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4 THE IDEOLOGICAL CONFLICT THE growth of a capitalistic economy working such profound changes in industry and agriculture was also responsible for the political tensions of the years preceding the revolution. The benevolent despotism of the eighteenth century was a mode of government appropriate to a nation of serfs, artisans, and aristocrats, but in the age of the factory and the railway it became a parasitic relic of a bygone age commanding neither loyalty nor respect. Hence the system of legitimate rule established in Europe after the Congress of Vienna, blind to the transformation of society which the French Revolution had introduced, failed to achieve a lasting stability. And the generation which reached maturity after the battle of Waterloo lived through a time of bitter conflict, as the world of the past fought to remain alive. In Germany the wave of reform which originated in the struggle against French oppression was succeeded after I 8I 9 by an era of reaction. The promise of representative government and economic unity implicit in the Act of Confederation remained a dead letter. After lengthy consideration by one committee after another, Prussian constitutional projects were finally shelved, and in place of a parliament Frederick William III created provincial diets chosen by the estates of the realm to act in a purely advisory capacity. Even in those states of the south and west where written instruments of government were promulgated the competence of the assembly remained carefully restricted, with the right to initiate legislation, to control the armed forces, and to supervise the enforcement of laws reserved for the crown. As for the Diet of the Confederation meeting in Frankfurt, it turned out to be no more than a convenient instrument of conservative rulers for the suppression of the liberal opposition. By [ s6 J THE IDEOLOGICAL CONFLICT its decrees those who in 1813 had been hailed as heroes of the movement for national emancipation became a decade later demagogic agitators to be dismissed from their official posts and hounded into exile or prison.1 The statesmen of the reaction assumed that parliamentarianism commanded the support of no more than a small minority of the population of Germany, a minority composed of visionary academicians, sensationalistic journalists, and bourgeois malcontents. The aristocracy certainly was unquestioningly loyal to a monarchy which repaid its devotion with favor and patronage. While here and there in Central Europe there arose an aristocratic liberalism inspired by the teachings of English free traders, the example of French constitutionalists, and a native tradition of resistance to royal absolutism, the highborn reformer was an exception. Far more typical was the Prussian Junker or WUrttemberg landowner who wore the king's uniform in a guard regiment or in the diplomatic service, dedicating himself to a defense of the crown, because a limitation of royal power must lead to the destruction of his own prerogative. His reward was a privileged position in the social hierarchy from which he could look down on the moneygrubbing banker and the closefisted industrialist. The masses too remained by and large indifferent to constitutional doctrines. What did concepts of natural right, social contract, popular sovereignty, and legal equality mean to the lower classes engaged in the exhausting struggle for economic survival? Their civic attitude usually found expression in a naYve provincial patriotism and a reverence for the ruling prince, for fundamentally the peasant and the artisan were conservatives, suspicious of newfangled theories and respectful toward tradition. Occasional radicals like Karl Follen or Georg BUchner might dream of leading a hungry mob against kings and princes, but the practical results of their agitation were only a few secret meetings of rebellious [ 57 ] PART ONE: RESTORATION workingmen and intellectuals, a fiery pamphlet or two, an infrequent assassination. To a later age grown accustomed to war and revolution they became the prophets of things to come. In their own time, however, their influence was slight, for the proletariat ignored demands for governmental reform until the eve of the Revolution. Yet the lower classes did long for change, but by change they meant first and foremost an improvement in their economic status. The artisan robbed of his livelihood by industrialism , the peasant forced to sell his farm to the nobleman, the factory worker cheated of his wages by the truck system -all favored reform providing relief from physical want. But they did not put their trust in the leaders of the liberal opposition, those well-to-do outsiders who propounded impious civic ideas and moved in...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400882755
Related ISBN
9780691007557
MARC Record
OCLC
966782625
Pages
360
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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