Nationalism: state-building in Germany (Part 2)
Revolution of 1830 in Germany
- A successful revolution broke out in France in July 1830 against the autocratic rule of Charles X. The news of this revolution greatly inspired the patriots of Germany, who were cruelly crushed by Metternich with the help of the Carlsbad Decrees.
- The rulers of almost all states except Austria and Prussia were compelled to introduce liberal constitutions in their respective states. Charles, the King of Brunswick, was divested of his throne and the revolutionaries introduced a new and liberal constitution there. In the same way, other small states also followed the path of the people of Brunswick.
- The southern states of Germany were inclined to establish a military league in order to establish peace in the country. They opposed the leadership of Austria. It was made clear that the administration of the German states was going into the hands of military league in place of Federal Diet.
- The Empire of Austria remained untouched by the influence of the revolution. At that time the influence and power of Metternich was at its zenith. He at once adopted strict and repressive measures to suppress the revolutions of the different states of Germany.
- The Carlsbad Decrees were renewed in 1832 and the provisions were strictly implemented everywhere. Restrictions on public meetings, speech, press, universities and colleges were further strengthened.
- In April, 1833 some revolutionaries made an attack upon the Federal Diet. Although the attack was ruthlessly repulsed with the help of army, it became clear that the people of Germany had no faith in the functioning of the Federal Diet.
- As a whole, the effects of the July Revolution of 1830 were nullified in German states. The influence of Metternich remained unchallenged in Germany till 1848.
The Hambach Festival, 1832
- In May 1832, at Hambach Castle in the Palatinate, as many as 30,000 liberals and radicals gathered together to demand reforms. They wanted national unification, representative government and popular sovereignty in Germany.
- Flags of black, red and gold, which were later to become the German national colours, were shown
Revolutions of 1848-49 in Germany (March Revolution)
- It was initially part of the Revolutions of 1848 that broke out in many European countries.They were also inspired by street demonstrations of workers and artisans in Paris, France, from February 22 through 24, 1848, which resulted in the abdication by King Louis Philippe of France and his going into exile in Britain. [Matternich had said: “When France catches cold, all Europe sneezes“]
- The prelude to the March Revolution was provided by a popular assembly organized in Mannheim on February 27, 1848, by Democrats from Baden. It was here that the so-called March demands of fundamental claims of people vis-à-vis the governments were formulated: freedom of the press, trial by jury and creation of a German parliament. These demands were raised everywhere in the March days, usually supplemented by local or regional wishes for reform. The leading forces of the revolutionary March movement were mostly representatives of the liberal bourgeoisie.
- From Baden, where already on March 1 the compliance with the March demands was initiated by a mass rally in front of the parliament, the movement spread to all southern Germany and the larger part of the central-German states. Surprised and overthrown by the strength of the movement many monarchs declared their willingness to install most of the basic democratic principles demanded. Everywhere, up to the middle of March, new governments were established, dominated by moderately liberal representatives of the bourgeoisie and proclaiming programs of liberal reform. In Bavaria the events resulted in the abdication of the monarch, King Ludwig I.
- In Vienna (Austria), with its population pressing for political change and after hearing the opposition’s signal in the Hungarian parliament to fight against Metternich’s rule, a student-organized demonstration on March 13, 1848, escalated into a storm on the house of the estates. The people put up armed resistance to the troops. After the uprising of the workers in the suburbs and the ultimatum by the liberal bourgeoisie, the state leadership of the Habsburg regime decided to give in. This resulted in the resignation of Metternich as chief minister to Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria, and his going into exile in Britain.
- The uprising in Berlin (Prussia) on March 18 was pre ceded by powerful oppositional governments in almost all Prussian provinces, especially in the Rhineland. King Frederick William IV of Prussia was frightened into granting a constitution and his example was followed by Saxony, Hanover and Bavaria.
The Frankfurt Parliament and Triumph of Reaction
- Frankfurt National Assembly or German National Assembly (May 1848–June 1849) tried and failed to create a united German state during the liberal Revolutions of 1848.
- A preliminary parliament met in Frankfurt in March 1848 at the instigation of liberal leaders from all the German states (including Austria), and it called for the election of a national assembly. The elections were duly held, though the electoral laws and methods varied considerably from state to state, and on May 18 the national assembly met in Frankfurt. Moderate liberals held a majority in the assembly, though the entire political spectrum was represented among its deputies. The liberal Heinrich Gagern was elected president of the parliament.
- The Frankfurt National Assembly spent much time debating various plans for a unified Germany, but it also had to decide on immediate practical problems, such as the nature of the executive power and Germany’s territorial extent.
- Archduke John of Austria, a comparatively liberal uncle of the Austrian emperor Ferdinand, was appointed regent of Germany and head of the assembly’s (putative) executive power on June 29. Yet it soon became clear that the executive appointed by the assembly had no power except such as was granted to it by the governments of the individual states.
- The Frankfurt National Assembly attempted to take over the conduct of a war with Denmark concerning the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, but Prussia, ignoring the assembly, abruptly concluded the war in August. By this time, Prussia’s Frederick William IV had lost all patience with the liberals and had turned increasingly toward ultraconservative advisers. In Austria the emperor Ferdinand had abdicated in favour of his nephew Francis Joseph, who likewise relied on conservative ministers.
- The Frankfurt National Assembly was finally able to adopt a proposed constitution for Germany on March 28, 1849. This document provided for universal suffrage, parliamentary government, and a hereditary emperor. Germany was to have a unified monetary and customs system but would maintain the internal autonomy of the constituent German states.
- But in the meantime, Austria had proclaimed a new constitution (March 4, 1849), which mandated that either the entire Austrian Empire or none of it would enter the new Germany. This was a blow to those liberals who had hoped for a Germany that would include Austria, or at least its German-speaking provinces. The initiative thus passed to those who wanted to exclude Austria from a Germany that would be under the leadership of Prussia.
- Accordingly, when the election of an emperor took place in the national assembly on March 28, majority votes were cast for Frederick William of Prussia. On April 3 the king received a deputation from the assembly that came to offer him the crown. The offer was refused because:
- Frederick William was too deeply conservative to receive a German imperial crown from any hands except those of the other German princes. He did not like to receive crown from revolutionary assembly who were socially inferior and considered it as a “crown of shame”.
- He felt that it might lead to war with Austria
- Prussia also rejected the proposed constitution. Many of the States refused to accept the constitution.
- Without the support of either Prussia or Austria, the Frankfurt National Assembly could not now survive. By May, Gagern’s ministry had broken up, and the majority of the deputies were ordered home by the governments of their respective states. The Frankfurt National Assembly and the revolutions that had inspired it were over.
- Prussia had dismissed the Diet which was at work making a constitution. But Prussian King voluntarily gave the people a constitution, which though not democratic, secured to the Prussian people a share in the government.
Problem of spheres of influence: The Erfurt Union and the Punctation of Olmutz
- After the Frankfurt Parliament disbanded, Frederick William IV supported the establishment of the Erfurt Union — a federation of German states, excluding Austria — by the free agreement of the German princes. This limited union under Prussia would have almost entirely eliminated Austrian influence on the other German states.
- Combined diplomatic pressure from Austria and Russia (a guarantor of the 1815 agreements that established European spheres of influence) forced Prussia to relinquish the idea of the Erfurt Union in Olmutz in 1850. Also, the Prussia agreed to the restoration of the German Confederation under Austrian leadership. This became known as the Punctation of Olmutz (Convention of Olmutz), but among Prussians it was known as the “Humiliation of Olmutz.”
- Although seemingly minor events, the Erfurt Union proposal and the Punctation of Olmutz brought the problems of influence in the German states into sharp focus. The question became not a matter of if but rather when unification would occur.
- Unification under these conditions raised a basic diplomatic problem. The possibility of German (or Italian) unification would overturn the overlapping spheres of influence system created in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna. The principal architects of this convention, Metternich, Castlereagh, and Tsar Alexander had conceived of and organized a Europe balanced and guaranteed by four “great powers”: Great Britain, France, Russia, and Austria, with each power having a geographic sphere of influence.
- This sphere of influence system depended upon the fragmentation of the German and Italian states, not their consolidation. Consequently, a German nation united under one banner presented significant questions. There was no readily applicable definition for who the German people would be or how far the borders of a German nation would stretch. There was also uncertainty as to who would best lead and defend “Germany”. Different groups offered different solutions to this problem. In the Kleindeutschland (“Lesser Germany“) solution, the German states would be united under the leadership of the Prussian Hohenzollerns which would exclude Austria; in the Grossdeutschland (“Greater Germany“) solution, the German states would be united under the leadership of the Austrian Habsburgs.