1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 40

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 40

She waited patiently, long enough to give anyone with doubts a chance to speak up. They would have done so, too. Richter was the dominant figure at that table, but she was not domineering. In fact, she went out of her way to make sure people felt at ease and were not afraid to express their opinions. That was a good part of the reason she was so dominant, of course. Her followers trusted her, they weren’t simply cowed by her.

“All right, then. We’ll need to form a new committee to take charge of the resistance against the Swedes. Politically neutral, as it were. I propose one-third of the seats will be held by the CoC, one-third will be divided between the soldiers, the militias, and the city council — however they choose to divide them — and the remaining third will be split evenly between the Vogtlanders and representatives of the towns in the plain.

That was an exceedingly generous gesture on the part of the CoC, especially toward the Vogtlanders. Of course, the generosity was more formal than real, in some ways. The militias and especially the regular soldiers were so heavily influenced by the CoC that they could be relied upon to follow its guidance. Even the city council by now was close to the CoC, since most of its former patrician members had fled the city.

Still, the formalities were significant, not just empty posturing. The fact that Richter was willing to make such a proposal indicated that she would listen to people outside the CoC also.

“We’ll need a new name for it, Gretchen,” said Tata.

“Yes, I know. I propose to call it the Committee of Public Safety.”

Eric had to stifle a sudden, semi-hysterical laugh. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Friedrich’s lips purse.

But Nagel didn’t say anything. Looking around the table, Eric realized that he and his fellow lieutenant were the only ones there — leaving aside Gretchen herself, he presumed — who understood the historical allusion.

“I like it,” grunted Kuefer. “It’s neutral sounding but it ought to send the right message to the Swedes.”


After the meeting broke up, Eric and Friedrich waited for Gretchen in the corridor outside the conference chamber.

“What is it?” she asked, when she emerged. “I don’t have much time right now. I need to give Wettin the news myself. I don’t want him hearing it first in the form of rumor.”

Eric cleared his throat. “Friedrich and I were talking and… ah… that title for the committee you proposed…”

“That I proposed and everyone agreed to, including you. At least, you raised no objection. What about it?”

“Well… ah… some people might think we were being provocative…” He trailed off.

“For God’s sake, Gretchen,” burst out Nagel, “it’s the name Robespierre and his people used!”

“Leaving aside the metaphysical issue of whether the verb ‘use’ makes sense in the past tense for something that won’t happen for a century and a half in another universe, you’re right. That’s why I chose it.”

She paused and gave both of them a cold stare. “Since you’ve apparently read the history, I will point out that this same Committee of Public Safety was responsible for defeating every one of the royalist nations who invaded France to restore the king. The reactionary propagandists against Robespierre and Danton don’t like to talk much about that, do they?”

“But…” Eric felt his face grow pale. “Surely you don’t propose to erect a guillotine in the central square?”

She frowned. “Why in the world would we do that, when we’ve got plenty of stout German axes at hand? We’re not French sissies.”

She swept off, down the corridor, headed toward the administrator’s chambers.

“I… think that was a joke,” ventured Friedrich.

Eric took off his hat and ran fingers through his hair. Then, jammed it back on. “With Gretchen, who knows? But we’ll take that as our working hypothesis. Anyway, what’s the difference? We’ll probably all be dead in a couple of months anyway, between Banér and typhus.”

“Don’t forget the plague,” said Friedrich, as they began walking in the other direction. He was more chipper already, now that he had catastrophes to dwell on. “Always a reliable guest in such affairs. And I hear there’s a new disease we’ll be encountering one of these days. They call it ‘cholera.’ It’s quite fascinating. Apparently, your bowels turn to water and you shit and puke yourself to death.”


After Gretchen Richter left his office, Ernst Wettin rose from his desk and went to the northern window. That provided him with his favorite view of the valley.

There were settlements over there on the north bank of the Elbe, but the big majority of the city’s populace lived south of the river. He’d been told by a friend who’d gotten a look at an up-time travel guide in Grantville that someday — about half a century from now, during a period they would call “the Baroque” — the city would expand greatly over there. But in this day and age, the walls of the city did not include those north bank settlements. They’d have no protection once a siege began.

They wouldn’t be there much longer, however. One of the things Richter had told him was that she’d ordered the destruction of all buildings north of the river. Most of the inhabitants had already fled into the city, as news spread of the atrocities being committed by the oncoming Swedish army. Richter would have the ones who remained evacuated also, and then they’d burn everything to the ground.

She’d sent orders to have every village within ten miles evacuated and burned also. The inhabitants would either come into the city or find refuge with the Vogtlanders in the mountains to the south. Banér and his army would have no choice but to spend the coming winter in camps.

Technically, the orders would come from this new “Committee of Public Safety.” (Odd title, that. He wondered where they’d gotten it from?) Because of the very visible and prominent place on it given to the Vogtlanders and leaders of some of the important towns in the plain, those orders would probably be obeyed, too.

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40 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 40

  1. robert says:

    Eric and Friedrich are right to be concerned about the name, but it is doubtful that anyone else around knows the significance. When Mike hears it he will probably laugh…so typical of Gretchen.

    I think that Mike and Jeff will let Baner bleed for a while and perhaps freeze as well. After enough desertions and disease, they will administer the death blow, assuming Baner is still alive. When that is done, Ox’s prestige will be at a low point, as will W. Wettin’s, Cristina will have arrived in Magdeburg to lend legitimacy to the resistance there, Gustav will have recovered and Spring will come for all except the Austrians who will have to face the Ottomans again.

  2. Ed says:

    Best! Gretchen! Quote! Ever!

    But it’s disappointing that Ernst doesn’t get the reference. You’d think a fussbudget like him would have done enough reading.

  3. Bret Hooper says:

    I, for one, sure wouldn’t care to bet that Gretchen won’t pull it off successfully. With Banér off the board, the situation would be much improved, and if, as Robert (I think correctly) suggests, Gus recovers and Kristina arrives, Ox&Sterno will engage in some conversations he would much rather not experience!

  4. frederic says:

    Me, I’m disapointed that Gretchen didn’t point out that the guillotine was actually an advance in people’s (and human) right. It meant that comon people could ‘enjoy’ the previously aristocrat-only priviledge of a clean and quick death (beheading is quicker than hanging, which was the most comon form of execution for commoners previously – the others were more lingering -) and removed the possibility of botched beheading.

  5. Nimitz13 says:

    And somewhere David Weber and the revolutionaries on the planet Haven are laughing too — led by Rob S. Pierre of course.

  6. dave o says:

    “have every village within ten miles evacuated and burned.” Shades of Torres Vedras! Forcing Baner into winter camps practically guarantees his troops get lots and lots of disease. Baner probably knows this; he is a 17th century general after all. All the more reason for him to try to take the city by escalade. It’s only being held by a bunch of radicals, and surely his professional troops can beat them. And then, after a well deserved massacre, he can house his troops in the city.

    Then comes the dawn.

    Interesting that Ernst Wettin seems to be going along with Gretchen’s program. In Berlin W. Wettin is soon going to have the choice of supporting his brother, or supporting the Ox. I think I know which he’ll chose.

  7. Olav says:

    @4 During the siege of Amsterdam it is written (can’t remember which book or GG) that Gretchen is almost a reactionnaire in her habits, so i wouldn’t bet on this being a joke!

  8. Stanley Leghorn says:

    I’m not so sure the Prime Minister is going to continue to be so accomedating as he finds out how dirty his hands are going to be. Tho, as long as he is physically under O’s thumb, he might. He does have a backbone as we saw in 1632, I just wonder if it will reappear as more lines get crossed.

  9. Karl-Johan says:

    Just wait until the American habit of acronyms, which I guess the CoCs have picked up as well, come into play as well.

  10. frederic says:

    @7 : I’m not sure I follow you here. I didn’t take gretchen’s amswer as a joke, and neither was my message. But I do not see how Gretchen’s being reactionary in her habits affects either. Could you please explain more what you mean by that? If anything, being reactionary would mean she would prefer hangings to beheading in my opinion (Ah ca ira, ca ira, ca ira, les aristocrates a la lanterne, Ah ca ira, ca ira, ca ira, les aristocrates on les pendra…..)

  11. JN says:

    @5 Not one of Weber’s more subtle references.

  12. morgulknight says:

    @11, I’m not sure the terms “David Weber” and “subtle” belong in the same sentence…

  13. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    @4: I thought this aspect of introducing the guillotine was sufficiently covered by “We’re not French sissies.” :-)

    @10: In 1634: The Baltic War, when Gretchen and the CoC take over the effective administration of Amsterdam during the Spanish siege, some of the more conservative characters remark that the CoCs are tougher on criminals and keep better order than even the city council administration.

    I don’t have the book handy so I don’t know whether that comment was by Rubens, Scaglia, or (less likely) Friderik Hendrik, but Eric clearly meant to indicate that the speaker was surprised and thought of ‘law and order’ as a more “conservative” value (and that Gretchen’s policy played a role in changing the speaker’s mind about the CoCs, i.e. that they were not loonies, but serious people with a serious agenda.)

    Personally, I don’t think she’s joking. It will (eventually) be an interesting choice for those found guilty of atrocities — beheaded by Gretchen’s axes or hung by Jeff’s “MPs.” :-)

  14. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    @8 The re-education of Wilhelm Wettin will be an intresting plotline to follow. I can see him included in a rescue of GA2, but it might be more interesting to have him just stand up to OX and become a martyr to the cause of USE autonomy (after all, Ernst is available as a political successor).

  15. LenS says:

    re 10 and previous – Being hard on crimminals is not reactionary. Being hard on poor people is reactionary.

  16. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    LenS, I think that is *Eric’s* point, at least part of it.

  17. robert says:

    @14 Ed S. I think the term re-education is incorrect. Better to say de-Oxification.

    @10 I agree with morgulknight. Weber has never been subtle. He does have fun with names though, as in his reference to “Garrett Randall” and “Darcy Lord” in the last book.

  18. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Well people, I think there’s another aspect with David Weber’s “Robert Pierre” and the “Tennis court oath”.

    I think those were “red herrings” to fool people who like to guess where the author is going with a story line.

    DW had admitted that Honor is somewhat based on Lord Nelson and Manticore is “Great Britian in Space” so people were bound to think of “Napoleonic Wars in Space”.

    So why shouldn’t he give us names/events from the French Revolutions?

    Of course, plenty of Honorverse readers were trying to guess who the Honorverse Napoleon was.

    Then David Weber gave us McQueen and had her do things that reminded us of Napoleon.

    Of course, he then killed McQueen. [Evil Grin]

  19. stoicheion says:

    “Being hard on crimminals is not reactionary. Being hard on poor people is reactionary.”
    Socialist dogma is that criminals are criminals because they are poor and have to steal or they are criminals because they are rich capitalists and have already stolen. As a capitalist, that contradiction always confused me. My brother the Socialist has no problem with it.

  20. Beata says:

    So, we have “Committee of Public Safety”. I hope, Gretchen will not establish “Office of Public Security”…
    Office of Public Security was Polish communist secret police.

    Sorry, I can’t restraint myself, but every revolution has a dark side.

  21. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    Drak, I will say that the Honor series background became a heck of a lot more interesting to me once David knocked off Admiral Cluster-Bomb, and then still went ahead with eq1uivalents to Thermidor, the Peace of Amiens, and Haitian Revolution (though with quite different outcomes than the actual history). To paraphrase Tolkien, Analogy is more powerful than Allegory.

    Trying desperately to stay on topic, I never had a similar moment with Eric’s stuff, but they do write very diffrent styles of book.

  22. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    @19 I think in context Eric’s point is that some people assume revolutionaries, especially “lower class” revolutionaries, are not interested in maintaining law and order. I suppose that might be true in some cases, or for tactical reasons, but mostly revolutionaries have been interested in getting control of law and order rather than abolishing it.

    Kind of the flip side of the contradiction you noticed.

  23. robert says:

    @19, @22, etc.
    There are many kinds of Revolutions and Revolutionaries and counter-Revolutionaries. The French and Russian revolutions were different in terms of who the revolutionaries were (and who the counter-revolutionaries were, as well). But both were class-based for the most part. But the American revolution was (gasp!) a purely economic one with upper-middle class revolutionaries instigating it and rousing the rabble (Kenneth Roberts’ word, not mine) to arms. And so far it is the only one that seems to be still working. Napoleon wrecked one and rigid inflexible ideology wrecked the other and is the only thing that could wreck the American Revolution.

    Then we have the Haitian, Mexican (Maximillian was done wrong!), Hungarian and Czech revolutions. All different and most failed.

  24. tim says:

    @23- let us not forget the Dutch Revolt against the Spaniards in OTL, the English Revolution (termed the English Civil War) which in the NTL is starting ahead of schedule; let’s hear it for Chuckie Stuart, he had his face (and his head!) shoved into his OTL stupidity, and it still didn’t improve him any! As for David Weber and Rob S. Pierre, let us not also forget Safehold- Kyent Claryk, Pyter Parkah, Nahrman Bahtes, etc. ( I know, I’m not spelling them as Mr. Weber did, but my books are in storage!) As for the Hungarian and Czech revolutions; those did not fail, they were murdered by the theocracy-masquerading-as-economic-theory called the USSR. The “fault” of Hungary 1956 and Czechoslovakia 1968 was that they actually sought real socialism, not the abortion the USSR enforced.

  25. jeff bybee says:

    in reference to the comments on snippit #39 I wish Mr Flint would add a little more flesh to his spare writing framwork it seems sometimes he says barely enough to tell the story… but I do wish he would write more books faster. . I’m sorry to hear he has not been well. Hope he gets well soon and for very selfish reasons hope that he live long happy and productive life.
    thankyou for creating the 1632 universe and I disagree that their was not enough blood in the origional book fact is I can not think of anything wrong with the origional book just wish more would come faster ( and that the rivers of war series also would be continued)

  26. ET1swaw says:

    First ‘Krystallmacht’, now ‘Committees of Public Safety’. Can’t say CoCs don’t yank the chain of OTL history. If Ox and PM Wettin are paying attention, those two code phrases should be sending up fireworks. After all CoPS was one of the most anti-aristocracy revolutionary groups going IMO. And Ox is and always has been aristocracy-first (and that Orthodox Lutheran IS the only religion) and most of his supporters in Berlin are Adel (few Hochadel, very few non-Lutheran clergy (RCs are not Axel’s favorite people), some reactionary Burghers, and AFAIK none of the Fourth Estate). And many of the Adel are hardscrabble such as from Pomerania.
    Ox technically isn’t committing treason in Berlin, he is getting the PM and their supporters to. Axel is technically a foriegn national (Kingdom of Sweden and her Dominions) playing in the pool of USE politics.
    Last snippet brought Von Arnim (holed up in Leipzig with the remains of the Saxon army) back up. Unless he’s a red herring (and I agree with comments above that Eric is less likely than David Weber to do so), we might be seeing him upon the scene (maybe as back-up to Baner when 3rd USE Division comes calling; without VonA or VonT’s Swedish troops Baner would be outnumbered as well as severely outclassed).
    The only question I still have is what is happening in the Swedish Dominions that border on Ducal Prussia (which belongs to the Elector of Brandenburg in feif to the PLC) and the PLC (Swedish Prussia (areas ceded to Sweden by Truce of Altmark (1629-Sept. 1635), OTL recovered by PLC in Treaty of Stuhmsdorf) and Swedish Livonia ( which remained Swedish (mostly) until taken by Russia in 1700s; bordered by PLC enfiefed Duchy of Courland and Inflanty (Polish Livonia))? That is out of the AOR of this book it seems.

  27. ET1swaw says:

    mispelled ‘Krystallnacht’; sorry!!!

  28. Bret Hooper says:

    @10&17: David Weber can be subtle, too. The Havenite ship owned and crewed by Oscar’s StateSec was named the Tepes. I doubt that very many caught that reference; I wouldn’t have had I not once had a Romanian coworker.
    I still expect (and hope) that Banér will have to stay out in the cold.

    Go Gretchen!

  29. laclongquan says:

    IN the HOnor universe, Napoleon was slash into two different half: the ambitious Emperor Napoleon that everyone know in Admiral Clusterbomb, and the faithful protector of the Republic General Bonaparte, very much less known, in Admiral Thomas Theisman.

    The latter image is the betrayed and shattered dream of French Revolutionaree.

  30. frederic says:

    @25 I wouldn’t say that the comite de salut public was anti-aristocrats as much as it was anti anything that could oppose it and anything it could use as a scapegoat for any problem. Even during the terror, aristocrats numbered less than 10% of the victims and lots of aristocrats were part of the revolutionary system and survived the terror just fine (of course, some of these revolutionary aristocrats died in the white terror of 1814-15, which did much more victims than the original one).

    Sending every suspected political foe to the guillotine was what did the comite de salut public in at the end, as basically every surviving political player ganged against it out of fear, since there was no way to be sure not to be sent to the guillotine tomorrow, even if you had impecable revolutionary credentials.

    And just as an aside, the comite de salut public was not the most extremist of the revolutionary groups vying for power. Just look at the Club des egaux (Gracchus Babeuf – who was guillotined -). I’m surprised we have not yet seen an equivalent in the serie. Unless I missed it somewhere….

  31. Mark L says:

    @28 Theisman is more of a George Washington type than any version of Napoleon. And for those that think only of GW as President, he entered politics very reluctantly — late in life after retiring from command of the Continental Army. And he had been offered the new United States on a platter at Newburgh — as Dictator, Lord Protector, King, or whatever he chose to call himself — by the army in 1783. And turned that down.

  32. Willem Meijer says:

    Comité de Salut Public is translated above as Committee of Public Safety. ‘Salut’ does not mean ‘Safety’, it has more of the term ‘Salvation’, in it’s religious sense. In it’s name it announced to the world that it would mould the world into it’s revolutionary ideal.

    I try to render the name into German, and I end up with something like Rat/Komité/Ausschuss für Öffentliche Sicherheit. Or perhaps Sicherheitsausschuss. I do hope we will not see people running around with SA on their uniforms.

  33. frederic says:

    @31 Isn’t ‘sicherheit’ more ‘protection’ that ‘salvation’? Or do I misremember my german lessons?

    @30 so did De Gaulle. Twice. Does that make him a Washington-type figure?

  34. Todd Bloss says:

    Ineresting stuff. -I always wondered why they changed the name of the Texas Rangers to The Department of Public Safety.
    Maybe it wasn’t to tone down the name, but give it a scarier one instead :)

  35. LenS says:

    For some insight on how successful revolutionaries operate, recommend you see “Battle for Algiers”, a French film from the 60s that dramatizes real events leading to the eventual expulsion of the French from Algeria. The first significant action of the rebels was to dispense summary and fatal justice to Algerian street criminals who operated against the native population with virtual impunity, as long as they didn’t mess with the French rulers. This is a pattern repeated elsewhere. You can certainly call the criminals “poor” – but that wasn’t considered an excuse for them to prey on their own – so they died. Gretchen would sneer at the term “socialist” as used above – and would consider someone using the term on her as a laughable insult.

  36. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    @33: I think @32 is translating the name as Eric gives it in English (Committee for Public Safety), not the French original.

    Re: Degaulle, the answer is yes and the comparison is almost
    exact, as Washington also ‘retired’ from the Presidency by not running for a third term in 1797 as well as refusing a military dictatorship in 1783.

    @31: There was a strong hope across Europe that Napoleon would turn out like Washington, which was greatly disappointed when N crowned himself Emperor. Given the ‘French Revolution’ background for Haven, it seems legitimate for laclongquan to interpret Theisman as a ‘what if’ for Napoleon. Of course, Theisman had a Pritchard he could trust to be Pesident of Haven — Napoleon had politicians who were going to try to take him down.

  37. robert says:

    Don’t forget the part played by Mesa in the politics of Haven. Everything good was twisted and ultimately destroyed leaving only malefactors in charge.

    @24 I consider that the Hungarian and Czech revolutions were begun based on what the people in those nations thought the USA would do: aid them. And that hope was based on American propaganda, which was misleading and ill conceived and had awful consequences. And so they failed. It is a wonder to me that the Czech & Hungarian peoples even care for Americans to this day.

  38. morgulknight says:

    @32, I think “Sicherheitsausschuss” fits more with the modern German propensity for longwinded compound nouns that are also quite descriptive. But you also have a point about people calling themselves the SA especially once uptimers who know anything about German history get wind of the term (granted, the early Nazi SA’s initials meant something else, but still…).
    Regarding what Gretchen’s post-revolution platform may be, have we ever had any hints about that? Is she even thinking that far ahead (Mike Stearns might be, but what have we seen about his long-term policy goals? Long-term, mind: twenty years on, not just until the next election)?

  39. John Cowan says:

    #19, #22: Remember the Marcolis. Poor criminals get one warning, after that — revolutionary justice.

    #32: “Committee of Public Safety” is the traditional English (mis)translation. The English have a special license to mangle French: consider “Le Mort Darthur”.

  40. Willem Meijer says:

    @38 and @39 ‘Salut’ (salvation) could be translated into German as ‘Heil’. If the Committee of Public Safety needs to organize an armed force it could call it the ‘Heilsarmee’. Yes: the Salvation Army.

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