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Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl: Excerpt from Land and People (1851)

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In 1848 and 1849 Rheinhessen was mainly democratically inclined. This province, however, would have been of an entirely different view if one hadn’t pushed Mainz into the corner with the building of the Taunus and Main-Neckar railroad, which benefited the artificial middle point of the region, namely Darmstadt. Similar facts could be claimed of almost all natural centers of trade and commerce, and linked to this are a series of remarkable experiences that we have had in recent years. A deep hatred has entered our revolutionary movement, a jealousy continuously expressed in a running battle of the natural, historical cities against the artificial cities, which represent a slap in the face of history. In a good many smaller lands, the thirst for freedom stemmed from the desire to be relieved of the burden of its artificial capital more than the desire to be rid of all of the burdens imposed upon the land by this capital over generations. This relates to the clear impression that, in so many old seats of industry and trade, radicalism reigns not only among the proletariat, but especially among the well-off business people; that in many former imperial cities, which once were the cradle of the genuinely conservative German middle class, now the destructive modern social teachings gain entry the most easily. The old complaint about the stepmother love which the modern state has shown toward the material blossom of these cities has found in the new political movement new fodder, and so has caused the curious distortion in party-building, whereby the propertied, wealthiest, most upright burgher goes hand-in-hand with the homeless, propertyless apostles of revolution.

When I speak of artificial cities and artificial national centers, I think about Karlsruhe in contrast with Mannheim and Constance, etc. I think about Stuttgart in contrast to Esslingen, Reutlingen and Heilbronn, about Darmstadt in contrast to Mainz and Frankfurt, about Wiesbaden in relation to Limburg, about the capital cities of the northwest German states in contrast to Hamburg, Lübeck, and Bremen and so on throughout almost all of Germany. The unnaturalness and eccentricity of the artificial cities under discussion here is not founded upon the fact that they exist at all as cities, for many of them are ancient. Nor does it rest upon the fact that they happen to be royal seats, which as far as I'm concerned can date back many long centuries. It rests solely upon the fact that one has tried to artificially elevate these cities to be traffic hubs, to be seats of industry, to be large cities. We find with the artificial cities exactly the same situation as with the small states, which would certainly have the right to exist, if only they did not aspire to exist as large states. And in fact the artificial cities are the proper bases and buttresses for the political fragmentation born of the existence of the many small states, as both have the same reason to fear the natural reform of our national conditions.

[ . . . ]

Source: Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl, Land und Leute (1851). Stuttgart and Berlin: J.G. Cotta'sche Buchhandlung, 1908, pp. 89-96.

Translation: James Sievert

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