September 16, 1894
TRANSLATED BY EDMUND VON MACH, PH.D.
[On September 16, 1894, when Bismarck was no longer chancellor, 2,200 Germans from the province of Posen appeared in Varzin to thank him for his devoted work in the service of the national idea, and to gather courage from him in their fight against the Polish propaganda which had gained strength under the new regime at court. The aged farm-manager, Mr. Kennemann, was the leader and spokesman of the visitors.]
Gentleman! First I must ask your indulgence, since for two days I have been upset by an unpolitical enemy called lumbago, an old acquaintance of mine for sixty years. I hope to get the better of him soon, and then to be able to stand again fully erect. At present, I must confess, I am hampered by him.
I begin by replying to the words of the previous speaker with thanks for the honor done me, addressing myself first of all to him, but then also to you. The previous speaker is as old as I. We were both born in 1815, and different walks of life have brought us together again here in Varzin after almost eighty years. The meeting gives me great pleasure, although I have not run my course as safe and sound as Mr. Kennemann. When I claim to be an invalid of hard work, he may perhaps claim the same. But his work was possibly healthier than mine, this being the difference between the farmer and the diplomat. The mode of life of the latter is less healthy and more nerve-racking. To begin with, then, I am grateful to you, gentlemen, and I should be even more grateful, if we were all to put on our hats. I have lost in the course of years nature’s own protection, but I cannot well cover my head if you do not do the same.
I thank you that you have spared no exertion to show your national sentiments in this way. The exertion was considerable, a night in the train, a second night on the way back, insufficient meals, and inconveniently crowded cars. The fact that you have stood all this and were not deterred by it attests the strength of your national feeling, which impelled you to bear witness to it here. That you did it here greatly honors me, and I recognize in it your appreciation of my part in the work of establishing the conditions which we are enjoying in Germany today, after years of disunion. These conditions may be imperfect, but “the best is the enemy of the good.” At the time when we shaped these conditions we never asked: “What may we wish?” but “What must we have!” This moderation in our demands for union was one of the most important preliminaries of success. By following this path we have reached the results which have strengthened the pledge that your home will remain united with the German empire and the kingdom of Prussia. The proportion, in the meanwhile, of Germans in the foundation of our structure to the less reliable—I will not