In the first two-thirds of the nineteenth century Germans recognized the existence of political parties, but had ambivalent feelings about them. The first document in this section, an excerpt from the entry "Parties" in the Staats-Lexikon, demonstrates this ambivalence. The author began by discussing the theories of a journalist, Friedrich Rohmer, who noted that his contemporaries in the 1840s divided the parties on a left-to-right political spectrum, naming radicals, liberals, moderates (or "juste milieu," as he said, referring to the moderates in France), and conservatives. However, the author ultimately condemned this way of thinking, preferring to describe politics in terms of special, particular interests and the general or public interest. The only legitimate parties, he asserted, were those that represented the public interest; other parties, or those representing special, particular interests, were illegitimate. The author of this excerpt had left-wing political sympathies, but the suspicion of political parties as representing illegitimate, special interests rather than the general, public interest was widespread among Germans of all political views.
Turning to the individual parties, or perhaps more precisely, to political tendencies, we can start on the right with the conservatives. The speech "What is the Revolution?," given in 1852 by the conservative political theorist Friedrich Julius Stahl, explained what conservatives opposed and, from this opposition, what conservatives espoused. In this speech we can see the important role that opposing ideas and demands of the French Revolution of 1789 played for German conservatives, and also the great importance of revealed Christian religion for conservative principles. Also of interest is Stahl's sharp denunciation of nationalism as a form of godless idolatry. Since, in the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries, nationalism has often been closely connected to conservative politics, it is always a shock to find that German (and other European) conservatives of the first two-thirds of the nineteenth century were so strongly opposed to nationalism. When, in 1866, Otto von Bismarck, the eminently conservative Prussian Prime Minister, preceded to take up part of the nationalist political program, conservatives across Germany were horrified by his actions and saw them as a betrayal of their political principles.