Life and Times of Stein: Or, Germany and Prussia in the Napoleonic Age - Vol. 1

By Sir J. R. Seeley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I.
CONSTITUTION AND TASK OF THE MINISTRY.

STEIN now becomes once more a Minister of the Prussian State. But we remember that when he received his dismissal in January, the King had already begun to alter, in some degree, the old relations between the Ministers and himself, and also the old distribution of functions among the Ministers. Further alterations had been made since that time, so that Stein was now called upon to occupy a post which was newly created and had only as yet been held for about two months by Hardenberg. To understand what this newly created Ministerial Office was, we must trace slightly the history of the Prussian Administration from the beginning of the year.

We marked the King's refusal to conclude a separate peace with Napoleon as the beginning of the third period of the war. The King had been led to that decision by the advice of Hardenberg, and this is the moment of the revival of that statesman's influence, and of the decline of the influence of Zastrow, who had, as we remember, succeeded Haugwitz in the Foreign Department on Stein's refusal to accept the portfolio. But the revival of Hardenberg's influence was only gradual. The King had persevered in the middle course which Stein and Hardenberg had rejected. His Council of Ministers now met regularly, and Beyme drew the protocols, and passed and repassed between them and the King. The Ministers were Zastrow, Schrötter and Voss, who had taken Stein's place. Hardenberg had no department, but the first mark of the King's favor for him was that he was now required to attend this Council, which he only consented to do under protest. The new system led to nothing but confusion, if we may judge from the contempt with which it inspired Niebuhr. Thus he writes at the end of March: --

Hardenberg and Zastrow are at daggers drawn. Voss takes a high tone and bears himself as Prime Minister. Schrötter curses the Russian. . . .

-225-

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