Prussia. —The Kingdom of Prussia at the present time covers 134,616 square miles and includes about 64¬?8 per cent of the area of the German Empire. It includes the greater part of the plain of northern Germany and of the central mountain chain of Germany. With exception of the small Hohenzollern district, the original domain of the Prussian royal family, it does not extend beyond the Main. However, in a southwesterly direction west of the Rhine it includes a considerable portion of the basin of the Saar and of the plateau of Lorraine. All the large German rivers flow through it, and it contains the greater part of the mineral wealth of Germany, coal, iron, salt, and potash. Of the area devoted to agriculture over 2¬?5 per cent are used for the cultivation of grain as follows: 25¬?91 per cent for rye, 15¬?37 per cent oats, 6¬?86 per cent wheat. In 1905 the population was 37,282,935, that is 61¬?5 per cent of the population of the German Empire. The annual increase of the population is about 1¬?5 per cent, but this results from the decline of emigration and the decrease of the death-rate. In 1905 about 11¬?5 per cent were Slays, of whom 8¬?887 per cent were Poles. In religion 63¬?29 per cent were Protestants, 35¬?14 per cent Catholics, 0¬?13 per cent Jews. In 1895 34¬?18 per cent of the population was employed in agriculture, 38¬?7 per cent in manufactures. About one-half of all the manufacturing industries are carried on in the provinces of the Rhine, Westphalia, and Silesia. It is only since 1866 that Prussia has had its present area, and not until 1871 did it become the ruling state of Germany. Its present area and power are the result of a gradual development extending over more than seven centuries.
I. The beginnings of the state are connected with the bloody struggles and with the wonderful cultural and missionary labors by means of which the territories on the Baltic between the Elbe and Memel were wrested in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries from the Slays and won for Germany and the Catholic Church. In this era the region on the Vistula and the Pregel Rivers, which originally was the only part of the territory bearing the name of Prussia, was conquered by the Teutonic Knights in 1230 and converted to Christianity. In 1309 the Grand Master of the order transferred his residence to the Marienburg, a castle noted for its artistic importance, which has been restored by the Emperor William II. The order and the region ruled by the order attained their highest development in the years succeeding this, especially under the government of Winrich of Kniprode (1351-82). Pomerania, the district along the coast to the right and left of the mouth of the Oder, continued to be ruled by its dynasty of Slavonic dukes, nevertheless it was also under German influence and was converted to Christianity in the first half of the twelfth century by St. Otto of Bamberg. The inland territory between the Elbe and Oder, and the region drained by the Warthe and Netze, first called the Electorate of Brandenburg and the New Mark, were acquired from 1134 onwards by the Ascanian line, which also had possessions in Saxony. Before long this line also gained the feudal suzerainty over Pomerania. In all three districts the Teutonic Knights, who carried on wars and colonized at the same time, had the principal share in reconstructing the political conditions. The Cistercian Order had also a large part in the peaceful development of civilization; the order founded flourishing monasteries beginning at Lehnin, and Chorin and extending as far as Oliva near Danzig, and Christianized the natives. In all these territories, though, numerous German cities were founded and German peasants were settled on the soil.
After the extinction of the Ascanian line in 1320 the Electorate of Brandenburg became a possession of the Bavarian House of Wittelsbach, and in 1373 of the House of Luxemburg. Under the new rulers the government and the country greatly declined and the nobility ruled with an iron hand. In order to restore order the last member of the Luxemburg line transferred Brandenburg, at first temporarily, then on April 30, 1415, as a fief to Frederick of Hohenzollern. This was the birthday of the future great state of Prussia, for Prussia has not become a great power from natural, geographical, or national conditions, but is the product of the work of its kings of the House of Hohenzollern. Frederick I probably desired to make Brandenburg a great kingdom on the Baltic for himself; however, he limited himself to crushing the power of the nobles and then devoted his attention again to imperial affairs. During the next two centuries his descendants did not do much to increase the power of Brandenburg, and they never attained the power of the last members of the Ascanian line. The most important event was the “Dispositio Achilles” of 1473, by which Brandenburg was made the chief possession of the Hohenzollern family and primogeniture was established as the law of its inheritance.
Of the Hohenzollern rulers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries only Frederick II (1440-70) and Joachim I Nestor (1499-1535) were men of any prominence. They were more successful in internal affairs than in the endeavor to extend the size and importance of their realm. Frederick II separated the towns of Brandenburg from the Hanseatic League, and forced them to become a part of the territory of Brandenburg. He also brought the clergy under the power of the state by aid of two Bulls of 1447, which he obtained from Pope Nicholas V, and laid the foundation of the later State Church system established by his family. His efforts to enlarge his territories were checked by the rapid development of the power of Poland at this time, which was followed by the rising importance of Hungary. The result was that all the German possessions along the coast of the Baltic were endangered; and the greater part of the territory of the Teutonic Knights, comprising the region of the Vistula, was conquered together with Danzig by the Poles after two wars: in the war of 1410-11 the Teutonic Knights were defeated by the Poles at the battle of Tannenberg; this was followed by the First Peace of Thorn; after the war of 1456-66 came the Second Peace of Thorn. The Poles also took part in the war which Frederick II waged with Pomerania over the possession of Stettin. When Frederick’s nephew and successor sought compensation for Stettin in Silesia, he was opposed by Hungary and had to retire there also.
As ruler Joachim I was even firmer than Frederick II. During his administration the nobility were forced to give up their freebooting expeditions. Following this example the ruling family of Pomerania, of which the most important member of this era was Bogislaw X (reigned 1478-1524), put an end to the excesses of the Pomeranian nobility also. In the provinces along the Baltic the nobility had then a force of armed men at their disposal probably equal to similar forces of the princes. Thus, for example, a family called Wedel had so many branches that in the sixteenth century it could at one time reckon on two hundred men among its own members capable of bearing arms. When these rode out to war with their squires and mounted men they formed a body of soldiers, which, owing to the scarcity of money, was difficult for the ruling princes to meet. Both in Brandenburg and Pomerania the establishment of order was followed by an improvement in the laws and the courts, and by a reorganization of the administration. This latter brought about the gradual formation of a class of civil officials, who had in part legal training, and who were dependent not on the nobility but on the ruling princes. The beginnings were also made of an economical policy. Joachim I sought to turn to the advantage of the Hohenzollerns the fact that the Wettin line ruling in Saxony, which up to that time had been of more importance than the Hohenzollerns, had paralyzed its future development in 1485 by dividing its possessions between two branches of the line. These two dynastic families, Wettin and Hohenzollern, were active competitors for the great spiritual principalities of the empire. In 1513 Joachim‘s brother Albrecht became Archbishop of Magdeburg and Bishop of Halberstadt, and in 1514 Archbishop of Mainz. At the same time another member of the Hohenzollern family, one belonging to the Franconian branch of the line, became Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, that is, he was the ruler of that portion of Prussia which still belonged to the order. In 1525 he brought about the secularization of the territory of the order, and made it a permanent possession of his family; in return for this, however, he was obliged to acknowledge the feudal suzerainty of Poland. Joachim was unable to maintain his claims to the right of succession on the extinction of the Pomeranian dukes, but had to give up the claim to feudal supremacy (Treaty of Grimnitz, 1529).
Of all the ecclesiastical principalities, Joachim‘s successors were able to retain Magdeburg alone, and this only to the end of the century. In Prussia (1569) they obtained the right to joint feudal possession, and thus gained for the main branch of the family a claim to the Duchy of Prussia. Taken altogether, however, the Hohenzollern power declined very decidedly. The ruling branch in Brandenburg was badly crippled by debts, and the last member of the line ruling in Prussia was weak-minded. This enabled the Estates, which had rapidly developed in all German territories from the second half of the fifteenth century, to obtain great influence over the administration, both in Prussia and Brandenburg. This influence was due to the fact that the Estates, owing to their possessing the right of granting the taxes, were equivalent to a representative assembly composed in part of the landowners, the nobility, and the clergy, and in part of the cities, who controlled considerable ready money. At first the nobility was the most powerful section of the Estates. In order to keep the nobles well-disposed the ruling princes, both in Brandenburg and Prussia, and also in Pomerania, transferred to them the greater part of the princely jurisdiction and other legal rights over the peasants, so that the feudal lords were able to bring the peasants into complete economic dependence upon themselves and to make them serfs. As a result the influence of the nobility constantly grew. But as the nobles were men without breadth of view, and in all foreign complications saw the means of reviving the power of the princes and of imposing taxes, the strength of the three Baltic duchies waned equally in the second half of the sixteenth century. None of them seemed to have any future.
II. At this juncture the head of the Franconian branch of the Hohenzollern family, George Frederick of Ansbach-Bayreuth, persuaded the Brandenburg branch of the family to enter upon a far-reaching policy of extension which, in the end, resulted in leading the dynasty and the state over which it reigned into an entirely new path. Influenced by George Frederick, John George of Brandenburg (1571-98) strengthened his claim upon Prussia by marrying his daughter to the weak-minded Duke of Prussia, and secured for himself by another marriage a new reversionary right to the Duchy of Cleve-Julich, the ruling family of which was nearing extinction. Up to this time Prussian policy had been entirely directed to gaining control in eastern Germany, and this marriage was the first attempt to make acquisitions in western Germany. During the reign of John Sigismund (1608-19) the ducal line of Cleve-Julich became extinct in 1609, and in 1618 that of Prussia. Of the possessions of Cleve-Julich, however, Julich and Berg were claimed by the Wittelsbach family, and Brandenburg was only able to acquire Cleve and a few adjacent districts (1614); even the hold on this inheritance was for a long time very insecure. On the other hand Prussia was united with Brandenburg without any dispute arising because Poland in the meantime had become involved in war with Gustavus Adolphus and was obliged to act with caution. At about the same time the ducal House of Pomerania was nearing extinction, so that all at once the state ruled by the Hohenzollerns seemed to approach a great extension of its territories.
In 1613 John Sigismund became a Calvinist, a faith at that time which had a great attraction for all the energetic and ambitious among the German Protestant princes. The ruler of Brandenburg and Prussia became the son-in-law of the leader of the Calvinistic party, the Elector Palatinate, and his daughter married Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. However, on account of the great power which the Estates had acquired in his dominions John Sigismund was not able to undertake a vigorous policy. The Estates were strongly opposed to his adoption of Calvinism, and his promise to leave the Lutheran Confession undisturbed hardly satisfied them, nor were they willing to grant any money for his external policies. On account of these financial difficulties his successor, George William (1619-40), during the Thirty Years’ War, came near losing the territories just inherited; and he was not able to make good his claims to Pomerania when, in 1637, his right of inheritance was to be enforced. It became evident that the power of the Estates must be crushed and the people forced to pay their taxes regularly, before the Hohenzollerns could obtain firm possession of their newly acquired domain, establish their authority in Pomerania, and then build up their power in the Baltic coast lands in the valleys of the Oder and Vistula. George William’s chief adviser, Count Adam von Schwarzenberg, recognized this and made the attempt to carry out this policy; from 1637 he was engaged in a severe struggle with Sweden, to prevent the Swedes from taking possession of Pomerania.
The merit of finally carrying out this policy and of turning the small and far from cultured state into a strong instrument for political and military aggression belongs to the Great Elector, Frederick William (1640-88), and to his grandson, King Frederick William I (1713-40). In 1644 the Great Elector laid the foundation of the standing army with the aid of which his successors raised Brandenburg-Prussia to its leading position; Frederick William I increased the standing army to 83,000 men. In order to procure the resources for maintaining his army the Great Elector gradually reorganized the country on entirely different principles, and did his utmost to further the prosperity of his people so as to enable them to bear increased taxation. His grandson continued and completed the same policy. At this period a like internal policy was followed in all the states of the German Empire, including the larger ones. Nowhere, however, was it carried out in so rational and systematic a manner as in Brandenburg-Prussia, and nowhere else were its results so permanent. In this, not in its originality, consists the greatness of the political achievement of the Hohenzollerns. The Estates and their provincial diets were not opposed and put down on principle, but they were forced in Prussia and Cleve to grant what was needed for the army; the cities were then subjected to a special indirect taxation (excise duties), and in this way were withdrawn from the government of the Estates. The nobility, now the only members of the Estates, were subjected to personal taxation by reforms in the existing system of direct taxation, by the abolition of the feudal system, and especially by the introduction into Prussia of the general taxation of land. At the same time the control that the Estates had acquired over the collection and administration of the taxes was abolished, and the assessment and collection of the taxes was transferred to the officials of the Government, who had originally charge only of the administrative and commissariat departments of the army. All these officials were placed under a central bureau, the general commissariat, and a more rigid and regular state system of state receipts and expenditures was established. Among the changes were the founding of the exchequer, the drawing-up of a budget, which was prepared for the first time in 1689, and the creation of an audit-office. Moreover, there was a stricter regulation of the finances in every part of the Government, and an extension of the supervision of every branch of the administration by the fiscal authorities so as to include even the independent departments of the state, the result being that these bodies, especially the cities, were actually ruled by these officials.
These reforms reached their culmination in the founding of the “General Directory”, at Berlin, and of the Boards of War and Finance in the provinces in 1721. The result was that the entire official life of Prussia became bureaucratic, and financial considerations had the preponderating influence in the internal administration of the country, as is still strikingly noticeable. Those departments of national administration that yielded little revenue, or were apt to cost more than they could be counted upon to yield, were for the present neglected, or in part still left under the control of the Estates, in those cases where the Estates had acquired the supervision of them; such were, above all, the administration of law, ecclesiastical affairs, and the schools. On the other hand great attention was given to improving economic conditions, and gradually all the measures were used in Prussia that the genius of a Colbert had planned during the reign of Louis XIV to raise France to the place of the first power in the world. Accordingly the population was increased by encouraging the immigration of the Dutch, Huguenots, and finally of the Protestants, who were driven out of Salzburg. Much also was done to improve the soil and the breeding of cattle. In agreement with the prevailing principles of economics, i.e. as much money as possible should be brought into the country, but that its export should be prevented, manufacture and commerce were to be stimulated in every possible way. The Great Elector even established a navy and also founded colonies on the African Gold Coast; in 1717 Frederick William I sold the colonies. Many excellent officials were drawn from other countries to aid in the administration. However, the ruling prince was the center of the Government. The result of this was that, as early as the latter years of the reign of the Elector, the principal boards of administration and the ministers presiding over them sank more and more into mere tools for carrying out the will of the ruling prince, and decisions were made, not in the boards, but in the cabinet of the prince. This method of administration became completely systematized in the reign of Frederick William I; consequently it is customary to speak of the cabinet government of Prussia. This form of administration was maintained until 1806.
The success of the organizing energy of the ruling princes was so evident that even before the end of the seventeenth century Leibniz said: “This country is a kingdom in all but name.” The lacking name of kingdom was given to the country when Frederick I (1688-1713), the son of the Great Elector, crowned himself on January 18, 1701, at Königsberg, with the title “King in Prussia”, meaning of the former duchy. As long as the development of the internal strength of the country was backward there was little chance of gaining any important additions of territory, even though the great wars of the period made such efforts very tempting. The Great Elector was a man of uncontrolled and passionate character, and of much military ambition; it was very hard for him to let others reap where he had sown, for he had taken part in nearly all the wars of his era. Frederick William I also was alive to his country’s glory, but was more inclined to prepare for war than to carry it on; in many respects his character recalls that of the later William I. In this period the chief object of the foreign policy of the Hohenzollerns was to increase their possessions along the Baltic. Above all they desired to own Pomerania, which Sweden retained. By the Treaty of Westphalia the Great Elector received only Further Pomerania (Hinterpommern), which was of little value. He gained nothing from the first Northern War (1655-60) in which he took part; his victory over the Swedes in the battle of Fehrbellin (1675) proved fruitless. His grandson finally acquired Stettin and the mouth of the Oder in 1720, and Hither Pomerania (Vorpommern) did not become a part of Prussia until 1815. The Great Elector was more fortunate in obtaining the release of the Duchy of Prussia from the feudal suzerainty of Poland (1658), and was also able to increase its area by the addition of Ermland. He further desired to acquire Silesia. In these years the chief battlefield of Europe was the western part of the Continent. This was unfavorable for the schemes of the Hohenzollerns, for at that time they had no definite policy of territorial extension in western Europe, and consequently no interests of any importance there.
In the west the Great Elector limited himself to securing the lasting possession of Cleve (1667) and the occupation of the territories which France had secured for him in exchange for Pomerania, namely Minden, Halberstadt, and Magdeburg, which before this had been ecclesiastical principalities. These gave him strategetically important positions controlling points of crossing the Elbe and the Weser; but he could not obtain Magdeburg until 1666, and did not gain full possession of it until 1680. During the reigns of his son and grandson some small and unimportant territories to the west of these were obtained. Taken altogether Brandenburg-Prussia had by 1740 increased in area from 9000 square miles under the first Hohenzollern Elector and 31,600 square miles in the reign of John Sigismund to about 46,800 square miles with a population of about 2,250,000. Up to now the bulk of the area of the country had lain towards the east, but from this period onward the preponderating part of its territories began to be found in the west. The wife of the Great Elector belonged to the family of the Princes of Orange, and this led the Elector to consider Holland in his foreign policy; in 1672 especially this influenced him to take part in the war between Holland and Louis XIV. He also gave more attention to imperial affairs than his immediate predecessors. In the politics of the empire sometimes he sided with the emperor. At times, however, he adhered to the views held by the German ruling princes of that time that there was an inner Germany consisting of the various states of the empire; and that this was the real Germany, the interests of which did not always coincide with those of Austria or of the reigning emperor. He believed that the real Germany must at times maintain its interests against Austria by the aid of one of the guaranteeing powers of the Peace of Westphalia, viz. France and Sweden. The only times he paid no attention in his policies to his duty as a prince of the empire was at the beginning of his reign when influenced by religious prejudices, and towards its end when disappointed by the Peace of St.-Germain-en-Laye (1679).
Another sign that the Prussian state was becoming gradually involved in the affairs of western Europe was the fact that as a second wife the Great Elector married a Guelph, to which family the wives both of his son and grandson belonged. In the second half of the seventeenth century the Guelph line founded the Electorate of Hanover in northwestern Germany, the only state in this section of Germany that, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, could in any way compete with Brandenburg-Prussia for the leading position. The founding of the Academy of Berlin is due to Sophia Charlotte, wife of Frederick I. The same royal couple established the University of Halle, which soon gained a European reputation on account of its professors Thomasius and Christian Wolff and the institutions for the poor founded by Professor Francke. The fine addition in the royal castle at Berlin and the splendid statue of the Great Elector by Andreas Schlüter were both works of this reign.
III. Frederick II, The Great (1740-88), son of Frederick William I, had probably more intellectual ability than any other Hohenzollern known to history; he had in him a touch of genius. What checked the development and exercise of his ability was, however, that he seemed from his natural predispositions, and from the way in which in youth he looked upon life, to be born for entirely different conditions than those prevailing in the Prussia of that era. He was more inclined to literature and music than to official routine work and military service, and early became a free-thinker. He preferred the literature of France and despised that of Germany, and was indifferent to Prussia and its people. When a young man these tastes led to conflicts with his father, who resolved on this account to exclude Frederick from the succession, and imprisoned him for several years in the fortress at Küstrin. Frederrick was then married against his will, by the advice of Austria, to the Princess Elizabeth of Brunswick-Bevern, personally an excellent and good woman. He finally learned self-control and applied himself with gradually increasing zeal and intensity to the civil and military affairs of the state, but he did this not from a sense of pleasure in such occupations, but from one of discipline and necessity. This may be the reason why in his civil administration and in the aims of his foreign policy he showed little originality in comparison to his natural abilities. On the other hand, in the conduct of war the king showed extraordinary energy, great intellectual activity, and ceaseless personal attention to his task. In his foreign policy Frederick followed the principles of his predecessors and sought above all to develop his domain towards the east. The precarious position of Austria at the beginning of the reign of Maria Theresa was taken advantage of by Frederick to begin a campaign in Silesia in December, 1740. As a pretext for the war he took the treaties of succession of his forefathers with the rulers of several of the smaller Silesian duchies, made in 1537, for the non-fulfilment of which Austria seemingly was alone to blame.
He gained the battle of Mollwitz April 10, 1741, and on June 5 formed an alliance with France, the chief of the other opponents of Maria Theresa; the intervention of England led him to agree to a truce on October 9, which enabled Austria to make its military force equal to that of France. In alarm Frederick advanced into Moravia, gained the battle of Chotusitz, May 17, 1742, and in the Peace of Breslau, of June 1 of the same year, obtained from Austria the whole of Silesia, excepting the Countships of Glatz, Troppau, and Teschen. As in the war between Austria and France, which still went on, the advantage of the former continually increased, Frederick once more formed an alliance with Austria’s opponents and began a campaign in Bohemia in September, 1744, but was obliged to withdraw from this province in December. His position in Silesia now became precarious, but he extricated himself by the victory at Hohenfriedberg, June 4, 1745, and then defeated the enemy, already on the march to Berlin, at Soor September 20, at Katholisch-Hennersdorf November 23, and at Kesselsdorf December 15 By the Peace of Dresden of December 25, 1745, Frederick retained Silesia. Maria Theresa, however, was not willing to give up Silesia without further effort. Consequently after peace had been made between Austria and France, Kaunitz, who was now Maria Theresa‘s minister of foreign affairs, sought to form more friendly relations with France and to strengthen those already existing with Russia. So little, however was attained in France that Kaunitz wished to drop the negotiations, but Maria Theresa‘s persistence and the measures taken by Frederick in 1756 led to the formation of the alliance. Made uneasy by the weakness of France, Frederick did not maintain the amicable relations that had existed until then between himself and that power. When war broke out between England and France over the colonies in 1755-6, England negotiated with Russia for the sending of auxiliary troops. Frederick feared to permit such auxiliaries to march through Prussia and offered to guarantee England‘s possession on the Continent himself (Convention of Westminster, January, 1756).
France and Austria now agreed to help each other in case of attack by Frederick (First Alliance of Versailles, May 1, 1756). Upon this Frederick, led perhaps by fear of attack by a coalition stronger than himself, perhaps also by the hope of making fresh gains by daring seizures, began a third war, the Seven Years’ War, with Austria, taking as a pretext the advance of the Austrian troops. Without any declaration of war he advanced into the Electorate of Saxony, which was friendly to Austria, and besieged Dresden September 9, but the Saxon troops kept up a longer resistance than he had counted upon, so it was 1757 before he could begin a campaign in Bohemia. In the meantime Russia and Austria had signed an alliance for war against him February 2, 1757; in addition both the Empire and Sweden declared war against him, and on May 1, 1757, France and Austria agreed in the Second Alliance of Versailles to adopt the offensive together against him. Frederick’s opponents could produce a force of 430,000 men, while he with the aid of England and Hanover (Treaty of January 11, 1757) controlled about 210,000 men. It was most important for him to force the matter to a conclusion as quickly as possible, before the means of his still poor country were exhausted. On May 6 he won a bloody battle near Prague, but on June 18 he was defeated near Kollin and suffered losses by the new Austrian commander Daun which he could not repair. Frederick was forced to return to Saxony, while the French defeated the Hanoverian army at Kastenbeck on July 6, and the Russians defeated a Prussian army at Grossjägerndorf on August 30 However, the Russians and French did not form a junction with the Austrians quickly enough. When finally the united French and Imperial army advanced, Frederick defeated the joint forces badly at Rossbach on November 5, and then turned against Daun, who had entered Silesia and had taken Breslau. Frederick defeated him at Leuthen on December 5 Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick continued to lead the Hanoverian and Prussian forces that fought against the French and drove the latter to the Rhine in the battle of Crefeld, June 23, 1758. The progress of the war in the east did not equal the great expectations aroused by the success at Leuthen. In 1758 the Russians advanced. Frederick maintained himself against them at Zorndorf, August 25, but the battle was not decisive; from here he hastened to Saxony, where the troops he had left behind were threatened by Daun, and he was surprised by Daun at Hochkirch on October 14
At the end of 1758 the majority of his officers were dead, and he could only fill the gaps among the soldiery by the compulsory enlistment of mercenaries. His treasury was empty, and he struck debased coin. He exhausted the resources of Saxony. On the other hand the Austrian army was always ready for the field, and the Austrian artillery was superior to his. Accordingly his opponents in the campaign of 1759 forced Frederick to take the defensive. The united Russians and Austrians decisively defeated Frederick at Kunersdorf on August 12. The result was a series of capitulations. Frederick lost Saxony, the greater part of Silesia was taken from him in 1760-61, largely by Laudon. What saved him, besides his own energy, was the gradual dissolution of the alliances between his enemies. France began to withdraw in the Third Alliance of Versailles of 30-December 31, 1757. At first Russia and Austria drew all the closer together in the Treaty of St. Petersburg of April 1, 1760. The Russians plundered Berlin in October, 1760. At this most critical moment Frederick maintained himself only by the almost unexpected victory of Torgau, November 3, 1760, which enabled him once more to occupy a secure position in Saxony. As early as 1761 the Russian interest in the war began to decline, and when in January, 1762 Peter III, an admirer of Frederick, became tsar, he took sides with Frederick (truce in March, peace May 5, alliance June 19). It was also an advantage to Frederick that Turkey began a war against Austria. In July, 1762, Peter III was succeeded by the famous Catherine II. She wished to have a European peace, and continually urged Maria Theresa to yield. On the Rhine Ferdinand of Brunswick continued to keep the French in check. As the French were also successful in their war with England, they withdrew from the struggle against Frederick by the preliminary Peace of Fontainebleau (November 3, 1762). The imperial army broke up. Finally Austria also grew weary of the struggle.
On February 15, 1763, the Peace of Hubertusburg closed the Austro-Prussian war. Frederick retained Silesia, but made no new acquisitions. However, his personal importance and the respect for the military prowess of Prussia were so greatly increased that henceforth Prussia was treated by the other countries as a great power. After this Frederick’s administration was a peaceful one. He was able to increase his realm by taking part in the First Partition of Poland (1772), whereby he gained Polish Prussia with the exception of Danzig and Thorn. The War of the Bavarian Succession (1778-79), which Frederick declared against Austria to prevent Bavaria becoming part of that monarchy, caused but little bloodshed. In the Peace of Teschen Austria abandoned all claim to the Bavarian succession. In 1781 Frederick took part in the “Naval Alliance of Neutral Powers”. This was formed by Catherine II, and intended mainly to limit the power of England on the Baltic, but it was of small importance. It should also be mentioned that in 1744 East Frisia became a part of Prussia by inheritance.
The most important measure of domestic policy carried out by Frederick in the first half of his reign with the help of his minister Cocceji, was the reorganization of the department of justice, which had been neglected during the reign of his father. After the Seven Years’ War his personal influence became more manifest in the other departments of state. It must be confessed, however, that at the same time he obstinately adhered both to the forms and principles of government that he had inherited. At the most it was only in isolated cases that power was exercised with moderation or that the administration was modified in harmony with the spirit of the times, although this spirit, animated by humanitarian ideas and a tolerance arising from indifference, was also alive in him. He even exaggerated many of the objectionable sides of the old system of government. He ruled the country and especially the new provinces as an enlightened despot, exclusively from the cabinet, though as a writer he approved of Rousseau’s views as set down in the “Social Contract“. In addition he employed the higher officials as if they were subalterns. The officials throughout the country during his reign developed more and more of a tendency to treat the people and especially the middle classes with bureaucratic contempt. Though proud of their victories in the Seven Years’ War, the people manifested no consciousness of their belonging to a unified Prussian State. It is true that in the last years of his reign Frederick regarded it as his duty to inspire the entire Prussian people in their economic and social feelings with the sense of their direct relations to the Government, so that every Prussian in all his doings should have in view not only his own personal advantage but also the welfare and strengthening of the state. Practically, however, this idea only led him to accentuate the social differences, the abolition of which was demanded by the needs of the time. At the end of his reign the Prussian State, of which he was more than ever the monarch, ended just as at the beginning of this rule, with the president of each district. As regards his economic policy, he held on to the worn-out mercantile system.
The great errors of this policy, e.g. the neglect of agriculture, the failure to abolish serfdom, the retention of the double system of taxation (direct for the country and indirect for the cities), a system that paralyzed all economic development, the maintenance of the excessively high system of protection with its many internal duties, were due to this cause. The same may be said of many of his failures, such as the mercantile enterprises which he founded, or his partial failures, such as the transfer of several industries, in particular the porcelain and silk industries, to the leading provinces of the state. His adherence to the mercantile system of economics was necessitated by his adherence to the one-sided conception of national finances which led the Prussian Government to provide for the economic prosperity of the population, with the intention of bringing as much money as possible into the country in order to have it for government purposes. Frederick, therefore, made no changes in the financial theories of Prussian policy. These theories led him, for instance, in imitation of French fiscal methods, to introduce the Regie, i.e. to farm out the customs and indirect taxes, and to make the sale of tobacco, coffee, and salt absolute monopolies. The Regie made him very unpopular. It is all the more surprising that, notwithstanding the reactionary character of his internal policy, he made the country politically capable of performing all the unusual tasks that he imposed on it, that he changed his possessions into a well-regulated state, and that he succeeded, by political measures, in repairing the terrible injuries of the Seven Years’ War in a comparatively short time. Large extents of moorland and swamp were brought under cultivation, a hundred thousand colonists were settled in deserted districts, and the revenues yielded by manufacture and industry were decidedly increased. The great estates were aided to pay off their debts by encouraging union credit associations, and Frederick sought to regulate and give independence to the circulation of money by founding the Prussian Bank. In harmony with the spirit of the times he also undertook a comprehensive codification and revision of the laws of the state, which was completed after his death and culminated in the publication of the general “Prussian Statute Book” of 1794; Suarez was the chief compiler.
Towards the end of his reign he encouraged the efforts made on behalf of the Catholic public schools by the provost Felbiger, and those for the Protestants by Freiherr von Zedlitz and the cathedral canon Rochow, but he never at any time gave the schools sufficient money. The new code laid down the principle that the public schools were a state organization. Frederick’s government, internal and foreign, was marked by a mixture of strong and weak characteristics. It was the policy of a man of genius who was entirely devoted to his task; too intellectual and enlightened to be a reactionary, but one who showed himself greater in carrying out and in utilizing the policies of his predecessors, than in establishing what was necessary to ensure the future development of the state. Great as were his achievements, he ended by paralyzing Prussia’s vital powers and engaged the resources of the country in a direction opposed to its development. Frederick gave Prussia the position of a Great Power. But, outside of his personal importance, this position of the state rested exclusively on its military power, not yet, as in the case of the other Great Powers, upon the area of the country and the economic efficiency of the population. Consequently, the position of Prussia as a Great Power needed to be placed on a. stronger basis. Its people had to make marked advances culturally, and develop a real national spirit. Furthermore, the effort must be made to bring the future development of Prussia into close connection with the leading movements of the coming generation, so that the roots of its life should receive fresh nourishment. Both problems could best be solved by furthering the transfer towards the west of the center of gravity of the Prussian states already begun under Frederick’s predecessors. This western development of his territory was also a policy furthered by Frederick, but he pursued it unwillingly and cared little for it. By this one-sidedness he lessened his services to Prussia when he enlarged his territories in the district of the Oder and Vistula, where the foundations of the state had been laid during the Middle Ages.
There is no doubt that in 1757-58 the coalition formed against him would have crushed him had not Hanover fought on his side and given him the strategic control of northwestern Germany. As even after 1763 he regarded Austria as the deadly enemy of Prussia, he could not fail to see that for strategic reasons it was absolutely necessary for Prussia to have the whole of northwestern Germany within its sphere of influence; but he did nothing to attain this end. Moreover, he could not abstain from interfering in imperial politics in order to keep Austria from making southern Germany dependent on itself. He, therefore, urged on the War of the Bavarian Succession against Austria in 1778-79, and in 1783 was for a time the leader of the “League of Princes” formed among the German princes of the empire against Joseph II. However, all imperial, that is to say, German politics were distasteful to him. By his example he, more than any one else, contributed to smother all interest in the empire on the part of the German statesmen. He preferred rather to rest Prussian policy on that of Russia, and to lay his political schemes in the east of Europe. In like manner in his internal administration he deliberately neglected his western provinces, although it was just this part of his kingdom that lay in the center of the rising economic life of Europe, and contained, along with Silesia, the mineral treasures that in the future were to make the country and its population rich. It was also the population of this section that was to prove itself unusually energetic and capable in economic life. Fortunately for the realm Frederick’s excellent minister of commerce, Heynitz, did not neglect the western provinces. In these provinces the young Freiherr von Stein passed the first years of his career in the service of the Government. During Frederick’s reign the eastern provinces of Prussia were also brought into connection with the cultural development of the civilization of Western Europe. In order to meet the growing demand of England for grain, their great estates were worked on a capitalistic basis. The younger civil officials and nobility admired England as a model country and were full of interest in all the liberal ideas of the period. Prominent among these was Theodore von Schon. But a number of other young jurists called for a constitution. The University of Königsberg had a large share in producing this development. One of its professors, Kraus, a political economist, spread the theories of Adam Smith; another professor was Kant, who also started with the English philosophy.
During Frederick’s reign a novel element found its way into the Prussian State. By the conquest of Silesia, Prussia for the first time acquired a province that was predominantly Catholic; in annexing Polish Prussia it annexed one that was half Catholic. Up to then the only Catholics in Prussia were a few in Cleve. During the reign of the Great Elector, Catholic Ermland also became a part of Prussia, but this province never was considered of much importance. The church privileges of the Catholics here as there rested upon national treaties. As a rule they were respected. However, a strict watch was kept that the position of the Catholics should be an exceptional one. Attempts to introduce Protestantism among them were encouraged. In ecclesiastical matters Frederick followed in the path of his predecessors. Being a free-thinker the tolerance of his predecessors, based on treaty obligations, became under him a policy merely of religious indifference. “In my kingdom, each may go to Heaven after his own fashion”. He provided for the religious and educational needs even of the Catholics, and showed favor to the Jesuits. Still, in his reign Catholics were not allowed to hold office except inferior ones. In its foreign policy the State remained the champion of Protestant interests. This policy could be continued, notwithstanding the great increase in the number of Catholics, because the population of Prussia was accustomed to obey the Government without claiming any rights for itself. In the course of time difficulties would naturally arise from this policy.
IV. When Frederick II died the area of Prussia was about 78,100 square miles and its population 5,500,000. Since 1740 the annual revenues of the State had risen from 7,500,000 to 22,000,000 thalers; the national treasury contained 54,000,000 thalers. Frederick’s successor, his nephew Frederick William II (1786-97), was a man of some ability, but was soon led astray by his taste for loose living, and fell under the influence of bad counsellors, such as the theologian and Rosicrucian von Wöllner, and Colonel von Bischoffswerder. Frederick William III (1797-1840) was a man without much ability, somewhat like a subordinate official in instinct, of good intentions but little force. In consequence of the Revolution whose spirit spread throughout Europe the demands of the new era made themselves heard in Prussia also. Both the ministry and the cabinet were constantly occupied with plans for reform, but there was a lack of united and harmonious working and of ability to come to a decision. Dangerous agitations arose among the civil officials. Government by the cabinet became intolerable to the ministers, as the administration was no longer exercised by the king himself but by the secretaries of the cabinet, who during this reign were von Beyme, Lombard, and Mencken. Thus the zeal for reform only increased the dissatisfaction, and very little was accomplished. In foreign politics Frederick William II disavowed the opposition to Austria when he signed the Reichenbach Convention of July 27, 1790, with the Emperor Leopold II. In 1792 he even became an ally of Leopold’s in the war with France, in order to combat the “principles” of the Revolution. His army, however, accomplished but little in this war, and on April 5, 1795, he signed a separate treaty of peace with France at Basle, thus deserting Austria. For a number of years following this treaty he and his successor, Frederick William III, pursued a policy of neutrality in the great events of Western Europe. Still they sought to gain advantages out of them. According to the Treaty of Basle, Frederick William II agreed with France upon a line of demarcation by which nearly all of northern Germany was declared neutral under the protection of Prussia. Prussia worked energetically for the secularization of the Catholic ecclesiastical principalities, and by agreement with France in 1802 obtained the Dioceses of Paderborn, Fulda, a part of Münster, Eichsfeld, the domains of several abbeys, and the cities of Erfurt and Dortmund; the decision of the imperial delegation of 1803 confirmed it in the possession of these territories.
Prussia kept a close watch upon the fate of Hanover in the wars between Napoleon and England, being desirous to annex Hanover if possible. For a considerable length of time Napoleon tempted Prussia by holding out the hope of this acquisition, and in 1806 by the plan of a North German Confederation of which Prussia was to be the leader, Frederick William II even sought to gain territory in southern Germany. By an agreement made with the Hohenzollern Line of southern Germany he obtained in 1791 the Principalities of Ansbach and Bayreuth; in 1796 he made an unexpected attack upon Nuremberg but soon vacated it. None of these undertakings were conducted with much energy or with any clearly-defined end in view, for at the same time the political plans of Prussia in Eastern Europe exceeded her strength. Not only did Prussia obtain Danzig and Thorn in the Second Partition of Poland (1792), but in the Third Partition (1795) she acquired the central basin of the Vistula, with Warsaw as its capital. Prussia now included the entire basins of the Oder and Vistula. But it was no longer possible to make the eastern territories the preponderating part of the State. Besides the country was now half Slavonic, and the majority of its inhabitants were henceforward to be Catholic. The old Prussian territories had by this time been brought to a higher state of culture and had become in some measure capable of meeting the demands made upon them. The State now undertook another task: this was to bring the demoralized Polish provinces into order, to organize them, bring them to economic prosperity, and give them civil officials and teachers. In 1806 Prussia became involved in a war with Napoleon, which made evident the confusion of its internal affairs, and its lack of strength. Its army, led by the grey-haired Ferdinand of Brunswick, was cut to pieces in the battles of Jena and Auerstädt, fought on the same day (October 14), after a skirmish at Saalfeld; Prince Louis Ferdinand died October 18. Most of the fortresses capitulated without any real resistance. The bureaucracy of government officials lost its head and acted in a cowardly manner. The people were apathetic. The king, however, made some resistance, with the aid of Russia. Napoleon wished to make an end of Prussia as a State, and only the intercession of Russia preserved for the Hohenzollern dynasty a part at least of its territories. By the Peace of Tilsit, July 9, 1807, Prussia lost the Franconian provinces and all those west of the Elbe, as well as the Polish acquisitions outside of Polish Prussia. Moreover, French troops were garrisoned in the districts still remaining to it, and an enormous war indemnity was demanded (Convention of Königsberg, July 12, 1807).
However, Prussia’s terrible humiliation, notwithstanding all its mournful results, first opened the way for the exercise of those energies of the country that had been until now suppressed. The king showed great endurance in his misfortunes. His wife Louise made herself the intermediary between him and the men from whom the restoration of the country was to come. During the war Scharnhorst the future reorganizer of the Prussian army had had his first opportunity to distinguish himself at the battle of Eylau, 7-February 8, 1807. In the winter of 1806-07 the philosopher Fichte delivered his, celebrated “addresses to the German nation” at Berlin. In the spring of 1807 the king appointed Count Hardenburg, a native of Hanover, minister of foreign affairs, but was obliged to dismiss him in July at Napoleon’s bidding; the count, however, still continued to advise the king. Shortly after the Peace of Tilsit Scharnhorst was given charge of military affairs. From this time the army consisted only of natives of the kingdom, the soldiers were better treated, a thorough education was required from those desiring to become officers, and the people were gradually accustomed to the idea of universal military service, until it was introduced by the law of September 3, 1814. On October 5, 1807, Freiherr von Stein, a native of Nassau, was placed at the head of all the internal affairs of Prussia. With his appointment the real reform minister came into power. He was able to retain his position only a year, but this sufficed to impress on the legislation of the time a character of grandeur, although he could not control its details. Stein found the kingdom reduced in reality to the present province of East Prussia, and there the liberal officials were already preparing radical changes. The law of October 9, 1807, was already enacted, according to which the peasant serfs were declared free; every Prussian was authorized to hold landed property and to follow any occupation he chose. Stein only signed the decree. The law made it necessary to readjust all peasant holdings and the taxes upon them. This readjustment dragged on during a number of years, and was not finally completed until the middle of the century.
After Stein’s retirement this measure frequently proved the economic ruin of the peasants. Another consequence of this law, as completed by the law on trade taxation, October, 1810, and by the Edict of September 7, 1811, was the adoption by Prussia of liberty of occupation. Prussia led the way in this reform in Germany. Stein’s chief personal interest was in the reform of the constitution and of the administration. His desire was to create a union between the Government and the people that was then lacking, to awaken in the Government officials a spirit of initiative and responsibility, to enkindle in Prussia popular sentiment for Germany. The lesser offices in Prussia were to be divided into two classes; the former following the historical and geographical divisions of the country (provinces, circles, communes); the second determined wholly by the needs of the Government (Regierungsbezirke). The duties of the former were to be performed by administrative bodies, who were to act as the representatives or as the deputies of the people; the latter by government officials. With the administrative body, in some cases, a government official was associated (provincial president); in other cases certain government duties were confided to their heads (Landrät, Bürgermeister). On the other hand representatives of the people were to have a share in the Government, and in the course of time, as a counterpoise to the ministerial bureaucracy, the members of the national diet were to be elected from the provincial diets. Stein substantially gave the franchise only to land owners. He desired that the people in general should be prepared for taking part in the Government by the schools and universities. Freedom of action was to be restored to the state officials by putting an end to cabinet government, and giving each minister the independent administration of his own department. Personally, Stein was only able to initiate these reforms by the municipal legislation of November 19, 1808, and the “laws on the changed constitution of the highest administration of the realm” of November 24, 1808. His fiery temperament and his strong German sympathies made him too impatient. Together with Scharnhorst he planned measures to rouse the German people for a war against Napoleon. Consequently he was obliged to resign. Moreover, he did not sufficiently gauge the peculiarities of Prussia, particularistic, dynastic, and bureaucratic. His work, however, did not perish.
In 1810 the University of Berlin was founded as the great national center of education; in 1811 the University of Breslau. In 1810 Hardenberg reentered the Government and a chancellor carried on the work of reform systematically until his death in 1822. He skillfully managed the king and accommodated himself to the peculiarities of the Prussian character: like Stein he thoroughly believed in the necessity of a complete reconstruction of the State. He made special efforts to reform the system of taxation, but he was not able to do this at once. In 1810 and 1815 he even promised to call a national parliament. After his own fashion he liberalized or bureaucratized Stein’s plans, often taking the Napoleonic legislation for his model. Only the opposition of the Prussian nobility prevented him from sacrificing the very cornerstone of Stein’s reform of the administration (1812) by substituting the French system of prefecture and municipality for the self-governing institutions of district and city. These reforms led to the awakening of a sense of nationality both in the educated classes and the common people; and when in 1813 Napoleon returned defeated from Russia the whole population of Prussia rose of their own accord for king and country, and also for the liberation of Germany about which the kings had not concerned themselves.
During the War of Liberation of 1813-14 and 1815 the Prussian army had a large share in the overthrow of Napoleon. At the Peace of Paris (May 20, 1814) and the Congress of Vienna, which rearranged the map of Europe, Hardenberg represented Prussia. He desired to form a permanent agreement in policy between Prussia and Austria, while the king preferred to join his interests with those of Russia. At the important moment (November, 1814) the king decided against his minister, whereby a fresh European war was nearly kindled. The question was whether the greater part of western Poland should henceforth belong to Russia, and what compensation Prussia should receive for its share of Poland. Russia was successful, and only Polish Prussia and the Grand Duchy of Posen were given to Prussia. As a compensation for the loss of Warsaw, Prussia demanded Saxony. Owing to Austria’s opposition it received only the present Prussian province of Saxony and, instead of the remainder of Saxony, the Westphalian and Rhenish provinces, where before 1802 it had possessed only small districts. Austria hoped that in this way Prussia would be so entangled in Western Europe that it could no longer pursue a policy of neutrality, such as it had adopted after the Treaty of Basle. By this means, however, the center of gravity of Prussia was completely shifted towards Western Europe. Henceforth Prussia could scarcely give up the military control of northern Germany; should opposition arise, it must endeavor to incorporate into its own territories the districts between its eastern and western provinces. It soon felt the temptation to become the leader of Germany, especially as Austria at the same time gave up its old possessions in Swabia and on the Rhine, and had no longer any territories in Germany. In 1814-15 the area of Prussia was increased to 108,000 square miles, and its population reached 10,500,000. The geographical and political changes which took place in 1807-15, years of suffering and war, had been too rapid. Much remained to be done. Reactionary forces asserted themselves once more. Until 1840 old and new ideas struggled against each other, even among the ruling statesmen. The reactionary tendencies, especially of the era of Frederick the Great, reappeared with the king’s approval.
However, government by cabinet order was not reestablished. The higher officials, who under Frederick the Great had been the king’s executive tools, now practically carried on the Government in the name of the king. The minister Nagler spoke of “the limited intelligence of the subject”. The promise to call a national representative assembly was limited to the case of the State needing a national loan; but care was taken that no such necessity occurred. The Prussian Government not only took part in all the attempts of Austria and Russia since 1818 to suppress all revolutionary and politically liberal movements among the people, but even showed the greatest zeal and severity in doing so; e.g. the persecution of student societies, the imprisonment of Jahn, the order forbidding Arndt to lecture, and the expulsion of Görres from Germany. Partly through attachment to the king, with whom they had been united in common sufferings and partly because of the generally excellent behavior of the officials, the people of the old Prussian provinces maintained an attitude of expectancy. With the new provinces, however, serious friction arose. Having belonged to France during the years 1795-1814, these provinces had grown accustomed to democratic forms and frequently had a racial dislike to Prussians. The struggle began with the question whether the Prussian statute-book should replace the French “Code civile” in the province of the Rhine. The conflict was intensified by the appointment of many old Prussian officials to positions in the Rhineland and was greatly augmented by quarrels about methods of Church government and the claims of the State in matters of religion. The territories annexed in 1814-15 were mostly peopled by Catholics. Hitherto the State had controlled the Catholic Church authorities of the kingdom in the same way as the Protestants. This not only aroused the opposition of the democratically-inclined Rhenish provinces, but also excited the resistance of the new western Catholic movement, which, without much regard to diplomacy, strove to secure complete liberty for the Church by vigorous defense of her rights.
The question in what cases it was the duty of the Catholic priest to bless mixed marriages was the accidental but highly opportune occasion of bringing the matter to an issue. The Archbishop of Cologne, von Droste zu Vischering, led the opposition. The Prussian Government imprisoned him in a fortress as a “disobedient servant of the state”. A powerful popular commotion throughout the Rhine country was the result; this gained its echo in a Polish national movement in Posen, where Archbishop Dunin resisted the marriage laws and was arrested. Success was on the side of the Catholics and the new provinces. But alongside of these after effects of the spirit of Frederick II the Stein-Hardenberg policy continued to gain ground, especially after 1815. The reform of taxation was now carried through under the direction of the statistician J. G. Hoffmann. Organization of the provinces was completed, and an edict granting provincial diets was issued in 1823. General communal legislation was postponed because the economic and social conditions of the eastern and western provinces still differed widely. Allenstein and Johannes Schulze did much for education. Under the lead of the king, the Government compelled the union of the Lutheran and the Reformed churches; in order to give the union a firm basis, a new liturgy was issued in 1821. The old Lutherans who opposed the union of the two denominations were subjected to severe police restraint. By the Papal Bull “De salute animarum”, and the Brief “Quod de fidelium”, two Catholic church provinces were erected July 16, 1821: the Archidocese of Gnesen-Posen, with the suffragan Diocese of Culm; and the Archdiocese of Cologne, with Trier, Munster, and Paderborn as suffragans. In addition the exempt Bishoprics of Breslau and Ermland were established. The bishops were to be elected by the cathedral chapters, but were to be directed by the pope not to choose any person not acceptable to the king. The endowment of the bishoprics with landed estates proposed in 1803 was not carried out; hitherto the State has provided yearly subventions in accordance with the budget of the ministry of worship. Prussia’s greatest progress at this time was in the field of political economy. The post office was well organized by Postmaster-General Nagler.
By the law of May 26, 1818, Prussia changed from a prohibitive high tariff to a low tariff system, almost completely suppressed the taxes on exports, and maintained a high duty only on goods in transit. It thereby simplified its administration of the customs, and made business easier for its subjects, but the law fell heavily on the provinces belonging to other German states that were surrounded by Prussian territory, and gradually effected the states of middle and southern Germany, whose traffic with the North Sea and the Baltic had to be carried on across Prussian territory. After violent disputes a Zollverein (customs union) was gradually formed; the first to join with Prussia in such a union were the smaller states of Northern Germany, beginning with Sondershausen in 1819; in 1828 Hesse-Darmstadt; in 1831 Electoral Hesse; from January 1, 1834, the kingdoms of Southern Germany, Saxony, and the customs and commercial union of the Thuringian States. By the beginning of 1836 Baden, Nassau, and Frankfort had also joined. With the exception of the non-Prussian northwestern districts, besides Mecklenburg and the Hanseatic cities, all non-Austrian Germany was now economically under Prussian hegemony. The different states joined the Zollverein by terminable agreements. Each of the larger states retained its own customs administration; changes in the Zollverein could only be made by a unanimous vote. These states simply agreed in their economic policy and in the administration of the customs. They did not form a unified Germany from an economic point of view. The men who deserve the chief credit for the establishment of the Zollverein are Motz (d. 1830) and his successor Nassen. From the first, Prussia was determined that Austria should not be admitted as a member of the new customs union. Politically this union did not bring its members into closer alliance, but it was probably the cause of a great increase of their economic prosperity. The greatest benefit from it was gained by the Prussian Rhenish provinces. Consequently the trading element of the Rhineland, generally Liberal in politics, gradually grew friendly to the Prussian Government; it hoped to be able to dictate Prussia’s economic policy in the course of time. The result was that political conditions within the country improved. In all its other relations to the newly-acquired provinces the State had been forced to give way (e.g. the continued existence of the “Code civile”) or would have to in the future (e.g. in its ecclesiastical policy). Now the Rhenish provinces began to divide politically. The State was furthermore consolidated by gaining the sympathetic support of the teachers and professors as an after effect of the patriotic movement in the War of Liberation and partly owing to its energy in the cause of education. The Prussian political system, of meddling with everything, perhaps justified by necessity, was at this time philosophically defended and glorified by the philosopher Hegel.
V. Frederick William IV (1840-61) in his youth had enthusiastically taken part in the War of Liberation, and afterwards in all the efforts for the reorganization of the State. His character was inconsistent; while a man of ability, he was subject to the influence of others. Soon after his accession he conciliated the Catholics (Johann Geissel as coadjutor of Cologne; establishment of a Catholic department in the Ministry of Worship and Education). Although personally a Conservative, he appointed some moderate Liberals to places of prominence. He first called forth opposition among the doctrinaire and radical elements of the eastern provinces by condemning their ideas of popular sovereignty and popular representation on the occasion of his coronation at Königsberg. In accordance with Stein’s original plan he intended to give to Prussia a legislature chosen by the several provincial diets. Too much time was spent in discussion without coming to any decision. In the meantime the western provinces also joined the movement for more liberal institutions, largely as a consequence of the debates in the provincial diet of the Rhine, in 1845. The restlessness was increased by economic distress, especially among the weavers of Silesia, by contradictory ordinances issued by the Government, and by the discovery of a national Polish conspiracy in the province of Posen. Finally in February, 1847, the king summoned to Berlin a “first united diet”, composed of all the provincial diets. The authority of the united diets was to be small, its future sittings were to depend on the pleasure of the king. The more liberal element of the eastern provinces wished to reject this diet as insufficient. The more politic liberals of the western provinces, however, gained the victory for the new diet, for they hoped in this way to attain to power in the State. The united diet was opened April 11, 1847. Passionate differences of opinion showed themselves in the debates over the wording of an address to the king, in which, although moderately expressed, the demand for such a “national parliament” as had been promised in 1815 was put forth. Motions made in favor of the granting of a national parliament, and finally the refusal of the diet to take decisive action on a proposed railroad loan, so angered the king that he closed the sessions of the diet towards the end of June. Throughout the country the movement to obtain a parliamentary chamber directly elected by the people was kept up.
When in March, 1848, there was danger that the revolution would break out in Prussia, on March 7 the king made the concession that the united diet should meet every fourth year. On March 14 he summoned the second united diet to meet at the end of April, but he was not willing to concede the election by the people and a written constitution. On March 15 barricades were built in the streets of Berlin. On the evening of March 17 the king decided to grant a constitution, to set the date of the assembling of the second united diet for April 2, and to take part in the movement for forming a German national state. Notwithstanding the announcement of this decision, bloody fighting broke out in the streets of Berlin March 18. The next day the king withdrew the troops who were confronting those in revolt. In Posen the Poles gained control of the Government, while the Rhine province threatened to separate from Prussia and to become the first province of the future united Germany. On March 20 Frederick William announced that Prussia would devote its entire strength to the movement for a united Germany, and to maintaining the rights of Germany in Schleswig and Holstein by war with Denmark. At the end of the month the king entrusted the Government to the Rhenish Liberals. The brief session of the second united diet had for a time a quieting effect, the Radical element predominated in the Prussian National Assembly which opened May 22, and the king’s ministers, chosen from the Rhenish Liberals, were not able to keep it in check. During the summer the Conservative element, especially that of the old Prussian provinces, bestirred itself and held the “Junker Parliament”; founded the “Kreuzzeitung”, and won influence over the masses by appealing to the sentiments of Prussian particularism and loyalty to the king. When the Radicals favored street riots, sought to place the army under the control of parliament, and resolved upon the abolition of the nobility, of kingship by the grace of God, and demanded that the Government should support the revolutionary party in Vienna, the king dismissed his Rhenish ministers. In the German movement also they had, in his opinion, failed. The war in Schleswig-Holstein had brought Prussia into a dangerous European position (Armistice of Malmö, August 26, 1848).
The king now commissioned Count Brandenburg on November 2 to form a Conservative ministry. The most important places in it were given to men from the old Prussian provinces. On November 9, 1848, the National Assembly was adjourned and removed from Berlin. Martial law was proclaimed in the city. On December 5 the National Assembly was dissolved, and a constitution was published on the king’s sole authority. Nearly all the Liberal demands of the National Assembly were granted in it, and the upper and lower houses of parliament provided for. Much was done to meet the demand of the Catholics for the complete liberty of the Church. After the failure of the Rhenish Liberal Government, the king hoped for support from the Catholics of the western provinces, and this was at first given. In order to satisfy public opinion a series of laws, intended to meet Liberal wishes, was promulgated in the course of the next few weeks. In accordance with the recently imposed constitution, a new chamber of deputies was immediately elected and opened February 26, 1849, in order that it might express its opinion on the Constitution. However it came to no agreement with the Government. The three-class system of election, which is still in force, was now introduced for elections to the second chamber. In each election district all voters who pay taxes are divided into three classes, so that one-third of the taxes is paid by each class; each class elects the same number of electors, and these electors elect the deputies. Upon this the Radicals abstained from voting. The Conservatives were in the majority in the new chamber. The revision of the Constitution could now be proceeded with, and it was proclaimed on January 31, 1850. According to its provisions Prussia was to be a constitutional kingdom with a diet of two chambers; great power was left to the Crown, which was moreover favored by obscurities and omissions in the document. After the convulsions of 1848 Prussia had much need of rest. During this year the course of the German national movement had, however, excited the hopes of the king that Germany would acquire the unity which even he desired to see, and that Prussia would, as a result of this unity, be the leader of the German national armies, or perhaps control the new state.
The Liberals were estranged from the king in the autumn of 1848, and the wish was frankly expressed, if not fulfilled, that the future constitution of Germany should be decided in agreement with Austria, and if possible in agreement with all other German princes. These difficulties led the king to decline the German imperial crown when it was offered to him by the Frankfort assembly in April, 1848. He would not accept it from a parliament claiming its power from the sovereignty of the people. Soon after this, influenced by General Radowitz, he himself decided to open new negotiations on the question of German unity. The intention was that Prussia should unite with other German states that were ready to join in a confederation called the “union”, and that the union should adopt a constitution and have a diet. This confederation was to form a further indissoluble union with Austria, by which each should bind itself to assist the other in defending its territories. As Prussia had aided the principalities of central Germany to suppress internal revolts in the spring of 1849, these countries did not at first venture to disagree with Prussia, as appears from the agreement of May 26 with Saxony and Hanover, called the “union of the three kings”. Nearly all the smaller principalities joined also. Bavaria, however, refused to enter the union, and Austria worked against this plan. In the summer of 1849 Austria proposed to the Prussian Government that the two powers should revive the old German Confederation which had been cast aside the year before, and should henceforth lead it in common (“Interim”, September 30, 1849). Russia, which had generally supported Prussia, now upheld Austria. Nevertheless the king, although much opposed by members of his Government, persisted in his scheme of a union. The constitution planned for the union was laid before a diet of the principalities belonging to the union, summoned to meet at Erfurt.
The Diet in session from March 20 to April 29, 1850, accepted the Constitution. Upon this Austria encouraged the states of central Germany to form a confederation among themselves to which neither Prussia nor Austria should belong. This confederation was to act as a counterbalance to Prussia, and at the same time was a menace to the Prussian supremacy in the Zollverein. In the autumn of 1850 war between the two parties seemed unavoidable. Russia, however, not wishing an open rupture, urged both sides to mutual concessions. Prussia now finally gave up its scheme of the “union”, and promised to reenter the federal diet (Agreement of Olmutz, November 29, 1850; further conferences, January to April, 1851). The dispute between the two powers as to which should control the Zollverein continued for two years longer. The ability of Prussia to accomplish the difficult task of defeating the attacks of Austria was probably due to the expert knowledge and clearness of the chief representative of its economic policy, Rudolf von Delbrück, and to the fact that Hanover joined the Zollverein in September, 1851. Still, concessions had to be made to Austria in the Treaty of February 19, 1853, which crippled the Zollverein until 1865. In all questions of foreign politics the relations between Prussia and Austria remained suspicious and cool. Prussia felt that the dispute had resulted in a painful weakening of its European position. The damage was further increased by the irresolute policy of the king during the Crimean War, which caused England to try to exclude Prussia from the congress at Paris in 1856. A small group of Prussian politicians, especially Bismarck, began to urge an aggressive policy and the seeking of support from Napoleon III for such a policy, but neither Frederick William IV nor his brother William who succeeded him would listen to the suggestion.
As regards the internal condition of the country, after the close of the revolutionary movements the Conservatives obtained a large majority in both houses of the Prussian Dict. The more determined members of the Conservative party in the diet demanded a complete restoration of conditions existing before the revolution. They were supported in these demands by the camarilla which had been active at the court since March 30, 1848, and among the members of which were the brothers Leopold and Ludwig von Gerlach. Among the measures desired by the Conservatives were: abandonment of the German national policy; limitations of Prussian policy to northern Germany; closer connection with England; the adoption of free trade as an economic policy; restoration of judicial and police power on their estates to the nobility; alteration of the Constitution of 1850; and restoration of the Protestant character of the country. Otto von Manteuffel, who had been minister-president since November, 1850, was able to defeat the most extreme demands. His chief effort was to suppress all parties as much as possible, and to make the Government official body once more the great power in the State. Up to 1854 there were bitter disputes as to the constitution of the upper house of the diet. At last it was agreed that it should be composed partly of representatives of the great estates, partly of representatives of the large cities and universities, and partly of members independently appointed by the king. The bureaucratic administration established by Manteuffel led to many arbitrary acts by the police, who were under the supervision of Minister of the Interior von Westphalen; the result was much bitterness among the people. Von der Heydt, Minister of Commerce, pursued a sensible policy, declining to favor concentration of capital, and protecting the small mechanical industries that were threatened with a crisis. From 1854 the influence of the churches over the primary schools was strengthened by the regulations issued by Raumer, Minister of Worship and Education. A defection from the Conservative party, led by von Bethmann-Hollweg (grandfather of the present Chancellor of Germany), was of little parliamentary importance, but apparently influenced the heir to the throne. In the same way the “Catholic Fraction” (1852), formed to oppose the reestablishment of the Protestant character of the State, proved to be only temporary.
In 1857 the king fell ill, and on October 23, 1857, he appointed his brother William to act for him; on October 26, 1858, William was made regent. All extremes of policy and religion were distasteful to William, and he began his reign with many misconceptions of the position of domestic politics. He therefore dismissed Manteuffel and formed his first ministry, the ministry of the “new era”, of men of the Bethmann-Hollweg party and of moderate Liberals, the premier being Prince Karl of Hohenzollern. He desired by this selection to assure the public of an evenly balanced non-partisan administration. The Liberals, however, regarded it as a sign that the moment had come to repair the failure in 1848 to obtain a parliament and a Liberal form of government for Prussia. The war between Austria and France in 1859 obliged William to give his entire attention to the reorganization of the Prussian army, which was still dependent on the law of 1814, and had shown many deficiencies when mobilized on account of the war. In December, 1859, the regent appointed von Roon minister of war. A bill laid before the Diet in 1860 called for the reconstruction of the military forces, which since the War of Liberation had been disorganized; the army was once more to be a centralized professional force, and at the same time be enlarged without a great increase of expense. The Diet avoided taking any positive stand on the question. William, however, went on with the reorganization. In January, 1861, he became king (1861-88). In June, 1861, most of the Liberals united in the Radical “German party of progress”. The elections at the end of the year placed this party in the majority. Bills upon questions of internal politics that were intended to meet Liberal wishes were laid before the Diet in vain, nor did the resumption of the policy of the “union” by Count Bernstorff, Minister of Foreign Affairs, nor the commercial treaty with France in 1862 pacify the Liberals. A conflict between the Crown and the Diet began. The money demanded for the army was refused in 1862.
In September, 1862, the king called Bismarck to the head of affairs. He was ready to carry on the administration without the approval of the budget. In 1863 Bismarck dissolved the lower house of the Diet, took arbitrary measures against the Press, and sought to bring the Liberals in disfavor with the people by a daring and successful foreign policy. His first opportunity for this came when strained relations developed between the German Confederation and Denmark in regard to the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. The upper house of the Diet now refused to grant the money for the expenses of the war against Denmark. Bismarck nevertheless carried on the war jointly with Austria; among its events were the successful storming of the Düppeler entrenchments on April 18, and the crossing to the Island of Alsen in the night of 28-June 29, 1864. Even these events caused public opinion to change. At the next election the Conservatives were in the majority, and signs of disruption in the “German party of progress’s were evident. The disputes which arose between Austria and Prussia as a result of the war with Denmark caused Bismarck to go to war with Austria in the early summer of 1866. The “party of progress” was now completely divided. At a fresh election for the House of Deputies on July 3, accidentally the day of the victory of Königgrätz (Sadowa), the Conservatives gained one-half of the seats. The enthusiasm over the defeat of Austria and over the definite settlement thereby of Prussia’s leading position in non-Austrian Germany was so great that the difficulties besetting the internal policies could be regarded as removed. Bismarck made retreat easy for his opponents by asking indemnity for the period in which he had carried on the administration without a budget. The greater part of the “party of progress” now became supporters of Bismarck under the name of the “National Liberal” party; the leaders of the National Liberals were Twesten, Lasker, and Forckenbeck. Only a small section of the former “party of progress”, under the leadership of Waldeck, and Schultz-Delitzsch, remained in the opposition. As time went on Bismarck found it more convenient to manage parliamentary business through the National Liberals, and consequently made more concessions to Liberalism both in Prussia proper and throughout the kingdom than were in harmony with Prussian Conservative traditions.
In return the Liberals gradually abandoned their opposition to the military form of government in Prussia, and avoided disputes concerning constitutional law. Prussia received a large increase of territory by the war with Austria. After it had gained in 1865 Lauenburg, it also obtained Schleswig and Holstein, and with them a good maritime position, with Kiel as a naval station on the Baltic. Before this, early in 1863, it had obtained Wilhelmshafen from Oldenburg as a naval station on the North Atlantic. The war also gave to Prussia the Kingdom of Hanover, Electoral Hesse, the Duchy of Nassau, and the city of Frankfort-on-the-Main. Its area was increased to 132,000 square miles, its population to 20,000,000; at present the population numbers about 40,000,000. A still more important gain was that its western and eastern provinces were now united, and that it had complete military control of northern Germany. The additions of territory gave Protestantism once more the preponderance, as the Protestants now numbered two-thirds of the population. The Catholics of the new districts belonged ecclesiastically partly to the church province of the Upper Rhine, partly to the exempt Bishoprics of Osnabruck and Hildesheim; no change was made in these relations. An Apostolic prefecture was connected with Osnabruck, to which the Catholics of Schleswig-Holstein belonged.
VI. Prussia had now reached the goal which for three hundred years it had steadily sought to attain. Its ambitions were now satisfied, it ceased to pursue an independent foreign policy and directed that of the new German Confederation that was established under its headship in 1867-71. At first, both in southern Germany and in the small countries adjacent to Germany, it was feared that Prussia would continue its policy of conquest in order to create a “Greater Prussia”. This, however, was a mistaken opinion, as is also the belief that the German Empire is simply the heir to the position of Prussia as a great power. It is true that Bismarck after 1871 seems to have held this view, and to have regarded it as the sole task of his foreign policy to secure what had been attained by large military forces, by a peaceful policy of treaties, and by directing the attention of the other great powers to questions outside of central Europe. Soon, however, the empire was confronted by new and far-extending problems and combinations with which Prussia had never had to reckon. So after 1866 only the domestic policy of Prussia comes under consideration. After the war with Austria its first task was to combine the new provinces with the old in its state organization. This was much more easily accomplished than the similar task in 1815, both because the populations were more easily adapted to each other, and because the Government proceeded more circumspectly. It was only in Hanover that a strong party, that of the Guelphs, maintained a persistent opposition. The war had also made it possible for Prussia to restore the efficiency of the Zollverein. The resulting great economic development of Germany was of much benefit to Prussia’s western provinces, for the commerce of the Rhine and the manufacturing districts of the lower Rhine and Westphalia rapidly grew in importance. Berlin also shared in the general increase of prosperity, it became a city of a million inhabitants, a center of wealth, was almost entirely rebuilt, and covers a larger area each year. In its active mercantile life it is a symbol of the present character of Prussia just as Potsdam, near by, still preserves the character of the Prussia of the era of Frederick the Great.
The result of the great economic development was a renewed growth in influence of the Liberal party, which, however, did not last beyond 1877. From 1870 the Liberals were opposed by the new and strong Center party, in which the great majority of the non-Liberal, Catholic population of the western provinces were combined. The opposition between the Center and the Liberals made it possible for the Conservatives to gain time to form a more effective political organization than any they had had before, and to regain for the elements holding to old Prussian traditions a marked influence upon Prussia’s domestic policy, notwithstanding the fact that since 1866 the western provinces included the greater part of the territory and population of the country. From 1871 the Government took part in the struggle in which Liberals and Catholics fought out their opinions. It restricted the share of the churches in the direction of primary schools, and passed laws that destroyed the ruling position of orthodoxy in the Protestant church system. It sought to bring the clergy once more under the power of the State. During the eighties Bismarck abandoned the Kulturkampf, so far as government interference in Catholic church life extended. There was no essential change in the policy affecting the Evangelical Church. The Evangelical Church has a supreme church council, and by the law of 1873 it received a synodal and parish organization; in 1876 a general synod was established by law. Few changes were made in the school laws. The final decision concerning them has not yet been reached, as in the Constitution of 1850 a special law of primary schools was promised, and this promise must now be fulfilled. A bitter struggle arose over this question. The bill of 1891 was dropped as too liberal; that of 1892 was withdrawn on account of the opposition of the Liberals. After this the matter was allowed to rest. In 1906, owing to the necessities of the situation, a law was passed by a combination of the Government with the Conservatives and National Liberals, with the tacit consent of the Center. The question to be settled was who should bear the expense of the public schools?
It was laid down that the public schools were in general to be denominational in character; but that everywhere, as exceptions, undenominational public schools were permissible, and in two provinces, Nassau and Posen, should be the rule. The share of the Church in them was not defined, and the struggle as to its rights of supervision still continues. The general level of national education is satisfactory. Only .04 per cent of the recruits have had no schooling. In 1901 there were 36,756 public primary schools, of which 10,749 were Catholic. These schools had altogether 90,208 teachers, and 5,670,870 pupils. Only 315 primary schools were private institutions. For higher education Prussia has 10 universities, 1 Catholic lyceum, 5 polytechnic institutions, and 2 commercial training colleges. Unfortunately there grew out of the Kulturkampf not only the conflict over the schools, but also the conflict against the Polish population. The Government has always distrusted the Poles. This distrust has been increased by the democratic propaganda among the Poles, by their progress in economic organization, and their rapid social development. Moreover, the rapid increase of the Polish population and its growing prosperity have enabled the Poles to outstrip the German element, which does not seem capable of much resistance, in the provinces of East and West Prussia, and of late in Silesia. In 1885 the Government began a land policy on a large scale. The scheme was to purchase from the Poles as many estates as possible with government funds, to form from these farms to be sold by the Government on easy terms, and by establishing villages to settle a large number of German peasants in these provinces, which, on account of the many baronial estates, were thinly populated, and thus to strengthen the German element in them (1890, law for the forming of these government-leased, or sold, farms; 1891, law for a bank in support of these holdings). The Government began by banishing large numbers of Poles, then set systematically to work to germanize the Poles by limiting the use of their language; thus, even in purely Polish districts, Polish was almost entirely excluded from the public schools as the language of instruction, even for teaching religion. With exception of a break in the early part (1890-94) of the reign of William II, this anti-Polish policy has been carried on with steadily increasing vigor. At last in 1908 the Government by law acquired the right to expropriate Polish lands for its colonizing scheme, as voluntary sale of such lands had almost entirely ceased. So far no use has been made of this authority. The harsh policy of the Government greatly promoted the growth of Radicalism among the Poles; of late, however, the more sober elements seem to have regained influence over them. Besides the increase of the Polish population in the eastern provinces, there has also been a large emigration of Poles into the western provinces, factory hands, so that in some of the western election districts the Poles hold the balance of power.
Outside of its Polish policy Prussia since 1870 has done much for agriculture. Mention should be made of the founding of the central credit assocation fund, the first director of which was Freiherr von Huene, a member of the Center party of the Prussian Dict. The reform of the system of taxation, however, was the main cause of the improvement and reorganization of the entire economic life. Indirect taxes were restored, the direct taxes of the country were based on an income-tax, from which very small incomes were exempted. The income-tax was supplanted by a moderate property tax. The taxes on profits were left to the communes for their purposes. Preparations for the tax-reform were made from 1881 by Bitter, Minister of Finance, and the reform was carried out (1890-93) by Miquel, Minister of Finance, a former leader of the National Liberal party. The introduction of the reform was simplified by the fact that only one-eleventh of the direct taxes were needed for the requirements of the Government, and of this eleventh the income-tax yielded 80 per cent. Five-sixths of the revenues of the Government come from the surplus earnings of the railways, as since 1879 nearly all the railways within its territories have been purchased by the State. As these surpluses vary they effect the uniformity of the budget, especially in periods of economic depression. Since 1909, however, provision has been made for this in the budget. The purchase of the railways by the State affected for some time the improvement of the waterways, on account of the advantage to the State of the railway revenues. In 1886 the improvement of water communication, which is still urgent in the eastern provinces, was taken up both in the form of a regulation of the rivers and in the form of a canal policy. In 1897 a bill was laid before the Diet, which sought to relieve the railways from overtaxing with freight, by a comprehensive construction of canals from the Rhine to the Oder. The bill was rejected. It was once more brought up, and this time the provision was included that the Government should have a monopoly of the towing on the canals to be built. The bill was accepted in this shape in 1905.
One result of the Government improvements of the waterways is its endeavor to limit the entire freedom of river navigation which has grown up in Germany on the basis of the acts of the Congress of Vienna. So far the Government has not been able to overcome the opposition to this plan in the empire and the neighboring states; a bill to this end is before the Dict. Since 1870 Prussia has also considered large schemes for improving the organization of the administration. The organization of the district and country communes had not been settled in the earlier period; the organization of the provinces had also to be perfected. The law regulating the administration of the districts was passed in 1872 under the influence of the National Liberal party; the law affecting the provinces in 1875. At the same time a law, which met with general approval, in regard to the entire administrative jurisdiction was carried. In 1897 the difficulties were finally removed which up to then had prevented the Government from obtaining a law to regulate the country communes. This was effected by abandoning the effort to have one law for the entire country, and by passing one simply for the eastern provinces, where the need was most pressing. Since then there has been no further legislation as regards the organization of the administration. In the future new and large questions as to administration will have to be settled, which in the meantime are being discussed by a commission appointed by the king in 1908, who are to report directly to him. Of late, public opinion has also been occupied with constitutional questions, especially of the Center and the parties of the Left for the adoption of the imperial system of electing the Reichstag in Prussia. The Government is not ready for this, and desires only to modify the three-class system. The first bill for this did not meet with the approval of the Prussian Diet, and was withdrawn in May, 1910.