Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 135.pdf/182

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like that of a grand vizier, and by these dictators the most comprehensive innovations are made. The loyalty of the people was not impaired by this; on the contrary, Stein and Hardenberg saved the monarchy; but it evidently transferred the monarchy, though safely, to a lower pedestal; it evidently prepared the way for such constitutionalism as we now see.

Another powerful impulse moved the State in the same direction. If we consider the transformation of Prussia as covering the whole period between 1807 and 1813, we may consider that it was accomplished in twro movements. The first was the legislative movement guided by dictatorial ministers — Stein in 1807 and 1808, Hardenberg in 1810 and 1811. The second is the great popular movement which ended in the War of Liberation. Now, while in the former the king for the first time in Prussian history is eclipsed by his ministers, in the latter the initiative is taken out of the hands of the government altogether, and the most important step of all is taken by a parliamentary assembly. The great transition of Prussia from the French to the Russian alliance at the beginning of the year 1813 was begun and wellnigh completed without the intervention, and ostensibly against the wish, of the Prussian government. It began with Yorck's Convention of Tauroggen, which was concluded on his own responsibility, and was afterwards disavowed by the government. Then came the meeting of the Estates of East Prussia at Königsberg. In this assembly Yorck appeared and spoke openly of "beating the French wherever he should find them;" and yet the French were at this time the king's allies! The assembly then proceeded to make one of the greatest institutions of modern Prussia — they created the Landwehr. But of course they were summoned by the king, and acted under his directions? Not at all; they were summoned by Stein, and his commission did not run in the name of the king of Prussia, but in that of the emperor and autocrat of all the Russias!

No doubt the king resumed a little later the guidance of his people. The Landwehrordnung was sanctioned by him and extended to the other provinces. Nevertheless, such a fact as the creation of the Landwehr by a Parliament, and a Parliament not summoned by the king, could not be forgotten. It tolled the knell of the absolute monarchy in Prussia. No wonder that when, a month after, Stein lay at death's door in the Hotel Zum Zepter at Breslau, the king, though the court was in the same town, would know nothing about him, and caused no inquiries to be made after his health.

Parallel with this fall and reconstruction of Prussia we see the fall and reconstruction of Germany. Here too the first step is to create, so to speak, the nation. A great space had to be traversed from the time when Lessing and Herder wrote of the very virtue of patriotism with disapprobation, wandering at the same time what the feeling might be like, to the days of Arndt and Körner. And when the feeling had been awakened the difficulty of expressing it in institutions seemed to have grown greater than ever. The Confederation of the Rhine had thrown half Germany into the foreign camp. New kings had been created, all whose interests were involved in the division of Germany. At the moment of the fall of Napoleon, perhaps, with decision and good fortune, something might have been done. Stein, who is even greater in the history of Germany than he is in the history of Prussia, formed a daring plan of dethroning the princes of the Confederation of the Rhine along with their master, and in this way constituting the unity of Germany, or at least its duality under Austria and Prussia, at the same time that its independence was secured. But Metternich disappointed him. And we have witnessed since the slow and wonderful attainment of the same goal by another path.

This chapter of history has commonly been thought uninviting, partly I suppose because of the intricate appearance which German history always presents from the multitude of small States, partly, perhaps, because the Germans do not write history in a dramatic or epigrammatic style. The first difficulty lies altogether on the surface; as to the second, it must be confessed that the Germans as a nation have not the art of posing like their neighbors. The French contrive to make the long ignominy and decay of Louis XV.'s reign interesting, while the Germans cannot make even the age of Stein and Hardenberg seem so. Nor, I fear, will the two thousand judicious pages in German type, which have suggested this paper, mend the matter. German history will never be read by the novel-reading public. But that it should be read by nobody seems a pity. It is quite as instructive and important as other history. And if it does not make a good novel of plot, it makes, at least in the age we are thinking of, a very fair novel of character. It is unfortunate that the only biography of an eminent