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Speech of Friedrich Julius Stahl against the Repeal of the Prussian Constitution (1853)

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In the matter itself, I thoroughly respect the weight of the motives on the part of the gentleman proposing the motion; he is moved by devotion to the old Prussian kingdom, to the old constitution and history of this country; he is also moved by the nature of our constitution. It is true, the constitution has its origins in the battles on the barricades; it takes its substance from the first work of the Constitutional Committee of the National Assembly; it takes its form and, in many cases, its idioms, from the revolutions of 1791 and 1848, which are certainly also the suitable expression of the spirit of these revolutions. They would certainly cause profound damage to this country if they did not fortunately neutralize themselves for the most part. If the provisions about ministerial responsibility, the provisions about the school system were carried out, this would be a serious disaster. One could say that in many respects, our constitution is only a possibility because it is not a reality. (Bravo and merriment.)

The constitution is a memorial to Prussia's humiliation, and as much as one needs to be aware of its reputation as law and as sworn law, one must also be aware that in many respects it cannot hold up when measured against a higher and more sacred law. Regardless of this, I cannot agree with the gentleman proposing the motion, and I support the motion to proceed to the daily agenda.

That a legal condition originated from an uprising is not a sufficient reason to abandon this legal condition is something that has already been mentioned by the gentleman who spoke earlier: The Magna Carta, the Declaration of Rights, the acte of settlement in England stem from uprisings, yet no one would advise that country to dispose of them. Now the view of the motion's petitioner is that the constitution not only has its origins in a rebellion, but rather, which is quite different, that it harbors the principle of the revolution. Through this constitution stemming from a revolution, it is said that Prussia has joined the ranks of the constitutional states. But what does that mean, a constitutional state? Where do we end up if we use schoolboy phrases to negotiate parliamentary matters? (Bravo!)

Is the Swedish constitution, is our former United Diet, is our current constitution, lacking ministerial responsibility and the right to refuse taxation, a constitutional state? I am asking about the concept of such [a constitutional state]; it should reside in the division of powers. As has already been remarked, under the division of powers – which constitutional doctrine invented, and which is entirely reprehensible – [what was] understood was, and is, nothing other than that the Chamber is the legislative power and the King the executive; but no one has claimed that the state parliament's cooperation with the Crown on legislation is a division. In the Swedish constitution, in the German Imperial constitution, this kind of cooperation takes place, and these are indeed much older than constitutional doctrine. So, too, with the objection regarding the rule of the majority. I am in the curious position here of having to defend the majority. (Merriment.)

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