GHDI logo

Austrian Memorandum (1863)

page 5 of 5    print version    return to list previous document      next document

III. Without Prussia's pro-confederal cooperation, there cannot be a definitive completion of the reorganization of the Confederation. Prussia's confederal lands comprise a third of the German population, they extend from the eastern to the western borders of Germany, and the Confederal Treaties give Prussia a right to oppose any far-reaching reforms. Prussia can therefore prevent the reform of Germany's overall constitution de facto and de jure. Standing its ground in complete opposition to reform in Germany does not require the greatness and influential position of the Prussian monarch; even less powerful states are capable, merely by abstaining, of foiling the most ardent wishes, the most honest endeavors of their confederal allies. Prussia's veto, at any rate, has this negative power. If it is lodged, then the Confederation as a whole cannot rise up out of its current and profound state of dilapidation. But things in Germany have reached the point where an absolute standstill of the reform movement is no longer possible, and the governments that recognize this will see themselves compelled to attempt a makeshift work by deciding on the partial execution of the intended confederal reform within the confines of their own states, and to this end, while maintaining the confederal relationship, they will give their free confederal right the most extensive application possible.

Can Prussia look forward to such an eventuality, which would involve so total an alienation from its German confederal allies? It is true that Prussia's views on the vocation and purpose of the German Confederation over the last several years have differed only too greatly from those explained above. We are looking back to a time in which the leading idea of Prussia's German policy was to reduce the confederal principle to a mere – intrinsically imperfect – alliance, rather than to strengthen and invigorate it. Only, events have moved forward since then, and perhaps [this] course [of events] includes more than one serious reason to turn away decisively from directions that have not led to happy destinations. Germany's future is shrouded in a dangerous darkness; having reflected on the past, the Kaiser did not want to prevent himself from trustingly informing His illustrious Prussian Ally about His thoughts on the means for illuminating the view into the future. He counts on the wisdom and magnanimity of conviction of the King, whom it cannot possibly have escaped how completely different would be the respect and security accorded to Germany among the nations, [and] in what greater measure its influence and position of power would increase, should the constitution of the Confederation emerge, in a renewed shape and corresponding to the requirements of the time, from a mutual and unanimous resolution of all the German princes. Whatever experiences the future may hold in store for us, the Kaiser's conscience will always be eased by his declaration to the Kings that it depends on Prussia's resolutions today [if] the German confederation is to be elevated again to the height of its destiny, so infinitely important for the nation and its princes as well as for Europe's peace.

Source: H. Schultheß, Europäischer Geschichtskalender [Almanac of European History], vol. 3, 1862, p. 89f.

Original German text reprinted in Ernst Rudolf Huber, ed., Deutsche Verfassungsdokumente 1851-1900 [German Constitutional Documents 1851-1900], vol. 2, Dokumente zur deutschen Verfassungsgeschichte [Documents on German Constitutional History], 3rd ed., rev. and enl. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1986, pp. 135-39.

Translation: Jeremiah Riemer

first page < previous   |   next > last page