What made the Liberals different from the Democrats?


Liberals and Democrats

The two strongest political directions, which were initially very close to each other during the revolution, were liberalism (moderate) and democrats (more radical). What they had in common was the rejection of the Restoration, the demand for the creation of a nation state, constitution (s), political participation and fundamental freedoms (e.g. freedom of the press and freedom of assembly). These goals united the representatives of these basic political directions, but what differentiated them was the question of how the concept of "equality" should be interpreted and how far the revolution should go with regard to future rule.

The Liberals took the view that equality should apply to all vis-à-vis the state and the judiciary, but not with regard to political participation. This should, for example, be linked to tax payments and wealth (idea of ​​census or class voting rights). The Democrats, on the other hand, were different: They also advocated political equality. With regard to the future form of rule, the Liberals saw their demands for political participation (assumption of ministerial posts) and the creation of a constitutional monarchy based on a constitution largely fulfilled. The democrats called for the general abolition of monarchical rule and the complete creation of popular sovereignty (= complete abolition of the monarchy).

Under revolutionary pressure, the ruling houses reorganized their cabinets with the involvement of liberal politicians. However, it was clear to the liberal ministers that they were opposed to the established conservative forces in the ministerial bureaucracy and in the military leadership. The first thing to do was to implement and secure the closest goals and achievements that had already been achieved. Freedom rights, agricultural reforms and fundamental constitutional changes such as ministerial responsibility or the liberalization of the right to vote have now been created.

Important follow-up steps were the arming of the citizens and the swearing-in of the military on the constitution in order to wrest the most important means of power from the monarchy. However, this and the control of the administration were only partially successful or not at all (e.g. in Prussia).

Recognizing that the reform policy was reaching its limits and under the impression of further social and revolutionary endeavors, many liberals now decided to cooperate with the existing order and to secure what had been achieved.

In this situation there was initially only political agreement on the creation of the nation state. Its design thus divided the two most important groups in the revolution - the liberals and the democrats. As it turned out, this was a considerable weakening of the revolution and the prospect of achieving its goals. Here too the revolution failed.

Nevertheless, one can definitely say as a result that the revolution and the arrangement with the monarchy were ultimately worthwhile for the property owners and the educated bourgeoisie, because from then on they were also involved in politics, had gained essential freedoms and were able to get involved in politics and administration and establish them in the officer ranks. In addition, despite the lack of a nation-state, economic development continued at an accelerated pace. There were constitutions and parliaments everywhere. Important reforms had been initiated and the state could definitely not go back to the time of the Restoration. With regard to the formation of a nation state, it was now clear that a “small German” identity would be developed (without Austria - more on this later).

While the Liberals could thus look to results that seemed acceptable to them - if not completely achieved - the balance sheet for the Democrats and the petty-bourgeois and working-class strata attached to them had to come to a different conclusion. They had not been able to achieve essential political and social goals (see above).

to be continued (further considerations will follow later)