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12 THE ECONOMICS OF REACTION A FEW months after meeting Schwarzenberg at OlmUtz, Manteuffel confessed to Prince William his sympathy with the social predilections of his Austrian opponent: "I am pretty much in agreement with him on one point, namely, a thorough contempt for the present generation, especially for the so-called educated class. One characteristic of this class is a combination of arrogance and cowardice, both sprung from godlessness. The sound elements of the nation, and we still have those, thank God, are to be found in the rural folk, but they make little noise and are therefore rarely noticed.m For Sans Souci as for Schonbrunn the great enemy of royal authority was the bourgeoisie infected with seditious ideas and inflated ambitions. It was from this source that revolution drew nourishment , for great wealth, especially moneyed wealth, was a constant temptation to subversion. To find true civic virtue, therefore, the state must look to the peasant hut, the artisan shop, and the Junker manor house. Rewarding its proletarian friends and chastising its middleclass enemies, the reaction introduced a program of economic reform in Central Europe whose most enduring achievement was the completion of rural emancipation. The conservatives who returned to power in the Fifties saw in agriculture not only the foundation of national greatness, but also a counterweight to liberal industrialism. Since without the support of the rural masses the crown could not resist the encroachments of constitutionalism, expediency forced on landowning noblemen a policy of agrarian improvement. Sometimes they justified it by arguments of noblesse oblige derived from the feudal tradition, sometimes they emphasized the close connection between agricultural and military efficiency, sometimes they frankly acknowledged that their interest in the [ 219 ] PART THREE: REACTION peasantry was pnmarily political. Yet wha.te~'er their motives, they destroyed manorialism once and for all.2 The rural reforms adopted by the reaction were necessarily shaped by the economic developments of the preceding fifty years. The Gerlachs inveighing against the social consequences of the liberation of the village sang the praises of an aristocratic patriarchalism rooted in the Christian sense of communal responsibility, but they could not undo the great changes wnich enlightened princes and liberal ministers had initiated at the turn of the century. The time for a feudal revival had long since passed. It was even too late for the proposal advanced by Hans von Kleist-Retzow that the government halt the rise of a landless proletariat by creating a vigorous class of small peasant proprietors. The spread of latifundia in the east and the growth of population in the west had made the position of the villager so precarious that no degree of state solicitude could restore the security he had once enjoyed. All that was practicable was to cut the few ties still binding agriculture to the past and allow the farmer to strike out for himself. Most conservatives, recognizing the handwriting on the wall, strove to facilitate the transition from the old to the new system of landholding. In Prussia the work of emancipation which had languished since the days of Hardenberg was resumed after the revolution. As soon as Frederick William IV had executed the coup of December 5, 1848, the best talents among the legitimists turned to the work of agricultural reform. Stolberg-Wernigerode and Kleist-Retzow proceeded to draft the outline of a measure commuting servile dues, while Blilow-Cummerow composed minutes and memoranda based on his forty years of experience as landowner and gentleman-farmer. But Leopold von Gerlach, criticizing the government for its neglect of aristocratic interests , appealed to divine wisdom to rectify the errors of a blind officialism. And the king himself was as usual too bewildered [ 220 ] THE ECONOMICS OF REACTION by the flood of conflicting proposals to act with determination. He waited in indecision until he could delay no longer, and then he followed the voice which was clearest and firmest. It was Manteuffel's. The minister of the interior had turned his attention to rural affairs immediately after entering the cabinet. His was the mind of the Prussian bureaucrat, incapable of lofty vision, but conscientious, painstaking, resolute . He approached questions of statecraft with a hard common sense and an inbred distrust of ideological formulas, qualities invaluable to a regime suffering from verbosity and nerves. Since he was too matter-of-fact to share the romantic extravagances of the king and the camarilla, he could never overcome the hostility of the clique of reactionary doctrinaires at the...

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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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