Mr Mencius Moldbug recently asked me to translate Prince Metternich’s political testament into English. This I have done, and the result is shown below. So far as the both of us know, this is the first complete translation into English of that testament. I am, I hope you understand, suitably embarrassed by the likelihood that the great Prince’s short work has been first delivered into the English language by my hand. An expert in the German language — and the English one — would have been preferable for the task, but, presumably, due to a shortage, Mr Moldbug was forced to call upon me. If any such expert should be passing, I ask him to look up the original and to indicate where I have beaten the words senseless by the wrong end of the stick.
Mr Moldbug, upon reviewing my translation, suggested the style was a little stilted and that I had let too many Germanisms creep through; these I have tried to correct for the sake of readability. One can travel only so far, however, before one begins to falsify, and so, in the avoidance thereof, I have tried to remain as true as possible to the text and even to retain a sniff of nineteenth-century air. The Prince would, I suspect, have been the first to admit that he was no great stylist, though I say he was not without talent for formal elegance. Besides, the work, though presumably written with publication in mind, was not finally prepared for such by the man himself, but rather was found in his papers after his death.
“My Political Testament”
Handwritten manuscript, without date, in separate compositions on loose sheets, written down in the years 1849 to 1855.
“There are two kinds of popularity:
one, the true one, follows the deeds;
the other pursues the impatient
without ever catching them.”
The thought of bequeathing these words to the world of today and tomorrow has not arisen owing to my withdrawal from public life, but rather because of the voice which has attached to the former standing of the Austrian Empire the erroneous designation of a system under the address of my name.
The title “Political Testament” which I give to these pages may be adequate to mark the course which I hold in view for this record.
The position of a man who himself laid hands on events differs by its nature from that of the historian who chronicles and weighs events according to their worth or lack of it. The former takes on the liability for his deeds, the latter only the responsibility for his judgement.
The materials for the correct view of events lie not merely in the success or failure of the undertakings. Awareness of the situation, in which these undertakings had their grounds, forms an important element of history.
Here the archives alone are the sources for the necessary clarification, but precisely therefore is the situation of the men who provide the materials for the facts that shape history likewise very different from that of the historians.
The former are not able to elude the control which lies in the archives. Only a few ministers have held their ground through so long a course of time, as my official work spanned, in a constantly active position, so it brings me reassurance in view of all that I record here to refer the historians to the state-archives for the purpose of further completion, without seeing me exposed to the danger of falsification by the files.
* * *
My adopted motto — “Strength in Right”  — is the expression of my conviction and it marks the foundation of my way of thought and conduct.
I have never attached another value to words than that of the expression of correct concepts, to theories never the value of deeds, and I have always regarded preconceived systems as the product of leisured heads or the outburst of emotional minds.
Not in the struggle of society towards progress, but rather in progression towards the true goods: towards freedom as the inevitable yield of order; towards equality in its only applicable degree of that before the law; towards prosperity, inconceivable without the foundation of moral and material peace; towards credit, which can rest only on the basis of trust — in all that I have recognised the duty of government and the true salvation for the governed.
I have looked upon despotism of every kind as a symptom of weakness. Where it appears, it is a self-punitive evil, most intolerable when it poses behind the mask of promoting the cause of freedom.
Monarchy and republic are to me amenable concepts. Monarchies placed on republican foundations, and republics on monarchical, are arrangements standing in self-contradiction, which I do not understand. Both monarchies and republics can thrive only on those foundations suitable to each. And the best constitution for every state will always be that which best matches the peculiarities that every political body bears within itself. That the monarchical form has to its credit the longer duration in great succession, rests on historical knowledge. As minister of an empire structured as a monarchy, I had only to deal with matters of dispute that concern a monarchy. Accordingly it goes without saying that I excluded matters that concern a republic.
A state without a constitution I hold for an abstraction, akin to the presumption of an individual without a constitution of his own. I am of the same opinion as regards the application of a uniform constitutional system to all states.
The concept of the balancing of powers  (proposed by Montesquieu) has always appeared to me only as a conceptual error of the English constitution, impractical in its application, because the concept of such a balancing is rooted in the assumption of an eternal struggle, instead of in that of peace, the first necessity for the life and prosperity of states.
The care for the inner life of states has always had for me the worth of the most important task for governments.
As the foundations for politics I recognise the concepts of right and equity and not the sole calculations of use, whilst I look upon capricious politics as an ever self-punitive confusion of the spirit.
* * *
I entered political life equipped of necessity with a spirit which is able to represent only the positive.
My temperament is an historical one, reluctant of any kind of romance.
My conduct is a prosaic and not a poetical one. I am a man of right, and reject in all things appearance where it divides as such from truth, thereupon deprived as the foundation of right, where it must inevitably dissolve into error.
Born and brought up under social conditions which the outbreak of the social revolution in France prepared in the year 1789, these conditions are well-known to me. The elements of strength as of weakness, out of which the earlier and later situations developed, have never eluded me. A strict and at the same time calm observer of events, I have always interpreted and pursued them in their points of origin and in their natural as well as their manufactured development.
I spent my fifty-four years of service first as a socially elevated witness to the French Revolution and later as an actor amongst its monstrous spawn.
In direct or in indirect contact and in commerce with all regents, first statesmen, and the most important party-leaders, in the course of this period spanning almost three generations nothing of essential influence on the development of events remained unknown to me.
Accordingly I did not lack in the knowledge of experience.
Two elements in human society stand and will always stand in conflict with one another: the positive and the negative, the conservative and the destructive. I have always regarded as the most important task of the statesman the concern to fix in sight, and to distinguish between, the things which emerge of themselves and the things which in the course of time are interposed by the party spirit.
The most ample means of answering this task lies in the concern to interpret and assess words according to the value of the things which they are appointed to denote. This concern I have always made a duty.
As key to my mindset, I shall cite a few examples.
For me the word “freedom” has not the value of a starting-point, but rather that of an actual point of arrival. The word “order” denotes the starting-point. Only on the concept of order can that of freedom rest. Without the foundation of order, the call for freedom is nothing more than the striving of some party after an envisaged end. In its actual use, the call inevitably expresses itself as tyranny. Whilst I have at all times and in all situations ever been a man of order, my striving was addressed to true and not deceptive freedom. In my eyes, tyranny of any kind has only the value of absolute nonsense. As a means to an end, I mark it as the most vapid that time and circumstance is able to place at the disposal of rulers.
The concept of order in view of legislation — the foundation of order — is, in consequence of the conditions under which states live, capable of the most varied application. Considered as constitution, it will prove itself best for any state that answers to the demands of both the material conditions and those moral conditions peculiar to the national character. There is no universal recipe for constitutions, just as little as there is some universal means for the boosting of health.
The arrangement which has the true value of a constitution is formed in states and can arise only of itself. Charters are no constitutions; their worth does not extend to that of foundations for an emergent and regular order in the workings of the state.
It is an indubitable truth that constitutions exercise a considerable influence on the formation of popular feeling. The counterpart of this truth, however, is that, in order to endure, a constitution must be the product of this popular feeling, and not that of an agitated and hence transitory spirit.
A consideration, which the liberal spirit usually disregards and yet which in its consequences belongs to the most important, is that of the difference which in states, as in the life of individuals, ensues between the advance of things by measured steps and by leaps. In the former, conditions develop to a logically and naturally lawful consequence, whilst the latter tears consistency apart. Everything in nature follows the way of development, of the ordered succession of things; by such a course alone is the discarding of the bad and the fostering of the good conceivable. Change by leaps brings about ever new creations — and man is able to create nothingness.
To step beyond the domain in which principles have their standing, and to trespass on the field of bold theories, I have always regarded as a mistake whose consequences elude reckoning. To give room to the hope that government as well as parties could remain on the incline where they are placed, masters of stopping at the right moment, I have regarded as an ever-active delusion, and I have never granted to the natural powers more rights or less influence than which are due to them.
Considering all matters entirely, and not by half, knowing no difference between giving and keeping my word, it was only the consequence of my moral formation as a whole that I neither would nor could have been either the promoter of upheavals, which hide themselves behind the mask of progress, or of reforms, which are realisable only by upheaval. The Revolution, in all the means at its disposal, has testified to this.
I was never a symptom-doctor. I knew to observe symptoms as signs of a cause, but my gaze was always turned to the cause itself, be it good or evil, curative or ominous. That in all matters there is one that has the value of a cause, and to that one is to be given help or hindrance, this I have always looked upon as the true task of the statesman. Long before taking office, I had already regarded Napoleon as the object which I had to hold in view as the most important formation of the time. In him the Revolution had been incarnated; his power had stultified it in the social direction, but in the political it was a double-edged weapon which he knew how to use with a strong arm and an even stronger spirit.
I did not govern the empire. Therein the powers at every level were not just strictly administered and directed to their competences, but rather in this regard were even relinquished to trepidation, which brought hesitancy to the course of affairs. The principle of government of the Emperor Francis was set forth in the motto “Justitia regnorum fundamentum” , not only as it lay in his spirit and character, but also as it served him as strict guide in all governmental affairs. He agreed with my observation that the axiom, correct in its point of origin, could be abrogated in the excessive practice of particular cases, but he usually added: “I was born and through my status appointed for the execution of justice; the inevitable hardness in particular cases is better than the slackening of rule through too many exceptions.” My motto is “Strength in Right”. Both sayings run together in meaning, except that the imperial motto has an abstractly judicial significance, whereas mine has a significance more grounded in state law. In this regard, the motto “Recta tueri” , suggested by me to Emperor Ferdinand upon his most supreme accession, bids a further nuance.
* * *
Affairs are the expression of the men who have influence on them. Concepts, be they slight or grave, refer not just to the nature of affairs; the peculiarities and features thereof, which are called into action in negotiations, must also be taken into fundamental consideration. In no course of affairs do these truths express themselves more forcefully than in the field of government.
The two worst arrangements affecting public administration are preconceived systems and personal considerations. The first contend with praxis; the latter put petty and transitory considerations in the place of substantive ones.
One of the greatest impediments in the long course of my ministry was the lack of energy which burdened the internal administration, a matter of fact which I cannot leave untouched, because it is indispensable to the elucidation of the course of world-historical events and was bound to exercise a prolonged influence on my work in the diplomatic field which fell under my remit.
In the internal arrangement of the empire, the nationalities gained a position which was bound to be expressed by the selection, and in the activity, of public officials from the lowest rank to the highest. In a state thus arranged, it is for natural reasons difficult to find men who might set a dam against the preponderance of nationality and comply with strict impartiality in all directions against the heightened demands emerging out of it.
That I stood alone on the moral-political field: that I knew, that I had to know, since, daily and in all directions, there was at my command the monitoring of the facts. Should I have changed accordingly my way of thought and conduct? I did not want it so, and had I wanted it, I would not have been able. Against the sayings of my conscience and against the concepts fixed in me of what is right or wrong, shrewd or without hope of success — to act against them I never conceived, and my own deeds I always scrutinised more strictly than the deeds of others!
The work of any statesman, who was long in office, affords material for varied interpretations of what went through his mind, be it in a straight or skewed direction, of what he wanted and did not want, and of what he achieved or did not achieve. Subject to this fate are all those who have played an outstanding part in the affairs of state, but so much more must such a fate weigh on a name which, in an epoch of unprecedented agitation, presided over the politics of a great empire for almost forty years.
In what times did my official life fall? Let sight be drawn to the circumstances in which our empire and the whole of Europe stood between the years 1809 and 1848, and then let it be asked, whether a man was able by the success of his insight to transfigure the crises into a recovery! I admit to having recognised the situation, but also to the impossibility of instituting a new structure in our empire and in Germany, which is why my concern was addressed above all to the preservation of the existing one.
In the Spring of 1848 the state-structures of central Europe were toppled in some places, and destabilised in others, as if by a violent earthquake. The impetus came once again — as always since the end of the eighteenth century — from France. Its effect was expressed according to physical laws; the tremor affected the stand-alone structures differently from the small ones wedged in between them. The former felt it more violently. France, whose superstructure was made out of lighter material, became covered in dust. In the great Middle Empire , masonry and beams overwhelmed the ground, burying the old order of things. The same fate was bound to befall me. Yet granted to me belongs one of the rare fates of men: I experienced and survived the turning-point in the world-struggle.
* * *
I made history and therefore did not find time to write it.
I did not at any rate adjudge myself able to answer this double task. And my years have been too far advanced to devote myself to it after my retirement. Remote from the necessary archival sources, I would have to consult my memory alone.
I have not subjected myself to this endeavour, but rather seek a surrogate here in denoted form.
The history of my almost thirty-nine-year ministry lies chronicled in three repositories:
1. In the archive of the department, over which I presided, the files of which encompass the period from the Battle of Wagram in the Summer of 1809 up until 13th March 1848.
2. In a file-collection which I bequeath under the title: “Materials for the History of my Time”.
3. In correspondences and articles which I have maintained and composed during my retirement.
Combined, these sources offer comprehensive material for impartial historians.
Neither self-love nor the propensity to dogmatism underlie my urge to make known the views and feelings which I had in mind throughout my time in office. My sentiment rests on another foundation; in it prevails the historical element and the concern for truth.
I attach to the preceding words the value of a testamentary disposition.
 “Kraft im Recht” — could be translated as “Strength in Law”, “Force within Justice”, and other variations.
 “Balancing of powers” — i.e., the separation of legislature, executive, and judiciary, and the balancing of each against the others.
 “Justice is the Foundation of Kingdoms.”
 “To uphold the law” or “To defend rights”.
 Refers to an area stretching from Friesland to Provence, and from Aachen to Rome, once ruled by Lothair I (795-855AD), grandson of Charlemagne.
Source: Klemens von Metternich, “Mein Politisches Testament”, Aus Metternich’s Nachgelassenen Papieren, 7.Bd, hrsg., R. Metternich-Winneburg (Wien: Wilhelm Braumüller, 1883), pp.633-642.