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CHAPTER XII.: hannover—government. - Thomas Hodgskin, Travels in the North of Germany, vol. 1 
Travels in the North of Germany, describing the Present State of the Social and Political Institutions, the Agriculture, Manufactures, Commerce, Education, Arts and Manners in that Country, particularly in the Kingdom of Hannover, (Edinburgh: Archibald Constable, 1820). Vol. 1.
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Passive obedience characteristic of the Germans.—Former chief minister of Hannover.—Present ministry.—The chamber.—Provincial governments.—Prevent the practice of animal magnetism.—Magistracy of towns.—Power of the sovereign over them.—Character of city magistrates.—Amts what.—Police.—Government of the church.—Pastors.—Superintendents.—Consistoriums.—An anecdote.—Appointment of clergymen.—Revenues of the church.—Secularized convents.—Appointment of an abbot.—Character of the government.
Till a very recent period, it seems as if each generation had thought its own institutions the best which the wit of man could plan, and that they ought to be and would be the institutions of their posterity for ever. At present, however, men begin to doubt even their own wisdom on this point, and because every thing has changed, they argue that every thing must continue changing, that the institutions of to-day will want the wisdom which will only be acquired to-morrow, and that none can remain unchanged till the full completion of knowledge, and the perfection of reason.
Governments depend on opinion, and thus, notwithstanding the many efforts which have been made to preserve them in one and the same form, they have always varied in their spirit, at least so much as any of the sciences which have been subjected to investigation by a large body of inquirers. From these general facts, it is probable now that the sovereigns of Germany have very generally succeeded in abolishing most or all of the separate privileges of towns, and of the nobles, in beating down all other organized power but their own, in reducing all men to one uniform measure of submission, that they will be obliged to recede by the invisible but overwhelming power of opinion. Though passive obedience has long been one characteristic of the inhabitants of Germany, there is a few persons amongst them who are beginning an inquiry into the principle of obedience, and who are laying in a change of opinion a foundation for a change of government. It is a remark of one of their own authors, that “they fear every authority even when it does wrong, much more than they fear the reproaches of their own consciences for regarding public oppression with indifference.’ This is, in truth, their present character, but while one person is found with spirit to remark it, there is a hope it will improve. It is proper to warn the reader of the probability of the improvement.
The chief minister of most of the sovereigns of Germany, and of the members of the house of Brunswick, at a period somewhat before they became kings of Great Britain, was a person called a Chancellor, who was generally not a nobleman, and was always a man cunning in the law, attached to no particular country of Germany, pledged to no system of politics, except as he was a Protestant or a Catholic, and bent on nothing but to increase his own and his employers’ power. Such persons, by their knowledge of that foreign law which had then recently spread itself from the universities over Germany, were the great instruments of quietly taking from the nobles, and other superior classes, their exclusive privileges, of substituting their own beloved studies for the ancient laws of Germany, and of giving to their masters a species of power resembling that possessed by the great object of their admiration, the Emperor Justinian. Some few years before the accession of George the First to the throne of Great Britain, the ministry was formed rather more after the model of the French. The monarch appointed a cabinet-council, and ministers to different departments of the public service. The nobles had now learned how to conduct business, they alone were appointed to all these places, they have filled them ever since, and the chancellor sunk to be merely the chief of the administration of justice.
Since the accession of the elector to the throne of Great Britain, Hannover has always been governed by a council, now called the States and Cabinet Ministry. In important matters, it only executes the will of the sovereign; in matters of less moment, it has the power of acting from itself. With an absent sovereign, whom the subjects cannot approach even with a petition, but through the ministry, it is the actual sovereign. Munchausen, who was the chief of the cabinet under George the Second, is the only minister who seems to have at all merited the notice of the writers of history. Much of his fame arises from his having been the actual founder, under his master, of the University of Göttingen. Learned men are exposed to the influence of wealth like other men, and they praise and honour whatever they think promotes the advantages of their sect. The monarch who now wishes for most glory, should probably establish many Universities.
The Duke of Cambridge is at present the president of the Cabinet Ministry; and, with the title of Governor-General, he is the chief of the government. The members of this cabinet ministry have all the titles of excellence. Claus. von der Decken, Count Munster, who resides in London, as the minister of Hannover, Frans Dieterich Bremer, Count Hardenberg; Charles Fred. Alex. von Arnswaldt, are the chief ministers; and there are some subordinate ones. The ministry is divided into several departments, each of which has a secretary, who is not, however, always for each one a different person; and these secretaries are to be considered as the efficient men of business. At present finances are the most difficult and most important part of government; and the secretary of that department, Dr Rehberg, is usually spoken of as the most capable man of the government. He receives most of the praise and most of the censure which different people bestow on its acts. He has long been a conspicuous man, both as a statesman and as an author; and so far as regards political matters, he is more spoken of than the governor-general himself.
There is a branch of government to which we have nothing precisely similar in England, called the Kammer, Chamber; and which, to give a proper idea of its complexity, must be noticed. Its duty is to manage and administer the whole of that property belonging to the crown which is called domains. Under this is included regalia, certain rights to forests, to salt, to metals, to levy tolls, and some other privileges, together with rather more than one-sixth of the whole land of the ancient dominions, without including that which did belong to religious corporations, and which is now under the control of the monarch.
The Duke of Cambridge presides over the Chamber also; it is further under the control of one of the ministers, and has, as the active men of business, a vice-president and six councillors, with a great many assistants called cameralen, secretaries, writers, and other people. It possesses subordinate officers, composing sorts of colleges for the local government of the royal property in most of the provinces. The greater part of the persons employed in the administration of justice in the country are appointed by it. A large body of officers for the mines and for the forests, regularly organised into account-keeping and superintending, into riding and walking, with all the persons who superintend the buildings on the royal property, or who look after bridges and roads, are appointed by the Chamber. It is also a court for the decision of such causes as involve complaints against the tenants of royal property, relative to that property. It decides on any complaints made against its subordinate servants for the improper use of their power. It is an extensive branch of government separate and distinct from the ministry, though in some measure under its superior control. It employs a great number of persons. The great utility which is generally ascribed, not only to it, but to the crown, possessing so much property, is, that it is thereby enabled to provide for a large number of meritorious men.
There are five provincial governments. The first has its seat at the town of Hannover; and its jurisdiction extends over Kalenberg, Göttingen, Grubenhagen, Lüneburg, Hildesheim, Lauenburg, and some other districts. It is composed of a president and eight councillors, including a medical gentleman; and it has several secretaries and messengers.
The second has its seat at Stade; and its power extends over Bremen, Verden, and Land Hadeln. It is composed of a president and two councillors, with secretaries, and other officers.
The third is at Osnabrück, and governs Osnabrück, Meppen, and Lingen. It consists of a president, four councillors, and other subordinates.
The fourth has its seat at Aurich, and governs East Friezland. It is composed of a president and four councillors, with other persons.
The fifth is for Bentheim, and consists of one councillor and a secretary.
These provincial governments were first established when the country was recovered by the present government. It appears to have then formed the resolution to give to Hannover a general assembly of the several provincial states which it formerly possessed, and some of whose functions the provincial governments appear to have assumed. They are what may be called scientific governments, in which a unity of design and of purpose pervades the whole. Frederick the Great was the first, I believe, to introduce them into Europe. Revolutionary France followed his example, and her jacobinical steps have been followed by all the legitimate sovereigns, whenever they led to an augmentation or confirmation of their own power.
The powers of these provincial governments extend to every thing that can well be subjected to regulation; and they issue, in consequence, an abundance of orders. I have seen directions from them for the people to kill sparrows, how many pigeons a man may keep, not to steal trees, to preserve deer, forbidding straw to be exported out of the province; they order midwives to be placed, and sworn in faithfully to discharge their duties; they fix the sum to be given them for their service; they tell the farmers they ought to extirpate weeds; they direct agricultural operations; they ascertain the yearly produce of the land, that measures may be taken, by limiting appetite, in time, to prevent famine. In short, there is hardly an action of human beings capable of being prescribed, in which no regulation has been issued by one or other of the provincial governments of Hannover. There are some medical men connected with all and each of these provincial governments, who form a medical police for the whole kingdom. A similar medical police is established in most parts of Germany. There are general and sub-inspectors of apothecaries, physicians for the country and for the towns, all of whom are either members of this medical police, or under its control. The following is an instance of the manner in which its authority, and the authority of these provincial governments, are exerted:—
The chief of the medical police of the town of Hannover, and a member of the provincial government, is a Dr Stieglitz, who is rather a celebrated man, and an avowed and determined opponent of the doctrines of animal magnetism. This circumstance might possibly have had an influence on his determination, and on the conduct of the provincial government. In 1818 a Dr Ziermann, after having served in our armies, wanted to establish himself in practice in the town of Hannover. He obtained the necessary permission. It was his intention to follow the Mesmerian method of cure, and he is said to have noticed it to Dr Stieglitz, who had no objections. Some time afterwards, he wished to insert an advertisement in the Advertising Paper, which is, like every thing else, under the administration and control of government, but it was forbidden. He shortly afterwards received a notice from the provincial government, that he must state to it explicitly the manner in which he intended to magnetise and cure the sick; and that, before he carried his plan into execution, particularly, in assembling several sick to be magnetised at one time, he must wait for a particular permission. He explained, in a rational, clear manner, what his intentions were; particularly, “that he had the greatest faith in the use of the baquet, a large wooden vessel, somewhat less than a brewer’s vat, filled with water mixed with iron, glass, and other materials which is known from experience to be a powerful instrument for magnetising; that he intended to collect his patients, to the number of 12 or 16, sitting on little stools round this tub, for one or two hours at a time, to remain by them himself, to mark its effects on them, to wake them at the proper period of their somnambulism, and to be ready to help them on any particular occasion.” He was allowed by the government to employ what other methods he thought proper for healing the sick, but he was forbid to use the baquet, or to dispense health to numbers of people collected together.
Dr Ziermann is a regular bred practitioner, a man of good character, and of science; and in proposing to use magnetism as a means of curing many disorders, he followed the opinions of many learned and clever men in Germany, who affirm, with great truth, that it is equally possible for a baquet to produce powerful effects on people, as that plates of copper and zinc fixed in a wooden trough filled with an acid liquor, should have the effect of melting the hardest substances, and of destroying life. Though many persons, notwithstanding the premiums offered by learned bodies for the best classification of the phenomena of the magnetism of life, as it is now called, and the appointment of professors to teach it, doubt if there be any phenomena whatever, and amongst them, Dr Stieglitz, and the provincial government of Hannover, this is surely not a sufficient reason to prohibit its being practised. The believers are loud in asserting its wonderful and efficacious effects, which can neither be verified nor disproved, by forbidding respectable men to practise it. If it be a means of cure, why not let its benefits be given to the world? If it be a delusion, why prevent its exposure by prohibiting it? What evil can ensue from collecting a few fanciful women, or nervous men, round a large tub, which each imagines is to impart health and vigour? They who have only imagined themselves sick, may have their attention attracted from themselves to the apparatus of magnetism, and may become sound, from their curiosity being excited. I do not pretend to decide, if the use of the baquet is so beneficial as the physician standing amidst his patients, and imparting to them, by moving an iron rod before them, with a perpendicular motion, the vital and living principle; or if it be better that he should give this principle to them, by making circular motions with his flat hand, parallel to their bellies. The initiated indeed say, that the baquet answers the purposes of cure better, as it saves the practitioner from that exhaustion which is occasioned when the other methods are used, by the vital magnetism being abstracted from him, and thus supplied to his patients. Dr Ziermann was allowed to magnetise with his hand, and with iron rods, but he was forbidden to use the tub.
It was allowed to cure people by fanciful motions, but not by collecting them round a tub. The government was afraid the latter would work too powerfully on their imagination, and might disease instead of cure them. The duty of governments to take care of their subjects is extended too far when it wishes to shield them from the consequences of their own follies. Those who believed in the baquet, and in Dr Ziermann, might either have been killed or cured without the interference of government. If men be, as learned doctors say, “born to evil,” the ambition of protecting them from it far surpasses in madness the mad ambition of conquerors, and they who undertake it make themselves responsible for all the imbecility, immorality, and misery which are found in the world.
Hannover has not so scientific a plan for the government of its towns as Prussia. The number of the magistrates for every town, and sometimes their titles of office, are various. Generally, however, they are called bürgermeisters, syndicii, secretaries, and senators. In that part of Hannover, for example, which is denominated the old town, which contains about 12,000 inhabitants, there are two bürgermeisters, one syndicus, four secretaries, five senators, and one auditor, making in all thirteen persons, with a competent number of clerks and messengers. For the town of Lüneburg there are four bürgermeisters, and ten senators, one medical man, one protosyndicus, one syndicus, and four secretaries. These persons select the whole of the members and servants; they are called a college of magistrates, and the term magistracy will here be used to signify them. Their office in general lasts for life.
It is of importance to remark, that the bürgermeisters of all the large towns, the syndicii, secretaries, and auditors, are always jurisconsults. Thus there are not less than eight such persons in the magistracy of the town of Hannover, and not less than eleven in that of the town of Lüneburg. This class of men have had as powerful an influence in Germany as in other countries of Europe.
Almost all the towns have landed property, and as all have some funds or other to administer, the magistracy is generally divided into two parts, one of which is charged with the administration of the property, the other with the administration of justice. The two bürgermeisters take alternately the presidency of these two departments.
The towns of Germany were originally places of security and defence against the nobles. They were independent little states, and each had a magistracy of its own, appointed in general by the whole mass of the citizens assembled in their respective guilds. At present the appointment of the magistrates has either fallen into the hands of the magistrates themselves, or into those of some few of the citizens, and either directly or indirectly into those of the government. There is no town of any consequence whose superior magistrates must not be approved of and confirmed in their office by the cabinet ministry.
The sovereign of Hannover has, like the other sovereigns of Germany, given new constitutions or charters to many of the towns, and in doing this, he has not departed from the rules they have generally followed, of appropriating to themselves as much power as possible. It is at present the fashion for monarchs to make many professions of liberality; they promise to their subjects “constitutions suitable to the circumstances of the times.” They are probably earnest and sincere in these professions, but what they understand as suitable to the circumstances of the times, can only be known from their actions. To judge from some instances of their conduct in Germany, they appear to think that the growing desire for freedom amongst men, requires to be met by increased power and influence in their possession. It cannot certainly be desired that the sovereigns should restore the towns to that state of political independence in which they formerly existed, but while they contribute their share to the support of the general government, their local governments ought to be appointed by the citizens, and dependant on them. The following are examples of the new charters which the sovereign of Hannover has given to some of the towns of his dominions:
For the town of Hildesheim he decreed that the whole body of the magistracy, bürgermeisters, syndicii, town-judge, in all eight persons, with a number of assistants and secretaries, should always be appointed by him or his ministry. The town is divided into nine districts, and the citizens living in each of these districts elect one deputy, who holds his place for life. These nine deputies have each a seat and a vote in that division of the magistracy which has the administration of revenue. They are called on to examine the accounts for each quarter’s expenditure, and this is all the power over their own concerns which has been left to the inhabitants of Hildesheim. Deputies for life are like no deputies at all. Such people can seldom have any other motive but to turn the deputation so much to their own profit as possible.
The constitution which has been given to the town of Osnabrück has been made more complicated, but perhaps not less favourable to the power of the crown. The town is divided into four districts, and the magistrates select from each district four citizens, in all sixteen, and these sixteen citizens elect four persons, who are called representatives of the citizens. Their office lasts two years, when the election is repeated after the same manner. When a vacancy occurs in the magistracy, two of these representatives, with one person belonging to the magistracy, selected by it, in all three persons, elect twelve of the citizens, who, with the eldest of the four representatives, nominate three persons as proper to fill the vacant place; one of these three is presented by the magistracy to the government, which may either accept or reject him as it pleases. The four representatives have also a seat, and a vote in the chamber for the administration of the revenue, and they elect six other citizens every year to inspect with them the accounts of the city.
In the town of Embden, in the once free province of Friezland, the members of sixteen different guilds formerly elected from amongst themselves forty deputies, who were removable at the will of a majority of the electors. These forty deputies formed a sort of permanent council, without whose advice and consent the magistrates could not levy new assessments nor taxes, nor take one step of importance. These forty, with the magistrates, were also the persons who were appointed to the vacancies in the magistracy. As the limits of a town do not allow any thing to be done in it which affects the right of the people without its being immediately known to them all, and as the inhabitants of Embden had the power to remove their deputies at pleasure, the greater part of the power remained in the hands of the people. With such a constitution Embden had risen to a considerable degree of prosperity.
By the new constitution which the government of Hannover has given it, the whole of the magistracy, in all fourteen persons, was for that time appointed by the government, and at its head was placed a royal commissioner, who is always to be appointed by the government. He possesses a complete power of controlling the magistracy, and is placed solely to look after the interests of the crown. Five of these persons must be jurisconsults, but if there be a person found extremely learned in the administration of the town, that is, in the business of the citizens, he may, with the express permission of the government, fill one of these five places; but his functions are to be entirely confined to the administration of the finances. The forty deputies of the people were entirely swept away. In their place twenty-four persons were ordered to be elected for life. Every citizen who has a house, or 3000 Thalers property, who is of age, and belongs to one of the Christian confessions of faith, has a vote in this election. The day and the hour of the election are appointed by the royal commissioner. The town is divided into six districts, each district electing four representatives, and the commissioner deputes some one of the magistracy to preside at the election over each of these districts. The twenty-four persons so elected represent the whole citizens, of whom, however, they are declared to be perfectly independent, and whose affairs they may regulate without consulting them.
It seems a most curious proceeding to call some men the representatives of others, and, at the same time, to give them the power to manage the affairs of their constituents without consulting them. The order in the original is, “Sie sind berechtigt alle Angelegenheiten wozu sie nach, § 4 und § 33, herbei gezogen werden, ohne Rücksprache mit der Bürger-schaft abzuthun.”∗ Had the citizens themselves given their representatives the power to manage their affairs without consulting them, it would have been rather silly, but, on the part of the government, it was appointing tutors to the citizens, not allowing them to have representatives. These mockeries of representatives are not allowed to meet without the sanction of the royal commissioner, and their functions are entirely confined to the administration of the revenues of the town.
To fill up the future vacancies in the magistracy, these twenty-four representatives elect three persons, who are presented to the provincial government, which notices the fact to the cabinet ministry, which may either appoint one of the three or not, as it pleases. If it decides for the latter, a new election must take place. Such are some of the particulars of the new constitution which the government of Hannover has given to its newly acquired city of Embden.∗
The power of the crown, in Hannover, over the magistracy of the towns, is still further augmented by the members of the latter very often filling other offices immediately dependent on the will of the crown. They are commissaries for the army, or members of the consistoriums, who are the servants of the crown. I had an opportunity of knowing some of these magistrates, and always found them amiable well-informed gentlemen, only so thoroughly convinced of the excellencies of law, that they thought the world could do nothing without it, and without them. One of them I might hold up as the pattern of a very estimable old man. He was bürgermeister of a small town, with an income, possibly, of 600 Thalers a-year, and, of course, so paid he could live in no great state. He united to his knowledge of law, in which he was said to be eminently skilled, an acquaintance with most of the languages of Europe. He was a very good practical gardener and farmer, and might shew his flowers and fruit trees,—which he did,—with just pride, for they were all nursed into excellence by his own labours; and he might, with equal exultation, shew his collection of pipe-stems, for they were all turned by himself. He was seventy years of age, calm, sedate, but full of engaging anecdote and knowledge. Before meals, he pulled off his white night-cap and silently prayed, and, in the whole of his deportment, except the extent of his knowledge, he reminded me strongly of an aged Scots peasant. The air of the magistrate, however, when he slid his cap over the side of his head, till it descended to his knees, was full of humility, while the bonnet of the Scotsman was lifted off and held up with pride.
The first part of this portrait may recall to those who are acquainted with Aus meinem Leben of Goethe, either in the original or the Edinburgh Review, “the worthy Schultheiss, also a magistrate, at Frankfort on the Maine, and the grandfather of Goethe, who passed much of his time in his garden, sorting tulip roots, pruning, planting, or grafting, dressed in a long night-gown, and a full velvet cap.” This is a coincidence in manners in two distinct parts of Germany, though the nightgown is converted into a greatcoat, and the velvet cap changed for a cotton one. The portrait which Goethe has given of his grandfather, of his taciturnity, his equability of temper, and his employments, seems to me an accurate representation of the class of men to which he belonged.
That portion of the land which is the property of the crown is divided into what are called Amts, each of which in general comprises several parishes. Over the Amt, an amtman, who is a jurisconsult, is placed as magistrate. Land not under the government of some Amtman, or of some towns, belongs to the nobles, and they exercise the powers of government over it. The amtmen are appointed by the Chamber, and when they are noblemen, as they sometimes are, they take the title of Landdrost. When the latter are not themselves learned in the law, they have a jurisconsult, who is then called Amt’s assessor, placed under them. These persons have the power of enforcing the orders of government in their respective districts. They correspond strictly to no magistrates of our country, but resemble justices of the peace more than any other. The police of their districts is under their control. They have certain servants, or Vogts, who may be considered as the instruments of this police. They communicate frequently with the governments, both of the provinces and the general government, which are consequently well informed of every occurrence.
Each village, again, has what is called a Vorsteher, or Baumeister, who is the organ to expound the will of the superiors to his fellow-parishioners, and to forward the reclamations or complaints of the whole parish to these superiors. He is generally chosen by the inhabitants yearly; he is a farmer, or some other inhabitant of the parish; he has something to do with the administration of the church, and of the poor, and, on the whole, exercises functions somewhat similar to our churchwardens and overseers combined. As, however, the great portion of the land belongs either to the nobles or to the sovereign, this person, except in the marsh lands, is always whom they please.
Prior to the occupation of this country by the French, the police of the towns, which included the regulations of the market, fixing prices, giving passports, apprehending vagrants, and determining a great variety of small causes, and punishing a great many small offences, was exercised by the magistrates of the towns. It is now, however, regulated by three commissioners appointed by the crown, who have subordinate officers, with a regular corps of Gens d’armes. It is one of the new establishments, by which the expences of the government, and its influence, are very much increased.
The Protestant church of Hannover, and, generally, of Germany, is administered by parish priests, (Pastors,) superintendents, and consistoriums. Each parish has a pastor. The parishes of some of the towns, and some large ones in the country, have two. Both a clerk, Cantor, and sacristan, Kuster, are appointed in extensive parishes; in smaller ones these offices are united in one person, who is also very often the schoolmaster. The larger churches of the towns have organs and organists. The court has a chapel and chaplains. Some of the towns have clergymen more than the pastors, but, in general, each parish has its pastor, its clerk, and its sacristan, and these are all the minor officers of the church.
The superintendents are of two kinds, special and general. The former are also pastors whom the government selects from their having superior talents, or from any other motive it pleases. Their name accurately expresses their office. They superintend the conduct of the clergymen, and the discipline of the church, within a certain district. They communicate with the general superintendents, and are the organs for making known the orders of the superior powers to the pastors. Each one of their districts includes, on an average, ten parishes. There are ten general superintendents for the kingdom of Hannover, who are also very often the eldest pastor of some town, or they are court chaplains, or professors of theology at the university, and they are also generally councillors of the consistoriums.
There are seven consistoriums for the whole kingdom, all the members of which are nominated by the crown. They are composed of a portion of clergymen and of laity. Generally the provincial consistoriums are presided by some person who is in other respects a servant of the crown. That of Hannover is, however, presided by the abbot of Loccum, who is no otherwise dependant on it than as he may be made so by this appointment. The laity are generally jurisconsults. Of the consistorium of Hannover, one of the bürgermeisters, and a magistrate of the new town, are members. The consistoriums have also secretaries, who are jurisconsults. The secretary for that of Hannover is a brother of the celebrated Schlegel’s.
The consistoriums regulate all matters relative to the discipline of the church. They are the trustees of all the funds which yet belong to it. They superintend the business of education; they very often appoint schoolmasters; they have the examination of all candidates for clerical offices; and they lend their aid to the well government of the people. They give orders relative to marriage, in so far as to the restrictions under which the priests are to celebrate it, relative to baptism and confirmation, and they do what they can to convince the rising generation that there are many advantages and honours in becoming soldiers. When any person reflects what a German soldier is, there can be no want of words to designate the actions which the sacred name of religion is here employed to produce.
The consistoriums are also ecclesiastical courts, which decide in cases of divorce. Those of Celle and Hannover pronounced the divorce between George I. and his wife some few years before he was called to the throne of Great Britain. They are the judges in all complaints made against the morals of the clergy.
As an instance of their power and practice in such cases, the following anecdote may serve: The wife of a clergyman was delivered of a child some few months earlier than was consistent with the date of her marriage. The parishioners complained of their pastor. The affair was examined by the consistorium, and, in spite of his observing that the fault of his wife was not his fault, he was removed to another parish, of which the emoluments were less. As the character of his wife was known, there was some truth, as well as wit, in the observation of a lady, who, when this story was told her, said, It was a shame to punish the poor man for what he had not occasioned.
In all cases not strictly appertaining to the discipline of the church, an appeal may be made from their decision to a chief court of appeal, which is at Celle. The consistoriums are the censors for all works on theological subjects.
The inhabitants of some parishes have the power of electing their own pastor; in some the appointment belongs to nobles; in others to the monarch, as proprietor of land; some are in the gift of the consistoriums, and invariably the magistracy of the towns appoint the pastors of the towns. When there is a vacant place they advertise for candidates. All these appointments must, however, have the approbation of the consistoriums, as they are appointed to examine and ordain all the clergymen. The superintendents and members of the consistoriums are all appointed by the crown, and as these are nearly all the promotions to which the inferior clergy can aspire. The whole government of the church, with the disposal of many of its emoluments, and a great influence over the minds of the clergy, all center in the crown.
In the marsh lands on the Elbe, where the glebe is extensive, and the land of great value, the parish priests may possess an income of 2500 Thalers, or about L. 416 per year; but in general their incomes, with a portion of glebe land, house, &c. are between 300 and 1000 Thalers per year. The clergymen of the towns and the superintendents may have from 1200 to 1500 Thalers, or, at most, L. 230 per year. The richest member of the church, the Abbot of Loccum, who was formerly a prince of the empire, is said not to enjoy, including all his little privileges, such as the inhabitants of Loccum being obliged to maintain his horses, and wash his linen, more than 6000 Thalers, or L. 1000 per year.
The clergymen of all the towns are paid out of the funds of the towns; those of the country out of some land formerly ecclesiastical property, and now devoted to this purpose. Many of their emoluments consist in their glebe, which the people are bound to cultivate for them, but which they very often let for a sum of money, because they have found many inconveniences attending this forced labour. Fees are given them at baptism, marriage, and confirmation. Tithes are the property of the crown, of particular nobles, or are levied in the name of some town or religious corporation. In the houses of the clergymen which I have entered, both in the towns and in the country, I saw no marks of wealth, nothing of opulence to excite envy, and make the doctrine of content under poverty which they preach, less efficacious from their example. In truth, though the tradesmen and farmers of this country are poor, they seem to have so much wealth as the clergy. The country clergymen are said to possess considerable influence over the inhabitants of their parishes, but this is entirely owing to their superior knowledge, and not to superior wealth.
In other countries it is thought necessary to support the dignity of the church, by much larger emoluments than are possessed by the members of the church of Hannover, and of the north of Germany. But the duties of the pastors, notwithstanding their poverty, are not neglected. Every person speaks with great praise of their conduct. They are described as a very learned body of men, who would not shrink from a competition with the clergy of any church of Europe. There are neither archbishoprics nor bishoprics in the Hannoverian church; there are no great prizes to fight for, and there are very few sectaries; there is no immense wealth to be preserved by intolerance, and the priesthood is liberal, tolerant, and enlightened. The simplicity of the form of this church government, when united with its efficacy, and with its poor rewards, as to wealth, compared with the hierarchies of the church of Rome and of England, may teach us the accurate value, for the purposes of religion and good government, of numerous and proud hierarchies.
All that has been hitherto said relates to the Protestant church of Hannover. An eighth part, probably, of the people are Catholics, who live principally in Hildesheim and Osnabrück, in both of which provinces they have a bishop, called a weih (consecrated) Bishop, who must not be confounded with the Prince Bishop, who is, whether ecclesiastic or layman, the temporal governor. It was only at the congress of Vienna these two provinces came fully under the government of Hannover, and, as a concordat is at present negociating at Rome, it is impossible to say what influence the crown will have over the appointment of these bishops. It is a matter of less consequence now than formerly, because the Catholic church no longer possesses much wealth. In both these countries the church property has been secularised, and the priests are allowed to have only such a part as is necessary for the support of a very small establishment.
The secularised convents, or religious corporations of Hannover, must be here mentioned, although they are anomalies belonging much more to the crown than to the church.
The religious corporation of Loccum must be excepted from this latter assertion. This was an abbey of the empire, whose independence was secured by the treaty of Westphalia, and whose members must be persons who have studied theology. They fill up vacancies in their own body themselves. The abbot is alternately elected by the chapter and by the crown. The living abbot has almost the power of procuring the election of his successor; and the last incumbent is said to have offended her late Majesty, by refusing to nominate the chaplain of some German chapel in London to be his successor.
This place is so valuable that the nobles have desired to possess it, although, in general, no nobleman has ever filled a situation in the Protestant church. Some individuals, however, of a sort of Patrician families, who possess the inestimable privilege of having the monosyllable von, the title of nobility, prefixed to their names, have been clergymen. The nobles of Hannover are said to have resolved on the death of the late abbot, who, to avoid as much as possible offending her late Majesty, never nominated any successor, to procure this place for some clergyman with a von; and then it would always have been considered as a place belonging to nobility.
So soon, however, as the abbot was dead, the prior and two members repaired to Hannover, and there choosing the present abbot, notified their choice to the government, and asked its ratification. It was refused, as all the members were not present. It was replied, the prior and two members constituted a chapter, and that they had already applied to Prussia, who was bound, by the treaty of Westphalia, to protect the corporation, for assistance. This convinced the ministry; and the abbot chosen by the prior, to the exclusion of a noble, was appointed.
There are 25 secularised religious corporations for both sexes in Hannover, exclusive of Hildesheim, in which the whole were abolished by the French, and are not yet reinstated. A portion of the former revenues of these corporations is given to certain persons under the titles of priors, or conventualists. Sometimes they are clergymen who are considered not well enough paid, but more generally they are nobles, or members of the government. The elected presidents of the nobility of Bremen and Lüneburg are, by virtue of their office, the former, abbot of Neuenwalde, the latter, of St Michael’s in the town of Luneburg. These are the sinecures of Hannover. Many of the places in the female convents are given to the daughters of the nobility; they amount to a small pension, and sometimes to a dwelling and nourishment. Nearly the whole of them are in the gift of the crown. That portion of the funds of these religious corporations not employed to support the conventualists, is given for the support of institutions for charity and education. The whole is administered by a particular chamber, called the Kloster Kammer, whose members are appointed by the crown.
Such is a rough outline of the executive part of the government of Hannover. The mass of the people have no where any thing to do with it. The clergy, as a separate corporate body, possessed of power and influence, has ceased to exist; and as individuals, its members have become, in a great measure, dependant on the crown. The influence of the nobility, and of jurisconsults, may be traced in the college form of all the institutions, and in the multiplication of offices to which they alone are eligible. Because the chief of the government has not for many years resided in the country, and has therefore necessarily seen, and heard, and ordered every thing through the nobles, and because they fill all the superior offices of the government, there has not been, for many years, any other power than their’s. The case would be different were the monarch to reside in the country. Then there would be no power that could oppose him; and when the customs of the people did not prescribe otherwise, he might be an absolute monarch. Whatever form and name a government may have, it is by its own acts, and by the customs and spirit of the nation, that its character can be determined. Hannover is in every respect a favourable specimen of what German governments were and are. It has long been celebrated for mildness, and attention to what governments call the welfare of their subjects. Spittler says, in speaking of the alterations which had been been made in administering the governments of Germany, “Thanks to the British sense of freedom; thanks to the praise-worthy Georges, that the writer of the history of the principality of Hannover must seek in other German lands for the perfect completion of that un-German revolution, which was first begun under the government of John Frederick and Ernest Augustus.”
John Frederick reigned in the year 1665. From looking at the history of the government of Hannover, I must give it, for the last century, the credit of great mildness. More instances may be found of its having attended to the wishes of individuals, than of its having been guilty of arbitrary oppression; but its college form is bad, and the government officers have been so multiplied, that they now form a large proportion of the numerical strength of the society.
There is a much greater evil in this than the mere employment of a great portion of the community in unproductive labour. Each of the individuals composing these governments is highly impressed with a notion of the importance of his functions, and constantly does something that he may convince himself, and other persons, that he has a vast deal to do. Each strives to outdo the other by the subtlety, and acuteness, and number of his regulations. It would be more beneficial to the community if every one of these persons were to be paid for doing nothing, than as they are now paid for multiplying regulations, and for extending them and the power of government to every trifling business of life. On this subject, however, the opinions entertained in Germany seem much at variance with those entertained in Britain. If there be only Zählreiche Anstalten, numerous institutions, multiplied regulations, and a continued watchfulness and interference on the part of the government, the Germans are satisfied that all is correct. Political economy means with them the knowledge of promoting the prosperity of the people by means of governments. If that general opinion which supposes governments to be beneficial be accurate, it can scarcely be possible that we can have too much of them. The conduct of the Germans is perfectly consistent with this opinion, and those nations only are inconsequent who, acknowledging governments to be beneficial, seek, at the same time, to limit their power as much as possible.
In its general features, in its numerous subordinate governments, in its minute regulations, in its extensive interference, in all the concerns of life, in its control over education and the press, the government of Hannover resembles the other governments of Germany. It may be taken as an example of the whole; some are a little more modernized, have fewer mixed regulations of ancient and present times, but in their principles, in their never-ending regulations, in their minuteness of interference, they all resemble one another. Their leading characteristic is, that they trust nothing to individual interest, or individual wisdom.
“No where,” says a respectable German political writer, “has the true difference between England and other countries been set in that strong light it merits. In England, the government neither can nor dare interfere in all things. There the people in the subordinate parts govern themselves. The king and the parliament have a superior power for occasions of necessity, but many duties of government that are on the Continent easily performed, are there totally impossible, because there is not in England such a host of officers and of governments as we have on the Continent.”∗ This is, in truth, the great difference between our country and the Continent. There every thing is regulated by a class of men set apart for that purpose, and who have no other duties to perform. But our subordinate governments are composed of gentlemen and tradesmen, who do not make governing their business. Not only are our local or provincial governments much cheaper than those on the Continent, but they are more beneficial, because they govern less.
There are some truths of much importance which may be learned from these facts. It is taken for granted, that the affairs of Great Britain have been better managed than those of the Continent, and it may then be affirmed, that the government which has grown up with our people, and in which they participate, is better and more useful than that which has been given to the Continent by the wisdom of legislators; and it may be inferred, that the affairs of every society can never be well managed by a class of men set apart for that purpose. I believe the administrators of most of the governments of Germany to be learned and accomplished men, who have endeavoured with good will to make their country prosperous. I believe also that, in general, they have been supported in extending the power of government by all the wise and thinking men of their country, yet it is now acknowledged that they have impeded the prosperity of the subjects, from governing too much. From this failure of wisdom, it is clear that the limits within which the power of government ought to be confined, and beyond which it becomes pernicious, are yet absolutely unknown; and when it is remarked, that the prosperity of every nation is in an inverse proportion to the power and to the interference of its government, we may be almost tempted to believe the common opinion, that governments are necessary and beneficial, is one of those general prejudices which men have inherited from an ignorant and a barbarous age, and which more extensive knowledge and greater civilization will shew to be an error full of evil.
[∗]Gesetz Sammlung, 3d Abtheilung, No. 72, § 30.
[∗]In Dr Bright’s Travels in Lower Hungary, pp. 90–93, the spoliation of Nuremberg by the Bavarians is described, which shews, much more vividly than I have attempted, the manner in which the sovereigns of Germany are disposed to treat the once free, polished, and powerful cities of their country.
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