Restoration and Vormarz
When imagining Germany around 1800 one would find the area nowadays known as Germany subdivided into many different, German-speaking small states that were independent from one another and therefore reined separately. Superregional trade was complicated by various customs imposed on state borders.
There was no feeling of cultural or national unity. All those small states were integrated into the so called “Heiliges Römisches Reich” (Holy Roman EmpireThe Holy Roman Empire was no national state, but a multi-ethnic complex of territories. It included many different territories, especially german states) that was designed to maintain peace and stability. Nevertheless one cannot call this empire a nation, for no common constitution had been passed. Furthermore the empire had not been apt for warfare ever since the early modern age. As the empire could not assert itself militarily as well as politically it was mainly maintained for European peace-keeping efforts.
This was eventually decisive for NapoleonNapoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader and associated wars in Europe’s success in occupying southern and western Germany with his revolutionary troops.
The beginning of the 19th century was mainly influenced by the French revolution and Napoleon’s supremacy in Europe.
After the French army had been overcome in the battle of nations at LeipzigThe Battle of Leipzig (1813) was fought by the coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden against the French army of Napoleon I in 1813 the European monarchs decided to alter their peace-keeping politics and initiated a historically decisive change. From then on their efforts were focused on avoiding future unbalances in the European power distribution as well as reinstituting a public order similar to the one present before the revolution. As a consequence of the decisions made at the Congress of ViennaThe objective of the Congress of Vienna (1814/15) was to provide a long-term peace for Europe by settling critical issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars, the Austrian chancellor “Fürst von MetternichKlemens von Metternich served as the Foreign Minister of the Austrian Empire from 1809 until the liberal revolutions of 1848 forced his resignation” was widely seen as the originator of restoration in Europe. Austria obtained a special prestige and strong influence on reforming Europe after the Wars of Liberation. Metternich’s main goal was to suppress any liberal or national movements as, due to resistance against the French reign, a sense of nationality and a national identity was prospering in the German small states. Ever since the Napoleonic warsThe Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of wars between Napoleon's French Empire and a series of opposing coalitions there was an increased demand for national unity coming from the civil society. This demand was not met by the European monarchs for the foundation of a German national state would have posed a danger to the European balance of power. Therefore a policy of oppressing revolutionary efforts or movements was favoured by the European monarchs1.
The French rein over Europe had historically relevant repercussions on German society, as the ideas of the French revolution were met with interest in the German states. Due to reformations and modernisations concerning administration, education and the school system many states, including Prussia and Austria changed their political course. Napoleon was therefore considered as a liberator from the outdated feudal order. Especially in southern and western Germany rulers passed bourgeoisie-liberal reforms. In addition to that the wars of Liberation strengthened the feeling of nationalism within the German society that had united against the French’s radical seize of power. It marked the beginning of an era of national and liberal liberation movements2.
“What is the German homeland? “
The song „des Deutschen Vaterland“ (the German homeland), composed by Ernst Moritz ArndtErnst Moritz Arndt was a German patriotic author and poet. He is one of the main founders of German nationalism and the movement for German unification after the Battle of Nations became popular in German society, as the song expressed the claim for a German national state. He advocated the same attitude as the majority of German citizens in 1813: The small states were to be abandoned and to be instead replaced by a German national state including Prussia and Austria.
As the following years showed nationally and liberally interested citizens united in fraternities and gymnastic clubs, as the claim for a national state with a liberal constitution increased.
The peace resolutions passed at the congress of Vienna however repressed such expectations.