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February 19, 1878
TRANSLATED BY EDMUND VON MACH, PH.D.
[The complete victory which Russia had won in the Turkish war had greatly disturbed the European powers, and in Germany much apprehension was felt for the safety of Austria. England, too, was much concerned, for she had been displeased at Bismarck’s refusal to intervene in the war. German public opinion was aroused, and the representative von Bennigsen joined with four colleagues in the following interpellation, which they made in the Reichstag on February 8: “Is the Chancellor willing to inform the Reichstag of the political situation in the Orient, and of the position which the German empire has taken or intends to take in regard to it?” The interpellation was put on the calendar of February 19, and while Bismarck regarded it as ill timed he was ready to reply, lest his silence be misunderstood.]
I first ask the indulgence of the Reichstag if I should not be able to stand while I say everything I have to say. I am not so well as I look.
With regard to the question, I cannot deny that I was in doubt, when I first saw the interpellation, not whether I would answer it—for its form gives me the right to answer it with a “No”—but whether I should not have to say “No.” Do not assume, gentlemen, as one generally does in such cases, that the reason was because I had to suppress a good deal which would compromise our policy or restrict it in an undesirable manner. On the contrary, I have hardly enough to say in addition to what is already generally known to induce me, of my own initiative, to make a statement to the representatives of the empire.
The discussions in the English parliament have almost exhaustively answered one part of the question “What is the political situation in the Orient at the present time?” If, in spite of the paucity of the information with which I am addressing you, I do not say “No” it is because I fear the inference that I have much to suppress, and because such an inference is always disquieting, especially when it is coupled with the desire to make capital out of my silence. I am the more pleased to address you with complete frankness, because the interpellation and the way it was introduced have given me the impression that if the German policy wishes to correspond to the majority opinion of the Reichstag—in so far as I may consider the recent comments an expression of this opinion—it has only to continue along the path which it has thus far followed.