Landschaftsverband Rheinland - Qualität für Menschen

Foto: Bildleiste von Szenen

Schrift: größer/kleiner

The Rhineland under the Prussians (from 1815)


"Rheinischer Merkur" printed for the first time:
the first political newspaper in Germany demands an independent, parliamentary State with a written constitution. (23rd Jan.)
Published by Joseph Görres in Koblenz, the "Rheinischer Merkur" appears from 23rd January 1814 at the instigation of the Prussian government, which intends to counteract the „Rheinische Gallophilie" two-day newspaper (friendly to the French). Although the much-read „Rheinischer Merkur" obediently showed a patriotic attitude, its defence of press freedom and support for a constitutional State and the sovereignty of the people soon arouses suspicion in Berlin. As publisher, Görres – a former Jacobin who would convert back to Catholicism in 1821 – makes the newspaper the mouthpiece of a constitutional German Empire with the Catholic Habsburgs. Thereby he is counteracting efforts in Prussia aimed at a German Empire under the Protestant Hohenzollerns. In December 1815 Görres once again incurs the wrath of the King and the aristocracy east of the river Elbe, when he reproaches the "Reaktion", meaning the uncompromising advocates of the corporate State without Parliament or constitution, for "dragging their hunted ghost up again, their old Prussian grandeur in all its dryness and objectionable severity." Hardly two years later, the „Rheinischer Merkur", whose "press insolence" had repeatedly infuriated Friedrich Wilhelm III is banned on 3rd Januar 1816, and finally closed down on 18th January. Görres avoids imprisonment by emigrating to Switzerland.

Rhenish Militias: after the formation of a home guard, the so-called "Banner of the Siebengebirge" (1813) a defence force of the "German Lower Rhine" is raised. (2nd Apr.)

King's Promise:
Friedrich Wilhelm III promises to accept a constitutional charter and an advisory Parliament of Estates. (22nd May)

Act of the Vienna Congress: Berg and most of the regions on the left bank of the Rhine become Prussian. As parts of the Rhine Province (formed in 1824) they belong to the German Bund. (9th Jun.)

Toleration of the Rhenish Local Regulations:
the attempt to introduce Prussian municipal regulations in the Rhineland founders because of resistance from the local authorities. (1st Jan.)
The municipal regulations of 1808, introduced into the eastern part of Prussia, grant differing degrees of independence to local authorities, depending on whether they are towns or country districts. The towns are now freer from State interference than the villages. On the other hand, at the Rhine the French occupation had treated all local authorities equally. Moreover, the Prussian municipal regulations grant the local authorities the right to elect their mayor, whereas the Rhenish-French rules provide for their appointment by the government. In October 1816, when  Prussia's Interior Minister announces the introduction of modified municipal regulations in the Rhineland, the authorities of the provinces Jülich-Kleve-Berg and Lower Rhine strictly reject them. They refer to the fact that in the Rhineland the structural gap between town and country is considerably narrower than in the East and a legal-social hierarchy between the landed aristocracy and dependent small farmers did not exist. Therefore towns and villages should be legally brought into line. The struggle between State and provinces ends with the status quo: the Rhenish-French local government constitution remains valid and encourages the cultivation of a special consciousness at the Rhine.

Customs Law:
Prussia becomes a unified customs and economic area. (26th May)

Toleration of the "Rhenish Laws": in the Rhineland initially French law continues, according to the King's edict. Thereby there is no unified legal system in Prussia. (19th Nov.)
Since 1st June 1794 the "General Law for Prussian States" has been in force everywhere throughout Prussia. It anchors the equality of all citizens in a civil code and very significant rights of freedom and ownership of property. The judiciary are fundamentally independent of any interference from the King, although in practice they are restricted in reaching their verdicts by "Cabinet Orders" and the State's protective measures. Since 30th April 1815 the Rhineland has been integrated into the Prussian administration, yet in the judicial authority on the left bank of the Rhine resistance is stirring. They find displeasure at the "special right of the aristocracy to the honorary positions in the State" and other differences in status between aristocrats, citizens and farmers in district law. In contrast, in the area formerly annexed by France the principle of absolute equality of the State's citizens is still valid. In addition, people here have learned to appreciate the old Frankish practice of jury courts, in which the people were involved in the dispensation of justice, as well as the fact that court proceedings and hearings were held in public. Compared to that, the customary written trials held behind closed doors in Prussia seemed to the Rhinelanders like a relapse into an absolutist authoritarian State. As there is no end to the opposition to district law, King Friedrich Wilhelm III finally gives way. On 19th November 1818 he decrees the provisional continuation of "Rhenish Law". Thereby Prussia declines into two jurisdictions of different laws. Just as in the question of local authorities' regulations, now the judicial system has also acquired a special status in „New Prussia" on the left bank of the Rhine, contributing to a characteristic Rhenish particularism.

Karlsbad Resolutions:
the authorities also persecute national and liberal spokesmen in the Rhineland. The press and colleges are strictly controlled. (20th Sep.)
A political assassination on 23rd March in Mannheim leads to the Karlsbad Resolutions. Headed by a "federal central commission for investigation into treasonable activities" in Mainz, the persecution of "demagogues" now affects innumerable bourgeois intellectuals and even aristocrats. Thus in Bonn as early as July 1819 the "father of gymnastics" Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778-1852) is arrested, along with the historian and writer Ernst Moritz Amdt (1769-1860), the scholar and politician Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker (1784-1868) from Baden, and Karl Theodor Welcker (1790-1869). After the measures are tightened on 16th August 1824, thousands of people become suspects and hundreds are arrested, some of whom are sentenced to death.
The Karlsbad Resolutions remain in force until 2nd April1848. The Rhenish press is censored by the State from November 1819. The establishment of the Mainz Commission contravenes French criminal law, which continues to apply on the left bank of the Rhine. According to this, nobody may be denied access to a judge without legal grounds, and every person under arrest must be brought before a judge without delay. Only a few years after most Rhinelanders rejoiced at their integration with Prussia, the actions of the authorities deepen their alienation from the Prussian State, which began with the conflict over municipal regulations and continues to worsen since then.

Rhenish Provincial Constitution:
it ignores the importance of movable property for the Rhenish economy and violates the principle of equality among the State's citizens. (27th Mar.)

July Revolution in France / Independence of Belgium:
the victory of sovereignty of the people, a constitutional state and parliamentarianism in neighbouring countries encourages the politicization of Rhinelanders. (2nd Aug./4th Oct.)

Tightening of the Karlsbad Resolutions:
after the Hambach Festival of freedom, unity and free parliaments, associations, meetings and petitions are forbidden. Censorship of the press escalates. (28th Jun./5th Jul.)

German Customs Union:
the Rhineland becomes part of the Prussian-run customs union. (1st Jan.)

Autonomy of Rhenish Knights:
30 Catholic aristocratic families are allowed to determine the hereditary rights of their children themselves, at variance with the Rhenish-French codex. (21st Jan.)

Succession to the Throne:
popular at the Rhine,  Friedrich Wilhelm IV becomes King of Prussia. (7th Jun.)

 "Communist Manifesto": Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels publish their radical social criticism in London. (Feb.)  

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