The article deals with the narrative of the ‘cold’ or ‘inhumane bureaucracy’. The author argues that one can already observe this narrative during the early bureaucratisation in Germany. He shows that the perception of a ‘cold bureaucracy’ resulted from conflicts about the legitimacy of administrative practices: The new bureaucratic system clashes with the traditional practices exercised by officials, among them certain gift-giving practices. Those actions were based on a concept of honour, they shaped the emotional practices of the officials. The bureaucratic system reduced the spaces for those emotional practices, because it interdicted traditional practices. Officials argued that this interdiction and the bureaucratic instruments of monitoring and controlling was mistrusting and defamatory to them. Public observers condemned the new administrative system to be ‘cold’ and ‘inhumane’. They demanded more spaces for emotional practices by reallowing traditional actions and re-introducing elements of the old administrative system.