1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 07

1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 07

She nodded toward Piazza. “The most conservative American in our world — someone like Tino Nobili, for instance –”

That brought a sarcastic bark from Ed and a little titter of laughter from a number of other people. Even among down-timers in Magdeburg, the cranky up-time pharmacist in Grantville was notorious. He’s to the right of Attila the Hun was a common up-time depiction of the man.

“Even someone like Nobili,” Rebecca continued, “is more progressive than most people — yes, even most commoners — in the Europe of our time. He does not, for instance, object to women being able to vote or hold office, whether electoral or hereditary. Nor — unlike almost all apothecary guilds in the here and now — does he have a problem with the idea of a woman someday running his own pharmacy.”

She let that sink in, for a moment. “In politics, things are always relative. I can remember a time — so can many of you in this room — when John Chandler Simpson seemed to be a bastion of reaction. Today… not so much, does he? At least, I’ve never heard anyone in this room suggest that he should be removed from his position as the leading admiral of our navy. And my husband Michael thinks quite highly of the man. Now. Not a few years ago, however.”

She shrugged and leaned back in her chair. “The essence of conservatism is not a political philosophy of any kind. It is a general attitude.” Again, she nodded toward Ed Piazza. “His folk have a plethora of saws expressing that attitude. So does every folk. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s my personal favorite — and, by the way, a piece of wisdom I subscribe to myself. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. That’s another. A third — I’m quite fond of this one also — is be careful what you wish for because you might get it. And finally, of course, there is the famous Murphy’s Law, which perhaps encapsulates the heart of conservatism: if something can go wrong, it will.

Piazza now chimed in. “I agree with Rebecca. The point she’s making is that we will always have a strong conservative faction to deal with. Folks, I can even remember myself voting Republican up-time once in a while.” Seeing the lack of comprehension on some faces, he waved his hand. “Republicans were our variety of Crown Loyalists — well, sort of — back in up-time America. The point is –”

He leaned forward to give emphasis to his next words. “Since we’re going to have a conservative political party to deal with here in the USE, it’s entirely in our interest to have it be one that’s reasonable and responsible — and, yes, Gunther, that’s quite possible. We had plenty of conservative politicians like that where I came from.”

Rebecca picked up the thread. “We can deal with Amelie Elisabeth, without any threat or risk of violence. The same is true with Wettin himself, now that he’s broken from the outright reactionaries. No, that’s not really putting it the right way, is it? He didn’t ‘break’ from them — they ousted him from office and placed him in prison because he objected to their treasonous behavior. And we all know from Gretchen’s letters that Ernst Wettin conducted himself most honorably during Báner’s siege of Dresden.”

Smooth as silk, Charlotte Kienitz inserted herself back into the discussion. “So what you’re saying is that we should do whatever we can to encourage a rupture between outright reactionaries and those conservatives who are following the principles which Alessandro Scaglia lays out in his recent book Political Methods and the Laws of Nations.”

Scaglia was a former Savoyard diplomat who’d become one of the chief advisers to King Fernando and his very shrewd wife Maria Anna, a former archduchess of Austria. In fact, the newly reunited Netherlands could be called the best current state practitioner of those principles. Rebecca had devoted two full chapters of her book to an analysis of Scaglia’s theses — an analysis which was sometimes in agreement and never harshly critical.

“Yes, exactly,” Rebecca said. She then bestowed a benign gaze upon the glowering face of Gunther Achterhof. “I realize that this course of action will not always be met with favor by the conservatives in our own movement. I speak of those folk who are generally set in their ways and dislike flexibility as a matter of course.”

A big round of laughter erupted in the room. After a moment, Gunther allowed a crooked smile to come to his face. The man had virtues as well as faults, one of them being a good if usually acerbic sense of humor.


After the meeting ended and the gathering dissolved into pleasant conversation and chitchat, Charlotte sidled up to Rebecca.

“I notice you didn’t bring up the issue of your retirement in Ed’s favor,” she said.

“No, Ed and I decided that we’d do better to keep it to one controversy at a time. We’ll be holding another full meeting in a few days. I’ll bring it up then.”

They’d already agreed that Rebecca would resign from her seat in the House of Commons, thereby creating a slot for Piazza so he could run in the special by-election that would be called to choose her successor. She represented a district of the city of Magdeburg that was so overwhelmingly pro-Fourth of July Party that the Crown Loyalists hadn’t even bothered to run a candidate. It was perhaps the safest seat in the entire parliament and there was no doubt that Piazza would win the election.

Ed needed to be a member of Parliament if he were to serve as the USE’s next prime minister. He could not do so as the president of the State of Thuringia-Franconia. That position placed him in the House of Lords and disqualified him from the nation’s top executive position.

As for Rebecca, she would concentrate on the election campaign itself. Although the term wasn’t being used, she would be what up-time Americans would have called Piazza’s campaign manager.

And after the election, assuming Piazza won — which most people thought he would — there were at least two possibilities. Rebecca was by nature inclined toward working in the background. She was an organizer by temperament and had a positive dread of public speaking. So her own preference would be to serve Piazza as his chief of staff. That was a position that had not existed in her husband’s administration, because Michael Stearns had a very hands-on approach to governing. But Piazza was a more traditional sort of executive, and he definitely preferred to work through a staff.

But there was another possibility, which she knew Piazza himself preferred. That was to appoint Rebecca as his secretary of state. She was quite adept at diplomacy — extraordinarily adept, in fact — as she’d proved in her past dealings with Cardinal Richelieu, Don Fernando both before and after he became the King in the Netherlands, and the Prince of Orange, Fredrik Hendrik.

Such a position would give her more public exposure than she really cared for, but at least she wouldn’t have to be giving a lot of public speeches. She could hope, anyway.

And there was this, too, which she had to admit. Among the many things she had learned from Michael Stearns was that the best way to negotiate was to make sure that the person you were dickering with saw a clear alternative to you — which was a lot worse than you were. Michael had been particularly adept at using Gretchen Richter and the Committees of Correspondence for that purpose.

As the USE’s secretary of state, Rebecca could go him one better. Would you rather negotiate with me or with my husband? That would be the one they call the Prince of Germany, who crushed the reactionaries in Saxony and —

Hopefully, hopefully. Michael would sometimes lead from the front and he might get killed in the doing, which would crush her heart.

Still, soon enough, she thought she’d be able to add:  — and crushed the duke of Bavaria as well.


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13 Responses to 1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 07

  1. dave o says:

    To continue the discussion from the last snippet. Uptime modern German practice is largely irrelevant to downtime practice. In the 1630s the current standard is Cuius regio, eius religio. If one didn’t conform, one had the options of emigrating, suffering severe legal disabilities, or perhaps, being executed for heresy. In this period, the Netherlands were perhaps the only country were tolerance was practiced. Even there, I doubt that a Catholic could hold any office in Amsterdam. The last clause of the US Constitution is likely what will govern downtime practice: “but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

    • Positroll says:

      ” Uptime modern German practice is largely irrelevant to downtime practice.”
      For most of the USE (‘Mericans excluded) it’s just as relevant as modern US practice: Down-timers read about it, think about it and pick what they like. Guess what they can read easier: texts in English or modern German?
      I am still convinced that there would be enough resistance to these “foreign ideas” (not invented here!) that would make the (non-reactionary) opposition look for a reasonable alternative and find one in modern German practice.
      (and religious freedom is only one of many, manay questions)

      P.S. You are probably not aware of it, but the Grundgesetz is at the top of the list (no 1 or 2, depending on who counts) of constitutions most copied (in parts, only, of course) in modern times (i.e. de-colonization; post-fascist Spain and Portugal, post-communist reforms in Eastern Europe).
      Post-Apartheid South Africa for instance took a lot of its constitutional law from Germany, more than from the US (examples



      One main reason: the GG being 200 years more up-to-date than the US constitution … I can already see the campaign slogans of the new conservative party. “For the modern way – the German way!”

      • dave o says:

        You assume that information about modern German constitutional arrangements are available in what was brought back with Grantsville. While this is possible, it is an unlikely possibility. I live in a major city and I read a lot of history and have seen nothing about modern German organic law. Nothing more recent than the monstrosity created by Bismarck. Grantville is a tiny, dying town known and described as hillbilly.

        I give you that most modern governments are parliamentary in nature, and that there is much to be said for that variety of government. I would point out that it was not invented in Germany.

        And I also give you that Common Law is complicated and very imperfect. You will have to convince me that the Code Napoleon and it’s modern adaptations are much better, and it won’t be easy.

        And downtime thinking will be heavily affected by Scaglia’s progran which is based on contemporary political thought. There isn’t much to German nationalism at this period beyond the idea of the German Nation. It is know that no two princes agree on anything, and it’s each prince for himself and devil take the hindmost.

        • Positroll says:

          What you actively read and what’s available in a library (and the bookshelves of a whole town) is two very different things. If I occasionally go through my stock of books I am always astonished what kind of stuff I picked up in flea market sales and never read. Say, like a German civil code of 1900 bound in leather that I paid $4 for , or a book on English maritime law from 1920 or a book on architecture in th 17th century …
          You know who should have lots on German law? The coal miner union. With unions in decline for a while in the US while German unions going strong, many union-side American lawyers doing labor law have been looking to Europe (Scandinavia and Germany) for reform ideas. e.g salon.com/2010/08/25/german_usa_working_life_ext2010/

          ” Nothing more recent than the monstrosity created by Bismarck. ”
          Monstrosity? Whut are you talking about? Sure, the 1871 constitution was not perfect, but it still created a modern constitutional republic with general elections (women only in 1919, but that was still a year earlier then UK and US !), separation of powers and basic rights (protected expressly by the state constitutions, the common core being considered to be applicable by the founders on the federal level, too) that arguably led in 1900 to Germany being the most powerful nation in the world (despite having almost no colonies and not participating in the Atlantic triangle trade) – first in science, technology, music (counting Austria …) etc.
          Earlier, the much maligned Prussia got rid of all forms of slavery two generations before the US (1799/1807) …
          By 1871, even the poorest Prussian farmer had more chance to be heard in court than the average American sharecropping ex-slave …

          “You will have to convince me that the Code Napoleon and it’s modern adaptations are much better, and it won’t be easy.”
          But I won’t have to convince YOU. We are not taking ‘Mericans with a common law background. The question is: with German legal scholars of the 1630s (who – like in Germany today – were the really important people, not the judges, and who liked things neat and orderly from a philosophical POV) already studying Justinians codification of roman law, and trying to implement it into German law – how would THEY react to a set of modern German codes (Commercial code, Code of Civil Procedure, Civil Code) that basically achieves all they have been striving for, in a modernized version that they will learn help spur one of the biggest economic booms in modern times … (between 1895 and 1910 net investments in Germany increased 15% each year, after the German economy had already improved a lot since 1870)?

          Look, I am not trying to pull the authority card, but I have studied law in Germany, France and the US. I have published stuff – including on German legal history. I know how those people thought. Maybe you have heard the saying that for Europeans, 100 miles is far while for Americans 100 years is old? Well, the freaking buildings I studied in and the streets they were standing on are still carrying the names of important law scholars of those times and their pictures are still in the deans office …

          You just had decades of foreign powers rampaging through Germany and the princes selling out to them. I think Stearns understands very well that there is a big and angry groundswell of nationalism that he tries to mold into a positive form. But he and his allies won’t reach all of them – there will be a conservative part of the middle and lower class that he does not appeal to.

          Thus, you are right that the Rhinish Party would rather be a party of merchants and the middle class than of the aristocracy. But the series itself has repeatedly made clear that by this time Germany isn’t really feudal any more. The big cities have a lot of influence, and with industrialization taking off, so will the new steel barons of this age.

          Oh, and the biggest group to support that party? The masters and journeymen of the guilds who would find that in modern Germany many of their traditions live on, even though they lost a good part of their monopolistic powers. Some traditions are worth fighting for …

          • dave o says:

            I don’t particularly want to keep this going forever. However: Mike Stearns was president of the miner’s union and was completely ignorant of political theory in the beginning. Most or all of the workers were about anti-intellectual as it’s possible to get. In order to support your theory, you will have to prove, not speculate, that access to the documents you cite are available.

            On Bismarck’s constitution, it left Kaiser William in charge of both foreign and domestic policy, admittedly with the help of a bunch of sycophants. You may approve of this.

            I agree that any conservative party will find most of its support from the middle classes, Masters and professionals, clerics and the likes. However there is already enough in the canon to show that journeymen have plenty of problems with things as they are.

  2. Terranovan says:

    Also for progressivism from the “Tino Nobili” wing of the Republican Party: You don’t need to own real estate to vote. Some might balk at registering someone from a park bench (the law says it’s enough of a residence), but a rented apartment or your parents’ house if you haven’t moved out yet will be just fine. More to the point in 17th century Germany (if I understand correctly), so will a farm rented on a 99-year/three-generation lease.

  3. Jeff Ehlers says:


    I read your remarks on the difference between an entity of public law vs an entity of private law, and spent some time mulling it over. What it sounds like you were saying is that the option to become an entity of public law is open to any organization (religious or otherwise) which can meet the criteria necessary to qualify for it. And to be honest, I see no problem with that.

    The purpose of separating church and state in the United States is primarily to keep religious organizations from being singled out by the state, in either a positive or negative way. For example, you can’t give a particular religion preferential treatment; you also can’t arbitrarily restrict a particular religion from receiving tax breaks (as long as they meet the necessary criteria, of course). The rules have to apply to all religious organizations equally. Whatever my personal feelings regarding the special treatment given to churches as a whole, I can live with it as long as it’s available to all of them.

    • Positroll says:

      “What it sounds like you were saying is that the option to become an entity of public law is open to any organization (religious or otherwise) which can meet the criteria necessary to qualify for it.”
      More or less. The constitutional provision of the Weimar Constitution ONLY covers religions. Probably it can be extended to what Art 4 GG calls “world views” – say, the stoa, if there were 100.000 off them around any more. But an amorph group like e.g. “atheists” wouldn’t fall under it.
      Also, the members of the organization must be registered – easy to do with baptism / confirmation etc in Christianity and Bar Mitzvah in Judaism.
      But the system doesn’t really fit the notion of “umma” of Sunna Islam which also has problems meeting the other structural requirements because its lots less hierarchical than the Christian example the model is based on. Still, as one Muslim group has shown, it can be done with some good will on both sides …

      The interest of the state in that regard is that by influencing the training of religion teachers for state schools it can also influence the whole of (German) Islam towards more modern outlook. American purists would consider that probably a negative. But German constitutional law isn’t completely neutral on religion: According to Art1 and 79 GG human dignity and democracy are paramount. if the content of a religion (or a political party) is directly opposed to that, religious freedom – while important – gets trumped by Art 1,79. E.g. a religion seeing Adolph Hitler as their Prophet could be banned on this basis. Similarly, a religion (?) trying to install a fascist world state can find itself under negative scrutiny and losing some privileges. See Scientology.
      And, finally, the state can influence the training of religious teachers (taking place at state universities!) towards strands of Islam that accept democracy and basic human rights.
      From what I heard through the rumor mill, the biggest influence in practice has been the requirement to take comparative classes, to learn about other religions as part of their studies – to see that many religions have similar problems to solve and that religions outside Islam, Judaism and Christianity (the religions of “the book”) have a positive core, too. That mainstream Christianity looks at Islam (or Mormons) like Islam looks at the Bahi (sp?) sometimes is a real eye opener …

      P.S. Another model to help you understand the system might be the Belgian language communities. As a Belgian citizen you live in your territorial region on the one hand, and you are registered member of a language community (French or Flemish) on the other hand. The later has competencies e.g. to regulate school curriculums to study the language … There is also a small German speaking region (annexed after WWII). If German ever were to grow a lot as a language used (e.g. due to Brussels attracting loads of Germans) they might become a third language community, in the formal sense, too. Until then German only has a special status in those two counties that have been annexed.

  4. dave o says:

    It is probably easy for a European to overestimate the foreign language resources available in a town such as Grantville. It is in the Appalachians. The nearest large city and site of the nearest University is Pittsburg, And Pittsburg is probably the site of the nearest bookstore. In the U.S., which is deplorably monolingual, it is difficult to find foreign language books even in major city libraries. In my own wanderings in Europe , mostly Britain, I was amazed to find how much richer were the resources, and the difference the proximity of other nations with other languages made.

    • George H says:

      Part of what you are talking about is scale. Going from a town (Logan) on the north end of my state (Utah) to a to a town on the southern border (St. George) is the equivalent of going through three or four or more countries and four plus languages in Europe (although I have often wondered how well someone from deep woods Maine can communicate with someone in the southern Appalachia’s).

    • Positroll says:

      Hey, I lived a while in a small town in southern Idaho (on a school exchange – which means they were a little more international than normal, I guess?). I now perfectly how insular Americans can be. But books have a tendency to show up in strange locations … (and I seem to remember that Grantville High had at least one German teacher [1632 expressly mentions multiple copies of German language textbooks]. I would guess she does have stuff on modern German in her office and more in the school library … Lots of German foundations send stuff on modern Germany out to foreign language learning institutions… shrug)

    • Greg Noel says:

      Uh, Pittsburg is about 2500 miles from West Virginia, and it doesn’t have a university.

      Trivia question #1: What’s the closest city to Pittsburg?

      Answer: Surprisingly, that would be Oakland.

      Trivia question #2: What’s the closest city to Oakland?

      Answer: That would be Pittsburgh.

      Trivia question #3: How do you get from Oakland to the airport?

      Answer: “You can’t get there from here.” (Actual answer given to me by my father-in-law, while trying to describe the complexity of Pittsburgh traffic connections.)

  5. AJNolte says:

    I can’t speak to the arguments over law, but I have studied both political theory and religion’s role in comparative and international relations quite a bit. So from that perspective, a couple thoughts:
    -Anglo-American conservatism is, in the long-run, going to be a lot more attractive to the right in Germany than most of it’s German anticedents for one very good and sufficient reason: by and large it was successful in preventing revolution. Lady Hesse-Kassel, the brothers Wettin and their associates will, if they are half as smart as they’re described here, almost immediately start looking for a model of conservative politics that is both flexible enough to adapt to circumstances and effective enough to preserve large elements it finds worthwhile. They will see the Anglo-American tradition largely passing this test, while the throne and altar right of continental Europe largely didn’t. [Also, we know from 1633 that Wettin was reading Burke, so that process may well already be ongoing]. So there’s going to be a natural bias toward conservative ideas from the Anglo-American tradition because they will be able to clearly see that it “worked” up-time. In fact, path dependence and human nature being what it is, they will probably under-utilize elements from up-time German conservatism as a result of this bias.

    -From the perspective of a very confessional seventeenth-century German Christian, Bismarck’s kulturkampf is going to look really really unattractive. And not just to the Catholics. One area where the Grantvillers probably will have a lot of German texts is actually biblical scholarship/higher criticism, because at least one of the pastors is going to be one of those pastors who still has all his books from seminary. The moment Gerhardt reads Schleiermacher feathers will fly, and a lot of confessional Lutherans are going to be giving the idea of a state church the serious hairy eyeball. [Some of this is probably already happening sub rosa based on the stories in the first Grantville Gazette and subsequent]. So a German church-state model–particularly the kind you see in the Bismarck constitution–will look particularly unattractive.

    -On the other hand, I could see them going for something like the multiple establishment advocated by Patrick Henry and George Washington when all’s said and done, or even the Dutch model in which religious groups are very active collaborators with the state in the provision of many services. But seventeenth century Germans of a conservative bent are going to look at the theology of their up-time compatriots and, particularly if they’re Protestant, run screaming in the opposite direction.

    -If the Fourth of July Party is interested in establishing a Jeffersonian religious balance, the way in which Jefferson and Madison actively courted Baptists in the U.S. would be a good case study.

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