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7 THE FRANKFURT PARLIAMENT THE Thermidor of the Revolution came in June. By the time spring turned into summer, the momentum of the European uprising had been spent in quarrels among the victorious liberals. In France the dreams of the February insurrection vanished, as troops of the republic battled workers for four awful days, killing thousands in the streets and exiling thousands more to Algeria. In Prague the hostility of Czech and German reached a tragic climax during the meeting of the Slav Congress. While the revolutionaries wrangled over the terms of Bohemian autonomy, Prince Alfred zu Windischgratz in command of the imperial garrison played the tertius gaudens by proclaiming a state of siege and bombarding the city into submission. As for Italy, the national enthusiasm which greeted the March days was stifled by the rivalry between Naples, Rome, and Turin. Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky emerged from the Quadrilateral at the head of the Austrian armies, retook Vicenza, and speedily subjugated most of Venetia. In Germany the Revolution came to a halt even earlier. Without fully realizing it, the March ministries deprived themselves of a valuable asset, when they suppressed the spring uprising. True, they could not afford to ignore the danger of a new proletarian rebellion, but by acting against it with such unrelenting thoroughness they destroyed the insurrectionary elan of the masses once and for all. By the time the parliamentarians prepared to gather the spoils of victory, the Revolution was finished, and the middle class stood isolated. Yet the prestige which it had won by directing and then suppressing popular disorder was so great that it was able to remain in power for almost a year. Its spell was broken only when the princes of Central Europe finally re- [ I I7 J PART TWO: REVOLUTION alized that liberalism, like the emperor of the fairy tale, was actually naked. In vain did the bourgeois constitutionalists then invoke the magic formulas of freedom and unity which had carried them to victory the previous spring. The spirit of mob violence had been exorcised beyond recall. All of this, however, lay in the distant future. To liberals exulting in the glorious spring of I 848 every prospect was rosy. Absolutism had capitulated, disorder had been checked, and the waste of the insurrection was about to be made good by the enlightened statesmanship of a new age. The leaders of the constitutionalism of the south gathered in Heidelberg on March 5 to prepare the ground for national reconstruction. But they decided that the time for regional meetings was past, since the task before them was no longer the planning of parliamentary maneuvers but the government of a country , a task with which only an assembly of the best political minds could deal. They therefore resolved to convoke a meeting of the notables of liberalism, and appointed a committee of seven to decide its composition and prepare its agenda. A week later invitations were on their way to all parts of Germany. The purpose of the preliminary parliament which opened in Frankfurt am Main on March 3r was to determine the means by which constitutional order could be brought out of revolutionary confusion. Not even the larger states were able to cope with this problem unaided, and the Diet of the Confederation was too frightened and too discredited to assume the lead in the achievement of reform. Hence a private gathering of liberal leaders without popular mandate or legal status became by default the source of authority for a nation in a political vacuum. It could decide whether to complete the destruction of the monarchical system which lay helpless before it or to retain the old organization of the state in the service of the new order. The issues which had divided liberal from radical at Offenburg and Heppenheim in I 847 [ rr8 ] THE FRANKFURT PARLIAMENT arose again during the deliberations in St. Paul's Church. This time, however, the prize was n'Jt the leadership of a disorganized minority party but the future of Germany. The committee of seven presented the program of the moderates . Prepared by Karl Welcker and endorsed by prominent liberals like Heinrich von Gagern and Friedrich Romer, it urged the establishment of a federal union headed by a liberal monarch and governed through a constitution drafted by a national assembly. The radicals countered with the motion introduced by Gustav von Struve at the first meeting of the preliminary parliament. They sought the realization of their Offenburg program, but...

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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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