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1636: The Saxon Uprising: Chapter Four

       Last updated: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 07:08 EDT



Magdeburg, central Germany
Capital of the United States of Europe

    “Thank you, Jenny,” said Rebecca Abrabanel, as she passed her daughter Kathleen over to the young governess and housekeeper. The child was barely one year old, so the transfer did not disrupt her sleep in the least. She was quite accustomed to the care of Jenny Hayes, anyway, since she spent more time with her than she did with her mother. Rebecca had adopted some of the attitudes of the Americans, but when it came to child-care she was still firmly a woman of the seventeenth century. If you had the money to do so — which she now certainly did — you hired nannies to take care of the tedious portions of child-raising. Which, at Kathleen’s age, was most of them.

    About the only concession that Rebecca made to up-time custom was that she still breast-fed the girl herself, instead of employing a wet nurse. But she did that mostly because continuing to lactate was the most effective birth control measure available to her, other than keeping track of her monthly cycle or using condoms. Neither she nor her husband Michael wanted to be bothered with that miserable rhythm business. As for the condoms which had been introduced into the market some months earlier, Michael didn’t like them and she didn’t trust them.

    Rebecca enjoyed her children and planned to have at least two more. But she also enjoyed her political career and had no desire to see it crushed flat under the pressure of child-raising.

    Being well-to-do helped a great deal in that regard. While Rebecca and Michael were not what anyone would call wealthy, they enjoyed a much larger than average income because of his salary as a major general. And if she finished her book on schedule, the income that derived from its sales might very well double or even triple their income.

    Rebecca had been born a Sephardic Jew, and still maintained most of her religion’s customs and rituals. When it came to theological matters, though, she tended to share her father’s attitudes. Balthazar Abrabanel was not exactly what the up-timers meant by the term “free-thinker,” but he came awfully close. He still considered himself a Jew even in doctrinal terms, but there were plenty of rabbis who would dispute that claim. The rabbinate of Amsterdam, which was notoriously harsh and reactionary, had even gone so far as to declare him a heretic.

    On the other hand, Prague’s rabbis — who had considerably more prestige than those of the Dutch city — maintained friendly relations with him. They did so partly, of course, for political reasons. Balthazar’s brother Uriel was the spymaster for Morris Roth, who was by far the wealthiest Jew in Prague and was also one of Wallenstein’s closest advisers thanks to his leading role in repelling Holk’s attack on Prague two years earlier.

    Whatever her doctrinal doubts and questions, however, on one matter Rebecca was a staunch monotheist. Nannies had been sent down to earth directly by the hand of God.

    After Jenny left the vestibule with Kathleen, Rebecca turned and went to the door leading to the room on the second floor of the town house that she used for her political meetings. It was a very large room, in keeping with the town house itself. The three-story building wasn’t quite what one could call a “mansion,” but it came close.

    That was a good thing, too, given that the building also served the Fourth of July Party as its informal national headquarters.

    As usual when a meeting was in progress, she could hear Constantin Ableidinger’s booming voice before she even opened the door.

    “– think we can make such an assumption. As much as I dislike the prime minister’s reactionary political views, he’s just not the sort of human material out of which ruthless counter-revolutionaries are made.”

    By the time he finished, Rebecca had passed through the door and closed it behind her. She headed toward her seat at the head of the table. Series of tables, rather.

    “No, Wilhelm is not such a man,” she said. “As a human being, he’s actually quite a decent fellow. But Wilhelm is no longer running the show. Axel Oxenstierna is.”

    She pulled out her chair and sat down. There had been a time when there had been only four tables in this very large room, arranged in a shallow “U” which allowed everyone to see out the windows. That was no longer true. There were simply too many important leaders of the Fourth of July Party who needed to be present at this meeting. So, there were now eight tables in the room, lined up two abreast and four wide. In effect, a single huge meeting table had been created, measuring about ten feet by thirty feet.

    Rebecca’s position at one end of the arrangement, facing down the double row of tables, gave her a good view of everyone present. It was also a subtle indication of her position in the party. Officially, she was simply one of the members of the USE parliament elected from Magdeburg province. Unofficially, especially in the absence of her husband Mike Stearns, she was one of the FoJP’s most prominent and influential leaders.



    She’d paused for a moment to let the implications of her last statement sink in. Then she added: “And the chancellor of Sweden is most definitely the sort of human material from which ruthless counter-revolutionaries are made. He is and always has been an advocate — I should better say, a true believer — in the principles of aristocratic privilege. It is no secret that he has never been happy with the compromises that Gustav Adolf made with my husband. Neither when they set up the Confederated Principalities of Europe nor — especially! — when they created the United States of Europe.”

    Again, she paused briefly. “I think it is now clear what has been happening these past few weeks. Ever since the emperor was badly injured at the battle of Lake Bledno and rendered non compos mentis, Oxenstierna has been taking advantage of Gustav Adolf’s incapacity to prepare a sweeping counter-revolution. That is why he has insisted on keeping the emperor in Berlin, where he can sequester him and keep him under control. That is why he has been assembling a congress of reactionaries in Berlin. They will declare Berlin the new capital. And that is why, finally — this news has now been confirmed also — he has ordered Princess Kristina to join her father in Berlin. So that she too can be kept under control while the chancellor goes about his bloody business.”

    One of the members of parliament from Westphalia province spoke up. “But Oxenstierna is simply the chancellor of Sweden. He has no authority in the United States of Europe.”

    Ableidinger made a sarcastic snorting sound. “And do you think that little awkwardness is causing him to lose any sleep? Not likely! Not Oxenstierna.”

    He swiveled in his chair to look at Rebecca. “I don’t doubt Oxenstierna’s nature is just as you portray it to be. But how can you be so sure that he has reduced the USE’s prime minister to a cipher? Giving the devil his due, Wilhelm Wettin is a capable man and not one I would think to be easily intimidated.”

    “No, he’s not — as a man,” said Ed Piazza. “But right now he’s a prime minister also, and in that capacity I’m afraid he can be quite easily intimidated by Oxenstierna.”

    Piazza was sitting at the opposite end of the long set of tables from Rebecca, which indicated his own position in the party. Both by virtue of his abilities and his position as the president of the State of Thuringia-Franconia, Piazza wielded as much influence and authority as anyone in the FoJP other than Mike Stearns himself.

    But Stearns was hundreds of miles away now, leading his army into Bohemia, and no longer directly part of the political equation.

    The man who was probably the third most influential member of the party present at the meeting cocked his head quizzically and said: “I will repeat Constantin’s question: How can you be so sure?”

    That was Matthias Strigel, the governor of Magdeburg province. That province and the State of Thuringia-Franconia were the two great power centers of the Fourth of July Party. The SoTF was the wealthiest and most populous province of the USE. But Magdeburg province had now surpassed it as an industrial center.

    It was also, of course, the province where the capital was located. The city of Magdeburg had an extraordinarily complex political structure. It was simultaneously the national capital of the USE, the capital of the province of Magdeburg, and an imperial city in its own right. Just to make things still more complicated, there was a legal distinction between the “old city” and the metropolitan area. Otto Gericke was the mayor of metropolitan Magdeburg, but within the narrow confines of the original city his authority was legally — if not always in practice — superseded by that of the city council.

    “The reason I can be so sure,” Ed responded, “is because I agree with Becky’s analysis and I’ve looking at the situation from a strictly military standpoint lately. The minute you do that, everything gets very clear, very quickly.”

    He leaned forward to give emphasis to his next words. “The reason the chancellor of Sweden can today intimidate and bully the prime minister of a nation which is many times larger is because Oxenstierna has an army — right there with him, in Berlin — and Wettin hasn’t got a damn thing except his own bodyguards.”

    This time it was a member of parliament from the Province of the Main who protested, Anselm Keller. “But the USE has its own army.”

    “With a Swedish general in command,” said Charlotte Kienitz, one of the leaders of the Fourth of July Party from the province of Mecklenburg.

    The mayor of Hamburg shook his head. “Torstensson’s authority no longer derives from Sweden. He was appointed by the Reichstag, not the king and emperor.”

    As he usually did in the middle of an argument, Albert Bugenhagen lapsed into a down-timer’s term for the USE’s parliament. Up-timers, speaking English to one another, had a tendency to call it a “congress,” although that wasn’t technically correct. Down-timers, speaking to one another, tended to call it a “Reichstag” — that meant “Imperial Diet” — although wasn’t technically correct either.

    For that matter, the official term “Parliament” wasn’t really correct, in the terms that a fussy political scientist might use. When Gustav Adolf and Mike Stearns created the USE in the course of negotiations late in 1633, Mike had deliberately picked a term that was rather foreign to both American up-timers and German down-timers. The USE Parliament was a hybrid two-house creation with elements from up-time America, the down-time Germanies, and both eighteenth-century and twentieth century Britain.



    “I agree with Albert,” said Werner von Dalberg. “Lennart Torstensson is a Swede by birth, but when he accepted the position of commanding general of the USE army he swore an oath to uphold the USE’s constitution. An oath, I will add pointedly, that Axel Oxenstierna has never sworn. I don’t think Torstensson will betray that oath.”

    Piazza shrugged. “Neither do I. So what, Werner? Torstensson has most of the USE’s army besieging the Poles in Poznan'. He was ordered to do so, I remind you, by the duly elected prime minister of the United States of Europe, Wilhelm Wettin, who is Lennart’s own commander. Torstensson is not going to disobey that order.”

    “And as the winter comes on, it would become harder and harder to disobey it anyway,” said Matthias Strigel. The Magdeburg governor had military experience. “Pulling out of siege lines in winter — certainly against an opponent as aggressive and capable as Grand Hetman Koniecpolski — would be dangerous.”

    Piazza nodded and then went on. “As for Mike Stearns and the Third Division, Oxenstierna — officially, Wettin, of course — saw to it that he was as far away as possible in Bohemia. That leaves Wettin with only garrison units, logistics units and a small number of mostly specialized troops. Some of them are combat units, but most of them are things like radio operators.”

    “There is also the navy and the air force,” pointed out Helene Gundelfinger. She was the vice-president of the State of Thuringia-Franconia.

    Ed shrugged. “True, but those forces are the ones that matter the least in a conflict of this nature. Which is — let’s finally put the words on the table, shall we? — an outright civil war. There was a time when Wettin could have played an independent role in such a conflict, but that time is past. He has no ground troops worth talking about and Oxenstierna has the entire Swedish army.”

    Ableidinger grunted. “What’s left of it. Koniecpolski hammered them pretty badly at Lake Bledno, from all accounts I’ve heard.”

    “‘Hammered’ is not the right word. He bloodied them, yes. But it was the Poles who quit the field, not the Swedes. That army is still intact and functional and it outnumbers — it certainly outpowers — any other army which will become active in a civil war except the USE army itself. Which Oxenstierna, no fool, has dispersed and sent entirely out of the nation.”

    There was silence for a moment. Then Strigel leaned back in his chair and said: “There is your own provincial force, Ed. The SoTF’s National Guard is probably the most powerful of the provincial armies.”

    Piazza nodded. “Except for possibly Hesse-Kassel’s, in time past. But today, with Wilhelm V dead and many of his troops still with Oxenstierna in Berlin –”

    “Not for long, I think,” said Liesel Hahn, an MP from Hesse-Kassel. She spoke diffidently, partly due to her own personality and partly to the fact that the FoJP was a slight political force in that province. “The landgravine is furious with Wettin and the chancellor. They won’t be able to stop her if she orders her soldiers home, which we think she will.”

    “Why do you think that?” asked Charlotte Kienitz. “I would hardly think Amalie Elisabeth is now taking us into her confidence.”

    “You might be surprised before much longer, Charlotte,” interjected Rebecca. “I’ve received no fewer than three letters from her over the past two weeks. None of them contain much substance, but the tone is quite friendly. I believe she is determined to keep as many of Hesse-Kassel’s bridges intact and unburned as possible.”

    “Might I speak with you about those letters after the meeting, Rebecca?” asked Hahn. “That’s… quite an interesting development.”

    “Yes, certainly.”

    Charlotte shook her head, as if to shake off some confusion. “If you didn’t already know about the letters, Liesel, why did you think Hesse-Kassel’s widow would be recalling her troops?”

    Hahn smiled. “I’ve met her several times, you know. She’s actually quite nice in personal encounters. But she’s still a Hochadel and has their innate attitudes. It barely registers on her that servants are within hearing range when she discusses her affairs with her counselors and advisers. Several of those servants report to the CoC regularly, and they pass the information on to us.”

    Piazza had been listening to the exchange with keen interest. Now he spoke up again. “Even if Amalie Elisabeth brings all her troops back, I doubt very much she’ll be using them to intervene in any nation-wide civil war.”

    “I deduce the same thing from her letters,” agreed Rebecca. “Not that she speaks of such matters directly, of course. Still, given her well-known attitudes in the past and her current friendliness toward to us — well, that’s a bit too strong; call it cordiality, rather — I think we can safely assume that Hesse-Kassel will keep to itself in the event a civil war breaks out.”

    She looked at Hahn. “And so long as she does, Liesel, I would strongly advise our people there to keep the peace with her.”

    Hahn nodded several times, very rapidly. That was not so much timidity on her part as a simple recognition of reality. The hold of Hesse-Kassel’s traditional rulers was still very strong, in part because they had been careful to make compromises and accommodations whenever necessary. You couldn’t call them “absolute monarchs,” since the Hesse-Kassel Estates maintained formal and legal — and especially financial — limits on the landgrave’s authority in the province. The Estates had deposed Wilhelm V’s father, in fact, because of his inveterate spendthrift habits. Still, the power of the landgraves was far greater than anything Americans thought of when they used the term “constitutional monarchy.” By that term, up-timers meant British practices of the late nineteenth or twentieth centuries, where Hesse-Kassel had a much greater resemblance to the Britain of the seventeenth century.

    In practice, however, while he had been alive Wilhelm V had ruled with a light hand and there was every sign that his widow would continue the practice. Freedom of religion was tacitly accepted and, within limits, so was freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The freedom to assemble was even partially allowed. The landgravine would certainly suppress any large open demonstrations against her, but she made no attempt to prevent political groups and parties like the FoJP from holding regular and publicized meetings.

    Of course, those freedoms were enshrined in the USE’s constitution, albeit with caveats. But the degree to which they were actually permitted in any given province was primarily determined by the balance of political power there.



    Rebecca looked back to Piazza. “I interrupted you. My apologies.”

    Ed waved his hand in a small gesture, dismissing the matter. There hadn’t really been much danger that Hesse-Kassel’s party members would go off half-cocked, but it never hurt to make sure.

    “The point I was working my way around to was that while I think it’s true that the SoTF’s provincial military is the most powerful such force in the USE today, I also think it’s mostly irrelevant to the equation when it comes to a possible civil war.”

    The young mayor of Hamburg looked surprised. “Why is that?”

    Before Piazza could answer, Werner von Dalberg did it for him. “Bavaria,” he said tersely.

    Von Dalberg was the FoJP’s central leader in the Oberpfalz — or the Upper Palatinate, as it was known in English. His expression was grim. “Gustav Adolf pulled Báner and his army out of the Oberpfalz in order to send him to stabilize Saxony. Well, and good, so long as the emperor himself was still alert and functional. After the beating Báner gave them last year — the man’s a swine and a brute, but he’s also a very capable general — there wasn’t much chance that the Bavarians would start anything again soon. Duke Maximilian has a lot of wounds to lick.”

    He shook his head. “But with Gustav Adolf incapacitated, and if a civil war breaks out, I think it’s quite likely that Maximilian will attack the Oberpfalz again. And all we have to resist them is a single regiment under the command of Colonel Simpson — he’s the admiral’s son — and some artillery units.” Her glanced at Piazza. “If Maximilian does invade, we’ll have to call on the State of Thuringia-Franconia to send troops to drive him back.”

    “Which we’ll have to do for a lot of reasons,” Piazza chimed in, “and defeating the Bavarian army will require just about everything we’ve got.”

    The president of the SoTF looked around the table. “The point being, ladies and gentlemen, that if Oxenstierna does launch a civil war, you’re on your own as far as military forces go. I doubt very much if I’ll be able to do more than hold my own province solid and defend the Oberpfalz.”

    Von Dalberg smiled. “On the positive side, the Oberpfalz is already leaning toward us. Rest assured that if the Bavarians attack because the Swedes pulled out their troops and Mr. Piazza comes to the rescue, the prospects for our party thereafter will be splendid. Assuming we’ve survived the civil war, of course.”

    A little laugh went around the table. There wasn’t much humor in it, though. The implications if the SoTF’s army was neutralized by the Bavarians were…

    Not good. The Fourth of July Party also controlled Magdeburg province, but its military forces were quite small. The dominance of the Committees of Correspondence in that province, especially in the capital, meant that there was no real need for a powerful provincial military to maintain order. Magdeburg province was quite homogenous, too, both in social as well as geographical terms. In that respect, it was quite unlike the sprawling SoTF, with its variegated terrain and social mosaic.

    Given that reality, those CoC activists in the province inclined to join the military volunteered for the USE’s national army. On a per capita basis, Magdeburg province provided a larger percentage of the USE army’s enlisted ranks than any other province in the nation.

    The relationship between the Fourth of July Party and the Committees of Correspondence was complex, and varied some from one region to another. Taken as a whole, the relationship was quite close. Almost unanimously, CoC members voted for the FoJP candidates in any election except in those few places where they ran candidates of their own. In return, once elected to office FoJP politicians were generally supportive of those programs and initiatives desired by the CoCs of their area.

    But there were always some frictions, also. As a very rough rule of thumb, CoC activists tended to view their FoJP counterparts as shaky-kneed moderates prone to excessive compromise, and FoJP members looked upon the CoCs as being often impractical and unrealistic firebrands.

    Both views were stereotypes, but like many stereotypes they contained some kernels of truth.

    “The thing that worries me the most,” said Rebecca, “is that the CoC success in crushing the anti-Semites after the Dreeson murder, especially combined with the events in Mecklenburg –”

    The populace of that hardscrabble Baltic province had rebelled during the post-Dreeson Incident period, and driven out its aristocracy.

    “– has made them over-confident of their own military strength. It is one thing to defeat the sort of disorganized or hastily organized para-military forces they encountered during Operation Krystalnacht. It is another thing entirely to confront regular military forces. Even leaving aside the Swedish army under Oxenstierna’s direct control, there are a number of significant provincial forces which we can assume will support the chancellor’s counter-revolution.”

    “Can you summarize?” asked Helene Gundelfinger.

    “If I may,” interjected Ed Piazza, looking at Rebecca. “I’ve just finished examining the question.”

    She nodded and leaned back, trying not to smile. She was quite sure that the president and vice-president of the SoTF were operating in tandem here and that Helene’s question has been pre-arranged.

    Piazza and Gundelfinger got along very well.

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