An unloved autonomy part I
This is an outline of the development of Alsatian political culture leading up to the return to France in 1918-1919. While part of
During this period Alsatians focused on two concepts, ‘republic’ and ‘federation’, in order to argue for the creation of a province that would be an expression of popular sovereignty and that would have parity with other German states. In 1911 the Reich gave autonomy to Alsace, something which it did not want.
The republic was an alternative to arbitrary regimes. At the time of annexation, criticism of Napoleon III and Bonapartism was gaining strength—republicanism was becoming more prominent. Under the Second Reich, Alsace-Lorraine was subjected to an appointed official who acted as the Statthalter (representative of the kingdom in the territory). The German imperial house, the Hohenzollerns, wanted to make Alsace-Lorraine part of the family possessions—a territory given to a son who would not become the Kaiser.
Alsatians looked to the republic in order to reject the creation of a ruling house for the territory. Politicians like Emile Wetterle (a Catholic cleric, newspaper publisher, and deputy to the Reichstag (imperial legislature)) kept tabs on the changes in French republicanism and translated them into Alsatian political activism. Pushing for rights for the territories, Alsatian politicians demanded a unicameral legislature elected by popular vote and a ministerial government that was drawn from the legislature. Indeed, Wetterle and other politicians pointed out that republicanism was not incompatible with the politics of the Reich:
Federalism was also an issue under the French Second Empire. Of course, it is common everywhere for the party that is not in power to argue that the central government has too much authority, and this was certainly the case in
Alsatian politicians hoped both to gain control of their federal votes and to restore the balance between states at minimum by limiting votes on the federal council by weighting states by population. Furthermore, they raised questions about the integrity of