Joseph Görres’ 'Koblenzer Adresse' was a privately organised address, unlike those initiated by city councils at the time. Görres started collecting signatures on 18 October 1817 to present them to the Staatskanzler in time for King Wilhelm’s visit to the Rhinelands in the winter of 1817/18. The petition states that it joins the city petitions of Trier and Cologne to appeal to the King and hold him to account for his promise given upon signing the Treaties at the congress of Vienna in 1815. The demands are the restoration of estates and of the ancient German constitution. It directly calls for the realisation of Article 13 of the Bundesakte (German Federal Act), which granted the creation of a German constitution at Vienna.

Another interesting aspect is how the participants are protrayed in this petition: 'sich aber nicht bloss als Buerger der Preußischen Monarchie sondern auch als Deutsch betrachten' ('consider themselves not just citizens of the Prussian Monarchy but as Germans'). This quite clearly shows the disparity between growing German nationalism fostered through overflowing patriotism in the Rhinelands and the Prussian government.

A subsequent letter (LHK 402 171 p.21) is from March 1818 expressing the Prussian King Frederick William III's disapproval of the Rhineprovince's president von Ingersleben’s inactivity surrounding the petition. It was, namely, far from a normal plea to the King, to which every subject had a right, but rather a down-right prompt for action which was seen as unseemly behaviour.

Görres' and his address initiative were subject to wide criticism, which some scholars suggests established a first spark of public sphere and debate in the Rhineland. Görres published a written account about the presentation of his address to


Items Referencing this Item

#138Petitioning in the RhineprovinceDetails
The 1833 Letter from the governor of the Rhineprovince regards King Frederick William III’s complaint of receiving petitions from ‘representatives of the people’ outside of the sitting of the Landtag. In the king's understanding, representatives could not exist whenever the provincial assembly is not sitting.

It highlights how little the Prussian King was inclined towards ruling in a representative system or allowing the drafting of regional constitutions according to conditions he agreed to at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Following Frederick William III’s death in 1840, his son Frederick William IV was deemed a promising change of leadership due to his friendly relations to the Rhineland. By 1849, however, the Prussian king’s view on progressive, liberal politics and the establishment of a German state and constitution had reverted back to those of his father and he rejected petitioners from the Frankfurt Assembly offering him the crown of German emperor.

The instalment of a Rhenish provincial assembly that sat for the first time in 1826 in Düsseldorf might not have been the most obvious and immediate success democrats had imagined, as it was organised through representation of estates (nobility, privileged land owners, cities, small landowners) and thus restricted access and representation. However, it facilitated formation of public opinion through assembly debates on church-state relations, Jewish emancipation, local government reform, public finances being balanced between eastern and western parts of Prussia. Petitioning became a new means to influence assembly debates in Düsseldorf as well as Berlin, spawning a wave of petitions regarding the new constitution, respectively the attempts of change to the Rhenish law during the 1830s and 40s. This method, under penmanship of lawyers and Rhenish officials, was successful in 1843 as the Rhenish law defeated the Prussian-proposed antiquated Allgemeines Landrecht. While Rhenish law, i.e. French law, has public hearings and juries, Prussian law operated in secret without involvement of the public until a ruling has taken place and is published in writing. Ultimately, the Rhenish law system provided a model for Prussian and German reform following 1848.

By 1848/9 petitions that reached the National Parliament in Frankfurt and the Prussian Parliament set out and repeated the demands and content of the election campaigns and manifestos. They comprised of, among others, universal suffrage, freedom of speech, press and association as well as confession and religion, safety of labour rights, personal freedom and the judiciary and state-funded education.
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#16Josef GörresDetails
Josef Görres (1776, Koblenz - 1848, Munich) was a writer, teacher, philosopher, and theologian. He directly witnessed several political currents during his lifetime, always enthusiastically embracing them only to later discard and criticise them in his magniloquent, complex, polemical writings. Caught between the extremes of French revolutionary ideals, German unification, Prussian militarism, and Hapsburg restoration, he aimed to strike a balance between upholding rights, truth, and freedom (Fink-Lang, 2013: 7-9).

A cunning polemicist, Görres polarised public opinion through several publications of various political orientations, always calling out arbitrary despotism, whether during the French occupation, the Congress of Vienna, or the Prussian rule of the Rhineland. His writings in the Rheinischer Merkur (1814-1816) and his pamphlet Teutschland und die Revolution (1819) made him one of the earliest and ardent champions of German unification and nationalism. Additionally, Athansasius (1838) is considered the foundation for political Catholicism during the Vormärz.

A key figure to establish acceptance of the Prussians among the Rhinelanders, he rose to Director of Public Schooling in the Rhineland. However, when his hopes were disappointed by restorative measures of the Prussian King who failed to deliver a constitution as promised in article 13 of the Bundesakte (German Federal Act), he became openly subversive in his writing and his opinion. His controversial anti-Prussian tract Teutschland und die Revolution (1819) triggered his prosecution by the Prussians, forcing him to flee to France and later settle in Munich - never to return.

The statue is situated on the left bank of the Rhine in Görres home-town Koblenz. Plans for such a commemorative statue existed since the 1840s, but only came to fruition during French military government in the 1920s, mostly due to Prussian political repression of such plans.