TOPICS OF THE DAY.
TRUE " MODERATION " IN PRUSSIA.
" 1CAN have no hesitation in offering you my services, pro- vided the work—the unity of Germany—is carried out with a high hand." So this week writes the Baron von Roggenbach, late Minister of State in Baden, and a leader in the National League of Germany, to Count von Bis- mark, and he ends his letter with a permission to publish it which converts it into a manifesto. To Germans the purport of the letter is clear. It signifies the unreserved adhesion of the National Verein—an association extended throughout Germany and essentially Liberal—to the Prussian Government, but Englishmen will wonder at the final clause. Their fear is that Prussia, intoxicated with military success, will be too high-handed, too ready to demand terms which may compel the interference of a European coalition. If Prussia wins the great battle about to be fought upon the Danube she will, they say, demand the unity of Germany, and then the resist- less Napoleon will "intervene," and the work will all have to be done over again. That is even now the language of the Post, and another journal or two supposed to be inspired from the Tuileries, and a fear of that kind, more or less definite, underlies much of English speculation. Baron von Roggenbach, however, knows Prussia well, and there is more reason to fear lest the work should be spoiled for want of high-handedness than Englishmen are ready to believe. Whatever Count Bis- mark may be, he is in the service of the King of Prussia, and the King is a dynast of the old type, a man with a fellow feel- ing for kings, and one who has besides a constitutional diffi- culty in rising to the height of circumstances, in seeing that he has done more than conquer Austria, that he has concili- ated Germany, can, if he pleases, weld all Germany north of the Main into one compact, homogeneous, and strongly governed State. There is great reason to fear that he may allow many of the Princes to return, may content himself with the Elbe Duchies, and Hamburg, and the military supremacy of the remainder of Northern Germany. Already it is reported that Count Bismark has been compelled to offer his resignation to prevent dangerous promises to the ex-King of Hanover, and the story, whether true or false, shows the German appreciation of the hidden difficulty in the Palace. Already the petty Princes who have submitted and resigned their armies have received a guarantee of their thrones, shorn indeed of their independence, but still thrones, and therefore politically dangerous both to the Hohenzollern and the nation. The King, it would seem, considers that if he is master of the armies he is master of all, and forgets that armies depend absolutely for victory upon the civil adminis- tration, that each petty court will be a centre of separatist opinion, will strive to draw to itself and its own dominion the devotion which should be due to the nation and the Fatherland. A King of Hanover or Saxony shorn of his con- trol over his army will either employ all the powers left him in regaining that control by the aid of the foreigner, or will devote his whole energy to civil administration, thereby neg- lecting the army and intensifying that local absolutism and habit of interference which has made the petty monarchs of Germany the scorn even of the people they rule. A king can- not be a lieutenant ; if he is, his crown is a burden to himself and a nuisance to all around, acting as a mere screen between the people who suffer and the far away ruler who gives in secret the orders they are compelled to obey. The Hohen- zollerns may argue that the discomfort of Saxons or Hanoverians matters little to them, but it matters much that they should lose the loyalty they really desire, that each soldier enlisted beyond Prussian boundaries should feel he is serving a foreign, it may be a distrusted, power, that each citizen should think his loyalty a divided obligation. A petty State thus ruled would be far more independent than any State in America, for the governor would be the hereditary and trustworthy enemy of the central power ; yet even there, where localism is not a dis- ease, as it is in Germany, men pleaded that if the State rebelled against the Federation their allegiance was due to the State. We quite admit that in Reuss, and Waldeck, and such like principalities, the State rights would signify little, less than they signified in Delaware, but they would signify much in larger provinces; in Hanover, where the King would be an agent for France, in Saxony, where the dynasty would be an outpost of Austria, in the Hesses and the Mecklenburgs, where all that is reactionary would find centres round which to rally. The great independent nobles of the land, the only men with authority beyond the national law, and prestige beyond that of property, the only men above the control of Parliament, would be permanently hostile to the dynasty and the nation, and would lead in that hostility the whole of the Junker caste. No greater impediment could be conceived to the development of a free national life. It is as if every English county were to be administered in every detail except recruiting by a hereditary and absolute Lord-Lieutenant, over whom in his internal administration Parliament had no power. What is the use of a " German Parliament," if it can be thwarted by every petty principality over which its authority extends, if it can vote that Saxony shall send up so many men, and cannot vote that Saxony shall pay them such and such pensions after their service has expired ? Or if the King intends that his Parlia- ment shall be a convention, and dissolve when its work is done, leaving each State to be governed much as it is now, by an hereditary ruler and a Chamber, with limited powers, what becomes of the unity he professes to desire ?—what prevents Hanover from refusing supplies, or Saxony from passing an ordi- nance of secession ? The dread of military force ? One would think he had seen enough of the result of that system in Austria, and did not want to govern the Hesses as the Hapsburgs govern. Venetia. It is open to him now to make these States loyal pro- vinces of his monarchy or disloyal dependencies, and in allowing the Princes to return he will deliberately choose the latter.
But, say the advocates of State rights, these Princes are very useful. King John is a very good man, writes one cor- respondent, and Saxony is lightly taxed. The Courts, write all resident English who think it a luxury to dance vis-a-vis to a prince, are " extremely condescending." They foster art, says the sculptor • they keep up learning, says the professor; they spread civilization beyond the capital, sighs the conservative statesman. Well, admit all that, and what do they do which as great nobles invested with the old Crown domains they would leave undone ? How does the power of passing a local police act encourage art, or in what does a demand for obeisances pro- mote learning, or why is civilization accelerated by a mediaeval ceremonial ? The argument from personal character is simply worthless. Most Bishops in England are men of unblemished personal character, but imagine a statesman intrusting the civil Government of the counties to hereditary Bishops! The Princes could secure as nobles all the good and none of the evil they secure now, and if they are sure not to secure it, if it is feared that they will live, like the mediatized Princes, in sullen isolation, supersede them by younger branches of the same family, who will know that they are nobles not by divine right, but by a Parliamentary vote. What signify the interests of a score or so pampered families, when the weal of a nation is opposed to the continuance of their privileges ? The Eng- lish Parliament made short work with hereditary jurisdictions in Scotland at least as ancient as any which exist in Germany. Greediness for Prussia consists in snatching at too much south of the Main, not in consolidating everything north of that frontier line. The King has announced that he does not want Bohemia, and will not keep it, and the King is right. Five millions of Czechs would be a mere burden to be borne in an empire otherwise homogeneous, would weaken instead of increasing its national coherence. So will, in all probability, though that is much more doubtful, seven or eight millions of South Germans, contained in Bavaria, Wur- temburg, and Baden—men, it is true, of the same race with their brethren in the North, and speaking the same tongue, but with a civilization of their own differing in tone and tendency from the civilization of the North as Catholicism from the Protestant creed. • Let them retain, if they like, their separate administration, giving up only, if dualism is finally rejected, their military independence. Their armies may be powerless as reserves, but the North united will be too strong either for attack or intrigue, and the command of their armies vested in Prussian hands will make them very convenient foes. Or let them melt, as Count Bismark once proposed, and as the Bavarians are said to wish, into a single Bavarian State, separated only as English colonies are separated from the central administration, as powerless to aid, but still equally powerless to attack, except by a secession. An enlarged Bavaria might have a national life and a national opinion which would temper the harder tone and more aggressive spirit of her great northern ally. But North of the Main, if Prussia is to justify herself for all the blood she has spilt and the political organisms she has destroyed, there should exist but a single State, governed by a single Parliament, great enough to covet no accessions, strong enough to secure to Central Europe permanent peace.