File No. 763.72/8984

The Chargé in Denmark ( Grant-Smith) to the Secretary of State


1985. The Prussian equal-franchise fight has again become of paramount internal importance in Germany. The general implicit faith in the Government’s sincere desire to pass the reform was confirmed by the Norddeutsche’s article of the 15th. Of the Liberal press the Vorwärts alone was suspicious of the basis of the Government’s adherence to the reactionary changes of the Herrenhaus. Friedberg’s hint that plural franchise might be acceptable created momentary doubt of the Government’s good faith, and the Tageblatt stated that the more radical elements of the Majority could hardly continue to support the Hertling Government in view of its desertion of equal suffrage in contravention of its promises. The storm of protest may well have resulted in Friedberg’s statement two days later that the Government would not accept any form of plural franchise.

The strength of Conservative and National Liberal opposition had not been underestimated and therefore the result of the committee’s vote in favor of the Conservatives’ plural franchise amendment occasioned no particular astonishment. The Liberal newspapers view it simply as a serious temporary obstacle. They are pessimistic as regards the immediate fate of the reform, but exhibit the greatest confidence and determination as regards its eventual passage, while believing that the next move in the fight should be made by the Government which must, however, be held to a strict redemption of its promises. Hope still exists in the Liberal press that the present Landtag can be coerced into passing the reform and only if this is impossible will extreme measures be desirable.

The exploitation of the recent strikes by the Conservatives and their allies as proving that the masses are not politically ripe for equal suffrage has been answered by official statements in the Landtag [Page 134] Committee and semiofficially in the press that the strikes have in no wise altered the Government’s attitude regarding franchise reform. Herein is indicated the Government’s evident desire not to alienate the Majority Socialists and to assist in maintaining the Reichstag Majority, which the semiofficial organs state to be quite intact, the wish being apparent in the thought, though there are no further definite indications. The Reichstag Majority will probably continue cooperation although the National Liberals are apparently having difficulty in overcoming conscientious scruples against working with the Socialists who in turn are more than ever suspicious of the Government and determined to make their support dependent on strict fulfillment of the “November Program.” Three reform bills are to be presented to the Reichstag during the present sitting in [consummation] of this program which are hailed as the results of the work of the Majority:

Addition of 44 Reichstag seats for the large urban districts. It is generally believed that these seats will fall largely to the parties of the Left.
Creation of boards of labor.
Revocation of the constitutional clause preventing certain classes of Government employees from forming unions.

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[ Grant-Smith]