1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 12
“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 Poznań. 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.”
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.