[Illustration: PRINCE BISMARCK FRANZ VON LENBACH]
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April 2, 1881
TRANSLATED BY EDMUND VON MACH, PH.D.
[Prince Bismarck was trying to fight the revolutionary parties, not only with such restrictive laws as had been passed against the Socialists, but also with constructive measures like the one which had been submitted to the Reichstag on March 8, 1881. It proposed the insurance of the workingman against accidents, and the founding of a governmental insurance company. The bill was severely criticized, notably by Eugen Richter, who did not miss the opportunity of attacking also the chancellor personally. Prince Bismarck’s reply made a deep impression in the country at large. The bill itself, however, was so badly amended in the Reichstag, that Bismarck urged the Bundesrat to reject it, which it did. Several changes, thereupon, were made in the bill, and, after having been delayed in committee, it was again brought up for discussion in 1884, when another exhaustive speech by the chancellor, on March 15, brought about its acceptance.]
Before turning to the subject in hand, I wish to reply to some remarks of the previous speaker, lest I forget them—they are of so little weight. He finished by saying that my prestige was waning. If he were right, I should feel like saying “Thank God,” for prestige is a very burdensome affair. One suffers under its weight, and quickly gets tired of it. I do not care a farthing for it. When I was very much younger, about as old as the previous speaker is now, and when I was possibly still more ambitious than he, I lived for years without prestige, and was actually disliked, if not hated, by the majority of my fellow-citizens. At that time I felt better and more contented, and was healthier than during the years when I was most popular.
Such things do not mean much to me. I am doing my duty, let come what may.
As proof of his assertion the previous speaker claimed that the workingmen are refusing the help which the Imperial Government is trying to offer them. This he cannot possibly know. He has no idea of what the great mass of the workingmen are thinking. Probably he has some accurate information of what the eloquent place-hunters are thinking of the bill, people who are at the head of the labor movements, and the professional publicists, who need a following of workingmen—dissatisfied workingmen. But as to the workingman in general, we had better wait and see what he is thinking. I do not know whether the full meaning of this question has even yet sufficiently penetrated into his circles to make it a subject of discussion, except in the learned clubs of laborers, and among the leading place-hunters and speakers. In the next election we shall be able to tell whether the workingmen have formed their opinion of the bill by then, not to speak of now.