File No. 763.72/12080

The Chargé in the Netherlands ( Bliss ) to the Secretary of State


4927. Following interview reported to have been granted correspondent of Dutch news agency by Chancellor, November 1. Explaining purpose of his errand, correspondent remarked that recent changes in German Constitution seemed to be so far-reaching that one might almost think of a form of revolution. “Revolution!” replied Chancellor, “a complete revolution, although, thank God and thanks to good sense of German people, an unbloody one. What you see taking place in German Empire as well as in Confederate States is outcome of silent underground movement of many years. The war and acts of militarism and servile leaders with their political wisdom having gone shipwrecked merely strengthened in tremendous way the movement. We are giving definitely an upper hand to democratic element today. Democratic idea had made its victorious entrance in single states of Empire, change therefore isn’t under pressure of moment but simply rooted in will of German people. Any doubt concerning sincerity of change of system is refuted by fact it is firmly moored in Constitution. In this connection I frankly acknowledge assistance given to democratic idea by President Wilson whose reiterated solemn declarations to effect that a truly democratic German Government can absolutely depend on right and justice in final settlements has essentially fortified position of Germany’s democratic leaders. New Government has therefore seen fit to acquaint Wilson with change in German Constitution by memorandum transmitted to Swiss Chargé d’Affaires at Washington.”

Discussing new position of German Empire Chancellor continued: “Although we have always had free republics among our Confederate States, namely Hamburg, Lübeck, Bremen, majority of German people continues to give decided preference to monarchical system in form of parliamentary government. Idea before those who formed constitutional amendments was this, how the position [Page 458] of Emperor could be made similar to that for instance of Queen of Holland. In consequence position of Emperor as supreme war lord of German Army and Navy has been entirely abolished. According to amended Constitution Emperor cannot perform any political act nor any similar act of political consequence without formal approval of Chancellor. Latter is now constitutionally responsible for acts of political significance on part of Emperor, even the personal public deeds or writings as far as they are apt to influence interior political or foreign affairs of Empire.”

Considering new Constitution Chancellor Prince Max says: “As you are aware, Chancellor was thus far verily trusted minister of Emperor who alone decided on his appointments or dismissals from office. By amended Constitution Chancellor cannot be appointed unless he has confidence of Majority of Reichstag and can hold office only as this confidence is assured him. You will appreciate this very far-[reaching] change in our affairs which isn’t merely based, as in several other countries with parliamentary governments, on customs but based on explicit clause of Constitution. You know, of course, that in recent sitting of Reichstag, for first time in our history formal clause of confidence was passed in favor of new Government and their publicly declared policy. If ever in future a vote of nonconfidence shall be passed by Reichstag, Chancellor will be obliged by law to retire at once. As far as participating of members of Reichstag in new Government concerned that development has naturally not been entirely closed as yet. However, after abolition of constitutional clause providing that members of Reichstag accepting paid office lost thereby [their] mandates, participating of prominent parliamentary men is practically unlimited. Appointment of Secretary of State depends entirely on Majority party constitutionally and decisively to form Government of Empire. As you are aware a considerable [number] of leaders of these parties are already nominated secretaries and undersecretaries of state within new democratic government. By all these changes,” Prince Max concluded, “power of Reichstag has been increasing exceedingly, [unintelligible passage] particularly on all questions of war and peace, expressing true voice of majority of German people.”

Correspondent added that by great increase of influence of Reichstag on German public affairs people abroad might possibly think that as long as Bundesrat was unchanged reform wasn’t far-reaching enough. Chancellor replied: “This opinion might not be unnatural if Governments of Confederate States which send their delegates to Bundesrat were to remain unchanged. As matter of fact change of system in those states is carefully choosing [following] that of Empire. Everywhere, particularly Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, etc., tendency of hour is for democratizing. By new [Page 459] Prussian electoral law majority of Prussian Abgeordnetenhaus will take similar part in Government of Prussia as members of Reichstag take in Government of Empire, so it will be constituted along lines of Reichstag. It is therefore unthinkable that delegates of Prussian Government to Bundesrat should ever get instructions bringing them into conflict with principles of Reichstag. Besides you forget one most powerful prerogative of Reichstag, namely, exclusive right to decision of budget of Empire, which [in] most matters nowadays is most convincing factor. So,” concluded Chancellor, “ancient regime has gone, it will never return. I confidently trust that new German democracy will soon live in peace with sister democracies and complete her part of Germany’s reformation.”