If Scharnhorst and his closest associates at the core of the reform movement determined early on to fight for universal conscription, it was not to solve a shortage of trained men but for the sake of their conception of reform as such. They believed that Prussia could reestablish herself, which required defeating the French, only by breaking down the former isolation of the army in society and by making war the business of the everyone. Beyond that, they wanted corporative society and autocratic government replaced by a more open system of mutual obligation between monarch, administration, army, and citizen in the service of the twin ideals of the nation and the ethically autonomous individual. A comprehensive program of reform followed from these wishes: an army of conscripts of all classes could not be treated in the traditional manner. Discipline, military justice, access to officer rank, to some extent even tactical doctrine would have to be modernized, and length of service would have to be considerably shortened - because those changes, desirable in themselves, became essential if the sons of the educated and well-to-do were to serve in the ranks. As in France, the army would become the school of the nation. By fulfilling a duty common to all in a supra-local and -regional institution, men would learn to be patriots. Such an army, the reformers hoped, would change from an inert instrument in the hand of its commander to a vital force that might even put pressure on the leadership if it was overly cautious or relapsed into purely dynastic policies. It is not accidental that every member of Scharnhorst's group, from Gneisenau and Boyen to Grolman and Clausewitz, was preoccupied during these years with the possibilities of insurrection. Peter Paret, Understanding War, pp 68-69Why insurrection? The power of pre-modern moral cohesion . . . After describing the power of the new moral cohesion harnessed by ideology and the material cohesion of the French state, Clausewitz continues with what was the reaction:
A reaction, however awoke in due time. In Spain, the war became of itself an affair of the people. In Austria, in the year 1809, the government made extraordinary efforts, by means of reserves and Landwehr, which came nearer to the end in view, and surpassed anything this state hitherto conceived possible. In Russia, in 1812, the example of Spain and Austria was taken as a model. The enormous dimensions of that empire, on the one hand, allowed the preparations, although too long deferred, still to produce an effect; and, on the other hand, intensified the effect produced. The result was brilliant. In Germany, it was Prussia who pulled herself together first, made the war a national cause, and without either money or credit, with a population reduced by one-half, took the field with an army twice as strong as that of 1806. On War, Book VIII, Chapter 3BThe reaction in Spain was of course the guerrilla campaign that was waged against the French occupation. While the enlightened members of Spanish society mostly supported the newly crowned king of Spain, Napoleon's brother Joseph, the peasantry to a significant extent supported by their local clergy revolted against the usurper. The same thing happened in Austrian Tyrol and of course in Russia after Napoleon's invasion of June 1812. The depredations of the "godless" French and their "anti-christ" leader were too much for the pre-modern moral cohesion of these affected groups to tolerate and they reacted. It is also important here to understand that we see a fundamental change in the way "little war" is comprehended from this point forward. Prior to this, "little war" or Kleinkrieg or Guerrilla was seen by militaries as essentially small unit actions, that is as opposed to Grosskrieg which was action by large formations. The military saw both as being conducted exclusively by conventional troops. With the resistance in Spain, the irregular fighter or Partisan enters the field as an acceptable, even decisive means of warfare. Clausewitz and the other reformers saw the Partisan (Clausewitz used the term Parteigänger for Partisan and Parteigängerkrieg for Partisan Warfare) as the one means available for Prussia to throw off the French yoke. Small groups of motivated citizens supported by small detachments of regular troops would operate opportunistically behind enemy lines. In such a situation, the nation supplants the state as the active agent. War is declared and waged by the people in a merciless struggle for political survival, since the enemy intends to redefine what the citizen's political identity in fact is. Partisan warfare is thus a mixture of strategic defense and tactical offense. Since the defense is the stronger form with a negative aim, the goal is simply to force the attacker to give up his aim though exhaustion. Both pre-modern moral cohesion (the peasantry and communities) and modern cohesion (nationalism as a political ideology of the urban intelligentsia) have their place in the overall struggle. The former allows for the insurgency and the latter provides the moral quality of the new army to be formed to fight Napoleon on equal terms in conventional combat. So what about conscription specifically? For the insurgency, every citizen becomes a combatant or supporting player. As Carl Schmitt in his Theory of the Partisan describes the Landsturm edict of April 1813:
Every citizen, according to the Royal Prussian edict of April 1813, is obligated to resist the invading emey with weapons of every type. Axes, pitchforks, scythes, and hammers are (in §43) expressly recommended. Every Prussian is obligated to refuse to obey any enemy directive, and to injure the enemy with all available means. Also, if the enemy attempts to restore public order, no one should obey, because in doing so one would make the enemy's military operations easier. It is expressly stated that 'intemperate, unrestrained mobs' are less dangerous than the situation whereby the enemy is free to make use of his troops. Reprisals and terror are recommended to protect the partisans and to menace the enemy. In short, this document is a Magna Carta for partisan warfare. In three places - in the introduction and in §8 and §52 - the Spanish and their guerrilla war are mentioned expressly as the 'model and example' to follow. The struggle is justified as self-defense, which 'sanctifies all means' (§7) including the unleashing of total disorder. Carl Schmitt, Theory of the Partisan, p 43Why quote Carl Schmitt? Because he's the only one I have found who has really commented on it. Check out the link directly above. At this point I think it necessary to point out the difference between a Partisan and Brigand. A partisan is an irregular soldier that fights for a cause and has a close affinity with physical proximity in which he operates. Brigandage, on the other hand, organized violence conducted by criminal bands as simply criminality on a large scale, has nothing to do with military operations, although brigands are engaged as fighters. Whatever scraps they pick up due to the war is their own account, provided they accept the costs of their "mistakes". Their depredations can be seen as supporting the overall effort in as far as their actions hamper enemy operations. Anti-brigand operations in quiet sectors would be recommended. The Landsturm edict - calling up every man from 15 to 60 with no exceptions - was to put it mildly highly controversial and resisted by the various traditional institutions of East Prussia where it was in effect. The townspeople rejected to losing their exemption from military service, the nobility were horrified at the thought of peasant mobs roaming the countryside and of course the Prussian officials thought their normal duties far more important than serving as common soldiers in the ranks. Gneisenau was challenged to a duel by a disgruntled Prussian administrator and Clausewitz wrote in a letter defending conscription that "ten tax assessors" were less needed on the home front to supply the army with its needs "than one shoemaker". It is important to note here as well that officer commissions were to be open to middle class candidates as well, not just the nobility. In the case of the Landwehr this commissioning would include any man provided he was elected by the conscripts in his company/battalion. What was the practical effect of actions of the reformers during this period? There was no actual mass insurrection since the French were out of East Prussia by April 1813. In all 30,000 men responded to the call and volunteered for military service, this in addition to the majority who consisted of soldiers and former soldiers who had been successively trained prior to and after 1806. Various instances of partisan warfare did break out in Prussian lands still occupied by the French and several officers who had made names for themselves as partisan commanders were retained in the Prussian Army after 1815. Still, it was only after 1813 that the new form of conscription was actually instituted. Peter Paret summarizes the situation nicely:
These reactions suggest that the reformers overestimated the strength of patriotism in Prussia, or, more likely, that they claimed more for it than it could preform. They acted as spokesmen of attitudes that did not yet possess wide currency but were only emerging in Prussian society, often in response to their own propaganda and policies. The months that so often have been labelled a period of national rising against the French found Scharnhorst and his associates, as in earlier years, fighting for their own conception of state and society amidst an antagonistic nobility, an unsympathetic bourgeoisie, and a passive, largely uncomprehending population in the towns and country. They could never have achieved as much as they did if they had not found supporters and sympathizers in all classes, and if the king had not reluctantly cooperated with them for a time; but the degree of antagonism and misunderstanding they encountered on all sides insured that they would fail in their social and political goals. Peter Paret, Clausewitz and the State, p 236-7While the social and political goals were more the nature of seeds planted for the future, the military goals bore fruit during the campaign of the spring of 1813. Prussia was able to bloody Napoleon at both Grossgörchen and Bautzen, the reformers leading from the front to inspire their new army. Clausewitz was still wearing the uniform of a Czarist officer since the King had refused to allow him to return to Prussian service. At Grossgörchen, Grolman, Blücher and Scharnhorst were all wounded, with Scharnhorst later dying as a result of the infected wound. Clausewitz narrowly escaped capture or death at Grossgörchen when his cohort found itself surrounded by French infantry, but was able to fight his way out. As a result of these actions, Austria entered the coalition against France of Prussia, Russia and Britain. The battle of Leipzig followed in the autumn. The Prussian conscription law went into effect in the summer of 1814, that is after Napoleon's defeat at Leipzig and his surrender. Defense of the country was a universal obligation and consisted of three different institutions: the line army, the Landwehr and the Landsturm. All men were liable for three years of active military service between between 20 and 25. The Landwehr consisted of all former soldiers up to the age of 39 and all those who had not been called to the colors due to lack of need. The Landsturm, a paper organization in peacetime, consisted of all men between 17 and 20 and 39 and 50. There was one exception, young men with certain educational qualifications who could provide for their own uniforms and equipment need only serve for one year and then after honorable service had the option of applying for a reserve commission. This was essentially the same law that was in effect in 1914, although I doubt that anyone in 1814 could have imagined the masses of trained soldiers that conscription would supply to Europe's army one hundred years in the future. The reformers had succeeded in changing the Prussian army from a shambles after 1806 into perhaps the most modern military force in Europe by 1815. New tactics, military doctrine, officer selection, training and promotion policies bore quick fruit whereas the institutional changes, the general staff, conscription and the Landwehr were to develop significantly over the next 100 years. What had originated as a reflection of new political realities as seen by Scharnhorst, Clausewitz and the other reformers was to become the actual agent of the changes in attitudes the reforms were supposed to reflect. In this instance theory (the notion of nationalism as an ideology capable of inducing modern moral cohesion) instituted the means for this notion to actually become widespread throughout Prussia and later Germany. In conclusion it is interesting to note that with the reaction led by Prussian conservatives after 1815, most of the reformists were sidelined. With Scharnhorst dead they had lost not only their leader but their most inspiring and influential champion. The attitude of both the Prussian liberals and conservatives changed regarding conscription as well, with the liberals increasingly seeing it as not so much the school of the nation, as the symbol of state coercion and the conservatives increasingly seeing it not as a threat of rebellion but as an instrument to maintain their status and the structures of state domination that maintained it. Finally, the concept of the partisan as irregular soldier with great political potential was to return again in 1870 as well as later influence a Russian political thinker known under the name of Lenin.