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August Becker: Excerpts from The Palatinate and the Palatines (1858)

In this excerpt from The Palatinate and the Palatines (1858), novelist and journalist August Becker (1826-1891) describes the geographic and sociohistorical features of this region in southwestern Germany. The region was infused with Republican ideas during the French Revolution; after the fall of Napoleon, it became part of Bavaria in 1816. Contrasting with Riehl's national conservatism, Becker's account sympathizes with a liberal form of German nationalism as advocated by many Palatines.

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And now let us consider the inhabitants themselves of this beautiful country, which in its mild climate forms a transition to the more southern areas. Like country, like inhabitants, which are, as it were, merely the spiritual expressions of a country’s character. Only cheerful, joyous, and richly blessed people can live in the merry, cheerful, and rich Palatinate. Even in their build, the Rhine-Franconian mold of the Palatines can be counted as one of the most preferred: thin, upright, and yet still strong figures generally predominate. The Palatines are on average the tallest southern Germans, and they supply the handsomest contingent to the Bavarian cuirassiers. Their smart appearance testifies as to their strength, but even more so as to their elegance and natural decency. It expresses the excitability, activeness, and alertness of the spirit that distinguishes these people. Their activity, their tireless diligence, their skill and elegance, coupled with natural intelligence and freshness of intellect, have long been recognized. And the Prussian officer who, during the war years 1793-94, wrote the letters about the Rhenish Palatinate was certainly correct when, astonished by the "flood of remarks of the cultivated intellect" made by a Palatine farmer, opined that a North German farmer does not bring as many thoughts and words to light in the course of a year as this farmer did in half an hour. The Palatines' love of property is joined by an entrepreneurial spirit; their particularly great love of cleanliness and order is accompanied by an appreciation for cheerful community living and for enjoying one's time. Palatinate hospitality has become almost proverbial, and the most touching examples could demonstrate its extent. For all their tolerance in religious matters, they think in strongly moral terms and, through the storms of past and present, they preserve a certain strength of conviction and a sturdy independence that clearly distinguishes Palatines from other peoples. All of these good qualities are admittedly accompanied by a number of less praiseworthy ones. Their love of possessions is sometimes overbearing, their ego is often more strongly developed than called for by modesty, and they often show off their cleverness. As a consequence, their eloquence, in itself unobjectionable, turns into a "screeching" which the big-mouth uses to attack everything, which knows everything, can do everything better, and screeches to death everything that did not originate in the head of this petty little lord of a screecher. The easily excitable character of these people then causes them to go too far and they no longer see reason, until they at last recoil from the consequences of their own actions and not seldom go back again in completely the opposite direction before coming to their senses.

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