Germany can only become great again in the spirit of 1848 – Frankfurter Zeitung of 1923

Et was something touching to hear at the time, with what warmth, even enthusiasm, the “old 48ers” still spoke of the National Assembly long after the revolution until their death, not just its members themselves, as I often overheard, but apart from a number of “reactionaries” all who had taken part in political life at all, however modestly, during the stormy period. The “revolutionaries” who took an active part in the uprisings of 1848 and 1849 were not exempt from this, even though the majority of the National Assembly had not approved of their actions.

Even the painful experience that the struggles and efforts of the first representation of the German people were largely denied tangible success, that decades of relapse into bondage followed, did not dent the admiration for them, on the contrary their deplorable end, above all the violent blowing up of the rump parliament by the Wurttemberg government has enshrined the National Assembly more firmly than anything else in the grateful hearts of the German people. At least that’s how it was in southern Germany.

This is harder to sympathize with and understand now than it was half a century ago, when I was able to take part in an uplifting celebration of democracy in Frankfurt in honor of the 25th anniversary of the 1848 revolution. At that time, everyone was aware from their own memories or from the stories of those closest to them, how brutally even the thought of a large and united German fatherland, of the civil and personal freedom of the individual, was frowned upon and proscribed at the time of the ill-fated Bundestag . The pressure and the lack of rights the population of the individual German federal states lived under until 1848 can no longer be imagined today. In Austria, the revolution first had to eliminate peasant burdens, which had an uncanny resemblance to serfdom, and it was also very bad in Germany.

I can get a better picture of it because I at least experienced the tremendous low point of our political life in the 1960s. In Württemberg, which was always at the forefront of progress, in the early 1870s I still met men here and there on my election trips in the countryside who, despite the temporary upswing of 1848, had never had the opportunity in their lives to attend a political meeting .

There was a large number of those who never read a newspaper, not even the official gazette, which was either free of politics or edited under the supervision of the authorities, and they were all completely incomprehensible when it came to the concept of political club life. Of course, before 1848 things were quite different. The official tutelage of the individual citizen was downright unbearable at the time. Even economic life was completely atrophied by the rulers’ fear of any progress.

When the storm of time storms into such a stuffy atmosphere, when the rulers tremble and invite their small-state subjects themselves, on the basis of their innate human rights, to elect their shop stewards to parliament, which was supposed to bring unity and freedom to the German people for the first time, it had to be that fact alone would make an indelible impression, and they had to beat their hearts out to such a representation of the people. But the National Assembly also deserved the loyalty that its electors preserved until after its demise. It was impressive, if only because of its composition.

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