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Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, "The Constitution of Germany," unpublished manuscript (1800-1802)
page 2 of 9


But he who would try to learn what happens in Germany merely by studying constitutional law would greatly err. For the dissolution of a state is to be recognized primarily by everything going differently than the laws provide. [ . . . ] Because of these notions, the Germans appear so insincere; they appear not to admit anything to be what it is; [ . . . ] they remain loyal to their concepts, to law and the laws, but events do not correspond to them. [. . . ] The notion which includes the others is that Germany is still a state because it once was a state and the forms remain from which life has fled.

The organization of this body which is called the German political constitution was formed under very different living conditions than afterwards or now prevail. The justice and the violence, the wisdom and the courage of past times, the honor and the blood, the well-being and the needs of long-dead generations and of their mores and conditions are expressed in the forms of this body politic. The passage of time and the configurations which have developed have severed the destiny of that age and the present one. The structure wherein that destiny dwelt is no longer supported by the destiny of the present generation; it stands [ . . . ] isolated from the spirit of the world. If those laws have lost their old life, the present vital concerns have not known how to shape themselves into laws [ . . . ] the whole is dissolved, the state no longer exists.


This form of German constitutional law …

This form of German constitutional law is profoundly linked to what has made the Germans most famous, namely their sense of freedom. This instinct of freedom has prevented the Germans, after each other European nation has subjected itself to the rule of a common political authority [gemeinschaftliche Staatsgewalt] from doing the same. The obstinacy of the German character has not yielded to the point where the separate parts would sacrifice their particular interests for the whole society, where all would be united in one general body and where freedom might be achieved in common with free subjection to the supreme political authority.

[ . . . ] The supreme political authority was originally, among European nations, a general power of which each had a kind of free and personal share. The Germans have refused to transform this free personal share which was dependent upon arbitrary force into the free share, not dependent upon arbitrary force which consists of the general enforcement of laws. Their condition even lately is that of a state of arbitrariness, not contrary, but without law. The later situation follows from the earlier one where the nation, without being a state, constituted a people. During that time of the old German freedom, the individual depended upon himself in life and activity. He had his honor and his fortune, depending upon himself, not upon a class. [ . . . ] He belonged to the whole as a result of mores, religion, an invisible living spirit and a few major interests. For the rest, he did not allow himself to be restricted by the whole. [ . . . ]

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