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A History of the Nineteenth Century, Year by Year

This belief cost Kotzebue his life


of the present day remember this year for the appearance of Schopenhauer's great philosophic work "The World, as Will and Idea"--"Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung." Schopenhauer, in this book, laid down the doctrine that the universe, and therefore human life as such, is governed by the conflicting principles of the ungoverned will and of the unattainable ideal. The true solution of life, he held, was to be found in subjecting brute will to the intellectual force of the ideal.

[Sidenote: Assassination of Kotzebue]

Schopenhauer's book at that time passed almost unnoticed. The educated classes of Germany were in too much of a ferment over the recent police restrictions inflicted upon the universities and public press. By this time it had become well known what part Czar Alexander had played at the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle. A vehement outcry arose at the universities against the interference of foreigners in German affairs. The wrath of the Liberals turned against August von Kotzebue, the prolific playwright, who held the office of Russian agent in central Germany. Kotzebue conducted a weekly newspaper at Mannheim in which he inveighed against the German national movement of the day, and ridiculed the patriotic eccentricities of the students. Having himself studied at Jena, Kotzebue was denounced by the students there as a traitor. He was believed to be responsible for the Czar's conversion from liberal ideas

to reactionary principles. This belief cost Kotzebue his life. One Sand, a theological student at Jena, noted for piety and patriotic ardor, formed a fanatical resolution to do away with this enemy of the country. An extract from Sand's diary, written on the eve of his last New Year's day, reveals the character of the man: "I meet the last day of this year in an earnest festal spirit, knowing well that the Christmas which I have celebrated will be my last. If our strivings are to result in anything, if the cause of mankind is to succeed in our fatherland, if all is not to be forgotten, all our enthusiasm spent in vain, the evil doer, the traitor, the corrupter of youth must die. Until I have executed this, I have no peace; and what can comfort me until I know that I have with upright will set my life at stake? O God, I pray only for the right clearness and courage of soul, that in that last supreme hour I may not be false to myself." On March 23, Sand sought out Baron Kotzebue in the midst of his family and stabbed him to the heart. Then he turned the dagger against himself. Unfortunately Sand recovered from his wounds, and thus lived to die on the scaffold.

[Sidenote: Retaliatory measures]

[Sidenote: German liberals persecuted]

The mad deed was followed by the worst possible results for Germany. Minister Hardenberg, when he heard of the murder of Kotzebue, declared that a Prussian Constitution had now been rendered impossible. Metternich, who was then in Rome, instantly drew up a scheme for further repressive measures and summoned the ministers of the various German States for a meeting at Carlsbad. "By the help of God," wrote Metternich, "I hope to defeat the German revolution, just as I vanquished the conqueror of the world. The revolutionists thought me far away, because I was five hundred leagues off. They deceived themselves; I have been in the midst of them, and now I am striking my blows." A number of innocent persons were arrested in various parts of Germany under utterly unwarrantable circumstances. The houses of professors were searched and private papers were seized. Jahn, the founder of the popular Gymnastic schools, was arrested in Berlin. De Wette, a professor of theology at the University of Berlin, had to flee to Switzerland on account of a letter of sympathy addressed by him to Sand's mother. With him Oken, the great naturalist, and Corres, the pamphleteer, became exiles in Switzerland. Professor Fries lost his chair at Jena; the poet Arndt was suspended at Bonn, and his private papers, in garbled form, were published by the government. Many of the younger professors, accompanied by their favorite students, emigrated to America.

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