Research Blog

This fascinating source gives us an insight into the first edition of the daily newspaper National-Zeitung, published in Berlin on 1 April 1848. Our research team at ReConFort, headed by Prof. Dr. Ulrike Müßig, was delighted with this valuable addition to the ReConFort Database, which is home to a wide variety of sources in various languages, all concerning the history of constitutional formation.

Searching for a German identity

In the first article of the first edition, entitled Was wir wollen ("What we want“), the newspaper's "editorial department" takes a strong political stance and voices its desire for progress, while at the same time condemning stagnation and regression. It describes the political situation in Germany at the time as being the most serious and sublime form of politics Germany had seen in centuries, posing vast opportunities but also the danger of falling short of its responsibilities. It goes on to ponder the nature of „being German“ and how characteristics that were, at the time, perceived as being classically German traits, such as egoism, cowardice and "worminess", to name only a few of the provided examples, present the “battlefield” for further improvement. The editorial department makes a case for embracing German-ness in its purest and most honourable sense. To read about such self-reflection at such an early point in the history of a unified Germany goes to show how integral the search for a German identity was throughout the country’s development, and how complex and complicated the concept of national conscience and pride or even patriotism was even – or especially – in 1848. This difficult relationship can undoubtedly be traced throughout German history and persists - in a different context - until today, where the very notion of German national pride has become off-limits, on a national as well as an international scale.

Voting for a constitutional monarchy

The newspaper's editors take a clear stance for a constitutional monarchy, which according to them is the best choice regarding the future form of government, stating that the time demands it. They further explain that this constitutional monarchy has to be founded on democratic institutions, and that having a constitution means having a frame for the pursuance of welfare. In order to realise this task, however, a number of institutions must necessarily be installed.

Ludolf Camphausen and David Hansemann

A second article on the second site of the source, called Das neue Ministerium – (“The new ministry”), discusses the resignation of Graf von Arnim, who served, for a brief period of ten days, as the first Prussian Minister President and Foreign minister. The National-Zeitung welcomes this change, stating that, with Armin in office, there would not have been the opportunity to establish freedom and order, the former always depending on being preserved by establishing the latter. According to the article, a change in the ministry towards more left-wing politicians signified the arrival of the revolutionary currents at the very centre of governmental power. Arnim was succeeded by Ludolf Camphausen, who, along with the new Minister of Finance, David Hansemann, is portrayed quite favourably in the article.

Building an own opinion

The main article in the feuilleton section of the newspaper, to be found below the prominent line on each page, is entitled Unsere Aufgabe (“Our task”). In it, the authors explain their reasoning behind the feuilleton in their newspaper. In doing so, they first of all negate the need for a raison d’être, and explain that they simply want to publish the National-Zeitung and its feuilleton in order to speak their mind and let the readers know their opinions. They also express a desire to prompt their readers to come to their own conclusions, to participate in politics and society and to express things they might already be feeling deep down freely and openly. Furthermore, they go on to distance themselves from the arts or entertainment sections in other newspapers.  

In order to further research this fascinating time through valuable sources, such as the one discussed above, we encourage you to visit our database on constitutional formation at sources.reconfort.de.

ReConFort / Heckmann