Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 7, 1874
Fish to Mr. Fish.
Berlin, July 15, 1874. (Received July 30.)
Sir: I have presumed that I was carrying out the wishes of the President in writing a congratulatory letter to Prince Bismarck on his narrow escape from the hands of the assassin at Kissengen.
It does not yet appear to be clearly proved that there is any connection between the ultramontane party and the deed, but there are not wanting certain reported incidents which may, on closer investigation, confirm the belief that there is such a connection.
The wound itself does not appear to be of any importance, but the general condition of the prince’s health is such that the incident may prove more serious to his system than is now anticipated. I telegraphed you in cipher as follows: “Congratulated Bismarck in name of President.”
I hope that the Department will approve my action in sending the note of which a copy is herewith annexed.
I also inclose an article from the “Spenersche Zeitung,” which quotes the opinions of the press of various parties.
I remain, &c.,
Mr. Nicholas Fish to Prince Bismarck.
Berlin, July 14, 1874.
The undersigned, chargé d’affaires of the United States of America, has the honor, in the name of the President of the United States, to express to his serene highness Prince Bismarck the heartfelt gratitude and joy with which ail ranks of the people of the United States have learned of his providential escape from the attack of an assassin, and to assure his serene highness of the universal abhorrence of the criminal action which so nearly deprived the German Empire of its chancellor, the United States of one of its warm friends, and the world of one of its greatest statesmen.
The undersigned begs leave to avail himself of this opportunity to add the expression of his own congratulations upon this providential escape, and to renew to his serene highness the assurance of his highest consideration.
THE ATTEMPTED ASSASSINATION OF THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EMPIRE.
Detailed accounts have already been published of the attempt, which was so happily frustrated, to assassinate Prince Bismarck. The National Zeitung publishes the following letter, dated Kissengen, July 13, 4 p.m.:
In order to give an idea of the localities, I must premise by saying that Prince Bismarck occupies rooms in the house of Dr. Diruff, which is situated on the other side of the Saale, on the right-hand side of the bridge. Close by the bridge is a garden in which refreshments are served, kept by one Braun, and here, at the hour of noon, a large number of people usually assemble for dinner; in the immediate vicinity of this garden is a large house, the rooms of which are rented to visitors: this house also belongs to Braun. Next to this is Dr. Diruff’s house, the first story of which is occupied by Prince Bismarck. On the other side of this latter building is a hotel, (Holzmann’s,) which is also visited by many guests at noon-time. The place where the attempt at assassination took place therefore usually presents a lively appearance [Page 450] at noon, and, as the chancellor is in the habit of going to the saline (salt-bath) in his Carriage at this time, the crowd, of people desiring to see the renowned and popular man is then unusually large. A large crowd was thus collected to-day when Prince Bismarck entered the royal carriage, at half past 1 o’clock, on the south side of Dr. Diruff’s garden, while an attendant for the bath took his seat by the side of the coachman on the box. When the carriage entered the main-road a man, wearing a coat of the kind worn by Catholic priests, stepped before the carriage, (as I am informed by Schmidt, the royal Bavarian coachman, who was driving,) so that the coachman was obliged to slacken his pace and tell the man to get out of the way; the latter, however, did not deign to comply until he had been several times ordered to do so. The carriage, meanwhile, had advanced as far as Br aim’s refreshment-garden, and at that moment a pistol was fired at the prince by some one standing very near to him. The coachman, almost petrified with fright, still had the presence of mind to look around. Seeing that the prince was apparently unhurt, he was about to drive on, and turned about toward his horses again, when he caught sight of the assassin, who, throwing his pistol away, was endeavoring to disappear among the crowd of people Who had collected from the neighboring restaurants and houses. The coachman now dealt the would-be assassin a severe blow in the face with his whip, and, at the same time, a guest at one of the hotels (Mr. Lederer, an actor in the court theater at Darmstadt) seized him by the throat. The assassin struggled furiously to get away, (Lederer’s hand is badly bitten,) but the crowd held him securely; he was seized by every part of his body; and so great was the indignation which prevailed that the people were almost ready to tear him to pieces. The prince, fortunately, was little hurt; a slight scratch on his right wrist was the only visible indication of the attempted assassination. Prince Bismarck stepped down among the crowd and endeavored to quiet them, saying that they must “give the man up to the authorities.” When it appeared evident that the chancellor was not dangerously wounded, all crowded around him. Every one desired to express his sympathy, indescribable confusion prevailed, and some time passed before it became possible to clear a path for the prince, so as to enable him to reach his lodgings.
Meanwhile the assassin was rather dragged than led to the city prison by the crowd. He gave his name as Kullmann, and said that he was a journeyman-cooper from Magdeburg; in answer to further questions, he said that he had done the deed solely of his own accord. He is a young man, nineteen or twenty years of age, and of a very coarse appearance; he looked to me, however, like, a crafty fellow and hardened villain, but by no means like a fanatic. In the first excitement every one was inclined to believe that he had been hired to commit the crime. How correct this opinion was, I will not undertake to determine; it is, however, certainly remarkable that the attempt was made so soon after the disappearance of the person wearing a priest’s coat, to whom I have referred above.
Notwithstanding the mental excitement which was very naturally produced by the occurrence, Prince Bismarck was able to visit the court-house at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, wearing his arm in a sling. He desired to converse with, his assailant. What was said during the interview, as well as the result of the preliminary examination, will not be made public just yet. When the assassin’s person was searched, a piece of paper, it is said, was found in his possession, on which, in an elegant hand, were written the words, “In the house with the name of Dr. Diruff, jun., on the door-plate.”
As I write this, an excited crowd surges in the street and in front of the prince’s lodgings. The prince has several times been obliged to show himself to the people, who keep continually shouting and calling for him.
A telegram to the same paper, dated this morning, says: “It appears that Prince Bismarck was preserved by a kind of miracle. It was only because in saluting he had kept his hand raised that he was not hit in the head. The prince suffers severe pains in his hand, and finds it very difficult to write. His general condition, however, is very favorable.”
A letter addressed to the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung says that just as the prince’s carriage had passed the house, a short man, in the garb of a priest, stepped in front of the horses in such a way that it became necessary for the coachman to rein in his horses. It is elsewhere stated in the same paper that the house occupied by the prince stands on the right bank of the, Saale, overlooking the valley, and is only separated from the bridge across the Saale by a house and garden. The carriage had scarcely reached the house which adjoins the bridge when, by order of the prince, the driver turned his horses in the opposite direction; the prince sprang out and entered his lodgings, while the coachman drove into the yard. The people were so taken by surprise, and the whole thing happened so in a moment, that it was not till then that any one started in pursuit of the assassin, while the priest was lost sight of in the chase, and thus escaped, leaving no trace behind him. (Has since been arrested.—Editor.) The assassin ran toward the bridge, and right into the arms of Mr. Lederer, brother of the well-known tenor. This gentleman, whose attention was attracted by the report of the pistol, was just coming out of the restaurant which adjoins the [Page 451] bridge, and seized the fellow. Several gentlemen rushed to Lederer’s assistance, and rescued him from the hands of the assassin. One of his thumbs had been badly bitten, and he himself almost strangled by the wretch. The latter was then conveyed, or rather dragged, by the people to prison. Another suspicious individual, who was about to leave by the 2 o’clock train, and who was heard cursing Prince Bismarck, was also arrested.
The priest, who had been walking back and forth since 11 o’clock in front of the prince’s lodgings, in company with the assassin, and who, just before the shot was fired, sprang before the horses, is still at large. It is, however, absolutely certain that the person arrested is not the party who really planned the attack. It is to be hoped that the examination of the prisoner will throw light upon this subject. The ball slightly scratched the place mentioned in the telegram; that is, the part between the fleshy portion of the thumb and the palm of the hand. The prince appeared at the window several times, in answer to the shouts of the multitude. The wound was somewhat swollen, and bled, but did not prevent the free movement of the thumb.
We will add that the little village of Walch see, of which the arrested priest Hanthaler is a native, is situated in the extreme northwestern part of Tyrol, a few leagues to the northwest of the well-known fortress of Kufstein.
For our own part we hesitated to hold the ultramontane party responsible for the crime of the Kissengen assassin, so long as we had no convincing evidence of their guilt. The Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung is not so considerate. It says:
“Those who planned the deed of whose execution the person arrested was only the half-purposeless instrument, can now boast that they have brought a disgrace upon the German name which is not eclipsed even by the brilliancy of our recent history.
“We cannot anticipate the sentence of the judge, and cannot know what has been planned in the Catholic societies and conventicles of which the criminal is a member, for the purpose of hastening the ‘favorable moment.’ This last occurrence, however, considered in connection with the facts which have already been proved, with the dark threatenings and the passionate expressions of the ultramontane press, and other things which have come to light, give good ground for the belief that the hands which armed Ravaillac and Gerard, the assassins of Henry the Fourth and William of Orange, also loaded Kallmann’s pistol.”
The same paper hopes, in conclusion, that the nation, recognizing and casting out its unsound elements, will stand firm in the great policy of our time, rallying with enthusiasm around the emperor and his government, and says:
“This attempt at assassination was committed on the anniversary of the day of Ems. The day of Ems led Germany to unity and political greatness, and the day of Kissengen will furnish a new point of departure for freedom and intellectual greatness.”
The Germania (Catholic) says: “All Germany, without distinction of party, will unanimously condemn, with the deepest indignation, the criminal who raises his hand to commit a deed of murder. The history of the world shows but too many murders and attempts at murder which had their origin in political animosity. The horrible nature of this crime is, however, in no wise mitigated thereby. And particularly may one feel indignant at such an undertaking when any one apparently a Christian, who even imagines that he is laboring for the faith and for the church, allows himself to be so blinded by passion or ambition as to disregard the teachings of his faith, and commit the greatest violation of the divine order of the World. We do not know how correct the reports may be in relation to Kullmann’s membership of a Catholic society, or to his “suspicious association with a Catholic priest,” or to the arrest of Rev. Mr. Kotteler, and we shall therefore await the result of the judicial investigation. It is not incredible that, in consequence of the many persecutions of our party and of our church, an amount of hatred, passion, and rage may be bred in the breasts of some individuals, which may at length burst forth in rebellion against all law, both human and divine; but it is incredible that a dispassionately thinking man should recklessly impute to a party an excess committed by one or by several individuals belonging to that party; for that, among fourteen millions of Catholics, there should be one madman or one infatuated lunatic will not, perhaps, appear so passing strange even to the chancellor of the empire himself. A portion of the press, however, will of course not hesitate for an instant to lay the blame due to one person upon the whole party, or even upon the church, which, in her teachings, declares such a crime to be one of the greatest. We already have some evidences of this.”
The Germania then refers to the articles of the Börsenzeitung and of the Berliner Tageblatt as thus casting the blame upon the party and the church, and says, in conclusion:
“Fortunately, those papers still remember the attempt of Karl Blind, of May 7, 1866, and what they say in relation to that will be regarded by the thinking portion of their readers as nonsense. The Tageblatt even seems to think that the attempt at assassination which was made by the adopted son of the democrat Blind, is somewhat disturbing in the cursing of the ultramontane party; it therefore seeks to excuse Blind’s attempt, so as to be enabled to paint Kullmann in still blacker colors. ‘There [Page 452] was a time,’ it says, ‘when it was possible to be mistaken as to his (Bismarck’s) genius, his grand patriotic idea, and the lofty goal that he had in view. At that time a similar attempt was made. Now, however, the repetition of such an attempt at assassination must seem threefold, nay, tenfold atrocious.’ We entertain the same feelings toward both Blind and Kullmann, and would merely remind the Tageblatt that, according to its way of measuring the guilt, Kullmann has decidedly the advantage, for Blind had hardly been so deeply, so systematically, and so cruelly wounded in his convictions and feelings as Kullmann, supposing the latter to have acted from fanaticism, and not from other motives. We would, moreover, remind those liberals’ who may be pleased to chime in with the tone of the Börsenzeitung, that pretty much all of the attempts at assassination that have been made of late years, (we refer to those directed against Napoleon III, the Emperor Francis Joseph, the Prince Regent of Prussia, and against Bismarck in 1866,) are to be attributed to ‘liberalism’ or national ideas, and, therefore, to anything but Catholic motives. As regards the attempt made by Oscar Becker, it has been proved that he desired to become a martyr to those German ideas which ‘liberalism’ has encouraged, both before and after the crime, and which it has partially carried into effect.”
The Kreuzzeitung is very sparing in the description of the impression made upon it by the attempt to assassinate Prince Bismarck. It is glad, however, that “this criminal attempt to take the life of the chancellor of the empire has also failed, and that the hand of the wretch, which, impelled by hatred and revenge, sought to do that which belongs to God alone, was not permitted to pollute the soil of Germany and to burden the conscience of the people of Germany by a political assassination.” It says nothing more on the subject.
The Post reminds its readers of the difference between the state of things which prevailed in 1866 and that which prevails in 1874. The love and respect which Germany feels for the chancellor of the empire were not easily earned, it says. No; they were obtained step by step; it was only by degrees that the ice of misunderstanding was thawed which lay between Germany and Germany’s most faithful son; the offense that was committed in those days of misunderstanding by a stripling whose mind was full of the erroneous ideas of German fanatics who had sought refuge on a foreign soil, could not now be committed again. The Post then refers to the causes of the crime, and although it does this but indirectly, holds the clerical agitation responsible for it. We now know exactly what are the consequences of this continued agitation. Such exciting of the popular passions should not be tolerated in a well-regulated, state. Quousque tandem?
With regard to the view taken by the foreign press of the matter, we are as yet able to say nothing definite. Our readers have already seen the telegram which appeared in our last evening’s number, and which announced the warm sympathy expressed by the London papers for Prince Bismarck, and spoke of the effect which those papers expect the crime to have upon party affairs in Germany.