official men, that the
system of administration is the main thing, and the result a
matter of indifference. The pleasure of putting the machine to-
gether is so'great, that the work to be done is almost overlooked


Alexander von Humboldt is the only living man in immediate
contact with the King ; cajnta mortua are all the rest."

In the end of the year 1840, tlie King was reported seriously
ill. On feeling himself in danger, he said, — " I know in
whom I have believed ; I die in my Redeemer." On 7th June he
died, and Perthes wrote of him in a letter : " There is now one
just and good man less in the world ; all posterity will look back
to him with respect and pleasure." A friend wrote to Perthes ;
" My daily prayer ascends for our new king. From his mind
and heart we may expect much, and he has given proof of
practical wisdom by commencing his reign with only such mea-
sures as could not fail to meet universal approbation."

The ceremony of swearing the oath of allegiance took ^\smo
at Konigsberg on 10th September, and in Berlin on L5th
October, Perthes wrote : " Seldom has a speech of such power
and feeling been delivered from the throne ; but I hope it will
be long ere the King make another : for speeches are critical
things for emperors and kings." All Germany was moved by
the King's address. K friend in Munich wrote to Perthes as
follows : " When in all history has royalty appeared so noble and
dazzling as now in Berlin, or when so abased as now in Paris ?
And yet this happy beginning may end in a tragical catas-
trophe." In the summer of 1840, a friend wrote from Berlin:
" There has been great joy here, on occasion of swearing the
oath of allegiance ; I, on the other hand, am always, on such
occasions, oppressed with care. The age of blind enthusiasm
is behind me, and I have misgivings whenever I sec a multi-
tude in movement, even though the occasion of the gathering be
joyous. I have been delighted with the nomination of Eich-
horn as minister of public worship, and witli Beyer's recall to


office, but tlic news that Hassenpflug has been summoned from
Luxembourg, has acted as a damper. His antecedents in
Cassel and Luxembourg are no proofs of skill in the manage-
ment of men and public affairs."

Towards the close of 1840 the public joy was turned into a
surly and suspicious humour. In December a friend wrote to
Perthes : " Berlin is at present a political camp ; and the
nation will continue distrustful of everything and everybody
till the question of the squirearchy is decided. What fools are
the German savans ! They have let Haller's system grow into
a power, partly because they had nothing better of a positive
nature to put in its place, and partly because, forsooth, it was
not scientific enough to merit refutation ! What can be done
with such a race \" Again : " The squirearchy is rapidly gain-
ing ground ; but its days are numbered, and the only thing to
be i-egretted is that the monarchy which foolishly leaned upon
it, will suffer by its downfall." A friend in Berlin writing in
February 1841 : " Who can be surprised at the surly humour
now becoming general ? The tendency to cant and the Ger-
man empire is becoming unmistakeable ; and every Prussian
turns from both with instinctive disgust." Perthes answered :
" That is the old cloven foot again, the Berlin hatred of the
German nation, and of a pious Christian frame, the very evil
which prevented me from saying Amen, a quarter of a century
ago, to the big words of my Prussian friends : ' Germany must
be lost in Prussia, in order to rise up again like a Phoenix from
its ashes.' " In the beginning of March Perthes wrote : " The
Berlin public appears just now in all its wretched worthless-
ness ; it gives vent to a merely negative tendency in empty
]iuns and ill-natured witticisms, and brings its liatred against


the king to market in anecdotes of all sorts. The very excel-
lence of the king is for most of them a stumblingblock." In
April 1841 he wrote : "The urgency of the provincial assem-
blies may become so strong that, to escape them, recourse may
be had to a national assembly, and, apart from every other
consideration, where is the man in Prussia who could face a
national assembly ? No doubt the king brought all these diffi-
culties upon himself, by giving free utterance to his views and
feelings in public. He who would govern the men of this age
must deal with them otherwise than as between man and man."
In the following month Perthes wrote of Berlin : " Public
opinion is perhaps worse there than in Paris. Parties, properly
speaking, there are none : all is withered, thrashed out, used
up : even in the highest circles there is nothing but wrangling,
intriguing, mining, and countermining. No doubt there are
some independent men, who do homage to truth and riglit, but
they think it beneath their dignity to address public opinion,
and are silent."

In the summer of 1842 the government recognised the neces-
sity of an independent daily organ which should counteract the
misrepresentation of facts and of its views. As the expressly
official journals were found to be of no use, it was proposed
merely to call forth the new undertaking and supply it with
funds, leaving its management in independent hands. Perthes
wrote : " Now again, as in 1830, the power of public opinion is
felt in Berlin, and an attempt made to give it a right direction ;
but yet there is a difference, the danger then was without, now
it is within. The enemies are numerous, and form no compact
whole ; they are a viper-brood of all imaginable colours ; and,
for that very reason, it is almost impossible to come at them."


Again : " The object is to establisli an influential organ that
shall take rank with the Augsburg A llgemeine Zeitung (Univer-
sal News). The existence of the Augsburg journal is no longer
an obstacle in the way. That journal arose in 1798 out of the
French Revolution, and for twenty or thirty years its conductors
belonged to the moderate school of French Liberalism. It was
not German, nor in any sense national ; but for that very
reason it was read, and received as an authority by the edu-
cated classes, and comiietition with it would have been impos-
sible. Now, however, the case is different. Since the revolution
of July, the Augsburg journal has declined from Liberalism ;
somewhat later it opposed Young Germany and the Young
Hegelians, and, since the warlike movements of 1840, it has
assumed a German national character. Besides, lest it should
be excluded from Austria, it observes a prudent caution
in the statement of facts and principles. On both these ac-
counts it has lost its ancient authority with the Liberals, and
the Leipsic Allgemeine Zeitung has sprung into existence, for
the diffusion of malicious lies, and a general opposition to the
existing order of things. Could a new Allgemeine Zeitung
supplant, not the Augsburg, but the Leipsic one, a great point
would be gained ; and in one respect it would be well to coun-
teract the Augsburg journal too. It is not expressly Anti-
Prussian, as neither is it expressly Bavarian, Wurtembergian,
or even Austrian, but it is decidedly south German, and, as
being hostile to northern Germany in general, it is indirectly
hostile to Prussia in particular. To establish, in opposition to
the Augsburg journal, a truly German, not specially a north
German one, would be a great boon to all Germany ; but such
an organ cannot be created, it must grow. The Augsburg


journal grew up to what it now is, a power felt throughout
the world, in the course of fifty years, under the auspices
first of CoLta, a man of comprehensive views and iron perse-
verance, and then of Stegmann, whose great merit is that he
trained up a school of young men, who became his assistants,
and are now competent to carry on the work. It seems to
me that every attempt to establish a journal like the Augsburg
Allgemeine Zeitung must fail ; and that Prussia needs at
present rather a local journal, which should treat general topics
only in outline, and rely first on Prussian, then on German,
and very little on European readei's. It might afterwards take
up a broader position, but I am not sanguine of its success even
as a local organ. Its connexion with the government will come
to be known, and now-a-days everybody is against the govern-
ment ; nor does it seem to me probable or possible that the
government should establish and maintain a journal, and at
the same time leave it really independent ; yet, without the
liberty of decided opposition to some government measures,
the proposed journal, with whatever talent conducted, would
remain a dead letter. Nevertheless, I should like to see the
attempt made." The Rhenish Observer was the fruit of this
project ; it failed, but the failure was due to unfavourable cir-
cumstances, not to the editor.

In October and November the committees of the provincial
states were united in one Assembly : the Opposition menaced,
but Ministers found means to smother it ; whilst, outside, news-
papers and people argued and circulated all manner of lies
against the government. In December 1842 Perthes wrote :
" Things have gone so far that all counter-representations or


measures on the part of the government are now too late : the
government must just be silent, and let things go as they will :
bv and by the evil will reach the turning-point, and then the
government must act, and be silent again/'

In the beginning of 1843 the government suppressed the
German Annuals, the Leipsic Allgemeine, and the new Rhenish
Journal, which had become the popular interpreter of the
revolutionary doctrines advocated in the Annuals. Perthes
wrote : " What next ? If the government be not consistent,
then, within a year, we shall be just where we were ; if it be
consistent, then, in a short time, it must go far bej'ond the
Carlsbad resolutions. Decision, not severity, is wanted ; the
government must know distinctly its own will, and carry it
through." In a letter to Eichhorn, Perthes wrote : " Gelzer's
work on the Straussian controversy in Zurich is a striking
picture of our own condition. Protestant Germany, particu-
larly Prussia, is mirrored in the microcosm of that canton.
Just as there the bold radical party has acquired a paramount
influence over the half-educated, over students and rationalistic
pastors, and over weak enthusiasts among teachers and profes-
sors, who forget that, like the Girondins, they are but digging
their own grave ; so is it in Germany. No decided manifesta-
tion of Radicalism has indeed taken place as yet in Germany ;
but it will come." To a friend who wrote that clouds were
gathering on the political horizon, which would descend into
tlie valleys by and by, Perthes answered : " In God's name
let the clouds gather, and flash fire into the valleys ; this
were better than that mephitic vapours from morasses beneath
should rise up and settle on the heights. War ! yes, war can


lielp US out of this dull, pent-up condition : Prussia's kings
should be heroes, and, with the king at our head, all Germany
will follow the Prussians. Austria and Bavaria are now like-
minded with Prussia, and so the whole brood of arguing scrib-
blers might be put under lock and key at once. It seems cruel
to invoke war, but where else is there help V




In 1840, as has been said, appeared Strauss' new work,
" Christian Dogmatics," which went farther than his " Life of
Christ," by overthrowing not merely the historical basis of
Christianity, but the very idea of it. At the same time the
Halle Annuals spoke out more plainly than ever. Neander
wrote to Perthes : " With unprecedented fury philosophy now
attacks all that is holy. Its adepts are mouthing about free-
dom just now, because they arc not in power, but, had they
the power, they would upset everything, and practise the most
arrant despotism. The audacious party, in whose name the Hallo
Annuals speak, condescend to all artifices and lies, in order to
win adherents ; they even clothe their opposition to Christianity
in the phrases of Christian theology, hoping thereby to catch
the simple among devout Christians in their net." Perthes
wrote: " The Halle Annuals are daily gaining ground among
our youth ; young men like to see decision, boldness, inde-
pendence, and the Liberalism of the age ; all which they find
in the Halle Annuals. I have just read the Halle students'
declaration concerning the request made to the king that
Strauss should be invited to Halle. It seems almost fanati-
cism." Again : " The attacks seem now to be made on a pre-


concerted plan, and the object is to undermine tlie only basis
of Protestant theology, viz., Holy Scripture. Bauer's criticism
of the Gospel history is at present the banner under which the
assailants fight. To what a pass has free inquiry brought us !
One book after another of the Canon is declared spurious, and
the remaining books are frittered away by the discovery of in-
terpolated passages, and the ingenious interpretation of others
into the contrary of their obvious meaning. How would it do
after so many experiments, to treat Holy Scripture as a sort of
Odyssey ? The attempt would certainly make an impression.
But few, I see, have dared to stigmatize Strauss as wicked ; on
the contrary, distinguished theologians, reputed for piety, men-
tion with respect the earnest and scientific labours of the
honourable and learned Dr. Strauss."

In 1841, Perthes wrote : " AH these things may bring us
into danger, but not to destruction : the persons are not there
who can do that. Twenty years after this, one of them will
be a fanatical Catholic, another a worn-out professor, and an-
other a lascivious old dog, while the rest will be placing all
their delight in some house and garden. Fichte was a man of
far higher stamp, and yet the movement of his age, whicli
threatened to unhinge the world, is now merely a piece of his-
tory. Our generation is sick, but the symptoms, which I take
to be Strauss, Ruge, Feuerbach, and Bauer, indicate an ap-
proaching return to health/' In March 1841, a theologian
answered Perthes : " There is no fear for Christ and his Church ;
but to us Germans, or to us Protestants, or to our whole gene-
ration, that may happen, which has often befallen other nations:
i.e., along with the fundamental principles of our national and
moral existence, we may lose the fresh power, and the quiet


happiness of life. I have always warned my friends against sup-
posing that rationalism and infidelity were conquered : but I did
not expect that men who, like the Marheinekes, had been cham-
pions of hyper- orthodoxy, would now be defending a system, in
comparison with which vulgar rationalism may be called devout
faith. The really dangerous men are not Ruge, Feuerbach,
and Strauss, but those who clothe unchristian thoughts in
Christian phrases, and those who entertain really Christian

Online LibraryClement Theodore PerthesMemoirs of Frederick Perthes, or, Literary, religious, and political life in Germany, from 1789 to 1843 (Volume 2) → online text (page 30 of 36)