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About this book

Mark Hewitson reassesses the relationship between politics and the nation during a crucial period in order to answer the question of when, how and why the process of unification began in Germany. He focuses on how the national question was articulated in the public sphere by the press, political writers and key political organizations.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
The revolution of 1848–49 altered the history of politics and the nation in Germany. ‘The idea of unity became historical — that is the great result of 1848, which cannot be turned back by any means of violence or cunning,’ wrote the liberal publicist Ludwig August von Rochau in 1853: ‘By becoming historical, the idea of unity entered the same stage of development in which designs for internal reform in the individual states have existed for a long period of time.’1 In Grundsätze der Realpolitik (1853), the former insurrectionary, who had fled life-long imprisonment in Frankfurt in 1833 and had only returned to Germany in 1848, purportedly helped to usher in a realistic age spanning the reaction of the 1850s and Bismarck’s wars of unification in the 1860s, after the ‘failure’ of the revolution. He was joined by Hermann Baumgarten, a neighbour in Heidelberg before 1861, whose ‘self-critique’ had supposedly exposed the fatal weaknesses of German liberalism in 1866, outmanoeuvred by the Prussian Minister-President. Even if it ‘had to fail’, wrote the journalist and academic, 1848 had been ‘the first attempt to solve the German question’.2 The Reich constitution of 1849 was ‘a considerable advance’, albeit an unreliable one, ‘on our politicisation until that date’.3
Mark Hewitson

1. A German Revolution

Abstract
Revolution in 1848–49 revealed on a new scale and in an incontrovertible fashion what had already become familiar to narrow circles of political notables, publicists and academics before 1848; that the advent of ‘politics’, in the form of party, press and public debate about government and state affairs, was closely tied to the articulation of national aspirations and the founding of national contacts and associations. It is impossible to separate nationalism in Germany during the first half of the nineteenth century and the formation of parties, the consolidation of a public sphere, and the emergence of distinct political milieux. In virtually all the German states, liberalism — in a variety of guises — was central to such political milieux.
Mark Hewitson

2. The Great Powers and the Austrian Question

Abstract
Two cartoons summarised the end of the revolution and the start of a new era in Germany. One, appearing in the Düsseldorfer Monatshefte in 1849, depicted three gigantic figures towering over a map of Europe. Napoleon III and Prussia were sweeping revolutionaries, respectively, into the Atlantic and towards Switzerland. Austria was slashing at Italy and Hungary with a large sword. From the margins of the picture, Queen Victoria looked on through glasses, cradling a baby.1 The other cartoon, in the Berlin Buddelmeyer-Zeitung in February 1851, showed ‘A Political Hen-House’. Franz Joseph, a two-headed turkey in royal regalia, stood in the centre of the scene, accepting the ingratiating homage of Friedrich Wilhelm IV, a cockerel with its head bowed to the ground. The monarchs of Bavaria, Württemberg, Hanover and Saxony were represented as small ducks, clucking amongst the tail feathers of Austria. The other German princes, imagined as hens, scratched around for grain, unconcerned.2 The caricatures appeared to bear witness to the common view that the old Austrian-led system, backed by the monarchs of Europe and the princes of Germany, had been reinstalled and would dominate the domestic and foreign affairs of the German states.
Mark Hewitson

3. The Habsburg Monarchy and the Germans

Abstract
Some sections of public opinion in the third Germany, especially southern Germany, were receptive to Austrian advances. To the Prussian democrat Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch, writing on behalf of the Nationalverein, the gulf between North and South Germany was a profound one, even if it had been bridged by the reappearance of France as a common enemy in the Italian war of 1859.1 Likewise, to the historian and publicist Heinrich von Sybel, who had become one of the principal champions of Kleindeutschland in the 1850s and early 1860s, it was incontestable that the ‘German South’ was still strongly pro-Austrian. ‘Sympathy for an Austrian national character is just as strong there as antipathy towards the self-confident behaviour of the Prussians’, he lamented in 1862, drawing on his experience as a professor at the university of Munich.2 Historical links, geographical proximity, Catholicism, cultural contiguity, the perceived warmth of southern manners, dynastic ties — with Franz Joseph’s mother and wife both coming from the Bavarian Wittelsbachs — and the prominence of German-born officials in Vienna — including Metternich, Rechberg, Biegeleben and Buol — all contributed to the reluctance of many southerners — and others in Hanover and Saxony — to exclude Austria from the German lands.
Mark Hewitson

4. The Third Germany and the Bund

Abstract
In Die Naturgeschichte des deutschen Volkes, published between 1851 and 1855 in Leipzig, Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl described the contours of Germany, dividing it into three zones: the German flatlands (Tiefland), reaching south from the North Sea and the Baltic; the central hilly plateau (mittelgebirgiges Deutschland), stretching from the wall of mountains from the western Carpathians and the source of the Oder to the Ardennes in the North down to the Danube in the South; and the mountainous region (hochgebirgiges Deutschland) of the Alps and beyond, encompassing the German lands of the South and South East. Marked out by its climate and geography, the central plateau of the ‘third Germany’ was in many respects the core of the German lands as a whole, bounded by the harsh North German plain with its ‘heavy, damp air, strong, relentless winds, and storms and mist’, and by the mountains of the South with their ‘thin, dry air, brutal changes of temperature, sharply contrasting seasons, and dreadful downpours and hailstorms’.1 ‘Das mittelgebirgige Deutschland’ knew ‘little of this struggle’ of weather and environment: ‘Here, the climatic opposites cancel each other out, and the mild, moist air of the valleys also helped to make people placid, rounded and soft.’2
Mark Hewitson

5. Prussia, the Nation and the Constitution

Abstract
Prussia was singled out by liberals and democrats, meeting in Eisenach and Hanover on 17 and 19 July 1859 to discuss the establishment of a national association, as the only source of a ‘strong and lasting central government of Germany’ and of ‘a German National Assembly’. It was also agreed that, ‘should Germany in the near future again immediately be threatened from abroad, leadership of German military forces and external diplomatic representation are to be transferred to Prussia, until the definitive constitution of a German central government’.1 A day later, an article appeared in the Hanoverian Zeitung für Norddeutschland proclaiming that ‘we direct our hope towards Prussia’s government, which — through the change of system voluntarily introduced last year — has shown its Volk and the whole of Germany that it has recognised it as its task to bring the latter’s interests into line with those of its own land, and it doesn’t shy away from sacrificing its full powers and adopting a new and difficult course towards such an end. The aims of Prussian policy largely coincide with those of Germany.’2
Mark Hewitson

6. The Struggle for Germany in Schleswig-Holstein

Abstract
It was no coincidence that Bismarck first used the Prussian army in Schleswig-Holstein. Ten days after his appointment on 22 September 1862, the new Minister-President asked the Chief of the General Staff Helmuth von Moltke to investigate the possibility of a war with Denmark.1 The struggle between Germans and Danes in Schleswig had been going on for the last 500 years, Georg Waitz had written a decade earlier, and it would certainly continue.2 The duchies, which were joined by a personal union of the monarch to the Kingdom of Denmark, had become the most famous national cause in Germany after Christian VIII had decreed in 1840 that Danish was to be used in the schools, courts and churches of North Schleswig. ‘Our Volk has been brought up politically on the Schleswig-Holstein question,’ declared the Badenese liberal Franz von Roggenbach: ‘It was the first one in which the nation (Nation) participated again with insight, with conscience, after a long period of indifference. This question must be led to a happy end, otherwise the German Volk will lose its belief in itself.’3 Until 1840, German had been the official language throughout the territory, even though at least half of Schleswig’s population of 400,000 — and a large majority in the North — spoke a dialect of Danish.
Mark Hewitson

Conclusion

Abstract
The year 1866 saw the implementation of the main components of the national solution to the German question which had been agreed in 1849. Schleswig-Holstein, the principal disputed national territory, was incorporated into Prussia and the North German Confederation; the Habsburg monarchy was excluded from Germany; the Bund was abolished; and a prototype of a German constitutional Bundesstaat, the most important features of which were transferred to the Kaiserreich in 1871, was outlined by Bismarck in a draft constitution for the North German Confederation on the Baltic island of Rügen. In these respects, Prussia’s defeat of Austria at the battle of Königgrätz on 3 July, after just over a fortnight of hostilities, appears to be the end of a series of debates about the nation beginning in 1848 rather than a turning-point in itself.1
Mark Hewitson
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