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Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 11, Slice 8 "Germany" to "Gibson, William"

Especially in Prussia and Saxony


It was represented that the freedom of art and literature was being endangered, and the government was obliged to withdraw the bill. The tendency towards a stricter censorship was shown by a proposal which was carried through the Prussian parliament for controlling the instruction given at the universities by the _Privatdozenten_. Some of the Conservative leaders, especially Baron von Stumm, the great manufacturer (one of Bismarck's chief advisers on industrial matters), demanded protection against the teaching of some of the professors with whose economic doctrines they did not agree; pastors who took part in the Christian-Social movement incurred the displeasure of the government; and Professor Delbruck was summoned before a disciplinary court because, in the _Preussische Jahrbucher_, which he edited, he had ventured to criticize the policy of the Prussian government towards the Danes in Schleswig. All the discontent and suspicion caused by this policy broke out with greater intensity when a fresh attempt was made in 1900 to carry those clauses of the old _Umsturz-Vorlage_ which dealt with offences against public morality. The gross immoralities connected with prostitution in Berlin had been disclosed in the case of a murderer called Heinze in 1891; and a bill to strengthen the criminal law on the subject was introduced but not carried. The measure continued, however, to be discussed, and in 1900 the government proposed to incorporate with this bill (which was known as the _Lex Heinze_) the articles from the _Umsturz-Vorlage_ subjecting art and literature to the control of the criminal law and police. The agitation was renewed with great energy. A _Goethe-Verein_ was founded to protect _Kultur_, which seemed to be in danger. In the end the obnoxious clauses were only withdrawn when the Socialists used the forms of the House to prevent business from being transacted. It was the first time that organized obstruction had appeared in the Reichstag, and it was part of the irony of the situation that the representatives of art and learning owed their victory to the Socialists, whom they had so long attacked as the great enemies of modern civilization.

Law of combination.

These were not the only cases in which the influence of the parties of reaction caused much discontent. There was the question of the right of combination. In nearly every state there still existed old laws forbidding political societies to unite with one another. These laws had been passed in the years immediately after the revolution of 1848, and were quite out of place under modern conditions. The object of them was to prevent a network of societies from being formed extending over large districts, and so acquiring political power. In 1895 the Prussian police used a law of 1850 as a pretext for dissolving the Socialist organization in Berlin, as had been done twenty years before. A large majority of the Reichstag demanded that an imperial law should be passed repealing these laws and establishing the right of combination, and they refused to pass the revised Civil Code until the chancellor promised that this should be done. Instead of this course being adopted, however, special laws were introduced in most of the states, which, especially in Prussia and Saxony, while they gave the right of combination, increased the power of the police to forbid assemblies and societies. It was apparent that large and influential parties still regarded political meetings as something in themselves dangerous and demoralizing, and hence the demand of the Conservatives that women and young persons should be forbidden to attend. In Prussia a majority of the Upper House and a very large minority of the Lower House (193 to 206) voted for an amendment expressly empowering the police to break up meetings in which anarchistic, socialistic or communistic doctrines were defended in such a manner as to be dangerous to society; the Saxon Conservatives demanded that women at least should be forbidden to attend socialistic meetings, and it remained illegal for any one under twenty-one years of age to be present at a political meeting. In consequence of the amendments in the Upper House the Prussian law was lost; and at last, in 1899, a short imperial law was carried to the effect that "societies of every kind might enter into union with one another." This was at once accepted by the chancellor; it was the time when the Navy Bill was coming on, and it was necessary to win votes. The general feeling of distrust which this prolonged controversy aroused was, however, shown by the almost contemptuous rejection in 1899 of a Bill to protect artisans who were willing to work against intimidation or violence (the _Zuchthaus-Vorlage_), a vote which was the more significant as it was not so much occasioned by the actual provisions of the bill, but was an expression of the distrust felt for the motives by which the government was moved and the reluctance to place any further powers in their hands.


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