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14 THE ROAD TO UNIFICATION IN THE FIRST ACT OF Faust the protagonist of the greatest of German dramas, pondering the translation of an enigmatic passage in the New Testament, meditates on the source of human destiny: 'T is written: "In the Beginning was the Word." Here am I balked: who, now, can help afford? The Word?-impossible so high to rate it; And otherwise must I translate it, If by the Spirit I am truly taught. Then thus: "In the Beginning was the Thought." This first line let me weigh completely, Lest my impatient pen proceed too fleetly. Is it the Thought which works, creates, indeed? "In the Beginning was the Power," I read. Yet, as I write, a warning is suggested, That I the sense may not have fairly tested. The Spirit aids me: now I see the light! "In the Beginning was the Act," I write.1 The historian will appreciate the perplexity of Goethe's bemused hero. As he contemplates Germany in the nineteenth century, he too must choose between the word and the act, between thoughts and deeds. It becomes his task to appraise the influence of mind and matter on the course of political development, finding purpose and direction in the infinite complexity of an age long dead. And while the search for the meaning of the past may lead him into error, it is also the justification of his calling. Through it he may discover an aspect of truth, without it he becomes an antiquarian. When posterity looks into history, a familiar image looks back. It sees what it wants to see, it sees its own problems, its [ 259 ] CONCLUSION own interests, its own attitudes. For the liberal the years from Metternich to Bismarck are a period of struggle for constitutional freedom, for the patriot they are an awakening of the national consciousness, for the socialist a step in the development of the class struggle, for the Germanophobe an illustration of the perversity of the Teutonic mind. Each seeks the ideological forces which determine the direction of social development , each finds in them only the reflection of his time. They all exclaim with Wilhelm Mommsen: "In writing or speaking about I 848 we do not stand before a grave, but before political happenings and struggles which still have vitality for our age.112 Yet the emphasis on the modern significance of the past exacts a price. It leads to an exclusive concern with those political and economic problems relevant to the life of a later generation, and to the neglect of issues important only to their own time. Here lies the fallacy of the quest for present value in 1848, for in writing about it we do stand before a grave. The starting point of a study of the German Confederation must be the vanished society in which the men of the German Confederation worked, hoped, and fought. Each age has the right to be understood in its own terms. The gospel of unity and freedom, so familiar in a century of world wars, was originally intended for another era and another milieu. As a matter of fact, it was only one of many calls to action competing for the allegiance of a bewildered and frightened nation. To maintain that liberal nationalism was the dominant force among the various political, economic, social, and intellectual influences at work in Central Europe after the Congress of Vienna is a gross oversimplification. The truth is that there was no German Revolution of I 848. There were rather several simultaneous German revolutions, each with its own ideology and objective, all combining their efforts to achieve the overthrow of an oppressive system of government. One of these, the uprising of the middle class, [ 260 ] THE ROAD TO UNIFICATION came to dominate the political scene so completely that to this day it remains the only revolution in the textbook and in the classroom. Its accomplishments, the Frankfurt Parliament, the Fundamental Rights of the German People, and the constitution of March 28, I849, have found a secure place in history. Yet its fleeting success was made possible only by peasant revolts and artisan riots. As far as the masses were concerned, the insurrection was the outcome of tensions generated by the transition from agricultural manorialism to industrial capitalism. They were prepared to accept the leadership of liberal parliamentarians, but their allegiance to constitutionalism depended on the satisfaction of their material needs. Uneasy alliances of diverse interests stood behind St. Paul...


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