Letter 401

• 401. Caroline to Julie Gotter in Gotha: Würzburg, 12 March 1806 [*]

W[ürzburg], 12 March [1806]

|422| Sitting down here to write you just now, my dear Julchen, I am having a difficult time remembering what the status of our world was the last time I wrote. [1] You in your own turn probably know even less about my status now or, indeed, how we are doing even in the larger sense. Who would have dreamt that such despicable things would be happening!

Chance itself is mocking us insofar as ultimately we are indeed to land on the imperial side. [2] Ultimately, of course, we ourselves will not remain such. Schelling has already escaped the snare by going ahead and tearing it asunder. From the outset, he has taken the path of preferring to surrender everything rather than place himself in an ambiguous situation, hence has participated in nothing — which is also why one could view him as having already gone over — has announced no new lecture courses, and finally, on 6 March, declined the new oath of service; and we will be leaving here immediately after Easter, to my considerable joy. [3] Schelling will be going to Munich to wait for his new appointment while I visit his parents. [4]

So, what are people saying about the rather wondrous fate of all the scholars who received appointments in Würzburg? [5] It must indeed seem wondrous at least for the moment, though there is no question that Bavaria will not abandon them — it is merely the highly peculiar conjunctions and uncertainty of everything now that are delaying such decisions; and in the meantime they greatly prefer to continue having these men paid from here, since otherwise they would have to do it from there. [6]

In the meantime, Schelling’s upright character has simply not allowed him to give in to the political regulations and measures. No one has contorted and writhed in this regard more than vile Paulus, and no one is more anxious to be rid of both parties. [7]

Schelling, who was not present at the general presentation before the |423| imperial commissar, Herr von Hügel, did visit him afterward and was received with the greatest favor and with exceptional cordiality; although people were then also immediately saying that he would be staying here, he never considered that for a moment. [8]

The worst thing is that we will now yet be getting French troops, whereas the imperial troops will be retreating, [9] for this Napoleon is grazing through one country after the other with his sharp teeth and then tossing them to his protected regents, he, the King of Kings, whose neck I wish the Lord of Lords, if it please him, might soon most graciously break.

[Errands.] It pained me to learn from your letter that your mother has suffered such losses. My poor mother, indeed, even Schelling’s own parents (his father was in the suspended area) are in the same situation — and which Germans are not? [10]


[*] Julie Gotter was now almost twenty-three years old, presumably approximately the age of the young women in these fashion illustrations from 1805 (Toiletten Kalender für Damen 1805; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[1] Caroline’s last extant letter to Julie Gotter was on 1 December 1805 (letter 399), the day before the Battle of Austerlitz and a full three weeks before the Treaty of Pressburg, about whose consequences she speaks in this letter, viz., particularly the cession by Bavaria of Würzburg to Ferdinand III, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Back.

[2] I.e., the Austrian imperial side, since Ferdinand of Tuscany, the new territorial lord of Würzburg, was the brother of the current (and last) emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, namely, Franz II. Franz, however, abdicated that crown on 6 August 1806 after earlier (11 August 1804) declaring himself Francis I, the first hereditary Emperor of Austria, after the precedent of Napoleon, who had declared himself emperor of the French on 18 May 1804. Napoleon’s self-coronation then took place on 2 December 1804 in the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris in the presence of Pope Pius VII.

Here Napoleon’s self-coronation (M. A. Thiers, Collection de 350 Gravures, Dessins de Philippoteaux, etc. pour l’Histoire du Consulate et de l’Empire, vols. 1 [Paris 1870], 80):



[3] Concerning this step, see Schelling’s missive to the Intelligenzblatt of the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung on 28 March 1806 (dated 10 March) (letter/document 401c). See also Adalbert Friedrich Marcus to Schelling from Bamberg on 15 March 1806 (Fuhrmans 3:317):

You were doubtless quite correct in not committing yourself, my beloved friend. It would serve absolutely no purpose. It is both gratifying and pleasing that at just the moment when even monarchies and their kings no longer enjoy independence, the genius, the individual looks to assert himself. Neither would I waste another word toward the Bavarians.

The oath Schelling declined to take was the following (Chronik des Churfürstenthums Würzburg 1 [1806] 5 [26 April 1806], 62):

Toward the Most Serenely High-Born Prince and Lord, Lord Ferdinand, Royal Prince of Hungary, Archduke of Austria, Duke in Würzburg and Franconia, and Prince Elector of the Holy Roman Empire as your henceforth reigning, most-gracious territorial Prince and Lord, you herewith pledge steadfastly to maintain in connection with the provisionally confirmed continuation of your official service and duties that same, most humble loyalty and obedience that has characterized your devotion to your previous territorial lord and which in any case is the duty of every upright councilor and civil servant according to law and the constitution.

[Response:] I am willing to comply faithfully with that which has been presented to me and which I have understood, as truly as God and his sacred gospel are my witnesses.

Easter fell on 6 April in 1806; Schelling departed Würzburg for Munich on 18 April, Caroline on 20 or 22 May 1806. Back.

[4] Schelling’s parents were still living in the prelature Murrhardt; they did not move to Maulbronn until 1807 (excerpt from “Wurtemberg,” in William Shepherd, Historical Atlas [1911], 143; image: University of Texas at Austin):


Caroline did not visit them before moving to Munich. Back.

[5] Caroline is referring esp. to the scholars from Jena who had received appointments in 1803 and 1804, including H. E. G. Paulus, Gottlieb Hufeland, and Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer, though also, from Württemberg, Friedrich Wilhelm von Hoven. Back.

[6] I.e., paid by the new administration in Würzburg rather than by the previous administration in Munich. Back.

[7] I.e., rid of both Paulus himself and his wife, Karoline Paulus. Paulus had called in sick rather than attend the convocation involving the oath to the new administration. See the anonymous article “Aus Würzburg,” Der Freimüthige (1806) 69 (7 April 1806) 275–76, here 276:

Reliable sources relate that Herr Paulus was willing to take the oath only after being guaranteed his full salary of 2500 Fl. Since nothing of the sort could be guaranteed to either him or any of the other professors, and instead only the excuse presented concerning the provisional situation, he declared to the trustees that he would not commit, and then genuinely excluded himself from the solemn actus. Whether, as has been alleged, he later did indeed turn in his subordination oath in written form and excuse his absence by claiming a sudden illness, is anyone’s guess.

Concerning Paulus’s later fate, see Dorothea Schlegel’s letter to Karoline Paulus on 23 February 1806 (letter 400h), note 1. Back.

[8] Schelling mentions these events in his missive to the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (letter/document 401c). Back.

[9] The renewed presence of French soldiers in what since 1 February 1806 was officially imperial Austrian Würzburg — Ferdinand being the brother of the incipient Austrian emperor, Franz I (see above concerning his status as emperor Franz II of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation) — may seem strange. The French-allied Bavarians had, after all, returned to Munich and ceded the principality. See, however, Anton Chroust, Das Grossherzogtum Würzburg (1806–1814): ein Vortag (Würzburg 1913), 8–10:

Ferdinand now received the principality of Würzburg from the hands of French commissars, which Baron von Hügel took control of on 1 February 1806 in the name of the prince elector [Ferdinand] and the emperor, an international act of state that left no doubt that from now on this new acquisition was to be viewed as the secondogeniture of the house of Austria and was to constitute part of the state inheritance. Franz II [ed. note: later Franz I of Austria] did not hesitate to refer to himself as Prince of Würzburg and Duke of Franconia in his “middle” title.

[Public proclamation of the new prince elector on Residence Square in Würzburg, 1 February 1806; Chronik des Churfürstenthums Würzburg, ed. Bonaventura Andres (Würzburg 1806), engraving following p. 16:]


Napoleon, however, had intended things quite differently than simply to allow Austria, which had just been displaced from south Germany, to settle here at the backs of his new confederates Bavaria and Württemberg.

(Central Europe Wars of the Third Coalition 1805–7, map 92 in the Cambridge Modern History Atlas [1912], Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas Libraries):


When the insufficiently considered international consequences of this cession of Würzburg to an Austrian grand duke began to manifest themselves in Paris, namely, when the Austrian “acquisitions commissar” [von Hügel] also brought Austrian troops into the country, Napoleon fell into a rage. Talleyrand, who had allowed such to happen, was roundly chastised. The imperial [i.e., Austrian] light cavalry were shooed out of the country by means of a threat, and for a moment it even seemed that Napoleon was planning to undo the entire agreement.

Even as it was, Austria’s execution of the terms of the Treaty of Pressburg left much to be desired as far as he was concerned, and it would not have taken much more for a new war with Austria to break out during the spring of 1806 because of Cattaro [town and fortress in Montenegro, assigned to Italy by the Treaty of Pressburg but illicitly occupied by the Russians until 1807; see Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 21 April 1806 (letter 402), with note 1].

Although these events made things difficult enough right at the beginning for the new prince elector of Würzburg, tensions increased following a vexing incident: the mass desertion of native Würzburgers who were still in Bavarian regiments [viz., on the French side], whose release had been delayed. At Bavaria’s behest, and quite unconcerned about the new prince-electoral officials and the admittedly still absent new territorial lord, French troops entered Würzburg and arrested the runaways in the Main River Barracks.

The Main River Barracks, later known as the Alte Infanteriekaserne (built 1722–24, demolished by bombing 16 March 1945 after having been transitioned in 1894 to city office space), were located directly on the Main River in the southwest part of town; Caroline’s apartment at the Old University complex is indicated at center (Fr. Harrach, Plan der Kreis-Hauptstadt Würzburg [1845]):


Without any explanation or consideration, Bernadotte now also introduced and garrisoned his troop divisions in those districts throughout the principality that had previously been spared such billeting.

See in this context the “Latest News” in the Chronik des Churfürstenthums Würzburg 1 (1806) 2 (5 April 1806), 32:”At 2:00 on the afternoon of 2 April [1806], 1600 French soldier entered our town under the leadership of General Pacthod. They together with the citizenry took over the guard houses and towers.” The narrative above now continues:

It was high time for Ferdinand finally to make his appearance in Würzburg. On 1 May 1806, he entered the town amid the ringing of bells and cries of rejoicing, since the Bavarians had unfortunately carried off the cannons in the fortress that were normally used to greet the territorial lord. His diplomatic flexibility was able to still the storm, buffer Napoleon’s mistrust, and even attain subsequent acceptance into the Confederation of the Rhine. Much of his success was abetted by the French representative at the Würzburg court, the Alsatian [Yves Louis Joseph] Hirsinger [1757–1824], a well-meaning man who, like later [ambassador] St. Marsan in Berlin, considered it his task to harmonize the interests of his sovereign with those of the government to whom he was committed.

He also helped weaken the severe demands of the French generals and intendants, and to render more or less harmless the hostile machinations of Bavaria against the undesirable successor who was now in possession of Würzburg. His task was made easier insofar as the real leader in the new administration, the counselor Johann Michael Seuffert, whose business sense and creativity the bishops (and later the Bavarians themselves) had appreciated, convinced both himself and his ruler that the weak state might be steadied and secured only by unconditional commitment to France and by the willingness to yield to all the emperor’s [Napoleon’s’] wishes. — And Indeed, this politics of submissiveness did succeed in guiding the fragile ship of state unharmed through the cliffs on which a stronger, more self-aware will would have foundered.

As for Würzburg’s fate during the remainder of 1806 and the continued presence of French troops there, as noted at the end of the supplementary appendix on the Third Coalition and the Treaty of Pressburg, August–December 1805, Napoleon still had unresolved problems with Friedrich Wilhelm III and the Prussians (see esp. sections 24 and 25 there), problems that ultimately precipitated the French campaign during the autumn of 1806.

In the meantime, the French were consolidating their position throughout Germany, esp. with their new allies Bavaria, Württemberg, and Baden. They accordingly garrisoned troops in several key areas in Germany, not least for strategic purposes. See W. D. Bird, The Direction of War: A Study and Illustration of Strategy, 2nd ed. (Cambridge 1925), 140:

At the beginning of the war of 1806 between France, and Prussia and Saxony, the bulk of the French troops stood in Bavaria, and while the Saxons were mobilizing the main Prussian army was near Naumburg. The Emperor Napoleon now laid out lines of communication for the French army, from Maintz, via Frankfort and Würzburg to Bamberg; from Mannheim to Würzburg; from Augsburg to Würzburg; and from Ulm and Augsburg to Bamberg. Advanced bases were also formed at Forcheim, Bamberg, and Kronach.

Here the lines of communications as described (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls [Vienna 1805]):


And the advances position at Cronach in relation to Naumburg:


The French, therefore, could operate either in a northerly or an easterly direction, without uncovering one of the groups of communications. In other words, if Napoleon advanced in a northerly direction his operations would tend to secure the lines from the Danube against hostile interference, and also to a certain extent the line from Mannheim; while if he marched eastwards he would directly protect the lines from Maintz and Mannheim. Back.

[10] The reference is to the effects on private individuals, including financial losses, caused by the geopolitical changes set into motion by the Treaty of Pressburg. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott