1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 57

Hahn’s frown cleared away. “Oh, of course. Silly of me. But perhaps…”

Rebecca was shaking her head. “There is no chance at all that they had a quorum in Berlin. Their majority is a slim one to begin with — fifty-two percent. No member of our party was present, of course, and probably no more than a third of the people belonging to the small parties. That means the Crown Loyalists would have had to get almost every single one of their MPs to attend the session.”

“Ha!” Ableidinger boomed again. “In Berlin? In winter? Not a chance!”

“It wouldn’t be hard to prove, either,” said Strigel. “In fact, I’d be willing to bet they didn’t even take a roll call.”

“And it gets still worse,” said Rebecca. She counted off her pinkie. “Fourthly, when they arrested Wilhelm Wettin they also removed any legitimacy to the executive branch of the government as well.”

Achterhof was now frowning, and scratching his jaw. “I’ll be the first to say they’re a pack of bastards, Rebecca, but I’m not following you here. Quorum or no quorum, the Crown Loyalists are still the majority party. By our constitution, that gives them the right to form a cabinet of whichever members of their party they select, including the post of prime minister. So if they choose this von Ramsla jackass, they have the right to do so.”

Now Werner slapped the table in glee. “Yes, granted, Gunther — but by the same constitution, the new head of the government is actually a recommendation made to the head of state. Legally speaking, von Ramsla can’t become the prime minister until Gustav II Adolf confirms his appointment. Which he certainly hasn’t done, since he’s still speaking in tongues.”

Rebecca and several other people at the table winced a little at von Dalberg’s indecorous description of their monarch’s condition. But that was a matter of taste; the depiction itself was accurate enough.

“Yes,” she said. “To sum it all up, Oxenstierna has been in such a hurry to launch his counter-revolution that he has jettisoned the legitimacy of his own government’s executive and legislative branches. Which leaves, as the only surviving legitimate branch, the judiciary — who, regardless of how conservative they might be, will be aghast at these reckless procedures.”

“To put it mildly,” said Werner, snorting with amusement. “You can be accused of committing any crime in the books, and a judge will remain calm and even-tempered. Violate established legal protocol, and that same judge will become red-faced and indignant.”

Gunther Achterhof still looked skeptical. “And what does Oxenstierna care, whether a pack of judges rules with or against him? I repeat: we’re in a civil war. He’ll simply have them arrested along with Wettin.”

By the time he finished, however, at least half the heads at the conference table were shaking. Even Gunther seemed to recognized he’d ventured onto thin ice, from the way his forceful tone diminished.

“And lose at least ninety percent of the militias who would otherwise support him,” said Hamburg’s mayor. “I can guarantee that the militia of my city would abandon his cause. They might even be upset enough to support us.”

“The same would be true for most of the provincial governments as well,” said Strigel. “Hesse-Kassel would certainly come out in opposition, and so would Brunswick.”

“Westphalia’s a given, of course,” added Helene Gundelfinger, “with a Danish prince as its administrator and official head of state. Even if he doesn’t much like his younger brother, Frederik would hardly side with the Swedes.”

“It will be true down the line,” said Rebecca. “Oxenstierna has blundered badly. He has handed us on a plate the one single factor that a counter-revolution normally has working in its favor — legitimacy. You are more right than you know, Gunther. Indeed, the chancellor of Sweden and his followers are now the bastards in this conflict.”

“And we — ha! what a charming twist! — are now the champions of the established laws,” said Ableidinger.

“Our strategy and our tactics must be guided by that understanding,” said Rebecca. “As Constantin says, we are the ones defending the laws, not they. So we must be patient, not hasty; considerate of established customs and practices, not dismissive of them; and, most of all, present ourselves as the guardians of order and stability.”

Achterhof was back to scowling. “If by that you’re saying we have to sit on our hands –”

“I said nothing of the sort, Gunther.” Rebecca managed to maintain a cordial tone of voice. The man could sometimes be a real trial. “What matters is not the content of what we do, but the form. So, here in Magdeburg, we seize all the reins of power — what few we don’t already possess, at any rate. But we do so in order to defend the laws, not to overthrow them. Oxenstierna and those outlaws in Berlin are the revolutionaries, not us.”

She looked at Albert Bugenhagen. “Every province and town will have to adopt its own tactics, of course, to suit the local conditions. But the same method should apply everywhere. Thus, in Hamburg, I recommend that you summon the town militia to defend the city’s rights and laws against illegal aggression coming from Berlin.”

Bugenhagen grinned. “They’ll squirm, you watch. But… in the end, they might very well do it.”

“And even if they don’t,” said Constantin, “you can mobilize the CoC’s armed units in the city on the same grounds. You’re not clashing with the militia, you’re — oh, this is truly delightful — coming out to support them in their righteous task.”

Rebecca nodded. “Everywhere, we must follow that course. Defense, not offense. This is no time, in other words, for the CoCs to launch another Operation Kristallnacht. Let the reactionaries start the violence. Let everyone see that they are the instigators of mayhem, just as they are the ones who shredded the nation’s constitution and laws.”

She now looked at Gunther Achterhof. “We are, of course, permitted to act in self-defense, should the outlaws make so bold as to attack us.”

The head of Magdeburg’s Committee of Correspondence looked mollified. Well, somewhat mollified. But Rebecca didn’t think he would be a problem. As pig-headed as he often was, Gunther was not stupid. Once he saw how effective the tactics were, he’d begin applying them with his usual adroit skills as an organizer.

Liesel Hahn spoke up. “I think you should write to the landgravine of Hesse-Kassel immediately, Rebecca. She thinks quite well of you, despite her political differences. She’s told me so herself. Twice, now.”

“I will do better than that, Liesel. I will send her a radio message — and send the same message to the heads of state of every single one of the provinces, even those like Pomerania and the Upper Rhine which we can assume will remain actively hostile. The centerpiece of my message, of course, will be our new motto and principal slogan.”

Her serene smile finally appeared. “Justice for Wilhelm Wettin! We demand that the prime minister be charged in a duly constituted court of law, not some outlaw travesty of a tribunal. We demand that any charges against him be made openly, so that he may exercise his right — guaranteed under the constitution — to confront his accusers. We demand that he be given a fair trial in a USE court of law, not be victimized by foreign Swedish star chamber proceedings. Last but not least, we demand that he be released until such a trial can be convened, in order to resume his duties as the still-rightful head of the USE’s government.”

She stopped. Everyone stared at her.

Then Ableidinger slapped the table again. Hard enough, this time, to make it jump. “Oh, how grand — to live in such splendid times! Where up is down and down is up and everything is finally in its rightful place!”