No. 162.
Mr. Pendleton to Mr. Bayard.

No. 346.]

Sir: Accompanying this are copy and translation of the Emperor’s speech on the opening of the Reiehstag, on Thursday, the 25th instant.

Although the members were convened in the famous “Weisse Saal” in the royal palace, the ceremony was of the simplest character. The Emperor was not present, nor were any of the members of the imperial and royal family, Bismarck, or von Moltke. The chancellor was represented by von Boetticher, minister of the interior, who, by the Emperor’s permission, read the speech, and declared the session opened. * * *

The speech seems to give great satisfaction throughout Europe, as a further indication that the peace will not be immediately disturbed by reason of the complications arising from events in Bulgaria. * * *

I have, &c.,

[Page 332]
[Inclosure in No. 346.—Translation.]

Speech of the Emperor at the opening by commission of the Reichstag in the “Weisse Saal,” November 25, 1886.

Herr v. Boetticher, imperial minister of the interior, read the speech.

Honorable Gentlemen: His Majesty the Emperor has been pleased to authorize me, in the name of the confederated Governments, to open the Reichstag. The most important duty which will occupy the Reichstag is its co-operation in the further securing of the military strength of the Empire.

By the law of the 6th May, 1880, the strength of the peace establishment of the army was settled until the 31st of March, 1888.

The permanancy of our military affairs requires, therefore, the renewal of its legal basis. In the army lies the assurance of the continued protection of the blessings of peace; and, if the policy of the Empire is to remain a peaceful one, Germany cannot, in view of the development of the military establishments of our neighbor-states, longer refuse an increase of its armaments, and especially of its present peace establishment. A bill will be laid before you, according to the provisions of which the increase of the effective strength of the army will come into operation with the begining of the new fiscal year. His Majesty the Emperor, in common with the confederated Governments, cherishes the confidence that the necessity of this demand, unavoidable in view of the interest of our national safety, will be fully recognized by the whole body of the German people and their representatives.

A second bill which will occupy you concerns the care of the widows and orphans of the members of the army of the Empire and of the imperial marine. The necessity of this care has already been recognized. The confederated Governments believe that they may the more confidently rely on the passage of this law, inasmuch as this new bill meets substantially the views expressed in the Reichstag, touching some modifications.

In the provision for the cost involved in these bills, as well as in the expenditures proposed in the household budget, consideration of the financial situation has not been left out of view. However, an increase of the contribution on the part of the states and the means to be provided by way of credit cannot be avoided; besides the increase of expenditures caused by the strengthening of our military position on the water and by land, and the greater outlay imposed on us by our just obligations in reference to the indebtedness of the Empire and the pension system, a considerable deficiency of the sugar tax of the last year needs to be supplied.

Under these circumstanees the necessity, repeatedly presented to the Reichstag, of a different distribution of burdens by an increase of the indirect taxes, not only continues, but in consequence of the estimated increase regarding the contribution of the various states, will be more stringently felt than heretofore. At the same time the confederated Governments have been forced to infer from the votes given by the Reichstag over their plans of taxation that their unanimous conviction of the necessity of a change in the manner of providing the needed revenue is not shared by the majority of the population and their representatives at the time, to such a degree, that the agreeing conclusions of the two legislative bodies of the Empire could be expected with greater probability than in the last year.

In consideration that the confederated Governments have no other interest than that of the nation, His Majesty declines to press anew his own conviction of the necessity of the tax reform heretofore urged in vain, so long as this necessity is not recognized by the people, and has not found expression in the elections.

The further execution of the social legislation adopted on the reasoning of the imperial message of the 17th November, 1881, lies constantly near to the heart of the Emperor and of his high associates. If certain provisions of the law for the insurance of those who are sick or injured by accident may be advantageously amended, nevertheless, it may be recognized with satisfaction that the paths which the German Empire, in advance of all other states have trodden in this field have proven themselves as passable, and the new organizations generally commend themselves. The next task for the development of these organizations is to extend the benefits of the accident-insurance to larger circles of the working population. To this end two bills will be laid before you. The one regulates the accident-insurance for the seafarers, the other for workmen engaged on buildings, so far as these classes are not embraced in the legislation already adopted. Only after the accident-insurance of workmen shall have thus been brought nearer to completion in a very considerable degree can progress be made in bestowing upon the working classes a corresponding measure of provision for their old age and invalidism on the basis of the newly created organizations. For the attaining of this end, however, expenditures from the imperial treasury will be necessary, which are not at our disposition with our present taxation legislation.

In full appreciation of the importance of the manufacturing class for the common social welfare, the confederated Governments have followed with interest the efforts [Page 333] by which the German manufacture seeks to strengthen its corporate associations and to elevate its economic condition. As to the methods which the legislation has adopted in this direction, considerations are suggested which have not yet reached a conclusion, but which give reason to expect that they will lead to a result conducing to the best interest of this class.

The legally prescribed revision of the indemnification for quartering soldiers and of the classification of cities had not been concluded at the last session of the Reichstag. The necessary papers for completing it will be laid again before you.

The scheme of a law for the establishment of a seminary for Oriental languages, which was not finally considered at the last session, will be again brought forward immediately.

The Reichstag has repeatedly given expression to its wish for a reduction of the costs of court and a revision of the fee bill for attorneys. The investigations which were instituted, aside from certain declarations of the law regulating the amount of costs of courts, do not show the necessity of a change on the existing schedule of costs. On the other hand the confederated Governments entertain the opinion that the fee bill of the attorneys can bear in some respect a reduction without injury to the interest of this class of officials. An appropriate bill will be laid before you.

The relations of the German Empire with all foreign states are peaceful and satisfactory. The policy of His Majesty the Emperor is constantly directed, not only to secure to the German people the blessings of peace, but also to make available for preserving the unity of all the powers that influence in the councils of Europe which accrues to the German policy from its assured love of peace, from the confidence of the other Governments obtained by this love of peace, from the absence of special interests in existing questions, and especially from the close friendship which binds His Majesty the Emperor to the two neighboring imperial courts.

By the commands of His Majesty the Emperor I declare in the name of the confederated Governments that the Reichstag is opened.