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  • FRANKISH KINGDOM
  • JOHANNES REUCHLIN
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  • W
  • INFLATION, REPARATIONS, AND
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  • CONSEQUENCES AND PROBLEMS OF
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  • GERMANIC MIGRATIONS AND
  • G

    Gagern, Heinrich von (Wilhem Heinrich, Freiherr [Baron] von Gagern)

    (17991880)

    liberal leader

    Heinrich von Gagern became the leader of the

    liberal movement in HESSE-Darmstadt. He was

    elected the leader of the Frankfurt Parliament

    during the REVOLUTION OF 1848.

    Heinrich von Gagern was born in Bayreuth in

    1799, the second son of Reichsfreiherr Hans

    Christoph von Gagern, an aristocrat and descendent

    of a family of imperial knights who owed

    allegiance only to the HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE.

    Heinrich von Gagern studied at HEIDELBERG,

    Göttingen, and JENA. He was a veteran of the

    Battle of Waterloo. After the WARS OF LIBERATION

    he was influenced by the patriotic fervor of

    the student union (Burschenschaft) organization.

    In 1821 he entered the civil service and

    was elected to the state parliament (Landtag) of

    Hesse-Darmstadt between 1832 and 1836. During

    this period he was a successful Hessian

    landowner and chairman of the Rhine-Hesse

    Agricultural Association.

    Gagern became a convinced constitutionalist

    and was one of a small group of aristocrats who

    were willing to cooperate with the liberal middle

    in the development of constitutional government.

    In Hesse-Darmstadt he became the

    leader of the liberal movement, which in the

    parliamentary (Landtag) elections of September

    1847 won impressive victories. Chivalrous and

    idealistic, but not an original political thinker, he

    certainly was not a practical political tactician

    who was able to quickly grasp changing political

    situations. These undermined the possibility of

    his success in 1848. The qualities of his personality

    that were most admired by other liberals

    were that he was passionate but restrained, idealistic

    but not doctrinaire, committed but dignified.

    For Gagern and other liberals belonging to

    a political party meant the formulation and discussion

    of ideas and secondarily the execution of

    policy. In 184849 these characteristics of the

    man would be sorely tested.

    In March 1848 Gagern had become minister

    in Hesse-Darmstadt. Then he played a distinguished

    role in the pre-parliament (Vorparlament)

    for a national assembly. On May 19 the

    parliament elected Gagern as its president and

    under his leadership the parliament formulated

    rules and procedures that were to limit the long

    debates and speeches fashionable in 1848 so that

    decisions could be reached on major issues.

    Gagern was also mainly responsible for the

    establishment of a quasi-government, a central

    authority in the place of the hated Diet of the

    GERMAN CONFEDERATION. On June 29 the Parliament

    elected Archduke John, the youngest

    brother of Emperor Francis Joseph, imperial

    regent. The archduke, who had the reputation

    of being a liberal sympathizer, organized a government

    of the Empire. When a deadlock

    occurred between the proponents of a larger and

    smaller German federation, Gagern proposed a

    compromise plan for a united Germany under

    Prussian leadership, which would be joined in a

    special relationship with the Austrian Empire.

    While the situation in AUSTRIA was moving in a

    counterrevolutionary direction, the Parliament

    finally passed a constitution that was ratified

    through Gagerns efforts. Then it elected the

    402

    Prussian king, FREDERICK WILLIAM IV, emperor,

    but the Prussian king declined to cooperate and

    rejected the imperial crown.

    After the Constituent Assembly was dissolved

    on May 10, 1849, Gagern retired from politics.

    In 1850 he faithfully served in the war against

    Denmark. After 1862 he changed his 1848 position

    of favoring unification under Prussian leadership

    to support for the Austrian-oriented

    Greater German solution. Between 1864 and

    1872 he served as Hessian representative in

    Vienna. He died on May 22, 1880.

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