1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – Snippet 47

"The emperor and Wettin himself will lean heavily in favor of the Philippists," said Ed. "Which means the Flacians will go berserk. What a mess."

"Not to mention the Committees of Correspondence," said Chad. "Speaking of 'going berserk.' Setting up an established church will have the same effect on them as waving a red flag in front of bull."

Mike seemed a little exasperated. "Unfortunately, I'm afraid you're right."

Chad looked at him quizzically. "I thought you were dead set against established churches yourself."

"In theory, yes. In practice . . . it depends how it's done. Back in the universe we came from, several advanced industrial nations still had established churches, formally speaking. But if the English or the Danes were groaning under theological tyranny, somehow it slipped our attention."

Melissa frowned. "Well, yeah, but . . . Mike, it took centuries for that to evolve."

"I understand that – which is exactly why I advocate a complete separation of church and state. I'm just saying that I wouldn't lose much sleep if we wound up having to settle for a compromise. As long as non-established churches aren't persecuted, I can live with an established church." He leaned forward in his chair. "For sure and certain, better than I could live with what the Crown Loyalists propose to do with the other central political issue in the campaign. The question of citizenship."

Ed nodded. "Yes, that's really the big one."

"Can somebody explain this one to me?" asked Chad. "I have a grasp of the issue – sort of – but it's still fuzzy around the edges. We don't seem to have to deal with this problem much in our neck of the woods."

Ableidinger grinned. "That's because, between you Americans and we Ram folk, the issue got pretty well settled in practice in Thuringia and Franconia."

"It's not much of an issue in Magdeburg province either," said Gunther Achterhof. His grin was a lot thinner than Ableidinger's. "And it won't be, no matter who wins the election."

"The essence of the matter is this, Charles," said Rebecca. "In the world you came from – I speak of your old United States of America – being a 'citizen' of the nation was quite straightforward. If you were born in America, or became a naturalized citizen, that was the end of it. You were a citizen, pure and simple."

Chad nodded. "Pretty much. A lot of states had a provision to take away your citizenship – your right to vote, I should say – if you got convicted of a felony. But, other than that, yes."

"Here in the Germanies, on the other hand, it is far more complicated. To begin with, there is nothing equivalent to national citizenship. Insofar as 'citizenship' in concerned, it is a local matter. A man may reside and work in a given city or province, and yet not be a citizen. In practice, that means that he doesn't not enjoy a great number of protections – residency rights, for instance – nor is he entitled to charity or other support."

"Most Germans in the here and now," Mike interrupted, "are not really citizens of anything. They are 'German' in terms of language, custom, what have you. But they are not 'German' in any meaningful political sense of the term. And, if the Crown Loyalists have their way, that won't change in the future."

"I still don't get it," said Chad. "They have the right to vote in the coming national election. So how can they not be 'citizens'?"

Becky smiled. "Being a 'voter' and a 'citizen' are not the same thing. It's far more complicated. Let's take a lower class man – an apprentice carpenter, let's say – in . . . oh, Hamburg, for example. He can vote in the coming election for whichever candidate he wants for his House of Commons district. But that's it. He cannot vote for any of the officials of the city itself. That's because Hamburg is one of the dozen or so free imperial cities in the United States of Europe. For most purposes, it is a province of its own – of which he is not a citizen. He has no rights in Hamburg, not even residency rights. He is there on sufferance, essentially."

Jenkins scratched his head. "It's sort of like Jim Crow, then?"

Mike made a face. "Well . . . there are differences. But, yes, it's a lot closer than we'd like. In some ways, in fact, it's even worse. At least black people in the Jim Crow south had the theoretical right to vote, even if exercising the vote was stifled in practice. Here, though, a lot of people in Germany won't even theoretically be citizens, if the Crown Loyalists get their whole program enacted."

"Will they be able to?" asked Chad.

Ed shrugged. "Hell, you knows? Ask that question again after the election. It'll depend how many seats they wind up winning in the House of Commons. They'll completely dominate the Chamber of Princes, of course."

"Ed's fudging," said Mike. "This question of citizenship is the one big issue on which all the small parties are in solid agreement with the CLs. There are other issues – an established church, for instance, since some of the small parties are heavily Calvinist-that I think we might be able to block. But unless we win an outright majority in the Commons, which none of us expects to happen, then Wettin and his CLs will get that citizenship legislation passed."

"At which point," said Gunther Achterhof, "all hell breaks loose."

He didn't say that threateningly, or even with a scowl. Just . . . matter-of-factly.

Chad Jenkins looked alarmed. "Hey, Gunther, we have to obey the law here."

Achterhof gave him a calm, level look. "'Obey the law' has very little to do with it, Mr. Jenkins. Once that legislation is enacted, then the informal freedoms and rights that many lower class persons all across the Germanies have come to expect while he" – he nodded toward Mike – "was Prime Minister, will start vanishing. Be assured that every petty nobleman and town council and guildmaster in the USE will immediately take advantage of the situation to reimpose their authority and restrict the rights of the lower classes as much as possible. And nowadays, several years after the Ring of Fire – you may be assured of this also – that will trigger off an explosion."

For all that Achterhof's depiction had the air of a neutral observation by an unbiased observer, Francisco Nasi knew perfectly well that when the time came Gunther – certainly Gretchen Richter – and every Committee of Correspondence in the Germanies would be leading the protests.

Protests? It might very well come down to an outright rebellion. Nasi knew that Mike Stearns didn't think there was any realistic prospect of avoiding violence. Mike's concern, at the moment, was simply to find ways to channel the upcoming explosion in the hopes that it might produce some positive results instead of simply a bloodbath.

Easier said than done, of course. Gunther Achterhof was quite right in his analysis. Even the short time Mike Stearns had wielded power in the USE as Prime Minister had been enough to produce a revolution of rising expectations in Germany's lower classes. Many if not all of them would find a return to the old dispensation intolerable.

And what made the whole situation so utterly perilous – looking at it now from the standpoint of the upper crust, whom Nasi thought were outright imbeciles – was. . . 

Stearns said it bluntly.

"You may as well swallow the whole thing, Chad, whether you like it or not. The kicker in all this is that the factor that most ruling classes in history rely on to impose their will on the population is the army. And in the United States of Europe in the year 1635, that army will be leaning heavily in favor of us – not the establishment."