Governments of the Deutscher Bund and of the Holy Alliance they watch over this movement of German youth full of ferment and ardor; Russia itself watches over it by means of hired observers, among whom is considered the playwright A. v. Kotzebue. But the students leave no opportunity to reaffirm their ideals and glorify their hopes. Some hundreds of them, coming from many universities, gather at the so-called Wartburg festival to celebrate the third centenary of the Reformation and the anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig: liberation from the spiritual power of Rome and liberation from the Napoleonic yoke; amidst shouts and songs, books by writers who are enemies of freedom and wigs and staffs of corporals are burned, symbols of regress and tyranny (October 18, 1817). Less than two years later Karl Sand, a student, kills the xotzebue in Mannheim. The crime appears to be proof of the existence of a revolutionary conspiracy. When the alarm has been raised, cover is made, and in Karlsbad, under the presidency of Metternich, a conference of German ministers meets to approve the dissolution of the Association of students and gymnastic institutions, the surveillance of universities, the limitation of the freedom of printing and installation of a commission of inquiry in Mainz. Immediately follows a blind persecution against the so-called demagogues of patriotism: L. Jahn is arrested, then released from prison and almost banned in a small town; Arndt himself is persecuted; he was left with the title of professor, but he was forbidden to lecture; Görres is forced to flee to Prussia; Gneisenau, Germany di Humboldt, minister of education, H. v. Boyen, minister of war, K. v. Grolman, head of the. Staff, and Hardenberg fall out of favor and are forced to resign. The reaction leads to the de facto abolition of the Stein law on the emancipation of peasants; especially Prussia, whose government obeys Metternich’s suggestions, takes a step backwards towards the Middle Ages on this point.
However, in some states there is no lack of precursor signs of new times. Already in 1816 the Grand Duke Charles August of Saxony-Weimar, one of the enlightened princes, granted the constitution and his example was soon followed by the southern states, Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden. The same thing does not happen in the northern states, since real constitutions cannot be called those of Hanover (1819) and Brunswick (1820), in which the privileges of the nobility are jealously preserved, while the king of Saxony remains absolutist and feudal and Frederick William III of Prussia does not keep the promise made in 1815 to give his people a constitution and a representative assembly. The king remains uncompromisingly faithful to the principle of his absolute sovereignty and Prussia as of now clearly shows that, not by indulging in liberalism, but by following a policy of military and economic constraint, he will put himself at the head of the German people. The formation of its army – it is the only country in Europe that retains compulsory military service and the Landwehr – and its economic policy – the customs law of 1818, whereby Prussia perceives from the other German states a right of transit in its territory constituted as a customs unit, heralds and prepares the German Zollverein of 1834 – already say that the unity Germanic will be the result of a politics of force and empire rather than the embrace of love between peoples of the same lineage.
Consequences of the Paris Revolution of July 1830. – We are therefore still in full reaction, especially in the North German states, when the July Revolution broke out in Paris. The repercussions of the Parisian events are remarkable in Germany; the constitution is again claimed in countries that do not yet have it or have it incomplete and ineffective; again the spirits are kindled by the idea of national unity. The Elector of Hesse must sign a draft constitution and is then forced to abdicate in favor of his son who refuses to swear on it; the Duke of Brunswick is exiled; the king of Saxony is forced to grant the constitution (1831); and the same must do the king of Hanover (1833), whose successor, however, four years later, renounces the pact between king and people. Prussia, closed in its rigid political system,
However, the July revolution immediately provokes in almost all German states a notable step forward on the path of acceptance by the principles of a constitutional regime and at the same time arouses and encourages widespread and intense liberal and democratic propaganda among the masses. popular thanks above all to agile and fervent writers adhering to the Junges Deutschland (see young germany). Börne, Heine, Gutzkow, Laube and alongside them Hoffnann von Fallersleben, Herwegh, Freiligrath and not a few others, doctrinaires or poets, agree in condemning the existing regimes and in advocating the light that once again comes from Paris. It is these writers who in one leap take newly born German political journalism to a height that will rarely be reached even later. The liberal-democratic movement, especially in the southern German states, where it is easier to preach revolutionary ideas, assumes clearly republican tendencies and attitudes and provokes immediate reactions. The Bundestag itself deliberates strict restrictions on freedom of assembly and of the press and on the so-called Putsch Frankfurt (1833), staged by the democrats, followed by other restrictions, the persecution of the main agitators who remained on German soil, the arrest of Gutzkow and the prohibition of the writings of the adherents of the Junges Deutschland.
Frederick William IV and the German hopes. – In 1840, according to answerresume, Frederick William IV ascends to the throne of Prussia, a prince who has nourished many hopes in the German people and is undoubtedly well-intentioned to meet the general unitary aspirations. The first acts also seem to confirm in him the tendency to free himself from the Metternichian systems of government of his predecessor, free many victims of the reaction and intervenes with a pacifying solution in the conflict between Catholics and Protestants (Cologne 1837). However, the high hopes placed in him are soon disappointed. Because, after all, he is an uncompromising legitimist. He has faith only in God and in himself; fearful of any egalitarian system, he is horrified by the name of popular representation alone. Together with the king of Bavaria, Louis I, he is the main representative of absolutism with strong romantic tints,