I do not at all deny the familiarity of the previous speaker with political theories. But he has wandered from the field of theory into that of practice. He has announced with complete assurance to me and to this assembly what each European cabinet will probably do in this concrete case. These are the very things which, I believe, I must know better than he. This belief I have expressed. The previous speaker has referred to his activity in theoretical politics as a professor through many years. If the gentleman had served even one year in practical politics, possibly as a bureau chief in the ministry of foreign affairs, he would not have said what he said today from the speaker’s desk. And his advice, after this one year of practical training, would be of greater value to me than if he had been active, even more years than he says, as a professor on the lecture platform.
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Written by Bismarck and delivered by William I., July 19, 1870
TRANSLATED BY EDMUND VON MACH, PH.D.
[Disturbed by the increasing bonds of union between the northern and the southern German states, in which France saw a lessening of her own prestige across the Rhine, the ministers of Napoleon III. had decided on war against Prussia. They found a pretext in the candidacy of a Hohenzollern prince for the throne of Spain. Contrary to diplomatic usage, they requested the King of Prussia to force the withdrawal of the prince, and even when the father of the prince announced the withdrawal of his son, they were not satisfied, but instructed Benedetti, the French ambassador, to secure from the King of Prussia a humiliating promise for the future. The King indignantly refused, and Bismarck published the occurrence in the famous “Despatch of Ems,” July 13, 1870. Thereupon the French cabinet declared war, on July 15, 1870. The formal notice was served on Bismarck, July 19, and on the same day the King of Prussia opened a special session of the Reichstag with the following address, which had been prepared by Bismarck.]
When I welcomed you here at your last assembly, it was with joy and gratitude because God had crowned my efforts with success. I could announce to you that every disturbance of peace had been avoided, in response to the wishes of the people and the demands of civilization.
If now the allied governments have been compelled by treats of war and its danger to summon you to a special session, you will feel not less convinced than we that it was the wish of the North German Federation to develop the forces of the German people as a support of universal peace, and not as a possible source of danger to it. If we call upon these forces today for the protection of our independence, we are doing nothing but what honor and duty demand.