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Clemens Prince von Metternich to Friedrich Gentz in Perugia (June 17, 1819); Metternich's Reply to Gentz's Letter of June 3, 1819

In the following letter of June 17, 1819, Austrian Chancellor Clemens Prince von Metternich (1773-1859) responds to a letter written by his personal secretary, Friedrich Gentz, on June 3, 1819. Gentz's letter had reported on efforts to put constitutional limitations on the authoritarian rule of the European monarchies. Metternich decisively rejected these efforts and spoke out in favor of a coordinated effort on the part of European monarchies to strengthen their power.

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I thank you for your very interesting report from the third of this month. I share entirely the views of Adam Müller, and as I share these, I find myself encouraged about the course I have taken.

I am not surprised that the student nonsense is on the decline or has turned against something other than politics. That is in the nature of things. In and of himself, the fraternity boy* is a child, and the fraternity [Burschenschaft] an impractical puppet show. And I have never – to this you are a witness – talked about students, but have focused my attention entirely on the professors. Now, there can hardly be a more ill-suited conspirator than a professor, either alone or as part of a group. One only conspires substantially against things and not sentences. Admittedly, the latter can grow powerful, but this will never be the case when they leave the sphere of theology. Wherever they are political, they have to be backed by deeds, and a deed means overthrowing established institutions and carrying out "ôtez vous de là que me m'y mette."** This business is something that scholars and professors do not know how to conduct, and lawyers as a class are better at doing it. I am acquainted with almost no scholar who knows the value of property, whereas the lawyer caste is constantly meddling in the property of others. Besides, professors are almost without exception theoreticians, while there is nothing more practical than lawyers.

That the revolution might therefore be begotten at the universities is something I have never feared, but I am certain that an entire generation of revolutionaries would develop there if no limits were placed on the malady. I hope that the worst symptoms of the university malady will be prevented, and perhaps governments' disciplinary measures will contribute less fully toward this end than the fatigue of the students, the dottiness of the professors, and the different direction that studies will take – and all this of its own accord. This feeling, however, will never stop me from the progress I am making from above, and the only disciplinary measures that strike me as possible have [already] been taken.

When we get together, I can give you much reassuring information about the course of affairs, which I cannot share with you at a distance without an immense correspondence, and which even under these circumstances would have to remain extremely shallow and incomplete.

* Bursche: literally, a "lad" – but also the member of a Burschenschaft or student fraternity, a center of German nationalist, and at the time also liberal or anti-authoritarian, agitation – trans.
** "Get out of there so I can take your place": a cynical evaluation of the motive of revolutionaries – trans.

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