The Course of German History: A Survey of the Development of German History since 1815

By A. J. P. Taylor | Go to book overview

4

1848: THE YEAR OF GERMAN LIBERALISM

The statesmen of the Congress of Vienna had hoped to give Germany a stable existence. But their settlement was mechanical, an arbitrary arrangement without any anchorage of devotion or enthusiasm. It did not inspire the conservatives; it was hated by the liberals; it was passively accepted by the masses. The Confederation had been intended as a defensive association against France; but in the two alarms of 1830 and 1840 it had proved altogether ineffective. All that remained was the authority of Prussian and Austrian armed strength, negative and unconstructive. But this partnership was breaking up, losing both its moral conviction and its actual power. After the death of Francis I in 1835, the Austrian Empire was under the nominal rule of an imbecile, Ferdinand, actually administered by a jealous, despairing triumvirate - Metternich, Kolovrat, his rival, and the Archduke Lewis, youngest and feeblest brother of Francis I. Austria's policy became ever more hopeless, her finances ever more disordered, her armies ever weaker. The moral authority which Austria had once enjoyed existed no more; even the most conservative lost all faith in this 'European China'.

Prussia remained well administered, her finances in good order, her commercial policy enlightened and successful. But her ruling classes

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