Mr. Phelps to Mr. Blaine.

No. 73.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith for the files of the Department authentic copies from the official gazette, with translations of the recent decrees relating to the improvement of the condition of the laboring classes, addressed by the German Emperor, in his imperial capacity, to the chancellor of the Empire, and, in his capacity of King of Prussia, to the Prussian ministers for public works, and commerce and industry. I also transmit a copy, with translation, of the Emperor’s address to his State council, which, in response to his summons, met yesterday to discuss and determine upon the measures to be adopted to reach the results aimed at in the royal rescripts.

The inclosed documents, in view of the high purpose which prompted them, in view of the conference with other great powers suggested, and of the possible legislation foreshadowed in them, have been so thoroughly discussed by the press from every standpoint that I can add nothing new or of value to the Department.

I ought, however, to say that in this country at least they, or rather the disposition towards the interests of labor manifested in them, receive in all classes approval and admiration.

I have, etc.,

Wm. Walter Phelps.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 73. —Translation.]

Emperor William to the imperial chancellor.

I am resolved to lend my hand to the task of improving the condition of the German working classes so far as those limits permit, which are set to my benevolent interest, by the necessity of maintaining German industry in a state capable of competing in the markets of the world, and of thus rendering its own existence and that of the workmen secure. The decline of home trade, through the loss of its market abroad, would take away the bread, not only from the masters, but also from their workmen. The difficulties in the way of the improvement of the situation of our work people, which have their root in international competition, can only be modified, if not overcome, by international understanding with the countries which share [Page 305] the command of the world’s market. In the conviction that other governments are also inspired with the desire to submit to common investigation those endeavors to better their condition, regarding which the work people of these countries already conduct international negotiations with each other, I desire that in the meantime, in France, England, Belgium, and Switzerland, official inquiries should be made by my representatives. Then, if the governments are inclined to enter upon negotiations with us, with the object of an international understanding regarding the possibility of meeting those necessities and wishes of the workpeople, which have been revealed by the strikes of recent years and otherwise, so soon as an agreement with my invitation has been obtained in principle, I charge you to invite the cabinets of all governments which cherish a similar interest in the working class question to a conference for the consideration of the questions involved.

William, I. R.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 73.—Translation.]

Emperor William to the ministers of commerce and industry, and of public works.

At my accession I declared my resolve to promote the further development of our legislation in the direction in which my late grandfather undertook, in the spirit of Christian morality, the care of that portion of the people which is the weaker on the economical side. Valuable and successful as are the legislative measures already taken for the improvement of the condition of the working class, they do not accomplish the whole task before me. Along with the further development of the workers’ insurance legislation, the existing regulations of the industrial code regarding the relations of factory operatives must be submitted to examination, in order to satisfy the complaints and desires which have found a loud voice in this sphere so far as they are well grounded. This investigation must start from the principle that it is the duty of the civil power to regulate the nature and duration of labor, so that the preservation of health, the demands of morality, the financial needs of the workers, and their claim to equality in the eyes of law may be maintained. For the promotion of peace between the employers and employed, legislative provisions must be contemplated, according to which the work people may, through representatives possessing their confidence, share in the regulation of common affairs and be qualified to look after their own interests in negotiations with their employers and with the organs of my Government. By such an arrangement the work people must be enabled to enjoy the free and peaceful expression of their wishes and grievances and to give the civil authorities the opportunity of constantly informing themselves respecting the condition of the work people and of maintaining touch with them. I desire to see the State mines, as regards care for the workers’ interests, developed into model institutions; and for private mining industry I aim at the restoration of an organic relation between my inspectors of mines and the industry, with the object of obtaining a surveillance corresponding to the position of factory inspection as it existed up to 1865.

For the preliminary consideration of these questions I desire that the Staatsrath should assemble, under my presidency, and with the participation of such specialists as I shall summon. The choice of the latter I reserve for my own decision.

Among the difficulties which stand in the way of the arrangement of the relations of workers in the sense intended by me, those which arise from the necessity of not injuring home industry in its competition with other lands occupy a foremost place. I have therefore instructed the imperial chancellor to propose to the governments of those states whose industry commands with ours the markets of the world the assembly of a conference to attempt to achieve some equal international regulation of the limits of the demands which may be made upon the activity of workers. The chancellor will communicate to you a copy of the decree issued to him by me.

William, R.
[Inclosure 3 in No. 73.—Translation.]

Emperor William to the council of state.

Gentlemen of the Council of State: By my decree of the 4th instant you were informed that it is my desire to hear the views of the council of state regarding those measures which are necessary for the better regulation of the condition of the working classes. The important position which the council of state occupies in the Monarchy requires that the weighty questions to be solved in this connection should be submitted to it for thorough consideration before the bills to be drafted on the subject are laid before the parliamentary bodies, with whom rests, in virtue of [Page 306] the constitution, the final decision in the matter. I regard it as important that the council, composed as it is of members belonging to the most varied callings, in virtue of the practical experience represented by its members, should conscientiously and impartially examine my proposals and decide as to their expediency, practicability, and scope. The task for the accomplishment of which I have called you together is a serious and responsible one. The protection to be accorded to the working classes against an arbitrary and limitless exploitation of their capacity to work; the extent of the employment of children, which should be restricted from regard for the dictates of humanity and the laws of natural development; the consideration of the position of women in the household of workmen, so important for domestic life from the point of view of morality and thrift; and other matters affecting the working classes connected therewith, are susceptible of a better regulation. In the consideration of these questions it will be necessary to examine, with circumspection and the aid of practical knowledge, to what point German industry will be able to bear the additional burden imposed upon the cost of production by the stricter regulations in favor of the workmen, without the remunerative employment of the latter being prejudiced by competition in the world’s market. This, instead of bringing about the improvement desired by me, would lead to a deterioration of the economic position of the workman. To avert this danger, a great measure of wise reflection is needed, because the satisfactory settlement of these all-absorbing questions of our time is all the more important since such a settlement and the international understanding proposed by me on these matters must clearly react one upon the other.

No less important for assuring peaceful relations between masters and men are the forms in which the workmen are to be offered the guaranty that, through representatives enjoying their confidence, they shall be able to take part in the regulation of their common work, and thus be put in a position to protect their interests by negotiation with their employers. The endeavor has to be made to place the representatives of the men in communication with the mining officials and superintendents of the State, and by that means to create forms and arrangements which will enable the men to give free and peaceful expression to their wishes and interests, and will give the State authorities the opportunity of making themselves thoroughly informed of the circumstances of the workmen by continually hearing the opinions of those immediately concerned and of keeping in touch with them. Then, too, the further development of the State-directed industries in the direction of making them pattern examples of effective solicitude for the workmen demands the closest technical study. I rely upon the tried loyalty and devotion of the State council in the labors which now lie before it. I do not lose sight of the fact that all the desired improvements in this domain can not be attained by State measures alone. The labors of love, of church, and school have also a wide field for fruitful action by which the ordinances of the law must be supported and aided; but if, with God’s help, you succeed in satisfying the just interests of the laboring population by the proposals you make, your work may be sure of my kingly thanks and of the gratitude of the nation.

The bills which are to be submitted for your consideration will be laid before you without delay. I appoint to take part in the deliberations the two sections of the council for commerce and trade, public works, railways, and mines, and for affairs of internal administration, and I will attach to them a number of experts. I request the members of those departments to assemble in the place to be indicated to you on the 26th instant at 11 in the morning. As reporter I appoint Chief Burgomaster von Miguel, and as assistant reporter, Privy Councillor Jencke. I reserve to myself the power, after the conclusion of the sectional discussions, to order the council of state to reassemble; and I wish you in your work the blessings from on high, without which human acts can never prosper.