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

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enables the hearer to follow the mental exertions of the speaker, and
thus rivets attention better than many a smooth and sonorous diction
which glides along nicely because it has no inner difficulties to
overcome. Often Bismarck succeeds in taking hold of his subject with
trenchant wit, and in illustrating it with arguments which he boldly
takes from every day life.... We must confess that his speeches, if
art-less, are yet full of imagery. His cool and clear mind does not
despise the charm of warm color, just as his robust constitution is
not void of nervous irritability. His ingenuous appearance, with which
he is apt to surprise an audience, should not win our ready
confidence, for all who have had to do with him know that his
astonishingly intimate remarks are calculated to mislead by their
excessive frankness, or their excessive lack of it. If he dissembles,
he often misses his mark by exaggeration, and one can truly say that
he has deceived his opponents more frequently by speaking the truth
than by making false pretenses. Behind his blustering behavior you can
often spy the merry wag. To his opponents he can be provoking,
malicious, even spiteful, but he is never false! He does not belong
to that class of public men who believe that the world can be governed
with sentimental phrases, or that evil conditions are alleviated when
the discussion is interspersed with pompous generalities. On the
contrary, he loves to turn his phrases so that everything will appear
in a strong and glaring light."

Another observer, quoted by Hans Kraemer in his "Speeches of Prince
Bismarck," sums up his impressions as follows:

"Bismarck has before him a narrow strip of paper on which, in
preparation, he has jotted down a few words with his inspired
quill-pen. Occasionally he looks at his notes, while he is speaking,
rocking himself very slowly to and fro, and twisting his thumbs. He
often hesitates, almost stutters, and sometimes even makes a slip of
the tongue. He seems to be wrestling with his thoughts, while his
words seem to ascend against their wish, for he makes a very brief
pause after every two or three words.... He speaks without gestures,
pathos or intonation, and without emphasizing any of his words. Is
this the man who as early as 1847 was the leader of the nobility in
the old Diet and their quickest man at repartee; who, in 1849 and 1850
as a member of the Second House and the United Parliament of Erfurt,
whipped the liberal majority to a frenzy of fury with his bitter and
poignant speeches; who as the President of the Ministry since 1862 has
faced, almost alone, the solid phalanx of the Liberals, replying to
their ebullitions of pride and confidence in their own strain, and
answering on the spot and with brilliant presence of mind their
sarcastic and malicious attacks, yes even challenging them with witty
impromptus, and hurting his opponents to the core? Yes, he is the same
man, and occasionally he can be as witty and bitter as he used to be.
But since his great victories he has shown the more serious demeanor
of a statesman. He is calmly objective and conciliatory, as befits his
greatness, which is today universally recognized. The longer he
speaks the more the peculiar attractions of his way of speaking become
manifest. His expression is original and fresh, pithy and robust,
honest and straightforward."

Bismarck did not write out his speeches, and the published accounts of
what he said are copied from the official stenographic reports.
Logically Bismarck never left a sentence incomplete, but grammatically
he often did so when the wealth of ideas qualifying his main thought
had grown to greater proportions than he had anticipated. His diction
was at all times precise, which led to a multiplicity of
qualifications--adjectives, appositions, adverbs, parentheses, and the
like. Desirous of convincing his hearers, he often felt the need of
repeating the same thought in various ways until he at last hammered
it in, as it were, with one big blow--with one phrase easily
remembered and readily quoted. It is these phrases which have given
the names to many of his speeches, namely: "The Honest Broker,"
"Practical Christianity," or "We shall never go to Canossa."

He himself readily quoted from the sayings and writings of other great
men; and was in this respect wholly admirable both for the catholicity
of his taste and the singular appropriateness of his citations. He was
apparently as familiar with the great authors of antiquity as with the
modern German, French and English writers. Nor was he afraid of using
a foreign tongue when no German phrase occurred to him to match the
exact meaning of his thought.

The reader will realize, even more than the hearer, that it was not
the form of Bismarck's speeches which swept his audiences off their
feet, and often changed a hostile Reichstag or Diet into an assembly
of men eager to do his bidding, but that it was his firm grasp on the
realities of life and his supreme command of everything which makes
for true statesmanship. His policies were not based on snap judgments,
they were the result of serious thought. All this showed in his
speeches, and made him one of the most powerfully effective speakers
of all times.

* * * * *


* * * * *


December 21, 1863


[In the Prussian Diet the representative, Johann Ludwig Tellkampf,
professor of economics and political science in the University of
Breslau, had attacked the policy of Bismarck in regard to
Schleswig-Holstein. Bismarck replied as follows:]

The conception which the previous speaker has of the politics of
Europe reminds me of a man from the plains who is on his first journey
to the mountains. When he sees a huge elevation loom up before him,
nothing seems easier than to climb it. He does not even think that he
will need a guide, for the mountain is in plain sight, and the road to
it apparently without obstacles. But when he starts, he soon comes
upon ravines and crevasses which not even the best of speeches will
help him to cross. The gentleman comforted us concerning similar
obstacles in the path of politics by saying things like these: "It is
well known that Russia can do nothing at present; it does not appear
that Austria will take a contrary step; England knows very well that
her interests are counselling peace; and finally, France will not act
against her national principles." If we should believe these
assurances, and think more highly of the estimate which the gentleman
has made of the politics of Europe than of our own official judgment,
and should thereby drive Prussia to an isolated and humiliating
position, could we then excuse ourselves by saying, "We could see the
danger coming, but we trusted the speaker, thinking he knew probably
more than we?" If this is impossible how can we attach to the remarks
of the speaker the weight which he wishes us to attach to them!

For all official positions, those of the judges for instance and even
those of the subalterns in the army, we require examinations and a
practical knowledge--difficult examinations. But high politics--oh,
any one can practise them who feels himself called upon to do so.
Nothing is easier than to make endless assertions in this field of
conjectures and to cast caution to the winds. You know that one must
write a whole book to controvert one erroneous thought, and he who
voiced the error remains unconvinced. It is a dangerous and far-spread
mistake which assumes that a naive intuition will reveal to the
political dilettante what remains hidden from the wisdom of the

[Professor Tellkampf replied, in great excitement: "My whole life as a
professor of political science has been devoted to the study of
politics, and I should like to ask the president of the ministry,
whether he knew more of political science, when he began his political
career as a dike-master, than a professor of this science knows?" To
which Bismarck replied:]

I do not at all deny the familiarity of the previous speaker with
political theories. But he has wandered from the field of theory into
that of practice. He has announced with complete assurance to me and
to this assembly what each European cabinet will probably do in this
concrete case. These are the very things which, I believe, I must know
better than he. This belief I have expressed. The previous speaker has
referred to his activity in theoretical politics as a professor
through many years. If the gentleman had served even one year in
practical politics, possibly as a bureau chief in the ministry of
foreign affairs, he would not have said what he said today from the
speaker's desk. And his advice, after this one year of practical
training, would be of greater value to me than if he had been active,
even more years than he says, as a professor on the lecture platform.

* * * * *


Written by Bismarck and delivered by William I., July 19, 1870


[Disturbed by the increasing bonds of union between the northern and
the southern German states, in which France saw a lessening of her own
prestige across the Rhine, the ministers of Napoleon III. had decided
on war against Prussia. They found a pretext in the candidacy of a
Hohenzollern prince for the throne of Spain. Contrary to diplomatic
usage, they requested the King of Prussia to force the withdrawal of
the prince, and even when the father of the prince announced the
withdrawal of his son, they were not satisfied, but instructed
Benedetti, the French ambassador, to secure from the King of Prussia a
humiliating promise for the future. The King indignantly refused, and
Bismarck published the occurrence in the famous "Despatch of Ems,"
July 13, 1870. Thereupon the French cabinet declared war, on July 15,
1870. The formal notice was served on Bismarck, July 19, and on the
same day the King of Prussia opened a special session of the Reichstag
with the following address, which had been prepared by Bismarck.]


When I welcomed you here at your last assembly, it was with joy and
gratitude because God had crowned my efforts with success. I could
announce to you that every disturbance of peace had been avoided, in
response to the wishes of the people and the demands of civilization.

If now the allied governments have been compelled by treats of war and
its danger to summon you to a special session, you will feel not less
convinced than we that it was the wish of the North German Federation
to develop the forces of the German people as a support of universal
peace, and not as a possible source of danger to it. If we call upon
these forces today for the protection of our independence, we are
doing nothing but what honor and duty demand.

The candidacy of a German prince for the Spanish throne, with which
the allied governments had nothing to do--neither when it was pressed
nor when it was withdrawn--and which interested the North German
Federation only in so far as the government of a friendly nation
seemed to expect of it the assurance of a peaceful and orderly
government for its much harassed land--this candidacy offered to the
emperor of France the pretense of seeing in it a cause for war,
contrary to the long established custom of diplomacy. When the
pretense no longer existed, he kept to his views in utter disregard of
the rights which our people have to the blessings of peace--views
which find their analogy in the history of former rulers of France.

When in earlier centuries Germany suffered in silence such attacks on
her rights and her honor, she did so because she was divided and did
not know her strength. Today when the bonds of the spiritual and
political union, which began with the War of Liberation, are knitting
the German races more closely together as time advances, and when our
armor no longer offers an opening to the enemy, Germany carries in her
bosom the will and the strength to defend herself against renewed
French violence.

It is not presumption which dictates these words. The allied
governments and I myself--we are fully conscious of the fact that
victory and defeat rest with the Lord of battles. We have measured
with clear vision the responsibility which attaches, before God and
men, to him who drives two peace-loving peoples in the heart of Europe
to war. The German and the French people, enjoying in equal measure
the blessings of Christian morals and o growing prosperity, are meant
for a more wholesome contest than the bloody contest of war.


The rulers of France, however, have known how to exploit by calculated
deception, the just, although excitable, pride of the great French
nation in furtherance of their own interests and for the gratification
of their own passions.

The more conscious the allied governments are of having done
everything permitted by their honor and their dignity to preserve for
Europe the blessings of peace, and the more apparent it is to
everybody that the sword has been forced upon us, the greater is the
confidence with which we rely on the unanimous decision of the German
governments of the South as well as of the North, and appeal to the
patriotism and self-sacrifice of the German people, calling them to
the defense of their honor and their independence.

We shall fight, as our fathers did, against the violence of foreign
conquerors, and for our freedom and our right. And in this fight, in
which we have no other aim than that of securing for Europe lasting
peace, God will be with us as He was with our fathers.


May 2,1871


[After the war France had been obliged to return to Germany the two
provinces, Alsace and Lorraine, which she had attached to herself in
the times of Germany's weakness. It might have been better to unite
these provinces with one of the German states, but it was feared that
so valuable an increase in territory of one of the twenty-five states
that had just been federated in the empire, might lead to renewed
dissension. The suggestion, therefore, was made to administer the two
provinces, for the present, as common property, and to leave the final
arrangements to the future. A bill concerning the immediate
disposition of Alsace and Lorraine was submitted to the Reichstag on
May 2, 1871; when Prince Bismarck opened the discussion with the
following speech.]

In introducing the pending bill I shall have to say only a few words,
for the debate will offer me the opportunity of elucidating the
various details. The underlying principles are, I believe, not subject
to a difference of opinion; I mean the question whether Alsace and
Lorraine should be incorporated in the German empire. The form in
which this should be done, and especially what steps should first be
taken, will be the subject of your deliberations. You will, moreover,
find the allied governments ready to weigh carefully all suggestions
different from our own which may be made in this connection.

I believe that there will be no difference of opinion concerning the
principle itself, because there was none a year ago, nor has any
appeared during this year of the war. If we imagine ourselves back one
year--or more accurately ten months--we can say to ourselves that all
Germany was agreed in her love of peace. There was not a German who
did not wish to be at peace with France, as long as this was honorably
possible. Those morbid exceptions which possibly desired war in the
hope of seeing their own country defeated--they are not worthy of
their name, I do not count them among the Germans!

I insist, the Germans were unanimous in their desire for peace. But
when war was forced upon them, and they were compelled to take to
arms, then the Germans were fully as unanimous in their determination
to look for assurances against the likelihood of another similar war,
provided God were to give them the victory in this one which they were
resolved to wage manfully. If, however, another such war should occur
in the future, they intended to see to it now, that our defence then
would be easier. Everyone remembered that there probably had not been
a generation of our fathers, for three hundred years, which had not
been forced to draw the sword against France, and everybody knew the
reason why Germany had previously missed the opportunity of securing
for herself a better protection against an attack from the west, even
at those times when she had happened to be among the conquerors of
France. It was because the victories had been won in company with
allies whose interests were not ours. Everybody therefore was
determined that if we should conquer this time, independently and
solely by our own might and right, we should strive to make the future
more secure for our children.

In the course of centuries the wars against France had resulted almost
always to our disadvantage, because Germany had been divided. This had
created a geographical and strategic frontier which was full of
temptations for France and of menace for Germany. I cannot describe
our condition before the last war, and especially that of South
Germany, more strikingly than with the words of a thoughtful South
German sovereign. When Germany was urged to take the part of the
western powers in the oriental war, although her governments were not
convinced that this was in their interest, this sovereign--there is
no reason why I should not name him, it was the late King William of
Wuertemberg--said to me: "I share your view, that we have no call to
mix in this war, and that no German interests are at stake of
sufficient worth to spill a drop of German blood for them. But what
will happen if we should quarrel with the western powers on this
account? You may count on my vote in the Bundestag until war is at
hand. Then conditions will be altered. I am as ready as the next man
to fulfil my obligations. But take care lest you judge people
differently from what they are. Give us Strassburg, and we shall be
with you at all hazards. As long as Strassburg is a sally-port for an
ever armed force, I must fear that my country will be inundated by
foreign troops before the North German Alliance can come to my
assistance. Personally I shall not hesitate a moment to eat the hard
bread of exile in your camp, but my people, weighed down by
contributions, will write to me urging a change of policy upon me. I
do not know what I shall do, nor whether all will remain sufficiently
firm. The crux of the situation is Strassburg, for as long as it is
not German, it will prevent South Germany from giving herself
unreservedly to German unity and to a national German policy. As long
as Strassburg is a sally-port for an ever ready army of from 100,000
to 150,000 men, Germany will find herself unable to appear on the
upper Rhine with an equally large army on time--the French will always
be here first."

I believe this instance taken from an actual occurrence says
everything. I need not add one word.

The wedge which Alsace pushed into Germany near Weissenburg separated
South Germany from North Germany more effectively than the political
line of the Main. It needed a high degree of determination, national
enthusiasm, and devotion for our South German allies not to hesitate
one moment but to identify the danger of North Germany with their own
and to advance boldly in our company, in spite of that other danger in
their own immediate proximity to which a clever conduct of the war on
the part of France would have exposed them. That France in her
superior position had been ready to yield to the temptation, which
this advanced outpost of Strassburg offered her against Germany,
whenever her internal affairs made an excursion into foreign lands
desirable, we had seen for many decades. It is well known that the
French ambassador entered my office as late as August 6, 1866, with
the briefly worded ultimatum: "Either cede to France the city of
Mayence, or expect an immediate declaration of war." I was, of course,
not one moment in doubt about my reply. I said to him: "Well, then, it
is war." He proceeded with this reply to Paris. There they changed
their mind after a few days, and I was given to understand that this
instruction had been wrung from Emperor Napoleon during an attack of
illness. The further attempts on Luxembourg and the consequent issues
are known to you. I will not revert to them, nor do I believe that it
is necessary to prove that France did not always show a sufficiently
strong character to resist the temptations which the possession of
Alsace brought with it.

The question was, how to secure a guarantee against this. It had to be
of a territorial nature, because the guarantees of foreign powers were
not of much use to us, such guarantees having at times been subject to
supplementary and attenuating declarations. One might have thought
that all Europe would have felt the need of preventing the ever
recurring wars of two great and civilized peoples in the heart of
Europe, and that it would have been natural to assume that the
simplest way to do this was to strengthen the defences of that one of
the two participants who doubtless was the more pacific. I cannot,
however, say that at first this idea appeared convincing everywhere.
Other expedients were looked for, and the suggestion was often made
that we should be satisfied with an indemnity and the razing of the
French fortresses in Alsace and Lorraine. This I always opposed,
because I considered it an impracticable means of maintaining peace.
The establishment of an easement on foreign territory is very
oppressive and disagreeable to the sense of sovereignty and
independence of those who are affected by it. The cession of a
fortress is felt scarcely more bitterly than the injunction by
foreigners not to build on the territory which is under one's own
sovereignty. French passions have probably been excited more
frequently and more successfully by a reference to the razing of that
unimportant place of Hueningen than by the loss of any conquered
territory which France had to suffer in 1815. I placed, therefore, no
confidence in this means, especially since the geographical
configuration of this advanced outpost--as I took the liberty of
calling it--would have put the starting place for the French troops
just as near to Stuttgart and Munich as it had always been. It was
important to put it farther back.

Metz, moreover, is a place of such a topographical configuration, that
very little art is needed to transform it into a strong fortress. If
anyone should destroy these additions to nature--which would be a very
expensive undertaking--they could be quickly restored. Consequently I
looked also upon this suggestion as insufficient.

There might have been one other means--and one which the inhabitants
of Alsace and Lorraine favored--of founding there a neutral territory
similar to Belgium and Switzerland. There would then have been a chain
of neutral states from the North Sea to the Swiss Alps, which would
have made it impossible for us to attack France by land, because we
are accustomed to respect treaties and neutrality, and because we
should have been separated from France by this strip of land between
us. France would have received a protecting armor against us, but
nothing would have prevented her from occasionally sending her fleet
with troops to our coast--a plan she had under consideration during
the last war, although she did not execute it--or from landing her
armies with her allies, and entering Germany from there. France would
have received a protecting armor against us, but we should have been
without protection by sea, as long as our navy did not equal the
French. This was one objection, although one of only secondary
importance. The chief reason was that neutrality can only be
maintained when the inhabitants are determined to preserve an
independent and neutral position, and to defend it by force of arms,
if need be. That is what both Belgium and Switzerland have done. As
far as we were concerned in the last war no action on their part would
have been necessary, but it is a fact that both these countries
maintained their neutrality. Both are determined to remain neutral
commonwealths. This supposition would not have been true, in the
immediate future, for the neutrality newly to be established in Alsace
and Lorraine. On the contrary, it is to be expected that the strong
French elements, which are going to survive in the country for a long
while, and whose interests, sympathies, and memories are connected
with France, would have induced the people to unite with France in the
case of another Franco-German war, no matter who their sovereign might
be. The neutrality of Alsace-Lorraine, therefore, would have been
merely a sham, harmful to us and helpful to France. Nothing was left,
therefore, but to bring both these countries with their strong
fortresses completely under German control. It was our purpose to
establish them as a powerful glacis in Germany's defence against
France, and to move the starting point of a possible French attack
several days' marches farther back, if France, having regained her
strength or won allies, should again throw down the gauntlet to us.

The chief obstacle to the realization of this idea, which was to
satisfy the incontestable demands of our safety, was found in the
opposition of the inhabitants themselves, who did not wish to be
separated from France. It is not my duty here to inquire into the
causes which made it possible for a thoroughly German community to
become so deeply attached to a country speaking a different tongue and
possessing a government which was not always kind and considerate. To
a great extent this may have been due to the fact that all those
qualities which distinguish the Germans from the French are found to
such a high degree in Alsace-Lorraine, that the inhabitants of this
country formed--I may say it without fear of seeming presumption--an
aristocracy in France as regards proficiency and exactness. They were
better qualified for service, and more reliable in office. The
substitutes in the army, the gendarmes, and the civil officers were
from Alsace-Lorraine in numbers entirely out of proportion to the
population of these provinces. There were one and one half million
Germans who knew how to make use of these virtues among a people who
have other virtues but who are lacking in these particular ones.
Thanks to their excellence they enjoyed a favored position, which made
them unmindful of many legal iniquities. It is, moreover,
characteristic of the Germans that every tribe lays claim to some kind
of superiority, especially over its immediate neighbors. As long as
the people of Alsace and Lorraine were French, Paris with its splendor
and the grandeur of a united France stood behind them; they could meet
their fellow Germans with the consciousness that Paris was theirs, and
thus find a reason for their sense of exclusive superiority. I do not
wish to discuss further the reasons why everyone attaches himself more
readily to a big political system which gives scope to his abilities,
than to a divided, albeit related, nation, such as existed formerly on
this side of the Rhine, in so far as the Alsatians were concerned. The
fact is that such disinclination existed, and that it is our duty to
overcome it by patience. We have, it seems to me, many means at our
disposal. We Germans are accustomed to govern more benevolently,
sometimes more awkwardly--but in the long tun really more benevolently
and humanely, than the French statesmen. This is a merit of the German
character which will soon appeal to the Alsatian heart and become
manifest. We are, moreover, able to grant the inhabitants a far
greater degree of communal and individual freedom than the French
institutions and traditions ever permitted.

If we watch the present movement in Paris (the Commune), we shall
find, what is true of every movement possessing the least endurance,
that it contains at bottom a grain of sense in spite of all the
unreasonable motives which attach to it, influencing its individual
partisans. Without this no movement can attain even that degree of
force which the Commune exercises at present. This grain of sense--I
do not know how many people believe in it, but surely the most
intelligent and best who at present are fighting against their
countrymen do believe in it--is, to put it briefly, the German
municipal government. If the Commune possessed this, then the better
element of its supporters--I do not say all--would be satisfied. We
must differentiate according to the facts. The militia of the usurpers
consists largely of people who have nothing to lose. There are in a
city of two million inhabitants many so-called "_repris de justice_,"
or as we should say "people under police supervision," who are
spending in Paris the interval between two terms in prison. They are
congregating in the city in considerable numbers and are ready to
serve disorder and pillage wherever it may be. It is these people who
gave to the movement, before we had scrutinized its theoretical aims,
the occasionally prominent character which seemed to threaten
civilization, and which, in the interest of humanity, I now hope has
been overcome. It is, of course, quite possible that it may recur.

In addition to this flotsam, which is found in large masses in every
big city, the militia which I mentioned consists of many adherents of
an international European republic. I have been told the figures with
which the foreign nations are there represented, but I remember only
that almost eight thousand Englishmen are said to be in Paris for the
sake of seeing the realization of their plans. I assume that these
so-called Englishmen are largely Irish Fenians. And then there are
many Belgians, Poles, adherents of Garibaldi, and Italians. They
are people who really do not care much for the "Commune" and French
liberty. They expect something else, and they were, of course, not
meant, when I said that there is a grain of sense in every movement.

The needs and wishes of the large French communities are thoroughly
justified, considering not only their own political past, which grants
them a very moderate amount of freedom, but also the tradition of the
French statesmen who are offering to the cities their very best
possible compromise with municipal freedom. The inhabitants of Alsace
and Lorraine have felt these needs most forcefully owing to their
German character, which is stronger than the French character in its
demands for individual and municipal independence. Personally I am
convinced that we can grant the people of Alsace and Lorraine, at the
very start, a freer scope in self government without endangering the
empire as a whole. Gradually this will be broadened until it
approaches the ideal, when every individual and every community
possesses as much freedom as is at all compatible with the order of
the State as a whole. I consider it the duty of reasonable
statesmanship to try to reach this goal or to come as near to it as
possible. And this is much easier, with our present German
institutions, than it will ever be in France with the French character
and the French centralized system of government. I believe, therefore,
that, with German patience and benevolence, we shall succeed in
winning the men of Alsace and Lorraine--perhaps in a briefer space of
time than people today expect.

But there will always be some residuary elements, rooted with every
personal memory in France and too old to be transplanted, or
necessarily connected with France by material interests. For them
there will be no compensation for the broken French bonds, or at least
none for some time to come. We must, therefore, not permit ourselves
to believe that the goal is in sight, and that Alsace will soon be as
intensely German in feeling as Thuringia. On the other hand, we need
not give up the hope of living to see the realization of our plans
provided we fulfill the time generally allotted to man.

The problem of how to approach this task, gentlemen, will now
primarily concern you. What should be the form of our immediate
procedure? for it should surely not bind us irrevocably for all the
future. I would ask you not to deliberate as if you were to create
something that will hold good for eternity. Do not endeavor to form a
definite idea of the future as you may think it should be after the
lapse of several decades. No man's foresight, I hold, can reach as far
as that. The conditions are abnormal; they had to be so--our entire
task was so--not only as regards the mode of taking possession of
Alsace, but also as regards the present owners. An alliance of
sovereign princes and free cities making a conquest which it is
compelled to keep for its own protection, and which is, therefore,
held in joint possession, is very rare in history. It is in fact, I
believe, unique, if we disregard a few ventures by some Swiss cantons,
which after all did not intend to assimilate the countries which they
had jointly conquered, but rather to manage them as common provinces
in the interest of the conquerors. Considering, therefore, the
abnormal conditions and our abnormal task, we are most especially
called upon to guard against overestimating the perspicacity in human
affairs of even the most far sighted politicians. I for one do not
feel capable of foretelling with certainty what the conditions in
Alsace-Lorraine will be three years hence. To do this one would need
an eye capable of piercing the future. Everything depends on factors
whose development, conduct, and good will are beyond our power of
regulation. What we are proposing to you is merely an attempt to find
the right beginning of a road, the end of which we shall know only
when we have been taught the necessary lessons by actual experience
with the conditions of the future. Let me ask you, therefore, to
follow at first the same empirical road which the governments have
followed, and to take conditions as they are, and not as we may wish
they should be. If one has nothing better to put in the place of
something that one does not entirely like, one had better, I believe,
let matters take their own course, and rest satisfied at first with
conditions as they are. As a matter of fact the allied governments
have jointly taken these countries, while their common possession and
common administration, although constituting an established premise,
may be modified in future by our own necessities and the needs of the
people of Alsace and Lorraine. As regards the definite form which the
proposition may take some day, I sincerely urge you to follow the lead
of the governments and to defer your judgment. If you are bolder than
we are in prejudging what will happen, we shall gladly meet your
wishes, since we must work together. The caution with which I have
announced to you the convictions of the allied governments, and with
which these governments have formed their convictions, is an
indication to you of our willingness to be set right, if you should
offer us a better plan, especially if experience--even a short
experience--should have proved it to be a better plan.

When I announce to you our willingness to work hand in hand with you,
you are, I am sure, equally ready to join us in exercising German
patience and German love toward all, and especially toward our new
countrymen, and in endeavoring to discover, and finally to reach, the
right goal.


May 14, 1872


[Early in 1872 the German government tried to bring about a peaceful
understanding with the ultramontane (i. e., Catholic) party by
courteous advances made to the pope. The cardinal prince
Hohenlohe-Schillings-fuerst was designated as ambassador to His
Holiness the Pope who was asked whether the prince would be
acceptable. The pope replied in the negative, and thereby deeply hurt
the emperor. When the expenses of this post in the budget were under
discussion in the Reichstag, Mr. von Bennigsen expressed the hope that
they would be struck from the budget in future, to which Bismarck
replied as follows:]

I can readily understand how the idea may arise that the expenses for
this embassy have become unnecessary, because there is no longer a
question here of protecting German subjects in those parts. I am,
nevertheless, glad that no motion has been made to abolish this
position, for it would have been unwelcome to the government.

The duties of an embassy are in part, it is true, the protection of
its countrymen, but in part also the mediation of the political
relations which the government of the empire happens to maintain with
the court where the ambassador is accredited. There is no foreign
sovereign authorized by the present state of our legislation to
exercise as extensive rights within the German empire as the pope.
While these rights are almost those of a sovereign, they are not
guarded by any constitutional responsibility. Considerable importance,
therefore, attaches to the kind of diplomatic relations which the
German empire is able to maintain with the head of the Roman Church,
who exerts such a remarkably strong and, for a foreign sovereign,
unusual influence among us. Considering the prevailing tendencies of
the Catholic Church at the present time, I scarcely believe that any
ambassador of the German empire would succeed in inducing His Holiness
the Pope, by the most skilful diplomacy and by persuasion, to modify
the position which he has taken, on principle, in all secular affairs.
There can, of course, be no question here of forceful actions, such as
may occur between two secular powers. In view of the recently
promulgated doctrines of the Catholic Church, I deem it impossible for
any secular power to reach a concordat without effacing itself to a
degree and in a way which, to the German empire at least, is
unacceptable. You need not be afraid, we shall never go to Canossa,
either actually or in spirit.

Nevertheless, I cannot deny that the position of the empire as regards
its religious peace is somewhat shaken. It is not my duty here to
investigate motives, or to ask which one of the two parties is at
fault, but to defend an item of the budget. The united governments of
the German empire are searching eagerly and, in justice to their
Catholic and their Evangelical subjects, diligently for means which
will secure a more agreeable state of affairs than the present, and
which will do so as peacefully as possible, and without unnecessarily
disturbing the religious relations of the empire. I doubt whether this
can be done except by legislation--I mean general and national
legislation, for which the governments will have to ask for the
assistance of the Reichstag.

But you will agree with me that this legislation should proceed with
great moderation and delicacy, and with due regard for every one's
freedom of conscience. The governments must be careful to avoid
anything which will render their task more difficult, such as errors
of information or ignorance of the proper forms, and must strive to
readjust their internal peace with tender regard for religious
sensibilities, even those which are not shared by all. In this
connection it is, of course, necessary that the Holy See should be at
all times well informed of the intentions of the German governments,
certainly more so than has been the case heretofore. One of the chief
causes of the present disturbance in religious matters is, I believe,
the misinformation which has reached His Holiness the Pope concerning
the conditions in Germany and the intentions of the German
governments, and which has been due either to excitement or to the
wrong color given it by evil motives.

I had hoped that the choice of an ambassador, who possessed the full
confidence of both parties, would be welcome in Rome, of a man who
loves truth and deserves confidence, and whose character and bearing
are conciliatory; in short, of a man like the well known prince of the
Church whom His Majesty the Emperor had appointed to this post. I had
hoped that this choice would be regarded as a pledge of our peaceful
attitude and willingness to make advances, and would serve as a bridge
to a mutual understanding. I had hoped that it would give the
assurance that we should never ask anything of His Holiness the Pope
but what a prince of the Church, allied to him by the most intimate
ties, could present and convey to him, and that the forms would always
be in keeping with those which characterize the intercourse of one
prince of the Church with another. This would have avoided all
unnecessary friction in a case which is difficult enough.

Many fears were expressed both by the Protestants and the liberals
concerning this appointment, based, I believe, on an erroneous
interpretation of the position of an envoy or an ambassador. An
ambassador really is a vessel which reaches its full value only when
it is filled with the instructions of its master. In such delicate
matters as these, however, it is desirable that the vessel should be
agreeable and acceptable, and that it should be incapable of
containing poisons or potions without immediately revealing them, as
people used to say of ancient crystals. Unfortunately, and for
reasons which have not yet been given, these intentions of the
Imperial Government could not be carried out because they met with a
curt refusal on the part of the Holy See. I can truly say that such a
case does not often happen. When a sovereign has made his choice of an
ambassador, it is customary for him to inquire, from courtesy, whether
the ambassador will be _persona grata_ with the sovereign to whom he
will be accredited, but the receipt of a negative reply is most
unusual, for it necessitates the repeal of an appointment already
made. What the emperor can do toward the appointment he does before
asking the question. In other words he has made the appointment before
he asks the question. The negative reply, therefore, is a demand that
a step once taken shall be repealed, a declaration which says: "You
have made a wrong choice!"

I have been foreign minister for about ten years, and have been
engaged in questions of higher diplomacy for twenty-one years, and I
am not mistaken, I believe, when I say that this is the first and only
case in my experience where such a question has been answered in the
negative. I have known more than once of doubts expressed concerning
ambassadors who had served for some time, and of courts confidentially
conveying their wish that a change be made in the person accredited to
them. In every case, however, the court had had the experience of
diplomatic relations with the particular person through several years,
and was convinced that he was not qualified to safeguard the good
relations which it wished to maintain with us. It explained,
therefore, in a most confidential and delicate way, generally by means
of an autograph letter from one sovereign to the other, why it had
taken this step. Such requests are rarely, if ever, made
unconditionally. In recent times, as you know, a few cases have
occurred, one of which at least was a very flagrant one, when the
recall of an ambassador was demanded; but as I have said, I do not
remember another instance where an ambassador was refused when he was
to be newly appointed. My regrets at this refusal are exceedingly
keen, but I am not justified in translating these regrets into a
feeling of vexation, for in justice to our Catholic fellow-citizens
the Government should not relax its exertions in trying to find ways
and means of regulating the dividing line between the spiritual and
the secular powers. Such a division is absolutely necessary in the
interest of our internal peace, and it should be brought about in the
most delicate manner, and in a way which will give least offence to
either confession. I shall, therefore, not be discouraged by what has
happened, but shall continue to use my influence with his Majesty the
Emperor to the end that a representative of the empire may be found
for Rome who enjoys the confidence of both powers, if not in equal
measure, at least in measure sufficient for his duties. I cannot, of
course, deny that our task has been rendered decidedly more difficult
by what has happened.

* * * * *


February 19, 1878


[The complete victory which Russia had won in the Turkish war had
greatly disturbed the European powers, and in Germany much
apprehension was felt for the safety of Austria. England, too, was
much concerned, for she had been displeased at Bismarck's refusal to
intervene in the war. German public opinion was aroused, and the
representative von Bennigsen joined with four colleagues in the
following interpellation, which they made in the Reichstag on February
8: "Is the Chancellor willing to inform the Reichstag of the political
situation in the Orient, and of the position which the German empire
has taken or intends to take in regard to it?" The interpellation was
put on the calendar of February 19, and while Bismarck regarded it as
ill timed he was ready to reply, lest his silence be misunderstood.]

I first ask the indulgence of the Reichstag if I should not be able to
stand while I say everything I have to say. I am not so well as I

With regard to the question, I cannot deny that I was in doubt, when I
first saw the interpellation, not whether I would answer it--for its
form gives me the right to answer it with a "No"--but whether I should
not have to say "No." Do not assume, gentlemen, as one generally does
in such cases, that the reason was because I had to suppress a good
deal which would compromise our policy or restrict it in an
undesirable manner. On the contrary, I have hardly enough to say in
addition to what is already generally known to induce me, of my own
initiative, to make a statement to the representatives of the empire.

The discussions in the English parliament have almost exhaustively
answered one part of the question "What is the political
situation in the Orient at the present time?" If, in spite of the
paucity of the information with which I am addressing you, I do not
say "No" it is because I fear the inference that I have much to
suppress, and because such an inference is always disquieting,
especially when it is coupled with the desire to make capital out of
my silence. I am the more pleased to address you with complete
frankness, because the interpellation and the way it was introduced
have given me the impression that if the German policy wishes to
correspond to the majority opinion of the Reichstag--in so far as I
may consider the recent comments an expression of this opinion--it has
only to continue along the path which it has thus far followed.

Regarding the present situation, I suspect that you already know
everything I can say about it. You know from the press and the English
parliamentary debates that at present one can say in the Orient, "The
arms are idle, and the storms of war are hushed"--God grant, for a
long while! The armistice which has been concluded grants the Russian
army an unbroken position from the Danube to the sea of Marmora, with
a base which it lacked formerly. I mean the fortresses near the
Danube. This fact, which is nowhere denied, seems to me to be the most
important of the whole armistice. There is excluded from the Russian
occupation, if I begin in the north, a quadrangular piece, with Varna
and Shumla, extending along the shore of the Black Sea to Battshila in
the north, and not quite to the Bay of Burgas in the south, thence
inland to about Rasgrad--a pretty exact quadrangle. Constantinople and
the peninsula of Gallipoli are also excluded, the very two points on
whose independence of Russia several interested powers are laying much

Certain peace preliminaries preceded the armistice, which at the risk
of telling you things you already know I shall nevertheless review
because they will answer the question whether German interests are at
stake in any one of them. There is, in the first place, the
establishment of Bulgaria "within the limits determined by the
majority of the Bulgarian population, and not smaller than indicated
by the conference of Constantinople."

The difference between these two designations is not of sufficient
importance, I believe, to constitute a reasonable danger to the peace
of Europe. The ethnographical information which we possess is, it is
true, not authentic nor without gaps, and the best we know has been
supplied by Germans in the maps by Kiepert. According to this the
national frontier--the frontier of the Bulgarian nationality--runs
down in the west just beyond Salonica, along a line where the races
are rather unmixed, and in the east with an increased admixture of
Turkish elements in the direction of the Black Sea. The frontier of
the conference, on the other hand, so far as it is possible to trace
it, runs--beginning at the sea--considerably farther north than the
national frontier, and two separate Bulgarian provinces are
contemplated. In the west it reaches somewhat farther than the
national frontier into the districts which have an admixture of
Albanian races. The constitution of Bulgaria according to the
preliminaries would be similar to that of Servia before the evacuation
of Belgrade and other strongholds; for this first paragraph of the
preliminaries closes with these words, "The Ottoman army will not
remain there," and, in parenthesis, "barring a few places subject to
mutual agreement."

It will, therefore, devolve upon the powers who signed the Paris
treaty of 1856 to discuss and define those sentences which were left
open and indefinite there, and to come to an agreement with Russia, if
this is possible, as I hope it may be.

Then there follow "The Independence of Montenegro * * * also of
Roumania and Servia;" and directions concerning Bosnia and
Herzegovina, whose reforms "should be analogous."

None of these things, I am convinced, touches the interests of Germany
to such an extent that we should be justified in jeopardizing for
its sake our relations with our neighbors--our friends. We may accept
one or the other definition without loss in our spheres of interest.

Then there follows, under paragraph five, a stipulation concerning the
indemnity of war, which leaves the question open, whether "it should
be pecuniary or territorial." This is a matter which concerns the
belligerents in so far as it may be pecuniary, and the signers of the
Paris treaty of peace in so far as it may be territorial, and will
have to be settled by their consent.

Then there follows the provision concerning the Dardanelles. This, I
believe, has given cause for much more anxiety in the world than is
justified by the actual possibilities of any probable outcome. "His
Majesty the Sultan declares his willingness to come to an agreement
with His Majesty the Emperor of Russia with a view of safeguarding the
rights and interests of Russia in the straits of the Bosphorus and the

The question of the Dardanelles is freighted with importance when it
means placing the control there--the key of the Bosphorus--in other
hands than heretofore, and deciding whether Russia shall be able to
close and to open the Dardanelles at will. All other stipulations can
have reference only to times of peace, for in the more important times
of war the question will always hinge on whether the possessor of the
key to the Dardanelles is in alliance with or dependent on those
living outside or inside the Dardanelles, on Russia or on the
opponents of Russia. In case of war, I believe no stipulation which
may be made will have the importance which people fear, provided the
Dardanelles are in times of peace in the possession of people who are
fully independent of Russia. It may be of interest for the people on
the shores of the Mediterranean to know whether the Russian Black Sea
fleet shall be permitted in times of peace to sail through the
Dardanelles and to show itself on their shores. If, however, it shows
itself there, I should infer Peace, like good weather from the
barometer; when it withdraws and carefully secludes itself, then it
is time to suspect that clouds are gathering. The question, therefore,
whether men-of-war shall be permitted to pass the Dardanelles in times
of peace, although by no means unimportant, is to my way of thinking
not sufficiently important to inflame Europe.

The question whether the possession of the Dardanelles shall be
shifted to other owners is entirely different. It constitutes,
however, a conjectural eventuality which the present situation does
not contemplate, I believe, and on which I shall, therefore, express
no opinion. My only concern at present is to give an approximate
definition, as best I can, of those weighty interests which may lead
to another war after the Russian-Turkish war has been actually
concluded. For this reason I deem it important to affirm that the
stipulations of peace concerning the Dardanelles mean less for the
men-of-war than for the merchant marine. The preeminent German
interest in the Orient demands that the waterways, the straits as well
as the Danube from the Black Sea upward, shall continue as free and
open to us as they have been until now. I rather infer that we shall
surely obtain this, for as a matter of fact it has never even been
questioned. An official communication on this point which I have
received from St. Petersburg simply refers to the existing
stipulations of the treaty of Paris. Nothing is jeopardized; our
position can be no worse and no better than it has been.

The interest which we have in a better government of a Christian
nation and in the safeguards against those acts of violence which have
occurred at times, under Turkish rule, is taken care of by the
agreements mentioned above. And this is the second interest which
Germany has in this whole affair. It is less direct, but is dictated
by humanity.

The rest of the preliminary stipulations consists--I will not say of
phrases, for it is an official paper--but it has no bearing on our
present discussion.

With these explanations I have answered to the best of my ability the
first part of the interpellation concerning the present state of
affairs in the Orient, and I fear, gentlemen, that I have said nothing
new to any one of you.

The other parts of the question refer to the position which Germany
has taken or intends to take in view of the now existing conditions
and innovations.

As to the position which we have already taken I cannot now give you
any information, for officially we have been in possession of the
papers to which I have referred only a very short while, I may say
literally only since this very morning. What we knew beforehand was in
general agreement with these papers, but not of a nature to make
official steps possible. It consisted of private communications for
which we were indebted to the courtesy of other governments.

Official steps, therefore, have not yet been taken, and would be
premature in view of the conference, which I hope is at hand. All this
information will then be available and we shall be in a position to
exchange opinions concerning these matters. Any alterations,
therefore, of the stipulations of 1856 will have to be sanctioned. If
they should not be, the result would not necessarily be another war,
but a condition of affairs which all the powers of Europe, I think,
have good cause to avoid. I am almost tempted to call it making a
morass of matters. Let us assume that no agreement about what has to
be done can be reached in the conference, and that the powers who have
a chief interest in opposing the Russian stipulations should say: "At
the present moment it does not suit us to go to war about these
questions, but we are not in accord with your agreements, and we
reserve our decision"--would not that establish a condition of affairs
which cannot be agreeable even to Russia? The Russian policy rightly
says, "We are not desirous of exposing ourselves to the necessity of a
Turkish campaign every ten or twenty years, for it is exhausting,
strenuous, and expensive." But the Russian policy, on the other
hand, cannot wish to substitute for this Turkish danger an
English-Austrian entanglement recurring every ten or twenty years. It
is, therefore, my opinion that Russia is equally interested with the
other powers in reaching an agreement now, and in not deferring it to
some future and perhaps less convenient time.

That Russia could possibly wish to force the other powers by war to
sanction the changes which she deems necessary I consider to be beyond
the realm of probability. If she could not obtain the sanction of the
other signers of the clauses of 1856, she would, I suppose, be
satisfied with the thought "_Beati possidentes_" (happy are the
possessors). Then the question would arise whether those who are
dissatisfied with the Russian agreements and have real and material
interests at stake, would be ready to wage war in order to force
Russia to diminish her demands or to give up some of them. If they
should be successful in forcing Russia to give up more than she could
bear, they would do so at the risk of leaving in Russia, when the
troops come home, a feeling similar to that in Prussia after the
treaties of 1815, a lingering feeling that matters really are not
settled, and that another attempt will have to be made.

If this could be achieved by a war, one would have to regard, as the
aim of this war, the expulsion of Russia from the Bulgarian
strongholds which she is at present occupying, and from her position
which no doubt is threatening Constantinople--although she has given
no indication of a wish to occupy this city. Those who would have
accomplished this by a victorious war, would then have to shoulder the
responsibility of deciding what should be done with these countries of
European Turkey. That they should be willing simply to reinstate the
Turkish rule in its entirety after everything said and determined in
the conference, is, I believe, very improbable. They would, therefore,
be obliged to make some kind of a disposition, which could not differ
very much in principle from what is being proposed now. It might
differ in geographical extent and in the degree of independence, but I
do not believe that Austria-Hungary, for instance, the nearest
neighbor, would be ready to accept the entire heritage of the present
Russian conquest, and be responsible for the future of these Slavic
countries, either by incorporating them in the state of Hungary or
establishing them as dependencies. I do not believe that this is an
end which Austria can much desire in view of her own Slavic subjects.
She cannot wish to be the editor of the future in the Balkan
peninsula, as she would have to be if she won a victory.

I mention all these eventualities, in which I place no faith, for the
sake of proving how slight the reasonable probability of a European
war appears to be. It is not reasonably probable that the greater or
lesser extent of a tributary State--unless conditions were altogether
unbearable--should induce two neighboring and friendly powers to start
a destructive European war in cold blood! The blood will be cooler, I
assure you, when we have at last come together in a conference.

It was to meet these eventualities that the idea of a conference was
first proposed by the government of Austria-Hungary. We were from the
start ready to accept it, and we were almost the first to do so.
Concerning the selection of a place where the conference should be
held, difficulties arose which I consider out of proportion to the
significance of the whole matter. But even in this direction we have
raised no objections and declared ourselves satisfied with the places
which have been mentioned. They were Vienna, Brussels, Baden-Baden,
Wiesbaden, Wildbad, a place in Switzerland--I should, however, say
Wildbad was mentioned by no one but itself. Stuttgart was also
mentioned. Any of these places would have been agreeable to us. It now
seems--if I am correctly informed, and the decision must be made in a
few days--that the choice will fall on Baden-Baden. Our interest,
which is shared by those powers with whom we have corresponded, is the
despatch of the conference irrespective of the choice of a place,
which is for us of little consequence. As regards places in Germany I
have expressed no opinion beyond this, that on German soil the
presidency would have to be German. This view has nowhere been
opposed. After the general acceptance of this principle it will depend
on the men sent to attend this conference whether for reasons of
expediency it must be adhered to. Personally I believe the conference
is assured, and I expect that it will take place in the first half of
next March. It would be desirable that the conference should take
place sooner--and the uncertainty concerning it be ended. But before
the powers join in a conference, they naturally desire an exchange of
opinion the one with the other; and the connections with the seat of
war are really very slow. The delay of the communications which
reached us was, and still is, explained by the delay with which news
comes from the seat of war. The suspicion which has for some time been
felt in the press that this delay was intentional becomes unfounded
when one realizes that the advance of the Russian army following
January 30 was in consequence of the stipulations of the armistice,
and did not constitute an advantage taken of an opportune moment. The
boundaries within which the Russian army is stationed today are the
lines of demarcation expressly mentioned in the armistice. I do not
believe in any intentional delay from anywhere; on the contrary, I
have confidence in the good intentions everywhere to send
representatives to the conference speedily. We certainly shall do our
part to the best of our ability.

I now come to the most difficult part--excuse me if I continue for the
present seated--I come to the most difficult part of the task set me,
an explanation, so far as this is possible, of the position which
Germany is to take in the conference. In this connection you will not
expect from me anything but general indications of our policy. Its
programme Mr. von Bennigsen has developed before you clearly and
comprehensively, almost more so than nay strength at the present
moment permits me to do.

When from many quarters the demand has been made upon us--to be sure
from no government, but only from voices in the press and other well
meaning advisers--that e should define our policy from the start and
force it on the other governments in some form, I must say that this
seems to me to be newspaper diplomacy rather than the diplomacy of a

Let me explain to you at once the difficulty and impossibility of such
a course. If we did express a definite programme, which we should be
obliged to follow when we had announced it officially and openly not
only before you, but also before the whole of Europe, should we not
then place a premium on the contentiousness of all those who
considered our programme to be not favorable to themselves!

We should also render the part of mediation in the conference, which I
deem very important, almost impossible for ourselves, because
everybody with the _menu_ of the German policy in his hand could say
to us: "German mediation can go just so far; it can do this, and this
it cannot do." It is quite possible that the free hand which Germany
has preserved, and the uncertainty of Germany's decisions have not
been without influence on the preservation of peace thus far. If you
play the German card, laying it on the table, everybody knows how to
adapt himself to it or how to avoid it. Such a course is impracticable
if you wish to preserve peace. The adjustment of peace does not, I
believe, consist in our playing the arbiter, saying: "It must be thus,
and the weight of the German empire stands behind it." Peace is
brought about, I think, more modestly. Without straining the simile
which I am quoting from our everyday life, it partakes more of the
behavior of the honest broker, who really wishes to bring about a

As long as we follow this policy we are in the position to save a
power which has secret wishes from the embarrassment of meeting with a
refusal or an unpleasant reply from its--let me say, congressional
opponent. If we are equally friendly with both, we can first sound one
and then say to the other: "Do not do that, try to arrange matters in
this way." These are helps in business which should be highly
esteemed. I have an experience of many years in such matters, and it
has been brought home to me often, that when two are alone the thread
drops more frequently and is not picked up because of false shame. The
moment when it could be picked up passes, people separate in silence,
and are annoyed. If, however, a third person is present, he can pick
up the thread without much ado, and bring the two together again when
they have parted. This is the function of which I am thinking and
which corresponds to the amicable relations in which we are living
with our friendly neighbors along our extensive borders. It is
moreover in keeping with the union among the three imperial courts
which has existed for five years, and the intimacy which we enjoy with
England, another one of the powers chiefly concerned in this matter.
As regards England we are in the fortunate position of not having any
conflicting interests, except perhaps some trade rivalries or passing
annoyances. These latter cannot be avoided, but there is absolutely
nothing which could drive two industrious and peace-loving nations to
war. I happily believe, therefore, that we may be the mediator between
England and Russia, just as I know we are between Austria and Russia,
if they should not be able to agree of their own accord.

The three-emperor-pact, if one wishes to call it such, while it is
generally called a treaty, is not based on any written obligations,
and no one of the three emperors can be voted down by the other two.
It is based on the personal sympathy among the three rulers, on the
personal confidence which they have in one another, and on the
personal relations which for many years have existed among the leading
ministers of all three empires.

We have always avoided forming a majority of two against one when
there was a difference of opinion between Austria and Russia, and we
have never definitely taken the part of one of them, even if our own
desires drew us more strongly in that direction. We have refrained
from this for fear that the tie might not be sufficiently strong
after all. It surely cannot be so strong that it could induce one of
these great powers to disregard its own incontestably national
interests for the sake of being obliging. That is a sacrifice which no
great power makes _pour les beaux yeux_ of another. Such a sacrifice
it makes only when arguments are replaced by hints of strength. Then
it may happen that the great power will say: "I hate to make this
concession, but I hate even worse to go to war with so strong a power
as Germany. Still I will remember this and make a note of it." That is
about the way in which such things are received. And this leads me to
the necessity of vigorously opposing all exaggerated demands made on
Germany's mediation. Let me declare that they are out of the question
so long as I have the honor of being the adviser of His Majesty.

I know that in saying this I am disappointing a great many
expectations raised in connection with today's disclosures, but I am
not of the opinion that we should go the road of Napoleon and try to
be, if not the arbiter, at least the schoolmaster of Europe.

I have here a clipping given me today from the _Allgemeine Zeitung,_
which contains a noteworthy article entitled "The Policy of Germany in
the Decisive Hour." This article demands as necessary the admission of
a third power to the alliance of England and Austria. That means, we
shall take part with England and Austria and deprive Russia of the
credit of voluntarily making the concessions which she may be willing
to grant in the interest of European peace. I do not doubt that Russia
will sacrifice for the sake of peace in Europe whatever her sense of
nationality and her own interests and those of eighty million Russians
permit. It is really superfluous to say this. And now please assume
that we took the advice of the gentlemen who think that we should play
the part of an arbiter--I have here another article from a Berlin
paper, called "Germany's Part as Arbiter"--and that we declared to
Russia in some polite and amicable way: "We have been friends, it is
true, for hundreds of years, Russia has ever been true-blue to us when
we were in difficulties, but now things are different. In the
interest of Europe, as the policemen of Europe, as a kind of a justice
of the peace, we must do as we are requested, we can no longer resist
the demands of Europe ...," what would be the result?

There are considerable numbers of Russians who do not love Germany,
and who fortunately are not at the helm now, but who would not be
unhappy if they were called there. What would they say to their
compatriots, they and perhaps other statesmen who at present are not
yet avowedly hostile to us? They would say: "With what sacrifices of
blood and men and money have we not won the position which for
centuries has been the ideal of Russian ambition! We could have
maintained it against those opponents who may have a real interest in
combating it. It was not Austria, with whom we have lived on
moderately intimate terms for some time, it was not England, who
possesses openly acknowledged counter-interests to ours--no, it was
our intimate friend Germany who drew, behind our back, not her sword
but a dagger, although we might have expected from her services in
return for services rendered, and although she has _no_ interests in
the Orient."

Those approximately would be the phrases, and this the theme which we
should hear in Russia. This picture which I have drawn in exaggerated
lines--but the Russian orators also exaggerate--corresponds with the
truth. We, however, shall never assume the responsibility of
sacrificing the certain friendship of a great nation, tested through
generations, to the momentary temptation of playing the judge in

To jeopardize the friendship which fortunately binds us to most
European states and at the present moment to all,--for the parties to
whom it is an eyesore are not in power,--to jeopardize, I say, this
friendship with one friend in order to oblige another, when we as
Germans have no direct interests, and to buy the peace of others at
the cost of our own, or, to speak with college boys, to substitute at
a duel--such things one may do when one risks only one's own life, but
I cannot do them when I have to counsel His Majesty the Emperor as
regards the policy of a great State of forty million people in the
heart of Europe. From this tribune I therefore take the liberty of
saying a very definite "No" to all such imputations and suggestions. I
shall under no condition do anything of the kind; and no government,
none of those primarily interested, has made any such demands.
Germany, as the last speaker remarked, has grown to new
responsibilities as it has grown stronger. But even if we are able to
throw a large armed force into the scales of European policies, I do
not consider anybody justified in advising the emperor and the princes
(who would have to discuss the matter in the Bundesrat if we wished to
wage an offensive war) to make an appeal to the proven readiness of
the nation to offer blood and money for a war. The only war which I am
ready to counsel to the emperor is one to protect our independence
abroad and our union at home, or to defend those of our interests
which are so clear that we are supported, if we insist on them, not
only by the unanimous vote of the Bundesrat, which is necessary, but
also by the undivided enthusiasm of the whole German nation.


February 24, 1881


[On February 24, 1881, the budget of the empire for the ensuing year
was under discussion. The representative, Mr. Richter, made use of
this opportunity to attack the home-politics of the chancellor in
their entirety. He felt great concern about the growing power of the
chancellor, and called upon his liberal colleagues to stem the tide,
and to curb the power of the chancellor. "Only if this is done will
the great gifts which distinguish the chancellor continue to be
fruitful for Germany. If this is not possible, and if we go on as we
have been going, the chancellor will ruin himself, and he will ruin
the country." Prince Bismarck replied:]

The remarks of the previous speaker have hardly touched on the subject
under discussion, the budget, since I have been here. Consequently I
am excused, I suppose, from adding anything to what the secretary of
the treasury has said. The previous speaker has mainly concerned
himself with a critique of my personality. The number of times the
word "chancellor" appears in his speech in proportion to the total
number of words sufficiently justifies my assertion. Well, I do not
know what is the use of this critique, if not to instruct me and to
educate me. But I am in my sixty-sixth year and in the twentieth of my
tenure of office--there will not be much in me to improve. You will
have to use me up as I am or push me aside. I, on my part, have never
made the attempt to educate the Honorable Mr. Richter--I do not think
I am called upon to do it; nor have I endeavored to force him from his
sphere of activity--I should not have the means of doing this, nor do
I wish it. But I believe he in his turn will lack the means of forcing
me from my position. Whether he will be able to compress me and
circumscribe me, as toward the end of his speech he said was
desirable, I do not know. I am, however, truly grateful to him for the
concern he expressed about my health. Unfortunately, if I wish to do
my duty, I cannot take such care of myself as Mr. Richter deems
desirable--I shall have to risk my health.

When he said that every evil troubling us, even the rate of interest
and I know not what else, was based on the uncertainty of our
conditions, and when he quoted the word of a colleague of a "hopeless
confusion"--well, gentlemen, then I must repeat what I have said
elsewhere and in the hearing of the Honorable Mr. Richter: Make a
comparison and look about you in other countries! If our conditions
with their ordered activities and their assured future at home and
abroad constitute a "hopeless confusion," how shall we characterize
the conditions of many another country? I can see in no European
country a condition of safety and an assured outlook into the future
similar to that prevailing in the German empire. I have already said
on the former occasion that my position as minister of foreign affairs
made it impossible for me to be specific. But everyone who will follow
my remarks with a map in his hand, and a knowledge of history during
the past twenty years, will have to say that I am right. I do not know
what is the use of these exaggerations of a "hopeless confusion" and
"a lack of assurance and uncertainty of the future." Nobody in the
country believes it; and isn't that the chief thing? The people in the
country know perfectly well how they are off, and all who do not fare
as they wish are pleased to blame the government for it. When a
candidate comes up for election, and says to them: "The government--or
to quote the previous speaker--the chancellor is to blame for all
this," he may find many credulous people, but in the majority he will
find people who will say: "The chancellor surely has his faults and
drawbacks"--but most people will not be convinced that I am to blame
for everything. I am faring in this respect like Emperor Napoleon
twelve years and more ago, who was accused, not in his own country
but in Europe, as the cause of all evils, from Tartary to Spain, and
he was not nearly so bad a creature as he was said to be--may I not
also claim the benefit of this doubt with Mr. Richter? I, too, am not
so bad as I am painted. His attack upon me, moreover, if he will stop
to reflect, is largely directed not against me personally, or against
that part of my activities in which I possess freedom of action,
no--it is directed primarily against the constitution of the German
empire. The constitution of the German empire knows no other
responsible officer but the chancellor. I might assert that my
constitutional responsibility does not go nearly so far as the one
actually placed upon me; and I might take things a little easier and
say: "I have nothing to do with the home policies of the empire, for I
am only the emperor's executive officer." But I will not do this. From
the beginning I have assumed the responsibility, and also the
obligation, of defending the decisions of the Bundesrat, provided I
can reconcile them with my responsibility, even if I find myself there
in the minority. This responsibility I will take as public opinion
understands it. Nobody, however, can be held responsible for acts and
resolves not his own. No responsibility can be foisted on anybody--nor
did the imperial constitution intend to do this--for acts which do not
depend on his own free will, and into which he can be forced. The
responsible person, therefore, must enjoy complete independence and
freedom within the sphere of his responsibility. If he does not, all
responsibility ceases; and _I_ do not know on whose shoulders it will
rest--so far as the empire is concerned it has disappeared completely.

As long, therefore, as Mr. Richter does not change the constitution,
you yourselves must insist on having a chancellor who is absolutely
free and independent in his decisions, for no man can hold him
responsible for those things which he is unable to decide for himself,
freely and independently. Mr. Richter has expressed the wish of
limiting in several directions this constitutional independence of the
chancellor. In the first place, in one direction where it is already
limited and where he wishes to have it disappear entirely. This
concerns his responsibility for those acts in our political life which
the constitution assigns to the emperor in connection with the
decisions of the Bundesrat and the Reichstag. There can be no doubt
that these acts include also those which have to be performed, as the
constitution says, in the name of the emperor; the submission, for
instance, to the Reichstag of a resolve of the Bundesrat. Mr. Richter
has correctly quoted an incident, mentioned in the _North German
Gazette_, concerning the resolves on some collected cases of
accidents, which I considered it incompatible with my responsibility
to submit to you in the name of the emperor. I, therefore, did not do
it. One may well ask: What has the constitutional law to say on this
point? Was I justified in not acting? Was the emperor justified in not
acting! Or was His Majesty the Emperor bound by the constitution to
submit to you the resolve of the Bundesrat?

At the time when the constitution was being drawn I once discussed
this point with an astute jurist, who had long been and still is with
us in an important position--Mr. Pape. He said to me: "The emperor has
no veto." I replied, "Constitutionally he has not, but suppose a
measure is expected of him which he thinks he should not take, and
against which his then chancellor warns him, saying: I cannot advocate
it, and I shall not countersign it. Well, in this case is the emperor
obliged to look for another chancellor, and to dismiss him who opposes
the measure? Is he obliged to accept anyone as chancellor, suggested
perhaps by the other party? Will he look for a second or third
chancellor, both of whom may say: We cannot assume the responsibility
for this bill by submitting it to the Reichstag?" Hereupon Mr. Pape
replied: "You are right, the emperor possesses an indirect but actual

I do not even go so far, for none of these cases are pressed to their
logical conclusion. Let us, however, take a concrete case, which will
make these matters perfectly clear. Suppose the majority of the
Bundesrat had passed a bill with the approval of Prussia, but Prussia
had made the mistake of not calling upon the Prussian minister
designated to instruct the Prussian delegation in the Bundesrat; or
even--Prussia had consented and the minister had been present, and had
been in the minority also in the Prussian cabinet, and the emperor had
directed him to submit the resolves of the Bundesrat to the Reichstag,
to which the chancellor had replied: "I do not believe that I can
answer for this, or that my responsibility permits me to do it." Then
there results the possibility of the emperor's saying: "If that is so,
I must look for another chancellor." This did not happen; another
thing happened, namely--the resolve was not submitted. The ensuing
situation is this, that the persons entitled to complain--if there are
any--constitute the majority of the governments who passed this
resolve in the Bundesrat.

This points the proper way, and I believe in weighty questions it
would be taken to the end. In the present case if one were to make a
test of what is really right, the majority of the Bundesrat would have
to represent to His Majesty as follows: "We have passed a resolve, and
our constitutional right demands that the emperor submit it to the
Reichstag. We demand that this be done." The emperor might reply: "I
will not investigate the law of the case to see whether I am obliged
to act. I will assume that I am, and I do not refuse to act, but for
the present I have no chancellor willing to countersign the order." In
such a case can the chancellor be ordered to sign, because he shall
and must do so? Can he be threatened with imprisonment as is done with
recalcitrant witnesses? What would then become of his responsibility!
If the chancellor continues to refuse, the majority of the Bundesrat
may say to the emperor: "You must dismiss this chancellor and get
another. We insist that our resolve be laid before the Reichstag. If
this is not done, the constitution will be broken." Well, gentlemen,
why not wait and see whether this will happen, and whether those
entitled to complain will take this course, and if they do, whether
His Majesty the Emperor will not be ready to say after all: "All
right, I shall try to find a chancellor who is willing to submit the

I shall, of course, not enter here upon a discussion of the reasons
which determined me in this concrete case. They were reasons not found
in shut-in offices, but in God's open country, and they induced me to
deem the enactment of this law undesirable. I did not possess the
certainty that a majority of this house would have seen the
impossibility of carrying out the law, but I did not wish to expose
the country to the danger--it was a danger according to my way of
thinking--of getting this law. The only moment when I could guard
against this danger was when the law was to be submitted in the name
of the emperor. The constitutional remedy against such a use of an
opportunity is a change of chancellors. I can see no other remedy.

Mentioning the Reichstag brings me to my cooeperation with it. Mr.
Richter's ideal is, it seems to me, a bashful, cautious chancellor who
throws out careful feelers whether he may offend here, if he does
this, or offend there--one who does not wait for a final vote of the
Reichstag, but rushes home excitedly, as I have often seen my
colleagues do, exclaiming: "Oh God, the law is lost, this man and that
man are opposed to it"--and three weeks later the law has Passed in
spite of them. I cannot enter upon such a policy of conjecture and
proof by inference of what may be determined in the Reichstag when the
tendency of those who talk the loudest, but who are not always the
most influential, happens to be against a bill; and if Mr. Richter
should succeed in procuring such a timid chancellor anxiously listening
for every hint, my advice to you, gentlemen, is to tolerate him in
this position as briefly as possible. For if a leading minister--and
such he is in the empire--has no opinion his own, and must hear from
others what he should believe and do, then you do not need him at
all. What Mr. Richter proposes is the government of the State by the
Reichstag, the government of the State by itself, as it has been
called in France, by its own chosen representatives. A chancellor, a
minister who does not dare to submit a bill of the ultimate success of
which he is not absolutely sure is no minister. He might as well move
among you with the white sign (of a page) inquiring whether you will
permit him to submit this or that. For such a part I am not made!

To what extent I am ready to submit to the Bundesrat I have already
tried to explain, and I have closed with these words "_sub judice lis
est_" (the case is still in court). I need not say now whether my
constitutional conviction would make me yield to the majority of the
Bundesrat, if they should demand it. This question has not yet arisen;
the majority has not demanded it. Whether I shall maintain my
opposition, if the demand is pressed, to this question I reply: _non
liquet_ (it is a moot-point); we shall see what happens. Such things
are eventually decided by the old law which the Romans were astonished
to find with the Germans, and of which they said, "They call it
usage." Such a usage has not yet developed in connection with the
interpretation of our constitution.

Finally, Mr. Richter has found in me too much independence in a third
direction. He has been pleased to believe--if I understood him
correctly--that the law concerning ministerial deputies would give me
the welcome opportunity of withdrawing to a more ornamental position,
to use his own expression, and to leave the duties and activities to
those who are deputed to represent me, establishing thus also in the
imperial government the famous arcanum of decisions by majorities. But
here, too, I must say that Mr. Richter will have to change the
constitution before I shall be able to subordinate myself to the
highest officials of the empire. How can I appear before you saying:
"Well, gentlemen, I am very doubtful whether I can advocate this
measure, but the secretary in whose bureau it was worked out thinks
so, and following Mr. Richter's advice I have yielded to his
authority. If you do not adopt this measure you will gratify me, but
not the secretary?" This, too, would be an altogether impossible
position, although Mr. Richter is expecting it of me.

The chiefs of the bureaus are not responsible for me, except in so far
as the law of deputies substitutes them for me but I am responsible
for their actions. I have to guarantee that they are statesmen in
general accord with the policy of the empire which I am willing to
advocate. If I miss this accord in one of them, not once but
continually and on principle, then it is my duty to tell him: "We
cannot remain in office, both of us." This, too, is a task which I
have never shirked when it has presented itself. It is simply my duty.
I have never had need of such artful machinations and pyrotechnics as
people claimed I instituted very wilfully last week. You need not
think that ministers stick to their posts like many other high
officials, whom not even the broadest hints can convince that their
time has come. I have not yet found a minister in these days who had
not to be persuaded every now and then to continue a little longer in
office, and not to be discouraged by his hard and exhausting labor,
due to the simultaneous friction with three parliamentary bodies--a
House of Representatives, a House of Lords, and a Reichstag--where one
relieves another, or two, without waiting to be relieved, are in
session at the same time. And when the fight is over and the
representatives have returned home well satisfied, then a bureau chief
comes to the minister on the day after, saying: "It is time now to get
the recommendations for the next session into shape."

The whole business, moreover, while very honorable, is scarcely
pleasurable. Is any one obliged to submit to such public, sharp and
impolite criticisms as a German minister? Is it true of anyone but him
that the behavior customary among people of culture does not prevail
when he addressed? Without the least scruple one says things to him
publicly which one would be ashamed to say to him privately, if one
were to meet him in a drawing-room, for instance. I should not say
this here if the Reichstag did not hold an exceptional position in
Germany in these matters as well as in everything else. Here I have
never had to hear, so far as I remember, as sharp remarks as in other
assemblies. At any rate I have a conciliatory memory. But on the whole
you will agree with me that the tone of our public debates is less
elevated than that of our social gatherings, especially when our
ministers are addressed, but at times even among fellow members,
although of this I am no competent critic. I do not even criticize the
behavior toward the ministers, for I am hardened by an experience of
many years and can stand it. I am merely describing the reasons why no
minister clings to his post, and why you do me an injustice if you
believe that it takes an artful effort to make a minister yield his
place. Not many of them have been accustomed to see a totally ignorant
correspondent tear an experienced minister to pieces in the press as
if he were a stupid schoolboy. We see this in every newspaper every
day, but we can stand it. We do not complain. But can anyone say that
the members of the government--the bureau chiefs frequently fare even
worse--meet in the parliamentary debates with that urbaneness of
demeanor which characterizes our best society? I do not say "no,"
leaving it to you to answer this question. I only say that the
business of being a minister is very arduous and cheerless, subject to
vexations and decidedly exhausting. This brings it about that the
ministers are habitually in a mood which makes them readily give up
their places as soon as they have found another excuse than the
simple: I have had enough, I do not care for more, I am tired of it.

The changes of ministers, however, have not been so many nor so quick
with us as they are in other countries, and this I may mention to Mr.
Richter as a proof of my amiability as a colleague. Count, if you
will, the number of ministers who have crossed the public stage since
I entered office in 1862, and sum up the resignations due to other
than parliamentary reasons, and you will find a result exceedingly
favorable to the accommodating spirit of the German minister when it
is compared with that of any other country. I consider, therefore, the
insinuating references to my quarrelsome disposition and fickleness
distinctly wide of the mark.

In this connection I shall take the liberty of referring with one more
word to the reproaches, often occurring in the press and also in the
Reichstag, that I had frequently and abruptly changed my views. Well,
I am not one of those who at any time of their life have believed, or
believe today, that they can learn no more. If a man says to me:
"Twenty years ago you held the same opinion as I; I still hold it, but
you have changed your views," I reply: "You see, I was as clever
twenty years ago as you are today. Today I know more, I have learned
things in these twenty years." But, gentlemen, I will not even rely on
the justice of the remark that the man who does not learn also fails
to progress and cannot keep abreast of his time. People are falling
behind when they remain rooted in the position they occupied years
ago. However, I do not at all intend to excuse myself with such
observations, for _I have always had one compass only, one lode-star
by which I have steered: Salus Publica, the welfare of the State_.
Possibly I have often acted rashly and hastily since I first began my
career, but whenever I had time to think I have always acted according
to the question, "What is useful, advantageous, and right for my
fatherland, and--as long as this was only Prussia--for my dynasty, and
today--for the German nation?" I have never been a theorist. The
systems which bin and separate parties are for me of secondary
importance. The nation comes first, its position in the world and its
independence, and above all our organization along lines inch will
make it possible for us to draw the free breath of a great nation.

Everything else, a liberal, reactionary, or conservative
constitution--gentlemen, I freely confess, all this I consider in
second place. It is the luxury of furnishing the house, when the house
is firmly established. In the interest of the country I can parley now
with one person, now with another in purely party questions. Theories
I barter away cheaply. First let us build a structure secure on the
outside and firmly knit on the inside, and protected by the ties of a
national union. After that, when you ask my advice about furnishing
the house with more or less liberal constitutional fittings, you may
perhaps hear me say, "Ah well, I have no preconceived ideas. Make your
suggestions, and, when the sovereign whom I serve agrees, you will
find no objections on principle on my part." It can be done thus, and
again thus. There are many roads leading to Rome. There are times
when one should govern liberally, and times when one should govern
autocratically. Everything changes. Nothing is eternal in these
matters. But of the structure of the German empire and the union of
the German nation I demand that they be free and unassailable, with
not only a passing field fortification on one side. I have given to
its creation and growth my entire strength from the very beginning.
And if you point to a single moment when I have not steered by this
direction of the compass-needle, you may perhaps prove that I have
erred, but you cannot prove that I have for one moment lost sight of
the national goal.


* * * * *


April 2, 1881


[Prince Bismarck was trying to fight the revolutionary parties, not
only with such restrictive laws as had been passed against the
Socialists, but also with constructive measures like the one which had
been submitted to the Reichstag on March 8, 1881. It proposed the
insurance of the workingman against accidents, and the founding of a
governmental insurance company. The bill was severely criticized,
notably by Eugen Richter, who did not miss the opportunity of
attacking also the chancellor personally. Prince Bismarck's reply made
a deep impression in the country at large. The bill itself, however,
was so badly amended in the Reichstag, that Bismarck urged the
Bundesrat to reject it, which it did. Several changes, thereupon, were
made in the bill, and, after having been delayed in committee, it was
again brought up for discussion in 1884, when another exhaustive
speech by the chancellor, on March 15, brought about its acceptance.]

Before turning to the subject in hand, I wish to reply to some remarks
of the previous speaker, lest I forget them--they are of so little
weight. He finished by saying that my prestige was waning. If he were
right, I should feel like saying "Thank God," for prestige is a very
burdensome affair. One suffers under its weight, and quickly gets
tired of it. I do not care a farthing for it. When I was very much
younger, about as old as the previous speaker is now, and when I was
possibly still more ambitious than he, I lived for years without
prestige, and was actually disliked, if not hated, by the majority of
my fellow-citizens. At that time I felt better and more contented, and
was healthier than during the years when I was most popular.

Such things do not mean much to me. I am doing my duty, let come what

As proof of his assertion the previous speaker claimed that the
workingmen are refusing the help which the Imperial Government is
trying to offer them. This he cannot possibly know. He has no idea of
what the great mass of the workingmen are thinking. Probably he has
some accurate information of what the eloquent place-hunters are
thinking of the bill, people who are at the head of the labor
movements, and the professional publicists, who need a following of
workingmen--dissatisfied workingmen. But as to the workingman in
general, we had better wait and see what he is thinking. I do not know
whether the full meaning of this question has even yet sufficiently
penetrated into his circles to make it a subject of discussion, except
in the learned clubs of laborers, and among the leading place-hunters
and speakers. In the next election we shall be able to tell whether
the workingmen have formed their opinion of the bill by then, not to
speak of now.

The legislation on which we are entering with this bill has to do with
a question which will probably stay on your calendar for a long while.
The previous speaker has correctly said that "it opens up a very deep
perspective," and it is not at all impossible that it may also make
the moderate Socialists judge more kindly of the government. We have
been talking of a social question for fifty years; and, since the
passage of the law against the Socialists, I have been constantly
reminded, officially, from high quarters, and by the people, that we
gave a promise at that time. Something positive should be done to
remove the causes for Socialism, in so far as they are legitimate. _I_
have received such reminders daily. Nor do I believe that this social
question, which has been before us for fifty years now, will be
definitely settled even by our children and children's children. No
political question ever reaches so complete a mathematical solution
that the books can be balanced. Such questions arise, abide a while
and finally give way to other historical problems. This is the way of
organic developments.

I deem it my duty to take up this question quietly and without party
vehemence, because I do not know who else could do this successfully
if not the Imperial Government. It is a pity that party questions
should be mixed up in it. The previous speaker has referred to a
supposedly active exchange of telegrams between "certain parties" and
"an high official," which in this case, I must believe, means me. I am
mentioning this, in passing, because he said the same thing a few days
ago in another speech. Gentlemen, this is a very simple matter. I
receive thousands of telegrams; and, being a polite man, I should
probably reply also to a telegram from Mr. Richter, if he were to
honor me with a friendly despatch. When I am cordially addressed in a
message, I have to reply in cordial terms. I cannot possibly have the
police ascertain to what party the senders belong. Nor am I so
diffident in my views that I should wish to catechize the senders as
to their political affiliations. If anybody takes pleasure in making
me appear to be a member of anti-semitic societies, let him do so. I
have kept away from all undesirable movements, as my position demands,
and I could wish that also you gentlemen would refrain more than
heretofore from inciting the classes against each other, and from
oratorical phrases which fan class-hatred. This refers especially to
those gentlemen who have bestowed their kind attention upon the
Government and upon me personally. When we heard the representative,
Mr. Lasker, say the other day that the policy of the government was
aristocratic, this term was bound to render the whole aristocracy and
what belongs to it suspected of selfishness in the eyes of the poor
men, at whose expense the aristocracy seemingly exists. When such
expressions fall on anti-semitic ground, how is it possible to avoid
reprisals? The anti-semites will coin their own word with which to
designate--as they think appropriately--the policies opposed to ours.
The resulting epithet I do not care to mention; every one will think
of it himself. When afterwards a newspaper like the _Tribune_, which
is said to be owned by Mr. Bamberger, makes itself the mouthpiece of
Mr. Lasker's expression, claiming it to be correct, and hailing the
invention of this word as a discovery worthy of Columbus, and when the
_Tribune_ finally asserts that "care for the poor" and "aristocracy"
cannot exist in the same train of thought, can you not imagine what
will happen when all this is turned around, and altered by an
anti-semite? Are you in doubt what he will substitute for
"aristocracy," and do you not know that he will repeat every twist and
turn of speech with which Mr. Bamberger's sheet imputes selfish
injustice to the aristocracy?

The representative Mr. Richter has called attention to the
responsibility of the State for everything it does in the field on
which it is entering today. Well, gentlemen, I feel that the State may
become responsible also for the things it does _not_ do. I do not
believe that the "_laissez faire, laissez aller_, theory," and the
unadulterated political theories of Manchester, such as "let each one
do what he chooses, and fare as he will," or "who is not strong enough
to stand, let him be crushed," or "he who has will receive more, and
he who has not from him let us take," can be practised in any State,
least of all in a monarchical State, governed by the father of his
country. On the contrary, I believe that those who shudder at the
State exerting its influence for the protection of the weaker
brethren, themselves intend to capitalize their strength--be it
financial, rhetorical, or what not--that they may gain a following, or
oppress the rest, or smooth their own way to party control. They
become angry, of course, as soon as their plans are spoiled by the
rising influence of the State.

The representative Mr. Richter says this legislation does not go far
enough. If he will have patience, we may perhaps be able to satisfy
him a little later--one should not be hasty or try to do everything at
once! Such laws are not made arbitrarily out of theories and as the
result of asking "what kind of law would it be wise to make now?"
They are the gradual outgrowth of earlier events. The reason why we
come to you today only with an accident-insurance law is because this
branch of the care of the poor and the weak was especially vigorous
even before I seriously concerned myself with such matters. Bequests,
suggestions, and notes for such a bill were on file when I assumed
office. According to the records this bill was needed more than any
other. When I began to study it, I must confess that it did not seem
to me to go far enough in theory, and that I was tempted to change the
words which occur, I believe in the first paragraph, "every workingman
who" and "shall be reimbursed in such and such a way," to read, "every
German." There is something ideal in this change. If one thinks of it
more seriously, however, and especially if one plans to include also
the independent workmen, who meet with an accident at no one's behest
but their own, the question of insurance is even more difficult. No
two hours' speech of any representative can give us so much concern as
this problem has given us: "How far is it possible to extend this law
without creating at the very start an unfavorable condition, or
reaching out too far and thus overreaching ourselves?" As a farmer I
was tempted to ask, whether it would be possible to extend the
insurance, for instance, also to the farmhands, who constitute the
majority of the workingmen in our eastern provinces. I shall not give
up hope that this may be possible, but there are difficulties, which
for the time being have prevented us from doing this; and concerning
these I wish to say a few words.

The farming industry, in so far as it has to do with machinery and
elemental forces, is, of course, not excluded from the law. But the
remaining great majority of the country population also comes in
frequent contact with machines, although these are set in motion not
by elemental forces, but by horses or fellow-laborers. Such
occupations are often dangerous and unwholesome, but it is
exceedingly difficult to gather statistics and percentages, and to
define the necessary amount of contributions to an insurance fund.
The representative Mr. Richter knows, apparently from experience, the
proper percentage in every branch of human occupation, for he has
quoted his figures with much assurance. I should be grateful to him if
he would mention also the source of his valuable information. We have
done the best we could. The preliminary drafts of the bill were based
on carefully selected facts--notice please, selected facts, and not
arbitrary statistics based on conjecture. If we had discovered those
figures, which the quicker eye of the honorable Mr. Richter seems to
have detected at a glance, and if we had believed them to be accurate,
we should have gone further in this bill.

When I say that I do not give up hope that the farming industry may
yet be included, I am thinking of an organization which cannot be
created at one session of the Reichstag. Like the child which must be
small if it is to be born at all, and which gradually assumes its
proper proportions by growth, so also this organization will have to
develop gradually. Eventually the various branches of industry which
have insured their laborers should be formed into incorporated
associations, and each association should raise among its own members
the premiums needed for the proper insurance of its laborers. It
should at the same time exercise supervision over its members to the
extent that the dues should be as low as possible. Or, to put it
differently, the personal interest of the contributing members should
see to it that adequate means for the prevention of accidents are
adopted. If this can be accomplished by a gradual advance based on
experience, we may also hope to find, by experience, the proper
percentage as regards that branch of farming which does not employ
elemental forces.

Our lack of experience in these matters has also induced us to be very
careful about the assessment of the necessary contributions. I
certainly should not have the courage to press this bill if the
expenses which it entails were to be borne exclusively by the various
industries. If the assistance which the State would render--either by
provincial or county associations, or directly--were to be entirely
omitted, I should not dare to answer to our industries for the
consequences of this law. Perhaps this can be done, and after a few
years of experience we may be able to judge whether it is possible.
The State contribution, therefore, may be limited at first to three
years, or to whatever period you wish. But without any actual
experience, without any practical test of what we are to expect, I do
not dare to burden our industries with all the expenses of this
government-institution, and to add to their taxes. I do not dare to
place upon them the whole burden of caring for the injured factory or
mill hands. The county associations used to do this, and in the future
it will be done more fully and in a more dignified way by the insurers
and the State.

No entirely new charges are here contemplated; the charges are merely
transferred from the county associations to the State. I do not deny
that the tax of him who pays and the advantages which accrue to the
laborer will be increased. The increase, however, does not equal the
full third which the State is to bear, but only the difference between
what at present the county associations are obliged to do for the
injured workingmen, and what these men will receive in future. You
see, it is purely a question of improving the lot of the laboring man.
This difference, therefore, is the only new charge on the State, with
which you have to reckon. And you will have to ask yourselves: "Is the
advantage gained worth this difference,--when we aim to procure for
the laborer who has been injured a better and more adequate support,
and relieve him of the necessity of having to fight for his right in
court, and when he will receive without delay the moderate stipend
which the State decrees?" I feel like answering the question with a
strong affirmative.

Our present poor laws keep the injured laboring man from starvation.
According to law, at least, nobody need starve. Whether in reality
this never happens I do not know. But this is not enough in order to
let the men look contentedly into the future and to their own old age.
The present bill intends to keep the sense of human dignity alive
which even the poorest German should enjoy, if I have my way. He
should feel that he is no mere eleemosynary, but that he possesses a
fund which is his very own. No one shall have the right to dispose of
it, or to take it from him, however poor he may be. This fund will
open for him many a door, which otherwise will remain closed to him
and it will secure for him better treatment in the house where he has
been received, because when he leaves he can take away with him
whatever contributions he has been making to the household expenses.

If you have ever personally investigated the conditions of the poor in
our large cities, or of the village paupers in the country, you have
been able to observe the wretched treatment which the poor
occasionally receive even in the best managed communities, especially
if they are physically weak or crippled. This happens in the houses of
their stepmothers, or relatives of any kind, yes also in those of
their nearest of kin. Knowing this, are you not obliged to confess
that every healthy laboring man, who sees such things, must say to
himself: "Is it not terrible that a man is thus degraded in the house
which he used to inhabit as master and that his neighbor's dog is not
worse off than he?" Such things do happen. What protection is there
for a poor cripple, who is pushed into a corner, and is not given
enough to eat? There is none. But if he has as little as 100 or 200
marks of his own, the people will think twice before they oppress him.
We have been in a position to observe this in the case of the military
invalids. Although only five or six dollars are paid every month, this
actual cash amounts to something in the household where the poor are
boarded, and the thrifty housewife is careful not to offend or to lose
the boarder who pays cash.

I, therefore, assure you that we felt the need of insisting by this
law on a treatment of the poor which should be worthy of humanity.
Next year I shall be able fully to satisfy Mr. Richter in regard to
the amount and the extent of attention which the State will give to a
better and more adequate care of all the unemployed. This will come as
a natural consequence, whether or no the present bill is passed. Today
this bill is a test, as it were. We are sounding to see how deep the
waters are, financially, into which we are asking the State and the
country to enter. You cannot guard yourselves against such problems by
delivering elegant and sonorous speeches, in which you recommend the
improvement of our laws of liability, without in the least indicating
how this can be done. In this way you cannot settle these questions,
for you are acting like the ostrich, who hides his head lest he see
his danger. The Government has seen its duty and is facing, calmly and
without fear, the dangers which we heard described here a few days ago
most eloquently and of which we were given convincing proofs.

We should, however, also remove, as much as possible, the causes which
are used to excite the people, and which alone render them susceptible
to criminal doctrines. It is immaterial to me whether or no you will
call this Socialism. If you call it Socialism, you must have the
remarkable wish of placing the Imperial Government, in so far as this
bill of the allied governments is concerned, in the range of the very
critique which Mr. von Puttkamer passed here on the endeavors of the
Socialists. It would then almost seem that with this bill only a very
small distance separated us from the murderous band of Hasselmann, the
incendiary writings of Most, and the revolutionary conspiracies of the
Congress of Wyden; and that even this distance would soon disappear.
Well, gentlemen, this is, of course, the very opposite of true. Those
who fight with such oratorical and meaningless niceties are counting
on the many meanings of the word "socialism." As a result of the kind
of programs which the Socialists have issued, this term is, in our
public opinion today, almost synonymous with "criminal." If the
government endeavors to treat the injured workingmen better in the
future, and especially more becomingly, and not to offer to their as
yet vigorous brethren the spectacle, as it were, of an old man on the
dump heap slowly starving to death, this cannot be called socialistic
in the sense in which that murderous band was painted to us the other
day. People are playing a cheap game with the shadow on the wall when
they call our endeavors socialistic.

If the representative Mr. Bamberger, who took no offense at the word
"Christian," wishes to give a name to our endeavors which I could
cheerfully accept, let it be: "Practical Christianity," but _sans
phrase_, for we shall not pay the people with words and speeches, but
with actual improvements. Yet, death alone is had for the asking. If
you refuse to reach into your pocketbook, or that of the State, you
will not accomplish anything. If you should place the whole burden on
the industries, I do not know whether they could bear it. Some might
be able to do it, but not all. Those who could do it are the
industries where the wages are but a small fraction of the total cost
of production. Among such I mention the chemical factories, and the
mills which with twenty mill hands can do an annual business of
several million marks. The great mass of laborers, however, does not
work in such establishments, which I am tempted to call
aristocratic--without wishing to excite any class-hatred. They are in
industries where the wages amount to 80 or 90 per cent, of the cost of
production. Whether the latter can bear the additional burden I do not

It is, moreover, perfectly immaterial whether the assessment is made
on the employer or on the employee. In either case the industry will
have to bear it, for the contribution of the laborer will
eventually, and of necessity, be added to the expenses of the
industry. There is a general complaint that the average wages of the
laborers make the saving of a surplus impossible. If you wish,
therefore, to add a burden to the laborers whose present wages are no
more than sufficient, the employers will have to increase the wages,
or the laborers will leave them for other occupations.

The previous speaker called the bill defective, because the principle
of relieving the laborer from all contributions had not been
consistently followed; and he spoke as if this principle had not been
at all followed. Laborers, receiving more than 750 marks in three
hundred working days, are, it is true, not affected by it; and this is
due to the origin of the bill. The first draft read that one-third of
the contributions should be made by those county associations which
would have to support the injured man in conformity with the poor-laws
of the State. We did not wish merely to make a gift to these
associations, which at present are responsible for 80 per cent. of all
injured working-men, that is for those who do not come under the law
of liability. We, therefore, accepted as just the proposition that
these associations should pay one-third toward the insurance of those
men who formerly would have become their charges. Laborers, however,
whose pay is large enough to keep them from becoming public charges,
when they meet with an accident, hold an exceptional position. I am,
nevertheless, perfectly willing to drop this exception in the bill, as
I have said repeatedly. But since the Reichstag in its entirety has
thus far placed itself on record as opposed to any contribution from
the State, I should not gain thereby any votes for the bill. I wish to
declare, however, that this limit of 750 marks is of no consequence
compared with the theory on which the bill is based. It arose from a
sense of justice toward the county associations, which were not to be
burdened with higher taxes than would equal their savings under this
bill. Later it was discovered from many actual examples that the
insurance according to the existing county associations was
impossible, because the State, which really is responsible for the
care of the poor, had distributed it in an arbitrary and unjust way on
the various county associations. Small and weak country communities
are often overburdened with the care of poor people, while large and
wealthy communities may have practically no charges, since the
geographical position alone has determined the membership in the
various county associations. The result, therefore, of levying the
necessary contributions on these associations would have been a very
uneven distribution of the assessments. Being convinced of this, I
suggested the substitution of "provincial association" for "county
association"; and thus the bill read for several weeks, until we
yielded to the wishes of the allied states and of the Economic
Council, and left to each state the question whether it wished to take
the place of these various associations or preferred to call upon them
in any way it chose. These are the steps by which we reached the 750
mark exemption, and the unconditional share which is to be paid by the
State. This share is nothing but a hint to the legislature how to
distribute the care of the poor to the various county--and other
associations. Whatever is done, you will agree with me that we need a
revision of our poor-laws. Just how this will eventually be
accomplished is immaterial to me.

I am not astonished that the most divergent views are held on this new
subject, which touches our lives very intimately, and which no
experience has as yet illuminated. Because of this divergence of
opinion I am also aware that we may be unable to pass an acceptable
law at this session. My own interest in this entire work would be very
much lessened if I were to notice that the principle of a State
contribution were to be definitely rejected, and that the legislative
assembly of the country were to vote against State-contributions. This
would transfer the whole matter to the sphere of open commerce, if I
may say so, and in that case it might be better to leave the
insurance to private enterprise rather than to establish a
State-institution without any compulsion. I should certainly not have
the courage to exercise compulsion, if the State did not at the same
time make a contribution.

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