Mr. Bancroft to Mr. Fish.
Berlin, April 13, 1874. (Received May 1.)
Sir: The all-important question which has agitated the mind of the German people for the last two months has been the manner in which the standing army of the empire should be established, The government, in its anxiety on the score of its foreign relations, desired to see it voted once for all, without limitation of time, and therefore independent of the action of future legislatures. On the other hand, the number of the army was considered as a question to be discussed annually on occasion of the grant of supplies, as in England, France, and Italy. During the recess of the Diet for the Easter holidays the threatened collision was very thoroughly discussed with the people, and everywhere deprecated. A strong sentiment of gratitude to the Emperor for his resistance to ultramontane influences was manifested, and is evidently increasing in depth and vigor. The constant menace on the part of France, and the uncertainty of affairs in the Orient, had their influence. A very strong wish, therefore, prevailed to give to the imperial government sincere, hearty, and efficient support. On the other hand, to vote an army of 400,000 men for an indefinite period seemed to the people a dangerous surrender of the first principles of constitutional government.
As a consequence, the national liberal party, acting with perfect [Page 444] unanimity, have offered to vote the numbers of the regular army thought necessary by the government for a period of seven years.
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The government measure, with this amendment, is now sure of being adopted by a considerable majority. The Diet will, therefore, have but a very short session.
The ultramontanes may bring on acrimonious debates, they can neither defeat nor alter the measures which they oppose.
I am, &c.,