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Konrad Engelbert Oelsner, "What May Be Hoped for from Freedom" (1794)

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The priests will cease to be tyrants over conscience. Everyone may use them as they wish, to the degree that they find pleasure in sleights-of-hand and the conjurer’s arts, to the extent that they have confidence in the hocus pocus of the coffee cup, to the extent that he feels sick. The healthy man needs no doctor, and the reasonable man does not go to a quack. Education will be independent of them and therefore better, no theological monstrosities, no false concepts will be crammed in any longer, knowledge that we have to forget if we want to make our way in the world as educated people. Because in the future everyone will be working, each individual person will have less to do, we will thus devote more time to science and the arts, will listen to and watch more and more beautiful concerts and plays.

This is what we can rightly expect of freedom, what it promises to achieve, and what it will accomplish. In fact, if it pursues a different goal, I do not want it. There are people who want to deny us all culture, reduce us to only the most indispensable needs; they are fools chasing a chimera that can make many unhappy, and for which civic society is not destined.

Source: Konrad Engelbert Oelsner, “Erwartungen, welche Freiheit hoffen läßt” [“What May Be Hoped for from Freedom”], in Bruchstücke aus den Papieren eines Augenzeugen und unparteiischen Beobachters der französischen Revolution [Fragments from the Papers of an Eyewitness and Impartial Observer of the French Revolution], 1794.

Source: 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. 225-27.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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