For this condition will always remain deficient, Germany will remain weak in its defenses against foreigners, internally fragmented into middling powers – one consequence of their formation is the loss of nationality, of the military spirit, the destruction of patriotism; interest is diverted from the general, from the large to the small administrative district of a tiny land, to the doings of small courts, whose multiplication at the same time spreads moral degeneracy, courtliness, servility, and destroys the sense of independence and autonomy of the individual.
But if I could recreate a state of affairs from the past, it would be the one under our great emperors of the tenth to thirteenth century, who kept the German constitution together through the mere nod of a head and gave foreign nations protection and laws.
The land between the Oder, the Rhine, the Mass, Switzerland, Italy, and the Austrian states would then form one large whole, which would contain within itself all the physical and intellectual elements necessary for a happy, strong, free state, and which would be able to resist the wild rustlings of France. A sense of autonomy would be reawakened in the nation, its powers would not be squandered on small matters, it would occupy itself with its great interests, and such a state of affairs is suitable to the wishes of the majority, who see their princes only as bailiffs of foreigners, [rulers] who strive to eke out their miserable existence through the blood of their subjects.
If the restoration of the old monarchy is impossible, the division of Germany between Austria and Prussia is preferable to the restoration of the old imperial constitution, even if it should prove necessary to restore the expelled princes, in order to spare their egos, and to place them into a federal relationship with the part of Germany that surrounds them.
[ . . . ]
Source of original German text: Freiherr vom Stein: Briefe und amtliche Schriften [Baron vom Stein: Letters and Official Writings], vol. 3, edited by Erich Botzenhart, newly published by Walther Hubatsch. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1961, pp. 742 ff.
Reprinted in Peter Longerich, ed., Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland, Dokumente zur Frage der deutschen Einheit 1800 bis 1990 [What is the German Fatherland. Documents on the Question of German Unity 1800 to 1990]. Munich and Zurich: Piper Verlag, 1990, pp. 44-46.
Translation: Thomas Dunlap