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1.A. Confederation or Nation-State?
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1. Government and Administration   |   1.A. Confederation or Nation-State?   |   1.B. Authoritarian or Parliamentary/Constitutional Rule?   |   1.C. Emancipation of the Jews   |   2. Parties and Organizations   |   3. Military and War   |   4. Economy and Labor   |   5. Nature and Environment   |   6. Gender, Family, and Generation   |   7. Region, City, Countryside   |   8. Religion   |   9. Literature, Art, Music   |   10. Elite and Popular Culture   |   11. Science and Education

Following the destruction of the old Holy Roman Empire by the armies of the First French Republic and Napoleon between 1793 and 1806, the reorganization of the governments of Central Europe became a major item on the political and diplomatic agenda. The famous Congress of Vienna, the international peace conference of 1814-15 ending the Napoleonic Wars, created its own distinct solution in the form of the German Confederation, a league of independent and sovereign German states. Although this German Confederation lasted fifty-one years (the longest governmental arrangement in Central Europe until the very end of the twentieth century, when the Federal Republic of Germany celebrated its 51st birthday in 2000), it remained a deeply disputed institution. In particular, there were persistent demands for its transformation into or replacement by a single, united German nation-state. The choice between confederation or nation-state was, of course, about the nationalist idea that one nation should live under one government but, as the following documents show, it was also about the place of the German lands in a wider Europe, and about the goals and purposes of government in Germany.

The first group of documents contains excerpts from the German Federal Act of 1815, establishing the German Confederation, the Vienna Final Act of 1820, which supplemented this initial document, and three of the more important decisions of the Confederation: the Confederal Press Law of 1819 and the Six Articles and the Ten Articles of June-July, 1832. All of these documents established the Confederation as a league of sovereign states, independent from each other and from the other European powers. They also, though, set down binding rules on these sovereign states, requiring them, for instance, to treat Catholics and Protestants equally, to have some form of representative institutions, but also to suppress freedom of the press and political activism.

The next three documents demonstrate nationalist opposition to the Confederation. Ernst Moritz Arndt (1769-1860), historian, author, and journalist, was a prominent opponent of Napoleon's rule in Germany and one of the intellectuals who first formulated modern German nationalism. His poem of 1813, "The German's Fatherland", was written in the wake of the defeat of Napoleon's armies and the collapse of Napoleonic rule in Central Europe; it would be set to music and sung countless times by German nationalists in the nineteenth century. The poem put forth a very different principle for the government of Germany than what was being decided by the diplomats in Vienna at the time of its composition. Note the way that Arndt established language and culture as the basis for a German nation-state, but also note how he proposed hatred of the French as another basis of that nation-state. Arndt condemned the German princes who had collaborated with Napoleon and whose sovereign rule was to be guaranteed by the German Confederation.

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