Copyright
Heinrich von Treitschke.

Treitschke's history of Germany in the nineteenth century (Volume 4) online

. (page 13 of 68)
Online LibraryHeinrich von TreitschkeTreitschke's history of Germany in the nineteenth century (Volume 4) → online text (page 13 of 68)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


suppression of the obnoxious clause ; but when this proved
impossible he closed his eyes to it, for Bavaria was in any
case attached to Austria by sufficiently close bonds. The
adoption of the Carlsbad decrees five years earlier had been
secured only by a coup de main, but their renewal was now
effected in a manner legally incontestable. Although the
prescribed formal discussion had not taken place, all the other
prescriptions of the order of procedure had been followed, and
the unanimity demanded by the constitution had been secured.
The resolution concerning the diets signified very little,
for every one of the federated states still remained essentially
entitled to impose upon freedom of speech whatever limits it might
desire. But the Hofburg had attained its principal aim ;
the sacred institution of the censorship was preserved for
the Germans for an indefinite period. In a gracious letter,
the king of Prussia expressed his thanks to the Austrian
chancellor, and Metternich declared with satisfaction that now for
the first time the Germanic Federation had been completely
interwoven into the system of the great powers. 1 Gentz wrote,
without foreseeing how terribly his prophecy was to be fulfilled,
" Henceforward the revolutionary system cannot gain the upper
hand in Germany without the destruction of the Germanic
Federation. Thus far have we advanced since the year 1819."

After these resolutions had been passed, the court of Vienna
exhibited towards the Bundestag the same dull indifference
which it had displayed in the year 1817. A police-regulated
order had been secured. What more was necessary ? The
house of Austria could not cherish positive plans for the increase
of German power and well-being. Had not the unresting
Prussia continued to agitate the question of the federal
fortresses, the Bundestag would have had hardly anything to
discuss. The restriction of the session to four months, as desired
by the Hofburg, practically came into effect, for henceforward
Munch regularly spent eight months of the year at the foreign

1 Blittersdorffs Reports, August 12, 16, 22, and 27, 1824.
IO4



The Great Powers and the Trias

office in Vienna ; during his absence he was represented by
Bavaria or Saxony, never by Prussia. In a word, the activities
of the Eschenheimer Gasse became purely spectral, and were
no wise distinguished from those of Ratisbon days. The much
derided question of the Cutin common lands, which to the
day of its extinction the old Reichstag had proved unable to
settle, found a worthy counterpart in the year 1827, when
the Mainz fortification authority, " with undue precipitancy
and reckless disregard of its relationship to the high federal
assembly," built a few latrines for the garrison hospital.
The Bundestag was justly outraged at this usurpation of
authority. It need hardly be said that the evil-doers were
Prussian officers. Since, however, " the necessity of this
provision " was irrefutable, it was finally decided that the
military committee should, " for this once, authorise the
expenditure of the specified sum," whereupon, with strict
exhortations, the money was paid over to the culpable authority.
In the following year, such severe and groundless reproaches
were again made on account of these same latrines that Nagler
had to explain to the enraged envoys of the minor powers
that the Prussian fortification authority ought to be heard before
its conduct was disapproved.

In the art of confusing what was simple and of obscuring
what was clear, the Bundestag had long ere this successfully
rivalled its Ratisbon prototype. Princess Berkeley, the
widow of the last margrave of Ansbach-Baireuth, had, among
others, experience of this. The crown of Prussia had formerly
assigned her an annual income drawn from the public funds
of the Franconian provinces, and according to the clear wording
of the treaties it was indisputable that the king of Bavaria,
now suzerain of Ansbach-Baireuth, should pay the widow her
jointure. Bavaria, however, found it possible to evade this
obligation under empty excuses, and when, in the year 1825,
the princess lodged a complaint with the Bundestag, the
discussion was protracted in Frankfort for several years, and
was then referred to the court of arbitration in Liibeck. In
the year 1830, the court decided, as it was evidently forced
to do, in favour of the plaintiff. But meanwhile the princess
had died, and her son, Lord Craven, was informed by Bavaria
that in accordance with the laws of that country his claim
was extinct. He was never able to secure his rights, although
the English government espoused his cause, and the London

105



History of Germany



press expatiated with well-grounded contempt upon this example
of German fidelity. Gentz was right. Things had moved far
since the year 1819. It is hardly surprising that on September
18, 1828, Gentz had the proposal made at the Bundestag that
the assembly should for lack of business be adjourned for an
indefinite period. For very shame, the motion was not
entered in the private minutes, but was concealed in a secret
register ; it was adopted, however, and the adjournment lasted
more than four months.

Disgraceful as was this state of affairs, one which exposed
a great nation to the mockery of Europe, it had firm roots
in the international field. As long as Austria, England,
Denmark, and Holland belonged to the Germanic Federation,
the central authority of that body must either, as in
Wangenheim's days, pass its time in sterile quarrels, or else
must succumb to a futile stagnation; and who among the
thousands of true patriots that lamented the miseries of
Germany had ever given a serious thought to the reasons for
the national disgrace ? As time passed, moreover, numerous
social relationships became established between the Bundestag,
the Frankfort bourse, and the leading families of the vicinity,
and before long polite society in the south-west came to regard
as indispensable this court of diplomats who never had anything
to do and were always ready for amusements. Especially
valuable services were performed for the assembly by its three
powerful favourites, the business houses of Rothschild, of Taxis,
and of Cotta. The firm of Rothschild displayed its gratitude
for the gift of the interest on the money for the German
fortifications, by supplying the court of Vienna with private
information, and by utilising the wide subterranean ramifications
of its social power on behalf of Austrian federal policy.

No less grateful was the princely house of Thurn and Taxis,
which was confirmed by the federal act in its old postal rights,
thus securing from Prussia and several other states abundant
indemnification. In Wiirtemberg, the two Hesses, Nassau, and
the Thuringian states, the house administered the posts with
all the shamelessness of the monopolist spirit. How many
people avoided travelling in Central Germany, for fear of being
" turned and taxed " (as the popular phrase ran) in the
wretched diligences of this postal service. The postal
" snail " of Thurn and Taxis, as Borne called it, occupied
forty-six hours traversing the hundred miles between Frankfort

1 06



-

an



The Great Powers and the Trias

and Stuttgart, spending fifteen of these hours at wayside inns.
There was no question of the institution of branch lines of
service, since these brought in so little profit. To the Austrian
presidential embassy, the Taxis postal administration was more
accommodating than to travellers, placing at the envoy's
disposition not merely the Frankfurter Oberpostamtszeitung, a
journal of unexampled dullness, but also the princely police
services. The Napoleonic police had long before introduced
into every European state the evil practice of opening private
letters, and all the courts had adopted it. When a minister
wished without fear of punishment to say an unpleasant truth
to a foreign sovereign, he wrote to his envoy through the
post, feeling confident that his words would reach their mark.
But nowhere else, the Viennese Stallburg alone excepted, was
this dirty traffic carried on so impudently as in the " lodges "
of the Taxis post, and the renowned Taxis general post office
of Eisenach sat like a spider at the centre of the web of
German communications. When Nagler, in Frankfort, was
asked on one occasion to send a private instruction to Kiister
in Munich without fear of its disclosure, the man of experience
answered that this was quite impossible, The best way would
be to write the instruction in Berlin upon fancy notepaper,
and have it addressed in a woman's handwriting to Fraulein
von Kiister ; the note must then be enclosed in a letter to
an artist friend in Munich. 1 Conducted ,in this spirit, the
Taxis postal service was a powerful prop of Austrian dominion
in Germany. The Austrian envoy was gratuitously housed
at the Taxis palace in the Eschenheimer Gasse, and the
Bundestag saw nothing improper in enjoying for many decades
the hospitality of the postal dynasts of Ratisbon.

Of a different character, but no less useful, were the
amenities which the house of Cotta was able to render the
Bundestag'. In the year 1825, Goethe requested special pro-
tection against literary piracy. In a ceremonious and dignified
petition the old man declared that " the supervision devoted
by our illustrious authorities to the great whole need not
exclude a benevolent regard for individual details," and he
commended to the illustrious Bundestag, to the union of all
the German sovereignties, " this affair which is of importance
to German literature." Notwithstanding Prussia's endeavours,
a federal law against literary piracy had not yet been enacted,

1 Nagler to the minister for foreign affairs, April 7, 1828.
107



History of Germany



and the granting of special privileges was not within the
competence of the Bundestag, yet the members of the assembly
could not but feel what Germany owed to her greatest poet.
Nagler pleaded urgency ; considerations of form were ignored ;
matters were pressed on with unusual speed ; and two months after
the petition had been received a resolution was adopted by
all the federated governments to advocate the granting of
Goethe's request. The forty volumes of the new edition of
Goethe's works were able to appear " protected by the privileges
of the most illustrious Germanic Federation." Subsequently
this privilege was renewed, and a similar privilege was extended
to the works of Schiller. But the wealthy heirs of the excellent
Johann Friedrich Cotta were as little able as was the house
of Taxis to withstand the temptations of the monopolist spirit.
Unaffected by the remonstrances of the learned world, they
misused their privilege by gross neglect of the treasures
entrusted to their care, and as Jong as the Bundestag continued
to exist, the German nation was never given a suitable and
accurate edition of the works of its greatest poets. This
national scandal, inconceivable in England or in France, served
only as additional proof of the impotence of public opinion
in our distracted land.

The extraordinary favour was reciprocated by the house of
Cotta by means of the Allgemeine Zeitung published in Augsburg,
which since 1820 had been the most influential German paper,
and practically the only one read in Austria. Its voluminous
reports made it indispensable to diplomats, while the scientific
essays its columns contained were invaluable to men of learning.
It was a common platform for all parties, for it published
contributions from men of the most various shades of opinion.
Sometimes, when the liberal current was strong, distinctively
radical articles appeared. Rarely were its own opinions voiced,
and then always with diplomatic reserve. For many years the
editorship was in the hands of Stegmann and Lindner's friend
Le Bret, both of them liberal particularists of the Stuttgart
school. Nevertheless this non-partisan newspaper was in such
close relationships with the Austrian court- that Cotta was
inclined on several occasions to transfer his organ to Vienna,
and was deterred from doing so only on account of the
Austrian censorship ! Gentz, annoyed a hundred times over
by the liberal articles published in the Allgemeine Zeitung , had
very good reasons none the less for continuing to exhibit

1 08



The Great Powers and the Trias

his favour. More effectively here than in the columns of the
ill-reputed Oesterreichische Beobachter could the most intimate
wishes of Viennese statesmanship find expression. The
paper was conducted upon commercial principles, and,
desiring to preserve a reputation for diplomatic profundity,
never rejected a contribution " from an exalted source," the
sole provisos being that the articles must be topical and must
be suitable for the perusal of intelligent readers. So
chameleon-like a newspaper could not fail to exercise a
profoundly disastrous influence upon the political culture of the
nation, which, in its nebulous embitterment and obscure
yearning, above all needed relentlessly straightforward
instruction. It nourished in its readers that erudite political
impotence by which the cultured Germans were tragically
distinguished from neighbouring nations. Those who looked
through these spectacles attained to the view that the loath-
some rout of the Eschenheimer Gasse would endure for ever.
The paper claimed omniscience, being thoroughly well-
informed about Peru, Sweden, and Further India, whilst
remaining a stranger to its own fatherland for concerning the
most vigorous of the German states the readers received no
more than rare, scanty, and, for the most part, malicious
reports. Thus the Allgemeine Zeitung was a faithful ally of
the house of Austria, and it was not by chance merely that
its influence passed away for ever after the fall of
Metternich. ;

It was through this newspaper that Germany first became
acquainted with a power which had long been known to her
western neighbours the power of journalistic anonymity.
Beyond question, the Augsburg journal owed part of its prestige
to the impenetrable veil which concealed the identity of its
political contributors, reactionary or liberal, competent or
incompetent. In the innocence of the first years of peace,
the valiant German nature had continued to strive vigorously
against anonymous authorship, and indeed our honest tongue
did not even possess a thoroughly apt word for anonymity.
The parliamentary orators among the Badenese and Bavarian
liberals were then practically unanimous in the opinion that
freedom of the press would not be possible unless everyone
were to advocate his opinions under his own name. Since
then, however, the period of persecution and mistrust had
ensued, and to all it now seemed that anonymity was an

109



History of Germany



indispensable bulwark of freedom of the press. No longer did
anyone ask what breaches of official duty, what moral offences,
might lurk behind anonymous articles. To the writers in
the daily press was conceded the privilege of dragging all that
was hidden into the light, while themselves remaining concealed
in the profoundest obscurity, and this fragment of topsy-
turvydom was accepted as an inalterable necessity. Thus
was introduced into Germany one of the worst moral diseases
of the nineteenth century, an unnatural state of affairs which
subsequent ages will regard as we regard the " informer system "
of the old Roman Empire, but which those of the present
generation take as a matter of course, accepting it in the
same easy-going way as that in which orientals accept the
plague.

In this desolate epoch of federal history the sole gratifying
occurrence was the dissolution of the Mainz central committee
of enquiry, which was at length abolished very quietly in the
year 1829, owing to the complete exhaustion of material for
its labours. It had cost the Federation 90,000 gulden, and
the participating governments some half million. What had
been the outcome ? An alarming disclosure of the sentiments,
not of the demagogues, but of the German courts and of their
police officials. From the first the authorities had been upon
the wrong road. They left the most dangerous of the young
malcontents, Carl Follen, at liberty, so that in the beginning
of the year 1820 he was able to escape to France. The
investigation against the other arrested persons was conducted
so ineptly that the Mainz committee, in order to be able to
prove that there had existed at least a trace of dangerous
intrigues, was compelled to resort to the most unworthy
calumnies. In the year 1820, Musset, the Nassau pleni-
potentiary, a fit tool of Marschall, acting behind the
backs of his colleagues, sent his court a secret report which
almost exceeded the bounds of possibility in its suspicions and
distortions. When Arndt was assuming his professorial office
at Bonn, Nicolovius had once wished his friend God's blessing
and the gift of energy " so that our youth may faithfully
cherish justice and truth, and may become God's chosen
weapon." On the ground of this letter, the Nassau envoy
gleefully wrote : " Not everyone regarded the activities of
the students as insignificant, although many now wish to make

no



The Great Powers and the Trias

light of this matter ; there were some who believed that by
good instruction youth might become God's chosen weapon ! "
Concerning the gymnastic cult, he wrote with similar
perspicacity : " The feeling of physical energy which gymnastic
exercise furnishes and the more rapid circulation it induces
naturally awaken the desire for an object to contend with, and
thus gymnastics prepare the mind for the reception of those
ideas whose realisation demands great effort of body and
mind." * Vainly did the Prussian president, von Kaisenberg,
more unconcerned than the government he represented,
endeavour to restrain the Mainz septemvirate within the limits
of what was reasonable. The only outcome of his moderate
attitude was that the court of Carlsruhe persistently complained
of "the liberalising tendency" of the Mainz committee, and
Metternich made a diplomatic enquiry in Berlin (this time without
result) whether " the lack of firmness of the present Prussian
plenipotentiary might not perhaps render expedient a change
in the personality of the holder of this office. " 2

Hormann, the Bavarian, was entrusted with the preparation
of the general report, and the bungle he produced was so
atrocious that even Blittersdorff was disgusted. How delighted
was the Badenesc statesman when in 1826 the Bundestag gave
him the honourable commission of extracting from Hermann's
work 'a brief and telling report for the use of the general
public ; the nation was to learn on the brink of what an
abyss it had been standing, from what enemies had it been
rescued by the wisdom of the Federation. But imagine
Blittersdorft's feelings when he came to contemplate the
performances of the septemvirate ! " In other lands," he wrote
in a fury, " people would point the finger of scorn at us if
after these long years we were to regale the public once more
with such ancient histories. Is there any way of drafting an
imposing report out of these materials ? How is it possible
to do so if we are to remain at a proper level of
observation ? " Again, when he had entered more fully into
the spirit of the Mainz work, he wrote, " In the entire report
there is to be found but one comprjhensive and leading idea,
and this is that all subsequent intrigues and secret societies

1 Musset, Report upon the Labours of the Central Committee of Enquiry,
Mainz, September 2, 1820.

2 Berstett and Blittersdortf, Memorial concerning the Central Committee of
Enquiry, April 6 ; Blittersdorff's Reports, February 6 and March 21 ; Metternich
to Hatzfeldt, June 24, 1825.

Ill



History of Germany



have proceeded from those which were directed against the
French dominion and the Confederation of the Rhine ! " l

Such was the fact. The former editor of the Munich
Alemannia had had the effrontery to give expression in the
reports of the committee to his unabated Rhenish confederate
sentiment, to his deadly hatred for Prussia and the War of
Liberation, at once utilising and outdoing the denunciations
of Schmalz. As Blittersdorff dolefully complained, his work
was permeated by " the scarce-concealed tendency to indicate
Prussia and the powers as those who had raised the evil spirit
which subsequently they had proved unable to control." It
is indisputable that the revolt against Napoleon was here
imputed to the Prussian people as a crime, and was thus
imputed by the federal authority. The first demagogic
" intrigue," the one with which Hermann's relation began, was
a letter from Schleiermacher to Reimer, written after the battle
of Jena, which concluded with the following words : "A
universal regeneration is essential, and will develop out of these
incidents. We cannot yet see how this will occur ; but we
want to be on hand and to participate in it as soon as the
current of affairs summons us or carries us away with it."
Next came Fichte's Addresses to the German Nation, the
Tugendbund, Arndt's Catechism for the German Landwehrmann,
all the patriotic clubs which had been formed against the
French in the days of bitter need. Stein and Gneisenau were
several times referred to as suspects, whilst almost on every
page was flaunted the name of Hardenberg, the great patron
of conspirators. From these " intrigues " against the lawful
regime of Napoleon had then arisen, by a natural process of
reproduction, the Burschenschaft, the gymnastic grounds, the
Unconditional, the assassination and the attempted assassination
in the year 1819. For the subsequent years, Hormann could
produce little more than a league of youth and a questionable
association of grown men, regarding whose aims the committee
had to content itself with such weakly phrases as "it is
conceivable," etc.

The fundamental idea of the report being thus shameful,
thus derogatory to the national honour, the detailed application
of the idea displayed a capricious unconscientiousness which
was, indeed, an almost necessary consequence of the peculiar

1 Blittersdorfi to Miinch, November 25 and December 7 ; to Berstett, November
26, 1826.

112






The Great Powers and the Trias

bastard character of the Mainz authority. A formal
governmental court of judicature, such as was vainly
recommended in Carlsbad by Prussia, would have had to confine
its attention strictly to demonstrated facts. But this com-
mittee of enquiry considered it its duty, " making use of
several thousand documents whose true significance could not
for the most part as yet be perceived, and of several hundred
testimonies many of which were still incomplete, to compile
a history of the political activities of a period covering more
than ten years (activities which found expression not so much
in definite actions as in endeavours, preparations, and
introductions), and to measure the degree of certainty of the
facts in accordance with the principles of historical belief, in
accordance with its own subjective conviction." Guided by
this subjective conviction, the committee had assembled a
marvellous hotch-potch of truth and fiction, of facts,
suppositions, and rumours, which justified no definite conclusion
regarding the decisive questions at issue ; the committee itself
admitted that Lieutenant Schulz's Question and Answer Booklet
was " almost the only positive item " among their documents,
and they profoundly deplored the acquittal of this evil-doer
an acquittal which unquestionably was not justified.

Blittersdorff -could not venture to appear before the nation
with such a report. The disfavour of public opinion had no
terrors for him, but he dreaded the wrath of the Prussian
government. What would be said in Berlin if an official
historiographer of the Bundestag were to compile the history
of the years 1806 to 1815 in the spirit of the Napoleonic secret
police ! The Badenese statesman therefore postponed the
dangerous editorial task, and the Black Committee was dissolved
without furnishing the nation with the promised revelations.
It was not until years afterwards, in 1831, that Blittersdorff
discharged his commission, and the precis which he now gave
of the Mainz documents was a biased and trivial performance.
He deliberately maintained silence regarding numerous
extenuating circumstances which had been adduced in favour
of the demagogues, but also suppressed much which might
have aroused anger in Berlin. By this time all the German



Online LibraryHeinrich von TreitschkeTreitschke's history of Germany in the nineteenth century (Volume 4) → online text (page 13 of 68)