7. Another flaw lies in the fact that our princes in Mainz are elected from the cathedral chapter. What kind of people are these? I do not fail to acknowledge the merits of some among them. Most canons, however, are ignorant people, who do nothing more than stuff themselves, drink, and whore. They are not accustomed to work, and what they are to receive they are given without any effort on their part. How can one expect wise government from such people, how can one believe that such priests of the belly can judge the needs of the subject? – Most electors of Mainz thought about how to enrich their family, for which they built palaces and heaped up capital – When a new elector comes to power, everything is topsy-turvy; in part because the new prince wants to make a show of himself but usually does not know how to do it, in part because now a different aunt or a different cousin has the say. And so you can most certainly expect that if a new lord assumes the government, nearly all the good things the predecessor may have put in place will be suppressed again.
8. A third flaw is that our princes were clerics. Prince and priest do not belong together, however. Jesus told the Jews who wanted to make him king: My kingdom is not of this world. You would find it ludicrous if I told you about a land in which the cathedral chapter was made up entirely of physicians, and where the elector necessarily always had to be a physician. It is exceedingly dangerous, however, to combine the spiritual and the worldly honor. He who has the worldly power in his hands all too readily abuses the spiritual power in an evil way. Coercion of conscience is introduced, and the people must simply believe what the gracious lord deems good. With one hand the lord cleans out the people’s purse, with the other he gives them a blessing. He makes it so that the people believe him to be a true successor to the apostles whom the Lord God appointed, endowed with special power, and whom they must obey blindly. If the gracious lord has got it to that point, he can do what he wants. See, that is why Jesus did not want to combine the spiritual with the worldly power. He wanted each priest to support himself with his work, just as the apostles were all artisans and continued to pursue their craft. The Lord Jesus, were he to be resurrected here among us, would surely find fault with the fact that people who call themselves his successors keep a large guard, chamberlains, generals, stablemen, heiducks, and so forth, when he, the Son of Man, hardly had a place to lay down his head. Imagine, I ask you again, imagine a successor of Christ on earth who comes rolling along in a state carriage, and who so degrades humans dressed like fools that they must run ahead of him like dogs.
And so I believe I have shown that it is unwise to place the government into the hands of a single person, especially a priest.
[ . . . ]
Source: Georg Wedekind, “Anrede an seine Mitbürger,” gehalten in der Gesellschaft der Volksfreunde zu Mainz [“Appeal to Fellow Citizens,” delivered to the Society of the Friends of the People in Mainz] (October 27, 1792), in C. Träger, ed., Mainz zwischen Rot und Schwartz [Mainz between Red and Black]. Berlin: Rütten & Loening, 1963, pp. 161-67.
Reprinted in Jost Hermand, ed., Von deutscher Republik 1775-1795. Texte radikaler Demokraten [Of the German Republic 1775-1795. Texts by Radical Democrats]. © Insel Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1968, pp. 142-48.
Translation: Thomas Dunlap