Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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ALSACE-LORRAINE. A country separated from France by the war of 187-1 and made a part of the German confederation, or more correctly of the German empire. It is not our purpose to write a history of this country or to relate by what combination of circumstances it ceased to be French. Neither is it our design to risk conjecture as to its future fortune. Our task is simply to detail actual facts. Alsace-Lorraine was not demanded by the German government as a territory formerly taken away from Germany, nor as a province containing a German population, but "as the key of the house, la clef de la maison." It was as a bulwark against wars of revenge or reconquest that Alsace-Lorraine was annexed to the German empire, such at least is the pretense made.


—The country was ceded, in virtue of the preliminaries of peace Feb. 26, 1871, confirmed by the treaty of peace signed at Frankfort May 10, 1871, ratified by the law of May 18, following. Bulletin des Lois, 1871, 1, p. 117.


—Article 2 of this treaty is thus drawn up: "French subjects born in the ceded territories, and now actually domiciled there, who may wish to preserve their French nationality shall have, by virtue of a preliminary declaration to that effect made to the competent authority, the power until Oct. 1, 1872, of transferring their domicile to France, and fixing it there and this right shall not be done away with, by the laws relating to military service; in which case their quality of French citizens will be maintained.


—They shall be at liberty to retain their real estate in the territory ceded to Germany."


—It is not the declaration of his choice which determines the nationality to which the Alsacian or the native of Lorraine henceforth belongs, but his place of domicile. It was given to be understood that the person who should elect in favor of France but who should be found domiciled in Alsace-Lorraine after Oct. 1, 1872, should be considered a German, notwithstanding his declaration of choice which should be considered as null and void.


—For natives of Alsace-Lorraine outside of Europe the period of choice was extended to Oct. 1, 1873, by the additional convention of Dec. 2, 1871.


—The present position of Alsace-Lorraine in the German empire was fixed by a law passed by the reichsrath, June 3, 1871. The following is the text:—Art. 1. "The territory of Alsace and Lorraine ceded by France, according to the terms of article 1, of the preliminaries of peace, is united forever to the German empire.


—Art. 2. "The constitution of the German empire shall go into force in Alsace-Lorraine on Jan. 1, 1873. Some parts of the constitution may be put in force before that date, by decree of the emperor with the consent of the federal council. The modifications and additions to the constitution must be approved by the reichstag.—[Art. 3, of the constitution comes into force from the present date, (this article 3 confers German nationality on the inhabitants of the newly annexed territories).]—Art. 3. "Executive power in Alsace-Lorraine belongs to the emperor. Until the constitution goes into force, the emperor must have the assent of the federal council in legislative matters, and when it shall be a question of making loans or furnishing guarantees involving the empire, that of the reichstag. Annual reports on the administration of the provinces shall be presented to the reichstag. After the constitution goes into force, this assembly will equally take cognizance of matters, which in the confederated states are not within its jurisdiction.


—Art. 4. "The decrees and ordinances of the emperor shall be counter-signed by the chancellor, who shall thus assume responsibility for them."


—Thus the countries detached from France have not been distributed among the different German states. They form a unity, a special state, a member of the German confederation. The reasons for this action were stated by Prince Bismarck, before the reichstag, June 3, 1871, in the following words: "One question alone has been seriously put: 'Shall Alsace-Lorraine be annexed to Prussia, or shall it become a part of the empire directly?' From the beginning, I have favored the latter alternative, first of all in order not to mix questions of dynasty with political questions; and besides because I see that the inhabitants of Alsace will adopt more readily the German than the Prussian name During the two centuries that the Alsacians have belonged to France, they, like true Germans, have preserved a good share of particularism, and it is on this, to my thinking, we ought to build, doing the opposite of what was done in analogous circumstances in North Germany. Our mission is first of all to strengthen this particularism.


—The more the inhabitants of Alsace shall feel themselves to be Alsacians, the more they will differ from the French. As soon as they feel they are Alsacians they are too logical not to feel that they are also Germans. In consequence of artifices, I might indeed say intrigues, of the French government, the name of Prussian is detested in France, much more than that of German.


—It is an old tradition in the country, not to recognize the Prussians as Germans, to flatter the Germans as such, and to represent them as under the protection of France, vis-à-vis of Prussia. In this way it has come to pass that the Prussian name has a hateful sound in French ears, and whenever it is desired to say anything evil of us it is said of the Prussian government or the Prussians, while they speak of the Germans whenever they wish to say anything good. It is not to be doubted that this policy of bringing suspicion on Prussia, which has been continued by France for a whole generation has left its traces in Alsace. Besides, as I have already said, it is easier for the Alsacians to find a new position as Germans than to adopt the Prussian name. This reason alone would be sufficient for me. As to what must be done later in the interest of the empire and of Alsace I think it will be necessary first of all to hear what the people of Alsace and Lorraine have to say for themselves ***."


—Alsace-Lorraine has representatives in the bundesrath and in the reichstag since 1873, but it has not yet been announced when this country shall have a special constitution. In the meanwhile the public powers of the empire, the emperor, and the reichstag and bundesrath will manage, for Alsace-Lorraine, not only the affairs which these powers manage for the whole empire, but also those which remain within the competency of the government of each German state. In other words, Alsace-Lorraine is provisionally without a government of its own: the functions which would devolve on a special government to perform are exercised by that of the empire.*13


—The administration of the country was organized by the law of December, 1871. It is placed under the direction of an upper president, a title given in Prussia to the governors of such provinces as embrace several departments. The upper president who is assisted by the imperial council of Alsace-Lorraine, (council of state), resides at Strassburg as does also one of the three prefects (or rather presidents of departments) the prefect of lower Alsace. The prefect of upper Alsace is at Colmar, the prefect of German Lorraine at Metz. The prefects are assisted by administrative councils, composed of the higher functionaries. The departments are divided into circuits answering in some sort to the former arrondissements, but with different and smaller boundaries. At the head of each circuit, there is a director who has provisionally the powers of a sub-prefect. Contrary to French usage, these circuits can have their budgets. They are recognized civil entities. Civil tribunals of first resort are established at Metz, Sarreguemines, Strassburg, Saverne, Colmar, Müthouse. The court of appeal sits at Colmar. In commercial suits appeal may be made to the federal supreme court (third resort) at Leipsig. The German commercial and penal codes are in force side by side with the civil code of France. Many provisions of previous administrative law are retained. All laws which have not been expressly repealed are still in force, i.e., no law is implicitly repealed by the change of sovereignty, the financial system has been scarcely touched. Direct taxes are collected as before, but the monopoly of tobacco is suppressed. The reasons for the law of June 3, 1871, shows that this suppression is equal to a reduction of taxes amounting to almost 5 fr. (50c.) per head. Primary instruction, and military service have been introduced. Both are obligatory.


—Alsace Lorraine has an area of 5,580 English square miles, and a population December, 1875, of 1,531,804. If we are to believe the Almanach of Gotha, which does not cite its authority, there were, in 1872, 254,000 Frenchmen and 1,345,000 Germans in the country, but we can not discover that these figures are confirmed.


—The are and population according to the census of Dec. 1, 1875, were as follows: Upper Alsace, 1,353 square miles; population, 453,374. Lower Alsace, 1,844 square miles; population, 598,180. Lorraine, 2,383 square miles; population, 480,250. Total square miles, 5,580; total population, 1,531,804. (See LORRAINE AND ALSACE.)


—BIBLIOGRAPHY: Schöpflin, Alsatia Illustrata, 2 vols., Colmar, 175-1; Alsatia diplomatica, by the same author, 2 vols., Munich, 177-; Colbéry and Schweighäuser, Antiquités de l' Alsace, Paris, 1828; Strobel, Vaterlandische Geschichte des Elsass, 6 vols., Strassburg, 184-8; Lorenz and Scherer, Geschichte des Elsass von den altesten Zeiten bis auf die Gegenuart, 2nd ed., Berlin, 1872; Spach, Moderne Culturzustände im Elsass, 3 vols., Strassburg, 187-; Glöckler, Das Elsass; Freiburg in Br. 1876.


Notes for this chapter

Since January 1, 1874, the constitution of the German empire has been in force in Alsace-Lorraine, and the empire legislates for the country. But it is contemplated in future that laws may have force in Alsace-Lorraine when approved by the landesausschuse (committee of the country) and the bundesrath, even without the co-operation of the reichstag.—ED.


End of Notes

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