How the World Votes: The Story of Democratic Development in Elections - Vol. 2

By Charles Seymour; Donald Paige Frary | Go to book overview

HOW THE WORLD VOTES

CHAPTER XIX
GERMAN LIBERALISM UP TO THE BEGINNING OF THE PRUSSIAN HEGEMONY

THE electoral question in Germany has been the core of the century-long contest between the party of absolutism and individualism on the one hand and that of liberalism on the other. The tide of liberalism has ebbed and flowed, through the era of black repression under Metternich, rising after his fall in 1848 only to be ruthlessly scotched by Bismarck, and since 1871 growing irresistibly in volume until the party of autocracy has been forced to listen to it in the Great War. Since 1815 the desire for a liberal franchise and a parliamentary government has remained for Germany, as a whole, a hope deferred.

In overrunning Germany Napoleon had done far more than to reduce the number of States which had composed the Holy Roman Empire and to replace that venerable relic by parchment confederations of his own. The states of the South in particular had been permeated by French revolutionary ideas. Saxe Weimar already boasted a constitution. Even in Prussia the reforms of Stein and Hardenberg had created municipal councils and local administrations in the Kreise, and had abolished serfdom and the official organization of society into the three estates.

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