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Johann Jacoby

Johann Jacoby born May 1, 1805 in Königsberg, died March 6, 1877 in Königsberg, the son of a family of Jewish merchants, Jacoby studied medicine in Königsberg from 1823 to 1827 and to the end of his life, practiced family medicine in his hometown. With the Parisian July revolution in 1830, he became political active. He engaged himself in the struggle to liberate the Polish people, to emancipate the Jews, and to overcome Prussian absolutism. During the pre-March(Vormärz) days he was the leader of the anti-feudal opposition in East Prussia. In his most importantpamphlet, Vier Fragen, beantwortet von einem Ostpressen (Four Questions Answered by an East Prussian) (1841), supporting the right of the people to a constitution, he initiated the movement for the introduction of a parliamentary-constitutional order in Prussia. The accusation of high treason and lèse majesty levelled against him due to this pamphlet ended in his acquittal after a two-year long trial.

By the middle of the 1840s Jacoby had evolved politically from liberal to a social-republican posture. He took an active role in the March revolution of 1848; he authored several addresses to the king, and on March 21 was one of the leaders of the Königsberg delegation of citizens who forced a transformation of East Prussia. As a member of the Frankfurt pre-parliament, he belonged to the moderate left. Elected a member of the committee of fifty, he defended the Poles' just demands and insisted that the Prussian government relinquish its Polish territories. Without relinquishing his republican convictions, during the revolution he called for a democratic-constitutional monarchy based on the principle of the sovereignty of people and for social laws promoting the interests of working people. In May Jacoby was elected to become a deputy of the Prussian constituent assembly in Berlin. He was among the leaders of the extreme-left faction and delivered speeches on the principal revolutionary issues. Above all, he advocated the right of parliaments in Frankfurt and Berlin to formulate and promulgate democratic constitutions. He fought for the dissolution of a standing army and for the establishment of a popular militia organized on the Swiss pattern. He remained in close contact with his electorate by speaking a popular gatherings. In the "counter-parliament" convened in Berlin on October 27, he called for the rescue of the Viennese revolution. On November 2, he gained great popular acclaim as a member of a parliamentary delegation to the Prussian monarch with his remark, "It is the tragedy of kings, that they will not hear the truth." On November 15 in the Berlin national assembly, together with two other deputies, he initiated the resolution calling for citizens to withhold paying taxes as an attempt to combat the coup d'état. In the spring of 1849, as a member of the second chamber of the Prussian constituent assembly Jacoby supported a new revolutionary uprising. As a member of the Frankfurt national assembly on May 24, 1849 he participated in the rump parliament in Stuttgart. At the beginning of July he emigrated to Switzerland, but soon returned to Königsberg to face a renewed accusation of high treason. The jury acquitted him of the charges. In the 1860s Jacoby was a member of the German National Association and of the Progressive Party. During the Prussian constitutional conflict, as a Landtag's deputy, he once more called for a refusal to pay taxes and was sentenced to a term in prison. In September 1870 he protested the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine. Jacoby, who since 1868 had approached the working class movement, joined the Social-Democratic Party on April 4, 1872.
Rolf Weber


Johann Jacoby Gesammelte Schriften und Reden 2 vols 2d ed, Hamburg 1877.

Johann Jacoby Briefwechsel Edmund Silberner (ed.), 2 vols, Hanover 1974, Bonn 1978.

Peter Schuppan, "Johann Jacoby," Männer der Revolution von 1848, 2d ed, Berlin 1988.

Edmund Silberner Johann Jacoby: Politiker und Mensch Bonn-Bad Godesberg 1976.

Bernt Engelmann Die Freiheit! Das Recht! Johann Jacoby und die Anfänge unserer Demokratie Berlin and Bonn 1984;

Rolf Weber Das Unglück der Könige....Johann Jacoby 1805 - 1877. Berlin 1987.

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