Andreas Joseph Hofmann

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The Deutschhaus building in Mainz, where Hofmann proclaimed the republic

Andreas Joseph Hofmann (14 July 1752 – 6 September 1849[1]) was a German philosopher and revolutionary active in the Republic of Mainz. As Chairman of the Rhenish-German National Convention, the earliest parliament in Germany based on the principle of popular sovereignty, he proclaimed the first republican state in Germany, the Rhenish-German Free State, on March 18, 1793.[1] A strong supporter of the French Revolution, he argued for an accession of all German territory west of the Rhine to France and served in the administration of the department Mont-Tonnerre under the French Directory and the French Consulate.

Early life and education[edit]

Hofmann was born in Zell am Main near Würzburg as son of a surgeon.[2] After the early death of his parents, he was educated by his uncle Franz Xaver Fahrmann, professor of moral theology at the University of Würzburg and auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Würzburg.[3] After a year at a Jesuit seminary, Hofmann studied law at the University of Mainz and at the University of Würzburg.[4] In 1777 he moved to Vienna to gain experience at the Reichshofrat or Aulic Council, one of the supreme courts of the Holy Roman Empire[3] and became a Privatdozent in 1788.[5] Besides philosophical publications such as Ueber das Studium der philosophischen Geschichte (About the study of the history of philosophy), where Hofmann argues for the introduction of the history of philosophy as a subject in the Universities in Austria, following the example of Würzburg,[6] he founded a theatre journal in 1781.[1] His satirical articles caused conflict with the authorities, and instead of being given a position at the University of Lviv, he was forced to leave[7] and returned to Würzburg in 1783.[3]

Professor and revolutionary in Mainz[edit]

The Mainz Jacobin club in 1792

On the urgings of his uncle, Hofmann applied for the Chair of Philosophy in Mainz, where he was hired in 1784 during the progressive reforms of Elector Friedrich Karl von Erthal that had made the University one of the centres of Catholic Enlightenment.[8] Like many other future Jacobins in Mainz, he was a member of the secret society of the Illuminati (under the name Aulus Persius[9]) but the Illuminati lodge dissolved in 1785/1786.[10] Hofmann first taught History of Philosophy until 1791, when he became chair of natural justice. Besides philosophy and law, Hofmann also was talented in languages. He was proficient in Latin, Ancient Greek, French, Italian, and English, and offered classes in English on Alexander Pope over many years.[3] A liberal and progressive thinker (for instance, he supported the use of German instead of Latin in University lectures[1] and in church[11]), he became disillusioned with the pace of the reforms in Mainz[8] and welcomed the French Revolution from the start. Among his students was Klemens von Metternich, who later became Chancellor of State of the Austrian Empire and the main architect of the concert of Europe, and Johann Adam von Itzstein [de], who became a leading liberal politician and member of the Frankfurt Parliament.[12] As Hofmann declared his support of the ideas of the French Revolution openly in his lectures, he was soon spied on by the Mainz authorities.[13] However, before the investigation of his activities had progressed beyond the questioning of his students, the archbishop and his court fled from the advancing French troops under General Custine, who arrived in Mainz on 21 October 1792.[14]

Two days later, Hofmann helped found the Mainz Jacobin club and became one of its most active members. A popular and powerful orator, he criticised both the old regime of the Elector and the French military government in his speeches, which were especially supported by the more radical students[15] who idolised the incorruptible Hofmann.[16] In 1792, he published the Aristokraten-Katechismus, a revolutionary pamphlet criticising the old regime and its instrumentalisation of religion to protect the absolutist order.[17] Hofmann and his supporters called for official posts to be reserved for native born citizens.[18] Hofmann lectured in the rural areas of the French occupied territory,[19] calling for support of the general elections in February and March 1793 which he helped organize.[20] He was elected into the Rhenish-German National Convention as a representative of Mainz[19] and became its president, beating Georg Forster in a contested election.[21] On 18 March 1793 Hofmann declared the Rhenish-German Free State from the balcony of the Deutschhaus.[1] On 1 April 1793, Hofmann became the president of the provisional administration.[22]

French government official and later life[edit]

Map of the département Mont-Tonnerre

When the republic ended after the Siege of Mainz, Hofmann was able to leave the city with the retreating French troops and went into exile in Paris, where he headed a society of exiled Mainz republicans, the Societé des Refugiés Mayençais,[20] and was working towards an exchange of prisoners to free the German revolutionaries captured by the authorities.[22] After a short period in the military, where he commanded an equestrian regiment that fought against insurgent royalists in the Vendée and was wounded several times,[23] he was sent to England on espionage missions. However, at a Joseph Haydn concert in London on 2 June 1794, he was recognized and reported to the authorities by his former student Klemens Wenzel von Metternich.[24][1] After his flight and subsequent return to Paris, he was made chief of the bureau des étrangers by the French Directory. In his 1795 essay Sur les nouvelles limites de la republique française, he argued for the Rhine as natural Eastern border of France.[19] When the incorporation of areas west of the Rhine into France had become a reality with the Treaty of Campo Formio, Hofmann returned to Mainz, where he became part of the government of the new département Mont-Tonnerre, worked as its superior tax officer from 1797 and was appointed a member of the Corps législatif [fr] of the French Consulate[25][26] but was (while innocent[27]) forced to resign in 1803 after one of his subordinates had been convicted of fraud. He was elected as a member of the Mainz city council in 1801. [28]

After Napoleon's defeat and the return of Mainz to German control, Hofmann moved to his late wife's estates in Winkel. While he was no longer active as a revolutionary, he was suspicious to the authorities as a Jacobin. Hofmann spent his retirement pursuing activities such as breeding domestic canaries[29] but became a somewhat famous figure among Vormärz intellectuals and was visited by people such as Hoffmann von Fallersleben and Ludwig Walesrode [de]. He died on 6 September 1849, having witnessed the failure of the 1848 revolution, and was buried without a Catholic funeral.[30]


Notable students[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Schweigard, Jörg (23 May 2002). "Ein Leben für die Republik". Die Zeit (in German). ISSN 0044-2070. Archived from the original on 22 January 2017. Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  2. ^ Schweigard, Jörg (2005). Die Liebe zur Freiheit ruft uns an den Rhein (in German). Gernsbach: Casimir Katz Verlag. p. 147. ISBN 3-925825-89-4.
  3. ^ a b c d Mathy, Helmut (1977). Die Universität Mainz 1477, 1977 : mit e. Bildteil 1946-1977 u. e. tabellar. Anh. Mainz: Krach. pp. 194–198. ISBN 3874390411. OCLC 5751732.
  4. ^ Schweigard, Die Liebe zur Freiheit, p. 146
  5. ^ Haasis, Hellmut G.; Bockel, Rolf von (2016-12-13). "Hofmann, Andreas Joseph". In Asendorf, Manfred (ed.). Demokratische Wege. Deutsche Lebensläufe aus fünf Jahrhunderten: Ein Lexikon (in German). Springer-Verlag. pp. 283–285. ISBN 9783476035516.
  6. ^ Longo, Mario (2015). The Göttingen School and Popularphilosophie (Report). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. pp. 515–693. doi:10.1007/978-94-017-9966-9_9.
  7. ^ Struck, Wolf-Heino (1972). "Hofmann, Andreas Joseph - Deutsche Biographie". Neue Deutsche Biographie (in German).
  8. ^ a b Rowe, Michael (2003). From Reich to State: The Rhineland in the Revolutionary Age, 1780-1830. Cambridge University Press. p. 61. ISBN 0-521-82443-5.
  9. ^ Kreutz, Wilhelm (1991). "Die Illuminaten des rheinisch-pfälzischen Raums und anderer außerbayerischer Territorien. Eine ›wiederentdeckte‹ Quelle zur Ausbreitung des radikal aufklärerischen Geheimordens in den Jahren 1781 und 1782". Francia (in German). 18 (2): 115–149. doi:10.11588/fr.1991.2.56842. ISSN 2569-5452.
  10. ^ Schweigard, Die Liebe zur Freiheit, p. 87
  11. ^ May, Georg (1987). Das Recht des Gottesdienstes in der Diözese Mainz zur Zeit von Bischof Joseph Ludwig Colmar (1802-1818) (in German). John Benjamins. pp. 517–518. ISBN 90-6032-289-4.
  12. ^ Schweigard, Jörg (2012-07-27). "Itzstein, unser Stern". Die Zeit (in German) (29). Archived from the original on 2012-07-30. Retrieved 2019-09-17.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  13. ^ Schweigard, Die Liebe zur Freiheit, pp. 148-149
  14. ^ Blanning, T. C. W. (1974). Reform and Revolution in Mainz 1743-1803. London: Cambridge University Press. p. 275. ISBN 0-521-20418-6.
  15. ^ Schweigard, Die Liebe zur Freiheit, p. 254
  16. ^ Bahr, Ehrhard; Saine, Thomas P. (2016-06-17). The Internalized Revolution. Routledge. ISBN 9781317203445.
  17. ^ Schweigard, Die Liebe zur Freiheit, p. 150
  18. ^ Blanning, Reform and Revolution in Mainz, p. 285
  19. ^ a b c Leser, Emanuel. "Hofmann, Andreas Joseph". Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (in German). 12. pp. 625–626. Retrieved 2019-09-11. Text on Wikisource.
  20. ^ a b Schweigard, Die Liebe zur Freiheit, p. 151
  21. ^ Mathy, Helmut (1990). "Andreas Joseph Hofmann: Der Präsident des Rheinisch-Deutschen Nationalkonvents von 1793". In Mathy, Helmut (ed.). Die Erste Adresse des Landes Rheinland-Pfalz : Geschichte des Deutschhauses in Mainz (in German). Mainz am Rhein: Ph. von Zabern. p. 64. ISBN 3805311362. OCLC 22861815.
  22. ^ a b Scheel, Heinrich (1993). "Andreas Joseph Hofmann, Präsident des Rheinisch-Deutschen Nationalkonvents". In Landtag Rheinland-Pfalz (ed.). Die Mainzer Republik : der Rheinisch-Deutsche Nationalkonvent (in German). Mainz: V. Hase & Koehler.
  23. ^ Schweigard, Die Liebe zur Freiheit, p. 152
  24. ^ Otto, Friedrich (1898). "A. J. Hofmann. Präsident des rheinisch-deutschen Nationalkonvents zu Mainz. Seine Sendung nach England in den Jahren 1793, 1794, 1795 nebst einigen anderen Nachrichten über sein Leben". Annalen des Vereins für Nassauische Altertumskunde und Geschichtsforschung (in German). Wiesbaden. 28/29: 77–92.
  25. ^ BULLETIN DES LOIS DE LA RÉPUBLIQUE (in French). De Lʻimprimerie De La République. 1801.
  26. ^ Dufraisse, Roger; France), Deutsches Historisches Institut (Paris (1992). L'Allemagne à l'époque napoléonienne (in French). Bouvier. ISBN 9783416023771.
  27. ^ Faber, Karl-Georg (1969). Andreas van Recum, 1765–1828: Ein rheinischer Kosmopolit (in German). p. 202.
  28. ^ Schweigard, Die Liebe zur Freiheit, p. 153
  29. ^ Mathy, Andreas Joseph Hofmann, p. 68
  30. ^ Scheel, Andreas Joseph Hofmann, p. 177
  31. ^
  32. ^