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Eugen Richter on the German Nobility (1898)

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Among the students of jurisprudence, from which all higher administrative officials with the exception of a small portion of the Landräte [district presidents] are drawn, only 5.8% are noblemen compared to 94.2% commoners. However, in the department of the Prussian Ministry of the Interior, the ratio within the various ranks stands as follows: of the Regierungsassessoren [government assessor], 32% are noble and 68% are common; of the Regierungsräte [members of government boards], upon whom the real work rests, only 17.7% are noble and 82.3% are common; among the Oberregierungsräte [the head clerks of government boards, who rank above the Regierungsräte] the ratios are 34.4 and 65.6%; among the Landräte, 52.8% are noble as opposed to 47.2% commoners; and among the Regierungspräsidenten [presidents of government boards], the ratio is no less than 76.5 versus 23.5%.

Between the end of 1893 and February 1897, 103 Landrat positions were filled, with 71 (69%) coming from the nobility and 32 (31%) from the commoners. In the year 1894-95, however, 608 Regierungsassessoren passed their state examinations [Staatsexamen], among whom there were only 185 (31%) noblemen. When it comes to appointments of Landräte, the ratio is therefore exactly reversed. In Pomerania, only 3 of 28 Landräte are commoners, in Brandenburg only 6 of 28.

As far as the officer corps is concerned, according to the rank and billeting-list of 1897, only 16% of generals were commoners. Among the 74 generals of the infantry, cavalry, and artillery, only a single commoner is found alongside ten men only recently ennobled. In total, however, noblemen account for only 44% of the officers in the Prussian army. Thirty regiments, along with the battalions of the Chasseurs of the Guard [Gardejäger], the Riflemen of the Guard [Gardeschützen], and the Third Chasseurs, have not a single common officer. The number of regiments that have only noble second lieutenants has grown from 15 to 17, which means that apart from the three battalions, a total of 47 regiments accept only the sons of the nobility. Moreover, in one regiment there is not even a single common reserve officer. Among the entire Guard Cavalry there are only 14 reserve officers with a common name. All in all, the Guard has 93% noble officers, though these are found chiefly in the Guard Foot Artillery, among the Guard Pioneers, and in the Guard Train.

The ministry has repeatedly tried to deny the fact that a distinction is made between the nobility and commoners in the army. In the officer corps, it has said, whether someone is a nobleman or a commoner matters as little as it does whether he has blue or brown eyes. But no minister of war can deny that a common officer can become at most a commanding general, but certainly not a lieutenant in the First Guard Regiment on Foot. The number of regiments that have exclusively noble officers does not sufficiently reflect the true state of affairs, for there are also a number of regiments in which the dominance of the nobility is outwardly masked through the toleration of an isolated common officer, the so-called "Konzessions-Schulze."

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