The Congress of Vienna was an assembly of the European powers that was in session from 1814 to 1815. Its aim was the reorganization of Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. Fearing the principles and ideas of the French Revolution, the politicians tried to create a ring of strong states around the defeated France. Doing so, it also created an entity called the German confederation, which included 39 states.
In their attempt to halt revolutionary ideas, the representatives at the congress followed the principles of restoration and legitimacy. This means that they tried to restore the old order from before the French Revolution and, in that way, legitimized the rule of the monarchs on German territory. Considering themselves legitimate rulers who tought themselves chosen by God, they rejected democratic ideas.
Born in Koblenz on German territory, Metternich became an Austrian diplomat and politician.
He had a tremendous say in the decisions of the Congress of Vienna and more or less dominated European affairs until the 1840s.
Being an opponent to liberal ideas, he believed that the monarchy was the ideal political order.
1. A special representative of the ruler of each state shall be appointed for each university and shall reside in the place where the university is situated.
2. No publication shall go to press without the previous knowledge and approval of the state officials.
3. The Diet shall have the right to suppress such writings in whatever German state they might appear.
Imagine you lived in a country with laws like these.
How would you feel about them?
These laws were agreed upon at a conference of the states of the German Confederation at Carlsbad in Bohemia in 1819. The initiative for that conference was taken by Prince Klemens Metternich, the Austrian diplomat and statesman, who dominated European affairs until the 1840s. Officially, the Carlsbad Decrees were a reaction to the assassination of the conservative writer August von Kotzebue by a German student. The political establishment saw that crime as a grave danger to the status quo and the political order as such. The Diet was the central body of the German Confederation and met in Frankfurt/Main under the presidency of Austria. It was an assembly of diplomatic representatives from the German states.
1. A special representative of the ruler of each state shall be appointed for each university, with appropriate instructions and extended powers, and shall reside in the place where the university is situated. (...)
The function of this agent shall be to see to the strictest enforcement of existing laws and disciplinary regulations; to observe carefully the spirit which is shown by the instructors in the university in their public lectures and regular courses, and, without directly interfering in scientific matters or in the methods of teaching, to give a salutary direction to the instruction, having in view the future attitude of the students. (...)
2. The confederated governments mutually pledge themselves to remove from the universities or other public educational institutions all teachers who, by obvious deviation from their duty, or by exceeding the limits of their functions, or by the abuse of their legitimate influence over the youthful minds, or by propagating harmful doctrines hostile to public order or subversive of existing governmental Institutions, shall have unmistakably proved their unfitness for the important office entrusted to them. . . .
No teacher who shall have been removed in this manner shall be again appointed to a position in any public institution of learning I in another state of the union. (...)
4. No student who shall be expelled from a university by a decision of the university senate which was ratified or prompted by the agent of the government, or who shall have left the institution in order to escape expulsion, shall be received in any other university. . . .
Writings which do not belong to one of the above-mentioned classes shall be treated according to the laws now in force, or which may be enacted, in the individual states of the union. . . .
4. Each state of the union is responsible, not only to the state against which the offense is directly committed, but to the whole Confederation, for every publication appearing under its supervision in which the honor or security of other states is infringed or their constitution or administration attacked. . . .
6. The Diet shall have the right, moreover, to suppress on its own authority, without being petitioned, such writings included in Article I, in whatever German state they may appear, as, in the opinion of a commission appointed by it, are inimical to the honor of the union, the safety of individual states, or the maintenance of peace and quiet in Germany. There shall be no appeal from such decisions, and the governments involved are bound to see that they are put into execution. . . .
7. When a newspaper or periodical is suppressed by a decision of the Diet, the editor thereof may not within a period of five years edit a similar publication in any state of the union.
Establishment of an investigating Committee at Mayence
3. The object of the commission shall be a joint investigation (...) of the facts relating to the origin (...) of the revolutionary plots and demagogical associations directed against the existing constitution and the internal peace both of the union and of the individual states; of the existence of which plots more or less clear evidence is to be had already, or may be produced in the course of the investigation.
In Hilgard`s days, the Palatinate, then under Bavarian rule, faced a very tense political situation. Just like the rest of Europe, the Palatinate was in a state of unrest in the years between the Congress of Vienna (for more information about the Congress of Vienna, click here) and 1848. Patriotic groups were formed to discuss possibilities to make Germany a united and democratic country.
Under the Metternich system (for more information about Metternich, click here) these tendencies were regarded as dangerous by the authorities.
With the Carlsbad Decrees from 1819 (for more information about the Carlsbad Decrees, click here), a time of censorship and strict supervision began. Demagogue hunts followed as the police spied on liberal students and professors. The liberal movement was unable to express its demands in public anymore. That is why many Germans began to consider leaving their country to find greater freedom.
One of the great symbols of these political developments was the procession to Hambach Castle in 1832. Between then and 1848, the atmosphere became more and more pressured until finally it spilled into revolution. As a consequence, almost one million Germans emigrated in the decade that followed.