The power of the emperor should be expanded, he should be put in a position to exercise sovereignty; [this can be done] by granting imperial immediacy, once again, to all the members of the Empire who had it in accordance with the Reichsdeputationsschluß of 1803, by restricting the states to the borders of that time, for it was the great German states that joined France through neutrality and alliance treaties and withdrew from their obligations toward Germany, not the smaller ones, who adhered strictly to the old constitution and expected their salvation to come from this very adherence. [ . . . ]
Moreover, the power of the estates should be weakened, they should be deprived of the right to make war and peace, and this right should be transferred to the emperor and the Reichstag.
The emperor should be given the right of executive power, that is, supervision of the Imperial Courts, their visitation, the direct management of relations with foreign powers, of military affairs, and the Imperial Treasury. He alone should appoint the generals, the general staff, the commissars. In the small states, those, for instance, with fewer than three thousand people, he is directly responsible for organizing the military; in the larger states, he oversees this process.
[ . . . ]
If Austria were to receive the Imperial dignity thus strengthened, her power would be significantly increased. It is advisable to entrust it to her in order to bind her interest to Germany and because of the long occupancy and the custom of her people. But Prussia, too, must not be alienated from Germany, it must be given sufficient power to contribute to its defense, without overtaxing its powers and placing its political existence at risk – it must become powerful and independent. In Prussia, the German spirit is freer and purer than in Austria, which is mixed with Slavs and Hungarians, surrounded by Turks and Slavic nations, on whose account Austria’s progress would have certainly been made more difficult, even if its progress had not also been disrupted in the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries by intellectual pressure and intolerance. [ . . . ]
Prussia remains a state that is important to Europe, especially to Germany, on account of its geographic location, the spirit of its inhabitants, its government, the extent of its acquired education. The necessity of its restoration has been recognized by Russia, Austria, and England, but without its internal strengthening, its restoration is of no value and no significant success. Prussia has paid dearly for the political indifference it showed since the Peace of Basel, and it has repurchased with its noblest blood its claim to its old military glory and an honorable place among the nations. [ . . . ]
Source of original German text: Freiherr vom Stein: Briefe und amtliche Schriften [Baron vom Stein: Letters and Official Writings], vol. 4, edited by Erich Botzenhart, newly published by Walther Hubatsch. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1963, pp. 242 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. 47-50.
Translation: Thomas Dunlap