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Speech of Friedrich Julius Stahl against the Repeal of the Prussian Constitution (1853)

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If the constitution were of the kind such that this assembly, voting by majority, would have preponderance over the king, then I would have to agree with the gentleman proposing the motion; if, however, this assembly is profoundly subordinated to the authority of the king, then it is indeed impossible to find anything offensive in its passing resolutions according to a majority of votes. Under the old, venerable Imperial constitution, decisions were made in the Electors' Council, in the Council of Princes, and in the Curia of Counts according to majorities; should this constitution therefore be called revolutionary?

But the entire motion, explained this way, exists on purely academic terrain indeed. Everything that has been said today "for" and "against" could just as well be said in its entirety at any philosophical faculty or law school doctoral defense. (Bravo!)

I say for the most part! Only, here we are not faced with the question of whether the constitution should be adopted; if that were the question, then I would certainly have more serious doubts than the gentleman who spoke before me about proceeding from the earlier condition of absolute monarchy into one of restricted [monarchy] whilst the entire material for this, the structure of society, the historical traditions, are lacking. I would be the last person to offer my approval for trading the previous monarchy for the current constitution as is. Only, the issue at hand here is not adopting it, but rather doing away with it. The constitution has already been in existence for three years, circumstances have been regulated by it, laws based on it, rights acquired through it; is it such an easy thing to root it out all of a sudden? Have the gentlemen proposing the motion, for example, even considered this one thing, do they also want to strike out the rights of the Protestant and the Catholic Church, which the constitution guarantees; do you believe that this would go down well across the country, or do you want to negotiate and settle this specifically in advance, and through such a debate – if I may avail myself of an expression from the gentleman proposing the motion* – while perhaps not exactly sinking the probe into a painful wound, then at least into the most sensitive parts of the body of the state? Have you even considered what kind of general condition would arise for constitutional law, whether it might perhaps be the United Diet? This [parliamentary body – the United Diet] dissolved itself in view of a future provincial representation; that it might rise up again of its own accord I dare not venture to assert. Should it therefore now, as a result of that conditional declaration, unconditionally come to an end with nothing to take its place? The constitution of Prussia, be it good or bad, does have a history, and offhandedly giving up something with a history without specific proposals for a replacement is something I would not want to call "le contraire de la révolution," but rather the Contre-Revolution! (Shout: Very true!)

* From Prince Reuß in the previous speech.

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