Stahl, Friedrich Julius

views updated


STAHL, FRIEDRICH JULIUS (1802–1861), German conservative politician and political thinker. Born Julius Jolson in Wuerzburg, Bavaria, he grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family, but converted to Lutheranism in 1819, seemingly more out of inner conviction than in order to obtain a government post in a Catholic country. Stahl studied law at various Bavarian universities and was prominent in the Burschenschaften movement (see *Student Fraternities, German). After his doctorate and a first position in Munich, he became a professor of law in Erlangen and Wuerzburg. During this time, he completed his two main works Die Philosophie des Rechts nach Geschichtlicher Ansicht (2 vols., 1830–37), a historical view of the philosophy of law based on Christian theology, and Die Kirchenverfassung nach Lehre und Recht der Protestanten (1840), an important contribution to the debate about the structure of the Protestant church.

In 1840 Stahl succeeded Edward *Gans as professor of law at the University of Berlin where his lectures attracted widespread attention. He expounded his conservative opinions on contemporary politics in his lectures and published a series of pamphlets calling for the mobilization of the Christian state against liberalism and republicanism. Following the suppression of the 1848 revolution, he was made a member of the Prussian Upper House and gained considerable political influence at the court of Friedrich Wilhelm iv. While his political ideas have frequently been described as extreme and reactionary, it is now evident how important Stahl's contribution was for the modernization of German conservative thought, including the acceptance of constitutionalism.

Stahl rejected the full emancipation of the Jews and especially defended the exclusion of non-Christians from state functions. As a zealous and rhetorically gifted defender of traditional rights, justice and order, his views were approved of by *Bismarck and *Treitschke who were, nevertheless, troubled, as were his contemporaries, by the figure of a former Jew from Catholic Bavaria, forging the ideology of Prussian Lutheran conservatism. Stahl's philosophy was later repudiated by the Nazis as an expression of Jewish theocracy.


R.A. Kann, in: ylbi, 12 (1967), 55–74; E. Hamburger, Juden im oeffentlichen Leben Deutschlands (1968), 197–209 and index. add. bibliography: W. Bussmann, in: M. Greschat (ed.), Gestalten der Kirchengeschichte (1985), 325–43; W. Fuessl, Professor in der Politik: Friedrich Julius Stahl (18021861) (1988); C. Link, in: H. Heinrichs (ed.), Deutsche Juristen Jüdischer Herkunft (1993), 59–83; J.B. Mueller, in: H.C. Kraus (ed.), Konservative Politiker in Deutsch-land (1995), 69–88.

[Uffa Jensen (2nd ed.)]