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Württemberg Democrat Ludwig Pfau on German Federalism (1864/1895)

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The notion of imperial rule carried from the Orient to Rome and disseminated from there across the Occident represents – in addition to the idea of the papacy, its worthy twin – the highly ruinous legacy of revenge that Rome bequeathed to its Germanic vanquishers. Just as the papacy, when stripped down to its pure principles, represents the absolute opposite of reason and the negation of intellectual freedom, emperorship is the absolute opposite of the rule of law and the negation of political freedom. These two fine institutions are mutually dependent and reinforcing: they spell the religious and political worship of idols, universal servitude, and the negation of moral dignity – in a word, the fight against everything that elevates the two-legged mammal to a human and engenders intellect from matter. For just as one does not give moral direction to people by imparting blind belief, one does not do so by imparting blind obedience either; on the contrary, one thereby suppresses the real essence of humanity, free investigation based on reason, and the essential character of morality, free will based on knowledge. This Oriental notion of despotism, which saw humankind chained together politically under the secular rule of an emperor in the same way that it was linked together religiously under the spiritual rule of the pope, has given to that force upon which history relies to carry out state-building a tyrannical character that mocks the natural law of family and tribal formation.

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Centralization and the divine right of kings prevail in Berlin just as much as they do in Vienna. Moreover, his majesty Non possumus*, the king and lord who finds his crown on the altar and behaves as infallibly towards parliament and the people as his ministry behaves irresponsibly, is basically nothing but a pseudo-Protestant pope and a czar from the Uckermark.** At the very moment Prussia became a great military power, it abandoned its Protestant mission, which, in its character, is inseparable from free investigation and federative formation. No less than the old Kaiserdom, however, it assumed a historical mission by forming a new center of power in place of the collapsing Reich governance. Yet just as the old emperors disappeared after the national purpose of their existence was fulfilled, reactionary Prussian rule must also step aside so that the great civilizing power of the nation can occupy its place. For with respect to the internal development of the German Empire, Prussian hegemony is not one iota better than the entire Roman imperial lot.

* “We cannot,” i.e., the formula of refusal used by the Roman Curia vis-à-vis the secular state – trans.
** A northerly region of the Prussian province Brandenburg – trans.

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