The New International Encyclopædia/Gagern, Heinrich Wilhelm August, Baron von
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Gagern, Heinrich Wilhelm August, Baron von
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GAGERN, gä'gĕrn, Heinrich Wilhelm August, Baron von (1799-1880). A German statesman. He was the second son of the well-known politician Hans Christopher Gagern (1766-1852), and was born at Bayreuth, August 20, 1799. He was educated at the military school of Munich, and on Napoleon's return from Elba entered the army of Nassau, serving as lieutenant at Waterloo. He afterwards devoted himself to the study of law at the universities of Heidelberg, Göttingen, Jena, and Geneva. While at Heidelberg he aided in founding the liberal society of the Burschenschaft (q.v.). On returning home in 1821, he entered political life, and after passing through several public offices, in the Grand Duchy of Hesse, he was elected a member of the Lower Chamber in 1832, in which position he vigorously opposed the reactionary policy of the State governments and of the Federal Diet. In 1836 he retired to his father's estates, but reappeared ten years later and helped bring on the revolutionary movement of 1848 in Germany. In common with some of the greatest men of the time Gagern cherished the hope of a new Germany, organized upon a constitutional basis and under the leadership of a powerful prince who should win for the nation a place among the Powers of Europe. In the National Assembly which met at Frankfort on May 18, 1848, Gagern, as the recognized leader of those who favored unity and constitutionalism, was elected president, and for a long time succeded, by the force of his enthusiasm and his magnificent personality, in guiding the action of the Assembly. In the strife over the question of admitting Austria as a Germanic power into the new Empire, Gagern sided with those who opposed Austrian pretensions, and on December 18, 1848, as head of the Imperial Ministry, submitted his ‘programme’ to the Parliament providing for a Federal State without Austria. Though the plan was accepted by the Parliament, it failed on account of the lukewarmness of the Prussian King, to whom all looked as the head of the new State, and the general reaction which followed in Germany during the early days of 1849. On May 20th Gagern withdrew from the Parliament, convinced that the cause of German unity, for the time, was a hopeless one. He still took an active interest in politics, however, and in 1850-52 served as a major in the army of the duchies of Schleswig-Holstein. On the conclusion of the struggle he retired to his estate at Morisheim, and only reappeared as the representative of the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt at Vienna from 1804 to 1872. He was granted a pension in 1872 and took up his residence at Darmstadt, where he died May 22, 1880. Besides several pamphlets and speeches, he was the author of a life of his brother, Das Leben des Generals Friedrich von Gagern (1856-57). His younger brother Maximilian was prominent in the service of the Duchy of Nassau and of Austria. Consult: Heimenz, Heinrich von Gagern in seinen politischen Grundanschauungen (Tübingen, 1899); Biedermann, Deutsche Geschichte, 1815-79 (Breslau, 1883-89); von Sybel, The Founding of the German Empire, translated (New York, 1890-98).