1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 26
But the traditional elites who provided most of the leadership of the Crown Loyalists ignored the criticisms. For them, steeped in paternalistic traditions and customs, the idea seemed perfectly reasonable. Of course all people who live in a province should have their existence reflected in the electoral strength of that province. The decisions made by their legislatures would affect them, would they not? But likewise, of course most of those people shouldn’t actually be allowed to vote. They weren’t competent to do so. You might as well give children in a family the same authority as the parents.
Wilhelm V and Amalie Elizabeth were firmly convinced the end result of forcing limited citizenship on every province would be a civil war. They were not at all sure who would wind up winning that war. But even if they’d been confident their side would win, they didn’t think the enormous destruction was a price worth paying.
The Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel said so again today, to the prime minister who now had the power to make the decision. And the response was the one he and his wife had feared. A man, trapped in quicksand, who insisted that he was just going for a swim.
“In the long run, we don’t have any choice,” Wettin said. His tone was mulish, his gaze was downcast. He reminded Amalie of a petulant child. “If we let them set the terms of citizenship, we’ll wind up with a civil war for sure. The only way to prevent that is to limit their power from the outset.”
Amalie Elizabeth could no longer restrain herself. “Wilhelm, that’s wrong from more angles than I can count! Just to begin with, it’s absurd to think that you can limit the power of the Committees of Correspondence — not to mention someone like Mike Stearns! — by simply fiddling with the voter rolls. It didn’t work in the United States that Grantville came from, did it? What makes you think it will work here?”
Her husband nodded. “Like it or not, their power stems from their political influence over the lower classes. Most of those people are not accustomed to voting anyway. Did the peasants who fought the Peasant War have voting privileges? No. But they still rebelled — and the only thing that crushed them was military force, not stringent voting registrars.”
That last came with a sneer, to which Wettin responded with a glare. But the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel was now too angry himself to care about diplomacy.
“And have you given any thought to that little problem? How many of those squabbling petty noblemen and burghers you’re pandering to have volunteered to raise and fund an army? Or are you lunatic enough to believe you can rely on the USE’s army? — which is riddled with CoC agitators and organizers.”
Amalie Elizabeth was no more inclined to be polite herself, any longer, although she refrained from sneering.
“You did notice, I hope — you being the prime minister now — the results of the recent fracas between the CoCs and the anti-Semites?”
Her husband’s sneer had never wavered. “Oh, yes. Wasn’t that splendid? Thousands of reactionaries dead all over the country, the CoCs triumphant everywhere — and you might ask that pack of semi-literate exile noblemen from Mecklenburg why they haven’t returned to their homes. Consider that, Wilhelm, before you get too cocksure about triggering a civil war.”
But it was no use. The prime minister’s expression might as well have been set in stone. The statue of a dwarf king, perhaps, determined to do what he was damn well determined to do, no matter the consequences.
After Rebecca finished speaking, Gretchen nodded. “Thank you for the information. Would you care for some more tea?” With a little smile, she wiggled her fingers at the large tea pot on the kitchen table between them, with its very ample accompanying provisions of sugar and cream. “It turns out I can afford a lot of tea, these days.”
Rebecca shook her head and then cocked it sideways a little. “You don’t seem upset by the news.”
Gretchen shrugged. “I was expecting it. This clash is inevitable, Rebecca. There won’t be any way to negotiate with the Crown Loyalists until they fracture and real political parties emerge from the wreckage. That… thing they call a party is nothing of the sort. It’s an unholy alliance whose sole basis of agreement is seizing and holding power. Wettin is no more in control of it than a wave controls the sea.”
Rebecca sighed. “I fear you may well be right.”
She rose from her seat. “I must leave.” Hearing the sounds of teenagers quarreling in a nearby room, she smiled. “The demands of children. As you well know.”
Gretchen accompanied her to the door. Two Yeoman Warders were waiting in the corridor beyond, ready to escort Rebecca home.
“Thank you,” she repeated.
Gretchen had been notified by Rebecca ahead of time that she’d be visiting this morning. That meant important political news, of course. Gretchen, in turn, had sent word to all the CoC leaders in the city.
So, within half an hour of Rebecca’s departure, most of them had arrived at the apartment building and were gathered in Gretchen’s kitchen. It was a very big kitchen, as it needed to be given that it was the kitchen for the entire complex.
“So it’s definite then?” asked Spartacus, who was standing near one of the stoves.
“As definite as any information from Rebecca,” she replied. “But, certainly on a subject like this one, that’s pretty damn definite.”
Across the table from her, Gunther Achterhof nodded. “Yes, I think we can assume it’s true. As soon as the parliament begins its session, Wettin will introduce bills that will force through the reactionaries’ positions on citizenship and the established church. The only question is: what do we intend to do about it?”
Gretchen reached for the tea pot. “Tea, anyone?”
Achterhof grinned. “Better get a bigger one. We’re going to be here for hours.”
“Days,” predicted Spartacus.