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Samuel Pufendorf, The Constitution of the German Empire (1667)

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The great inequality of power among the estates also makes considerable contributions to their division. For due to a hereditary defect of the human race, the stronger despise the weak, wishing to subjugate them, whereas the latter have a tendency toward suspicion and complaints, sometimes brusquely emphasizing the equality of their estates-based liberty. The precedence of the electors, too, is a serious cause of conflict, since the princes acknowledge their standing only reluctantly, some of them charging the former with the unlawful appropriation of their office, while the latter eagerly fight for their rights and standing.

As if diseases were not enough, religion, otherwise the strongest bond between minds, has torn Germany into factions and immersed it in violent conflicts. The reasons for this lie not only in the hatred caused by differences in religious opinion and by the clergymen’s habit of excluding followers of a different faith from heaven, but also in the fact that Protestants have expelled Catholic clergymen from the majority of their estates. The latter are striving day and night to win them back, while the former consider it cowardice to give up property once it has been acquired. Besides, in the opinion of many people, the excessive power of the clergy is generally dangerous to the state, especially when priests and monks are dependent on a non-German head that never feels genuine affection for the Germans and would gladly see all lay persons doomed, provided that his entourage lived in splendid circumstances. It is obvious that this creates a special state within the state, and the state thus has two heads. Most people who love their fatherland more than the Roman church consider this the worst thing that can happen to the polity.

No less harmful is the authority of the German estates to enter into alliances not only among themselves but also with foreign powers; and this is occurring even more casually because the estates were expressly granted this right in the Peace of Osnabrück [i.e., the Peace of Westphalia]. As a result, the German princes are divided into factions, and the allied foreign powers get the chance to keep Germany in check at will, and, if a favorable opportunity presents itself, to extend their power with the help of their allies at the expense of the whole. For one seeks such alliances with foreign powers not only against other countries (that might be tolerable) but also against members of the Empire.

However, there is hardly any trace of the goddess of justice left in Germany either. To be precise, when a dispute among estates – and such occur frequently because of the great number of estates and the hodge-podge nature of their territories – is brought before the Chamber Court [Kammergericht], one can expect to see the end of the controversy only a century later. With respect to the Imperial Court Council [Hofrat], one fears that it does not shut itself off sufficiently from favors and bribery, and some suspect the court of being swayed too much by its seat at the imperial court. Therefore, in Germany, one’s rights are usually asserted by force of arms; those who have the power also decide the litigation in their favor, not shrinking from proceeding to enforcement either.

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