GHDI logo

Joseph Görres, "The Future German Constitution" (August 18, 1814)

page 2 of 2    print version    return to list previous document      next document

To this end, the princes must recognize above all else that they owe the same love, loyalty, devotion, and obedience that they demand of their subjects to the totality and the fatherland, and that the same concord and unity that makes their particular dominion strong and robust can, on a higher level, make the whole entity, and thus their part of it, sustained and lasting. In the same way, the peoples must convince themselves that without a decisive, potent public spirit, the will of the princes for the common weal is powerless, and that if they sink into lassitude the entire entity must necessarily go to ruin. The peoples and the princes have successively braved the difficult test of these times, the former by first drinking from the intoxicating cup of French liberty, the latter by numbing themselves with the hemlock drink of Napoleon’s despotism, and both by seeking to build their liberty on anarchy. [ . . . ]

But in order that the public spirit – as it has now been happily ignited in Germany – may reverberate and hold and sustain the princes and support them in everything that is good, may find fault with the bad and work against it, it must be granted a constitutional voice in an estate-based constitution and an ability to exert influence on the machinery of state administration.

Where the state lives only within a few, the corruption of these few also leads the state easily to ruin, and the state rises and sinks with them; but where the totality devotes its attention to the state, the state lives an indestructible life, forever renewing itself. In the same common spirit with which the princes come together, the nations will therefore also unite around the princes, and thus, bound by such a two-fold power, the bond will become ever closer as the threat rises, and will stand ever firmer and more solidly united. [ . . . ]

A council with which the princes consult in person at certain times should exercise, under their chairmanship, legislative power, and should bring forward-moving, continually self-supplementing life into the constitution, so that the latter, established as lasting, does not become paralyzed, and lest we, imitating the French, wish to change it every year and become a laughing stock. [ . . . ]

The three pillars on which all estate-based constitutions are founded, Lehrstand, Wehrstand, and Nährstand [the teaching estate, the military estate, and the food-producing estate] remain the same, however, as those represented – however imperfectly – in the imperial estates of the old constitution, by the spiritual princes, the secular princes including the imperial knights, and the imperial cities. The new constitution will also be erected on this three-pronged foundation, which is as old as history, and which already appeared in this divided form in its most ancient beginnings and deepest roots. The heads of the three estates will surround the prince as participants in his responsibility, giving him support and advice, spurring him on when his power of rule wanes, blocking him where this power exerts itself all too harshly: mediators between the people and the government.

Source of original German text: Joseph Görres, “Die künftige teutsche Verfassung” [“The Future German Constitution”], Rheinischer Merkur, August 18, 1814 und August 20, 1814.

Reprinted in Peter Longerich, ed., Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland, Dokumente zur Frage der deutschen Einheit 1800 bis 1990 [What is the German Fatherland. Documents on the Question of German Unity 1800 to 1900]. Munich and Zurich: Piper Verlag, 1990, pp. 51-53.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

first page < previous   |   next > last page