No. 168.
Mr. Everett to Mr. Evarts.

No. 85.]

Sir: I have the honor to inform you that I was present, on the 12th instant, at the opening of the Imperial Reichstag, in the White Hall of [Page 361] the old Schloss. It had been announced beforehand that the Emperor would attend the ceremony, and read the speech from the throne. This circumstance, while it gave an additional interest to the occasion, caused the absence of the leading opposition members of the Reichstag. The diplomatic corps was not very fully represented. Punctually at the appointed hour, the members of the Bundesrath, or federal council, entered, with Prince Bismarck, in the full uniform of a general of the Life Guards, at their head; and, after a short interval, the Emperor came in, followed by the princes and officers of state, and took his position in front of the throne. After three hearty cheers had been given to His Majesty, the chancellor handed him the manuscript of the speech, which covered many pages, and was written in huge characters to be easily read in the somewhat faint daylight. The Emperor appeared in excellent health, and his voice, though quite audible, was somewhat tremulous, from the nervousness which always troubles him on such occasions. I inclose the official copy of the speech, with a translation.

Immediately on the conclusion of the speech, the chancellor stepped forward and declared the session opened by royal command; three hearty cheers were again given for the Emperor, who then retired, followed by the court; the Reichstag and spectators dispersed, and the ceremony came to an end.

The topics touched upon in the speech, and their treatment, has been known for some time previously through the debates in the federal council; and the legislative measures indicated had already been argued in direct appeals by the chancellor, whose hand is plainly visible in the speech, the first and last paragraphs being probably the only ones from the Emperor’s own hand.

The very rigorous measures which were adopted by act of Parliament after the second attempt on the Emperor’s life, with the almost universal consent of all but the social democratic citizens, appear to have had the quieting effect intended; though, as regards the suppression of newspapers and free speech in public, a needless severity may have been exercised in some cases.

It is difficult to criticise impartially the measures of self-preservation adopted by the monarchical governments of Europe in face of the recent universal socialistic demonstrations and excesses.

The chancellor’s new proposals for increased taxation and protective duties, are doubtless the most difficult questions with which the present Reichstag will have to deal, though the proposed law, alluded to in the royal speech against obstructive members of the Reichstag, will probably be the cause of some very stormy debates. It has had the approval of the federal council, with the exception of the clause subjecting the members to civil punishment and loss of their seats, which, however, is the real object aimed at by the chancellor, who is anxious to get rid of a few radicals who increase the vigor of their personalities the more they perceive that the prince is sensitive to them.

The law levying restrictive duties on imported products meets with great opposition, and its injurious effect in a country which, like Germany, is able to produce so little of its own food, and is dependent on others for the raw materials of its manufactures, would seem to be self-evident. It is in reality a desperate attempt to resist the competition of the cheap produce and manufactures of the United States and Great Britain, and to make up in a false way for the great loss of capital and labor in Germany resulting from the heavy drain on the muscular and mental resources of the, nation caused by a huge standing army, and the doubt and loss occasioned in business by incessant Continental wars [Page 362] and rumors of wars. As the reports of our consuls here show, much of the working capital of Germany is idle, and several branches of industry, which supported whole districts, such as the hop culture and the lead pencil and wooden toy manufacture, are becoming steadily of less importance or leaving the country altogether.

The alarm caused by the plague epidemic seems to be abating in Germany, and the vigorous measures of quarantine, and the prompt consultation and action of the international medical committee sent to the infected districts, have arrested the mortality. In fact, much of the excitement appears to have beep groundless, and though there were perhaps a few cases of genuine Asiatic plague, which had found their way into Russia from Turkey, yet in the majority of the Russian villages, from which reports have been received here, there appears to have been only a species of malignant fever which is often the result of a great war, aggravated by the filth of the Russian villages, and the--diseases: brought from Turkey by prisoners and the returning Russian soldiery.

The imperial speech passes as lightly as possible over the recent annulling of the fifth clause of the Treaty of Prague of 1866.

This provision of the treaty, which held out to Denmark the hope of eventually recovering the provinces of Schleswig and Holstein, is said to have been originally inserted rather reluctantly on the part of Prince Bismarck during the preliminary negotiations of the Treaty of Prague under the coercive influence of the Emperor Napoleon, to whom, in despair, Denmark appealed for help after having entirely failed to derive any assistance, beyond good advice, from England. The public press, especially of Denmark, has been endeavoring to make as much out of this as possible, and to establish a connection between this act of Germany and the recent marriage of the Duke of Cumberland. But there is probably nothing beyond a coincidence in this, and the real explanation is to be found in the stereotype words of the convention: “that His Majesty the Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, wishing to give a proof of his desire to draw still closer the ties of friendship which exist between the two powers,” &c. In other words, Austria makes a concession long since coveted by Germany in return for the support given by Germany to Austria during the manufacture of the Treaty of Berlin, in acquiring Bosnia and Herzegovina. This new convention was made between Austria and Germany on the 11th of October, 1878, during the regency of the Prince Imperial, and signed by the Emperor on his resuming the reins of government.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 85.—Translation.]

Speech from the throne on the opening of the German Reichstag, February 12, 1879.

Honored Gentlemen: While bidding you welcome, I feel impelled from this place also to reiterate my thanks for God’s mercy, which has shielded me in danger and made me whole from grievous suffering. I must at the same time again also express my thanks to my son, the Crown Prince, my recognition for the way in which he conducted the business of the government; and again I thank you, honored gentlemen, for the support you have rendered the allied governments in their effort in the path of law to put a stop to an agitation directed against the foundations of our political and intellectual life. I may, therefore, I think, reckon on your co-operation in equal measure in the future in so far as the cure of our social evils should prove incomplete.

The allied governments are considering what means might be afforded by legislation to remove or lessen evils under which we suffer in the domain of finance and economy.

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The proposals I have partly made to my confederates and partly mean to make aim primarily, by the creation of fresh sources of imperial income, at enabling the individual governments to cease from raising those taxes which they and their parliaments find most difficult to realize. I am likewise of opinion that our economical activity in its entire range has full claims to the support which legislation in the matter of taxes and customs can give it, and which, in the countries we trade with, is given perhaps more than is needful. I therefore hold it to be my duty to strive for this end, that at last the German market may favor national production as far as this is consistent with our united interests, and that accordingly our customs legislation may again return to those approved principles whereon the prosperous activity of the Zollverin reposed for nearly half a century, and which have been essentially abandoned in our commercial policy since the year 1865. I am not able to perceive that substantial results have accrued from this change of our customs policy. Bills in the direction indicated will be submitted to you as soon and as far as the allied governments can agree upon the same.

As for this year’s internal reichsbudget, which will be laid before you without delay, it has been impossible to provide new sources of income, and, in order, therefore, to round off the budget till the 1st of April, it is proposed to cover the deficit by assessing the respective governments (Matricularumlagen). I think I may hope that during the present session the allied governments will be able to submit to you proposals for substituting their respective contributions by other sources of revenue.

May I recommend to you as a pressing subject for your consideration and approval the commercial treaty with Austria, concluded on the 16th of December last?

The treaties by which the General Postal Union, founded at Berne in 1874, is strengthened and by which, in accordance with its leading principle, all trading countries are made more easily accessible, will be laid before you for approval. The bill, likewise, against adulteration of foods and drinks will be anew submitted to you, as will, also, the measures for supplementing the judicature acts.

In order to render it possible for the Reichstag to protect the honor of those citizens, who do not belong to it against the attacks of individual members, and in order to give full meaning to its authority whenever set at nought or misunderstood within itself, the allied governments have prepared for your acceptance a bill, by the passing of which the powers of the Imperial Parliament in the matter of regulating its internal discipline, conferred upon it by article 27 of the constitution, would derive an extended legal basis.

Disquieting news as to the outbreak of the plague in the east of Europe has imposed on us the regrettable necessity of taking measures which weigh heavily upon commerce. The latest intelligence, however, encourages the hope that the extinction of the disease, at least in Russia, will speedily ensue from the energetic steps of the imperial Russian authorities. As soon as this is the case, border intercourse will be restored to the neighborly footing becoming the political relations of two friendly nations.

The uncertainty in which the concluding stipulation of article 5 of the Treaty of Prague of 1866 kept the future of the inhabitants of the northern districts of Sehleswig caused me, after the failure of repeated attempts to settle this question with Denmark, to enter into negotiations with His Majesty the Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary concerning a modification of that article. In conformity with the mutually friendly relations of both empires, an understanding between the two courts in the sense desired was come to and ratified on the 11th of January last, the text whereof will be laid before you.

The hopes expressed by me at the beginning of the last regular session of a speedy ending of the war in the East are fulfilled, the assembled representatives of the great powers having last summer succeeded in agreeing on measures from the execution of which the protection of the Christians, the assurance of quiet in the Turkish Empire, and the preservation of peace among the powers of Europe may be expected.

To further these peaceful relations of foreign countries with Germany and with each other, which have been consolidated by the Berlin treaty, must still be and remain our task, in the service of which I will employ the great power gained by the unification of Germany as long as it is in my hands. If God grants me the fulfillment of this task, then will I look back on the bitter experiences of the past year with a feeling of thankfulness that my reign has hitherto been richly blessed.