To jeopardize the friendship which fortunately binds us to most European states and at the present moment to all,—for the parties to whom it is an eyesore are not in power,—to jeopardize, I say, this friendship with one friend in order to oblige another, when we as Germans have no direct interests, and to buy the peace of others at the cost of our own, or, to speak with college boys, to substitute at a duel—such things one may do when one risks only one’s own life, but I cannot do them when I have to counsel His Majesty the Emperor as regards the policy of a great State of forty million people in the heart of Europe. From this tribune I therefore take the liberty of saying a very definite “No” to all such imputations and suggestions. I shall under no condition do anything of the kind; and no government, none of those primarily interested, has made any such demands. Germany, as the last speaker remarked, has grown to new responsibilities as it has grown stronger. But even if we are able to throw a large armed force into the scales of European policies, I do not consider anybody justified in advising the emperor and the princes (who would have to discuss the matter in the Bundesrat if we wished to wage an offensive war) to make an appeal to the proven readiness of the nation to offer blood and money for a war. The only war which I am ready to counsel to the emperor is one to protect our independence abroad and our union at home, or to defend those of our interests which are so clear that we are supported, if we insist on them, not only by the unanimous vote of the Bundesrat, which is necessary, but also by the undivided enthusiasm of the whole German nation.
February 24, 1881
TRANSLATED BY EDMUND VON MACH, PH.D.
[On February 24, 1881, the budget of the empire for the ensuing year was under discussion. The representative, Mr. Richter, made use of this opportunity to attack the home-politics of the chancellor in their entirety. He felt great concern about the growing power of the chancellor, and called upon his liberal colleagues to stem the tide, and to curb the power of the chancellor. “Only if this is done will the great gifts which distinguish the chancellor continue to be fruitful for Germany. If this is not possible, and if we go on as we have been going, the chancellor will ruin himself, and he will ruin the country.” Prince Bismarck replied:]
The remarks of the previous speaker have hardly touched on the subject under discussion, the budget, since I have been here. Consequently I am excused, I suppose, from adding anything to what the secretary of the treasury has said. The previous speaker has mainly concerned himself with a critique of my personality. The number of times the word “chancellor” appears in his speech in proportion to the total number of words sufficiently justifies my assertion.