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

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If compulsion is exercised, it is necessary for the law to establish a
department of insurance. This is cheaper and safer than any company.
You cannot expose the savings of the poor to possible insolvency, nor
can you allow any part of the contributions to be used for the payment
of dividends or interest on stocks and bonds. The representative Mr.
Bamberger based his opposition to the bill--you remember his strong
words--largely on his sorrow at the impending ruin of the insurance
companies. He said they would be crushed and annihilated, and he
added, that they were soliciting the gratitude of their
fellow-citizens. I always thought they were soliciting the money of
their fellow-citizens. If in addition they can get their gratitude,
they are turning a very clever trick. That they should be willing,
like good souls, to sacrifice themselves in the interest of the
workingmen, and establish their institutions of insurance without
issuing any shares, I have never believed, and it would be difficult
to convince me of it. According to my feeling of right and wrong, we
cannot force anybody to join private insurance companies which may
become bankrupt even under good management, owing to fluctuations in
the market, or to panics, and which have to arrange their premiums so
that dividends are realized for those who are investing their capital,
or at least interest on the invested money and the hope of dividends.
To this I cannot lend my assistance. If the State is going to exercise
compulsion, it must, I believe, undertake the insurance itself. It may
be the empire for all, or the individual State--but, without this, no

Nor have I the courage, as I have already said, to exercise any
compulsion if I cannot offer something in return. This contribution of
a third is, as I said before, much smaller than it looks, because
the associations will be greatly relieved of the old burdens which the
State had imposed on them. If this is communism, as the last speaker
called it, and not socialism, I do not care one iota. I shall call it
again and again "practical Christianity legally demonstrated." If,
however, it is communism, then communism has been extensively
practised in the districts for a long while, and actually under State

The previous speaker said that by our method the lower classes would
be oppressed with indirect taxes in order to collect the funds for the
care of the poor. But I ask you, gentlemen, what is being done in the
large cities, in Berlin for instance, which the speaker thinks is
splendidly governed by the liberal ring? Here the poor man is taken
care of with the proceeds of the tax on rents, which is exacted of his
slightly less poor brother; and to-morrow he may have this brother as
his companion in misery, when a warrant is executed against the latter
for the non-payment of this tax. That is more cruel than if the
payment were made from the tax on tobacco or on alcohol.

The previous speaker said that I had spoken against the tax on
alcohol. I really do not remember this, and I should be grateful if he
would prove this by quoting one word. I have always mentioned tobacco
and alcohol as commodities on which larger taxes should be levied, but
I have expressed a doubt whether it is right to tax the alcohol in
factories while it is being made. Many States, as for instance France,
do not levy any tax on alcohol, or assess it at a different time. The
representative, therefore, has made a mistake--no doubt
unintentionally. When, however, this mistake will be printed, without
refutation, in many papers, which are under his influence, it will, I
am sure, make no mean impression.

I will not dilate on the defects of the law of liability, which will
be discussed by experienced men, who have had more to do with it than
I. These defects, however, added their weight to the promise we made
when the law against the Socialists was promulgated--you undoubtedly
remember it and I have been reminded of it often enough--and were my
chief reasons for submitting to you the present bill. Our present law
of liability has shown surprisingly bad results. I have convinced
myself, by actual occurrences, that the suits arising under this law
often terminate unexpectedly and unfairly, if they are successful. And
if they are unsuccessful, they are frequently equally unfair. I have
been assured by many creditable people that this law does not improve
the relations between the employer and the employees. On the contrary,
the bitter feeling between them is increased, wherever there are many
such suits, especially where there are shyster-lawyers who like to sow
discord with an eye to the elections. This is in strong contrast to
the good intentions of the law. The workingmen, however, consider
themselves injured by it, because not even a decree of the court will
convince them that they are wrong, especially if they have lawyers who
tell them they are right, and that they should appeal their cases to
four or five higher courts, if there were as many.

These observations made me wish to introduce a system which would work
smoothly, and in which there would be no question of suits-at-law, or
investigations into anyone's culpability. The latter is quite
immaterial for him who has been injured. He remains unfortunate,
crippled, and unable to earn a living, if this has been his lot, or,
if he has been killed, his family is left without its bread-winner,
whether the accident was due to criminal neglect, carelessness, or
unavoidable circumstances. These are not questions of corrective or
distributive justice, but of protection. Without a proper law a great
part of our population is helpless before the hardships of life, or
the consequences of an accident. Without any capital of their own
these people have no redress against the cruelties which are the lot
of the pauper who has become a public charge.

I will not reply at length to the reproach that this is communism, but
I should like to ask you not to discuss everything from the point
of view of party-strategy, or faction-strategy, or from the feeling
"away with Bismarck." We have to do here with matters where not one of
us can see his way clearly, and where we must search for the right
road with sticks and sounding-rods. I should like to see another man
in my place as speedily as possible, if he would continue my work. I
should gladly say to him, "Son, take up your father's spear," even if
he were not my own son. This undesirable way of discussing matters
showed itself the other day, when the gentlemen fought for "the poor
man," as if they had to do with the body of Patroclus. Mr. Lasker took
hold of him at one end, and I tried to snatch him away from Mr. Lasker
as best I could. But where do imputed motives, and class-hatred, and
the excitement of misery and suffering lead us? Such behavior comes
too near being socialism in the sense in which Mr. von Puttkamer
exposed it the other day.

Alms constitute the first step of Christian charity, such as must
exist in France, for instance, to a great extent. There are no
poor-laws in France, and every poor man has the right to starve to
death if charitable people do not prevent him from doing so. Charity
is the first duty, and the second is, the assistance given by
districts and according to law. A State, however, which is composed
very largely of Christians--even if you are horrified at hearing it
called a Christian State,--should let itself be permeated with the
principles which it confesses, and especially with those which have to
do with the help of our neighbors, and the sympathy one feels for the
lot which threatens the old and the sick.

The extensive discussions, which I have partly heard, and partly read
in the Parliamentary extracts of yesterday, compel me to make some
further observations. The representative Mr. Richter has said that the
whole bill amounted to a subsidy of the big industries. Well, here
again, you have an instance of class-hatred, which would receive new
fuel if his words were true. I do not know why you assume that the
Government cherishes a blind and special love for the big industries.
The big manufacturers are, it is true, children of fortune, and this
creates no good will toward them among the rest of the people. But to
weaken or to confine their existence would be a very foolish
experiment. If we dropped our big industries, making it impossible for
them to compete with those of other countries, and if we placed
burdens on them which they have not yet been proved able to bear, we
might meet with the approval of all who are vexed at seeing anybody
richer than other people, most especially than themselves. But, if we
ruin the big industries, what shall we do with the laborers? In such a
case we should be facing the problem, to which the representative Mr.
Richter referred with much concern, of the organization of labor. If a
business, employing twenty thousand laborers and more, goes to pieces,
and if the big industries go to pieces, because they have been
denounced to public opinion and to the legislature as dangerous and
liable to heavier taxes, we could not let twenty thousand, and
hundreds of thousands of laborers starve to death. In such a case we
should have to organize a genuine State-socialism, and find work for
these laborers, similar to what we have been doing during every panic.

If the objections of the representative Mr. Richter, who claimed that
we must guard ourselves against State-socialism as against some
disease, were well taken, how does it happen that we are providing
work whenever a calamity has afflicted one or another of the
provinces? Such work would not be provided, if the workingmen could
find other remunerative occupations. In such cases we build railways
of doubtful productivity, and make improvements, which under ordinary
circumstances are left to the individual citizens to make. If this is
communism, I am by no means opposed to it. But the use of such
catch-words does not advance the solution of any problem.

I have already commented on Mr. Bamberger's defence of the private
insurance companies. I am, however, convinced that we are not
called upon to espouse their cause of all others when we are
confronted by tremendous economic needs. He has also referred to the
"four weeks" which have to elapse before the insurance takes effect.
This was done in the hope that the unions and societies would wish to
do something themselves. We are always told that the laborers deem
insurance to be contrary to their honor, unless they contribute
something toward it. For this reason we have left the first four weeks
uninsured. I am not certain on this point, but if another solution
seems better, I believe that the law should cover also this hiatus.
There is no fundamental objection to this.

One single fact will throw much light on the considerable burdens of
which the county communities will be relieved when the care of their
poor will pass, according to this bill, to the community of the State.
I have been unable to ascertain the number of persons to whom
assistance is given in the empire or in the kingdom of Prussia, and
even less to discover the amount of money spent for this purpose. In
the country, and elsewhere, private charity and public help are so
intermingled that it is impossible to separate them, or to keep
accurate accounts. The one hundred and seventy cities, however, which
have more than ten thousand inhabitants expend on the average four
marks per capita for the care of their poor. This item varies between
0.63 mark and 12.84 marks--a great variation as you see. The most
remarkable results are found where the majority of laborers are banded
together in unions or similar associations. It would be natural to
think that places like Oberneunkirchen and Duttweiler with large
factory populations would have a very large budget for the poor; and
that Berlin, which is only in part an industrial centre, would be an
average locality, for our purposes, if its finances were well managed.
As a matter of fact it pays far more than the average for the care of
its poor without doing this exceptionally well. Anyone who is
interested in private charities, and cares to visit the poor of
Berlin, will be convinced of their pitiful condition.

Nevertheless, the Berlin budget for the poor amounts to 5,000,000
marks--these are the latest figures--and for the care of the sick poor
to 1,900,000 marks. Why these two items should be separated I do not
know. Together, therefore, they amount to about 7,000,000 marks, or 7
marks per capita, while the average of the large cities is 4 marks. If
such a poor-tax of 7 marks per capita were extended to the whole
empire, it would yield 300,000,000 marks; and if the direct taxes of
Berlin, amounting to 23 marks per capita, were levied on the empire,
we should receive more than one milliard marks in direct taxes,
including those on rents and incomes. Fortunately not all the people
of the empire are living under a liberal ring, and least of all the
inhabitants of cities where the majority of the workingmen have joined
unions or similar associations. We have discovered the remarkable fact
that Oberneunkirchen with its large factory population pays only 0.58
mark, and Duttweiler 0.72 mark per capita for the care of their poor.

These are instances which throw light on the relief of the communities
if a system similar to that of the unions would be introduced. I do
not at all intend to make so expensive a proposition to you, and I
have already said that we shall have to work on this legislation for
at least a generation. But look at the glaring examples of Duttweiler
and Oberneunkirchen. Without their unions their budgets for the poor
would perhaps not rise to the Berlin figure, but they would easily
amount to 5 marks per capita. Actually, however, they are less than 1
mark, and almost as low as 1/2 mark. What a tremendous burden will be
taken from the charity departments of a city of ten thousand
inhabitants by a law like the one under discussion! Why, then, should
they not be asked to make some kind of a contribution to the insurance
fund? But the contributions should not be made by the districts, but
by larger units, and, since the State is the largest, I insist that
the contributions should be made by the State. If you do not yield in
this point to the allied governments, I shall look placidly, and
without being offended, toward further discussions and another session
of the Reichstag. This I consider to be the all-important part of the
law, and without it the bill would no longer appear to me to be as
valuable as I have thought it was, and would seem to lack the chief
characteristic which induced me to become its sponsor.

The previous speaker and the Honorable Mr. Bamberger have looked
askance at the Economic Council. This, gentlemen, was perfectly
natural, for competition in eloquence is as much disliked as in
business; and there are in this Council not only men of exceptionally
great practical knowledge, but also some very good speakers. When the
Council has been more firmly established these men will perhaps
deliver as long and expert speeches as those representatives are doing
who pass themselves off as the expert spokesmen of labor. I really do
not consider it to be polite, or politically advantageous, to refer to
the councillors who have come here, at the call of their king, to
voice their honest opinions with as much contempt as the
representatives whom I have mentioned have done. Most woods return the
echo of what we call into them; and why should the representative Mr.
Richter unnecessarily make for himself even more enemies than he has?
He is like me, in that the number of his opponents is growing, and is
no longer small. His ear, however, is not so keen as mine to detect
the existence of an opponent, and I am satisfied to wait and see which
one of us in the long run will appear to have been right. Possibly,
this may not be decided in our lifetime. That also will be agreeable
to me.

The representative Mr. Bamberger has expressed his astonishment, in
discussing matters with the Council, that the delegates of the
sea-coast cities had been granted the right to decide about questions
relating to gunpowder and playing-cards. Well, gentlemen, the
delegates from the inland districts are far more numerous than those
from the seacoast, and we have not made this division arbitrarily.
Since we look upon the free-trade theory as an epidemic, which is
afflicting us like the Colorado Beetle, or similar evils, you cannot
possibly expect that we should ask the free traders to represent the
whole country in matters where we happen to have the choice. Generally
speaking, the free traders represent the interests of maritime
commerce, of merchants, and of a very few other people. Opposed to
them is the much greater weight of all the inland districts. The more,
therefore, the Economic Council will be perfected, the more the
propriety and reasonableness of the present arrangement will be
appreciated. The Council has, to my great delight, excellent chances
of extending its usefulness over the whole empire. These remarks will
scarcely win me, I believe, the good graces of Messrs. Richter and
Bamberger. If they did, it would be for me an _argumentum e
contrario_. I am always of the opinion that the very opposite of their
views is serviceable for the State and the interests of the
fatherland, as I understand them.

I have already replied to the reproach of home-socialism. One of the
previous speakers, however, goes so far as to identify me with
foreigners, because I am glad to assume the responsibility for this
law and its intellectual origin. These foreigners are, no doubt,
excellent men, but they have nothing to do with our affairs. They are
men like Nadaud, Clemenceau, Spuller, Lockroy, and others. I believe
this was intended to be a complicated reproach of both socialism and
communism. You see, it is always the same tune. Then he mentioned the
"intrepidity," which I translate for myself to mean the "frivolous
levity," of the government in suggesting such matters. The considerate
politeness of the speaker induced him to call it "intrepidity."
Gentlemen, our intrepidity springs from our good conscience. We are
convinced that what we are proposing is the result of dutiful and
careful consideration, and is not in the least tinged with
party-politics. In this we are superior to our opponents, who will
never be able to free themselves from the soil of party-warfare which
clings to their boots.

The previous speaker compared us also with the Romans. You see he made
his historical excursions not only into France, but also into the
past. The difference between Mr. Bamberger's and our point of
view--which Mr. Lasker may call aristocratic, if he chooses--appears
in his very choice of words. Mr. Bamberger spoke of theatres which we
were erecting for the "sweet rabble." Whether there is anything sweet
in the rabble for Mr. Bamberger I do not know. But we are filled with
satisfaction at the thought that we may be able to do something in the
legislature for the less fortunate classes--whom he designates as
rabble--and to wrest them, if you will grant the money, from the evil
influences of place-hunters whose eloquence is too much for their

The expression "rabble" did not fall from our lips, and if the
representative spoke of the "rabble" first, and afterwards of "those
who cut off coupons," I deny having used also this word. "To cut off
coupons" is linguistically not familiar to me. I believe I said "those
who cut coupons." The meaning, of course, remains the same. But let me
remark that I consider this class of people to be highly estimable,
and from a minister's point of view exceedingly desirable, because
they combine wealth with that degree of diffidence which keeps them
from all tainted or dangerous enterprises. The man who pays a large
tax and loves peace is from the ministerial point of view the most
agreeable of citizens. He must, of course, not try to escape the
burdens which his easily collected income should bear in comparison
with others. And you will see that he really does not do it. He is an
honest man, and when we shall at last have outgrown the
finance-ministerial mistrust of olden times--which my present
colleagues no longer share--we shall see that not everybody is willing
to lie for his own financial benefit, and that even the man who cuts
coupons will declare his wealth honestly, and pay his taxes
accordingly. The Honorable Mr. Bamberger also asked: "Where will you
find the necessary money?" This law really implies few new expenses,
as I have already said, because all the government asks is to be
permitted to substitute the State for the communities, which at
present are taking care of the poor, and to make a very modest
allowance to those who cannot earn their living. This allowance should
be entirely at the disposal of the recipient and be inalienable from
him. It will thus secure for him independence even when he is an
invalid. The increase over the present cost of caring for the poor is
slight. I do not know whether it should be estimated at half of
one-third--one sixth--or even at less.

I am, therefore, of the opinion that a State which is at war with the
infernal elements recently described to you here in detail, and which
possesses among its citizens an overwhelming majority of sincere
adherents of the Christian religion, should do for the poor, the weak,
and the old much more than this bill demands--as much as I hope to be
able to ask of you next year. And such a State, especially when it
wishes to demonstrate its practical Christianity, should not refuse
our demands, for its own sake and for the sake of the poor!

* * * * *


February 6, 1888


[In view of the constantly increasing armaments in France, the
government had secured from the Reichstag of 1887 an increase also of
the German army. Danger, however, was threatening from Russia as well
as from France, and it became necessary to arrange matters in a way
which would place the full strength of the German people at the
disposal of the government. A bill to this effect was introduced in
the Reichstag on December 9, 1887, and another bill, which was to
procure the money for this increase in armaments, was introduced on
January 31, 1888. Both bills were on the calendar of February 6.
Prince Bismarck opened the discussion with the following speech, the
effect of which was electric, and resulted in the Reichstag passing
both bills by a unanimous vote.]

In addressing you today I do not intend to recommend to you the
acceptance of the bill which your president has just mentioned. I have
no fear concerning its acceptance, nor do I believe that I can do
anything to increase the majority with which it will be passed,
although this is, of course, of great importance both at home and
abroad. The representatives of the various parties have, no doubt,
decided how they will vote, and I am confident that the German
Reichstag will grant us again an increase in our armed force and thus
reestablish the standard which we gradually gave up between 1867 and
1882, and will do so, not on account of the position in which we
happen to find ourselves, nor of any fears which may be swaying the
stock exchange and public opinion, but because of an anticipatory
estimate of the general conditions of Europe. In addressing you,
therefore, I shall have to say more about these conditions than about
the bill.

I do not like to do this, for in these matters one unskilful word can
do great harm, and many words can do small good beyond making people
understand the situation at home and abroad, which they will do in due
time anyhow. I do not like to speak, but if I should keep silence the
nervous excitement of public opinion at home and abroad will be
increased rather than decreased, I fear, in view of the expectations
which have been based on today's debate. People would believe the
situation to be so difficult and critical that a minister of foreign
affairs did not even dare to touch upon it. For these reasons I am
addressing you, but I must say that I am doing it reluctantly.

I might be satisfied with a reference to what I said here just about a
year ago, for matters are but slightly changed. A newspaper clipping
has been handed to me containing a summary in the _Liberal News_, an
organ which has closer relations, I believe, with my political friend,
the Honorable Mr. Richter, than with myself. This clipping might offer
me a starting point from which to develop the situation as a whole,
but I can refer to it, and the chief points made there, only with the
general declaration that the situation has been improved rather than
otherwise, if it has been changed at all.

A year ago we were largely concerned with the possible cause of war
emanating from France. Since then a peace-loving president has dropped
the reins of government, and another peace-loving president has
succeeded him. It is a favorable sign that the French government did
not dip into Pandora's box in calling to office another chief
magistrate, and that we may be assured of the continuance under
President Carnot of the peaceful policy which President Grevy was
known to represent. Changes in the French cabinet are even more
reassuring than the change in the presidency, where a great many
different reasons had to be considered. The ministers who might have
been ready to subordinate the peace of their own country and of
Europe to their personal plans have resigned, and others have taken
their places of whom we need not fear this. I believe, therefore that
I may state that our outlook toward France is more peaceful and less
explosive today than it was a year ago and I am glad to do this,
because I wish to quiet, not to excite, public opinion.

The fears which have sprung up during the last twelve months have had
to do more with Russia than with France, or I may say with the
exchange of mutual excitement, threats, insults, and challenges in the
French and Russian papers during the past summer.

Nevertheless, I believe that our relations with Russia have not
changed from what they were last year. The _Liberal News_ has stated,
in especially heavy type, that I said a year ago: "Our friendship with
Russia has suffered no interruption during our wars, and is today
beyond a doubt. We expect of Russia neither an attack nor a hostile
policy." The reason why this was printed in heavy type may have been
either to give me an easy starting point, or because the writer hoped
that I had changed my mind since I said these things, and was at
present convinced that I had erred in my confidence in the Russian
policy a year ago. This is not the case. The only events which could
have occasioned a change of opinion are the attitude of the Russian
press and the allocation of the Russian troops.

As regards the press, I cannot assign any importance to it _per se_.
People say that it is of greater consequence in Russia than in France.
I believe the very opposite to be true. In France the press is a power
influencing the decisions of the government. In Russia it is not, nor
can it be. In both cases, however, the press is, so far as I am
concerned, mere printer's ink on paper, against which we do not wage
war. It cannot contain a challenge for us. Back of each article in the
press there stands after all only the single man who guided the pen
which launched this particular article into the world. Even in a
Russian sheet--suppose it to be an independent Russian sheet,
one which maintains relations with the French secret funds, it is of
no consequence. The pen which there indites an anti-German article is
backed by no one but him who is guiding it, the solitary man who is
concocting the sad stuff in his office, and the protector which every
Russian sheet is accustomed to have. He is some kind of a higher
official, run wild in party politics, who happens to bestow his
protection on this particular paper. Both weigh like feathers in the
scale against the authority of His Majesty the Emperor of Russia.

In Russia the press has not the same influence on public opinion as in
France. At best its declarations are the barometer by which to gauge
how much can be printed according to the Russian press-laws, but they
do not obligate the Russian government or His Majesty the Emperor of
Russia in any way. In contrast with the voices of the Russian press I
have the immediate testimony of Emperor Alexander himself, when a few
months ago I had again the honor of being received by him in audience
after the lapse of several years. I was then able to convince myself
afresh that the emperor of Russia harbors no hostile feelings against
us and does not intend to attack us, or to wage any aggressive wars at
all. What the Russian press says, I do not believe, what Emperor
Alexander says, I believe; I have absolute confidence in it. When both
are in the scales, the testimony of the Russian press, with its hatred
of Germany, rises light as a feather, and the personal testimony of
Emperor Alexander has the only effective weight, so far as I am
concerned. I repeat, therefore, the press does not induce me to
consider our relations with Russia to be worse today than they were a
year ago.

I now come to the other point, the allocation of the troops. It used
to take place on a big scale, but only since 1879, when the Turkish
war was concluded, has it assumed the proportions which today seem
threatening. It may easily appear as if this accumulation of Russian
troops near the German and Austrian frontiers--where their support
is more difficult and more expensive than farther inland--could only
be dictated by the intention of surprising and attacking one of the
neighbors unprepared, _sans dire gare!_ (I cannot for the moment think
of the German expression.) Well, I do not believe this. In the first
place, it would be contrary to the character of the sovereign and his
own words, and secondly its object could not easily be understood.
Russia cannot intend to conquer any Prussian provinces, nor, I
believe, any Austrian provinces. Russia has, I believe, as many Polish
subjects as it cares to have, and has no desire to increase their
numbers. To annex anything but Polish districts from Austria would be
even more difficult. No reason exists, no pretense which could induce
a European monarch suddenly to assail his neighbors. I even go so far
in my confidence as to be convinced that a Russian war would not ensue
if we should become involved in a French war because of some explosive
happenings in France, which no one can foresee and which surely are
not intended by the present French government. A French war, on the
other hand, would be an absolute certainty if we should be involved in
a Russian war, for no French government would be so strong that it
could prevent it, even if it was inclined to do so. But as regards
Russia I still declare that I am not looking for an attack; and I take
back nothing from what I said last year.

You will ask: "If that is so, what is the use of this expensive
allocation of the Russian troops?" That is one of the questions for
which one hardly can expect an answer from a ministry of foreign
affairs, itself vitally interested. If we should begin to ask for
explanations, we might receive forced replies, and our surrejoinders
would also have to be forced. That is a dangerous path which I do not
like to tread. Allocations of troops are things for which one does not
take the other country to task, asking for categorical explanations,
but against which one takes counter precautions with equal reserve and
circumspection. I cannot, therefore, give an authentic declaration
concerning the motives of this Russian allocation, but, having been
familiar through a generation with foreign politics and the policy of
Russia, I can form my own ideas concerning them. These ideas lead me
to assume that the Russian cabinet is convinced, probably with good
reason, that the weight of the Russian voice in the diplomatic
Areopagos of Europe will be the weightier in the next European crisis,
the stronger Russia is on the European frontier and the farther west
the Russian armies stand. Russia is the more quickly at hand, either
as an ally or as a foe, the nearer her main army, or at least a large
army, is to her western frontier.

This policy has directed the Russian allocation of troops for a long
while. You will remember that the army assembled in the Polish kingdom
during the Crimean War was so large that this war might have ended
differently if the army had started on time. If you think farther
back, you will see that the events of 1830 found Russia unprepared and
not ready to take a hand, because she had an insufficient number of
troops in the western part of her empire. I need not, therefore, draw
the conclusion from the accumulation of Russian troops in the western
provinces (_sapadnii Gubernii_, as the Russians say), that our
neighbors mean to attack us. I assume they are waiting, possibly for
another Oriental crisis, intending then to be in the position of
pressing home the Russian wishes by means of an army situated not
exactly in Kasan, but farther west.

When may such an Oriental crisis take place, you ask. Forsooth, we
have no certainty. During this century we have had, I think, four
crises, if I do not include the smaller ones and those which did not
culminate. One was in 1809 and ended with the treaty which gave Russia
the Pruth-frontier, and another in 1828. Then there was the Crimean
War of 1854, and the war of 1877. They have happened, therefore, at
intervals of about twenty years and over. Why, then, should the next
crisis take place sooner than after a similar interval, or at about
1899, twenty years after the last one? I for one should like to
reckon with the possibility of its being postponed and not occurring

Then there are other European events which are wont to take place at
even intervals, the Polish uprisings, for instance. Formerly we had to
expect one every eighteen or twenty years. Possibly this is one reason
why Russia wishes to be so strong in Poland that she may prevent them.
Then there are the changes of government in France which also used to
happen every eighteen or twenty years; and no one can deny that a
change of government in France may bring about such a crisis that
every interested nation may wish to be able to intervene with her full
might--I mean only diplomatically, but with a diplomacy which is
backed by an efficient army close at hand.

I assume on the strength of my purely technical-diplomatic judgment,
which is based on my experience, that these are the intentions of
Russia and that she has no wish to comply with the somewhat uncouth
threats and boastings of the newspapers. And, if this is so, then
there is surely no reason why we should look more gloomily into the
future now than we have done at any time during the past forty years.
The Oriental crisis is undoubtedly the most likely to occur, and in
this our interests are only secondary. When it happens, we are in a
position to watch whether the powers, who are primarily interested in
the Mediterranean and the Levante, will make their decisions and come
to terms, if they choose, or go to war with Russia about them. We are
not immediately called upon to do either. Every great power which is
trying to influence or to restrain the policies of other countries in
matters which are beyond the sphere of its interests is playing
politics beyond the bounds which God has assigned to it. Its policy is
one of force and not of vital interests. It is working for prestige.
We shall not do this. If Oriental crises happen, we shall wait before
taking our position until the powers who have greater interests at
stake than we have declared themselves. There is, therefore, no
reason, gentlemen, why you should look upon our present situation with
unusual gravity, assuming this to be the cause of our asking for the
mighty increase of our armaments which the military bill contemplates.
I should like to separate the question of reestablishing the
_Landwehr_ of the second grade, in short the big military bill and the
financial bill, from the question of our present situation. It has to
do, not with a temporary and transient arrangement, but with the
permanent invigoration of the German empire.

That no temporary arrangement is contemplated will be perfectly clear,
I believe, when I ask you to survey with me the dangers of war which
we have met in the past forty years without having become nervously
excited at any one time.

In the year 1848, when many dikes and flood gates were broken, which
until then had directed the peaceful flow of countless waters, we had
to dispose of two questions freighted with the danger of war. They
concerned Poland and Schleswig-Holstein. The first shouts after the
Martial days were: war with Russia for the rehabilitation of Poland!
Soon thereafter the danger was perilously near of being involved in a
great European war on account of Schleswig-Holstein. I need not
emphasize how the agreement of Olmuetz, in 1850, prevented a great
conflagration--a war on a gigantic scale. Then there followed two
years of greater quiet out of general ill feeling, at the time when I
first was ambassador in Frankfort. In 1853 the earliest symptoms of
the Crimean War made themselves felt. This war lasted from 1853 to
1856, and during this whole time we were near the edge of the cliff, I
will not say the abyss, whence it was intended to draw us into the
war. I remember that I was obliged at that time, from 1853 to 1855 to
alternate like a pendulum, so to speak, between Frankfort and Berlin
because the late king, thanks to the confidence he had in me, used me
as the real advocate of his independent policy whenever the
insistence of the western powers that we too should declare war on
Russia grew too strong, and the opposition of his cabinet too flabby
for his liking. Then the play was staged--I do not know how
often--when I was called back here and ordered to write for His
Majesty a more pro-Russian dispatch, and Mr. von Manteuffel resigned,
and I requested to be instructed by His Majesty to follow Mr. von
Manteuffel, after the dispatch was gone, into the country or anywhere
else, and to induce him to resume his office. Yet each time Prussia,
as it was then constituted, was hovering on the brink of a great war.
It was exposed to the hostility of the whole of Europe, except Russia,
if it refused to join in the policies of the west European powers,
and, if it did, it was forced to break with Russia, possibly for a
very long while, because the defection of Prussia would probably have
been felt very painfully in Russia.

During the Crimean War, therefore, we were in constant danger of war.
The war lasted till 1856, when it was at last concluded by the treaty
of Paris, and we found, in the Congress of Paris a sort of Canossa
prepared for us, for which I should not have assumed the
responsibility, and against which I vainly counseled at the time. We
were not at all obliged to play the part of a greater power than we
were, and to sign the treaties made there. But we were dancing
attendance with the view of being permitted to sign the treaty. This
will not again happen to us.

That was in 1856, and as early as in 1857 the problem of Neuchatel was
again threatening us with war. This did not become generally known. In
the spring of that year I was sent to Paris by the late king to
negotiate with Emperor Napoleon concerning the passage of Prussian
troops in an attack upon Switzerland. Everyone who hears this from me
will know what this would have meant in case of an understanding, and
that it could have become a far-reaching danger of war, and might have
involved us with France as well as with other powers. Emperor Napoleon
was not unwilling to agree. My negotiations in Paris, however, were
terminated because his majesty the king in the meanwhile had come to
an amicable understanding in the matter with Austria and Switzerland.
But the danger of war, we must agree, was present also during that

While I was on this mission in Paris, the Italian War hung in the air.
It broke out a little more than a year later and came very near
drawing us into a big general war of Europe. We went so far as to
mobilize, and we should undoubtedly have taken the field, if the peace
of Villafranca had not been concluded, somewhat prematurely for
Austria, but just in time for ourselves, for we should have been
obliged to wage this war under unfavorable circumstances. We should
have turned this war, which was an Italian affair, into a
Franco-Prussian war, and its cessation, outcome, and treaty of peace
would no longer have depended on us, but on the friends and enemies
who stood behind us.

Thus we came into the sixties without the clouds of war having cleared
from the horizon for even one single year.

Already in 1863 another war threatened hardly less ominously, of which
the people at large knew little, and which will only be appreciated
when the secret archives of the cabinets will be made public. You may
remember the Polish uprising of 1863, and I shall never forget the
morning calls which I used to receive at that time from Sir Andrew
Buchanan, the English ambassador, and Talleyrand, the French
representative, who tried to frighten me out of my wits by attacking
the Prussian policy for its inexcusable adherence to Russia, and who
used rather a threatening language with me. At noon of the same days I
then used to have the pleasure of listening in the Prussian diet to
somewhat the same arguments and attacks which the foreign ambassadors
had made upon me in the morning. I suffered it quietly, but Emperor
Alexander lost his patience, and wished to draw his sword against the
plotting of the western powers. You will remember that the
French forces were then engaged with American projects and in Mexico,
which prevented France from taking a vigorous stand. The Emperor of
Russia was no longer willing to stand the Polish intrigues of the
other powers, and was ready to face events in our company and to go to
war. You will remember that Prussia was struggling at that time with
difficult interior problems, and that in Germany the leaven had begun
to work in the minds of the people, and the council of the princes in
Frankfort was under contemplation. It may be readily granted,
therefore, that the temptation for my gracious master was very strong
to cut, and thus to heal, his difficult position at home by agreeing
to a military undertaking on a colossal scale.

At that time war of Prussia and Russia together against those who were
protecting the Polish insurrection against us would undoubtedly have
taken place if his majesty had not recoiled from the thought of
solving home difficulties, Prussian as well as German, with foreign
help. We declined in silence, and without revealing to the other
German powers who had hostile projects against us the reasons which
had determined our course. The subsequent death of the King of Denmark
changed the trend of thought of everybody interested. But all that was
needed to bring about the great coalition war in 1863 was a "Yes"
instead of a "No" from His Majesty the King in Gastein. Anybody but a
German minister would perhaps have counseled affirmatively, from
reasons of utility and opportunism in order to solve thereby our home
difficulties. You see neither our own people nor foreigners really
have a proper appreciation of the amount of national loyalty and high
principles which guides both the sovereign and his ministers in the
government of German states.

The year 1864--we just spoke of 1863--brought a new pressing danger of
war. From the moment when our troops crossed the Eider, I was ready
every week to see the European Council of Elders interfere in this
Danish affair, and you will agree with me that this was highly
probable. But in those days we could observe that it is not so very
easy for Europe to attack Austria and Prussia when they are united;
and remember that the German federation which supported these two
states at that time had not nearly the same military importance which
the identical countries possess today. The difficulty of an attack on
Austria and Prussia showed itself even then, but the danger of a war
remained the same.

In 1865 it faced about, and the preparations for the war of 1866 were
beginning. I only remember a meeting of the Prussian cabinet which
took place in Regensburg in 1865 with a view to procuring the
necessary money, but which was rendered futile by the agreement of
Gastein. In 1866, however, the war broke out in full force, as you
know. A circumspect use of events alone enabled us to ward off the
existing danger of turning this duel between Prussia and Austria into
a fierce European war of coalition, when our very existence, our life
and all we had, would have been at stake.

This was in 1866, and in 1867 the Luxembourg problem arose, when only
a somewhat firmer reply was needed to bring about the great French war
in that year,--and we might have given it, if we had been so strong
that we could have counted on sure success. From then on, during 1868,
1869, and up to 1870 we were living in constant apprehension of war,
and of the agreements which in the time of Mr. von Beust were being
made in Salzburg and other places between France, Italy, and Austria,
and which, we feared, were directed against us. The apprehension of
war was so great at that time that I received calls--I was the
President of the cabinet--from merchants and manufacturers, who said:
"The uncertainty is unbearable. Why don't you strike the first blow?
War is preferable to this continued damper on all business!" We waited
quietly until we were struck, and I believe we did well to arrange
matters so that we were the nation which was assailed and were not
ourselves the assailants.

Now, since the great war of 1870 was waged, has there been a year, I
ask you, without the danger of war? In the first years of the
seventies--the very moment we came home, the question arose: "When
will be the next war? When will revenge be given? Within five years at
the latest, no doubt?" We were told: "The question whether we shall
have to fight and with what success surely rests with Russia
now-a-days. Russia alone holds the hilt." It was a representative of
the Catholic party who thus remonstrated with me in the Reichstag. I
may possibly revert to this subject later. In the meanwhile I wish to
complete the picture of the forty years by saying that in 1876 the
clouds of war again began to gather in the south. In 1877 the Balkan
War was waged, which would have led to a conflagration of the whole of
Europe, if this had not been prevented by the Congress gathered in
Berlin. After the Congress an entirely new eastern picture presented
itself to us, for Russia was offended by our attitude in the Congress.
I may revert to this later, if my strength permits.

Then there followed a period when we felt the results of the intimate
relations of the three emperors, which for some time permitted us to
face the future with greater placidity. But at the first symptoms of
any instability in the relations of the three emperors or of the
termination of the agreements which they had made with one another,
public opinion was possessed by the same nervous and, I believe,
exaggerated excitement with which we have had to contend these last
years, and which I consider especially uncalled for today.

From my belief that this excitement is uncalled for I am far from
drawing the conclusion that we do not need an increase in our
armaments. The very opposite is my view, and this may explain the
tableau of forty years which I have just exhibited before you,
possibly not for your enjoyment, and I ask your pardon.

But if I had omitted even one of those years, which you yourselves
have lived through with trembling, you would not have received the
impression that the state of apprehension of great wars is permanent
with us. Great complications and all kinds of coalitions, which no one
can foresee, are constantly possible and we must be prepared for them.
We must be so strong, irrespective of momentary conditions, that we
can face any coalition with the assurance of a great nation which is
strong enough under circumstances to take her fate into her own hands.
We must be able to face our fate placidly with that self reliance and
confidence in God which are ours when we are strong and our cause is
just. And the Government will see to it that the German cause will be
just always.

We must, to put it briefly, be as strong in these times as we possibly
can be, and we can be stronger than any other nation of equal numbers
in the world. I shall revert to this later--but it would be criminal
if we were not to make use of our opportunity. If we do not need our
full armed strength, we need not summon it. The only problem is the
not very weighty one of money--not very weighty I say in passing,
because I have no wish to enter upon a discussion of the financial and
military figures, and of the fact that France has spent three
milliards for the improvement of her armaments these last years, while
we have spent scarcely one and one half milliards, including what we
are asking of you at this time. But I leave the elucidation of this to
the minister of war and the representatives of the treasury

When I say that it is our duty to endeavor to be ready at all times
and for all emergencies, I imply that we must make greater exertions
than other people for the same purpose, because of our geographical
position. We are situated in the heart of Europe, and have at least
three fronts open to an attack. France has only her eastern, and
Russia only her western frontier where they may be attacked. We are
also more exposed to the dangers of a coalition than any other nation,
as is proved by the whole development of history, by our geographical
position, and the lesser degree of cohesiveness, which until now has
characterized the German nation in comparison with others. God has
placed us where we are prevented, thanks to our neighbors from growing
lazy and dull. He has placed by our side the most warlike and restless
of all nations, the French, and He has permitted warlike inclinations
to grow strong in Russia, where formerly they existed to a lesser
degree. Thus we are given the spur, so to speak, from both sides, and
are compelled to exertions which we should perhaps not be making
otherwise. The pikes in the European carp-pond are keeping us from
being carps by making us feel their teeth on both sides. They also are
forcing us to an exertion which without them we might not make, and to
a union among us Germans, which is abhorrent to us at heart. By nature
we are rather tending away, the one from the other. But the
Franco-Russian press within which we are squeezed compels us to hold
together, and by pressure our cohesive force is greatly increased.
This will bring us to that state of being inseparable which all other
nations possess, while we do not yet enjoy it. But we must respond to
the intentions of Providence by making ourselves so strong that the
pikes can do nothing but encourage us.

Formerly in the years of the Holy Alliance--I am just thinking of an
American song which I learned of my late friend Motley: "In good old
colonial times, when we lived under a King"--well those were the good
old patriarchal times when we had many posts to guide us, and many
dikes to protect us from the wild floods of Europe. There were the
German Union, and the real support and consummation of the German
Union, the Holy Alliance. We had support in Russia and in Austria,
and, above all, the guaranty of our diffidence that we should never
express an opinion before the others had spoken.

All this we have lost; we must help ourselves. The Holy Alliance was
wrecked in the Crimean War--not through our fault. The German Union
has been destroyed by us, because the existence which we were granted
within it was unbearable in the long run for ourselves and the German
people as well. After the dissolution of the German Union and the war
of 1866, Prussia, as it was then, or North Germany, would have become
isolated, if we had been obliged to count with the fact that nobody
would be willing to pardon our new successes--the great successes
which we had won. No great power looks with favor on the successes of
its neighbors.

Our relations with Russia, however, were not disturbed by the
experience of 1866. In that year the memory of Count Buol's policy and
of the policy of Austria during the Crimean War was too fresh in
Russia to permit the rise of the thought that Russia could assist the
Austrian monarchy against the Prussian attack, or could renew the
campaign, which Emperor Nicholas had fought for Austria in 1849--ask
your pardon, if I sit down for a moment. I cannot stand so long.

Our most natural support, therefore, still remained with Russia, due
very properly to the policy of Emperor Alexander I. in this
century--not to speak of the last century at all. In 1813 he might
well have turned back at the Polish frontier, and have made peace, and
later he might have dropped Prussia. We certainly owed our
reestablishment on the old basis at that time to the benevolence of
Emperor Alexander I.--or, if you wish to be sceptical, you may say to
the Russian policy, which was such as Prussia needed. Gratitude for
this dominated the reign of Frederick William III. The credit,
however, which Russia had in the Prussian accounts was used up by the
friendship, I may even say servility, of Prussia during the entire
reign of Emperor Nicholas, and was, I own, wiped out at Olmuetz. There
Emperor Nicholas did not take the part of Prussia, nor did he keep us
from evil experiences or certain humiliations, for Emperor Nicholas
really preferred Austria to Prussia. The idea that we owed
Russia any thanks during his reign is a historical myth.

We did, nevertheless, not break our traditional relations with Russia
while he lived; and in the Crimean War we remained true, as I said
before, to our Russian duty, in spite of many threats and great
dangers. His Majesty, the late King, had no desire to play a decisive
part in the war by a great levy of troops, as I believe we could have
done. We had made certain treaties requiring us to put in the field
100,000 men after the lapse of a stated time; and I proposed to His
Majesty to levy not 100,000 but 200,000 men, and mounted at that, whom
we could use as well toward the right as toward the left, in which
case, I said, Your Majesty will be the arbiter of the Crimean War. But
the late King did not cherish warlike enterprises, and the people
ought to be grateful to him. I was younger then, and less experienced
than I am today. At any rate we harbored no resentment for Olmuetz
during the Crimean War. We came out of this war as the friends of
Russia, and I was enabled to enjoy the fruit of this friendship, when
as ambassador I was most kindly received in St. Petersburg, both at
court and in society at large. Even our espousing the cause of Austria
in the Italian War, while not to the liking of the Russian cabinet,
showed no harmful effects. Our war of 1866 was regarded in Russia with
a certain amount of satisfaction, for the Russians were glad to see
Austria suffer. In our French war of 1870 we were fortunate enough to
be able to serve the Russian interests in the Black Sea at the same
time that we were successful in defending and guarding our own. The
contracting parties probably would not have removed their restrictions
from the Black Sea, if the victorious German troops had not been
standing near Paris. If we had been beaten, the London agreement in
the interest of Russia would not have been made so easily, I believe.
Thus also the war of 1870 carried in its train no disagreement between
us and Russia. I mention these matters in order to explain to you
the origin of our treaty with Austria, which was published a few days
ago, and to defend the policy of His Majesty against the reproach of
having enlarged the possibilities of war for the German empire, by
adding to them the chances which may befall Austria without any fault
of her own. I am, therefore, going to describe to you how it happened
that our traditional relations with Russia, which I had always and
very gladly fostered, became so altered that we were induced to
conclude the treaty published day before yesterday.

The first years after the French war passed in the best of friendship.
In 1875 there suddenly appeared the inclination of my Russian
colleague, Prince Gortschakoff, to work for popularity with France
rather than with us, and to make the world believe, by means of
certain artificially created events and an interpolated telegram, that
we had harbored the idea, however remote, of invading France, and that
his intercession alone had saved France from this danger. This
occasioned the first estrangement between us, and led to a serious
discussion between me and my former friend and later colleague. All
this time and subsequently we were still clinging to the task of
maintaining peace among the three emperors, and of continuing the
relationship begun by the visits of the emperors of Russia and Austria
here in Berlin in 1872, and the subsequent return visits. We were
succeeding in this, when in 1876, before the Turkish War, pressure was
brought to bear upon us to choose between Russia and Austria. This we
refused to do. I do not deem it advantageous to discuss the details.
They will be known some time. The result of our refusal was that
Russia turned to Vienna directly, and entered into an agreement with
Austria--I believe it was in January, 1877--concerning the
possibilities of an Oriental crisis, granting her, if The crisis
should take place, the occupation of Bosnia, etc. Then the war took
place, and we were very glad that the storm raged further south than
it had threatened at first. The war was definitely concluded here in
Berlin by the Congress, after the preliminaries had been settled by
the peace of San Stefano. The peace of San Stefano, I am convinced,
was not more risky for the anti-Russian powers nor much more favorable
for Russia than the subsequent congressional treaty. The stipulations
of San Stefano were realized, one may say, of their own accord later
on, when the little state of East Rumelia, with only 800,000 souls I
believe, joined Bulgaria and thereby reestablished on its own
responsibility the old San Stefano frontier, although not quite
exactly. The damage, therefore, which the Congress inflicted on the
agreements of San Stefano was not very considerable. Whether these
agreements were masterpieces of diplomacy I leave undecided. We had
then very little desire to mix in Oriental affairs, just as we have

I was seriously ill in Friedrichsruh when I was officially notified of
the Russian wish to call a Congress of the great powers in Berlin for
the definite settlement of the war. I was at first not favorably
inclined, because I was physically incapacitated, and because I did
not wish to involve ourselves in these matters to the extent which the
presidency of a Congress necessitates. My final compliance was partly
due to the German sense of duty, which does anything in the interest
of peace, and partly to the grateful memory of the favors of Alexander
I., which I have always remembered, and which induced me to grant also
this request. I declared my willingness, provided we could secure the
acceptance of England and Austria. Russia undertook to secure the
consent of England, and I agreed to recommend the plan in Vienna. We
were successful, and the Congress took place.

During the Congress, I may well say, I played my part--without hurting
the interests of my country or of our friends--just as if I had been
the fourth Russian plenipotentiary--I may almost say the third, for I
can hardly accept Prince Gortschakoff as a representative of the
then Russian policy, which was more truly represented by Count

During the whole course of the congressional deliberations I heard of
no Russian wish which I did not recommend and push through. Thanks to
the confidence which Lord Beaconsfield--unfortunately dead
now--reposed in me, I called at his sickbed in the middle of the night
during the most difficult and critical moments of the Congress, when
disruption seemed near, and obtained his consent. In short my behavior
in the Congress was such that I said to myself when it was over: "If
the highest Russian decoration set in diamonds had not been bestowed
upon me long ago, I should surely receive it now." I had the feeling
of having done something for a foreign power which is rarely
vouchsafed to a foreign minister to do.

What, then, were my surprise and natural disappointment, when
gradually a sort of newspaper campaign began in St. Petersburg,
attacking the German policy, and casting suspicion on my personal
intentions. These attacks increased in the following year to the
strong request, in 1879, for pressure to be exerted by us on Austria
in matters where we could not attack the Austrian rights as such. I
could not consent, for, if we should have been estranged from Austria,
we should necessarily have fallen into a dependence on Russia, unless
we were satisfied with standing entirely alone in Europe. Would such a
dependence have been bearable? Formerly I had believed it might be,
when I had said to myself: "We have no conflicting interests at all.
There is no reason why Russia should ever cancel our friendship." At
least I had never contradicted my Russian colleagues when they
expounded such theories to me. The Russian behavior concerning the
Congress disappointed me and told me that we were not protected from
being drawn into a conflict with Russia against our wishes, even if we
placed our policy (for a time) completely at her disposal. The
disagreement concerning instructions which we had given or had not
given to our representatives in the south grew, until threats
resulted, threats of war from the most authoritative quarter.

This is the origin of our Austrian Treaty. By these threats we were
compelled to choose between our two former friends, a decision which I
had avoided through several decades. At that time I negotiated in
Gastein and in Vienna the treaty which was published day before
yesterday and which is in force between us today.

The publication has been partly misunderstood in the newspapers, as I
read yesterday and the day before. People have wanted to see in it an
ultimatum, a warning, and a threat. A threat could not possibly be
contained in it, since the text of the treaty has been known to Russia
for a long while, and not only since November of last year. We
considered it due to the sincerity of so loyal a monarch as the
Emperor of Russia not to leave a doubt concerning the actual state of

Personally I see no chance for us _not_ to have concluded this treaty.
If we had not done it, we should have to do it _now_. It possesses the
finest quality of an international treaty, in that it is the
expression of the lasting interests of both parties, Austria as well
as ourselves. No great power can for any length of time cling to the
wording of a treaty against the interests of its own people; it will
at last be forced to declare openly: "Times have changed; we can no
longer do this;" and will have to defend its action as best it can
before its own people and the other contracting party. But no power
will approve a course which leads its own people to destruction, for
the sake of the letter of a treaty signed under different conditions.
Nothing of this kind, however, is contained in these treaties. The
treaty concluded with Austria, as well as other similar ones existing
between us and other powers, notably some agreements into which we
have entered with Italy, are the expression of common interests in
mutual aspirations and dangers. Italy, like ourselves, has been
obliged to fight against Austria for her right to establish her
national union. At present both of us are living in peace with
Austria, sharing with her the wish to ward off the dangers which are
threatening all alike. Together we wish to preserve the peace, which
is as dear to the one as to the other, and to protect our
home--developments to which all of us are determined to devote
ourselves. It is these aims and the mutual confidence that the
treaties will be kept, and that no one will grow more dependent by
them than their own interests permit, which make these treaties firm,
durable and permanent!

The extent to which our treaty with Austria is the expression of our
mutual interests was shown at Nikolsburg, and in 1870. Already during
the negotiations of Nikolsburg we were of the opinion that we could
not do for any length of time without Austria in Europe--a strong and
vigorous Austria. In 1870, when the war between ourselves and France
broke out, many sensitive Austrians whom we had hurt were naturally
tempted to make use of this opportunity and to take revenge for 1866.
The thoughtful and far seeing diplomats, however, of the Austrian
cabinet had to ask themselves: "What will be the result? What will be
our position, if today we assist the French, and help them to beat
Prussia, or even Germany?" What would have been the result if France
with the help of Austria had been victorious over us? If Austria had
followed such a policy, she could have had no other aim than to resume
her former position in Germany: for this was really the only thing she
had given up in 1866. There had been no other important conditions,
and the pecuniary ones had been insignificant. Well then, what would
have been the position of Austria as the presiding power in the German
Union, if she had to confess that in alliance with France she had
taken from Germany the left bank of the Rhine, that she had reduced
the south German states to a renewed dependence on France in the shape
of a Rhenish Federation, and had condemned Prussia to an irrevocable
dependence on Russia, subject in future to Russian policies?
Such a position was unacceptable to all Austrian statesmen not
completely blinded by wrath and vengeance. The same is also true with
us in Germany. Imagine Austria struck from the map of Europe. Then we
and Italy would be isolated on the continent, hemmed in between Russia
and France, the two strongest military powers next to Germany, either
continually one against two--and this would be most probable--or
alternately dependent on one or the other. But this will not be the
case. It is impossible to imagine Austria away, for a State like
Austria does not disappear. It is estranged if it is jilted, as was
proposed in the Villafranca negotiations, and will be inclined to
offer the hand to him who, on his part, has been the opponent of an
unreliable friend.

In short, if we wish to avoid being isolated, which is especially
dangerous for Germany in our assailable position, we must have a
reliable friend. Thanks to the similarities of our interests, and this
treaty before you, we have two such friends. It is not love which
makes them reliable, for nations may make war one upon the other
because they hate, but it has never yet happened that one nation has
sacrificed itself for the other for mere love. Nor do they always
fight when they hate each other, for, if this were the case, France
would have to be fighting incessantly, not only with us, but also with
England and Italy. She hates all her neighbors. I also believe that
the Russian hatred of us, which has been artificially fanned, will not
last. We are united with our allies in love of peace, not only by
inclination and friendship, but also by the most cogent interests of a
European equilibrium and of our own future.

For these reasons I believe you will approve the Emperor's policy that
has concluded the published treaty, although it increases the
possibility of war.

There can be no doubt that the passage of the pending bill will add
much weight to the alliance which we have joined, and that the member
which is represented by the German empire will be immeasurably
strengthened. The bill gives us an increase of trained troops, a
possible increase of troops, which we need not summon, if we do not
need them. We can leave the men at home. But, having them in reserve,
we shall also have the arms for them, and this is the all-important
thing. I remember the old blunderbuses furnished in 1813 for our
_Landwehr_ by England, with which I was drilled in the _chasseurs_.
They were no weapons for war--such we cannot furnish at a moment's
notice. But, when once we have the proper weapons, this new bill means
an increase of the guarantees of peace, and as strong an increase of
the league of peace as if a fourth great power had joined it with
700,000 men, which as you know used to be the maximum figure of a
national army. This tremendous increase will also have a quieting
effect, I believe, on our own people, and will somewhat alleviate the
nervousness of our public opinion and of our bankers and editors. I
hope you will be relieved when you realize that after this increase,
and from the very moment this bill is signed and published, the men
will be ready. A scanty supply of arms for them might even now be at
hand, but we must secure better ones, for if we form an army of
triarians, of the best human material which we have among our people,
men over thirty years of age and fathers of families, then we must
have for them also the best arms that can be secured. We should not
send them into battle with arms which we do not deem good enough for
our regular troops. These staunch men, fathers of families, and
gigantic figures, as we remember them from the time when they held the
bridge of Versailles, should carry on their shoulders the best of
guns, and have the most complete armor and necessary clothing to ward
off the hardships of the weather and other ills. In such matters we
must not be saving.

After listening to the survey of forty years which I have just given
it is natural that our fellow-citizens should realize the ever-present
danger of a coalition against us and the possibility of a double
attack, in which I, to be sure, do not believe. The thought,
however, that in such a case we can have one million good soldiers for
our defense on either frontier will be most reassuring to them. In
addition, we can keep at home reserves of half a million and more, or
even a million, sending them to the front as they may be needed. I
have been told: "The result will be that the others will also increase
their strength." This they cannot do, for they long ago reached their
highest figure. We decreased our figures in 1867, because we believed
that we could take things easy, with the North German Alliance at our
disposal, and could release from service all men over thirty-two years
of age. Our neighbors subsequently adopted a longer period of service,
many one as long as twenty years. The minister of war will be able to
explain this to you more in detail, if he will address you. In figures
the others are as strong as we, but in quality they cannot equal us.
Courage is the same with all civilized nations, the Russian or the
Frenchman fights as bravely as the German; but our people, our 700,000
men, are experienced, _rompus au metier,_ trained soldiers who have
not forgotten anything.

In addition, no nation in the world can equal us in our material of
officers and subalterns to direct such a huge army. This means the
remarkable degree to which popular education has spread in Germany,
and which appears in no other country. The degree of education which
is needed to qualify an officer and a subaltern to command according
to what the soldiers expect of them, is found with us far more
extensively than elsewhere. We have more of the material out of which
officers, and more out of which subalterns are made, than any other
country, and we have a body of officers which no country in the world
can equal.

This, and the excellence of our subalterns, who are the pupils of our
officers, constitute our superiority. The other nations cannot equal
us in the amount of education which qualifies an officer to fulfil the
severe requirements of his station, and of good comradeship to bear
all the necessary privations, and at the same time to satisfy the
exceedingly difficult social demands which must be met, if the
feeling of good fellowship between officers and men, which thank God
exists in our army to a high and often stirring degree, is to be
established without detracting from the authority of the officers. The
relations existing, especially in war time, between our officers and
men are inimitable,--with few evil exceptions which only prove the
rule, for on the whole we may say: No German officer forsakes his men
under fire; he saves them at the risk of his life, and they do the
same; no German soldier forsakes his officer--we have experienced

If other nations are obliged to furnish with officers and subalterns
equally large troops as we are intending to create by this bill, they
may be forced by circumstances to appoint officers who will not
succeed in guiding a company through a narrow gate, and even less in
meeting the heavy obligations of the officer who is to retain the
esteem and love of his men. The amount of education which is needed
for this, and the amount of _camaraderie_ and sense of honor which we
find among our officers, can be elicited from no other body of
officers anywhere in the world, either by rules or injunctions. In
this we are superior to everybody, and that is why they cannot imitate
us. I am, therefore, not at all afraid of it.

Then there is another advantage if this bill is passed. The very
strength at which we are aiming necessarily renders us pacific. This
sounds like a paradox, but it is not.

With the powerful engine into which we are transforming the German
army one does not make an attack. If I were to come before you today,
on the assumption that conditions were different from what I believe
they are, and said, "We are considerably menaced by France and Russia;
it is to be expected that we shall be attacked, and as a diplomat,
believing my military information in these matters to be correct, I am
convinced that it is better for us to have our defense consist of a
bold attack, and to strike the first blow now;" and if I added: "We
can more easily wage an aggressive war, and I, therefore, am asking
the Reichstag for an appropriation of a milliard, or half a milliard,
marks to engage in a war against our two neighbors,"--then I do not
know, gentlemen, whether you would have enough confidence in me to
grant my request, but I hope you would not have it.

But, if you had, it would not satisfy me. If we Germans wish to wage a
war with the full effect of our national strength, it must be a war
which satisfies all who take part in it, all who sacrifice anything
for it, in short the whole nation. It must be a national war, a war
carried on with the enthusiasm of 1870, when we were foully attacked.
I still remember the ear splitting, joyful shouts in the station at
Koeln. It was the same all the way from Berlin to Koeln, in Berlin
itself. The waves of popular approval bore us into the war, whether or
no we wished it. That is the way it must be, if a popular force like
ours is to show what it can do. It will, however, be very difficult to
prove to the provinces and the imperial states and their inhabitants
that the war is unavoidable, and has to be. People will ask: "Are you
so sure? Who can tell?" In short, when we make an attack, the whole
weight of all imponderables, which weigh far heavier than material
weights, will be on the side of our opponents whom we have attacked.
France will be bristling with arms way down to the Pyrenees. The same
will take place everywhere. A war into which we are not borne by the
will of the people will be waged, to be sure, if it has been declared
by the constituted authorities who deemed it necessary; it will even
be waged pluckily, and possibly victoriously, after we have once
smelled fire and tasted blood, but it will lack from the beginning the
nerve and enthusiasm of a war in which we are attacked. In such a one
the whole of Germany from Memel to the Alpine Lakes will flare up like
a powder mine; it will be bristling with guns, and no enemy will dare
to engage this _furor teutonicus_ which develops when we are attacked.


We cannot afford to lose this factor of preeminence even if many
military men--not only ours but others as well--believe that today we
are superior to our future opponents. Our own officers believe this to
a man, naturally. Every soldier believes this. He would almost cease
to be a useful soldier if he did not wish for war, and did not believe
that we would be victorious in it. If our opponents by any chance are
thinking that we are pacific because we are afraid of how the war may
end, they are mightily mistaken. We believe as firmly in our victory
in a just cause as any foreign lieutenant in his garrison, after his
third glass of champagne, can believe in his, and we probably do so
with greater certainty. It is not fear, therefore, which makes us
pacific, but the consciousness of our strength. We are strong enough
to protect ourselves, even if we should be attacked at a less
favorable moment, and we are in a position to let divine providence
determine whether a war in the meanwhile may not become unnecessary
after all.

I am, therefore, not in favor of any kind of an aggressive war, and if
war could result only from our attack--somebody must kindle a fire, we
shall not kindle it. Neither the consciousness of our strength, which
I have described, nor our confidence in our treaties, will prevent us
from continuing our former endeavors to preserve peace. In this we do
not permit ourselves to be influenced by annoyances or dislikes. The
threats and insults, and the challenges, which have been made have, no
doubt, excited also with us a feeling of irritation, which does not
easily happen with Germans, for they are less prone to national hatred
than any other nation. We are, however, trying to calm our countrymen,
and we shall work for peace with our neighbors, especially with
Russia, in the future as well as in the past. When I say especially
with Russia, I express the opinion that France is offering us no
assurances of success in our endeavors. I will, however, not say that
these endeavors are of no use. We shall never pick a quarrel, nor ever
attack France; and in the many little incidents which the liking of
our neighbors for spying and bribing has occasioned we have always
brought about a very courteous and amicable settlement. I should
consider it criminal if we were to enflame a great national war for
such bagatelles. These are instances when one should say: "The
cleverer of the two will yield."

I am referring, therefore, especially to Russia, and here I have the
same confidence of success which I expressed a year ago, and which
this liberal sheet printed in such large type, without any "running
after," or as a German paper very vulgarly called it, "Kow-towing" to
Russia. That time has passed. We no longer sue for love, either in
France or in Russia! The Russian press and the Russian public opinion
have shown the door to an old powerful and reliable friend, which we
were. We do not force ourselves on anybody. We have tried to
reestablish the old intimate relations, but we are running after
nobody. This does not prevent us, however, from observing the
treaty-rights which Russia has with us; on the contrary, it is an
incentive to us to do so.

These treaty rights comprise some which not all our friends recognize
as such. I mean the rights concerning Bulgaria which we won for Russia
in the Congress of Berlin, and which were not contested until 1885.
There is no question for me, who was instrumental in preparing the
congressional decisions, and who joined in signing them, that all of
us were of the opinion at that time that Russia should have a
predominating influence in Bulgaria, after the latter had renounced
East Roumelia, and she herself had given the modest satisfaction of
reducing by 800,000 souls the extent of the territory under her
influence until it included only about three million people.

Following this interpretation of the Congress, Russia until 1885
appointed the prince, a close relative of the imperial house, of whom
at that time nobody believed, or could believe, that he would wish to
be anything but a faithful adherent of the Russian policy. Russia
nominated the minister of war and a great many officers; in short it
was governing in Bulgaria. There was no doubt of this. The Bulgarians,
or some of them, or the prince--I do not know which--were not
satisfied with it. A _coup d'etat_ took place--a defection from
Russia. Thus an actual condition has ensued which we are not called
upon to remedy by a recourse to arms, but which cannot in theory alter
the rights which Russia took home from the Congress of Berlin. Whether
there will be difficulties, if Russia should wish to procure her
rights by force, I do not know. We shall neither support nor counsel
violent means, nor do I believe that they are being contemplated--I am
quite sure they are not. If, however, Russia should try her luck along
diplomatic lines, possibly by suggesting the intercession of the
Sultan, the suzerain of Bulgaria, I deem it the duty of a loyal German
policy to cling to the decisions of the Congress of Berlin, and to
interpret them as all of us, without an exception, interpreted them at
that time. The public feeling of the Bulgarians can alter nothing in
this, so far as I am concerned. Bulgaria, the tiny little country
between the Danube and the Balkans is not an object of sufficient
size, I assure you, to attach to it any importance, or to push Europe
for its sake into a war, from Moscow to the Pyrenees, from the North
Sea to Palermo, when no one can foresee its end. After the war we
would conceivably not even know for what we had been fighting.

I may, therefore, declare that the hostility against us shown in the
Russian public opinion, and especially in the Russian press, will not
deter us from supporting, at Russia's request, any diplomatic steps
she may take to regain her influence in Bulgaria. I intentionally say,
at her request. Formerly we have, at times, endeavored to fulfil her
wishes when they had been only confidentially suggested, but we have
seen that some Russian papers immediately tried to prove that these
very steps of the German diplomacy had been the most inimical to
Russia. They actually attacked us for having fulfilled the wishes of
Russia even before they had been expressed. We did this also in
the Congress of Berlin; but it will not happen again. If Russia will
officially request us to support with the Sultan, as suzerain of
Bulgaria, the steps which she may take in her desire to reestablish in
Bulgaria conditions according to the decisions of the Congress, I
shall not hesitate to advise His Majesty the Emperor to do so. Our
sense of loyalty to our neighbor demands this, for we should cherish
neighborly relations with him, let the present feelings be what they
may. Together we should protect the monarchical institutions which are
common to both of us, and set our faces, in the interest of order,
against all the opponents of it in Europe. Russia's monarch, moreover,
fully understands that these are the duties of the allied monarchs. If
the Emperor of Russia should find that the interests of his great
empire of one hundred million people demand war, he will wage it, I do
not doubt. But I do not believe that these interests can possibly
demand a war against us, nor do I believe that these interests demand
war at the present time at all.

To sum up: I do not believe in an immediate interruption of peace, and
I ask you to discuss this bill independently of such a thought or
apprehension, looking upon it as a means of making the great strength
which God has placed in the German nation fully available. If we do
not need all the troops, it is not necessary to summon them. We are
trying to avoid the contingency when we shall need them.

This attempt is as yet made rather difficult for us by the threatening
newspaper articles in the foreign press, and I should like to admonish
these foreign editors to discontinue such threats. They do not lead
anywhere. The threats which we see made--not by the governments, but
by the press--are really incredibly stupid, when we stop to reflect
that the people making them imagine they could frighten the proud and
powerful German empire by certain intimidating figures made by
printer's ink and shallow words. People should not do this. It would
then be easier for us to be more obliging to our two neighbors. Every
country after all is sooner or later responsible for the windows which
its press has smashed. The bill will be rendered some day, and will
consist of the ill-feeling of the other country. We are easily
influenced--perhaps too easily--by love and kindness, but quite surely
never by threats! We Germans fear God, and naught else in the world!
It is this fear of God which makes us love and cherish peace. If in
spite of this anybody breaks the peace, he will discover that the
ardent patriotism of 1813, which called to the standards the entire
population of Prussia--weak, small, and drained to the marrow as it
then was--has today become the common property of the whole German
nation. Attack the German nation anywhere, and you will find it armed
to a man, and every man with the firm belief in his heart: God will be
with us.


September 16, 1894


[On September 16, 1894, when Bismarck was no longer chancellor, 2,200
Germans from the province of Posen appeared in Varzin to thank him for
his devoted work in the service of the national idea, and to gather
courage from him in their fight against the Polish propaganda which
had gained strength under the new regime at court. The aged
farm-manager, Mr. Kennemann, was the leader and spokesman of the

Gentleman! First I must ask your indulgence, since for two days I have
been upset by an unpolitical enemy called lumbago, an old acquaintance
of mine for sixty years. I hope to get the better of him soon, and
then to be able to stand again fully erect. At present, I must
confess, I am hampered by him.

I begin by replying to the words of the previous speaker with thanks
for the honor done me, addressing myself first of all to him, but then
also to you. The previous speaker is as old as I. We were both born in
1815, and different walks of life have brought us together again here
in Varzin after almost eighty years. The meeting gives me great
pleasure, although I have not run my course as safe and sound as Mr.
Kennemann. When I claim to be an invalid of hard work, he may perhaps
claim the same. But his work was possibly healthier than mine, this
being the difference between the farmer and the diplomat. The mode of
life of the latter is less healthy and more nerve-racking. To begin
with, then, I am grateful to you, gentlemen, and I should be even
more grateful, if we were all to put on our hats. I have lost in the
course of years nature's own protection, but I cannot well cover my
head if you do not do the same.

I thank you that you have spared no exertion to show your national
sentiments in this way. The exertion was considerable, a night in the
train, a second night on the way back, insufficient meals, and
inconveniently crowded cars. The fact that you have stood all this and
were not deterred by it attests the strength of your national feeling,
which impelled you to bear witness to it here. That you did it here
greatly honors me, and I recognize in it your appreciation of my part
in the work of establishing the conditions which we are enjoying in
Germany today, after years of disunion. These conditions may be
imperfect, but "the best is the enemy of the good." At the time when
we shaped these conditions we never asked: "What may we wish?" but
"What must we have!" This moderation in our demands for union was one
of the most important preliminaries of success. By following this path
we have reached the results which have strengthened the pledge that
your home will remain united with the German empire and the kingdom of
Prussia. The proportion, in the meanwhile, of Germans in the
foundation of our structure to the less reliable--I will not say
loose--Polish element has become decidedly more favorable for the
Germans. Our national figures are forty-eight million Germans and two
million Poles; and in such a community the wishes of the two million
cannot be decisive for the forty-eight million, as must be apparent,
especially in an age when political decisions are dependent on a
majority vote as a last resort. The forces which guarantee the union
of these territories are strong enough both in the parliament and in
the army to assure it, and no one can doubt that the proper
authorities are ready to use these forces at the right time. No one
mistakes the meaning, when the announcement is made from the highest
quarters: "Ere we shall yield again Alsace, our army will have to be
annihilated" (and words to this effect have been spoken). The same
thing is true, to an even stronger degree, of our eastern frontier. We
can spare neither, Posen even less than Alsace, and we shall fight, as
the Emperor has said, to the last man, before we renounce Alsace, this
protection of our Southern states. Yet Munich and Stuttgart are not
more endangered by a hostile position in Strassburg and Alsace than
Berlin would be endangered by a hostile position near the Oder. It
may, therefore, be readily assumed that we shall remain firm in our
determination and sacrifice, if it should become necessary, our last
man and the last coin in our pockets for the defense of the German
eastern frontier as it has existed for eighty years. And this
determination will suffice to render the union between your province
and the empire as positively assured as things can be in this world.

We confined our demands to what was necessary for our existence and
what enabled the big European nation which we are to draw a free
breath. We did not include territories where German used to be spoken,
when this had been largely due to a propaganda of the German courts.
More German used to be spoken in the East, North-east, and elsewhere
than today. Remember our ally, Austria, and how familiar German was
there in the days of Joseph II. and of the Empress Maria Theresa, when
German was a greater force in parts of Hungary than it is or can be
today. But, for everything we gave up in the shape of a linguistic and
outward union, we have found rich compensation in the intensity of a
closer union. If the older gentlemen will think back to the time
before Emperor William I., they will realize that the lack of love
among the various German tribes was much greater at that time than it
is today. We have made notable progress in this direction, and, when
we compare the unequivocal expressions of opinion from Bavaria and
Saxony today with the familiar sentiments of earlier times, we must
say that Germany, which for the past one hundred years had lagged
behind the other people of Europe in national development, has rapidly
caught up with them. Forty years ago we were far behind all other
nations in national feeling and love of one another. Today we are no
longer behind them.

Our fellow-countrymen from the Rhine, from the Alpine lake and the
Saxon Elbe are attached to one another in affectionate sympathy, not
only when they meet abroad, but also at home. A united people has been
created in a remarkably short time. This proves that the medical cure
which we employed, although it was of blood and iron, lanced only a
sore, which had come to a head long ago, and that it gave us speedy
comfort and good health. God grant that the cure will be lasting and
subject to no change. How far reaching it is has been proved by the
testimonials which I have received since I gave up my office. They
have come from all people,--from Baden, Bavaria, Saxony, Suabia,
Hessen, and from all the districts of Prussia outside the provinces of
Frederick the Great. These entirely voluntary manifestations, which
were arranged by no one, and which not infrequently came to me at
rather inconvenient and inopportune times, have impressed me with the
existence of national harmony. Every one of them has given pleasure to
my patriotic heart, and has borne witness to a common feeling existing
in all German races--this much I wished to say concerning the
stability of the political and national union of your province today.

We often sing "Firm is the stand of the faithful guards on the Rhine,"
but they are standing equally firm at the Warthe and the Vistula. We
cannot spare an acre of land in either direction, for the sake of
principle if for nothing else. The previous speaker referred to the
attempts which had been made, as a result of the movement of 1848, to
shake loose the union in which we were then living in Prussia and
Germany, and to disregard our boundary lines. These attempts of
satisfying the wishes of our Polish neighbors ended with the action
of the Prussian general von Colomb, who closed the gates of Posen
to the Polish troops which, in response to promises made in Berlin,
had been raised under the Prussian General von Willisen. We were
obliged to conquer with Prussian troops, and in a bloody war, the
army of the insurgents who fought bravely and honorably. I wish to
add that even that war was not fought with the Polish people as such,
but with the Polish nobility and their following. I remember speaking
to some Polish soldiers of the 19th regiment, I believe, in Erfurt
at that time, that is in 1850, who called the opponents only
"_Komorniks"_--the Polish word for "contract-laborers." We should,
then, not deceive ourselves into believing that even today the number
of those who are opposed to the two races in Posen and in West Prussia
living together peacefully is as large as statistics may claim.

This brings me to the second point touched upon by the previous
speaker, the two races living together peacefully. I believe that many
of you have in your employ laborers and servants who speak Polish, and
that you are of the opinion that no danger comes from this lower
social stratum of the population. Living together with them is
possible, and no disturbance of the peace starts with them. They do
not promote any movements hostile to us. I do not even mention the
fact that they are possibly of another race than the nobility, whose
immigration into the Slavic districts is lost in the obscure past. The
statistical numbers, therefore, of those opposed to a peaceful
communion of both races must be lessened by the large number of
laborers and farmers. The lower classes are, in the bulk, satisfied
with the Prussian government, which may not be perfect always, but
which treats them with greater justice than they were accustomed to in
the times of the Polish republic of nobles. They are satisfied with
this. It was not part of my programme that the commission on
colonization should pay special attention to small holdings of
German-speaking settlers. The Polish peasants are not dangerous, nor
does it make any difference whether the laborers are Polish or
German. The chief thing was to create crown-lands among the big
estates, and to rent them to men whom the State could permanently
influence. The desire for quick sales and colonization emanated from
other competent quarters than myself. It was impossible for me to
supervise these measures after I had instigated them.

The difficulties which I met in the forty years of my Polish diplomacy
did not start with the masses of Polish laborers and peasants, but
were, I believe, occasioned largely, if not exclusively, by the Polish
nobility with the assistance of the Polish clergy. Perhaps this latter
term is too narrow, for I know of instances when German priests
assisted in the Polish propaganda for the sake of peace. This is a
peculiarity of our race--and I do not exactly wish to condemn it--that
we often place our religion above our nationality. The very opposite
is true of our opponents, the Poles and the French people, who regard
their nationality more highly than their religion. We are suffering
from this habit. We possess, however, a certain material
counter-weight, provided the State government unreservedly supports
the German element. The religious element has great weight in the
family circle and among women, especially the Polish women, whom I
have always greatly admired. The minister has a freer access to them
than the local governor or the judge. There will, however, always be a
powerful weight in the scales, when the Prussian government exercises
its influence with firm determination and so clearly that doubts for
the future are impossible. _Vestigia terrent!_ we may say, when with
1848, no--not 1848, I mean 1831-32--the attention paid to the Polish
nation became almost more pronounced in Germany than that given to the
German element. Since then we have surely been able to register
progress in our politics. Now I must ask your indulgence for a moment
on account of my lumbago. (Voices: Sit down, Your Highness.) Sitting
down does not help me. I know this visitor from years of experience. I
was speaking of the possibility of having the two races living
peacefully side by side. This is not impossible, for in Switzerland we
see three different nationalities--the German, Italian, and French
Swiss--deliberate quietly and without bitterness on matters of joint
interest. In Belgium we see the Germanic Flemish form a united State
with the Gallic Walloons, and we perceive that it is possible under
circumstances to live peacefully together even with the Poles, when we
remember East Prussia, where the Polish Masures, the Lithuanians, and
the Germans work together harmoniously. Because nobody has incited the
people there, no national ill feeling has appeared among them. It is
true, to be sure, that the Catholic priest, with his peculiar
interests, is unknown there. But look at your neighbors in Upper
Silesia. Have the two races not lived there in peaceful communion for
centuries, although the religious differences exist there also? What
is it, then, that Silesia has not, and that has made it possible for
us to live there, through centuries, in religious harmony? I am sorry
to have to say it, it is the Polish nobility and the clergy of the
Polish propaganda. The Polish nobles are, no doubt, very
influential--more so with the Poles than the Germans--but the
statistical figures are much larger than the actual number of our
aggressive Polish opponents with whom we have to count.

The nobles are thinking of the time when they were all-powerful, and
they cannot give up the memory of conditions when they ruled the king
as well as the peasants. The Polish nobles, however, are surely too
highly educated to believe that the conditions of the old Polish
republic of nobles could ever return, and I should be astonished if
the Polish peasants knew the history of Poland so badly that they did
not recoil from the possibility of a return to the old state of
affairs. The peasants must say to themselves that a "wet year," as the
farmers put it, would be their lot if the nobles regained their power.
Among the national-Polish representatives that are elected, you
generally meet only noblemen. At least I cannot remember having seen
a Polish farmer as a representative in the Reichstag or in the diet.
Compare this with the election results in German districts. I do not
even know whether there are Polish burghers in our sense of the word.
The middle classes in the Polish cities are poorly developed.
Consequently, when we reduce our opponents to their proper size, we
grow more courageous in our own determination; and I should be very
glad if I could encourage those who on their part are adding to the
encouragement of the Polish nobles. I feel, gentlemen, that I am of
one mind with you, who have traveled the hard road hither. I have no
influence with other elements, but we shall not give up hope in spite
of all vicissitudes.

The address of the previous speaker also referred to vicissitudes and
changes. These changes have characterized our entire Polish policy,
from 1815 till today. They took place whenever high Polish families
gained influence at court. You all know the Radziwill family and its
influence at the court of Frederick William IV. If we could make a
mental test of the popular feeling of 1831 and of today, we should
find that the conviction has greatly increased that we have German
fellow-countrymen in the Grand duchy of Posen. The former and, I am
tempted to say, childish cult of the Poles as I knew it in my
childhood is no longer possible. Then we were taught Polish songs in
our music lessons together with the Marseillaise, to be sure. The
Polish nobleman, therefore, than whom God never created anything more
reactionary, was here thrown into one pot with the French revolution,
and liberalism was coupled with the cause of the Poles, because we
were lacking in political perspicacity. Such feelings were ingrained
in our citizens at that time. I am thinking especially of the citizens
of Berlin. If today you ask the opinion of your forty-eight million
fellow-countrymen, and compare their views and those of the bulk of
the German army with the bugbear which had found lodging in German
hearts at the time of Platen's Polish songs, you surely cannot
despair of further development. We may, you must agree, register
progress, although it is slow and there are lapses. It is like
climbing a sandy hill or walking in the lava of Mount Vesuvius. One
often glides back, but on the whole one is advancing. Your position
will grow the stronger the more vigorously developed our sense of
nationality will become. I ask of you, do not despair if there are
clouds in the sky, especially in this rainy year which has saddened
the farmers. They will disappear, and the union of the Warthe and the
Vistula with Germany is irrefragable.

For centuries we have existed without Alsace-Lorraine, but no one yet
has dared to think of what our existence would be if today a new
kingdom of _Poland_ were founded. Formerly it was a passive power.
Today it would be an active enemy supported by the rest of Europe. As
long as it would not have gained possession of Danzig, Thorn, and West
Prussia, and I know not what else the excitable Polish mind might
crave, it would always be the ally of our enemies. It indicates,
therefore, insufficient political skill or political ignorance if we
rely in any way on the Polish nobles for the safety of our eastern
frontier, or if we think that we can win them to fight anywhere for
German possessions, sword in hand. This is an Utopian idea. The only
thing which we and you, gentlemen, can do under present conditions,
and which we can learn from the Poles, is to cling to one another. The
Poles, too, have parties, and used to show this even more
unfortunately than we, but all their parties disappear as soon as a
national question is broached. I wish the same would come to be true
of us, and that in national questions we would belong primarily, not
to a party, but to the nation. Let us be of as divergent opinions as
we choose, but when in our eastern provinces the question arises:
"German or Polish," then let the party feuds be laid aside until, as
the Berliners say, "After nine o'clock." Now is the time to fight and
to stand together. This is just as it is in military matters--and I
am glad to see among you many who have experience in such things.
Before joining an attack in war we do not ask: Shall we follow our
progressive or our reactionary neighbor? We advance when the drum
beats the signal, and so we should in national affairs forget all
party differences, and form a solid phalanx hurling all our spears,
reactionary, progressive, and despotic alike, against the enemy.

If we agree on this--and the dangers of the future are compelling us
to do so--we shall win our women and children for the same strict
sense of nationality. And if our women are with us, and our youths, we
are saved for all time. This is one of our present tasks, to give a
national education to our children. I am confident that the German
women possess all the necessary qualifications for this task. I shall
ask you, therefore, to join me in a toast: The German Women in the
Grandduchy of Posen! And may the German idea take an ever firmer hold
in your country!


April 1,1895


[The eightieth birthday of Prince Bismarck was celebrated as a
national holiday everywhere in Germany. Not less than 5,250 youths
from the universities and academies visited Friedrichsruh on April 1
to bear witness, before the "old man" of Germany, to their love for
the emperor and the empire. After receiving a delegation from the
faculties of all the universities, Bismarck addressed the students as

Gentlemen! I have just heard from the lips of your teachers, the
leaders of higher education, an appreciation of my past, which means
much to me. From your greeting, I infer a promise for the future, and
this means even more for a man of my years than his love of
approbation. You will be able, at least many of you, to live according
to the sentiments which your presence here today reveals, and to do so
to the middle of the next century, while I have long been condemned to
inactivity and belong to the days that are past. I find consolation in
this observation, for the German is not so constituted that he could
entirely dismiss in his old age what in his youth inspired him. Forty
and sixty years hence you will not hold exactly the same views as
today, but the seed planted in your young hearts by the reign of
Emperor William I. will bear fruit, and, even when you grow old, your
attitude will ever be German-national because it is so today--whatever
form our institutions may have taken in the meanwhile. We do not
wilfully dismiss from our hearts the love of national sentiments; we
do not lose them when we emigrate. I know instances of hundreds of
thousands of Germans from America, South Africa, and Australia who are
today bound to the fatherland with the same enthusiasm which carried
many of them to the war.

We had to win our national independence in difficult wars. The
preparation, the prologue, was the Holstein war. We had to fight with
Austria for a settlement; no court of law could have given us a decree
of separation; we had to fight. That we were facing a French war after
our victory at Sadowa could not remain in doubt for anyone who knew
the conditions of Europe. It was, however, desirable not to wage this
war too soon nor before we had garnered to some extent the fruits of
our North-German union. After the war had been waged everybody here
was saying that within five years we should have to wage the next war.
This was to be feared, it is true, but I have ever since considered it
to be my duty to prevent it. We Germans had no longer any reason for
war. We had what we needed. To fight for more, from a lust of conquest
and for the annexation of countries which were not necessary for us,
always appeared to me like an atrocity; I am tempted to say like a
Bonapartistic and foreign atrocity, alien to the Germanic sense of

Consequently since we rebuilt and enlarged our house according to our
needs, I have always been a man of peace, nor have I shrunk from small
sacrifices. The strong man can afford to yield at times. Neither the
Caroline Islands nor Samoa were worth a war, however much stress I
have always laid on our colonial development. We did not stand in need
of glory won in battles, nor of prestige. This indeed is the
superiority of the German character over all others, that it is
satisfied when it can acknowledge its own worth, and has no need of
recognition, authority, or privilege. It is self-sufficient. This is
the course I have steered, and in politics it is much easier to say
what one should avoid than to say what one should do. Certain
principles of honesty and courage forbid one to do certain things,
just as the access to certain fields is interdicted in the army
maneuvers. But the decision as to what has to be done is a very
different matter, and no one can be sure of it beforehand, for
politics are a task which can be compared only to the navigation of
unknown waters. One does not know what the weather will be or how the
currents will flow, nor what storms will be raging. There is in
politics this additional factor of uncertainty that one is largely
dependent on the decisions of others on whom one has counted and who
have failed. One never can act with complete independence. And, when
our friends whose assistance we need, although we cannot guarantee it,
change their minds, our whole plan has failed. Positive enterprises
are, therefore, very difficult in politics, and when they succeed you
should be grateful to God who has given His blessing, and not find
fault with details which one or the other may regret, but accept the
situation as God has made it. For man cannot create or direct the
stream of time. He can sail on it and steer his craft with more or
less skill, be stranded and shipwrecked, or make a favorable port.

Since we now have made a favorable port, as I conclude from the
predominant although not unanimous opinion of my countrymen, whose
approval is all we have worked for, let us be satisfied, and let us
keep and cherish what we have won in an Emperor and an empire as it
is, and not as some individuals may wish it should be, with other
institutions, and a little bit more of this or that religious or
social detail that they may have at heart. Let us be careful to keep
what we have, lest we lose it because we do not know how to appreciate
it. Germany once was a powerful empire under the Carolingians, the
Saxons, and the Hohenstaufens, and when she lost her place, five, yes
six hundred years passed before she regained the use of her legs--if I
may say so. Political and geological developments are equally slow.
Layers are deposited one on the other, forming new banks and new
mountains. But I should like to ask especially the young gentlemen:
Do not yield too much to the German love of criticism! Accept what God
has given us, and what we have toiled to garner, while the rest of
Europe--I cannot say attacked us, but ominously stood at attention. It
was not easy. If we had been cited before the European Council of
Elders before our French affairs were settled, we should not have
fared nearly so well; and it was my task to avoid this if I possibly
could. It is natural that not everything which everybody wished could
be obtained under these conditions, and I mention this only to claim
the indulgence of those who are perfectly justified in expecting more,
and possibly in striving for more. But, above everything, do not be
premature, and do not act in haste. Let us cling for the present to
what we have.

The men who made the biggest sacrifices that the empire might be born
were undoubtedly the German princes, not excluding the King of
Prussia. My old master hesitated long before he voluntarily yielded
his independence to the empire. Let us then be thankful to the
reigning houses who made sacrifices for the empire which after the
full thousand years of German history must have been hard for them to
make; and let us be thankful to science, and those who cultivate her,
for having kept alive on their hearths the fire of German unity to the
time when new fuel was added and it flamed up and provided us with
satisfying light and warmth.

I would then--and you will say I am an old, conservative man--compress
what I have to say into these words: Let us keep above everything the
things we have, before we look for new things, nor be afraid of those
people who begrudge them to us. In Germany struggles have existed
always, and the party schisms of today are naught but the echoes of
the old German struggle between the noble families and the trade
unions in the cities, and between those who had and those who had not
in the peasant wars, in the religious wars, and in the thirty years'
war. None of these far reaching fissures, which I am tempted to call
geological, can disappear at once. And should we not be indulgent with
our opponents, if we ourselves do not desist from fighting? Life is a
struggle everywhere in nature, and without inner struggles we end by
being like the Chinese, and become petrified. No struggle, no life!
Only, in every fight where the national question arises, there must be
a rallying point. For us this is the empire, not as it may seem to be
desirable, but as it is, the empire and the Emperor, who represents
it. That is why I ask you to join me in wishing well to the Emperor
and the empire. I hope that in 1950 all of you who are still living
will again respond with contented hearts to the toast




Professor of German Literature, Bryn Mawr College

To relate, in detail, the story of the life of General-Fieldmarshal
Graf Helmuth von Moltke--or, as we shall briefly call him,
Moltke--means to give an account of that memorable phase of modern
history, perhaps, so far as Europe is concerned, the most important of
the nineteenth century. This was the ascendency of Prussia, of her
king and of her people, culminating in the unification and the
consolidation of most of the German states into one great empire, with
all its realization of military and political power, of social,
economic, and, in a wide sense, of cultural eminence and efficiency.
The barest outlines, however, must suffice for the present purpose.

Moltke was born at the threshold of the century the history of which
he so prominently helped to shape, on October 26, 1800, at Parchim in
the duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. On his father's side he descended
from a family of the North German gentry which had come to various
degrees of prominence in some German as well as Scandinavian states.
No doubt he inherited the military instinct from this race of
warriors, statesmen, and landholders; a race the characteristic traits
of which indicated the line along which he was bound to develop, the
field in which he was to manifest his greatest achievements. But there
is just as little doubt that all the elements of character which
exalted his military gifts and instincts into an almost antique
nobility, simplicity, and grandeur--his dignity, purity, dutifulness,
his profound religious devotion, and sense of humor--came to him from
his mother, who was descended from an ancient patrician family of the
little republican commonwealth, the once famous Hansatown of
Luebeck. How far the Huguenot strain may have influenced him, through
his paternal grandmother, is hard to tell, since we know but little of
Charlotte d'Olivet.

After the family had moved to Holstein, where his father failed to
make a success of an agricultural undertaking for which he seems to
have lacked fitness, young Moltke entered the Royal Danish Military
Academy as a cadet, and there passed his lieutenant's examination with
distinction; but he sought and found a commission under the Prussian
eagle. He entered the eighth grenadiers at Frankfort-on-the-Oder. A
year later, in 1823, he was sent to what is now called the War Academy
in Berlin. Only by the closest economy and by some outside work,
partly literary, as we shall see, he managed to get along with his
exceedingly small officer's pay. He distinguished himself however so
much that he became, successively, a teacher at the Division School
and an active military geological surveyor, and finally was taken into
the General Staff of the Army. Becoming a first lieutenant in 1832, a
captain in 1835, ahead of many of his comrades, he served exclusively
in strategical positions. During the four years, 1835-39, he, with
some comrades, was in the Turkish dominions for the purpose of
organizing and drilling the Turkish Army. He witnessed, as an active
participant, the Turkish defeat by the insurgent Egyptians at Nisib on
the Euphrates, which was brought about by the indolent obstinacy of
the Turkish commander-in-chief. Like Xenophon, Moltke retreated toward
and reached the Black Sea. At Constantinople he obtained honorable
dismissal from the Sultan. After his return to Prussia he became chief
of the General Staff of the Fourth Army Corps. In 1841 he married Mary
Burt, a young relative who was partly of English extraction. The union
developed into an unusually happy married life, in spite of, or partly
because of, their great difference in age.


His wife, by whom he had no issue, lived to see the beginning of his
great achievements and fame, but died in 1868, before his proudest
triumph. Various commands led him to Italy, Spain, England, and Russia
as adjutant of Prussian princes. In 1858 he was appointed chief of the
General Staff of the Prussian Army--the institution which he shaped
into that great strategical instrument through which were made
possible, from a military point of view, the glorious successes of the
three wars--1864, 1866, 1870-71--and which has become the model of all
similar organizations the world over.

Side by side with the overtowering political achievement of Bismarck
and the more congenial life work of Roon, the minister of war,
Moltke's service to his country and his king stands unchallenged in
historical significance. He has indelibly inscribed his name on the
tablets of history as one of the world's greatest strategists. But he
did not lay down his work until extreme old age; in 1888, as he so
simply put it in his request for relief from duty, he resigned his
office, because he "could no more mount a horse." He, however, still
remained president of the Commission of National Defense and his last
speech in the German Reichstag, of which he had been a continuous
member since its establishment, he delivered on May 14, 1890. He died
on April 24, 1891. The nation felt that one of its great heroes had
passed away.

In two congratulatory documents on the occasion of Moltke's ninetieth
birthday, Theodor Mommsen, the historian, has summed up the results of
the great soldier's life-work--in the address presented by the Royal
Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin, and in the honorary tablet of
the German cities. These inscriptions may be found in Mommsen's _Reden
und Aufsaetze_. Shortly after Moltke's death, in a commemorative
address at the same Academy, the historian and Hellenist Ernst Curtius
reviewed Moltke's relations to historical science and his achievements
in military science and in history. The Academy had appointed the
Fieldmarshal an honorary member in 1860 for his great achievements in
the military, geographical, and historical sciences. Professor
Curtius in the address draws the outlines of Moltke's character as a
student, and explains how he is indebted to the teachings of Karl
Ritter, the founder of scientific geography, how he clearly develops
under the influence of Niebuhr, Alexander von Humboldt, Leopold von
Buch, and Erman, the physicist. He points out how Moltke, as historian
and as an expert cartographer, introduces scientific spirit and work
into his great creation, the German General Staff. As a strategist,
however, it remains to be said that he follows in the footsteps, puts
into practice and develops the methods of General von Clausewitz, the
first mind who put war on an empirical and scientific basis. Moltke
was intimately acquainted with Gibbon through a nearly completed
rendering into German of _The History of the Decline and Fall of the
Roman Empire_, a translation which, unfortunately, never was printed
and seems to be lost even in manuscript. As his favorite books and
writers Moltke mentions, among others, Littrow's _Astronomy,_ Liebig's
_Agricultural Chemistry_, Clausewitz's _On War,_ Ranke, Treitschke,
Carlyle. It appears, then, that his scientific equipment was of the
most solid sort, enabling him to make the most valuable contributions
to knowledge.

It is impossible to imagine to oneself Moltke breaking into tears,
either of wrath or of despair, in great crises of his life, such as we
know to have been the case with Bismarck. There is a contrast between
these two men in their very makeup. There is tragedy in Bismarck's
soul, in its volcanic eruptiveness and its conflicts. He is nervously
high-strung in the extreme, the very embodiment, in Karl Lamprecht's
terminology, of the type of "Reizsamkeit." He likes to listen to
Beethoven's music and his sense of nature reveals him to be
impressionable, sensitive. His gamut of emotions and feelings, and
their expression, is extraordinary. Moltke, on the other hand, appears
to be always in harmony with himself, he is far less impulsive than
his great contemporary and friend. His feeling, always awake for
nature, has no element of morbid and pathetic sentiment; in the
earlier stages of its manifestation we see it slightly tinged by
Romanticism. But he is at peace with nature, his great comforting
mother. There is no sudden and surprising break in his mental or
spiritual development. The ideal of the strategist, as antiquity saw
it, appears to be consummated in his person. William James, himself an
ardent pacificist, well observed that in the modern soldier there is a
matter-of-factness far removed from the bluff and make-believe of
modern life in general. He might have chosen Moltke as the best type
of this sort of warrior. But there was much more than this scientific
and dutiful soldier; there was at bottom of Moltke's nature a fine
sense of proportion, an artistic vein, and, not the least element, a
Christian philosophy of life just as far removed from mere perfunctory
indifferentism as from cocksure dogmatic bigotry and self-sufficiency.
We have striking evidence of this in the _Trostgedanken_, the

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