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Mathy, Karl

Born on March 17, 1807 in Mannheim, Karl Mathy mastered the classics before entering a course of public finance (Kammeralwissenschaft) at Heidelberg, where he joined a patriotic student association. Under investigation for subversive activities in the early 1830s, he renounced a bureaucratic career when his request for permission to marry was denied and fled to Switzerland to avoid arrest. By this time themes of his life struggle against arbitrary government and German disunity were set. Ever a high-level publicist, he wrote expertly on various questions relating to German unification for newspapers, scholarly journals, and Rotteck's famous Staatslexikon.

Returning to Baden in 1840 he published a parliamentary journal which reported on the sessions of the lower house for all Germany to read. Elected in 1842 to that body along with a generation of new politicians his well- reasoned, non-doctrinaire speeches revealed a practical mind which preferred to build on the existing rather than start over from the new. A staunch advocate of constitutional government, he stood to the left of most liberals in his support of state action to aid victims of economic crises, as in the 1847 proposal to subsidize three failing factories. That same year he founded the Deutsche Zeitung in collaboration with the Mannheim millionaire, Friederich Bassermann, to propagate liberal reform and nationalist views.

In February 1848 Mathy supported working through the confederation by abolishing its repressive measures, fulfilling the national reforms it had promised three decades earlier and introducing an elected national repr esentation at Frankfurt. He opposed republicanism as divisive, because monarchical feelings were still strong in north Germany, which lacked the south's parliamentary experiences. With unusual courage and singleness of purpose, Mathy thwarted a revolutionary upheaval in Karlsruhe on March 1 when he spoke to an agitated crowd against immediate discussion of a radical petition. The chamber, not the crowd, he argued, constitutionally represented the people of Baden. In April he made a citizen's arrest of Joseph Fickler in the Karlsruhe railway station as he was on his way to Constance to join the Friedrich Hecker uprising. This confirmed the split between him and the democratic, republican left.

Though he was brought into Johann Bekk's liberal ministry, Mathy's real interests lay not in Karlsruhe, but in national questions. Present at the preparliament in Frankfurt, he was elected to the national assembly, where he sat, somewhat uneasily, among the Casino faction of right centrists. Named national finance minister, he yielded the post to a Prussian in the interest of national unity and became the ministry's under-secretary. He devoted his time to that task and to journalism rather than taking an active role in the debates. In his newspaper articles he strived to win support for compromise in dealing with individual states and for keeping Austria within the nation. He resigned from the national assembly on May 21, 1849 only after all hope of a moderate, liberal solution was wrecked. Mathy's interest in politics and journalism continued, though he had lost sympathy for parliamentary government. Long an advocate of Prussian leadership in Germany he was appointed to head Baden's ministry in 1866 after the battle of Sadowa and founded the National Liberal party in Baden. He died on February 2, 1868.

Loyd E. Lee


Albert Schoch, "Analyse der politischen Gedankenwelt Karl Mathys auf Grund seiner journalistischen und literarischen Wirksamkeit von der Julirevolution bis zum Ende der ersten deutschen Nationalversammlung" (Dissertation, Heidelberg, 1933).

Erich Angermann, "Karl Mathy als Sozial- und Wirtschaftspolitiker (1842-1848) Zeitschrift für die Geschichte des Oberrheins 64 (1955): 499-622.

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