The German Constitution

III Proposals for Constitutional Reform

It has been the fate of Italy to come for the most part under the authority of foreign powers. Even if a few of its estates — two, three, or thereabouts — have continued to exist for longer as states the size of one or more districts, the majority of them, politically speaking, have gradually become entirely dependent on these great powers and gradually been completely devoured by them (the smaller and ecclesiastical estates being the first to go). If Germany is not to suffer the same fate as this after a few wars, it should re-organise itself as a state. The essential constituent of a state, namely a political power governed by a supreme head with the co-operation of the parts, would have to be established. All inessential elements — the dependence of the administration of justice, the management of revenues, religion — all of these must be excluded from the necessary attributes of a state.

The only way in which the German Empire might continue to exist would be by, organising a political power and restoring the German people’s connection with Emperor and Empire.

The former could be accomplished by amalgamating the whole military strength of Germany into a single army. In this army, every major prince would be a general by birth, and each would be in charge of his own regiment and appoint its officers, or have detachments from it as his lifeguard and to garrison his capital. Companies or smaller units would be assigned to the smaller estates. The Emperor would, of course, have supreme command of this army. Its costs, which are now paid chiefly — by the provincial assembly and not, as in earlier times, by the prince from his hereditary domains — would also be borne by the provinces. These costs would be approved annually by the provincial assemblies, all of which would combine to perform this task. This could not be done by delegating some members of the existing assemblies for this purpose, partly because many provinces have no assembly, and partly because the costs would be too great for the very small estates. But given that it would in any case be necessary to divide Germany into military regions in order to raise the army, and to subdivide each district into smaller districts quite independently of other jurisdictions and sovereignties unconnected with the military regions, delegates could be selected from these subdivisions, according to their relative populations, in order to approve the levies required for the maintenance of the state’s power.

These delegates would for this purpose form a single body with the Cities Bench of the Imperial Diet; for this Bench has in any case again been depleted by the loss of several cities, and it is uncertain whether it may not suffer further reductions, with consequent benefit in the matter of compensation to some of the smaller cities. Hamburg would also have to be required to send its deputy. The smallest Imperial cities with one thousand or a few thousand citizens have votes in the Imperial Diet, whereas a whole province like Bohemia or Saxony has none. Such small Imperial cities as still remained would have to allow the territories around them to share in their entitlement to send a deputy.

In any case, no one knows what the [precise] significance of the Cities Bench is. There are three Colleges within the Imperial Diet, but a majority vote is not decisive. If the College of Electors and the College of Princes do not agree, the matter rests, and the College of Cities cannot decide the issue.

The complete change would be that the provinces would now pay directly to the Emperor and Empire that money which they. at present grant directly to the princes, and only indirectly to the Emperor and Empire.

The Emperor would again be placed at the head of the German Empire.

The question would arise as to whether the knights’ cantons would send deputies to the Council of Princes or to the College of Cities. They would approve their charitable subsidies along with the others, and as rulers of their domains, they would have to be associated with the College of Princes.

The question would also arise of whether the princes would decide to make a joint contribution from their [personal] domains and other territorial incomes, or whether each would meet part of the cost of his regiment or guard from these sources. At all events, each would be at liberty to contribute as much of his own income as he wished for the embellishment of his regiment, over and above the subsidy it would receive from the Empire as a whole. In the former case, i.e. if the princes authorised and contributed payments from their own domains to a central fund, the knights would have to be associated with them; for in any case, the true nobility i.e. rulers and owners of knightly estates directly dependent on the Empire — originally belonged entirely to the class of princes and were no different from them in their origin.

The question would also be asked whether the princes should be represented in the College of Electors or the College of Princes by relatives of princely rank, or at least by their most eminent vassals, if they did not wish to appear in person. Besides, in an assembly such as this, the [present] kind of procedure whereby statements are dictated for minuting would not be applicable; there would be oral discussions and votes, and if the representatives were drawn exclusively from princely houses and the most noble families, their talents and brilliance would give an exalted status and appearance to such a princely assembly.

Although all parties might gain if Germany were to become a state, an event such as this has never been the fruit of deliberation, but only of force — even if it were in keeping with the general [level of] culture [Bildung] and even if its need were deeply and distinctly felt. The common mass of people in Germany, together with their provincial assemblies, who know only the segregation of communities in Germany and to whom a unification of such communities is something utterly, alien, would have to be brought together into a single mass by the power of a conqueror. They would have to be compelled to regard themselves as belonging to Germany.

This Theseus would have to possess enough magnanimity to grant the people he had created out of scattered groups a share in matters of common concern.” Since a democratic constitution such as Theseus gave his people is, in our times and within large states, a contradiction in itself, this share would have to be an organisation [of some kind]. And even if he could be assured, by having the direction of the state’s power within his hands, that he would not be repaid with ingratitude as Theseus was, he would also have to possess sufficient character to be ready to endure the hatred which Richelieu and other great men who destroyed the particular and distinctive characteristics of their fellows brought upon themselves.

Once the social character of human beings has been disturbed and forced to throw itself into idiosyncrasies [Eigentümlichkeiten], it becomes so profoundly distorted that it expends its strength on this separation from others and proceeds to assert its isolation to the point of madness; for madness is simply the complete isolation of the individual from his kind. The German nation may not be capable of intensifying its stubborn insistence on particularity to the degree of madness encountered in the Jewish nation, which is incapable of uniting with others in common social intercourse. Nor may it be able to attain so pernicious a degree of isolation as to murder and be murdered until the state is obliterated. Nevertheless, particularity, prerogative, and precedence are so intensely personal in character that the concept of necessity and insight into its nature are much too weak to have an effect on action itself Concepts and insight are fraught with such self-distrust that they must be justified by force before people will submit to them.

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