Bismarck and the Development of Germany: The Period of Unification, 1815-1871

By Otto Pflanze | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOURTEEN
THE CONQUEST OF PRUSSIA

1. ABSOLUTISM RESTORED

ON January 15, 1866 the Prussian Landtag met for the last time prior to the Austrian war. Before convening, the liberals desperately tried to close ranks. "We are able to unite only in negation or on phrases!" lamented Unruh. "If that were only the case!" Hoverbeck replied, "But we can't even do that!"1 Although the Schleswig-Holstein controversy had receded, the deputies divided again on the question of tactics in the coming session. Once more the issue was whether to go through the long process of amending the government's budget or to reject it outright without debate. By a bold action many hoped to force a dénouement in the long drama of the constitutional conflict.

Without being aware of it, the more decisive party leaders neared the position of Lassalle, so contemptuously rejected three years before. Twesten asserted, "We ought not to maintain any longer the appearance that the constitution is still in effect." Lasker wished to show that "in almost every respect the country is being governed absolutely in the true sense of the word." Hoverbeck concluded that despotism was better than "sham constitutionalism." The world must know that "force has destroyed law." For once the opposition must "speak the full truth and then be silent until called upon to act." Nevertheless, he was not at all certain that the summons would actually come. In the event of a dissolution he foresaw that "by an energetic application of all bureaucratic screws" the government might very well bring about the defeat of the liberals. Many battles, he concluded, would have to be fought before the ultimate triumph of liberty. Freedom would always be in danger until "an absurd loyalty" had been erased from "the feelings of the people."2

At the beginning of the session the issue of tactics was raised

____________________
1
Ludolf Parisius, Leopold Freiherr von Hoverbeck ( Berlin, 1897- 1900), II/2, 64-65; HW, I, 267.
2
Parisius, Hoverbeck, II/2, 55-56, 64 ff.; HW, I, 265-269.

-311-

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