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Georg Wedekind, "Appeal to Fellow Citizens," delivered to the Society of the Friends of the People in Mainz (October 27, 1792)

Georg Wedekind (1761-1831) was a well-educated physician who entered the service of the Archbishop of Mainz, one of the three ecclesiastical (Catholic) Electors of the Holy Roman Empire and the ruler of an important territorial principality in southwest Germany. Following the French occupation of the electorate in the course of the war of 1792 (pitting the principal German powers against France), pro-revolutionary activists, including Wedekind and Georg Forster, formed the Mainz Jacobin Club and proceeded to organize a democratic republic in place of the toppled ecclesiastical regime. Their efforts found considerable backing among the German population, which participated widely in the first broad-based modern election in German history, creating the “Rhenish-German National Convention” of February 1793, which sought to govern the new republic. But the highhandedness of French occupation officials and local religious conservatism, among other factors, weakened popular support for the new regime, which then was swept away in 1793 by the German reconquest of the electorate, in the wake of which the Jacobin activists suffered persecution. Wedekind survived to pursue a successful career as court physician in Hessen, medical reformer, and liberal publicist. Here he pillories the regime of the deposed Archbishop Erthal and urges, in Enlightenment rhetoric, the adoption of democratic self-government.

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I am having this appeal printed because my fellow citizens desire it, because I think that I must do so. A man who speaks every day to the people, as I do, should not be judged like someone who rarely appears in public. Moreover, it is not as easy to write in a popular way as is believed by many of the gentlemen who know how to write beautifully, elegantly, and sublimely.

I am trying to learn this, for otherwise I would be of little use, and I ask others that they also learn this soon and show me how to do it.

Mainz gains from a revolution, the Mainzers are duty bound to undertake a revolution, and anyone who counsels them to a mere improvement of their old constitution counsels them badly.

There are still some among us, my brothers, who say: Wherefore a change to our old constitution? We are content. Others say: a change of our constitution is impossible, or it would at least entail so many evil consequences that would far outweigh the good brought about by revolution. Others say: we do not want a revolution, no complete abolition of our old constitution, but merely its improvement. Finally, still others believe that a revolution, indeed a mere change of our current form of government, is impermissible and contrary to our duty.

I want to reveal to you all my thoughts about these things, and may you in return be good enough to freely speak your opinion.

First let us examine whether Mainz would gain from a revolution.

What I have I do not need to win in the first place. And so the question is again: Does our current constitution have flaws? – Already a few observations will convince you that it does.

Until now, our state of Mainz has been an elective monarchy, that is, it stood under the nearly absolute will of a prince not chosen by the people, but by a certain number of noble clerics.

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