December 21, 1863
TRANSLATED BY EDMUND VON HACK, PH.D.
[In the Prussian Diet the representative, Johann Ludwig Tellkampf, professor of economics and political science in the University of Breslau, had attacked the policy of Bismarck in regard to Schleswig-Holstein. Bismarck replied as follows:]
The conception which the previous speaker has of the politics of Europe reminds me of a man from the plains who is on his first journey to the mountains. When he sees a huge elevation loom up before him, nothing seems easier than to climb it. He does not even think that he will need a guide, for the mountain is in plain sight, and the road to it apparently without obstacles. But when he starts, he soon comes upon ravines and crevasses which not even the best of speeches will help him to cross. The gentleman comforted us concerning similar obstacles in the path of politics by saying things like these: “It is well known that Russia can do nothing at present; it does not appear that Austria will take a contrary step; England knows very well that her interests are counselling peace; and finally, France will not act against her national principles.” If we should believe these assurances, and think more highly of the estimate which the gentleman has made of the politics of Europe than of our own official judgment, and should thereby drive Prussia to an isolated and humiliating position, could we then excuse ourselves by saying, “We could see the danger coming, but we trusted the speaker, thinking he knew probably more than we?” If this is impossible how can we attach to the remarks of the speaker the weight which he wishes us to attach to them!
For all official positions, those of the judges for instance and even those of the subalterns in the army, we require examinations and a practical knowledge—difficult examinations. But high politics—oh, any one can practise them who feels himself called upon to do so. Nothing is easier than to make endless assertions in this field of conjectures and to cast caution to the winds. You know that one must write a whole book to controvert one erroneous thought, and he who voiced the error remains unconvinced. It is a dangerous and far-spread mistake which assumes that a naive intuition will reveal to the political dilettante what remains hidden from the wisdom of the expert.
[Professor Tellkampf replied, in great excitement: “My whole life as a professor of political science has been devoted to the study of politics, and I should like to ask the president of the ministry, whether he knew more of political science, when he began his political career as a dike-master, than a professor of this science knows?” To which Bismarck replied:]