Two German Giants - John Lord

Speech of Bismarck Before the German Reichstag

February 6, 1888

Translated by Sarah Zimubruan.

If I make use of words to-day, it is not to commend to your acceptance the measure [relating to a tax for increasing the imperial army] which the President has just mentioned. That it will be passed, I do not doubt; nor do I believe I can do anything to increase the majority by which it will be passed, and to which of course great importance is attached, both at home and abroad. Gentlemen of all parties will have settled their intentions as they are inclined, and I have the fullest confidence that the German Reichstag will again restore this increase of our defensive power to the height from which we gradually reduced it in the years 1867-1883; and this, not on account of the situation in which we now find ourselves, not on account of the apprehensions which the Stock Exchange and public opinion are able to excite, but as the result of a wise examination of the whole situation of Europe. Therefore I shall have more to say in my speech about this, than about the measure itself.

I do not care about speaking, for in this matter a word unfortunately spoken may do much harm, and many words cannot do much towards enlightening the minds of our own people and the minds of foreigners. This indeed they might themselves do without my aid. I speak unwillingly; but I fear that were I to keep silent the expectations which are attached to the present debate, the unrest in public opinion, the anxious disposition of our people and of foreign nations, would rather increase than decrease. It would be thought that the question is so difficult and so critical that a foreign minister dared not touch the situation. I speak, therefore; but I speak with reluctance.

I might confine myself to recalling expressions which I made from this same place more than a year ago. The situation has changed but little since then. I came across a newspaper cutting to-day from the Freisinnige Zeiturig ["Freethinking Newspaper"]—a publication which, I believe, belongs more to my political friend Deputy Richter [the Socialist] than to me [laughter]—which pictured a tolerably knotty subject in order thereby to explain something more difficult. But I will only make general reference to the main points cited there, with the declaration that if the situation be altered since then, it is for the better rather than for the worse.

A year ago we were afraid chiefly of a declaration of war which might come to us from France. Since then a peace-loving President has retired from the government in France, and a peace-loving President has succeeded him. It is a favorable symptom, that in its election of a new head of the State the French Government has not put its hands into Pandora's box, but that we may reckon that the peaceable policy represented by President Grevy will be continued by President Carnot. Besides this, we have other changes in the French Ministry whose indication for peace is even stronger than the change of President, which was connected with other reasons. Such members of the ministry as were disposed to subordinate the peace of their country and of Europe to their personal plans have been pushed out, and others of whom we have not this fear have taken their places. I think I am also able to state—and I do it with much pleasure, because I wish not to rouse public opinion, but to quiet it—that our own attitude towards France appears more peaceful, much less explosive, than it has been for some years.

The fears which have arisen during this year have been directed much more towards Russia than towards France, or, I may say, towards the exchange of mutual agitations, threats, quarrels, and provocations, which have taken place between the Russian and French press in the course of the summer. But I do not believe that the question is altered in Russia from what it was a year ago. The "Freethinker" has printed prominently, with particularly black type, what I said last year:

"Our friendship with Russia suffered no break during the time of our war, and is raised above all doubt to-day. At all events, we expect from Russia neither an attack nor an unfriendly policy."

That this was printed in large type was perhaps intended to make the attack on it easier [laughter]; perhaps also with the hope that I have arrived at a different opinion in the meantime, and am persuaded to-day that my trust in the Russian policy of last year was a mistake. That is not the case. That which makes it look so lies partly with the Russian press, partly in the mobilization of Russian troops.

Concerning the press, I cannot attach decided importance to it. They say that in Russia it is of more signification than in France. My opinion is exactly the contrary. In France the press is a power which exerts influence upon the resolutions of the government; it is not so in Russia, nor can it be: in both cases the press is for me but printer's ink upon paper, against which we wage no war. There lies no provocation for us in it. Only one man stands behind every article in the press,—he who has guided the pen that sends each article into the world. Even in a Russian paper—we assume it to be an independent Russian paper—that is supported with French secret funds, it is all the same. The pen which writes therein an article unfriendly to Germany is supported by no one but him who has guided it with his hand—by no one but him who has achieved this lucubration in his study, and by the censor, which a Russian newspaper is bound to have; i.e., one of the more or less high officials in current politics, who gives his protection only to this same Russian paper. Both writer and censor have as little influence contrary to the authority of His Majesty the Czar of Russia as the weight of a feather.

In Russia the press has not the same influence upon public opinion as in France, and at the most is its barometer, tolerated according to the standard of Russian press laws, but without in any way attracting the attention of the Russian Government, or of His Majesty the Czar of Russia. As against the opinion of the Russian press, I had the immediate testimony of the Emperor Alexander himself. When, after the lapse of several years, I had the honor of being again received in audience by the Czar a few months ago, I again convinced myself that the Emperor of Russia entertains no warlike tendency toward us, has no intention either to invade us, or to wage any aggressive war. I do not believe the Russian press; but I do believe the word of the Emperor Alexander, and absolutely trust it. If both lie on the scales before me, the testimony of the Russian press, with its hatred towards Germany, flies up in the air like a feather, while the personal testimony of the Emperor Alexander has great weight for me. Therefore I say, the press does not cause me to think that our relations with Russia to-day are worse than they were a year ago.

I come to the other question—that of the mobilization of Russian troops. Such movements have always taken place to a large extent; they have taken the present imaginary threatening form especially since 1879—since the end of the Turkish war. There may be, indeed, very slightly, an appearance that the accumulation of Russian troops in the neighborhood of the German and Austrian boundaries, in districts where their maintenance is dearer and more difficult than in the interior of their own country, can only suggest the intention of invading and seizing suddenly one of the neighboring countries, sans dire: Gare!—I cannot find just the right German expression [en garde]. But I do not think that to be the fact. For one thing, it is not characteristic of the Russian monarch; it is in contradiction to his utterances, and its object would be extraordinarily difficult to understand. Russia can have no intention of conquering part of Prussia; nor of Austria either, I believe. I think that Russia possesses quite as many Polish subjects as it wishes for, and it has no inclination to increase their numbers. [Laughter.]

No reason, no pretext, can be shown why any European sovereign should attack his neighbors quite suddenly. I go so far in my belief as to be persuaded that if, through any explosive phenomenon in France, upon which no one can reckon beforehand, and which the present government in France certainly does not expect—if we found ourselves entangled in a French war through such a phenomenon, Russia would not immediately Join it. And, on the other hand, were we involved in a war with Russia, we should be quite safe from France; no French Government would be strong enough to hinder it, however great its wish to do so. But again, to-day, I say that I look for no aggression from Russia, and retract nothing which I declared a year ago.

You will ask: Why, then, the mobilization of troops in this expensive manner? Well, there are questions of which an explanation cannot easily be demanded from the foreign cabinets which they concern. When explanations are begun to be asked about them, ambiguous replies are given, and the rejoinder is again ambiguous. It is a dangerous road, which I do not care to tread. The mobilization of troops is, according to my judgment, an occurrence for which one nation cannot demand a categorical explanation,—or, using a student's expression, "cannot take to task for,"—but against which preparations can be made with reserve and foresight.

Therefore I can give no authentic reason for the motives of these Russian mobilizations. But I, who have been trusted with foreign and also with Russian diplomacy for a generation—I, as well as anyone else, may make my own reflections about them; and they take me so far as to make me assume that the Russian Cabinet has the conviction—and it will be well founded—that, in the next European crisis which may happen, the weight of the Russian voice in the diplomatic Areopagus of Europe will carry so much more influence the stronger Russia is on the European boundary,—the farther to the west the Russian troops are situated. Russia would be ready just so much more quickly, either as ally or as adversary, if she keeps her principal troops, or at least a strong army, near her western boundaries.

For a long time this policy has guided the Russian reviews of troops. You will remember that even during the Crimean war a large army was waiting all the time in the Polish kingdom, which, had it been dispatched to the Crimea at the right moment, would perhaps have given another turn to the war. On looking farther back in the past, it will be found that in the movement of 1830 Russia was unprepared and unfit for attack, because it had no troops in large numbers in the west of its empire. It is therefore unnecessary to draw the conclusion that there is an aggressive intention toward us because troops are massed in the western provinces (sapadin Guberni, as the Russians say). I suppose that a fresh Eastern crisis is expected at some time or other; in order then to be ready to assert the Russian wishes with great weight, one does not need a standing army in Kazan, but farther westward.

But if an Eastern crisis do happen? Yes; we have no surety about that. In my opinion we have had four crises in this century, deducting the lesser ones, and those which did not fully develop themselves: one in the year 1809, which ended with the treaty by which Russia ceded the Pruth boundary; then in 1838 [following the Greek Revolution]; in 1854, the Crimean war; and in 1877[The Russo-Turkish war]—in periods of about twenty odd years apart. Why should the next crisis occur so much sooner, rather than after the same space of time, about 1899, some twenty-two years later? I prefer at least to consider it possible that the crisis will be deferred, and not made to happen immediately.

Besides, there are also other European events, which are bound to occur in the similar periods. For example, Polish insurrections. In former times we looked for one every eighteen to twenty years. Perhaps the desire to prevent them is one reason why Russia wishes to be so strong in Poland. Likewise, changes of government in France—they also occur every eighteen or twenty years; and no one can deny that a change in the French Government may lead to a crisis which every interested power must wish to be able to interfere in, with full importance—I mean only in a diplomatic manner, but with a diplomacy behind which stands an army perfectly equipped and ready to fight.

If Russia means this,—which I would much sooner conjecture from the standpoint of a purely technical, diplomatic judgment, based upon my experience, than that it wishes to respond to the comparatively hounding threats and bullyings of the newspapers,—there is absolutely no reason why we should look gloomily into our future, as we have generally done for the last forty years. The Eastern crisis is the most probable one that can happen. When it happens, we are not the most interested parties in it. Without approaching too nearly into any engagement, we are completely ready to wait while the powers most interested in the Mediterranean, in the Levant, first fight out their determinations, and then, as they prefer, strike or make peace with Russia.

We are not interested, in the highest degree, on one side or the other of the Eastern question. Every Great Power which seeks to interfere and to influence and to manage matter beyond its sphere of interest in the politics of other lands, ventures beyond the province which God has assigned to it; it follows the policy of power, and not the policy of interest; it governs for prestige only. We will not do that; we will wait, when the Eastern crisis comes, to see what situation the more interested Powers will take, before we make any movement.

There is therefore no reason to consider our situation at this moment so serious that just the present condition of affairs is the occasion on account of which we seek to-day to pass a military measure for a powerful increase of the army. I wish to keep aside the question of the second conscription of the militia; in short, to separate the measure for the increase of the army with the other, the financial bill, entirely from the question of what our present situation is. The question is not one of a merely temporary contrivance: it is one of a lasting, of a permanent, strengthening of the German army.

That it is not a question of a temporary arrangement, will be apparent, I believe, when I beg you to go with me through the alarms of war which we have had during the last forty years, without having been proved at any time to have been in a state of nervous restlessness. In the year 1848, when the dikes and sluices, which had till then confined the waters in their quiet courses, fell to pieces, we had to settle two matters which threatened war: they concerned Poland and Schleswig-Holstein. The first cry after the month of March was: War against Russia for the restoration of Poland! Soon after there was exceeding danger of becoming entangled in a great European war, through the Schleswig-Holstein question; and I do not need to recall to you how, through the settlement at Olmutz in 1850, a great conflagration was prevented. There followed perhaps two years of a quieter time, but they were full of uneasiness. It was at the time that I was minister in Frankfurt.

In the year 1853 the beginnings of the Crimean war were felt; this war lasted from 1853 till 1856. During the whole time we found ourselves on the very edge—I will not say of the precipice, but of the slope, down which we might be drawn into the war. I remember that from 1853 till 1856 I was obliged to go backward and forward, like a pendulum, between Frankfurt and Berlin, because His late Majesty, by the confidence which he placed in me, really used me as deputy for his independent policy when the Western Powers were too strong in their persuasions that we, on our part, should also declare war against Russia, and the opposition of his minister of foreign affairs was too weak for him. I do not know how often it was—the game tired me out—that I had to write a more friendly dispatch to Russia for His Majesty; that this dispatch was sent off; that Herr von Manteuffel sent in his resignation; and that, after the dispatch was gone, His Majesty begged me to go on an errand to Herr von Manteuffel, in the country or anywhere, and induce him to take up his portfolio again. All the time was the Prussia of that day on the eve of a great war: it was exposed to the enmity of all Europe except Russia if it declined to agree with the policy of the Western Powers, and otherwise it would have been forced to a breach with Russia,—lasting probably for a long time, because the desertion of Prussia would have been felt most painfully by Russia. During the Crimean war, then, we were in constant danger of being drawn in. That lasted till 1856, when it was finally concluded by the Treaty of Paris, and made for us, by this treaty, a kind of Canossa in the Paris Congress. There was no necessity for us to play the part of a greater Power than we were, and to ratify that treaty. But we bowed and scraped in order to be allowed finally to sign. That will not happen to us again. [Laughter.]

That was in 1856. As early as 1857 the Neuchatel question threatened us with war, although it has not become very well known. At that time I was sent to Paris, in the spring of 1857, by the late King, in order to negotiate with the Emperor Napoleon about the marching through of Prussian troops to an attack upon Switzerland. What that meant, had it been agreed to, how it would have become a far-spreading war panic, how it would have led us into difficulties with France as well as with other Great Powers, everyone will see to whom I tell it. The Emperor Napoleon did not feel inclined to consent to it. My negotiations in Paris were cut short, because His Majesty the King had in the meantime himself arranged the matter in a friendly way between Austria and Switzerland. [Neuchatel was detached from Prussia and became a member of the Swiss Confederation.]

But in that same year there was still danger of war. I may say that when I was in Paris on that mission the Italian war, which broke out somewhat more than a year later, was already in the air, and that we escaped almost by a hair's-breadth from being drawn into a great European coalition war. We went as far as starting troops: indeed, we should undoubtedly have attacked had not the Peace of Villafranca been concluded—not at all too soon for Austria, perhaps just at the right moment for us. "We should have had to conduct war under unfavorable conditions; we should have had to turn a campaign which was Italian into a Prusso-French war, the conclusion, end, and treaty of which would not have depended upon us, but upon the friends or enemies who stood behind us. And so, with the war-clouds leaving the horizon clear for one year, we reached the Sixties.

In 1863 occurred a scarcely less great danger of war, which remains comparatively unknown to the great public, and which will first make an impression when the secret archives of the Cabinet are published. You will remember the Polish rebellion, which happened in 1863; and I shall never forget how one morning, during one of the visits from Sir Andrew Buchanan, the English ambassador, and Talleyrand, the French representative, which I was wont to have, they made hell hot for me about the inexcusable adhesion of the Prussian policy to that of Russia, and spoke rather menacingly to us. Later at noon of the same day I had the pleasure of hearing in the Prussian Landtag the same arguments and charges with which the two foreign ministers had attacked me in the morning. [Laughter.] I could have stood that quietly; but the Emperor Alexander lost patience, and wished to draw the sword against the chicanery of the Western powers.

You will remember that the French forces were then engaged in Mexico with American projects, so that France could not put forth its whole power. The Tsar of Russia would not any longer submit to the Polish intrigues carried on by the other powers, and was prepared in alliance with us to resist events and strike. You will remember that at that time Prussia internally was in a difficult position—that in Germany minds were already fermenting, and Frankfurt's assembly of princes was in preparation. It must be acknowledged that there existed a great temptation for my gracious master to settle this difficult internal question by entering upon a warlike undertaking in great style; and doubtless there would have been war by Prussia and Russia in alliance against those who supported the Polish rebellion against us, had not His Majesty been held back by a dread of solving internal difficulties, Prussian as well as German, with outside help ["Bravo!"]; and we declined,—silently, without asserting the reasons for our proceedings beyond the unfriendly projects of other German Governments toward us. The death of the King of Denmark soon afterward turned all interested persons to other thoughts. But it required only a "Yes" instead of a "No" at Gastein from His Majesty, and a great war, the coalition war, would have happened in 1863. Any other but a German minister would probably, as opportunist, have been persuaded by all considerations of utilitarianism, in order to solve our internal difficulties. Among our own people, as well as among foreigners, there was scarcely a right idea of the extent to which the will of the nation and a faithful conscientiousness ["Bravo!" from the Eight] guided monarch and minister in the government of the German country. ["Bravo!" from all sides.]

The year 1864—we were just speaking of 1863—brought fresh and most alarming fears of war. From the moment our troops crossed the Eider I was waiting each week for the interference of the European convention of seniors [laughter] in the Danish affair, and you will admit that it was in the highest degree possible. Even at that time we could perceive that if Austria and Germany were united, although the then existing German Confederation did not by any means have the same military signification which the same countries have to-day, they could not have been so easily attacked by Europe. ["Bravo!"] That was manifest even then; but the fear of war remained the same.

In 1865 the front changed, and preparations for the war of 1866 were then begun. I remember only one council of Prussian ministers which took place in 1865, after the occupation of Gueldres, which was afterwards vacated through the Treaty of Gastein. But in the year 1866 war fully broke out, and there was the greatest danger—which we prevented only through the most prudent use of circumstances—that out of this duel between Prussia and Austria a vast European coalition war might arise, in which the very question of existence would depend on brain and brawn.

That was 1866, and in 1867 the Luxembourg question followed. A somewhat firmer answer was then required from us—which perhaps we could have given, had we then been strong enough to have foreseen a good result with safety in bringing about the great French war at that time.

From thence onward, in 1868, 1869, till 1870, we were continuously in fear of war, while abiding by treaties which Herr von Beust made at the time in Salzburg and other places between France, Italy, and Austria, and about which care was taken that they should be performed at our cost. Apprehension before the [French] war was so great, that I as Prime Minister received many deputations from trading and industrial bodies, who said to me: "This indecision is quite unbearable; go to war rather: rather war than longer worry with this depression in all trades." We waited quietly till we were attacked; and I believe we did well so to contain ourselves that we remained the aggressed and not the aggressors.

Now, since that great war of 1870 was fought, I ask you, Has there been any year without the fear of war? At the beginning of the Seventies—even as we came home from France—it was asked: "When will the next war be? When will the Revanche be fought? At latest in five years?" It was said to us then: "The question whether we are to have this war, and with what result"—it was one of the Hundred, who upbraided me with it in the Reichstag,—"depends nowadays only on Russia; Russia alone has the sword in the hand." I shall probably return to this question later on.

In the meantime I wish to go on through the forty years' picture, and mention that again in 1876 a war-storm gathered: in 1877 the Balkan war would have led to a conflagration through the whole of Europe, and was prevented only by the Congress held in Berlin; and quite suddenly after the Congress a new danger was opened up to us in the East, because Russia had taken amiss our behavior at the Congress. Perhaps I will come back again to that also, if my strength will allow me.

Then there followed a certain reaction in the intimate relationship of the three Emperors, which for some time had permitted us to look into the future with more quietude; yet on the first symptoms of uncertainty in the relations between the three Emperors, or from the expiration of the treaties which they had made with each other, public opinion became nervous again. However, the overwrought excitement with which we struggle to-day, and have struggled during late years, but especially to-day, I hold to be particularly baseless.

Yet though I consider this nervousness to-day to be with out reason, I am far from drawing the conclusion from that fact that we do not need to strengthen our forces for fighting. On the contrary. It is for this that I have unrolled this forty years' tableau,—perhaps not to your amusement,—and I beg pardon for it; but had I omitted a year from that which you yourselves have all so direfully experienced, there would have been no idea that the state of anxiety before great wars, before further complications the different entanglements of which no one can judge beforehand, had been so prevalent among us. But now we must be prepared for it, once for all. Independently of the present situation, we must be so strong, that with the consciousness of a great nation, which is strong enough under any circumstances to hold its fortune in its own hand against every coalition ["Bravo!"]; with the confidence in itself and in God, which brings its own power; with the righteousness of our cause, which the carefulness of the government will endeavor to keep on the side of Germany—we shall be able to look forward to every possibility, and to look forward with peace. ["Bravo!"]

The long and the short of it is, that we must be as strong as we possibly can in these days, and we have the capability of being stronger than any other nation of equal population in the world! ["Bravo!"]—I will come back again to that,—and it would be a crime if we did not use that capability. If we do not want our soldiers, we do not need to call them out. It only depends upon the not very important question of money—not very important, though I mention it by the way. I have no inclination to enter upon military or financial figures, but during the last few years France has invested three thousand millions in the improvement of her forces, while we have hardly spent fifteen hundred millions, including that which we now ask from you. ["Hear! hear!" from the Right.] However, I will leave this to the Ministers of War and of the Finance Department to put forward.

When I say we must be continually trying to be ready for all eventualities, I advance with that the claim that we must make still greater exertions than other powers for the same ends, on account of our geographical situation. We lie in the middle of Europe. We have at least three fronts open to attack. France has only her eastern boundary, Russia only her western side, on which they can be attacked. We are, besides, more exposed than any other people through our geographical situation to the danger of coalition and through the perhaps decreasing lack of cohesion, which the German nation has had up till now, in comparison with others. God has placed us in a situation in which we can be hindered by our neighbors from falling anyhow into slothfulness or dreaming. He has placed on one side of us the French—a most warlike and restless nation; and he has allowed the fighting tendencies of Russia, which did not exist to any extent in the earlier part of the century, to become great. So in a certain measure we get spurs from both sides, and are forced into a struggle which perhaps we would not otherwise make. The pikes in the European carp pond prevent us from becoming carp [laughter], because they let us feel their stings in both our sides. They force us to a struggle which probably we should not engage in of our own will; they also force us to a cohesion among us Germans which is opposed to our innermost nature [laughter]: otherwise we would rather struggle with each other. But the Franco-Russian press between which we have been taken compels us to hold together, and will materially increase our capability for cohesion through compression, till we reach the condition of indivisibility which is peculiar to almost all other nations, but which has failed us till now. ["Bravo!"] And we must respond to this dispensation of Providence by making ourselves so strong that the pike can do no more to us than wake us up. [Laughter.]

Years ago we had the Holy Alliance. I remember an old American song which I learnt from my deceased friend Motley; it begins:

"In good old colonial time,

When we lived under a king."

Now those days of the Alliance were patriarchal times, when we had a number of provinces on which we could depend, and a number of dikes which protected us from the wild European floods. There was the German Confederation; and the true beginning and continuation and consummation of the German Confederation, for whose use it was formed, was the Holy Alliance. We depended on Russia and Austria, and in all circumstances we were safe. We dwelt in a becoming shyness, on account of which we never ventured an opinion until the others had spoken. [Laughter] That is all lost to us ["Very good!" from the Right]; we must now help ourselves. The Holy Alliance suffered shipwreck in the Crimean war—not through our fault. The German Confederation was destroyed through us, because the existence which it created for us could not be borne long either by us or by the German people. Both have passed out of the world. After the dissolution of the German Confederacy, at the end of the war of 1866, Prussia, or the North Germany of that time, would have been isolated had we been forced to count upon the fact that no one from any side would forgive us the new issues, the important advances which we had obtained by great efforts. Other powers never love to see the success of their neighbors.

But our relations with Russia were not disturbed through the affair of 1866. In that year the remembrance of Count Buol's policy, of Austria's policy during the Crimean war, was still too fresh in Russia to allow the thought to arise there of backing the Austrian monarchy against Prussian attack, of renewing the campaign which the Emperor Nicholas had conducted in 1849 on behalf of Austria,—I beg to be excused if I sit down for a moment; I cannot stand any longer;—therefore there is always for us a most natural affinity toward Russia, which, anticipated in the last century, has taken an acknowledged origin in the policy of the Emperor Alexander I. in this century. Indeed, Prussia owed him thanks. In 1813 he could just as well have turned round on the Polish frontiers and have concluded peace; later on he could have caused Prussia to fall. In fact, for the restoration to the old footing we really had to thank the good wishes of the Czar Alexander I., or, if you will be skeptical, say the good wishes of the Russian policy, for the way it used Prussia.

This gratitude has governed the reign of Frederick William III. The balance which was due to Russia on the Prussian account has been used up in the friendship—I may almost say in the service—which Prussia rendered during the whole reign of the Czar Nicholas; and I can say that it was settled at Olmtitz [a conference between Austria, Prussia, and Russia for regarding the revolutionary movement of 1848.] At Olmtitz the Czar Nicholas did not take the side of Prussia, did not once protect us from unfortunate experiences, from some humiliations; for, taken on the whole, the Czar Nicholas had a stronger predilection for Austria than for Prussia; the thought that we owed any thanks whatever to Russia during his reign is an historical legend.

But so long as the Czar Nicholas lived, we on our side did not break the tradition with Russia; during the Crimean war, as I have already related to you, we held fast to the Russian side at considerable hazard and under threats. His Majesty the late King had no inclination to play—what then, as I believe, would have been possible—a decided role in the war with a strong army. We had concluded treaties by which we were bound at a certain time to bring forward 100,000 men on the field. I proposed to His Majesty to bring forward, not 100,000, but 200,000, and to mount them, so that we could use them right and left; so that with His Majesty would have lain the final decision of the war. However, the late king was not inclined to warlike undertakings, and the people can only be grateful to him for it. I was younger and less experienced than I am to-day. However, we never bore rancor for Olmutz during the Crimean war: we came out of it as Russia's friend; and during the time that I was ambassador in St. Petersburg I was able to enjoy the fruit of this friendship in a very welcome reception at court and in society. Our partisanship for Austria during the Italian war did not meet with the approval of the Russian Cabinet of that day, but it had no subsequent disadvantageous effect. Our war of 1866 [with Austria] was looked upon rather with a certain satisfaction; Russia did not grudge Austria that, at that time. In 1870, during our French war, we had at least the satisfaction, coincidently with our defense and victorious advance, of being able to render a service to our Russian friend in the Black Sea. In no way could the Black Sea have been possibly opened by the contracting parties if the German troops had not stood victoriously in the neighborhood of Paris. For example, had the Germans been defeated, I believe the result of the London agreement would not have been given so easily in Russia's favor. From the war of 1870, therefore, no uneasiness remained between us and Russia.

I quote these facts in order to demonstrate to you the origin of the treaty [of 1879] with Austria, which was published only a few days ago, and to vindicate the policy of His Majesty from the reproach that it has enlarged the possibilities of war for the German Empire through that which concerns Austria and does not affect Germany. I intend, therefore, to describe to you how it has happened that the traditional relations between us and Russia, which I have always specially fostered, have taken such a form that we have been induced to publish the Austrian treaty made public the day before yesterday.

The earlier years after the French war were passed in the best understanding. In 1875 an inclination of my Russian colleague. Count Gortschakoff, came to light, of taking the trouble to win for himself more popularity with France than with us, and by using certain favorable contemporary coincidences to that end, in order to make the world believe by a telegram, prepared for the purpose,—as if in 1875 we had any such remote intention,—that we had intended to attack France, and it was through the wisdom of Prince Gortschakoff that France had been saved from this danger. That was the first estrangement that arose between us, and which led me to a lively exchange of sentiments with my former friend and later colleague.

At the same time we always held strongly to the question of firmly maintaining peace between the three emperors, of continuing the relations which first originated during the visits of the Emperors of Russia and of Austria in 1873 here in Berlin, and during the following return visits. We also succeeded in it. In 1876, just before the Turkish war, we declined certain persuasions to an option between Russia and Austria, which were brought before us. I do not consider it necessary to go through the details; they were known at the time. The effect of our refusal was, that Russia turned directly to Vienna, and a treaty—I believe it was in January, 1877—was concluded between Austria and Russia which affected the eventualities of an Eastern crisis, and for which, in such a case as the occupation of Bosnia, and so on, Austria provided.

Then came the [Russo-Turkish Balkan] war, and we were quite contented when the storm passed over even farther south than it was originally inclined to. The end of the war was definitely settled here in Berlin by the Congress, after having been prepared by the Peace of San Stefano. According to my conviction, the Peace of San Stefano was not much more hazardous for the anti-Russian powers, and not much more beneficial to Russia, than the later treaty of the Congress has been. One may say the Peace of San Stefano reappeared subsequently of its own accord, because little East Roumelia, including some 800,000 souls altogether, I believe, arbitrarily took upon itself the restitution of the—not quite—of the old San Stefano limits, and annexed itself to Bulgaria. Therefore the adjustment of the average, which the Congress established on the basis of San Stefano, was not so very bad. Whether or not the settlement of San Stefano were exactly a masterpiece of diplomacy, I leave undecided.

We had as little inclination to mix ourselves then in the Eastern question as we have to-day. I was dangerously ill in Friedrichsruhe, when the request was officially communicated to me on the part of Russia to convene a Congress of the Great Powers at Berlin for the definite settlement of the war. I had next to no inclination for it, partly because I was physically unable, but also because I had no desire to entangle ourselves so far in the matter as the role of President of a Congress necessarily involves. When, notwithstanding, I finally complied, it was partly owing to the German sense of duty toward the interests of peace, but specially owing to the grateful remembrance of the favor of the Czar Alexander II. toward me which I have always had, and which caused me to fulfill this wish. I declared myself ready, if we succeeded in obtaining the consent of England and of Austria. Russia undertook to get England's consent, I took upon myself to promise it for Vienna; we succeeded, and the Congress was held.

During the Congress, I may truly say, I fulfilled my role so successfully, as far as I could in every way without hurting the interests of our own country or of our friends, that I might have been the fourth Russian plenipotentiary at this Congress [laughter]; indeed, I may almost say, the third; for I can scarcely acknowledge Prince Gortschakoff as a plenipotentiary of Russian policy, represented as it was by the real ambassador. Count Shouvaloff. [Laughter.]

During the whole of the business of the Congress no Russian wish came to my knowledge which I did not recommend; yea, which I did not carry through. In consequence of the confidence which the lamented Lord Beaconsfield placed in me, in the most difficult, most critical moment of the Congress, I appeared at his sick bed in the middle of the night, and, at the moment when the Congress stood near a rupture, obtained his signature in bed. In fact I so acted at the Congress, that when it was ended I thought, "I have long possessed the highest Russian Order in precious stones, otherwise I should get it now." [Laughter.] In short, I had the feeling that I had performed such a service for a foreign power as is seldom permitted the minister of another country.

What, then, must have been my surprise and my amazement as gradually a kind of press campaign commenced in St. Petersburg, during which the German policy was attacked, and I personally, through my intentions, was suspected! These attacks increased during the following year, till in 1879 there were made strong claims that we should exercise upon Austria a pressure in matters where we could not attack the just rights of that country. I could not lend my hand to that; for had we estranged Austria from us, it would have happened, if we did not wish to be quite isolated in Europe, that we should have been obliged to depend on Russia. Would such a dependence have been endurable? In former years I should have believed it to be have been, for I should have said to myself, "We have no mutual interests to quarrel about; there is no reason whatever why Russia should give up our friendship." At least, I would not have directly contradicted my Russian colleague, who had explained it all to me. The occurrence concerning the Congress undeceived me. It showed me that even a full surrender of our policy (for a certain time) in favor of the Russian policy would not protect us from falling into war with Russia against our will and our endeavors. This fight over instructions which we gave, or did not give, to our representatives at the negotiations in the south amounted to threats, to real threats of war, from the quarter least justified.

That is the origin of our treaty with Austria. We were compelled through these threats to that option which I avoided ten years ago, of choosing between those two, who up till then had been our friends. At that time, in Gastein and Vienna, I arranged the treaty which was published the day before yesterday, and which to-day still holds good between us.

Its publication, as I saw yesterday and the day before, is wrongly understood by the newspapers: they seek to find in it an ultimatum, a warning, a threat. That signifies so much the less, as the text of the treaty has long been known to the Russian Cabinet. Before November of last year we considered it due to the candor of a loyal monarch, such as the Czar of Russia is, as early as possible to leave him no doubt how matters lay. I do not consider it possible not to have concluded this treaty; if we had not arranged it then, we must have done so to-day. It has exactly the chief attribute of an international treaty; namely, it is the expression of the permanent interests of both sides—as much of the Austrian side as of ours. ["Bravo!"] No Great Power is obliged to keep to the text of any treaty in opposition to the interests of its own people; it is at last compelled to declare quite openly, "Times have altered; I cannot hold to this any longer." It must justify its course as well as possible with its own people, and with those who have concluded the treaty. It is no credit to any Great Power to lead its own people into trouble because it keeps to the letter of one condition or another of a signed agreement.

That will not be the case, anyway, with these treaties. They are just;—not only the treaty which we have concluded with Austria, but similar treaties which exist between us and other governments ["Hear! hear!" from the Right]—especially the treaties we have made with Italy: they are only the expression of mutual interest in the struggles and risks which nations have to run. Italy as well as ourselves has been in the situation of having to fight Austria for the right of consolidating itself nationally. Both live now at peace with Austria, and in common with Austria have the same struggles and dangers, which alike threaten peace, as precious to the one as to the other; alike have to protect internal developments to which they would fain devote themselves, and to guard themselves from attacks. This endeavor, and with it the mutual confidence that the treaties will be kept, and that with these treaties neither party is bound to the other unless it is compatible with its own interests—all this makes these treaties firm, strong, and lasting. ["Bravo!"]

How much our treaty with Austria is the expression of the interests of both sides was shown at Nicolsburg, and in 1870. Even in the transactions at Nicolsburg we were under the impression that we could not do without Austria—and a strong, courageous Austria, which will endure in Europe. In 1870, when war broke out between us and France, the temptation was indeed extraordinarily strong for her susceptible feelings to use the opportunity, and take revenge on the enemy of 1866; but the thoughtful and prudent policy of the Austrian Cabinet was obliged to ask itself: "What would be the consequences? In what situation should we find ourselves if we now ally ourselves to the French in order to conquer Prussia,—not to say Germany?" What would have been the consequences if France with Austria's help had conquered us? Austria could have had by such a policy scarcely any other object than again taking its early position in Germany—for that was really the only reason it gave in 1866; there were no other reasons, those relating to pecuniary matters being quite unimportant. Now, what would the situation of Austria in the German Confederation as presidential power have been like, if it had been obliged to say that, in agreement with France, it had taken the left bank of the Rhine from Germany; that it had again reduced the South German States to a Rhenish confederation dependent on France; and that it had irrevocably condemned Prussia to look for Russia's support and to dependence on Russia's future policy? Such a situation was unacceptable to the Austrian statesmen, who were not entirely blinded by rage and revenge.

But that is also the case with us in Germany. If you imagine Austria taken off the map of Europe, you will find that we, with Italy, are isolated between Russia and France—between the two strongest military powers next to Germany. We should either be one nation against two, or, very probably, changing our dependence from one to the other. It cannot be so. One cannot imagine Austria out of the way; such an empire as Austria will not disappear. But such a nation as Austria will be estranged if left in the lurch, as was done at the Treaty of Villafranca, and will be inclined to offer its hand to those who, on their side, have been the antagonists of an unreliable friend.

In short, if we would guard against the isolation which, in the defenseless situation of Germany is particularly dangerous, we must have a sure friend. We have, by virtue of similarity of interests, by virtue of this treaty which has been laid before you, two true friends—true, not out of love to each other; for nations wage war on each other from hatred: it has never yet happened that out of love one country has sacrificed itself for another. [Laughter.] Hatred does not always lead to war. If that were the case, France would be engaged in continuous wars, not only with us, but also with England and Italy; for it hates all its neighbors. [Applause and consent.] I do not believe that the dislike now expressed toward us in Russia is more than factitiously padded out, or will be of long duration. Not only do opinions and friendships unite us with our allies of the treaty, but the most weighty interests of the European balance of power, and of our own future.

Therefore I think you will approve the policy of His Majesty the Emperor, which has led to the conclusion of this treaty ["Bravo!"], even should the possibility of war be strengthened thereby.

It is quite true that the alliance we have made will be extraordinarily strengthened on one side by the passing of this bill, because the proposed increase in one department will exceedingly strengthen the German Empire itself.

The bill asks for an increase of armed troops,—a possible increase, which unless needed we shall not want to call out: it can remain at home. But if we have it at our disposition, if we have arms for it,—(and that is thoroughly necessary: I remember the carbine supplied by England to our Landwehr in 1813, with which I practiced as a sportsman—that was no weapon for war. We cannot indeed procure weapons on the instant. But, if we have arms for the purpose, this new law becomes a reinforcement for the security of peace, and a corroboration of the alliance for peace, which is as strong as if a fourth Great Power had joined the alliance with an army of 700,000 men—the highest number there ever was. ["Bravo!"]

I believe, also, that this large increase of strength will have a soothing effect upon our own people, and will abate in some measure the nervousness of public opinion, of the Bourse, and of the press. I hope they will feel comfort [laughter], if they make it clear to themselves that after this reinforcement, and from the moment it is signed and published, the soldiers are there. But there is a great want of arms; we must provide better ones, for if we would build up an army of "Triarians," [veteran Roman soldiers, who formed the third rank from the front when in order of battle] of the best material that we have among our people, of men over thirty years of age, generally fathers of families, we must have the best kind of weapons for them that can be found anywhere. ["Bravo!"] We must not send them into battle with those which we do not consider good enough for our young recruits of the line. ["Very good!"] The capable men, the heads of households, these giants who still remind us of the time when they had possession of the bridge of Versailles, must certainly have the best weapon on their shoulders, the most complete arm, the most comfortable dress for protection against storms and all extreme events. [Repeated "Bravo!"] We dare not economize in this. And I hope it will quiet our fellow-countrymen if they now think it really likely to be the case (which I do not believe) that we should be attacked on both sides at one time. As I explained to you in the history of the forty years, it is a possibility, for all imaginable coalitions may occur. If it should happen, we could place a million good soldiers on the defensive on our borders. At the same time we should be able to hold in reserve half a million or more, almost another million, in the background, and put them forward according to need.

It has been said to me, "This will only have the effect of causing the others to increase their armies." But they cannot do that. ["Bravo!"—Laughter.] They have long reached their total amount. We lowered the age in 1867, because we believed that, having the German Confederacy, we could make matters easier for ourselves, and could let men over thirty-two be free. In consequence, our neighbors adopted a longer time for service, some a twenty-years period,—when the Minister of War speaks he will be able to explain it better to you;—in number they are quite as many as we are, but they cannot approach us for quality. ["Quite right!"] Courage is the same in all civilized nations; the Russian, the Frenchman, fights just as bravely as the German; but our people—our 700,000 men—have served in war, are well-tried soldiers, who have not yet forgotten their profession. And we have that in which no other people in the world can equal us—we have the material for officers and under-officers to command this immense army. ["Bravo!"] No other nation can approach us there.

To this end is directed the whole particular course of the education of the people in Germany; and it is done in no other country. The class of education which is necessary in order to fit an officer and a sub-officer to command, according to the claims which the soldier makes on him, is very much higher here than in any other country. We have not only more materials for officers and under-officers than any other country, but we have a corps of actual officers which no other nation in the world can equal. ["Bravo!"] In this, and also in the excellence of our corps of non-commissioned officers, who really are embryo officers, lies our superiority. The course of education which an officer pursues not only makes very urgent demands on his character, requiring self-denial of luxuries and society, but makes the performance of social tasks exceedingly difficult; the performance of which is necessary, nevertheless, in order to encourage the fellowship which—God be thanked—exists among us in the highest degree, and which excites emulation between men and officers without in any way injuring discipline.

No others can equal us in the relationship which exists in the German army between officers and men, especially during the time of war, with but few unfortunate exceptions—Exceptio firmat regulam. On the whole we can say: No German officer leaves his soldiers in the lurch under fire, but fetches him out, even with danger to his own life; and, vice versa, no German soldier forsakes his officer: this we know by experience. ["Bravo!"]

If other armies with the same number of troops that we intend to have forthwith, will have officers and under-officers, they will be compelled, under the circumstances, to educate them; for a campaign led by a narrow mind [a pun in German, playing on similarities in the words for "fool" and "narrow door"] will not succeed [laughter], and still less will be performed the difficult duties which the officer has toward his men, in order to keep their love and esteem. The kind of education which is necessary for that, and the executive ability which among us is generally shown by the officer in comradeship and a sense of honor, can be shown by no class of officers abroad, for no regulations or issued directions will impress it on them. Therein we are superior to every nation, and on that account they are not able to imitate us. ["Bravo!"] So I am not anxious about it.

But, besides this, there is another advantage in your acceptance of this measure: the very strength for which we strive shows that we are inclined to peace. That sounds paradoxical, but it is true.

With such a powerful machine as we wish to make the German army, no one would undertake to attack us. If I were to stand here before you to-day and say to you,—supposing the conditions were different from what they are, according to my conviction,—"We are urgently threatened by France and Russia; we can see that we shall be attacked by them; according to my opinions as a diplomatist and as a military man, it will be more advantageous to us if we strike the first blow than if we act on the defensive,—that we now attack at once,—it will be more conducive to our success to wage an aggressive war, and I therefore beg the Reichstag for a loan of a milliard or of half a milliard in order to undertake immediate war against both our neighbors"—indeed, gentlemen, I do not know if you would have confidence enough in me to consent to that. I hope not. [Laughter.]

But if you had, it would not satisfy me. If we in Germany would wage a war with the full force of our national power, it must be a war in which all join, all bring sacrifices to it,—a war in which the whole nation must agree; it must be a war of the people; it must be a war conducted with the enthusiasm of 1870, when we were wickedly attacked. I can still remember the shrill, joyful shouts at the Cologne railway station: it was the same from Berlin to Cologne; it was the same here in Berlin. The waves of public opinion carried us into the war whether we would or no. It must be so if the power of a people like ours is to arrive at its full worth. But it would be very difficult to make the provinces understand now, to make the Confederate States and their populations understand, that war is inevitable, and must be. It would be asked: "Indeed, are you so sure about it? Who knows?"

In short, when we really came to begin to fight, the whole weight of prejudices and impossibilities would be much heavier than the material opposition with which we should be met by the enemy whom we attacked. "Holy Russia" would be irritated at the onset. France would bristle with arms as far as the Pyrenees. It would be the same everywhere. A war in which we were not backed by the consent of our people might be carried on, when at last the proper authorities considered it necessary to declare it; it would be carried on sharply, and perhaps successfully, after fire and blood had once been seen: but it would not be radically fought, with that incentive and fire behind it which there would be in a war in which we had been attacked. Then all Germany, from Memel to the Lake of Constance, would explode like a powder-mine, would bristle with arms, and no enemy would dare to venture to cope with the furor Teutonicus which would show itself at such an attack. ["Bravo!"]

If we are superior to our future opponents, as many military opinions besides our own acknowledge, we dare not let that superiority pass away from us. Our military critics believe it; naturally every soldier thinks it,—he would almost cease to be of service if he did not wish for war, and believe he would be successful in it. If our rivals suppose it is fear of the issue which inclines us to peace, they err greatly. ["Quite right!"] We trust as firmly to success in righteous matters as any lieutenant in a foreign garrison can trust to his third glass of champagne [laughter]—and perhaps on surer grounds. Therefore it is not fear which inclines us to peace, but an accurate consciousness of our strength, the knowledge that should we be attacked at an unfavorable moment we are strong enough to resist it, and the consciousness that we can still leave it to God's providence to remove the necessity for war in the meantime.

Therefore we are not inclined for any kind of aggressive war, and if it can only originate by an attack from us it will not occur. Fire must be kindled by someone; we will not kindle it. ["Bravo!"] Neither consciousness of our strength, as I have just described it, nor trust in our treaties, will prevent us from continuing our effort to preserve peace generally, with the same vigor as hitherto. We will allow ourselves to be led by no ill-temper, and we will be governed by no dislike. It is indeed true that the threats and insults, the challenges, which have been addressed to us, have excited an intense and natural animosity on our side ["Very true!"]—a difficult thing to do with Germans, for, as a nation, they are more impervious to being disliked than any other people. But we are taking pains to soothe these irritations, and we would strive for peace, now as ever, with our neighbors, but especially with Russia. When I say, "especially with Russia," I am of the opinion that France offers us no security for the success of these endeavors, though I will not say that it does not try to; we will seek no quarrel, we will never attack France. We have always made very pleasant and friendly settlements of the many small incidents which the disposition of our neighbor to spy and to corrupt has caused, because I should consider it wicked for such fiddle-faddles to kindle a great national war, or to make one possible. There are cases where, it is said, the most reasonable give way. [Laughter.—"Very good!"]

Therefore I name Russia by preference; and I have the same confidence in the result,—about which I spoke a year ago, and which this "freethinking" paper has printed in such large type,—and that, too, without seeking for it,—or, as a German newspaper roughly expresses it, without "cringing" to Russia. That time is past; we no longer sue for love, either to France or Russia. ["Very good!"—Repeated "Bravo!"] The Russian press, Russian public opinion, has shown the door to an old, powerful, and faithful friend; we will not obtrude ourselves. We have sought to win the old confidential relationship again, but we will run after no one. [Unanimous applause.] That does not disturb us; on the contrary, it is just one spur more why we should observe with redoubled exactness the claims of the Treaty which Russia has with us.

Among the clauses of the Treaty are some which are not acknowledged by all our friends: I mean, duties are included in it which we acquired toward Russia at the Berlin Congress in regard to Bulgaria, and which stood till 1885 quite undisputed. It is no question for me, who helped to prepare and signed the decisions of the Congress, because at that time we were all of opinion that the preponderating influence of Russia in Bulgaria should consent that Bulgaria, on its side, should give up Eastern Roumelia, thus reducing its population of 3,000,000 souls by some 800,000, because it gave satisfaction to the districts whose interests were involved. In consequence of this decision of the Congress, up to 1885 Russia appointed as prince a near relative of the Czar's family, of whom no one expected or could expect anything more than that he would be a faithful exponent of Russian policy. This policy appointed the Minister of War and a great number of officers; in short, it ruled in Bulgaria; there is no doubt about it. The Bulgarians, or some of them, or their prince,—I do not know who,—were not contented with it. There was political stratagem; a revolt from Russia took place. From this has arisen a certain situation, which we have no call to remedy with force of arms, and which the claims upon us that Russia took home from the Congress cannot alter theoretically.

Whether, if Russia should assert its claims forcibly, other difficulties would arise in conjunction therewith, I do not know; it does not concern us at all. We will not support forcible means, nor advise them. I do not think there is any inclination toward them,—I am comparatively certain that none exist. But should Russia seek by diplomacy, through a suggestion, the interference of the Suzerain of Bulgaria, the Sultan,—if it try to obtain that, I hold it to be the task of a loyal German policy to abide clearly by the decision of the Berlin treaty, and by the interpretation we gave it when it was signed, without any exception, and on which I, at least, cannot mistake the opinions of the Bulgarians. Bulgaria, the little country lying between the Danube and the Balkans, is certainly not an object of sufficient size to make it the cause, the reason, why Europe should plunge into a war from Moscow to the Pyrenees, and from the North Sea to Palermo, the issue of which nobody can foretell; at the end it would scarcely be known what the fighting had been about. [Laughter.]

I can therefore declare that the unfriendliness which we have experienced from Russian public opinion, and especially from the Russian press, will not prevent us, as soon as Russia expresses the wish, from diplomatically supporting the diplomatic steps which Russia may take in order to regain its interest in Bulgaria. I say designedly, "as soon as Russia expresses the wish." In former times we occasionally took the trouble to fulfill Russian wishes after receiving confidential intimations; but we have lived to see that Russian newspapers have found themselves immediately obliged to prove that those very steps of German policy were most hostile toward Russia, and have attacked us because we have been beforehand in the performance of Russian wishes. We did that at the Congress, but we shall not do it again. If Russia officially invites us to support steps for the restoration of the measures of Congress, providing for the situation in Bulgaria of the Sultan as suzerain, I do not hesitate to advise His Majesty to allow it. The treaties make this demand on our loyalty toward a neighbor, with whom, be public opinion what it will, we have to maintain a neighborly relationship, and defend great and mutual monarchical interests, such as the interests of order against all its antagonists in Europe. I do not doubt that the Czar of Russia will make war if he find that the interests of his great empire of a hundred million subjects compel him to. But these interests cannot possibly be such as to compel him to wage war against us; I do not consider it even probable that such a prescript of interests is at all imminent.

I do not, then, believe in an immediate impending disturbance of peace,—if I may recapitulate,—and beg that you will consider the measure in question quite independently of this thought, this apprehension, and regarded only as a full reestablishment of the employment of the power which God has given the German nation in case of need. Should we not need it, then we will not call upon it; and we will try to avoid the necessity of needing it.

This effort is, to some degree, made more difficult for us through threatening newspaper articles from abroad, and I wish to direct this warning principally to that country to discontinue these threats. They lead to nothing. The threatening which we get—not from the government, but from the press—is really an incredible stupidity [laughter], when it is remembered that a great and a proud power, such as the German Empire, is thought to be capable of being intimidated by a certain threatening formation of printers' ink—by a collection of words. ["Bravo!"] That should be discontinued; then it would be easier for us to meet both our neighbors more pleasantly. Every country is in some way eventually responsible for the watch it sets upon its press; the score is presented at any time in the form of the opinion of other countries. We can be easily bribed with love and kindness—perhaps too easily,—but certainly not with threats. ["Bravo!"]

We Germans fear God, but nothing else in the world [enthusiastic applause]; and it is the fear of God which causes us to love and cherish peace. Let him who breaks it in defiance be assured that the war-inspiring love of Fatherland, which in 1813 called the whole people of a then weak, small, and exhausted Prussia around the flag, is to-day the common property of the whole German nation. And he who would attack the German nation in any way will find it armed with unity—every warrior having the firm belief in his heart: God will be with us! [Great and continuous applause.]