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The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. X. by Kuno Francke

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the rest I get on well, after a good sleep on camp bed with air
mattress; roused at eight by a letter from you. I went to bed at
eleven. At Koeniggraetz I rode the big sandy thirteen hours in the
saddle without feeding him He bore it very well, did not shy at shots
nor at corpses, cropped standing grain and plum-leaves with zest at
the most trying moments, and kept up an easy gait to the last, when I
was more tired than the horse. My first bivouac for the night was on
the street pavement of Horic, with no straw, but helped by a carriage
cushion. It was full of wounded; the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg found
me and shared his chamber with me, Reuss, and two adjutants, and the
rain made this very welcome to me. About the King and the shells I
have written you already. All the generals had a superstition that
they, as soldiers, must not speak to the King of danger, and always
sent me off to him, though I am a major, too. They did not venture to
speak to his reckless Majesty in the serious tone which at last was
effectual. Now at last he is grateful to me for it, and his sharp
words, "How you drove me off the first time," etc., are an
acknowledgment that I was right. Nobody knew the region, the King had
no guide, but rode right on at random, till I obtruded myself to show
the way. * * * Farewell, my heart. I must go to the King.

Your most faithful v.B.

Vendresse, September 3, 1870.


_My Dear Heart_,--Day before yesterday I left my quarters here before
dawn, but came back today, and have meanwhile been through the great
battle of Sedan on the 1st, in which we took some thirty thousand
prisoners, and shut the remainder of the French army, which we had
chased ever since Bar-le-Duc, into the fortress, where they had to
surrender, with the Emperor, as prisoners of war. At five yesterday
morning, after I had discussed the terms of capitulation with Moltke
and the French generals till one o'clock, General Reille, whom I know,
called me up to say that Napoleon wished to speak with me. Without
washing or breakfast, I rode towards Sedan, found the Emperor in an
open carriage with three adjutants, and three more at hand in the
saddle, on the main road before Sedan. I dismounted, saluted him as
politely as in the Tuileries, and asked his commands. He desired to
see the King. I told him, as was true, that his Majesty's quarters
were fourteen miles away, at the place where I am writing now. Upon
his question, whither he should betake himself, I offered him, since I
was unfamiliar with the region, my quarters in Donchery, a village on
the Maas close to Sedan; he accepted them, and drove, escorted by his
six Frenchmen, by me; and by Carl, who meanwhile had ridden after me,
through the lovely morning, towards our lines. He was distressed
before reaching the place because of the possible crowds, and asked me
if he might not stop at a lonely workman's house on the road. I had it
examined by Carl, who reported that it was wretched and dirty.
"_N'importe,_" said Napoleon, and I mounted with him a narrow, rickety
stairway. In a room ten feet square, with a fig-wood table and two
rush-bottomed chairs, we sat an hour, the others staying below. A
mighty contrast to our last interview, in '67, at the Tuileries. Our
conversation was difficult, if I would avoid touching on things which
must be painful to those whom God's mighty hand had overthrown.
Through Carl, I had officers brought from the city, and Moltke
requested to come. We then sent out one of the first to reconnoitre,
and discovered, a couple of miles off, at Fresnoi's, a little chateau
with a park. Thither I conducted him, with an escort of the Cuirassier
body-guards, which was meanwhile brought up, and there we concluded
the capitulation with Wimpfen, the French general-in-chief. By its
terms, from forty to sixty thousand French--I do not yet know the
number more exactly--became our prisoners, with everything they
have. The two receding days cost France one hundred thousand men and
an emperor. He started early this morning, with all his court, horses,
and wagons, for Wilhelmshoehe, at Cassel.

It is an event in universal history, a triumph for which we will thank
God the Lord in humility, and which is decisive of the war, even
though we must continue to prosecute it against headless France.

I must close. With heartfelt joy I have learned today, from your
letter and Marie's, of Herbert's reaching you. I met Bill yesterday,
as I telegraphed you, and took him to my arms from his horse before
the King's face, while he stood with his limbs rigid. He is entirely
well and in high spirits. Hans and Fritz Carl and both the Billows I
saw with the Second Dragoon guards, well and cheerful.

Farewell, my heart. Kiss the children.

Your v.B.

Gastein, August 30, '71.

Happy the man to whom God has given a virtuous wife, who writes him
every day. I am delighted that you are well, and that you have come to
be three, to whom I hope to add myself as fourth on the 7th or
8th. * * * You see I have enough mental leisure here to devote myself to
the unaccustomed work of making plans; but all on the presupposition
that the excited Gauls do not worry my little friend Thiers to death, for
then I should have to stay with his Majesty and watch which way the
hare runs. I do not think that likely, but with such a stupid nation
as they are anything is possible. Hearty love to both fat children.

Your most faithful v.B.


[Footnote 2: From _The Love Letters of Bismarck_. Permission Harper &
Brothers, New York.]

[Footnote 3: This note has been lost.]

[Footnote 4: In subsequent letters he speaks of her "blue gray-black

[Footnote 5: Inspector at Schoenhausen.]

[Footnote 6: Compare the enclosure, in which I used often to find the
expression of my inmost thought. Now, never any more. (Enclosed was a
copy of Byron's poem, "To Inez.")]

[Footnote 7: Frauelein von Blumenthal, afterwards Frau von Boehn.]

[Footnote 8: English in the original.]

[Footnote 9: English in the original.]

[Footnote 10: Von Puttkamer Poberow.]

[Footnote 11: Frau von Blanckenburg]

[Footnote 12: English in the original.]

[Footnote 13: English in the original.]

[Footnote 14: "Right honorable," a common form of address on letters.
B. refers more than once to her distinctive way of writing this

[Footnote 15: English in the original.]

[Footnote 16: _Fiance_.]

[Footnote 17: Frau von Zanthier, born von Puttkamer.]

[Footnote 18: Military _charge_.]

[Footnote 19: Von Bismarck, the oldest nephew.]

[Footnote 20: Von Thadden, commanding a squadron in the First Dragoon

* * * * *




Berlin, December 8, '63.


I have the honor most respectfully to submit a Police report, the
printed compilation of the documents relating to the London treaty as
commanded, and the telegrams received up to the present. In my most
humble opinion it seems expedient to maintain our attitude toward
Irminger[22] also outwardly in conformity with that of Austria. It is
awkward that Sydow is charged with the report of the committee in the
Bundestag, for we shall thus always have to make our declaration
first, and before Austria; if your Majesty does not command otherwise
I will leave him without instructions on this point, and await
tomorrow's committee issues, as the next measure, the letter to
Copenhagen, will not be thereby delayed.

The final sentence of the Vienna telegram, that Christian IX. rules also
in Copenhagen only by virtue of the London treaty, is not quite right;
he rules there because the legitimate heir, Prince Friedrich of Hesse,
has resigned in his favor. This legal title, which is in itself
sufficient, has only been _confirmed_ by the London treaty, and then
extended to the Duchies.


Marginal note by the King:

Prince Friedrich resigned merely in order that the London treaty in
favor of Christian IX. might be effectuated.


* * * * *


Berlin, February 12, '67.

When looking back to the decisive turning point reached by the
destinies of Prussia through the glorious fights of the past year, the
most distant generations will never forget that the elevation of the
Fatherland to new power, and to imperishable honors, that the opening
up of an epoch of a rich and, with God's help, a blessing-bringing
development are essentially due to your penetration, your energy, and
the skilful manner in which you conducted the affairs entrusted to

I have decided to show a renewed appreciation of these your most
distinguished merits, by the bestowal of a gift of four hundred
thousand Thalers.[23] The Minister for Finance has been directed to
place this sum at your disposal.

It would be in accordance with my wishes if you devoted this gift, the
bestowal of which is to manifest my and the Fatherland's thanks, to
the purchase of landed property, and entailed the same, so that with
the glory of your name it also may remain permanently in your family.

Your grateful and faithfully devoted King,


* * * * *


Donchery, September 2, '70.

After I came here yesterday evening, by your Royal Majesty's command, to
take part in the negotiations on the capitulation, these were
interrupted until 1 o'clock in the night, by time for consideration,
which General Wimpffen solicited, being granted, after General von
Moltke had definitely stated that no other terms will be granted than
the laying down of arms, and that the bombardment would recommence at 9
o'clock in the morning if the capitulation were not concluded by that
time. At about 6 o'clock this morning General Reille was announced, who
informed me that the Emperor wished to see me, and was already on his
way here from Sedan. The General returned at once to report to his
Majesty that I was following, and shortly afterwards I met the Emperor
near Fresnois, about half way between this place and Sedan. His Majesty
was driving in an open carriage with three officers of high rank, and
was escorted by three others on horseback. Of these officers I knew
personally Generals Castelnau, Reille, Moskowa, who seemed to be wounded
in the foot, and Vaubert. As soon as I reached the carriage I
dismounted, walked to the Emperor's side at the carriage door, and asked
for his Majesty's orders. The Emperor at first expressed the wish to see
your Imperial Majesty, evidently in the belief that your Majesty was
also at Donchery. When I replied that at present your Majesty's
headquarters were at Vendresse, thirteen miles away, the Emperor
enquired whether your Majesty had decided where he should go, and what
my opinion on the subject was. I replied that, as it was quite dark when
I arrived here, I knew nothing of the district, and offered to place at
his disposal at once the house in which I was staying at Donchery. The
Emperor accepted this offer, and drove off at a walking pace in the
direction of Donchery; about a hundred yards from the Maas bridge, which
leads into the town, he stopped in front of a lonely, workman's cottage,
and asked me if he could not stay there. I had the house examined by
Councillor of Legation Count Bismarck-Bohlen, who in the meantime had
followed me; when it was reported that the interior arrangements were
very poor and inadequate, but that there were no wounded men in the
house, the Emperor alighted and invited me to accompany him inside.
Here, in a very small room containing a table and two chairs, I had
about an hour's conversation with the Emperor. His Majesty emphasized
especially the wish to obtain more favorable conditions of capitulation
for the army. I declined from the outset to treat this question with his
Majesty, as this was a purely military question, to be settled between
General von Moltke and General von Wimpffen. On the other hand, I asked
if his Majesty were inclined to peace negotiations. The Emperor replied
that, as a prisoner, he was not now in a position to do so, and to my
further enquiry by whom, in his opinion, the executive power was at
present represented in France, his Majesty referred me to the Government
in Paris. When this point, which was indistinct in the Emperor's letter
to your Majesty yesterday, was cleared up, I recognized, and did not
conceal the fact from the Emperor, that the situation today, as
yesterday, was still a purely military one, and emphasized the necessity
arising from it for us to obtain by the capitulation of Sedan above all
things a material pledge for the security of the military results we had
attained. I had already weighed from all sides with General von Moltke
yesterday evening, the question whether it would be possible, without
detriment to the German interests, to offer to the military feelings of
honor of an army which had fought well more favorable terms than those
already laid down. After due and careful consideration we both came to
the conclusion that this could not be done. When, therefore, General von
Moltke, who in the meantime had arrived from the town, went to your
Majesty to submit the Emperor's wishes, he did not do so, as your
Majesty is well aware, with the intention of advocating them.

The Emperor then went out into the open air, and invited me to sit
beside him just outside the door of the cottage. His Majesty asked
whether it would not be practicable to allow the French army to cross
into Belgium, to be disarmed and detained there. I had discussed also
this eventuality with General v. Moltke on the previous evening and
adduced the motive already given for not entering into the question of
this course of procedure. With respect to the political situation, I
myself took no initiative, and the Emperor went no further than to
deplore the ill-fortune of the war, stating that he himself had not
wished the war, but was driven into it by the pressure of public
opinion in France. I did not regard it as my office to point out at
that moment that what the Emperor characterized as public opinion was
only the artificial product of certain ambitious coteries of the
French press, with a very narrow political horizon. I merely replied
that nobody in Germany wished for the war, especially not your
Majesty, and that no German Government would have considered the
Spanish question of so much interest as to be worth a war. I continued
that your Majesty's attitude toward the Spanish succession question
was finally determined by the misgiving whether it was right, for
personal and dynastic considerations, to mar the endeavor of the
Spanish nation to reestablish, by this selection of a King, their
internal organization on a permanent basis; that your Majesty, in view
of the good relations existing for so many years between the Princes
of the Hohenzollern House and the Emperor, had never entertained any
doubt but that the Hereditary Prince would succeed in arriving at a
satisfactory understanding with his Majesty the Emperor respecting the
acceptance of the Spanish election, that, however, your Majesty had
regarded this, not as a German or a Prussian, but as a Spanish affair.

In the meantime, between 9 and 10 o'clock, enquiries in the town, and
especially reconnaissances on the part of the officers of the general
staff, had revealed the fact that the castle of Bellevue, near
Fresnois, was suited for the accommodation of the Emperor, and was not
yet occupied by the wounded. I reported this to his Majesty by
designating Fresnois as the place I should propose to your
Majesty for the meeting, and therefore referred it to the Emperor
whether his Majesty would proceed there at once, as a longer stay in
the little workman's cottage would be uncomfortable, and the Emperor
would perhaps need some rest. His Majesty readily assented, and I
accompanied the Emperor, who was preceded by an escort of honor from
your Majesty's Own Cuirassier Regiment, to the Castle of Bellevue,
where in the meantime the rest of the Emperor's suite and his
carriages, whose coming had, it appears, been considered doubtful, had
arrived from Sedan. General Wimpffen had also arrived, and with him,
in anticipation of the return of General von Moltke, the discussion of
the capitulation negotiations, which were broken off yesterday, was
resumed by General v. Podbielski in the presence of Lieut. Col. von
Verdy and the chief of General v. Wimpffen's staff, these two officers
acting as secretaries. I took part only in the commencement of the
same by setting forth the political and judicial situation in
accordance with the information furnished me by the Emperor himself,
as it was thereupon reported to me by Major Count von Nostitz, by
direction of General von Moltke, that your Majesty wished to see the
Emperor only after the capitulation of the army had been concluded--on
the receipt of which announcement the hope cherished by the opposite
party of securing other terms than those decided on was given up. I
then rode off in the direction of Chehery with the intention of
reporting the situation to your Majesty, met General v. Moltke on the
way, bringing the text of the capitulation approved by your Majesty,
and this, when we arrived with it at Fresnois, was accepted and signed
without opposition. The demeanor of General v. Wimpffen, as also that
of the other French generals, during the previous night was very
dignified, and this brave officer could not forbear expressing to me
how deeply he was pained that he should have been called upon,
forty-eight hours after his arrival from Africa, and half a day after
he had assumed command, to set his name to a capitulation so fatal to
the French arms, that, however, lack of provisions and ammunition, and
the absolute impossibility of any further defence imposed upon him, as
a general the duty of suppressing his personal feelings, as further
bloodshed could in no way alter the situation. The permission for the
officers to be released on parole was received with great
thankfulness, as an expression of your Majesty's intention not to hurt
the feelings of an army, which had fought bravely, beyond the point
demanded by the necessity of our political interests. General v.
Wimpffen also subsequently gave expression to this feeling in a letter
in which he thanks General v. Moltke for the consideration he showed
in conducting the negotiations.


* * * * *


Berlin, March 21, '71.

With today's opening of the first German Reichstag after the
reestablishment of a German Empire, the first public activity of the
same begins. Prussia's history and destiny have for a long time
pointed to an event which is now accomplished by its being summoned to
the head of the newly founded Empire. Prussia owes this less to her
extent of territory and her power, though both have equally increased,
than to her intellectual development and the organization of her army.
The brilliant position now occupied by my country has been attained
through an unexpectedly rapid sequence of great events during the past
six years. The work to which I called you ten years ago falls within
this time. How you have justified the confidence with which I then
summoned you lies open to the world. It is to your counsel, your
circumspection, your unwearying activity that Prussia and Germany owe
the world-historical occurrence which is embodied in my capital today.

Although the reward for such deeds is felt within you, I am
nevertheless urged and bound to express to you publicly and
permanently the thanks of the Fatherland and mine. I elevate you,
therefore, to the rank of a Prussian Prince (Fuerst), which is to be
inherited always by the eldest male member of your family.

May you see in this distinction the undying gratitude of Your Emperor
and King


* * * * *


Coblenz, July 26, '72.

You will celebrate, on the 28th, a delightful family festival[24]
which the Almighty in His mercy has accorded you. I, therefore, may
and can not remain behind with my sympathy on this occasion, so will
you, and the Princess, your wife, accept my most cordial and warmest
congratulations on this great occasion. That both of you always gave
the first place, among the blessings showered on you by Providence, to
domestic happiness is something for which your prayers of thanksgiving
should ascend to heaven. Our and my prayers of thanksgiving, however,
go further, as they include thanks to God for having placed you at my
side at a decisive moment, and thus opened up a career for my
Government far exceeding thought and comprehension. You also will send
up your feelings of thankfulness that God graciously permitted you to
accomplish such great things. Both in and after all your labors you
always found comfort and peace in your home, and that gives you
strength in your difficult vocation. To preserve and strengthen you
for this is my constant solicitude, and I am glad to learn from your
letter through Count Lehndorff and also from the latter himself that
you will now think more of yourself than of the documents.

In remembrance of your silver wedding a vase will be handed you which
represents a grateful Borussia and which, fragile though the material
of which it is composed may be, shall one day express even in every
fragment what Prussia owes to you in its elevation to the height on
which it now stands.

Your truly devoted grateful King


* * * * *


Varzin, August I, '72.

Your Majesty greatly gladdened my wife and me by graciously evincing
sympathy in our family festival, and will, we trust, be graciously
pleased to accept our respectful thanks.

Your Majesty justly emphasizes happiness in the home as being among
the chief blessings for which I have to thank God, but part of the
happiness in my house, for my wife as well as for myself, comes from
the consciousness of your Majesty's satisfaction, and the exceedingly
gracious and kindly words of appreciation which your Majesty's letter
contains are more beneficial to afflicted nerves than is all medical
assistance. In looking back over my life I have such inexhaustible
cause to thank God for His unmerited mercy, that I often fear
everything will not go so well with me until the end. I recognize it
as an especially happy dispensation that God has called me on earth to
the service of a master whom I serve joyfully and with love, as the
innate fidelity of the subject never has to fear, under your Majesty's
leadership, coming into conflict with a warm feeling for the honor and
the welfare of the Fatherland. May God further give me strength to
carry out the will so to serve your Majesty that I obtain the
sovereign satisfaction, of which such a gracious testimony lies before
me today in the form of the autograph letter of the 26th. The vase,
which arrived in good time, is a truly monumental expression of Royal
favor, and at the same time so substantial that I may hope not the
"fragments" but the whole will be evidence to my descendants of the
gracious sympathy evinced by your majesty on the occasion of our
silver wedding.

The officers of the fifty-fourth regiment showed a kindly spirit of
comradeship by sending their band from Colberg. Otherwise, as is
usually the case in the country, we were confined to our family
circle; only Motley, the former American Ambassador in London, a
friend of my early youth, happened to be here on a visit. Besides her
Majesty the Queen, his Majesty the King of Bavaria, and their Royal
Highnesses Prince Carl and Friedrich Carl, and his Imperial Highness
the Crown Prince, honored me with telegraphic congratulations.

In health I am becoming slowly better; I have, it is true, done no
work whatever; but I hope to be able to report myself on duty in time
for the Imperial visits.


* * * * *


Berlin, December 18, '81.

I must tell you of an extraordinary dream I had last night, which was
as clear as I now relate it.

The Reichstag met for the first time after the present recess. On
Count Eulenburg's entrance the discussion abruptly ceased; after a
long interval the President called on the last speaker to continue the
debate. Silence! The President thereupon declared the sitting
adjourned. This was the signal for great tumult and clamor. No order,
it was urged, should be bestowed on any member during the session of
the Reichstag; the Monarch may not be mentioned during the session.
The House adjourns till tomorrow. Eulenburg's appearance in the
Chamber is again greeted with hisses and commotion--and then I awoke
in such a state of nervous excitement that it was long before I
recovered, and I could not sleep from half-past four to half-past
six. All this happened in the House in my presence, as clearly as I
have written it down.

I will not hope that the dream will be realized, but it is certainly
peculiar. I dreamt it after six hours of quiet sleep, so it could not
have been directly produced by our conversation.

_Enfin_, I could not but tell you of this curious occurrence.



* * * * *


Berlin, December 18, '81.

I thank your Majesty most respectfully for the gracious letter. I
quite believe that the dream owed its origin, not exactly to my
report, but to the general impression obtained during the last few
days from Puttkamer's[25] oral report, the newspaper articles, and my
report. The pictures we have in our minds when awake do not reappear
in the mirror of our dreams until our mental faculties have been well
rested by sleep. Your Majesty's communication encourages me to relate
a dream I had in the troublous days of the spring of 1863. I dreamt,
and I told my dream at once to my wife and to others the next morning,
that I was riding along a narrow Alpine path, to the right an abyss,
and to the left rocks; the path became narrower and narrower, until at
last my horse refused to take another step, and there was no room
either to turn or to dismount. I then struck the smooth rocky wall
with my riding whip in my left hand, and invoked God; the whip became
interminably long, and the wall of rock collapsed like a scene in the
theatre, opening up a wide pathway, with a view over hills and forests
such as one sees in Bohemia. I also caught sight of Prussian troops,
with their banners, and, still in my dreams, wondered how I could best
report this Quickly to your Majesty. This dream was realized, and I
awoke from it glad and strengthened.


The bad dream from which your Majesty awoke nervous and agitated can
be realized only in so far that we shall still have many stormy and
noisy parliamentary debates, which must unfortunately undermine the
prestige of the Parliaments and seriously interfere with State
business. Your Majesty's presence at these debates is an
impossibility; and I regard such scenes as we have lately witnessed in
the Reichstag regrettable enough as a standard of our morals and our
political education, perhaps also our political qualifications, but
not as a misfortune in themselves: _l'exces du mal en devient le

Will your Majesty pardon, with your accustomed graciousness, these
holiday reflections, which were suggested by your Majesty's letter;
for from yesterday till January 9th we have holidays and rest.

* * * * *


Berlin, September 23, '87.

You celebrate on September 23, my dear Prince, the day on which,
twenty-five years ago, I called you into my Ministry of State, and
shortly afterwards gave the Premiership into your hands. The
distinguished services you had previously rendered to the Fatherland
in the most varied and important positions justified me in conferring
on you this highest post. The history of the last quarter of a century
proves that I did not err in my choice!

A shining example of true patriotism, of untiring activity often to
the utter disregard of your health, you have been indefatigable in
keeping a close watch on what were frequently overwhelming
difficulties in peace and war, and have used them to lead Prussia in
honor and glory to a Position in the world's history which had never
been dreamed of! Such achievements have been performed that the
twenty-fifth anniversary of September 23 must be celebrated with
thanks to God for placing you at my side in order to execute His will
on earth!

And I now once more impress these thanks on you, as I have so
frequently expressed and manifested them hitherto!

From a heart filled with thankfulness I congratulate you on the
celebration of such a day, and hope from my heart that your strength
may long be preserved unimpaired, to be a blessing to the Crown and to
the Fatherland! Your eternally grateful King and friend


P.S.--In memory of the past twenty-five years I am sending you a view
of the building in which we have discussed and taken such weighty
resolutions which it is to be hoped will redound to the honor and
welfare of Prussia and of Germany.

* * * * *


Friedrichsruh, September 26, '87.

I thank your Majesty in deep respect for the gracious letter of the
23d inst., and for the gracious present of the picture of the palace
in which for so many years I have had the honor to make my reports to
your Majesty, and to take your Majesty's orders. The day received
especial consecration for me through the greeting in your Majesty's
name with which their royal Highnesses Prince William and Prince Henry
honored me. Even without this fresh proof of favor, the feeling with
which I greeted the twenty-fifth anniversary of my appointment as a
Minister was one of most cordial and respectful gratitude to your
Majesty. Every sovereign appoints ministers, but it is a rare
occurrence in modern times for a monarch to retain a Prime Minister
and to uphold him for twenty-five years, in troublous times when
everything does not succeed, against all animosity and intrigues.
During this period I have seen many a former friend become an
opponent, but your Majesty's favor and confidence have remained
unwaveringly with me. The thought of this is a rich reward to me for
all my work, and a consolation in illness and solitude. I love my
Fatherland, the German as well as the Prussian, but I should not have
served it with gladness if it had not been granted to me to serve to
the satisfaction of my King. The high position which I owe to your
Majesty's favor is based on, and has as its indestructible core, your
Majesty's Brandenburg liegeman and Prussian officer, and therefore I
am rendered happy by your Majesty's satisfaction, without which every
popularity would be valueless to me. * * * Besides many telegrams and
addresses from home and abroad, I received very gracious greetings and
congratulations on the twenty-third from their Majesties of Saxony and
Wurtemburg, from his Royal Highness the Regent of Bavaria, the
Grand-Dukes of Weimar, Baden, and Mecklenburg, and other rulers, and
from his Majesty the King of Italy and Minister Crispi. The two latter
touched politics, and were difficult to answer; as the text of their
letters may perhaps interest your Majesty, I have instructed the
Foreign Office to forward them.

I pray God that He may still longer grant me the pleasure of serving
your Majesty to your Majesty's satisfaction.



[Footnote 21: Permission: Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York.]

[Footnote 22: Admiral Irminger was charged with the task of notifying
in Berlin and Vienna Christian IX.'s accession to the throne; he was
granted no audience in Berlin, and left that city on the 5th for
Vienna as, in Bismarck's opinion, the Emperor would more easily
receive him than the King of Prussia could.]

[Footnote 23: About L60,000.]

[Footnote 24: Silver wedding.]

[Footnote 25: Minister for the Interior, and Vice President of the
Ministry of State.]

* * * * *



Late Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge



Left school at Easter, 1832, a normal product of our state system of
education; a Pantheist, and, if not a Republican, at least with the
persuasion that the Republic was the most rational form of government;
reflecting too upon the causes which could decide millions of men
permanently to obey _one man_, when all the while I was hearing from
grown up people much bitter or contemptuous criticism of their rulers.
Moreover, I had brought away with me "German-National" impressions
from Plamann's preparatory school, conducted on Jahn's drill-system,
in which I lived from my sixth to my twelfth year. These impressions
remained in the stage of theoretical reflections, and were not strong
enough to extirpate my innate Prussian monarchical sentiments. My
historical sympathies remained on the side of authority. To my
childish ideas of justice Harmodius and Aristogeiton, as well as
Brutus, were criminals, and Tell a rebel and murderer. Every German
prince who resisted the Emperor before the Thirty Years' war roused my
ire; but from the Great Elector onwards I was partisan enough to take
an anti-imperial view, and to find it natural that things should have
been in readiness for the Seven Years' war. Yet the German-National
feeling remained so strong in me that, at the beginning of my
university life, I at once entered into relations with the
_Burschenschaft_, or group of students which made the promotion of a
national sentiment its aim. But, after personal intimacy with its
members, I disliked their refusal to "give satisfaction," as well as
their want of breeding in externals and of acquaintance with the forms
and manners of good society; and a still closer acquaintance bred an
aversion to the extravagance of their political views, based upon a
lack of either culture or knowledge of the conditions of life which
historical causes had brought into existence, and which I, with my
seventeen years, had had more opportunities of observing than most of
these students, for the most part older than myself. Their ideas gave
me the impression of an association between Utopian theories and
defective breeding. Nevertheless, I retained my own private National
sentiments, and my belief that in the near future events would lead to
German unity; in fact, I made a bet with my American friend Coffin
that this aim would be attained in twenty years.

In my first half-year at Goettingen occurred the Hambach festival[27]
(May 27, 1832), the "festal ode" of which still remains in my memory; in
my third the Frankfort outbreak[28](April 3, 1833). These manifestations
revolted me. Mob interference with political authority conflicted with
my Prussian schooling, and I returned to Berlin with less liberal
opinions than when I quitted it; but this reaction was again somewhat
mitigated when I was brought into immediate connection with the workings
of the political machine. Upon foreign politics, with which the public
at that time occupied itself but little, my views, as regards the War of
Liberation, were taken from the standpoint of a Prussian officer. On
looking at the map, the Possession of Strasburg by France exasperated
me, and a visit to Heidelberg, Spires, and the Palatinate made me feel
revengeful and militant. In the period before 1848 succeed in laying a
coat of European varnish over the specifically Prussian bureaucrat. How
these observations acted in practice is clearly shown when we go through
the list of our diplomatists of those days: one is astonished to find so
few native Prussians among them. The fact of being the son of a foreign
ambassador accredited to Berlin was of itself ground for preference. The
diplomatists who had grown up in small courts and had been taken into
the Prussian service had not infrequently the advantage over natives of
greater assurance in Court circles and a greater absence of shyness. An
especial example of this tendency was Herr von Schleinitz. In the list
we find also members of noble houses in whom descent supplied the place
of talent. I scarcely remember from the period when I was appointed to
Frankfort anyone of Prussian descent being appointed chief of an
important mission, except myself, Baron Carl von Werther, Canitz, and
Count Max Hatzfeldt (who had a French wife). Foreign names were at a
premium: Brassier, Perponcher, Savigny, Oriola. It was presumed that
they had greater fluency in French, and they were more out of the
common. Another feature was the disinclination to accept personal
responsibility when not covered by unmistakable instructions, just as
was the case in the military service in 1806 in the old school of the
Frederickian period. Even in those days we were breeding stuff for
officers, even as high as the rank of regimental commander, to a pitch
of perfection attained by no other state; but beyond that rank the
native Prussian blood was no longer fertile in talents, as in the time
of Frederick the Great. Our most successful commanders, Bluecher,
Gneisenau, Moltke, Goeben, were not original Prussian products, any more
than Stein, Hardenberg, Motz, and Grolmann in the Civil Service. It is
as though our statesmen, like the trees in nurseries, needed
transplanting in order that their roots might find full development.

Ancillon advised me first of all to pass my examination as
_Regierungs-Assessor,_ and then, by the circuitous route of
employment in the Zollverein to seek admittance into the _German_
diplomacy of Prussia; he did not, it would seem, anticipate in a scion
of the native squirearchy a vocation for European diplomacy. I took
his hint to heart, and resolved first of all to go up for my
examination as _Regierungs-Assessor_.

The persons and institutions of our judicial system with which I was
in the first instance concerned gave my youthful conceptions more
material for criticism than for respect. The practical education of
the _Auscultator_ began with keeping the minutes of the Criminal
Courts, and to this post I was promoted out of my proper turn by the
_Rath_, Herr von Brauchitsch, under whom I worked, because in those
days I wrote a more than usually quick and legible hand. On the
examinations, as criminal proceedings in the inquisitorial method of
that day were called, the one that has made the most lasting
impression upon me related to a widely ramifying association in Berlin
for the purpose of unnatural vice. The club arrangements of the
accomplices, the agenda books, the levelling effect through all
classes of a common pursuit of the forbidden--all this, even in 1835,
pointed to a demoralization in no whit less than that evidenced by the
proceedings against the Heinzes, husband and wife, in October, 1891.
The ramifications of this society extended even into the highest
circles. It was ascribed to the influence of Prince Wittgenstein that
the reports of the case were demanded from the Ministry of Justice,
and were never returned--at least, during the time I served on the

After I had been keeping the records for four months, I was
transferred to the City Court, before which civil causes are tried,
and was suddenly promoted from the mechanical occupation of writing
from dictation to an independent post, which, having regard to my
inexperience and my sentiments, made my position difficult. The
first stage in which the legal novice was called to a more independent
sphere of activity was in connection with divorce proceedings.
Obviously regarded as the least important, they were entrusted to
the most incapable _Rath_, Praetorius by name, and under him were
left to the tender mercies of unfledged _Auscultators_, who had to
make upon this _corpus vile_ their first experiments in the
part of judges--of course, under the nominal responsibility of Herr
Praetorius, who nevertheless took no part in their proceedings. By way
of indicating this gentleman's character, it was told to us young
people that when, in the course of a sitting, he was roused from a
light slumber to give his vote, he used to say, "I vote with my colleague
Tempelhof"--whereupon it was sometimes necessary to point out to him
that Herr Tempelhof was not present.

On one occasion I represented to him my embarrassment at having,
though only a few months more than twenty years old, to undertake the
attempt at a reconciliation between an agitated couple: a matter
crowned, according to my view, with a certain ecclesiastical and moral
"nimbus," with which in my state of mind I did not feel able to cope.
I found Praetorius in the irritable mood of an old man awakened at an
untimely moment, who had besides all the aversion of an old bureaucrat
to a young man of birth. He said, with a contemptuous smile, "It is
very annoying, Herr _Referendarius_, when a man can do nothing for
himself; I will show you how to do it." I returned with him into the
judge's room. The case was one in which the husband wanted a divorce
and the wife not. The husband accused her of adultery; the wife,
tearful and declamatory, asserted her innocence; and, despite all
manner of ill-treatment from the man, wanted to remain with him.
Praetorius, with his peculiar clicking lisp, thus addressed the woman:
"But, my good woman, don't be so stupid. What good will it do you?
When you get home, your husband will give you a jacketing until you
can stand no more. Come now, simply say 'yes,' and then you will be
quit of the sot." To which the wife, crying hysterically, replied: "I
am an honest woman! I will not have that indignity put upon me! I
don't want to be divorced!" After manifold retorts and rejoinders in
this tone, Praetorius turned to me with the words: "As she will not
listen to reason, write as follows, Herr _Referendarius_," and
dictated to me some words which, owing to the deep impression they
made upon me, I remember to this day. "Inasmuch as the attempt at
reconciliation has been made, and arguments drawn from the sphere of
religion and morality have proved fruitless, further proceedings were
taken as follows." My chief then rose and said, "Now, you see how it
is done, and in future leave me in peace about such things." I
accompanied him to the door, and went on with the case. The Divorce
Court stage of my career lasted, so far as I can remember, from four
to six weeks; a reconciliation case never came before me again. There
was a certain necessity for the ordinance respecting proceedings in
divorce cases, to which Frederick William IV. was obliged to confine
himself after his attempts to introduce a _law_ for the substantial
alteration of the Marriage Law had foundered upon the opposition of
the Council of State. With regard to this matter it may be mentioned
that, as a result of this ordinance, the Attorney-General was first
introduced into those provinces in which the old Prussian common law
prevailed as _defensor matrimonii_, and to prevent collusion between
the parties.

More inviting was the subsequent stage of petty cases, where the
untrained young jurist at least acquired practice in listening to
pleadings and examining witnesses, but where more use was made of him
as a drudge than was met by the resulting benefit to his instruction.
The locality and the procedure partook somewhat of the restless bustle
of a railway manager's work. The space in which the leading _Rath_ and
the three or four _Auscultators_ sat with their backs to the public
was surrounded by a wooden screen, and round about the four-cornered
recess formed thereby surged an ever-changing and more or less noisy
mob of parties to the suits.

My impression of institutions and persons was not essentially modified
when I had been transferred to the Administration. In order to
abbreviate the detour to diplomacy, I applied to a Rhenish government,
that of Aachen, where the course could be gone through in two years,
whereas in the "old" provinces at least three years were required.[29]

I can well imagine that in making the appointments to the Rhenish
Governing Board in 1816 the same procedure was adopted as at the
organization of Elsass-Lothringen in 1871. The authorities who had to
contribute a portion of their staff would not be likely to respond to
the call of state requirements by putting their best foot foremost to
accomplish the difficult task of assimilating a newly acquired
population, but would have chosen those members of their offices whose
departure was desired by their superiors or wished by themselves; in
the board were to be found former secretaries of prefectures and other
relics of the French administration. The _personnel_ did not all
correspond to the ideal which floated unwarrantably enough before my
eyes at twenty-one, and still less was this the case with the details
of the current business. I recollect that, what with the many
differences of opinion between officials and governed, or with
internal differences of opinion among each of these two categories,
whose polemics for many years considerably swelled the bulk of the
records, my habitual impression was, "Well, yes, that is _one_ way of
doing it"; and that questions, the decision of which one way or the
other was not worth the paper wasted upon them, created a mass of
business which a single prefect could have disposed of with the fourth
part of the energy bestowed upon them. Nevertheless, except for the
subordinate officials, the day's work was slight; as regards heads of
departments especially, a mere sinecure.

I quitted Aachen with a very poor opinion of our bureaucracy, in
detail and collectively, with the exception of the gifted President,
Count Arnim-Boitzenburg. My opinion of the detail became more
favorable owing to my next subsequent experience in the government at
Potsdam, to which I got transferred in the year 1837; because there,
unlike the arrangement in other provinces, the indirect taxes were at
the disposal of the government, and it was just these that were
important to me if I wanted to make customs-policy the basis of my

The members of the board made a better impression upon me than those
at Aachen; but yet, taking them as a whole, it was an impression of
pigtail and periwig, in which category my youthful presumption also
placed the paternal dignified President-in-Chief, von Bassewitz; while
the President of the Aachen Government, Count Arnim, wore the generic
wig of the state service, it is true, but no intellectual pigtail.
When therefore I quitted the service of the State for a country life,
I imported into the relations which as a landed proprietor I had with
the officials an opinion, which I now see to have been too mean, of
the value of our bureaucracy, and perhaps too great an inclination to
criticize them. I remember that as substitute provincial president I
had to give my verdict on a plan for abolishing the election of those
officials; I expressed myself to the effect that the bureaucracy, as
it ascended from the provincial president, sank in the general esteem;
it had preserved it only in the person of the provincial president,
who wore a Janus head, one face turned towards the bureaucracy, the
other towards the country.

The tendency to interference in the most various relations of life
was, under the paternal government of those days, perhaps greater than
now; but the instruments of such interference were less numerous, and,
as regards culture and breeding, stood much higher than do some of
those of today. The officials of the right worshipful royal Prussian
government were honest, well-read and well-bred officials; but their
benevolent activity did not always meet with recognition, because from
want of local experience they went to pieces on matters of detail, in
regard to which the views of the learned citizen at the green table
were not always superior to the healthy common-sense criticism of the
peasant intelligence. The members of the Governing Boards had in those
days _multa_, not _multum_, to do; and the lack of higher duties
resulted in their not finding a sufficient quantity of important
business, and led them in their zeal for duty to go beyond the needs
of the governed, into a tendency to over-regulation--in a word, into
what the Swiss calls _Befehlerle_.[30] To glance at a comparison with
present conditions, it had been hoped that the state authorities would
have been relieved of business and of officials by the introduction of
the local self-government of today; but, on the contrary, the number
of the officials and their load of business have been very
considerably increased by correspondence, and friction with the
machinery of self-government, from the provincial councillor down to
the rural parish administration. Sooner or later the flaw must be
reached, and we shall be crushed by the burden of clerkdom, especially
in the subordinate bureaucracy.

Moreover, bureaucratic pressure upon private life is intensified by the
mode in which self-government works in practice and encroaches more
sharply than before on the rural parishes. Formerly the provincial
president, who stood in as close relations with the people as with the
State, formed the lowest step in the State bureaucracy. Below him were
local authorities, who were no doubt subject to control, but not in the
same measure as nowadays to the disciplinary powers of the district, or
the ministerial, bureaucracy. The rural population enjoys today, by
virtue of the measure of self-government conceded to it, an autonomy,
not perhaps similar to that which the towns had long ago; but it has
received, in the shape of the official commissioner, a chief who is kept
in disciplinary check by superior instructions proceeding from the
provincial resident, under the threat of penalties, and compelled to
burden his fellow-citizens in his district with lists, notifications,
and inquisitions as the political hierarchy thinks good. The governed
_contribuens plebs_ no longer possess, in the court of the provincial
president, that guarantee against blundering encroachment which, at an
earlier period was to be found in the circumstance that people resident
in the district who became provincial presidents as a rule resolved to
remain so in their own districts all their life long, and sympathized
with the joys and sorrows of the district. Today the post of provincial
president is the lowest step in the ladder of the higher administration,
sought after by young "assessors" who have a justifiable ambition to
make a career. To obtain it they have more need of ministerial favor
than of the goodwill of the local population, and they attempt to win
this favor by conspicuous zeal, and by "taking it out of" the official
commissioners of the so-called local administration, or by carrying out
valueless bureaucratic experiments. Therein lies for the most part the
inducement to overburden their subordinates in the local self-government
system. Thus self-government means the aggravation of bureaucracy,
increase in the number of officials, and of their powers and interference
in private life.

It is only human nature to be more keenly sensitive to the thorns than
to the roses of every institution, and that the thorns should irritate
one against the existing state of things. The old government
officials, when they came into direct contact with the governed
population, showed themselves to be pedantic, and estranged from the
practical working of life by their occupation at the green table; but
they left behind them the impression of toiling honesty and
conscientiously for justice. The same thing cannot be assumed in all
their degrees of the wheels in the machine of the self-government of
today in those country districts where the parties stand in acute
opposition to each other; goodwill towards political friends, frame
of mind as regards opponents, readily become a hindrance to the
impartial maintenance of institutions. According to my experiences in
earlier and more recent times, I should, for the rest, not like to
allow impartiality, when comparing judicial and administrative
decisions, to the former alone, not at least in every instance. On the
contrary, I have preserved an impression that judges of small local
courts succumb more easily to strong party influences than do
administrative officials; nor need we invent any psychological reason
for the fact that, given equal culture, the latter should _a priori_
be considered less just and conscientious in their official decisions
than the former. But I certainly do assume that official decisions do
not gain in honesty and moderation by being arrived at collectively;
for apart from the fact that, in the case of voting by majority,
arithmetic and chance take the place of logical reasoning, that
feeling of personal responsibility, in which lies the essential
guarantee for the conscientiousness of the decision, is lost directly
it comes about by means of anonymous majorities.

The course of business in the two boards of Potsdam and Aachen was not
very encouraging for my ambition. I found the business assigned to
me petty and tedious, and my labors in the department of suits
arising from the grist tax and from the compulsory contribution to
the building of the embankment at Rotzis, near Wusterhausen, have
left behind in me no sentimental regrets for my sphere of work in
those days. Renouncing the ambition for an official career, I
readily complied with the wishes of my parents by taking up the
humdrum management of our Pomeranian estates. I had made up my
mind to live and die in the country, after attaining successes in
agriculture--perhaps in war also, if war should come. So far as my
country life left me any ambition at all, it was that of a lieutenant
in the Landwehr.

The impressions that I had received in my childhood were little
adapted to make a squire of me. In Plamann's educational
establishment, conducted on the systems of Pestalozzi and Jahn, the
"von" before my name was a disadvantage, so far as my childish comfort
was concerned, in my intercourse with my fellow-pupils and my
teachers. Even at the high school at the Grey Friars I had to suffer,
as regards individual teachers, from that hatred of nobility which had
clung to the greater part of the educated _bourgeoisie_ as a
reminiscence of the days before 1806. But even the aggressive tendency
which occasionally appeared in _bourgeois_ circles never gave me any
inducement to advance in the opposite direction. My father was free
from aristocratic prejudices, and his inward sense of equality had
been modified, if at all, by his youthful impressions as an officer,
but in no way by any over-estimate of inherited rank. My mother was
the daughter of Mencken, Privy Councillor to Frederick the Great,
Frederick William II., and Frederick William III., who sprang from a
family of Leipzig professors, and was accounted in those days a
Liberal. The later generations of the Menckens--those immediately
preceding me--had found their way to Prussia in the Foreign Office and
about the Court. Baron von Stein has quoted my grandfather Mencken as
an honest, strongly Liberal official. Under these circumstances, the
views which I imbibed with my mother's milk were Liberal rather than
reactionary; and, if my mother had lived to see my ministerial
activity, she would scarcely have been in accord with its direction,
even though she would have experienced great joy in the external
results of my official career. She had grown up in bureaucratic and
court circles; Frederick William IV. spoke of her as "Mienchen," in
memory of childish games. I can therefore declare it an unjust
estimate of my views in my younger years, when "the prejudices of my
rank" are thrown in my teeth and it is maintained that a recollection
of the privileges of the nobility has been the starting-point of my
domestic policy.

Moreover, the unlimited authority of the old Prussian monarchy was
not, and is not, the final word of my convictions. As to that, to be
sure, this authority of the monarch constitutionally existed in the
first United Diet, but accompanied by the wish and anticipation that
the unlimited power of the King, without being overturned, might fix
the measure of its own limitation. Absolutism primarily demands
impartiality, honesty, devotion to duty, energy, and inward humility
in the ruler. These may be present, and yet male and female favorites
(in the best case the lawful wife), the monarch's own vanity and
susceptibility to flattery, will nevertheless diminish the fruits of
his good intentions, inasmuch as the monarch is not omniscient and
cannot have an equal understanding of all branches of his office. As
early as 1847 I was in favor of an effort to secure the possibility of
public criticism of the government in parliament and in the press, in
order to shelter the monarch from the danger of having blinkers put on
him by women, courtiers, sycophants, and visionaries, hindering him
from taking a broad view of his duties as monarch, or from avoiding
and correcting his mistakes. This conviction of mine became all the
more deeply impressed upon me in proportion as I became better
acquainted with Court circles, and had to defend the interest of the
State from their influences and also from the opposition of a
departmental patriotism. The interests of the State alone have guided
me, and it has been a calumny when publicists, even well-meaning, have
accused me of having ever advocated an aristocratic system. I have
never regarded birth as a substitute for want of ability; whenever I
have come forward on behalf of landed property, it has not been in the
interests of proprietors of my own class, but because I see in the
decline of agriculture one of the greatest dangers to our permanence
as a State. The ideal that has always floated before me has been a
monarchy which should be so far controlled by an independent national
representation--according to my notion, representing classes or
callings--that monarch or parliament would not be able to alter
the existing statutory position before the law _separately_ but only
_communi consensus_ with publicity, and public criticism, by press and
Diet, of all political proceedings.

Whoever has the conviction that uncontrolled Absolutism, as it was
first brought upon the stage by Louis XIV., was the most fitting form
of government for German subjects, must lose it after making a special
study in the history of Courts, and such critical observations as I
was enabled to institute at the court of Frederick William IV. (whom
personally I loved and revered) in Manteuffel's days. The King was a
religious absolutist with a divine vocation, and the ministers after
Brandenburg were content as a rule if they were covered by the royal
signature even when they could not have personally answered for the
contents of what was signed. I remember that on one occasion a high
Court official of absolutist opinions, on hearing of the news of the
royalist rising at Neuchatel, observed, with some confusion, in the
presence of myself and several of his colleagues: "That is a royalism
of which nowadays one has to go very far from Court to get
experience." Yet, as a rule, sarcasm was not a habit of this old

Observations which I made in the country as to the venality and
chicanery of the "district sergeants" and other subordinate officials,
and petty conflicts which I had with the government in Stettin as
deputy of the "Circle" and deputy for the provincial president,
increased my aversion to the rule of the bureaucracy. I may mention
one of these conflicts. While I was representing the President, then
on leave, I received an order from the government to compel the patron
of Kuelz, that was myself, to undertake certain burdens. I put the
order aside, meaning to give it to the president on his return, was
repeatedly worried about it, and fined a thaler, to be forwarded
through the post. I now drew up a statement, in which I figured as
having appeared, first of all as representative of the _Landrath_,
and secondly as patron of Kuelz. The party cited made the prescribed
representations to himself in his capacity as No. 1, and then
proceeded in his capacity of No. 2 to set forth the ground on which he
had to decline the application; after which the statement was approved
and subscribed by him in his double capacity. The government
understood a joke, and ordered the fine to be refunded. In other
cases, things resulted in less pleasant heckling. I had a critical
disposition, and was consequently liberal, in the sense in which the
word was then used among landed proprietors to imply discontent with
the bureaucracy, the majority of whom on their side were men more
liberal than myself, though in another sense.

I again slipped off the rails of my parliamentary liberal tendencies,
with regard to which I found little understanding or sympathy
in Pomerania, but which in Schoenhausen met with the acquiescence
of men in my own district, like Count Wartensleben of Karow,
Schierstaedt-Dahlen, and others (the same men of whom some were among
the party of Church patrons in the New Era subsequently condemned).
This was the result of the style, to me unsympathetic, in which the
opposition was conducted in the first United Diet, to which I was
summoned, only for the last six weeks of the session, as substitute
for Deputy von Brauchitsch, who was laid up with illness. The speeches
of the East Prussians, Saucken-Tarputschen and Alfred Auerswald, the
sentimentality of Beckerath, the Gallo-Rhenish liberalism of Heydt and
Mevissen, and the boisterous violence of Vincke's speeches, disgusted
me; and even at this date when I read the proceedings they give me the
impression of imported phrases made to pattern. I felt that the King
was on the right track, and could claim to be allowed time, and not be
hurried in his development.

I came into conflict with the Opposition the first time I made a
longer speech than usual, on May 17, 1847, when I combatted the legend
that the Prussians had gone to war in 1813 to get a constitution, and
gave free expression to my natural indignation at the idea that
foreign domination was in itself no adequate reason for fighting.[31]
It appeared to me undignified that the nation, as a set-off to its
having freed itself, should hand in to the King an account payable in
the paragraphs of a constitution. My performance produced a storm. I
remained in the tribune turning over the leaves of a newspaper which
lay there, and then, when the commotion had subsided, I finished my

At the Court festivities, which took place during the session of the
United Diet, I was avoided in a marked manner both by the King and the
Princess of Prussia, though for different reasons: by the latter
because I was neither Liberal nor popular; by the former for a reason
which only became clear to me later. When, on the reception of the
deputies, he avoided speaking to me--when, in the Court circle, after
speaking to every one in turn, he broke off immediately he came to me,
turned his back, or strolled away across the room--I considered myself
justified in supposing that my attitude as a Royalist Hotspur had
exceeded the limits which the King had fixed for himself. Only some
months later, when I reached Venice on my honeymoon, did I discover
that this explanation was incorrect. The King, who had recognized me
in the theatre, commanded me on the following day to an audience and
to dinner; and so unexpected was this to me that my light travelling
luggage and the incapacity of the local tailor did not admit of my
appearing in correct costume. My reception was so kindly, and the
conversation, even on political subjects, of such a nature as to
enable me to infer that my attitude in the Diet met with his
encouraging approval. The King commanded me to call upon him in the
course of the winter, and I did so. Both on this occasion at smaller
dinners at the palace I became persuaded that I stood high in the
favor of both the King and the Queen, and that the former, in avoiding
speaking to me in public, at the time of the session of the Diet, did
not mean to criticize my political conduct, but at the time did not want
to let others see his approval of me.

* * * * *



In the summer of 1855 Count Hatzfeldt, our ambassador in Paris,
invited me to visit the Industrial Exhibition;[32] he still shared the
belief then existent in diplomatic circles that I was very soon to be
Manteuffel's successor at the Foreign Office. Although the King had
entertained such an idea on and off, it was already then known in the
innermost Court circles that a change had taken place. Count William
Redern, whom I met in Paris, told me that the ambassadors continued to
believe I was destined to be made a minister and that he himself had
also believed this; but that the King had changed his mind--of further
details he was ignorant. Doubtless since Ruegen.

August 15, Napoleon's day, was celebrated among other ways by a
procession of Russian prisoners through the streets. On the 19th the
Queen of England made her entry, and on August 25 a State ball was
given in her honor at Versailles at which I was presented to her and
to Prince Albert.

The Prince, handsome and cool in his black uniform, conversed with
me courteously, but in his manner there was a kind of malevolent
curiosity from which I concluded that my anti-occidental influence
upon the King was not unknown to him. In accordance with the mode
of thought peculiar to him, he sought for the motives of my conduct not
where they really lay, that is, in the anxiety to keep my country
independent of foreign influences--influences which found a fertile soil
in our narrow-minded reverence for England and fear of France--and in
the desire to hold ourselves aloof from a war which we should not have
carried on in our own interests but in dependence upon Austrian and
English policy.

In the eyes of the Prince--though I of course did not gather this from
the momentary impression made during my presentation, but from
ulterior acquaintance with facts and documents--I was a reactionary
party man who took up sides for Russia in order to further an
Absolutist and "Junker" policy. It was not to be wondered at that this
view of the Prince's and of the then partisans of the Duke of Coburg
had descended to the Prince's daughter, who shortly after became our
Crown Princess.

Even soon after her arrival in Germany, in February, 1858, I became
convinced, through members of the royal house and from my own
observations, that the Princess was prejudiced against me personally.
The fact itself did not surprise me so much as the form in which her
prejudice against me had been expressed in the narrow family
circle--"she did not trust me." I was prepared for antipathy on
account of my alleged anti-English feelings and by reason of my
refusal to obey English influences; but from a conversation which I
had with the Princess after the war of 1866 while sitting next to her
at table I was obliged to conclude that she had subsequently allowed
herself to be influenced in her judgment of my character by
further-reaching calumnies. I was ambitious, she said, in a
half-jesting tone, to be a king or at least president of a republic. I
replied in the same semi-jocular tone that I was personally spoilt for
a republican; that I had grown up in the royalist traditions of the
family and had need of a monarchical institution for my earthly
well-being: I thanked God, however, I was not destined to live like a
king, constantly on show, but to be until death the king's faithful
subject. I added that no guarantee could, however, be given that this
conviction of mine would be universally inherited, and this not
because royalists would give out, but because perhaps kings might.
_Pour faire un civet, il faut un lievre, et pour faire une monarchie
il faut un roi_. I could not answer for it that for want of such the
next generation might not be republican. I further remarked that in
thus expressing myself I was not free from anxiety at the idea of a
change in the occupancy of the throne without a transference of the
monarchical traditions to the successor. But the Princess avoided
every serious turn and kept up the jocular tone as amiable and
entertaining as ever; she rather gave me the impression that she
wished to tease a political opponent.

During the first years of my ministry I frequently remarked in the
course of similar conversation that the Princess took pleasure in
provoking my patriotic susceptibility by playful criticism of persons
and matters.

At that ball at Versailles Queen Victoria spoke to me in German. She
gave me the impression of beholding in me a noteworthy but
unsympathetic personality, but still her tone of voice was without
that touch of ironical superiority that I thought I detected in Prince
Albert's. She continued to be amiable and courteous like one unwilling
to treat an eccentric fellow in an unfriendly way.

In comparison with Berlin it seemed a curious arrangement to me that
at supper the company ate in three classes, with gradations in the
menu, and that such guests as were to sup at all were assured of this
by having a ticket bearing a number handed to them as they entered.
The tickets of the first class also bore the name of the lady
presiding at the table to which they referred. These tables were
arranged to accommodate fifteen or twenty. On entering I received one
of these tickets for Countess Walewska's table and later on in the
ball-room two more from two other lady patronesses of diplomacy and of
the Court. No exact plan for placing the guests had therefore been
made out. I chose the table of Countess Walewska, to whose department
I belonged as a foreign diplomatist. On the way to the room in
question I came across a Prussian officer in the uniform of an
infantry regiment of the guard, accompanied by a French lady; he was
engaged in an animated dispute with one of the imperial household
stewards who would not allow either of them to pass, not being
provided with tickets. After the officer, in answer to my inquiries,
had explained the matter and indicated the lady as a duchess bearing
an Italian title of the First Empire, I told the court official that I
had the gentleman's ticket, and gave him one of mine. Now, however,
the official would not allow the lady to pass and I therefore gave the
officer my second ticket for his duchess. The official then said
significantly to me: "_Mais vous ne passerez pas sans carte_." On my
showing him the third, he made a face of astonishment and allowed all
three of us to pass. I recommended my two _proteges_ not to sit down
at the tables indicated on the tickets, but to try and find seats
elsewhere; nor did any complaints concerning my distribution of
tickets ever come to my ears. The want of organization was so great
that our table was not fully occupied, a fact due to the absence of
any understanding among the _dames patronesses_. Old Prince Pueckler
had either received no ticket or had been unable to find his table;
after he had turned to me, whom he knew by sight, he was invited by
Countess Walewska to take one of the seats that had remained empty.
The supper, in spite of the triple division, was neither materially
nor as regards its preparation upon a level with what is done in
Berlin at similar crowded festivities; the waiting only was efficient
and prompt.

What struck me most was the difference in the regulations for the free
circulation of the throng. In this respect the palace of Versailles
offers much greater facilities than that of Berlin on account of the
larger number and, if we except the White Hall, the greater
spaciousness of the apartments. Here those who had supped in class 1
were ordered to make their exit by the same way as the hungry ones of
class 2 entered, their impetuous charge betraying certainly less
acquaintance with the customs of Court society. Personal collisions
occurred among the belaced and beribboned gentlemen and superelegant
ladies, giving rise to scuffles and abusive language, such as would
be impossible in our palace. I retired with the satisfactory
impression that in spite of all the splendor of the imperial Court the
Court service, the breeding and manners of Court society were on a
higher level with us, as well as in St. Petersburg and Vienna, than in
Paris, and that the times were past when one could go to France and to
the Court of Paris to receive a schooling in courtesy and good
manners. Even the etiquette of small German Courts, antiquated as it
was, especially in comparison with St. Petersburg, was more dignified
than the practice of the imperial Court. It is true that I had already
received this impression in Louis Philippe's time, during whose reign
it became quite the fashion in France to distinguish oneself in the
direction of excessively free and easy manners, and of abstention from
courtesy, especially towards ladies. Although it had become better in
this respect during the Second Empire, the tone in official and Court
society and the demeanor of the Court itself still remained below the
standard of the three great eastern Courts. Only in the Legitimist
circles aloof from the official world were things different both in
the time of Louis Philippe and in that of Louis Napoleon; there the
tone was faultless, courteous, and hospitable, with occasional
exceptions of the younger gentlemen spoilt by their contact with
Paris, who borrowed their habits not from the family but from the

The Emperor, whom I saw for the first time during this visit to Paris,
gave me to understand in several interviews, but at that time only in
general phrases, his desire and intentions respecting a
Franco-Prussian alliance. His words were to the effect that these two
neighboring States, which by reason of their culture and their
institutions stood at the head of civilization, were naturally thrown
upon each other's assistance. Any inclination to express before me
such grievance as might arise from our refusal to join the Western
Powers was kept out of the foreground. I had the feeling that the
pressure which England and Austria exercised in Berlin and Frankfort
to compel us to render assistance in the western camp was much
stronger, one might say more passionate and rude, than the desires and
promises expressed to me in an amicable form, with which the Emperor
supported his plea for our understanding with France in particular. He
was much more indulgent than England and Austria respecting our sins
against occidental policy. He never spoke German to me, either then or

That my visit to Paris had caused displeasure at the court at home,
and had intensified, especially in the case of Queen Elizabeth, the
ill-feelings already entertained towards me, I was able to perceive at
the end of September of the same year. While the King was proceeding
down the Rhine to Cologne to attend the cathedral building festival, I
reported myself at Coblentz and was, with my wife, invited by his
Majesty to perform the journey to Cologne on the steamer; my wife,
however, was ignored by the Queen on board and at Remagen.[33] The
Prince of Prussia, who had observed this, gave my wife his arm and led
her to table. At the conclusion of the meal I begged for permission to
return to Frankfort, which was granted me.

It was not until the following winter, during which the King had again
approached me, that he asked me once at dinner, straight across the
table, my opinion concerning Louis Napoleon; his tone was ironical. I
replied: "It is my impression that the Emperor Napoleon is a discreet
and amiable man, but that he is not so clever as the world esteems
him. The world places to his account everything that happens, and if
it rains in eastern Asia at an unseasonable moment chooses to
attribute it to some malevolent machination of the Emperor. Here
especially we have become accustomed to regard him as a kind of _genie
du mal_ who is forever only meditating how to do mischief in the
world.[34] I believe he is happy when he is able to enjoy anything
good at his ease; his understanding is overrated at the expense of his
heart; he is at bottom good-natured and has an unusual measure of
gratitude for every service rendered him."

The King laughed at this in a manner that vexed me and led me to ask
whether I might be permitted to guess his Majesty's present thoughts.
The King consented, and I said: "General von Canitz used to lecture to
the young officers in the military school on the campaigns of
Napoleon. An assiduous listener asked him how Napoleon could have
omitted to make this or that movement. Canitz replied: 'Well, you see
just what this Napoleon was--a real goodhearted fellow, but so
stupid!' which naturally excited great mirth among the military
scholars. I fear that your Majesty is thinking of me much as General
von Canitz thought of his pupils."

The King laughed and said: "You may be right; but I am not
sufficiently acquainted with the present Napoleon to be able to impugn
your impression that his heart is better than his head." That the
Queen was dissatisfied with my view I was enabled to gather from the
external trifles by which impressions are made known at court.

The displeasure felt at my intercourse with Napoleon sprang from the
idea of "Legitimacy," or, more strictly speaking, from the word
itself, which was stamped with its modern sense by Talleyrand, and
used in 1814 and 1815 with great success and to the advantage of the
Bourbons as a deluding spell.

* * * * *



On July 2, 1870, the Spanish ministry decided in favor of the accession
to that throne of Leopold, Hereditary Prince of Hohenzollern. This gave
the first stimulus in the field of international law to the subsequent
military question, but still only in the form of a specifically Spanish
matter. It was hard to find in the law of nations a pretext for France
to interfere with the freedom of Spain to choose a King; after people in
Paris had made up their minds to war with Prussia, this was sought for
artificially in the name Hohenzollern, which in itself had nothing more
menacing to France than any other German name. On the contrary, it might
have been assumed, in Spain as well as in Germany, that Prince
Hohenzollern, on account of his personal and family connections in
Paris, would be a _persona grata_ beyond many another German Prince. I
remember that on the night after the battle of Sedan I was riding along
the road to Donchery in thick darkness, with a number of our officers,
following the King in his journey round Sedan. In reply to a question
from some one in the company I talked about the preliminaries to the
war, and mentioned at the same time that I had thought Prince Leopold
would be no unwelcome neighbor in Spain to the Emperor Napoleon, and
would travel to Madrid _via_ Paris, in order to get into touch with the
imperial French policy, forming as it did a part of the conditions under
which he would have had to govern Spain. I said: "We should have been
much more justified in dreading a close understanding between the
Spanish and French crowns than in hoping for the restoration of a
Spanish-German anti-French constellation after the analogy of Charles
V.; a king of Spain can only carry out Spanish policy, and the Prince by
assuming the crown of the country would become a Spaniard." To my
surprise there came from the darkness behind me a vigorous rejoinder
from the Prince of Hohenzollern, of whose presence I had not the least
idea; he protested strongly against the possibility of presuming any
French sympathies in him. This protest in the midst of the battlefield
of Sedan was natural for a German officer and a Hohenzollern Prince, and
I could only answer that the Prince, as King of Spain, could have
allowed himself to be guided by Spanish interests only, and prominent
among these, in view of strengthening his new kingdom, would have been a
soothing treatment of his powerful neighbor on the Pyrenees. I made my
apology to the Prince for the expression I had uttered while unaware of
his presence.

This episode, introduced before its time, affords evidence as to the
conception I had formed of the whole question. I regarded it as a
Spanish and not as a German one, even though I was delighted at seeing
the German name of Hohenzollern active in representing monarchy in
Spain, and did not fail to calculate all the possible consequences
from the point of view of our interests--a duty which is incumbent on
a foreign minister when anything of similar importance occurs in
another State. My immediate thought was more of the economic than of
the political relations in which a Spanish King of German extraction
could be serviceable. For Spain I anticipated from the personal
character of the Prince, and from his family relations, tranquillizing
and consolidating results, which I had no reason to grudge the
Spaniards. Spain is among the few countries which, by their
geographical position and political necessities, have no reason to
pursue an anti-German policy; besides which, she is well adapted, by
the economic relations of supply and demand, for an extensive trade
with Germany. An element friendly to us in the Spanish government
would have been an advantage which in the course of German policy
there appeared no reason to reject _a limine_, unless the apprehension
that France might be dissatisfied was to be allowed to rank as one. If
Spain had developed again more vigorously than hitherto has been the
case, the fact that Spanish diplomacy was friendly toward us might
have been useful to us in time of peace; but it did not seem to me
probable that the King of Spain, on the outbreak of the war between
Germany and France, which was evidently coming sooner or later, would,
with the best will in the world, be in a position to prove his
sympathy with Germany by an attack on France or a demonstration
against her; and the conduct of Spain after the outbreak of the war
which we had drawn upon us by the complaisance of German princes
showed the accuracy of my doubt.


The chivalrous Cid would have called France to account for
interference in Spain's free choice of a king, and not have left the
vindication of Spanish independence to foreigners. The nation,
formerly so powerful by land and sea, cannot at the present day hold
the cognate population of Cuba in check; and how could one expect her
to attack a Power like France from affection towards us? No Spanish
government, and least of all an alien king, would possess power enough
in the country to send even a regiment to the Pyrenees out of
affection toward Germany. Politically I was tolerably indifferent to
the entire question. Prince Anthony was more inclined than myself to
carry it peacefully to the desired goal. The memoirs of his Majesty
the King of Roumania are not accurately informed as regards details of
the ministerial cooeperation in the question. The ministerial council
in the palace which he mentions did not take place. Prince Anthony was
living as the King's guest in the palace, and had invited him and some
of the ministers to dinner. I scarcely think that the Spanish question
was discussed at table. If the Duke of Gramont[35] labors to adduce
proof that I did not stand aloof from and averse to the Spanish
proposal, I find no reason to contradict him. I can no longer recall
the text of my letter to Marshal Prim, which the Duke has heard
mentioned; if I drew it up myself, about which I am equally uncertain,
I should hardly have called the Hohenzollern candidature "_une
excellente chose_": the expression is not natural to me. That I
regarded it as "opportune," not "_a un moment donne_," but in
principle and in time of peace is correct. I had not the slightest
doubt in the matter that the grandson of the Murats, a favorite at
the French Court, would secure the goodwill of France towards his

The intervention of France at its beginning concerned Spanish and not
Prussian affairs; the garbling of the matter in the Napoleonic policy,
by virtue of which the question was to become a Prussian one, was
internationally unjustifiable and exasperating, and proved to me that
the moment had arrived when France sought a quarrel against us and was
ready to seize any pretext that seemed available. I regarded the
French intervention in the first instance as an injury, and
consequently as an insult to Spain, and expected that the Spanish
sense of honor would resist this encroachment. Later on, when the turn
of affairs showed that, by her encroachment on Spanish independence,
France intended to threaten us with war, I waited for some days
expecting that the Spanish declaration of war against France would
follow that of the French against us. I was not prepared to see a
self-assertive nation like Spain stand quiet behind the Pyrenees with
ordered arms, while the Germans were engaged in a deadly struggle
against France on behalf of Spain's independence and freedom to choose
her king. The Spanish sense of honor which proved so sensitive in the
Carlist question simply left us in the lurch in 1870. Probably in both
cases the sympathies and international ties of the Republican parties
were decisive.

The first demands of France respecting the candidature for the Spanish
throne, and they were unjustifiable, had been presented on July 4, and
answered by our Foreign Office evasively, though in accordance with
truth, that the _ministry_ knew nothing about the matter. This was
correct so far, that the question of Prince Leopold's acceptance of
his election had been treated by his Majesty simply as a family
matter, which in no way concerned either Prussia or the North German
Confederation, and which affected solely the personal relations
between the Commander-in-Chief and a German officer, and those between
the head of the family and, not the royal family of Prussia,
but the entire family of Hohenzollern, or all the bearers of that

In France, however, a _casus belli_ was being sought against Prussia
which should be as free as possible from German national coloring; and
it was thought one had been discovered in the dynastic sphere by the
accession to the Spanish throne of a candidate bearing the name of
Hohenzollern. In this the overrating of the military superiority of
France and the underrating of the national feeling in Germany was
clearly the chief reason why the tenability of this pretext was not
examined either with honesty or judgment. The German national outburst
which followed the French declaration, and resembled a stream bursting
its sluices, was a surprise to French politicians. They lived,
calculated, and acted on recollections of the Confederation of the
Rhine, supported by the attitude of certain West German ministers;
also by Ultramontane influences, in the hope that the conquests of
France, "_gesta Dei per Francos_," would make it easier in Germany to
draw further consequences from the Vatican council, with the support
of an alliance with Catholic Austria. The Ultramontane tendencies of
French policy were favorable to it in Germany and disadvantageous in
Italy; the alliance with the latter being finally wrecked by the
refusal of France to evacuate Rome. In the belief that the French army
was superior the pretext for war was lugged out, as one may say, by
the hair; and, instead of making Spain responsible for its reputed
anti-French election of a king, they attacked the German Prince who
had not refused to relieve the need of the Spaniards, in the way they
themselves wished, by the appointment of a useful king, and one who
would presumably be regarded as _persona grata_ in Paris; and the King
of Prussia, whom nothing beyond his family name and his position as a
German fellow-countryman had brought into connection with this Spanish
affair. In the very fact that the French cabinet ventured to call
Prussian policy to account respecting the acceptance of the election,
and to do so in a form which, in the interpretation put upon it by the
French papers, became a public threat, lay a piece of international
impudence which, in my opinion, rendered it impossible for us to draw
back one single inch. The insulting character of the French demand was
enhanced, not only by the threatening challenges of the French press,
but also by the discussions in parliament and the attitude taken by the
ministry of Gramont and Ollivier upon these manifestations. The utterance
of Gramont in the session of the "Corps Legislatif" of July 6:

"We do not believe that respect for the rights of a neighboring
people binds us to suffer a foreign Power to set one of its Princes
on the throne of Charles V. * * * This event will not come to pass,
of that we are quite certain. * * * Should it prove otherwise we
shall know how to fulfil our duty without shrinking and without
weakness"--this utterance was itself an official international threat,
with the hand on the sword hilt. The phrase, _La Prusse cane_ (Prussia
climbs down), served in the press to illustrate the range of the
parliamentary proceedings of July 6 and 7; which, in my feeling,
rendered all compliance incompatible with our sense of national honor.

On July 12 I decided to hurry off from Varzin to Ems to discuss with
his Majesty about summoning the Reichstag for the purpose of the
mobilization. As I passed through Wussow my friend Mulert, the old
clergyman, stood before the parsonage door and warmly greeted me; my
answer from the open carriage was a thrust in carte and tierce in the
air, and he clearly understood that I believed I was going to war. As
I entered the courtyard of my house at Berlin, and before leaving the
carriage, I received telegrams from which it appeared that the King
was continuing to treat with Benedetti, even after the French threats
and outrages in parliament and in the press, and not referring him
with calm reserve to his ministers. During dinner, at which Moltke and
Roon were present, the announcement arrived from the embassy in Paris
that the Prince of Hohenzollern had renounced his candidature in order
to prevent the war with which France threatened us. My first idea was
to retire from the service, because, after all the insolent challenges
which had gone before, I perceived in this extorted submission a
humiliation of Germany for which I did not desire to be responsible.
This impression of a wound to our sense of national honor by the
compulsory withdrawal so dominated me that I had already decided to
announce my retirement at Ems. I considered this humiliation before
France and her swaggering demonstrations as worse than that of Olmuetz,
for which the previous history on both sides, and our want of
preparation for war at the time, will always be a valid excuse. I took
it for granted that France would lay the Prince's renunciation to her
account as a satisfactory success, with the feeling that a threat of
war, even though it had taken the form of international insult and
mockery, and though the pretext for war against Prussia had been
dragged in by the head and shoulders, was enough to compel her to draw
back, even in a just cause; and that even the North German
Confederation did not feel strong enough to protect the national honor
and independence against French arrogance. I was very much depressed,
for I saw no means of repairing the corroding injury I dreaded to our
national position from a timorous policy, unless by picking quarrels
clumsily and seeking them artificially. I saw by that time that war
was a necessity, which we could no longer avoid with honor. I
telegraphed to my people at Varzin not to pack up or start, for I
should be back again in a few days. I now believed in peace; but, as I
would not represent the attitude by which this peace had been
purchased, I gave up the journey to Ems and asked Count Eulenburg to
go thither and represent my opinion to his Majesty. In the same sense
I conversed with the Minister of War, von Roon: we had got our slap in
the face from France, and had been reduced, by our complaisance, to
look like seekers of a quarrel if we entered upon war, the only way in
which we could wipe away the stain. My position was now untenable,
solely because, during his course at the baths, the King, under
pressure of threats, had given audience to the French ambassador for
four consecutive days, and had exposed his royal person to insolent
treatment from this foreign agent without ministerial assistance.
Through this inclination to take state business upon himself in person
and alone, the King had been forced into a position which I could not
defend; in my judgment his Majesty while at Ems ought to have refused
every business communication from the French negotiator, who was not
on the same footing with him, and to have referred him to the
department in Berlin. The department would then have had to obtain his
Majesty's decision by a representation at Ems, or, if dilatory
treatment were considered useful, by a report in writing. But his
Majesty, however careful in his usual respect for departmental
relations, was too fond not indeed of deciding important questions
personally, but, at all events, of discussing them, to make a proper
use of the shelter with which the Sovereign is purposely surrounded
against importunities and inconvenient questionings and demands. That
the King, considering the consciousness of his supreme dignity which
he possessed in so high a degree, did not withdraw at the very
beginning from Benedetti's importunity was to be attributed for the
most part to the influence exercised upon him by the Queen, who was at
Coblenz close by. He was seventy-three years old, a lover of peace,
and disinclined to risk the laurels of 1866 in a fresh struggle; but
when he was free from the feminine influence, the sense of honor of
the heir of Frederick the Great and of a Prussian officer always
remained paramount. Against the opposition of his consort, due to her
natural feminine timidity and lack of national feeling, the King's
power of resistance was weakened by his knightly regard for the lady
and his kingly consideration for a Queen, and especially for his own
Queen. I have been told that Queen Augusta implored her husband with
tears, before his departure from Ems to Berlin, to bear in mind Jena
and Tilsit and avert war. I consider the statement authentic, even to
the tears.

Having decided to resign, in spite of the remonstrances which Roon
made against it, I invited him and Moltke to dine with me alone on the
13th, and communicated to them at table my views and projects for
doing so. Both were greatly depressed, and reproached me indirectly
with selfishly availing myself of my greater facility for withdrawing
from service. I maintained the position that I could not offer up my
sense of honor to politics, that both of them, being professional
soldiers and consequently without freedom of choice, need not take the
same point of view as a responsible Foreign Minister. During our
conversation I was informed that a telegram from Ems, in cipher, if I
recollect rightly, of about 200 "groups," was being deciphered. When
the copy was handed to me it showed that Abeken had drawn up and
signed the telegram at his Majesty's command, and I read it out to my
guests,[36] whose dejection was so great that they turned away from
food and drink. On a repeated examination of the document I lingered
upon the authorization of his Majesty, which included a command,
immediately to communicate Benedetti's fresh demand and its rejection
both to our ambassadors and to the press. I put a few questions to
Moltke as to the extent of his confidence in the state of our
preparations, especially as to the time they would still require in
order to meet this sudden risk of war. He answered that if there was
to be war he expected no advantage to us by deferring its outbreak;
and even if we should not be strong enough at first to protect all the
territories on the left bank of the Rhine against French invasion, our
preparations would nevertheless soon overtake those of the French,
while at a later period this advantage would be diminished; he
regarded a rapid outbreak as, on the whole, more favorable to us than

In view of the attitude of France, our national sense of honor
compelled us, in my opinion, to go to war; and if we did not act
according to the demands of this feeling, we should lose, when on the
way to its completion, the entire impetus towards our national
development won in 1866 while the German national feeling south of the
Main, aroused by our military successes in 1866, and shown by the
readiness of the southern states to enter the alliances, would have to
grow cold again. The German feeling, which in the southern states
lived long with the individual and dynastic state feeling, had, up to
1866, silenced its political conscience to a certain degree with the
fiction of a collective Germany under the leadership of Austria,
partly from South German preference for the old imperial State, partly
in the belief of her military superiority to Prussia. After events had
shown the incorrectness of that calculation, the very helplessness in
which the South German states had been left by Austria at the
conclusion of peace was a motive for the political Damascus that lay
between Varnbueler's "_Vae victis_" and the willing conclusion of the
offensive and defensive alliance with Prussia. It was confidence in
the Germanic power developed by means of Prussia, and the attraction
which is inherent in a brave and resolute policy if it is successful,
and then proceeds within reasonable and honorable limits. This nimbus
had been won by Prussia; it would have been lost irrevocably, or at
all events for a long time, if in a question of national honor the
opinion gained ground among the people that the French insult, _La
Prusse cane_, had a foundation in fact.

In the same psychological train of thought in which during the Danish
war in 1864 I desired, for political reasons, that precedence should
be given not to the old Prussian, but to the Westphalian battalions,
who so far had had no opportunity of proving their courage under
Prussian leadership, and regretted that Prince Frederick Charles had
acted contrary to my wish, did I feel convinced that the gulf, which
diverse dynastic and family influences and different habits of life
had in the course of history created between the south and north of
the Fatherland, could not be more effectually bridged over than by a
joint national war against the neighbor who had been aggressive for
many centuries. I remembered that even in the short period from 1813
to 1815, from Leipzig and Hanau to Belle-Alliance, the joint
victorious struggle against France had rendered it possible to put an
end to the opposition between a yielding Rhine-Confederation policy
and the German national impetus of the days between the Vienna
congress and the Mainz commission of inquiry, days marked by the names
of Stein, Goerres, Jahn, Wartburg, up to the crime of Sand. The blood
shed in common from the day when the Saxons came over at Leipzig down
to their participation at Belle-Alliance under English command had
fostered a consciousness before which the recollections of the
Rhine-Confederation were blotted out. The historical development in
this direction was interrupted by the anxiety aroused by the
over-haste of the national craving for the stability of state

This retrospect strengthened me in my conviction, and the political
considerations in respect to the South German states proved applicable
likewise, _mutatis mutandis_, to our relations with the populations of
Hanover, Hesse, and Schleswig-Holstein. That this view was correct is
shown by the satisfaction with which, at the present day, after a
lapse of twenty years, not only the Holsteiners, but likewise the
people of the Hanse towns, remember the heroic deeds of their sons in
1870. All these considerations, conscious and unconscious,
strengthened my opinion that war could be avoided only at the cost of
the honor of Prussia and of the national confidence in it. Under this
conviction I made use of the royal authorization communicated to me
through Abeken, to publish the contents of the telegram; and in the
presence of my two guests I reduced the telegram by striking out
words, but without adding or altering, to the following form: "After
the news of the renunciation of the hereditary Prince of Hohenzollern
had been officially communicated to the imperial government of France
by the royal government of Spain, the French ambassador at Ems further
demanded of his Majesty the King that he would authorize him to
telegraph to Paris that his Majesty the King bound himself for all
future time never again to give his consent if the Hohenzollerns
should renew their candidature. His Majesty the King thereupon decided
not to receive the French ambassador again, and sent to tell him
through the aide-de-camp on duty that his Majesty had nothing further
to communicate to the ambassador." The difference in the effect of the
abbreviated text of the Ems telegram as compared with that produced by
the original was not the result of stronger words but of the form,
which made this announcement appear decisive, while Abeken's version
would only have been regarded as a fragment of a negotiation still
pending, and to be continued at Berlin.

After I had read out the concentrated edition to my two guests, Moltke
remarked: "Now it has a different ring; it sounded before like a
parley; now it is like a flourish in answer to a challenge." I went on
to explain: "If in execution of his Majesty's order I at once
communicate this text, which contains no alteration in or addition to
the telegram, not only to the newspapers, but also by telegraph to all
our embassies, it will be known in Paris before midnight, and not only
on account of its contents, but also on account of the manner of its
distribution, will have the effect of a red rag upon the Gallic bull.
Fight we must if we do not want to act the part of the vanquished
without a battle. Success, however, essentially depends upon the
impression which the origination of the war makes upon us and others;
it is important that we should be the party attacked, and this Gallic
overweening and touchiness will make us if we announce in the face of
Europe, so far as we can without the speaking-tube of the Reichstag,
that we fearlessly meet the public threats of France."

This explanation brought about in the two generals a revulsion to a
more joyous mood, the liveliness of which surprised me. They had
suddenly recovered their pleasure in eating and drinking and spoke in
a more cheerful vein. Roon said: "Our God of old lives still and will
not let us perish in disgrace." Moltke so far relinquished his passive
equanimity that, glancing up joyously towards the ceiling and
abandoning his usual punctiliousness of speech, he smote his hand upon
his breast and said: "If I may but live to lead our armies in such a
war, then the devil may come directly afterwards and fetch away the
'old carcass.'" He was less robust at that time than afterwards, and
doubted whether he would survive the hardships of the campaign.

How keenly he wanted to put in practice his military and strategic
tastes and ability I observed not only on this occasion, but also in the
days before the outbreak of the Bohemian war. In both cases I found my
military colleague in the King's service changed from his usual dry and
silent habit; he became cheerful, lively, even merry. In the June night
of 1866, when I had invited him for the purpose of ascertaining whether
the march of the army could not be begun twenty-four hours sooner, he
answered in the affirmative and was pleasantly excited by the hastening
of the struggle. As he left my wife's drawing-room with elastic step, he
turned round at the door and asked me in a serious tone: "Do you know
that the Saxons have _blown up_[37] the bridge at Dresden?" Upon my
expression of amazement and regret he replied: "Yes, with water, for the
dust." An inclination to innocent jokes very seldom, in official
relations like ours, broke through his reserve. In both cases his love
of combat and delight in battles were a great support to me in carrying
out the policy I regarded as necessary, in opposition to the
intelligible and justifiable aversion in a most influential quarter. It
proved inconvenient to me in 1867, in the Luxemburg question, and in
1875 and afterwards on the question whether it was desirable, as regards
a war which we should probably have to face sooner or later, to bring it
on _antici-pando_ before the adversary could improve his preparations. I
have always opposed the theory which says "Yes"; not only at the
Luxemburg period, but likewise subsequently for twenty years, in the
conviction that even victorious wars cannot be justified unless they are
forced upon one, and that one cannot see the cards of Providence far
enough ahead to anticipate historical development according to one's own
calculation. It is natural that in the staff of the army not only
younger officers, but likewise experienced strategists, should feel the
need of turning to account the efficiency of the troops led by them, and
their own capacity to lead, and of making them prominent in history. It
would be a matter of regret if this effect of the military spirit did
not exist in the army; the task of keeping its results within such
limits as the nations' need of peace can justly claim is the duty of the
political, not the military, heads of the State. That at the time of the
Luxemburg question, during the crisis of 1875, invented by Gortchakoff
and France, and even down to the most recent times, the staff and its
leaders have allowed themselves to be led astray and to endanger peace,
lies in the very spirit of the institution, which I would not forego. It
only becomes dangerous under a monarch whose policy lacks sense of
proportion and power to resist one-sided and constitutionally
unjustifiable influences.


[Footnote 26: From _Bismarck: The Man and the Statesman._ Permission
Harper & Brothers, New York.]

[Footnote 27: a gathering of, it is said, 30,000 at the Castle of
Hambach in the Palatinate; where speeches were made in favor of
Germany, unity, and the Republic.]

[Footnote 28: An attempt made by a handful of students and peasants to
blow up the Federal Diet in revenge for some Press regulations passed
by it. They stormed the guard house, but were suppressed.]

[Footnote 29: See the "Proceedings during my stay at Aachen" in
_Bismarck-Jahrbuch III.,_ and the "Samples of Examination for the
Referendariat" in _Bismarck-Jahrbuch II._]

[Footnote 30: Say "red tape."]

[Footnote 31: _Polstiche Reden_ (Cotta's edition), i. 9.]

[Footnote 32: See _Bismarck-Jahrbuch_, iii. 86.]

[Footnote 33: Cf. Bismarck's letter to Gerlach of October 7, 1855.]

[Footnote 34: Cf. Bismarck's utterance in the Imperial Diet on January
8, 1885. _Politische Reden_, x. 373.]

[Footnote 35: Gramont, _La France et la Prusse avant la guerre_.
Paris, 1872, p. 21.]

[Footnote 36: The telegram handed in at Ems on July 13, 1870, at 3.50
p. m. and received in Berlin at 6.9, ran as deciphered:

"His Majesty writes to me: "Count Benedetti spoke to me on the
promenade, in order to demand from me, finally in a very importunate
manner, that I should authorize him to telegraph at once that I bound
myself for all future time never again to give my consent if the
Hohenzollerns should renew their candidature. I refused at last
somewhat sternly, as it is neither right nor possible to undertake
engagements of this kind _a tout jamais_. Naturally I told him that I
had as yet received no news, and as he was earlier informed about
Paris and Madrid than myself, he could clearly see that my government
once more had no hand in the matter." His Majesty has since received a
letter from the Prince. His Majesty, having told Count Benedetti that
he was awaiting news from the Prince, has decided, with reference to
the above demand, upon the representation of Count Eulenburg and
myself, not to receive Count Benedetti again, but only to let him be
informed through an aide-de-camp: That his Majesty had now received
from the Prince confirmation of the news which Benedetti had already
received from Paris, and had nothing further to say to the ambassador.
His Majesty leaves it to your Excellency whether Benedetti's fresh
demand and its rejection should not be at once communicated both to
our ambassadors and to the press."]

[Footnote 37: Play on the word _gesprengt_.]

* * * * *



Bismarck was not an orator in the ordinary sense of the word, nor did
he wish to be one. On the contrary, he looked with mistrust on
silver-tongued orators. "You know," he said in the Diet on February 3,
1866, "I am not an orator.... I cannot appeal to your emotions with a
clever play of words intended to obscure the subject-matter. My speech
is simple and clear." And a few years later he said: "Eloquence has
spoiled many things in the world's parliaments. Too much time is
wasted, because everybody who thinks he knows anything wishes to
speak, even if he has nothing new to say. More breath is wasted on the
air than thought is bestowed on the questions under discussion.
Everything has been settled in party caucuses, and in the House the
representatives talk for no other purpose than to show the people how
clever they are, or to please the newspapers, which are expected to be
lavish with their praise in return. If things go on like this, the
time will come when eloquence will be considered a common nuisance,
and a man will be punished if he has spoken too long."

Bismarck's most famous words against mere eloquence were uttered in
the Reichstag on April 29, 1881: "You must be something of a poet if
you wish to be a good orator, and you must possess the gift of
improvisation. When I was younger there were public entertainments in
which music alternated with oratorical improvisations. The
improvisator was given a theme of which he knew nothing, and on which
he discoursed, often brilliantly. It even happened that he was
altogether convincing until we remembered where we were. I am
merely saying this to show that we should not entrust the direction of
big affairs to the mere masters of eloquence any more than to the
improvisators. Least of all should these people be placed in charge of
bureaus, or be given a minister's portfolio. I only wish to prove that
eloquence is a gift which exerts today an influence out of proportion
to its worth. It is overestimated. A good orator must be something of
a poet, which means that he cannot be a stickler for truth and
mathematical accuracy. He must be inspiring, quick, and excitable,
able himself to kindle the enthusiasm of others. But a good orator I
fear will rarely play a good game of whist or of chess, and will be
even less satisfactory as a statesman. The emotional element and not
cool reason must predominate in his make-up. Physiologically, I
believe, the same man cannot be a good orator and a calm judge. I am
reminded of the list of qualities enumerated by Mephisto in Goethe's
_Faust_: 'The lion's strength, the deer's celerity.' Such things are
never found united in one human body. And thus we often find eloquence
overtopping and dangerously controlling reason, to the complete
satisfaction of thoughtless multitudes. But a man of discretion, cool
and accurate in his deliberations, to whom we are glad to entrust the
direction of big and weighty matters, can scarcely ever be a perfect

In this last sentence Bismarck apparently wished to draw a line of
distinction between himself and some of his parliamentary opponents
whom he admired as fluent orators, but whose leadership he deemed to
be unsafe. If he considered himself a poor public speaker he was
greatly mistaken. His contemporaries held different views, and several
of them fortunately were so deeply impressed by his power that they
analyzed the means with which he won his great parliamentary
victories. His bitter political opponent, Ludwig Bamberger, for
instance, said:

"Bismarck controls his audience by the noticeable force and the
exhaustiveness of his mental labor. He has improved with
practice, and the description of him given in 1866 is no longer quite
fair--'No charm of voice, no sonorous phrases, nothing to captivate an
audience. His voice while clear and distinct, is dry and
unsympathetic. He speaks monotonously, with many pauses, at times he
almost stutters, as if an obstinate tongue refused to obey orders, and
as if he had to wrestle for the adequate expression of his thoughts.
He rocks to and fro, somewhat restlessly, and in no relation to what
he is saying. But the longer he speaks the more he overcomes all
difficulties, he succeeds in adapting his words, without the least
waste, to his thoughts, and generally reaches a powerfully effective
end.' It is still true that his words advance at first slowly, then
with a rush, and again haltingly. But for all those who do not
consider the even and melodious flow of an address to be its greatest
perfection Bismarck's way of speaking is not without some charm. It

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