Friedrich von Dietrich

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Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Dietrich (French: Philippe-Frédéric Baron de Dietrich ) (born November 14, 1748 in Strasbourg , † December 29, 1793 in Paris ) was a natural scientist and at the beginning of the French Revolution, Maire of Strasbourg.

Friedrich von Dietrich


The father was the mining industrialist Johann Dietrich , who was raised to the French nobility in 1761 and to the status of imperial baron in 1762 . The mother was Anna Amalie Dorothea (née Hermanni). He himself married Sibylle Louise Ochs in Basel in 1772. The marriage resulted in two sons and a daughter.


Ancien Régime

He enjoyed an excellent education and training, especially in the natural sciences. He made a name for himself as a mineralogist and geographer in Paris and Strasbourg . He published various works on this. He also supported the natural sciences and medicine financially. Dietrich went on extensive study trips through France , Corsica and England . He was then appointed royal commissioner for mines, smelters, forests and factories. In this context, he wrote the Description des gîtes de minerai, des forges et des salines des Pyrénées in six volumes, as well as the Description des minerais, forges, salines, verreries, tréfileries, fabriques de fer-blanc, porcelaine, faïence de la Lorraine et de la Basse-Alsace . Further descriptions were planned with the aim of covering all of France. He became a member of the Academies of Science in Paris and the Society of Friends of Nature Research in Göttingen and Berlin .

Through his family he belonged to the knighthood of Alsace and in 1779 became secretary of the Swiss Guard of Count Artois. He had ties to the court in Versailles but also belonged to the liberal circle around Turgot and Lafayette . In Strasbourg he was a member of the small council and endeavored to preserve the old former imperial city special rights. His house in Strasbourg was a social hub in the city. He has written various compositions himself. He was also elected a foreign member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences in 1785 .

Mayor of Strasbourg

After the beginning of the French Revolution, he was sent to Strasbourg in July 1789 as royal commissioner to represent the sick praetor. There he encountered a tense atmosphere between the magistrate and the guilds. After a riot broke out on July 19, von Dietrich acted as mediator. After the new law on municipal regulation had been passed, he emerged as a moderate supporter of innovations in Strasbourg, opposed the defenders of the old imperial city constitution and spoke out in favor of the unification of Alsace with France. While he was at the forefront of the revolution in Strasbourg, as a baron and owner of Rothau Castle, he had to fear the destruction of his castle if he did not renounce his landed rights. He also had to fear the destruction of the family's steel mills and sawmills.

From March 18, 1790 to August 1792, he was Mayor of Strasbourg. He also acted temporarily as a justice of the peace . He was also politically active outside of the city and had extensive correspondence with domestic and foreign personalities. He also made a name for himself as a speaker at the Federal Festival of 1790. Despite numerous problems, he successfully led the city through the first years of the revolution. In view of the threat from the emigre army, among others, he pushed for the borders to be secured and had the declaration of human rights spread across the border among the soldiers. He took in revolution friends from neighboring areas in the city.

He joined the Friends of the Constitution Club in Strasbourg on October 12, 1790. This strengthened the cooperation between the political club and the city leadership. After Louis XVI. In June 1791 he tried to flee abroad and there was a risk of war, so von Dietrich tried to prepare for the defense of the city. After the constitution was adopted by the king, he was even appointed minister of the interior at times.

First performance of the Marseillaise in the house of Dietrichs

In the city, the more radical revolutionaries increasingly turned against him and the constitutional club split. By explaining the state of siege, Dietrich was suspected of preparing an action against the Jacobins of Strasbourg. In the face of the threat from outside, he tried to bring about a reunion of the moderates and the Jacobins. The offer was initially received positively, but was then not taken up by the Jacobins. The local Jacobins even indicted him in Paris. In the meantime, von Dietrich set up volunteer units for defense. The Marseillaise was first performed in his house . His wife distributed the play by making numerous copies.

Fall and execution

He put himself in a difficult position when, shortly before the king was deposed, he threatened that Strasbourg would no longer have any obligations towards France if the constitution was broken. He closed the city's political clubs. Government commissioners removed the administration and community council. Dietrich tried to save himself by promising to take the side of the legislative assembly and calling himself a Republican. Some time later, however, he was removed from office.

He fled first to the Switzerland of Winterthur . When the situation in France seemed to calm down, he returned to France in November 1792 out of concern for family and property. He was charged. His supporters protested and the trial was moved to Besançon without any serious consequences. After the Jacobins took power, he was taken to Paris and Robespierre demanded his execution based on the older charges. This was carried out in December 1794. The father was also imprisoned and the family's property deprived. In 1795 the son of Friedrich von Dietrich achieved the rehabilitation of the father and the return of the confiscated property.

Individual evidence

  1. Holger Krahnke: The members of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen 1751-2001 (= Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Philological-Historical Class. Volume 3, Vol. 246 = Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Mathematical-Physical Class. Episode 3, vol. 50). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-525-82516-1 , p. 68.
  2. Simon Schama: The hesitating citizen. Step backwards and progress in the French Revolution. Munich, 1989 p. 439f.
  3. Daniel Schönpflug: The way into the Terreur. Radicalization and conflicts in the Strasbourg Jacobin Club (1790–1795). Munich, 2002 p. 47
  4. Daniel Schönpflug: The way into the Terreur. Radicalization and conflicts in the Strasbourg Jacobin Club (1790–1795). Munich, 2002 p. 113
  5. Daniel Schönpflug: The way into the Terreur. Radicalization and conflicts in the Strasbourg Jacobin Club (1790–1795). Munich, 2002 p. 142
  6. Brigitte Hoppe: The natural sciences under the influence of the French Revolution . In: The French Revolution: Roots and Effects. A lecture series at the University of Munich . Eos, St. Ottilien 1989, p. 363 .