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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

There was no change in the condition of Austria


In

March, 1835, Francis II. of Austria died, and was succeeded by his son, Ferdinand I., a man of such weak intellect that he was in some respects idiotic. On the 7th of June, 1840, Frederick William III. of Prussia died, and was also succeeded by his son, Frederick William IV., a man of great wit and intelligence, who had made himself popular as Crown-Prince, and whose accession the people hailed with joy, in the enthusiastic belief that better days were coming. The two dead monarchs, each of whom had reigned forty-three years, left behind them a better memory among their people than they actually deserved. They were both weak, unstable and narrow-minded; had they not been controlled by others, they would have ruined Germany; but they were alike of excellent personal character, amiable, and very kindly disposed towards their subjects so long as the latter were perfectly obedient and reverential.

There was no change in the condition of Austria, for Metternich remained the real ruler, as before. In Prussia, a few unimportant concessions were made, an amnesty for political offences was declared, Alexander von Humboldt became the king's chosen associate, and much was done for science and art; but in their main hope of a liberal reorganization of the government, the people were bitterly deceived. Frederick William IV. took no steps towards the adoption of a Constitution; he made the censorship and the supervision of the police more severe; he interfered

in the most arbitrary and bigoted manner in the system of religious instruction in the schools; and all his acts showed that his policy was to strengthen his throne by the support of the nobility and the civil service, without regard to the just claims of the people.

[Sidenote: 1844. THE GERMAN-CATHOLIC MOVEMENT.]

Thus, in spite of the external quiet and order, the political atmosphere gradually became more sultry and disturbed, all over Germany. In 1844, a Catholic priest named Ronge, disgusted with the miracles alleged to have been performed by the so-called "Holy Coat" (of the Saviour) at Treves, published addresses to the German People, which created a great excitement. He advocated the establishment of a German-Catholic Church, and found so many followers that the Protestant king of Prussia became alarmed, and all the influence of his government was exerted against the movement. It was asserted that the reform was taking a political and revolutionary character, because, under the weary system of repression which they endured, the people hailed any and every sign of mental and spiritual independence. Ronge's reform was checked at the very moment when it promised success, and the idea of forcible resistance to the government began to spread among all classes of the population.

There were signs of impatience in all quarters; various local outbreaks occurred, and the aspects were so threatening that in February, 1847, Frederick William IV. endeavored to silence the growing opposition by ordering the formation of a Legislative Assembly. But the _provinces_ were represented, not the people, and the measure only emboldened the latter to clamor for a direct representation. Thereupon, the king closed the Assembly, after a short session, and the attempt was probably productive of more harm than good. In most of the other German States, the situation was very similar: everywhere there were elements of opposition, all the more violent and dangerous, because they had been kept down with a strong hand for so many years.


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