This chapter explores the childhood of Isaac Mayer Wise (1819–1900) and the political climate in which he had grown up. He was born in Steingrub, Bohemia in 1890. Of the first twenty-seven years of the man who said that he became a naturalized American amid these surroundings, very little is known, save that he was born into a fettered society; and its chains were heavier because they had been reimposed after a period of near freedom. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars had spread throughout Europe the aspiration for popular sovereignty and the rights of nationalities: the Congress of Vienna gave scant recognition to the new forces and set about restoring the ancien régime. The genius of those who set themselves to thwart the allied forces of liberalism and nationalism was Clemens von Metternich, Austrian Foreign Minister from 1809 till 1848. It was in the Austrian Empire where Wise lived that, despite Metternich’s awareness of the need for reform, his system operated to the worst effect.
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