Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/895

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STEIN, BARON

relations between them were relaxed, and the poet’s connexion with Christiane Vulpius still further estranged them. Charlotte’s jealousy and indignation at first knew no bounds, and it was only by slow degrees that friendship was restored. Charlotte von Stein was also intimate with Schiller and his wife, and numerous interesting letters from her are to be found in Charlotte von Schiller und ihre Freunde (vol. ii., 1862). She became a widow in 1793, but continued to live at Weimar until her death there on the 6th of January 1827.

Goethe’s letters to Frau von Stein form one of the most interesting volumes of the poet’s correspondence. Her own letters addressed to him were returned to her at her request and destroyed shortly before her death. A prose tragedy, Dido, written by her in 1792 (published 1867), is of little poetical value.

Goethe’s Briefe an Frau von Stein aus den Jahren 1776–1820 were edited by A. Schöll (3 vols., 1848–1851; 2nd ed. by W. Fielitz, 1883–1885; 3rd ed., by J. Wahle, 1900). See H. Düntzer, Charlotte von Stein (2 vols., 1874); id., Charlotte von Stein und Corona Schröter (1876); G. H. Calvert, Charlotte von Stein (Boston and New York, 1877); and A. Sauer, Frauenbilder aus der Blütezeit der deutschen Literatur (1885); W. Bode, Charlotte von Stein (1910).


STEIN, HEINRICH FRIEDRICH KARL, Baron vom und zum (1757–1831), German statesman, was born at the family estate near Nassau, on the 26th of October 1757. He was the ninth child of Karl Philipp, Freiherr vom Stein; the maiden name of his mother was von Simmern. His father was a man of stern and irritable temperament, which his far more famous son inherited, with the addition of intellectual gifts which the father entirely lacked. The family belonged to the order of imperial knights of the Holy Roman Empire, who occupied a middle position between sovereign princes and subjects of the empire. They owned their own domains and owed allegiance only to the emperor, but had no votes for the diet. In his old age he expressed his gratitude to his parents for “the influence of their religious and truly German and knightly example.” He added, “My view of the world and of human affairs I gathered as a boy and youth, in the solitude of a country life, from ancient and modern history, and in particular I was attracted by the incidents of the eventful history of England.” The influence of English ideas, which was so potent a factor in the lives of Voltaire, Rousseau, Talleyrand and many others in the 18th century, was therefore potently operative in the early career of Stein. He does not seem to have gone to any school; but in 1773 he went with a private tutor to the university of Göttingen in Hanover, where he studied jurisprudence, but also found time to pursue his studies in English history and politics, whereby, as he wrote, “my predilection for that nation was confirmed.” In 1777 he left Göttingen and proceeded to Wetzlar, the legal centre of the Holy Roman Empire, in order to see the working of its institutions and thereby prepare himself for the career of the law. Next, after a stay at each of the chief South German capitals, he settled at Regensburg (Ratisbon) in order to observe the methods of the Imperial diet. In 1779 he went to Vienna, gave himself up to the gay life of that capital, and then proceeded to Berlin early in 1780.

There his admiration for Frederick the Great, together with his distaste for the pettiness of the legal procedure at Wetzlar, impelled him to take service under the Prussian monarch. He was fortunate in gaining an appointment in the department of mines and manufactures, for at the head of this office was an able and intelligent administrator, Heinitz, who helped him to master the principles of economics and civil government. In June 1785 he was sent for a time as Prussian ambassador to the courts of Mainz, Zweibrücken and Darmstadt, but he soon felt a distaste for diplomacy, and in 1786–1787 he was able to indulge his taste for travel by a tour in England, where he pursued his researches into commercial and mining affairs. In November 1787 he became Kammerdirektor, i.e. director of the board of war and domains for the king’s possessions west of the river Weser; and in 1796 he was appointed supreme president of all the Westphalian chambers dealing with the commerce and mines of those Prussian lands. Among the benefits which he conferred on these districts, one of the chief was the canalization of the river Ruhr, which thenceforth became an important outlet for the coal of that region. He also improved the navigation of the Weser, and kept up well the main roads committed to his care. On the 8th of June 1793 he married the countess Wilhelmine, daughter of Field Marshal Count Johann Ludwig von Wallmoden-Gimborn, a natural son of King George II. of Great Britain.

Stein’s early training, together with the sternly practical bent of his own nature, made him completely impervious to the enthusiasm which the French Revolution had aroused in many minds in Germany. He disliked its methods as an interruption to the orderly development of peoples. Nevertheless he carefully noted the new sources of national strength which its reforms called forth in France.

Meanwhile Prussia, after being at war with France during the years 1792-95, came to terms with it at Basel in April 1795, and remained at peace until 1806, though Austria and South Germany continued the struggle with France for most of that interval. Prussia, however, lost rather than gained strength at this time; for Frederick William III., who succeeded the weak and sensual Frederick William II. in November 1797, was lacking in foresight, judgment and strength of character. He too often allowed public affairs to be warped by the advice of secret and irresponsible counsellors, and persisted in the policy of subservience to France inaugurated by the treaty of Basel. It was under these untoward circumstances that Stein in 1804 took office at Berlin as minister of state for trade. He soon felt constrained to protest against the effects of the Gallophil policy of the chief minister, Haugwitz, and the evil influences which clogged the administration. Little, however, came of Stein’s protests, though they were urged with his usual incisiveness and energy. Prussian policy continued to progress on the path which led to the disaster at Jena (Oct. 14, 1806).

The king then offered to Stein the portfolio for foreign affairs, which the minister declined to accept on the ground of his incompetence to manage that department unless there was a complete change in the system of government. The real motive for his refusal was that he desired to see Hardenberg take that office and effect, with his own help, the necessary administrative changes. The king refused to accept Hardenberg, and, greatly irritated by Stein’s unusually outspoken letters, dismissed him altogether, adding that he was “a refractory, insolent, obstinate and disobedient official.” Stein now spent in retirement the months during which Napoleon completed the ruin of Prussia; but he saw Hardenberg called to office in April 1807 and important reforms effected in the cabinet system. During the negotiations at Tilsit, Napoleon refused to act with Hardenberg, who thereupon retired. Strange to say, the French emperor at that time suggested Stein as a possible successor. No other strong man was at hand who could save the ship of state; and on the 4th of October 1807 Frederick William, utterly depressed by the terrible terms of the treaty of Tilsit, called Stein to office and entrusted him with very wide powers.

Stein was now for a time virtually dictator of the reduced and nearly bankrupt Prussian state. The circumstances of the time and his own convictions, gained from study and experience, led him to press on drastic reforms in a way which could not otherwise have been followed. First came the Edict of Emancipation, issued at Memel on the 9th of October 1807, which abolished the institution of serfdom throughout Prussia from the 8th of October 1810. All distinctions affecting the tenure of land (noble land, peasants’ land, &c.) were also swept away, and the principle of free trade in land was established forthwith. The same famous edict also abrogated all class distinctions respecting occupations and callings of any and every kind, thus striking another blow at the caste system which had been so rigorous in Prussia. Stein’s next step was to strengthen the cabinet by wise changes, too complicated to be enumerated here. He also furthered the progress of the military reforms which are connected more especially with the name of Scharnhorst (q.v.); they refashioned the Prussian army on modern lines, with a reserve system. Stein’s efforts were directed more towards civil affairs; and in this sphere he was able to