Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann

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Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann

Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann (born May 13, 1785 in Wismar ; † December 5, 1860 in Bonn ) was a German historian and statesman ; known as one of the " Göttingen Seven " and was a member of the Frankfurt National Assembly from 1848/1849. As a member of the constitutional committee , he was also a co-author of the Frankfurt constitution of 1849.


Friedrich Dahlmann was born on May 13, 1785 in the Mecklenburg Hanseatic city of Wismar as the son of the mayor and syndic Johann Christian Ehrenfried Dahlmann (1739-1805). Wismar was under Swedish rule at the time of his birth , which is why Dahlmann was a Swedish subject. He received his first scientific training at the large city school in Wismar . In 1802 he moved to the University of Copenhagen , where a brother of his mother took care of him. The predominant inclination led him to study classical philology.

Since Dahlmann found the teachers in Copenhagen unsuitable to support him, he decided in 1804 to go to Halle , where Friedrich August Wolf exerted a great attraction on him. His studies were interrupted by his own illness and the death of his father, who left only meager resources, and he came back to Copenhagen, but only to pursue private studies, and then stayed for several years in Wismar. At the beginning of 1809 he traveled to Dresden because Adam Müller had invited him to write for the journal Phöbus published by him and Heinrich von Kleist . When Dahlmann arrived, Phöbus had just been hired. However, during his stay in Dresden a close friendship developed with Kleist. Kleist suggested that Dahlmann move to Austria. On May 22, 1809 they reached Groß-Enzersdorf . There they observed the battle on the second day of the Battle of Aspern and visited the battlefield three days later.

Profession and politics until 1848

In Wittenberg in 1810 Dahlmann obtained a doctorate in philosophy with a treatise on Ottokar von Böhmen ; In 1811 he completed his habilitation in Copenhagen as a private lecturer in philology, in 1812 he was commissioned to give historical lectures at the University of Kiel and in 1813 he was employed there as an associate professor. In the celebratory speech (Kiel 1815), which he gave at the celebration of the Battle of Waterloo organized by the university , he warned with serious words to work on the political rebirth of Germany.

As secretary of the Schleswig-Holstein knighthood, Dahlmann stood up for their rights with zeal and determination and as a result came into opposition to the Danish government . He was not promoted to full professor and therefore willingly accepted an appointment as professor of German history and political science in Göttingen in 1829 . There he devoted himself to teaching with great success, but was again involved in politics when, after the so-called Göttingen Revolution (January 1831), he sent as a deputy of the university to the Governor-General Duke of Cambridge , whose trust gained when the constitution was adopted was consulted and elected by the university as its representative in the Second Chamber.

Both Dahlmann's speeches and his articles in the “Hannöverschen Zeitung” caused much offense through their inconsiderate frankness and their independent judgment on all sides, and he felt isolated with his political views. One of the fruits of his practical and theoretical studies in politics at the time was the Handbuch der Politik: Die Politik, traced back to the basis and degree of the given conditions , of which only the 1st volume (Göttingen 1835; 3rd edition, Berlin 1847) has appeared.

The sphere of activity that Dahlmann had created in Göttingen was suddenly put to an end by King Ernst August's breach of the constitution in 1837. Dahlmann drafted a protest, which declared the king's procedure to be a coup that could not absolve anyone from the oath taken to the constitution ; six of Dahlmann's colleagues signed this declaration. The consequence of this was their removal and expulsion (compare “ Göttinger Sieben ”). Dahlmann, who still wrote the classic pamphlet On Understanding on the constitutional question , first went to Leipzig , where they seemed to want to create a place for him to calmly work, a plan that failed because of the fearfulness of the ministry. Instead he went to Jena , where he wrote his excellent history of Denmark , which went back to the Reformation (Hamburg 1840–43, 3 volumes).

After Friedrich Wilhelm IV ascended to the throne , Dahlmann was appointed professor at the University of Bonn on November 1, 1842 . There he soon gained extensive effectiveness. His lectures were the best attended in Bonn, he was widely regarded as a political authority, and the government also sought his advice on important university matters. Among the lectures he gave in Bonn, those on the English and French revolutions stood out because of their political importance; they were soon also printed ( History of the English Revolution , Leipzig 1844; 6th edition 1864; History of the French Revolution , Leipzig 1845; 3rd edition 1864), found great sales and determined the political judgment of the educated middle classes in Germany. Dahlmann took a lively interest in the organization of the Germanist assemblies , which, held in 1846 and 1847, had the significance of a German pre-parliament.

Revolution 1848/1849


Dahlmann played an influential role in the liberal-national movement of 1848. Right at the beginning of the movement, the newly appointed Minister Graf Schwerin asked him to take part in the deliberations on the Prussian constitution, and soon afterwards as the Prussian confidante to the Bundestag in Frankfurt am Main sent, then even appointed as the actual Bundestag envoy, which he refused, however, because he was convinced that he could work more in a freer position. The draft constitution of the 17 shop stewards , in which the idea of ​​unity was so resolutely expressed, is mainly Dahlmann's work. He was also an adviser to the Constitutional Committee of the National Assembly . In 1848 he was a member and vice-president of the pre-parliament .

Caricature of Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann by Wilhelm Völker on his unsuccessful attempt to form an imperial government

On the question of hegemony he was in favor of unification under Prussia's leadership with the exclusion of Austria. In September 1848 he contributed to the overthrow of the entire Reich Ministry in the National Assembly, because he rejected the Malmö armistice . But he did not succeed in forming a new government. But in 1849 he still resolutely advocated the imperial crown for the Prussian king.

To participate in the Gotha post-parliament and to support the Prussian Erfurt Union , Dahlmann decided only with great self-conquest: he was convinced that this path would not lead to the goal. But he let himself be elected to the Erfurt Union Parliament and also entered the Prussian First Chamber in the summer of 1850 , where he bravely but unsuccessfully opposed the hasty restoration efforts. Later he withdrew completely from political life and devoted himself zealously to his teaching post. More and more lonely, he abandoned himself to the feeling of bitter resignation and only drew courage after the turn of events in Prussia in 1858. He died in 1860.

Constitutional question

Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann

Dahlmann is also the author of several scientific papers. In keeping with his active political life, these writings always touch on the constitutional questions of the time. With Dahlmann, it is often difficult to differentiate between purely historical and political science work. Dahlmann regarded the story as a source for solving current political issues. His works on the revolutions in France and England, for example, are shaped by this. Conversely, in the more political-theoretical writings, arguments are often based on history.

The best-known theoretical writings are the essay “Ein Wort über Verfassungs” (A Word About Constitution), which arose during Dahlmann's time in Kiel, as well as his main work, “Politics, traced back to the ground and the degree of the given conditions”, which was written during Dahlmann's time as a professor in Göttingen . In both writings, the English constitutional model, which has evolved over time, is worked out as historically appropriate to German conditions. For Dahlmann, this means a government that is solely responsible to the monarch on the one hand and a parliament on the other, which is divided into two chambers as representatives of the nobility and the citizenry. The fact that parliamentarism was already a political practice in Great Britain in the sense of a government dependent on a parliamentary majority was overlooked.

The strong focus on historical arguments and the associated rejection of revolutionary upheavals on the basis of abstract theories (Dahlmann recognized a corresponding negative example in France) is probably the reason why Dahlmann was often viewed differently in retrospect in the scientific literature. Although most people consider it “liberal”, there are also assessments such as “liberal-conservative” or even “conservative”.


Louise Dahlmann b. von Horn (born April 28, 1800 in Ottensen; † February 9, 1856 in Bonn)

Dahlmann was married twice. His first wife was Julie Hegewisch (1795-1826). He had married her in Kiel in 1817; she was the daughter of Professor Dietrich Hermann Hegewisch (1746-1812) from Kiel . The couple had three sons and a daughter. The daughter Dorothea (1822-1847) married the Tübingen professor August Ludwig Reyscher (1802-1880). His son Hermann (1821-1894) became district court director in Marburg; the other children died young.

His second wife was Luise von Horn (1800-1856) in Kiel in 1829 . She was the daughter of the Danish lieutenant colonel Friedrich Bogislaw von Horn and Sophie Georgine Luise von Warnstedt and granddaughter of the Prussian major general Friedrich Magnus von Horn .


  • Research from the field of history (Volume 1, Altona 1821; Volume 2: "Herodot", 1824) - Scans Volume 2 in the Internet Archive .
  • Edition of Neocorus' Geschichte der Dithmarschen , in Saxon language (Kiel 1827).
  • Source studies of German history , arranged for own lectures on German history (Göttingen 1830; 5th edition, edited by von Waitz , 1883).
  • Politics, traced back to the reason and the extent of the given conditions , Göttingen 1835. ( digitized and full text in the German Text Archive ), Leipzig 1847.
  • History of Denmark , 1843 - Scans in the Internet Archive .
  • First lecture at the Rhenish University. November 28, 1824 , Bonn 1842.
  • History of the English Revolution , Leipzig 1844.
  • History of the French Revolution up to the Foundation of the Republic , Leipzig 1845 - Scans in the Internet Archive - Digitized and full text in the German Text Archive .
  • Two Revolutions , 1853 - Scans of the Internet Archives .
  • History of Dithmarschen. After FC Dahlmann's lectures in the winter of 1826 , edited, supplemented at the end and accompanied by excursions by Wilhelm Heinrich Kolster, Leipzig 1873.
  • Small speeches and writings , ed. by Conrad Varrentrapp , Stuttgart 1886.


Web links

Commons : Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann  - Collection of images
Wikisource: Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann  - Sources and full texts


  1. Richard Samuel : Heinrich von Kleist's participation in the political movements of the years 1805-1809 . Kleist Memorial and Research Center, Frankfurt (Oder) 1995, p. 216.
  2. Richard Samuel: Heinrich von Kleist's participation in the political movements of the years 1805-1809 . Kleist Memorial and Research Center, Frankfurt (Oder) 1995, p. 217.
  3. Richard Samuel: Heinrich von Kleist's participation in the political movements of the years 1805-1809 . Kleist Memorial and Research Center, Frankfurt (Oder) 1995, pp. 221–227.
  4. Federal Archives: Members of the Pre-Parliament and the Fifties Committee (PDF file; 79 kB)