Letter 121f

121f. Samuel Thomas von Sömmerring to Christian Gottlob Heyne in Göttingen: Frankfurt, 13 April 1793 [*]

[Frankfurt] 13 April 1793

. . . Although Dr. Köhler is wholly innocent, it was only after he had endured tremendous abuse at the gates of Königstein that he was released through the mediation of his count. It was a misunderstanding, he was mistaken for Candidate Köhler in Mainz, an arch-Jacobin. But the whole incident was all the more surprising for him because Wedekind and his wife had already so severely abused him earlier in their own house, raging and fuming because he would not swear allegiance.

Hofrath Böhmer from Werstatt has managed to intervene on behalf of the Göttingen ladies insofar as they now have a more tolerable room. [1]

The desire for vengeance on the part of the various parties is utterly without limit, and notwithstanding all are insisting they are indeed battling anarchy, they are falling prey to exactly the same mistake. Anyone who speaks about morality, love of one’s enemies, and that sort of thing immediately falls under suspicion and is himself subject to bitterness and coarse behavior. The example of the compassionate king and modest duke seems to be transgressed by his own officers. [2]

May God have compassion on the Mainz Jacobins if they are indeed to be tried before Mainz judges — all of whom, without exception, are prosecutors and feel they have more or less been insulted .

While being transported from Frankfurt to Königstein, the Jacobins were beaten not only by the accompanying officers and regulars, but even more so by the Mainz citizens, so much so that they were fairly dripping with blood, some with not even a single white space left on their arms and backs, while still others have allegedly already died from the abuses. One well-dressed woman who, standing along the street while they passed, expressed sympathy for them, was assaulted, her clothes torn from her body, and she herself dragged to the guard house.

Next week Mainz will be asked to surrender, and should it not do so, the siege will begin on either the 18th or 19th. [3]



[*] Source: Forster’s Briefwechsel mit Sömmerring, 620–21. Back.

[1] Hofrath Böhmer from Werstatt (whence also apparently Dr. Köhler) is otherwise unidentified (Brigitte Roßbeck, Zum Trotz glücklich: Caroline Schlegel-Schelling und die romantische Lebenskunst [Munich 2008] 303n54, has similarly been unable to identify him). Back.

[2] Apparently a reference to the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia; the reference to a “duke” is uncertain. Back.

[3] By 14 April 1793, Mainz was completely surrounded by 32,000 largely Prussian soldiers, to which another 12,000 Austrians were eventually added. The bombardment of the town began during the night of 17 June 1793, and the French troops occupying the town capitulated on 23 July 1793 (Johann Georg Bullmann, Gründliche und wahrhafte Relation von der Belagerung und Einnahme der Churfürstlichen Haupt- und Residenz-Stadt Mainz, welche den 22ten Julii 1793 unter Höchst eigner Anführung Sr. Königlichen Majestät Friedrich Willhelm Königs von Preusen [Augsburg 1793]; compare this view with that on notes 1 and 3):



Translation © 2011 Doug Stott