1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 06

The other teenager was a girl and therefore wasn’t in line of succession. The Palatinate wasn’t governed by the Salic law of France and some other principalities. There were any number of female rulers in the Germanies. The neighboring realm of Hesse-Kassel, for instance, was currently ruled by Amelie Elisabeth, the widow of Landgravine Wilhelm V, serving as regent for her oldest son. Each dynasty had its own rules when it came to the line of succession — what were called “house laws” — and those of the Palatinate excluded females.

It probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Even if she had been eligible to rule, Elisabeth wouldn’t be interested. Her life had also been changed by the Ring of Fire — in her case, by the influence of the American nurse in Amsterdam, Anne Jefferson. Elisabeth had developed a passionate interest in medicine. Her ambition was to become a doctor following up-time principles, not to get involved in the wrangles of royalty and aristocracy, which she now viewed as hopelessly medieval.

That left the youngest sons who’d survived infancy: Edward, Philip Frederick, and Gustav. But the oldest of them, Edward, was only ten. It would be some years before he was in any position to advance his claim to the Palatinate, assuming he chose to do so at all.

And in the meantime, Emperor Gustav II Adolf had Committees of Correspondence aroused by his former chancellor Axel Oxenstierna’s attempted counter-revolution to deal with — not to mention the so-called “Prince of Germany,” Mike Stearns, who’d just won a decisive victory over a Swedish army outside of Dresden. The emperor had come to the conclusion that a peace settlement in the hand was worth two future crises in a bush, and granted the now-very-popular demand of the Upper Palatinate’s population to get rid of the be-damned electors altogether and replace them with a republic.

“Two weeks,” von Dalberg repeated. “The elections should be held over two weeks, not ten days. They should run till the end of the month.”

Piazza shrugged. “I don’t disagree, Werner. But is it really something worth fighting with Wettin over?”

“Not in the least,” chimed in Ableidinger, “I think a shorter election period actually works to our advantage. We’re a lot better organized than our opponents.”

A woman seated next to Piazza spoke up. “Speaking of which, does anyone know yet what our opposition is going to consist of? Are the Crown Loyalists still a single party or are they going to splinter?”

The questions came from Helene Gundelfinger. Officially, she was the vice-president of the State of Thuringia-Franconia, the most populous province in the USE. In practice, she’d been functioning for months as the actual president since Ed Piazza had moved to Magdeburg — although again, not officially. He still maintained his legal residence in Bamberg, the capital of the SoTF.

Piazza and Rebecca exchanged glances. Depending on the issue involved, one or the other of them usually had better intelligence on issues of this nature than any of the other leaders of the party.

“Judging from my recent correspondence with Amelie Elisabeth,” said Rebecca, “I think what she is aiming for is to break away — or force the reactionaries to break away, so she can keep the name ‘Crown Loyalist’ — and form a new party. In all likelihood, if she succeeds in this effort Wettin will join with her. So would Duke George of Brunswick Province.”

By the time she finished, Gunther Achterhof had a frown on his face. She had no trouble seeing the expression because he was seated directly across from her at the other end of the long conference table — which was actually six tables pushed together to form one very big one. And she had no trouble interpreting the expression because she knew from long experience that Achterhof was never happy to be reminded that political affairs sometimes required regular communication with — one of his favored phrases — “the exploiters and oppressors of the common classes.”

On this occasion, though, he didn’t make any open criticism. Gunther could be extraordinarily stubborn but he was not stupid. If nothing else, he’d lost enough quarrels with Rebecca over this issue to know that his was a hopeless cause. All the more hopeless now that Gretchen Richter had made it clear in her own correspondence to the CoC activists in Magdeburg that she herself engaged in regular discussions and negotiations with Ernst Wettin, who was simultaneously the imperial administrator of Saxony and a younger brother of the current prime minister.

“What should be our attitude on the subject?” asked another participant in the meeting, seated elsewhere at the table. That was Charlotte Kienitz, the FoJP’s central leader in the province of Mecklenburg. “Or should we have one at all?”

A naïve and unsuspecting person — almost anyone, actually — would be quite taken in by Kienitz’s innocent tone. The questions she asked seemed to derive from nothing more than simple curiosity.

In reality, the questions had been pre-arranged by Rebecca and Ed Piazza. Over time, Charlotte had become one of their closest confidants and political allies in the never-ending political disputes in the party. Compared to the Crown Loyalists, with their fierce — at times, violent — factional conflicts, the Fourth of July Party was a veritable model of unity. Still, albeit not to the extent of the Crown Loyalists, it was a coalition of differing and sometimes competing interests. The leadership provided by Rebecca Abrabanel and Ed Piazza was generally accepted by most activists in the party — sometimes grudgingly — but that was at least in part due to their light-handed way of running things. They both preferred persuasion to strong-arm tactics. And if Rebecca had the ultimate strong arm available to her if she really needed it — that would be her husband Mike Stearns, the man who more than any other had created the United States of Europe in the first place, had served as its first prime minister, was now one of its most celebrated military figures and carried the unofficial title of the Prince of Germany — she preferred not to use it at all.

Which was just fine with Stearns himself. He had more than enough to deal with as a general in time of war, and he had complete confidence in his wife’s political abilities and acumen.

Rebecca had asked Charlotte to pose those questions if the opportunity arose, because she’d just spent the past few weeks writing the chapters in her book on political affairs that addressed the issue. So, she responded immediately and easily.

“I think we should view ourselves as tacitly — not openly, since that would do more harm than good — allied with Amelie Elisabeth, when it comes to this question.”

She forestalled the gathering protest she could see on several faces — Gunther’s being one of them, but by no means the only one — by pressing on.

“Be realistic, everyone!” She said that in a sharper tone than she normally used. “If there is one absolute iron law in politics, which has applied, does apply, and will apply in any political system created by the human race, it is this.”

She paused, briefly, for effect. “There will always be a conservative faction — and it will always be powerful. In fact, except in times of revolution and great upheaval, it will usually tend to be dominant.”

The protests that followed were fierce but not particularly coherent, which was what Rebecca had expected. She was making a pronouncement that was bound to irritate revolutionaries — “rub them the wrong way,” in the up-time idiom — who hadn’t thought these matters through. She waited patiently until the voices of opposition died down a bit before speaking again.

And, again, used a harsher tone than she normally did — much harsher, in fact. “Grow up, as my sometimes-blunt husband would say.”

That reminder of her closest associate brought quiet to the room. “When I say ‘conservative,’ I am not referring to any particular political philosophy. I am using the term in lower case, so to speak. I am referring to the basic attitude of most people that unless conditions are intolerable it is usually better to err on the side of caution.”