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Friedrich Eichhorn to Count Adolf Heinrich von Arnim (June 7, 1844)

This July 7, 1844, letter from Prussian Minister of Religious and Educational Affairs Friedrich Eichhorn (1779–1856) to Prussian Interior Minister Count Adolf Heinrich von Armin (1803–1868) makes clear that Eichhorn shared Prince Clemens von Metternich’s concerns about the liberalizing efforts of intellectuals, especially those in the Prussian Rhineland. In order to disseminate conservative government views more effectively, Eichhorn proposed founding a subsidized newspaper.

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Your Excellency, in a letter of May 22, has expressed the wish that I might assume the execution of the Cabinet Order of April 26, whereby Professor Bercht in Frankfurt is appointed to associate professor of education at the University of Bonn and a grant of 3000 thalers is approved for him to edit a new newspaper. I would be glad to fulfill this wish to the best of my ability, but would only be able to satisfy this request incompletely without the support and cooperation of Your Excellency and that of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. By making this most humble request, I shall presume at the outset to describe the viewpoints that, in my opinion, the editorial staff of the new paper should keep in mind.

The need for more space for the expression of public opinion has been acknowledged by the expansion of freedom of the press. This fact, which can no longer be altered, is the point from which the plan for the newspaper needs to be considered. It would certainly have been very desirable if, prior to the onset of expanded freedom of the press, one might have successfully considered the means for countering the anticipated attacks on the conservative principle with well-ordered and practiced defensive forces. We dare not conceal from ourselves that it is chiefly due to this lack of a reaction that this [conservative] principle has been steadily losing ground for three years. Today it should be asked what position a government paper should take in order to have the prospect of checking further advances of a disruptive liberalism. The [liberal] ideas that are trying to break through into everyday life do not, in and of themselves, find any starting point in the real circumstances of societal conditions; thus far, Germany has not even been a ground in which they [these ideas] might hope to prosper once they leave the sphere of theology and try to shape life. In this respect, one might therefore – from the vantage point of state administration today, as so often in the past – tolerate them as the product of a merely philosophical view of life. Yet it is these ideas that have become current for a large number of capricious and passionate literati, which they digest – in part, with highly skilled sophistry and in the interest of their own hopes and livelihood – with a tendency toward profaning the concepts and orders on which social life actually rests. It cannot be denied that they have succeeded in this, and to a degree that is not entirely harmless, through merciless and uninhibited attacks on the existing edifice of social institutions and the persons supporting them. But this most dangerous side of their work is also, in my opinion, the one in which they can be most readily discredited by the skillful unmasking of their dishonesty and mendacity. If I am not mistaken in this, the new newspaper would have to avoid the field of theory as much as possible and leave the various systems that prance upon this field to themselves; however, as soon as they venture into the arena of action – be it with critical sophistry or erroneous reporting – [the paper] would need to take steps against them with vast insight and composure. To this end, it seems to me, Professor Bercht is the right man. As far as success is concerned, I do not doubt for a moment that there are enough healthy forces in the nation that, given the current extent of the misuse of the press, are simply waiting for a worthy mouthpiece with which they can put forth their ideas.

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