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Count Friedrich von Beust in Praise of the German Confederation (1887)

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Not only in this sphere of political organisation, but also in legislation and administration, it was the smaller and not the great States that took the lead and did much that was beneficial. I will instance the construction of railways. The Nürnberg-Fürth line was the first short railway in Germany, and the Leipzig-Dresden, afterwards continued to Magdeburg, was the first long one. I was Secretary of Legation at Berlin when the Committee of the Leipzig-Dresden railway was formed. How many times did I hear sneering remarks on ‘the Saxon wiseacres!’ The Minister of Foreign Affairs, who became later on my uncle by marriage, confidentially warned me not to have anything to do with this undertaking. And need I remind my readers how powerfully arts and sciences were promoted by the multiplicity of the German cities where Kings held their Court? It may be retorted that there is nothing to prevent the Minor States from continuing to pursue this beneficial course. But I must point out that there is more than one of the most important branches of legislation and administration in which they are no longer able to have a decisive voice. There is further a lack – from what causes I need not state – of that spirit of mutual emulation among the independent sovereigns which was so powerful in promoting many undertakings.

[ . . . ]

And how strangely has the idea of the Trias,* which I represented, been distorted! It is worthy of notice that this combination, [ . . . ] never received any sympathy in foreign countries, least of all in France. The French Cabinet perceived plainly what Germany was so blind as to ignore, that the third group could not be tampered with, and that it would be the best bulwark against special alliances with foreign Powers, such as that of Prussia with Italy, as it would then side with the Power not making the alliance.

[ . . . ]

As to the argument drawn from the state of Italy before it was united, there was really no analogy between Italy and Germany. In the former country there was no Confederation of the various States; each of them depended more or less on foreign Powers. Even Piedmont followed the lead of Austria up to 1847; those States which belonged to branches of the House of Austria did so naturally, and Naples oscillated between the influence of Austria and that of France.

* The scheme for dividing Germany into three groups, composed of Austria, Prussia, and the smaller States.

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