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Johann August Wirth at the Hambach Festival (May 1832)

In the south German states, political unrest in the wake of the Paris Revolution of 1830, restrictive measures against political expression, and increased tax burdens and tariffs led to large political demonstrations, such as the Hambach Festival of May 27-30, 1832, in which 30,000 people took part. In his speech, the radical democratic journalist Johann August Wirth (1798-1848) calls for the overthrow of the monarchies in Germany and for the establishment of democracy nationwide; he hopes that this will be followed by the democratization of all of Europe and close cooperation between the new democratic nations.

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Speech by Wirth
The country that speaks our language, the country where our hope resides, where our love delights, where our joys thrive, where the secret of all our sympathies and all our longing rests, this beautiful land is being ravaged and plundered, torn and enervated, gagged and disgraced. Rich in all the resources of nature, it should be the home of joy and contentment for all its children; yet, its blood sucked by 34 kings, it is the domicile of hunger, misery, and poverty for the majority of its residents. Germany, great, rich, powerful Germany, should assume first place in the society of European states, yet robbed by traitorous families of aristocrats, it has been struck from the list of European realms and abandoned to mockery from abroad. Appointed by nature to be the guardian of light, liberty, and international legal order in Europe, German energy is actually being used for the very opposite purpose of suppressing the liberty of every people* and founding an eternal empire of darkness, slavery, and raw force. Thus the poverty of our fatherland is simultaneously the curse for all of Europe. Spain, Italy, Hungary, and Poland are witnesses to this. Spain has been robbed by the Holy Alliance – which had its support exclusively in Germany – of a governmental constitution built on enlightenment, humanity, and reason, as well as of its patriotic Cortes, and has been taken back under the blade of fanatic priests and aristocrats and, indeed, of nonsense and cruelty. Hungary and Italy are being robbed of their nationality by Austria with help from German forces and kept in slavery and darkness. Poland has been repeatedly betrayed by German powers, and now also owes the loss of [its] freedom and fatherland in our time to a German king. The cause of the unspeakable suffering of the European nations lies entirely in the fact that the dukes of Austria and the electors of Brandenburg have seized the greater part of Germany for themselves and, under the titles Emperor of Austria and King of Prussia, not only rule their own countries – acquired through the methodical plundering of Germany – in an oriental manner and use their powers to suppress the freedom and the popular sovereignty of European nations, but also use their predominance over the smaller countries of Germany to make the powers of those countries serve the system of princely autocracy and despotic force. Every time there is a movement of a people aiming at the achievement of liberty and a reasonable governmental institution, the kings of Prussia and Austria are attached to Russia by a similarity of aims, convictions, and interests, and so arises that fearful alliance that has always found a way to kill the liberty of the peoples. The major power in this dark alliance always consists of German forces, since Russia would be powerless without the alliance with Prussia and Austria, and would fall to ruin from domestic disruption. As gigantic, therefore, as the power of the absolutist alliance may be, its end will come at the moment in Germany

* Note: the word “Volk” (plural “Völker”) in this document is sometimes translated as “people” and sometimes as “nation” (plural “nations”) – trans.

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