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HEINRICH RUDOLF HERMANN FRIEDRICH VON...

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Originally appearing in Volume V12, Page 151 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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HEINRICH RUDOLF HERMANN FRIEDRICH VON GNEIST (1816-1895), German jurist and politician, was born at Berlin on the 13th of August 1816, the son of a judge attached to the " Kammergericht " (court of appeal) in that city. After receiving his school education at the gymnasium at Eisleben in Prussian Saxony, he entered the university of Berlin in 1833 as a student of jurisprudence, and became a pupil of the famous Roman law teacher von Savigny. Proceeding to the degree of doctor juris in 1838, young Gneist immediately established himself as a Privatdozent in the faculty of law. He had, however, already chosen the judicial branch of the legal profession as a career, and having while yet a student acted as Auscultator, was admitted Assessor in 1841. He soon found leisure and opportunity to fulfil a much-cherished wish, and spent the next few years on a lengthened tour in Italy, France and England. He utilized his Wanderjahre for the purposes of comparative study, and on his return in 1844 was appointed extraordinary professor of Roman law in Berlin, university, and thus began a professorial connexion which ended only with his death. The first-fruits of his activity as a teacher were seen in his brilliant work, Die formellen Vertrage des heutigen romischen Obligationen-Rechtes (Berlin, 1845). Pari passe with his academic labours he continued his judicial career, and became in due course successively assistant judge of ' the superior court and of the supreme tribunal. But ,to a mind constituted such as his, the want of elasticity in the procedure of the courts was galling. " Brought up," he tells, in the preface to his Englische Verfassungsgeschichte, " in the laborious and rigid school of Prussian judges, at a time when the duty;of formulating the matter in litigation was entailed upon the judge who personally conducted the pleadings, I became acquainted both with the advantages possessed by the Pruslsian bureau system as also with its weak points." Feeling the necessity for fundamental reforms in legal procedure, he published, in 1849, his Trial by Jury, in which, after pointing out that the origin of that institution was common to both Germany and England, and showing in a masterly way the benefits which had accrued to the latter country through its more extended application, he pleaded for its freer admission in the tribunals of his own country. The period of " storm and stress " in 1848 afforded Gneist an opportunity for which he had yearned, and he threw himself with ardour into the constitutional struggles of Prussia. Al-though his candidature for election to the National Assembly of that year was unsuccessful, he felt that " the die was cast," and deciding for a political career, retired in 185o from his judicial position. Entering the Yanks of the National Liberal party, he began both in writing and speeches actively to champion their cause, now busying himself pre-eminently with the study of constitutional law and history. In 1853 appeared his Adel and Ritterschaft in England, and in 1857 the Geschichte and heutige Gestalt der Antler in England, a pamphlet primarily written to combat the Prussian abuses of administration, but for which the author also claimed that it had not been without its effect in modifying certain views that had until then ruled in England itself. In 1858 Gneist was appointed ordinary professor of Roman law, and in the same year commenced his parliamentary career by his election for Stettin to the Abgeordnetenhaus (House of Deputies) of the Prussian Landtag, in which assembly he sat thenceforward uninterruptedly until 1893. In every country where the lowest and oldest rocks have come to the surface and been exposed by the long.continued action of denudation in stripping away the overlying formations, gneisses are found in great abundance and of many different kinds. They are in fact the typical rocks of the Archean (Lewisian, Laurentian, &c.) series. In the Alps, Harz, Scotland, Norway and Sweden, Canada, South America, Peninsular India, Himalayas (to mention only a few localities) they occupy wide areas and exhibit a rich diversity of types. From this it has been inferred that they are of great geological age, and in fact this can be definitely proved in many cases, for the oldest known fossiliferous formations may be seen to rest unconformably cn these gneisses and are made up of their debris. It was for a long time believed that they represented the primitive crust of the earth, and while this is no longer generally taught there are still geologists who hold that these gneisses are necessarily of pre-Cambrian age. Others, while admitting the general truth of this hypothesis, consider that there are localities in which typical gneisses can be shown to penetrate into rocks which may be as recent as the Tertiary period, or to pass into these rocks so gradually and in such a way as to make it certain that the gneisses are merely altered states of comparatively recent sedimentary or igneous rocks. Much controversy has arisen on these points; but this is certain, that gneisses are far the most common among Archean rocks, and where their age is not known the presumption is strong that they are at least pre-Cambrian. Many gneisses are undoubtedly sedimentary rocks that have been brought to their present state by such agents of metamorphism as heat, movement, crushing and recrystallization. This may be demonstrated partly by their mode of occurrence: they accompany limestones, graphitic schists, quartzites and other rocks of sedimentary type; some of them where least altered may even show remains of bedding or of original pebbly character (conglomerate gneisses). More conclusive, however, is the chemical composition of these rocks, which often is such as no igneous masses possess, but resembles that of many impure argillaceous sediments. These sedimentary gneisses (or paragneisses, as they are often called) are often rich in biotite and garnet and may contain kyanite and sillimanite,orlessfrequently calcite. Some of them, however, are rich in felspar and quartz, with muscovite and biotite; others may even contain hornblende and augite, and all these may bear so close a resemblance to gneisses of igneous origin that by no single character, chemical or mineralogical, can their original nature be definitely established. In these cases, however, a careful study of the relations of the rock in the field and of the different types which occur together will generally lead to some positive conclusion. Other gneisses are igneous (orthogneisses). These have very much the same composition as acid igneous rocks such as granite, aplite, hornblende granite, er intermediate rocks such as syenite and quartz diorite. Many of these orthogneisses are not equally well foliated throughout, but are massive or granitoid in places. They are some-times subdivided into granite gneiss, diorite gneiss, syenite gneiss and so on. The sedimentary schists into which these rocks have been intruded may show contact alteration by the development of such minerals as cordierite, andalusite and sillimanite. In many of these orthogneisses the foliation is primitive, being an original character of the rock which was produced either by fluxion movements in a highly viscous, semi-solid mass injected at great pressure into the surrounding strata, or by folding stresses acting immediately after consolidation. That the foliation in other orthogneisses is subsequent or superinduced, having been occasioned by pressure and deformation of the solid mass long after it had consolidated and cooled, admits of no doubt, but it is very difficult to establish criteria by which these types may be differentiated. Those gneisses in which the minerals have been crushed and broken by fluxion or injection movements have been called protoclastic, while those which have . attained their gneissose state by crushing long after consolidation are distinguished as cataclastic. There are also.many examples of gneisses of mixed or synthetic origin. They may be metamorphosed sediments (granulites and schists) into which tongues and thin veins of granitic character have been intruded, following the more or less parallel foliation planes already present in the country rock. These veinlets produce that alternation in mineral composition and banded structure which are essential in gneisses. This intermixture of igneous and sedimentary material may take place on the finest scale and in the most intricate manner. Often there has been resorption of the older rocks, whether sedimentary or igneous, by those which have invaded them, and movement has gone on. both during injection and at a later period, so that the whole complex becomes amalgamated Joining the Left, he at once became one of its leading spokesmen. make her free institutions, in which he found his ideal, the common heritage of the two great nations of the Teutonic race. Gneist was a prolific writer, especially on the subject he had made peculiarly his own, that of constitutional law and history, and among his works, other than those above named, may be mentioned the following: Budget and Gesetz nach dem constitutionellen Staatsrecht Englands (Berlin, 1867) ; Freie Advocatur (ib., 1867) ; Der Rechtssteat (ib., 1872, and 2nd edition, 1879); Zur Verwaltungsreform in Preussen (Leipzig, 188o) ; Das englische Parlament (Berlin, 1886) ; in English translation, The English Parliament (London, 1886; 3rd edition, 1889) ; Die Militar-Vorlage von 1892 and der preussische Verfassungsconflikt von 1862 bis 1866 (Berlin, 1893) ; Die nationale Rechtsidee von den Standen and das preussische Dreiklassenwahlsystem (ib., 1895) ; Die verfassungsmassige Stellung des preussischen Gesamtministeriums (ib., 1895). See O. Gierke, Rudolph von Gneist, Gedachtnisrede (Berlin, 1895), an In Memoriam address delivered in Berlin. (P. A. A.) His chief oratorical thump & are associated with the early period of his membership of the House; two noteworthy occasions being his violent attack (September 1862) upon the government budget in connexion with the reorganization of the Prussian army, and his defence (1864) of the Polish chiefs of the (then) grand-duchy of Posen, who were accused of high treason. In 1857–1863 was published Das heutige englische Verfassungsund Verwaltungsrecht, a work which, contrasting English and German constitutional law and administration, aimed at exercising political pressure upon the government of the day. In 1868 Gneist became a member of the North German parliament, and acted as a member of the commission for organizing the federal army, and also of that for the settlement of ecclesiastical controversial questions. On the establishment of German unity his mandate was renewed for the Reichstag, and in this he sat, an active and prominent member of the National Liberal party, until 1884. In the Kulturkampf he sided with the government against the attacks of the Clericals, whom he bitterly denounced, and whose implacable enemy he ever showed himself. In 1879, together with his colleague, von Hanel, he violently attacked the motion for the prosecution of certain Socialist members, which as a result of the vigour of his opposition was almost unanimously rejected. He was parliamentary reporter for the committees on all great financial and administrative questions, and his profound acquaintance with constitutional law caused his advice to be frequently sought, not only in his own but also in other countries. In Prussia he largely influenced legislation, the reform of the judicial and penal systems and the new constitution of the Evangelical Church being largely his work. He was also consulted by the Japanese government when a constitution was being introduced into that country. In 1875 he was appointed a member of the supreme administrative court (Oberverwaltungsgericht) of Prussia, but only held office for two years. In •1882 was published his Englische Verfassungsgeschichte (trans. History of the English Constitution, London, 1886), which may perhaps be described as his magnum opus. It placed the author at once on the level of such writers on English constitutional history as Hallam and Stubbs, and supplied English literature with a text-book almost unrivalled in point of historical research. In 1888 one of the first acts of the ill-fated emperor Frederick III., who had always, as crown prince, shown great admiration for him, was to ennoble Gneist, and attach him as instructor in constitutional law to his son, the emperor William II., a charge of which he worthily acquitted himself. The last years of his life were full of energy, and, in the possession of all his faculties, he continued his wonted academic labours until a short time before his death, which occurred at Berlin on the 22nd of July 1895. As a politician, Gneist's career cannot perhaps be said to have been entirely successful. In a country where parliamentary institutions are the living exponents of the popular will he might have risen to a foremost position in the state; as it was, the party to which he allied himself could never hope to become more than what it remained, a parliamentary faction, and the influence it for a time wielded in the counsels of the state waned as soon as the Social-Democratic party grew to be a force to be reckoned with. It is as a writer and a teacher that Gneist is best known to fame. He was a jurist of a special type. To him law was not mere theory, but living force; and this conception of its power animates all his schemes of practical reform. As a teacher he exercised a magnetic influence, not only by reason of the clearness and cogency of his exposition, but also because of the success with which he developed the talents and guided the aspirations of his pupils. He was a man of noble bearing,' religious, and imbued with a stern sense of duty. He was proud of being a " Preussischer Junker " (a member of the Prussian squirearchy), and throughout his writings, despite their liberal tendencies, may be perceived the loyalty and affection with which he clung to monarchical institutions. A great admirer and a true friend of England, to which country he was attached by many personal ties, he surpassed all other Germans in his efforts to
End of Article: HEINRICH RUDOLF HERMANN FRIEDRICH VON GNEIST (1816-1895)
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