1815-1830 Saxony, 1848-1870

Saxony, 1830-1849

In Saxony in 1830, the political situation was already tense, as the accelerated economic development caused social problems and made political reforms necessary; the administration under King Anton and Prime Minister von Einsiedel too conservative and inflexible to bring about the necessary change.
When news arrived from revolutions in Paris and Brussels, but even more from the revolution in Poland - a country Saxony, for most of the last century, had underheld close ties with - the desire for political change was articulated openly. The celebration of the tercentenary of the Augsburg Confession (July 8th 1830) was given an anti-dynastic rouch, as the ruling Wettin dynasty, in the country where the Lutheran reformation had started, was Catholic (since 1694). Demonstrations demanding for political reform (Leipzig, September) turned violent; soon, demonstrations were held in the capital of Dresden; city hall stormed and vandalized. Troops failed to restore order; there were fatalities (Sept. 9th).
In order to stabilize the situation, now measures were undertaken to implement a reform policy; Minister von Einsiedel stepped down, newly appointed Minister of the Interior BERNHARD AUGUST VON LINDENAU became the leading figure. Troops were withdrawn from the residence city, the Estates called to assemble in order to discuss reforms, censorship tegulations laxened. Elections were held in the cities. In Dec. the National Guard (since 1809) was dissolved. In Dresden a BÜRGERVEREIN (Citizens' Club) was formed, which discussed a draft for a written constitution. The Bürgerverein was dissolved on April 15th; unrest followed. In October, a written constitution was promised, on September 4th 1831 adopted. The constitution brought a number of changes, as hitherto autonomous areas (Oberlausitz, Schönburg) were fully integrated, a two chamber parliament was introduced, communal self-administration was introduced, the CORVEE abolished (i.e. to be paid off), the village common partitioned, the LANDRENTENBANK established, a bank the purpose of which was to facilitate the abolition of the corvee.
A cabinet with portfolio ministers was introduced. An independent JUDICIARY was introduced, mandatory military service was introduced, as well as mandatory elementary schooling (1835). The instruction of school teachers was regulated.
Polish emigrants, after the Polish revolt of 1830-1831 had been crushed by Russian troops, were welcomed in Saxony; POLENVEREINE (Poland Societies) were founded in 1831 to support their cause.
Saxony, as a central region in Germany's industrial development, experienced an economic transformation of unprecedented speed, and significant population growth. Saxony was one of the first states in Germany to embark on the path leading to a customs union, joining the DEUTSCHER ZOLLVEREIN in 1833. Saxony's textile industry was mechanized, the number of steam engines in the country grew rapidly, machine factories emerged, as did a chemical industry; the railway connecting Leipzig and Dresden was inaugurated in 1837. Steam boats connected Dresden with Hamburg.
In the 1840es further political reforms were discussed among Saxony's citizens. Sports Clubs, Choires, a Speech Society (ROBERT BLUM), the Dresden MONTAGSGESELLSCHAFT (Monday Society) all had political (liberal, German-patriotic) character. Their members included architect GOTTFRIED SEMPER and composer RICHARD WAGNER. King Anton had died in 1836, succeeded by FRIEDRICH AUGUST II. (-1854) - a long expected generation change (he was 40 in 1836). Richard Wagner was appointed Hofkapellmeister (court composer) in 1843; the new opera house, constructed by G. Semper, had been inaugurated in 1841. Dresden once again was a major center of German culture, with Wagner's operas being staged here in quick succession; this royal promotion of the arts came costly.
The constitution had restricted the hold the Lutheran church used to have on the religious life in the country; in 1845 rumours of the intention of Crown Prince John to call in the Jesuits caused riots; there were fatalities. Widespread poverty, among the rural population and the industrial workers, was described as PAUPERISM.
When the revolution of 1848 swept Germany, events in Saxony were less violent. ROBERT BLUM handed in a petition to grant Freedom of the Press on March 1st; Minister of the Interior von Falkenstein resigned March 5th, the entire cabinet on March 13th. The new cabinet was lead by KARL HERMANN ALEXANDER BRAUN; their reform policy included the abolition of censorship, the reform of the franchise, reform of the judiciary, the regulation (i.e. public recognition) of clubs, societies, associations; having the army to swear an oath on the constitution. The Saxon delegation was to play an active role in the FRANKFURT PARLIAMENT. Saxon troops formed part of the Reich Army dispatched to Schleswig-Holstein in 1849 (which did not see action, as the conflict was dealt with diplomatically).
The reform cabinet resigned on February 24th 1849. With the Frankfurt Parliament failing in her mission, on May 3rd 1849 radicals (among the leaders Russian Bakunin, supported by R. Wagner and G. Semper) rose in rebellion, blocking the streets of Dresden by barricades. The royal family fled; combined Saxon and Prussian troops retook Dresden in street fights until May 9th. Censorship was reintroduced, the leaders arrested, Semper and Wagner fired.

Die Wettiner (the Wettin Dynasty), by Sven Wetzig, in German
Biography of Frederick Augustus III. / I., Duke Elector, since 1806 King of Saxony, from infoplease, in English, 7 lines; from EB 1911, in English, 46 lines, text garbled; from Leipzig Lexikon, in German, 26 lines
Article Saxonians, Robert Blum, from Encyclopedia of the 1848 Revolutions
Biography Mikhail Bakunin, from marxists.org, illustrated
Biography Richard Wagner, from Island of Freedom, illustrated
DOCUMENTS Images : Robert Blum, Provisorische Regierung Dresden 1849 (Provisorical Govt., Dresden 1849) from MGF Gymnasium Kulmbach
Composition of German Reichstruppen 1849, from Dansk Militærhistorie, in English
Verfassung des Königreiches Sachsen (04.09.1831), from Dokumentarchiv, in German
Armenordnung Rochlitz 1842 (Poor Ordinnance of Rochlitz 1842), posted by Freie Presse
REFERENCE Reiner Gross, Geschichte Sachsens (History of Saxony), Berlin : Edition Leipzig 2001
James Retallack (ed.), Saxony in German History. Culture, Society, and Politics 1830-1933, Ann Arbor : Univ. of Michigan Press 2000, 392 pp., KMLA Lib. Sign. 943.21 R437s

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on December 29th 2002, last revised on November 12th 2004

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