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Karl August Baron von Hardenberg, "On the Reorganization of the Prussian State" (September 12, 1807)

Karl August Baron von Hardenberg (1750-1822), who was influential in the Prussian government before its crushing defeat by Napoleon in 1806-07, became chief minister in 1810 and leader of the reform party until his death in office in 1822. This “Riga Memorial,” which also reflected the ideas of Hardenberg’s reform-minded friends, famously advocated “democratic principles in monarchical government.” Class-bound privileges in access to official appointments and landed property had to end. Legal subjection of the peasantry had to cease. According to Hardenberg, the creation of a parliamentary “national representation” was desirable. The artisan guild-system had to fall; “national character” had to overshadow provincialism; and “the mass of the people” had to engage in the country’s military defense. In Hardenberg’s mind, free market (“laissez faire”) economic policies were needed; the same could be said for religious tolerance, restrained censorship, and the reorganization of local administration, including elements of self-administration.

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On the Reorganization of the Prussian State, composed at the request of His Majesty the King [Frederick William III]

I. General considerations.

[ . . . ] The French Revolution, of which the current wars are the continuation, gave the French an entirely new impetus with its bloodshed and storms. All the dormant powers were awakened, the miserable and the weak, outdated prejudices and failings were destroyed – admittedly, along with much that was good. France’s neighbors and the conquered were swept away by the current. [ . . . ]

The delusion that one could most effectively counter the revolution by clinging to the old, and by strictly following the principles asserted in doing so, played a special part in promoting the revolution and in giving the revolution its constantly expanding form. The force of these principles is so great, they are so generally recognized and widespread, that the state which does not adopt them must either look to its downfall or to their forced adoption.
[ . . . ]

A revolution in the good sense, then, leading straight to the great purpose of the ennoblement of mankind, through the wisdom of government and not through violent impulses from within or without – that is the goal of our guiding principle. Democratic principles within a monarchical government: this seems to me the appropriate form for the current Zeitgeist. We must leave pure democracy to the year 2440, if it is made for humans at all. [ . . . ]

II. External conditions.

[ . . . ] Autonomy and independence are now empty phrases.

How shall we get there again?

How do we avoid complete dependency? [ . . . ]

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