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Franz Joseph Ritter von Buss

Jurist, b. March 23, 1803, at Zell in Baden; d. January 31, 1878

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Buss, FRANZ JOSEPH, RITTER VON, jurist, b. March 23, 1803, at Zell in Baden; d. January 31, 1878, at Freiburg im Breisgau. He studied at the University of Freiburg where he took the doctor’s degree in philosophy, law, and medicine. After a short stay at the Universities of Bonn and Gottingen he returned to Freiburg, passed a brilliant examination and was appointed attorney for that city. He became ordinary professor at the university in 1836, where he soon obtained a large following among the students, because in the face of strong opposition he treated fearlessly vexed social and ecclesiastical questions. To meet his many opponents Buss often lectured four, even five, times a day. Throughout his life he warmly advocated the interests of the people, whom he habitually reached through the press and his public discourses. Besides a modern language club of which he was the founder and president, he gave much of his time to creating at Freiburg a center for the comparative study of European legislation and jurisprudence. A large collection of valuable material was already in his hands, and his extensive knowledge of law and of the principal languages of Europe seemed to promise success. He soon found, however, that the means of international correspondence were inadequate to the enterprise. Some of the material collected appeared in book form (1835-46), the sole fruit of this great scheme.

In 1837 Buss was elected to the Lower House of Baden and addressed himself at once to such subjects as the social question, the liberty of the Church, a uniform customs system, and closer commercial union between the States of Germany. Unfortunately, Buss met from the beginning a hostile majority, deaf to all his propositions and bent on his defeat. He was reproached in open Parliament with the errors and false steps into which the liberalism and restless activity of his youth had betrayed him. Unable to make the least impression on the assembly he resigned his seat. Elected again in 1846, Buss opposed vigorously the “Deutschkatholicismus” of Ronge. This brought out his opponents in full force. Extensive petitions in his favor compelled the Government to dissolve the Parliament; but the new election brought no improvement. Buss was still the only champion of the Church in the Lower House, whilst in the upper the whole weight of the opposition fell on Baron von Andlau and his colleague, Hirscher.

Buss now directed his irrepressible activities to more profitable work. The “Methodology of Canon Law” (1842), the “Influence of Christianity on Law and State” (1844), the “Difference between Catholic and Protestant Universities in Germany” (1846), the “German Union and the Love for Prussia“, the “Re-establishment of Canon Law“, and the “Defense of the Jesuits” (1853) appeared in rapid succession, each to do the work of the hour. But these publications did not absorb all his energy. He introduced the Sisters of Charity into the Grand Duchy of Baden; transformed his own house into an ecclesiastical college; during the famine of the winter of 1846 he fed thousands of starving people in the Black Forest; and he organized the Catholics politically and formed them into societies. In 1848 Buss had the honor of presiding over the first general assembly of the German Catholic associations in Mainz. He represented Ahaus-Steinfurt in the German Parliament at Frankfort. There, as in the Erfurt Union Parliament, where he was the leader of the Greater-Germany Party, he favored Austria as against Prussia. When the opposition to the Church in Baden developed into open hostility, Buss was at the side of the archbishop, Hermann von Vicari. He now very opportunely published (1855) his “Life of St. Thomas of Canterbury”, and dedicatedit to the persecuted archbishop. He was elected for the third time to the Baden Landtag, when the Concordat between Baden and the Holy See was in jeopardy. He at once organized a popular deputation to the sovereign, comprising representatives from all the parishes of Baden. But the old opposition prevented the demonstration, invalidated his election, and ejected him from the Landtag, and finally, at the next election, his constituents forsook him. Buss now, more than ever, turned his face towards Austria. During the Austro-Italian war he was so active and successful at the head of an association for the relief of the German prisoners that in acknowledgment of his services the emperor conferred on him the Order of the Iron Crown. He also organized at Vienna a great manifestation in favor of the temporal power of the pope, for which he was decorated by Pius IX with the Order of Gregory the Great. Under the strain of excessive work and some bitter disappointments, Buss broke down completely in 1866. A grave attack of melancholy unbalanced his mind. After long treatment he recovered, but events had meanwhile advanced so rapidly that he no longer recognized the old Fatherland. His long cherished hopes for the hegemony of Austria were blasted. He rejoiced at the victories of the German armies in the rejoiced war, but remained averse to the new German Empire. Elected a fourth time to the Lower House of Baden, Buss maintained his former reputation. In 1874 he was sent to the Reichstag by a very large vote and took his seat with the center Party. In 1877, after the death of his youngest child, he withdrew from public life and died soon after. In spite of failures Buss achieved a great success in keeping Catholics alive to current events and their bearing on the Church. He set Catholic Germany a stimulating example by organizing and binding together no less than four hundred Catholic associations, while to the Catholics of Baden he gave what they most needed, a consciousness of their strength, and the determination to fight for their civic and religious rights.


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