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Hegel and the German Constitution 50-56, 75-83

October 19, 2010

Scene from the Thirty Years War

Religion 50-56

– In this section Hegel starts by making a point on how the Germans had previously had a religious unity which meant the “princes, counts and lords could regard one another more readily and correctly as a whole and could act accordingly as a whole”(p 50)
– With the rise of Imperial cities, a civic consciousness developed which placed more importance on “individual interests without self-sufficiency or regard for the whole”(p 50)
-The new civic consciousness needed to be legitimized in some way, and the German character lead to the “innermost being of man, upon religion and conscience and firmly established the isolation of individuals on this basis.”(p 50-51) Hegel says that the separation into different states follows from the previous idea
-Hegel also mentions that the Thirty Years War and other wars of religion further isolated the states.(p 51)
-Hegel argues that the religious split between Protestants and Catholics was particularly brutal compared to other countries because there were already looser political ties in Germany and that the Catholic church in Germany reacted more violently because they were seen as the only thing keeping Germany united.(p 51)
-The result is that both religions agree to exclude each other from civil rights. Hegel mentions that one way this happened was that some Protestants were concerned about the Catholic church being supreme and this idea “prevailed and became an incentive to fortify the Grace of God with untold precautions and legal bulwarks.”(p 52)
-Hegel on page 53 seems to state the main idea of this section by saying “Religion is an even more important basic determinant of the relationship between the individual parts of Germany and the whole; it has probably contributed most to the destruction of the political union and to legalizing this destruction”
-What Hegel means is that the idea of itio in partes, the “right of one or other religious party not to submit to a majority vote.”(p 53)
-This lead to a separation of the minority from the majority that eventually spread to issues outside the religious sphere like “war and peace, the mobilization of an Imperial army, or taxation.”(p  53) These are all things that Hegel believes should be in the hands of the state monarch, not something anyone can disagree with.
-Hegel says that “even without resorting to politics, a minority, if it forms a religious party can obstruct the activity of the state.”( 54)
-Hegel says “but while religion has completely torn the state apart, it has also given a remarkable intimation of certain principles on which a state can be based.”(54) Hegel says there is still supposed to be a bond among people and “this bond must therefore be of an external nature, relating to external things such as warfare, etc. – like the bond which is the principle of modern states.”(54)
-Hegel is saying that the state is responsible for things like warfare and foreign diplomacy, religion is also part of the state because of the way religion has become interwoven with constitutional law. Hegel says this is “admittedly contrary to the principle of the states independence from the church…but this principle is in fact recognized, because different religions really are present and Germany really is supposed to be a state.”(54)
– Hegel points out one more division caused by religion, which is how should a prince vote in the Diet, their own religion or the religion of the territory he represents? Hegel mentions how different states had different ways of deciding how the vote was decided. One was to have the prince decide, but another was to have a territorial diet to decide. Hegel disagrees with this idea saying “so too has this true and genuine principle that it is the territory which confers the power and the right to vote contributed to the dissolution of the German Empire.”(p 55-56)
-Hegel is saying that the head of the state should be the one deciding things, not a democratic body, as that will lead to disunity amongst the whole.
-Hegel sees the religious disunity of Germany as a serious threat to the creation of a state in Germany like that in France. The former religious unity that Germany enjoyed allowed it to form a central state controlling things like an army and taxation. For Hegel the only way to get around the different religions is the creation of an external body which focuses on external issues such as war.

The Formation of National States, 75-83

-in this section Hegel discusses the formation of Nation States such as France in comparison to Italy, which he sees as similar to Germany.
-Hegel begins by saying that without the Peace of Westphalia none of the parts of Germany would be independent and that they could not have achieved independence on their own. Hegel says that “their territories were in the despotic hands of Ferdinand, with no possibility of resistance.”(p 75)
-Hegel mentions Cardinal Richelieu and how he is able to form a modern state in France, while Germany is unable to. Hegel mentions that both France and Germany “have the same two principles of dissolution.”(p 75) Hegel goes on to say that “In France Richelieu destroyed these principles (the great nobles, and the Huguenots) completely and thereby it [France] raised to be one of the most powerful states.”(75-76)
– In Germany, Richelieu acted in a different manner, instead gave these principles free reign, which lead to the end of Germany as a state.
– Hegel says that France was based on the principle of monarchy, whereas Germany is based on the principle of forming a mass of distinct states. (p 76)
-Richelieu was able to battle the great nobles, and win, forcing them the great nobles to accept the “necessary principle of the unity of the state and made political officers dependent on the state”(p 76)
-Richelieu defeated the Huguenots by combating their armies, and destroying the league they had formed. But what Richelieu did was allow freedom of religion, and granted them the same civil and political rights which Catholics received.(p 77) However in the Peace of Westphalia, France forces Germany to have religion be what determines civic and political rights in their country, which further destabilizes it.

Niccolo Machiavelli

-Next Hegel turns to a discussion of Italy and Machiavelli, who Hegel agrees with and defends from criticisms.
-Italy was once ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor along with Germany, but Hegel says it was the desire of the Emperor to maintain power in both countries destroyed their power in both.(p 77-78)
-Every point of Italy is sovereign and the state is no more. The first of the many similarities are pointed out here between Italy and Germany, in this case  the first Hegel mentions is that the different rulers of the parts of Italy had different ambitions and they would ally with different powers depending on what would benefit them.
2. Like Germany during the Thirty Years War, Italy became a theatre for foreign powers to battle for control. The result of these wars is that the different parts of Italy are no longer totally sovereign and are under the control of other powers.9p 780
3. Smaller states were absorbed by larger neighbours, but even the most powerful of the Italian states, Venice, still has its sovereignty taken away by a French General’s adjudant. (p 79)

– From this point, Hegel moves from the discussion of Italy to the discussion of Machiavelli, of who he agrees with and approves. For Hegel, Machiavelli’s main project is the establishment of Italy as a single state with one prince ruling over it.(p 79)
-Hegel also defends Machiavelli from criticisms, and argues that you have to read Machiavelli in his correct context by looking at the history of Italy, as Hegel outlined.
-Hegel defends Machiavelli from the criticism that his methods are described as abhorrent by saying that what one person does to another may be abhorrent, but if done from one state to another it can be just and that the worst crime against the state is anarchy.(p 81) Hegel goes on to say that if a state fighting anarchists is abhorrent, then every death penalty or prison sentence must be called abhorrent as well.(p 81)
-Hegel also mentions Cesare Borgia, who was the bastard son of a pope.  Machiavelli hoped Borgia would be the one to unite Italy within a single state, but he was killed before this could really be accomplished.(p 82)
-Hegel ends this section by noting that Machiavelli’s works are forgotten because the public thinks his methods are too harsh, so they pretend that Machiavelli is not saying what he actually thinks, but exaggerating.(p 83) The way Hegel comments on this, suggests to me that Hegel strongly agrees with Machiavelli and thinks a similar kind of Prince would be needed to form a strong central state in Germany the way Richelieu had done with France. He uses the example of Italy, which experienced the same things Germany has during Hegel’s time, but It happened much early in Italy. Hegel sees Machiavelli as writing solutions to the problems Germany is currently facing, and instead of what most other people are  doing, Hegel takes what Machiavelli says to heart.

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