Mr. Bancroft to Mr. Seward.

No. 4.]

Sir : This day has been one of greatest interest in the history of Germany, being marked by the organization of the first imperial Diet assembled under the new constitution of North Germany. The protestant members of the Parliament met in advance, for religious service, in the King’s chapel. The King, the Crown prince and princess, and other members of the royal family, the chiefs of [Page 586]the diplomatic corps, and the great officers of the State and of the army were present, and were all seated on the floor of the chapel. The glitter of official uniforms was as great as I ever saw, there being but one person in plain clothes among all those who were invited to attend. The services were appropriate, and implied the assurance that the movement towards union, as yet incomplete, has proceeded thus far with the favor of Providence,

The Catholic members of the Diet held their services apart.

After these exercises were over the Diet repaired to the White Hall, remaining standing. The King, as he entered and took his seat, was heartily cheered. The proceedings were in conformity to the usage of constitutional governments. The president minister put into the King’s hands the speech which he was to read, when the King rising from his throne, put on his helmet, and read the speech in a clear and simple manner, without emphasis or display, or any attempt at theatrical effect. At the close of the speech, and as the King withdrew, he was again warmly cheered.

I enclose an official copy of the speech. The points in it to which I would especially direct your attention are the second paragraph, which implies that there is a German nation including the South German provinces, as well as the North ; that the measures thus far taken for the commercial union with the German states is but a “ step,” though an important one, and that the German “feeling” has been an instrument of happy political activity. It also merits the remark that the constitution is described as a work of peace, of which the advantages are to be enjoyed in peace.

I remain, sir, yours, sincerely,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.


Illustrious, noble, and honored gentlemen of the Reichstag of the North German Union :

From the resolution of the first Reichstag of the North German Union, I could express the confidence that the popular representatives of the single states of the Union would not withhold their constitutional recognition of what had been done by the Reichstag in common with the governments. It is a matter of great satisfaction to me that I was not mistaken in my confidence. The constitution of the North German Union has, in all the states of the Union, in a constitutional manner gone into law. The council of the Union has commenced action, and I am therefore enabled to-day, with joyous confidence in my and my high confederates’ behalf, to greet the first Reichstag assembled under the constitution of the Union.

For the regulation of the national relations of the Union to the South German states, an important step was achieved immediately upon the promulgation of the constitution of the Union. The German sentiment of the united governments has created for the Zollverein a new basis, adapted to the altered relations, and has secured its continuance. The convention entered into for that purpose, which has been approved by the council of the Union, will be laid before you.

The estimate of expenses for the Union will form a prominent subject for your consideration. A careful restriction of the expenses to the necessary wants will make it possible to supply almost three-fourths of the former from the independent receipts of the Union, and a cautious estimate of these receipts will guarantee that the contributions from the single states, provided for in the budget, will be amply sufficient to cover the common expenses.

Outlines of laws have been and will be laid before the council of the Union, having for object to make such regulations concerning the different jurisdictions of the law-making power of the Union as the moment requires and the time permits. A law on the right of free emigration is to develop further the common citizenship established by the constitution. A law on the obligation to military service is to make this common citizenship effective to the army, and at the same time to supersede the regulations which are provided in the constitution in part independently and partly depending upon laws to be prescribed by Prussia to govern the obligation of service. A law concerning the passport system is intended to remove all obsolete restraints on communication, and to establish a foundation for an alliance suited to the national interest, between the Union and the South German states.

The regulations in regard to measures and weights are to equalize the system of weights [Page 587]and measures of the Union, and to regulate it in a manner desirable for the international commerce. The sovereign ownership of the postal system, as an institution of the Union, renders legal provisions regarding the post roads and postage necessary. The establishment of consulates of the Union requires a legal determination of the rights and duties connected with the functions of those officers. The unity of the commercial marine will require a foundation by a law concerning the nationality of merchantmen.

I trust that these laws, which are a primary but decided step toward the accomplishment of the designs of the constitution of the Union, will meet with your concurrence, and with that of the council of the Union.

The conviction that the great problem of the Union can only he solved by readiness on all sides to accommodate the special with the gene al and national interest, actuated the deliberations which give birth to the constitution of the Union. That conviction has again found expression in the proceedings of the council of the Union, and will, I confidently expect, form the basis of your counsels.

With that predetermination, honored sirs, proceed in the accomplishment of the work begun by the constitution of the Union. It is a work of peace to which you are called, and I trust that, with the blessing of God, the fatherland may enjoy the fruits of your labor in peace.