When I announce to you our willingness to work hand in hand with you, you are, I am sure, equally ready to join us in exercising German patience and German love toward all, and especially toward our new countrymen, and in endeavoring to discover, and finally to reach, the right goal.
WE SHALL NEVER GO TO CANOSSA!
May 14, 1872
TRANSLATED BY EDMUND VON MACH, PH.D.
[Early in 1872 the German government tried to bring about a peaceful understanding with the ultramontane (i. e., Catholic) party by courteous advances made to the pope. The cardinal prince Hohenlohe-Schillings-fuerst was designated as ambassador to His Holiness the Pope who was asked whether the prince would be acceptable. The pope replied in the negative, and thereby deeply hurt the emperor. When the expenses of this post in the budget were under discussion in the Reichstag, Mr. von Bennigsen expressed the hope that they would be struck from the budget in future, to which Bismarck replied as follows:]
I can readily understand how the idea may arise that the expenses for this embassy have become unnecessary, because there is no longer a question here of protecting German subjects in those parts. I am, nevertheless, glad that no motion has been made to abolish this position, for it would have been unwelcome to the government.
The duties of an embassy are in part, it is true, the protection of its countrymen, but in part also the mediation of the political relations which the government of the empire happens to maintain with the court where the ambassador is accredited. There is no foreign sovereign authorized by the present state of our legislation to exercise as extensive rights within the German empire as the pope. While these rights are almost those of a sovereign, they are not guarded by any constitutional responsibility. Considerable importance, therefore, attaches to the kind of diplomatic relations which the German empire is able to maintain with the head of the Roman Church, who exerts such a remarkably strong and, for a foreign sovereign, unusual influence among us. Considering the prevailing tendencies of the Catholic Church at the present time, I scarcely believe that any ambassador of the German empire would succeed in inducing His Holiness the Pope, by the most skilful diplomacy and by persuasion, to modify the position which he has taken, on principle, in all secular affairs. There can, of course, be no question here of forceful actions, such as may occur between two secular powers. In view of the recently promulgated doctrines of the Catholic Church, I deem it impossible for any secular power to reach a concordat without effacing itself to a degree and in a way which, to the German empire at least, is unacceptable. You need not be afraid, we shall never go to Canossa, either actually or in spirit.