Mr. Bancroft to Mr. Fish.
Berlin , March 30, 1874. (Received April 18.)
Sir: The Imperial Diet has adjourned, to meet again on the first Thursday after Easter.
The bill for establishing compulsory civil marriage for all the German Empire passed the Diet by a considerable majority.
The measures enforcing the authority of the state over the pretensions of a foreign potentate to higher allegiance is also made a matter of legislation for the general government. I have often reminded the Department of the fact that in several of the separate German states the old nobility has power enough to stop the progress of liberal legislation. It is, therefore, natural to choose to bring liberal measures before the German Diet, where the old nobility has no prerogatives whatever.[Page 443]
A desire has been manifested to make some change in the form of proceeding against bishops and archbishops who set themselves above the jurisdiction of the state.
Attaching and selling their property, shutting them up in prison, have too much the appearance of persecution; it is proposed to imitate the example set by Switzerland, and instead of imprisonment, to forbid any recusant prelate to reside in his diocese.
There is every reason to believe that the measure will be adopted. Even Catholic Bavaria accepts the laws, which, however, in the present state of Bavarian legislation, will never be applied to a Bavarian prelate.
But the great measure of the session is the bill for the organization of the imperial army.
The government desires larger appropriations for the army, an increase of its numbers, and a character of permanence to its organization.
The Diet desires modifications on all these points; but every one of those with whom I have spoken has assured me that the bill will pass with no other amendments than such as the government could readily accept. Yet anxiety prevails, especially in the mind of the Emperor, and it will prevail until the question is settled.
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The Emperor, I am glad to say, is very much himself again. He received a multitude of visits on his birthday, and in the evening staid with his guests till long after midnight, going around among them all, as of old, and having a cheerful word for every one.
I remain, &c.,