Previous Page Next Page

UTC:       Local:

Home Page Index Page

1636: The Saxon Uprising: Chapter Twenty

       Last updated: Monday, February 14, 2011 00:31 EST




    “And here comes the only concession,” Rebecca continued, reading from the sheet in her hand. “It is in the last two items, on matters of religion. ‘Point Eight. All provinces shall be required to designate a single established church, with the exception of the State of Thuringia-Franconia, which may designate several.”

    “All of them province-wide?” interjected Constantin Ableidinger. “Or must each provincial district choose a single church?”

    He held up a stiff, admonishing forefinger. “I warn you! We Lutherans will not tolerate sloppiness in such matters!”

    Rebecca bestowed the smile upon him that she always bestowed on Ableidinger’s antics. The one that exuded long-suffering patience rather than serenity.

    “Stop clowning around, Constantin,” grumbled Gunther Achterhof. “What difference does it make? We’re not going to abide by it anyway.”

    The little exchange had given Rebecca time for further thought, during the course of which she realized that Ableidinger’s heavy-handed humor might actually contain a serious kernel — whether he realized it or not, which he probably didn’t.

    “Maybe we will, Gunther,” she said. She raised her own forefinger in response to the look of outrage on his face. The gesture in this case was one that indicated a desire for forbearance rather than admonishment. “But let us not get ahead of ourselves. There is still one more provision in Point Eight and a final Point Nine in the Charter of Rights and Duties.”

    The pitch of her voice shifted back to a slight singsong as she resumed quoting from the sheet. “The remaining provision in Point Eight is that: ‘These churches shall receive financial support from their respective provinces.’ Finally: ‘Point Nine. No church, whether established or not, shall be forbidden to exist, provided that it abides by the laws of the nation and its province.”

    She laid down the sheet. “As I said, a concession of sorts, at the very end.”

    “Not much of one,” observed Helene Gundelfinger. “All it recognizes is the abstract right of non-established churches to ‘exist.’ That’s a rather metaphysical proposition, taken by itself. The way that provision is couched, it seems to me, a province could recognize a church’s ‘existence’ while simultaneously forbidding its members to meet, to collect funds, or to have church leaders.”

    She turned toward Werner von Dalberg, who was seated far enough down the long table to her right that she had to lean forward a little to see him. “Am I right, Werner?”

    The FoJP leader from the Oberpfalz was the one person in the group who had extensive legal training.

    He grinned. “Metaphysics has nothing on the law. That issue could be contested in the courts for years. In the event — the not-improbable event, actually — that a church so victimized should employ me as their lawyer, I would argue that the term ‘to exist’ implies all those things that were simultaneously banned, and hence the ban is null and void.” His eyes got a slightly-unfocussed, distant look. “Interesting question, actually. I’m sure the judges would rule in my favor when it came to being able to collect funds. Without money on which to operate, any and all human institutions are vacant abstractions. And for much the same reason, I’m pretty sure they’d rule in my favor when it came to the right to meet. The designation of officers of the church, however — by whatever method — is considerably more –”

    “Werner!” Rebecca interrupted him. “We can come back to this at a later time. We have more pressing issues to deal with.”

    He gave her a rueful, apologetic smile. “Sorry. I got a bit carried away. Lawyers, you know. Philosophers flee at our approach.”

    Rebecca gave the sheet on the table in front of her a last, considering look. “Actually, my objection was not to your lawyering but to the specific subject, which for the moment is somewhat trivial. Taken as a whole, I think the right strategy for us in response to this attack from Berlin is precisely ‘to lawyer.’”

    Predictably, Gunther Achterhof’s face darkened. “Rebecca, if you think for a minute that we’re going to tolerate –”

    “Let. Her. Finish,” said Helene.

    “Yes, please,” added Magdeburg province’s governor, Matthias Strigel. “Rebecca, go on.”

    “They have made several bad errors, in my opinion. Within the great error of their purpose itself, I should say. The first and the worst was arresting Wilhelm Wettin. The second, and almost as bad, was to convene in Berlin. The two mistakes together make everything they’ve done legally invalid.”

    “What difference does it make?” demanded Achterhof. “They’re not going to abide by the law, and neither are we. We’re now in a state of civil war! Almost by definition, the laws of the land are no longer binding on anyone.”

    “He’s got a point, Rebecca,” said Albert Bugenhagen. The mayor of Hamburg was sitting at the middle of the table almost directly opposite Helene. His fingers were steepled in front of his face, which, combined with his even tone of voice, made the statement one of judicial observation rather than actual agreement with the substance of Achterhof’s argument.

    “Yes — but it is much too broad.” She leaned forward slightly, to give added emphasis to her next words. “What is a ‘civil war’ in the first place? Gunther uses the term as if it were a depiction of a concrete object, like a tree or a table. Something simple and discrete. But the phenomenon is actually very complex, and with no clear boundaries. There are civil wars and there are civil wars, no two of which are exactly the same and any one of which has its own peculiar characteristics.”

    By now, either Achterhof or Ableidinger would have started interrupting, had anyone else been talking. But even they had learned that Rebecca’s trains of thoughts were worth following.

    “When it comes to this civil war, I would qualify the term with several addenda. As follows.” She began counting off her fingers. “First, it is a civil war triggered off not by the collapse of final authority but by its mere absence — an absence, furthermore, which may well prove temporary.”

    Constantin was frowning. “What does that mean?”

    Von Dalberg spoke up. “What she means is that the crisis was precipitated by Gustav Adolf’s injury. As opposed, for instance, to one or another side in the conflict rejecting the emperor’s authority in itself. What happens, then, if he recovers?”

    Rebecca nodded. “Yes, precisely. This is a critical issue because it drives the pace of Oxenstierna’s actions and maneuvers. If Gustav Adolf recovers before he completes his project, it is likely the project will be discontinued. So the chancellor has no choice but to force the process, risking blunders for the sake of celerity.”

    She counted off another finger. “Secondly, it is a civil war clouded by great uncertainty when it comes to the issue of the succession. Or rather, the issue of a regency. The succession itself is clear — Princess Kristina, the emperor’s only child — but she is still a minor and thus cannot take the throne herself. And the USE is not Sweden, which has clear and established rules governing the establishment of a regency. So, as with the state of Gustav Adolf’s own condition, everything is murky — which, again, forces Oxenstierna to drive forward with great haste.

    “Thirdly, by convening in Berlin instead of Magdeburg, Oxenstierna and his reactionary plotters have denied themselves the possibility of a quorum. The constitution is quite clear on this point — a majority of the members of Parliament must be present or there is no quorum and Parliament cannot legitimately conduct any business.”

    “But…” Liesel Hahn, an MP from Hesse-Kassel, was frowning. “But they have a majority, Rebecca.”

    “Ha!” Constantin Ableidinger slapped the table. “Rebecca is right!”

    “Yes, she is,” agreed von Dalberg. He looked toward Hahn. “The fact that they have a majority doesn’t matter, Liesel, unless they can get a majority actually present at the session of Parliament.”



    Hahn’s frown cleared away. “Oh, of course. Silly of me. But perhaps…”

    Rebecca was shaking her head. “There is no chance at all that they had a quorum in Berlin. Their majority is a slim one to begin with — fifty-two percent. No member of our party was present, of course, and probably no more than a third of the people belonging to the small parties. That means the Crown Loyalists would have had to get almost every single one of their MPs to attend the session.”

    “Ha!” Ableidinger boomed again. “In Berlin? In winter? Not a chance!”

    “It wouldn’t be hard to prove, either,” said Strigel. “In fact, I’d be willing to bet they didn’t even take a roll call.”

    “And it gets still worse,” said Rebecca. She counted off her pinkie. “Fourthly, when they arrested Wilhelm Wettin they also removed any legitimacy to the executive branch of the government as well.”

    Achterhof was now frowning, and scratching his jaw. “I’ll be the first to say they’re a pack of bastards, Rebecca, but I’m not following you here. Quorum or no quorum, the Crown Loyalists are still the majority party. By our constitution, that gives them the right to form a cabinet of whichever members of their party they select, including the post of prime minister. So if they choose this von Ramsla jackass, they have the right to do so.”

    Now Werner slapped the table in glee. “Yes, granted, Gunther — but by the same constitution, the new head of the government is actually a recommendation made to the head of state. Legally speaking, von Ramsla can’t become the prime minister until Gustav II Adolf confirms his appointment. Which he certainly hasn’t done, since he’s still speaking in tongues.”

    Rebecca and several other people at the table winced a little at von Dalberg’s indecorous description of their monarch’s condition. But that was a matter of taste; the depiction itself was accurate enough.

    “Yes,” she said. “To sum it all up, Oxenstierna has been in such a hurry to launch his counter-revolution that he has jettisoned the legitimacy of his own government’s executive and legislative branches. Which leaves, as the only surviving legitimate branch, the judiciary — who, regardless of how conservative they might be, will be aghast at these reckless procedures.”

    “To put it mildly,” said Werner, snorting with amusement. “You can be accused of committing any crime in the books, and a judge will remain calm and even-tempered. Violate established legal protocol, and that same judge will become red-faced and indignant.”

    Gunther Achterhof still looked skeptical. “And what does Oxenstierna care, whether a pack of judges rules with or against him? I repeat: we’re in a civil war. He’ll simply have them arrested along with Wettin.”

    By the time he finished, however, at least half the heads at the conference table were shaking. Even Gunther seemed to recognized he’d ventured onto thin ice, from the way his forceful tone diminished.

    “And lose at least ninety percent of the militias who would otherwise support him,” said Hamburg’s mayor. “I can guarantee that the militia of my city would abandon his cause. They might even be upset enough to support us.”

    “The same would be true for most of the provincial governments as well,” said Strigel. “Hesse-Kassel would certainly come out in opposition, and so would Brunswick.”

    “Westphalia’s a given, of course,” added Helene Gundelfinger, “with a Danish prince as its administrator and official head of state. Even if he doesn’t much like his younger brother, Frederik would hardly side with the Swedes.”

    “It will be true down the line,” said Rebecca. “Oxenstierna has blundered badly. He has handed us on a plate the one single factor that a counter-revolution normally has working in its favor — legitimacy. You are more right than you know, Gunther. Indeed, the chancellor of Sweden and his followers are now the bastards in this conflict.”

    “And we — ha! what a charming twist! — are now the champions of the established laws,” said Ableidinger.

    “Our strategy and our tactics must be guided by that understanding,” said Rebecca. “As Constantin says, we are the ones defending the laws, not they. So we must be patient, not hasty; considerate of established customs and practices, not dismissive of them; and, most of all, present ourselves as the guardians of order and stability.”

    Achterhof was back to scowling. “If by that you’re saying we have to sit on our hands –”

    “I said nothing of the sort, Gunther.” Rebecca managed to maintain a cordial tone of voice. The man could sometimes be a real trial. “What matters is not the content of what we do, but the form. So, here in Magdeburg, we seize all the reins of power — what few we don’t already possess, at any rate. But we do so in order to defend the laws, not to overthrow them. Oxenstierna and those outlaws in Berlin are the revolutionaries, not us.”

    She looked at Albert Bugenhagen. “Every province and town will have to adopt its own tactics, of course, to suit the local conditions. But the same method should apply everywhere. Thus, in Hamburg, I recommend that you summon the town militia to defend the city’s rights and laws against illegal aggression coming from Berlin.”

    Bugenhagen grinned. “They’ll squirm, you watch. But… in the end, they might very well do it.”

    “And even if they don’t,” said Constantin, “you can mobilize the CoC’s armed units in the city on the same grounds. You’re not clashing with the militia, you’re — oh, this is truly delightful — coming out to support them in their righteous task.”

    Rebecca nodded. “Everywhere, we must follow that course. Defense, not offense. This is no time, in other words, for the CoCs to launch another Operation Kristallnacht. Let the reactionaries start the violence. Let everyone see that they are the instigators of mayhem, just as they are the ones who shredded the nation’s constitution and laws.”

    She now looked at Gunther Achterhof. “We are, of course, permitted to act in self-defense, should the outlaws make so bold as to attack us.”

    The head of Magdeburg’s Committee of Correspondence looked mollified. Well, somewhat mollified. But Rebecca didn’t think he would be a problem. As pig-headed as he often was, Gunther was not stupid. Once he saw how effective the tactics were, he’d begin applying them with his usual adroit skills as an organizer.

    Liesel Hahn spoke up. “I think you should write to the landgravine of Hesse-Kassel immediately, Rebecca. She thinks quite well of you, despite her political differences. She’s told me so herself. Twice, now.”

    “I will do better than that, Liesel. I will send her a radio message — and send the same message to the heads of state of every single one of the provinces, even those like Pomerania and the Upper Rhine which we can assume will remain actively hostile. The centerpiece of my message, of course, will be our new motto and principal slogan.”

    Her serene smile finally appeared. “Justice for Wilhelm Wettin! We demand that the prime minister be charged in a duly constituted court of law, not some outlaw travesty of a tribunal. We demand that any charges against him be made openly, so that he may exercise his right — guaranteed under the constitution — to confront his accusers. We demand that he be given a fair trial in a USE court of law, not be victimized by foreign Swedish star chamber proceedings. Last but not least, we demand that he be released until such a trial can be convened, in order to resume his duties as the still-rightful head of the USE’s government.”

    She stopped. Everyone stared at her.

    Then Ableidinger slapped the table again. Hard enough, this time, to make it jump. “Oh, how grand — to live in such splendid times! Where up is down and down is up and everything is finally in its rightful place!”

Home Page Index Page




Previous Page Next Page

Page Counter Image