Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around. — G. K. Chesterton

Bismarck and the Foundation of the German Empire - J. W. Headlam




The Formation of the North German Confederation



1866-1867


We have hitherto seen Bismarck in the character of party leader, Parliamentary debater, a keen and accomplished diplomatist; now he comes before us in a new rôle, that of creative statesman; he adopts it with the same ease and complete mastery with which he had borne himself in the earlier stages of his career. The Constitution of the North German Confederation was his work, and it shews the same intellectual resource, the originality, and practical sense which mark all he did.

By a treaty of August 18, 1866, all the North German States which had survived entered into a treaty with one another and with Prussia; they mutually guaranteed each other's possessions, engaged to place their forces under the command of the King of Prussia, and promised to enter into a new federation; for this purpose they were to send envoys to Berlin who should agree on a Constitution, and they were to allow elections to take place by universal suffrage for a North German Parliament before which was to be laid the draft Constitution agreed upon by the envoys of the States. These treaties did not actually create the new federation; they only bound the separate States to enter into negotiations, and, as they expired on August 30, 1867, it was necessary that the new Constitution should be completed and ratified by that date. The time was short, for in it had to be compressed both the negotiations between the States and the debates in the assembly; but all past experience had shewn that the shorter the time allowed for making a Constitution the more probable was it that the work would be completed. Bismarck did not intend to allow the precious months, when enthusiasm was still high and new party factions had not seized hold of men's minds, to be lost.

He had spent the autumn in Pomerania and did not return to Berlin till the 21st of December; not a week remained before the representatives of the North German States would assemble in the capital of Prussia. To the astonishment and almost dismay of his friends, he had taken no steps for preparing a draft. As soon as he arrived two drafts were laid before him; he put them aside and the next day dictated the outlines of the new Constitution.

This document has not been published, but it was the basis of the discussion with the envoys; Bismarck allowed no prolonged debates; they were kept for some weeks in Berlin, but only three formal meetings took place. They made suggestions and criticisms, some of which were accepted, but they were of course obliged to assent to everything on which Bismarck insisted. The scheme as finally agreed upon by the conference was then laid before the assembly which met in Berlin on February 24th.

A full analysis of this Constitution, for which we have no space here, would be very instructive; it must not be compared with those elaborate constitutions drawn up by political theorists of which so many have been introduced during this century. Bismarck's work was like that of Augustus; he found most of the institutions of government to his hand, but they were badly co-ordinated; what he had to do was to bring them into better relations with each other, and to add to them where necessary. Many men would have swept away everything which existed, made a clear field, and begun to build up a new State from the foundations. Bismarck was much too wise to attempt this, for he knew that the foundations of political life cannot be securely laid by one man or in one generation. He built on the foundations which others had laid, and for this reason it is probable that his work will be as permanent as that of the founder of the Roman Empire.

We find in the new State old and new mixed together in an inseparable union, and we find a complete indifference to theory or symmetry; each point is decided purely by reference to the political situation at the moment. Take, for instance, the question of diplomatic representation; Bismarck wished to give the real power to the King of Prussia, but at the same time to preserve the external dignity and respect due to the Allied Princes. He arranged that the King of Prussia as President of the Confederation appointed envoys and ambassadors to foreign States; from this time there ceased to be a Prussian diplomatic service, and, in this matter, Prussia is entirely absorbed in Germany. It would have been only natural that the smaller Allied States should also surrender their right to enter into direct diplomatic relations with foreign Powers. This Bismarck did not require. Saxony, for instance, continued to have its own envoys; England and France, as in the old days, kept a Minister in Dresden. Bismarck was much criticised for this, but he knew that nothing would so much reconcile the King of Saxony to his new position, and it was indeed no small thing that the Princes thus preserved in a formal way a right which shewed to all the world that they were not subjects but sovereign allies. When it was represented to Bismarck that this right might be the source of intrigues with foreign States, he answered characteristically that if Saxony wished to intrigue nothing could prevent her doing so; it was not necessary to have a formal embassy for this purpose. His confidence was absolutely justified. A few months later Napoleon sent to the King of Saxony a special invitation to a European congress; the King at once sent on the invitation to Berlin and let it be known that he did not wish to be represented apart from the North German Confederation. The same leniency was shewn in 1870. Nothing is a better proof of Bismarck's immense superiority both in practical wisdom and in judgment of character. The Liberal Press in Germany had never ceased to revile the German dynasties; Bismarck knew that their apparent disloyalty to Germany arose not from their wishes but was a necessary result of the faults of the old Constitution. He made their interests coincide with the interests of Germany, and from this time they have been the most loyal supporters, first of the Confederation, and afterwards of the Empire. This he was himself the first to acknowledge; both before and after the foundation of the Empire he has on many occasions expressed his sense of the great services rendered to Germany by the dynasties. "They," he said once, "were the true guardians of German unity, not the Reichstag and its parties."

The most important provisions of the Constitution were those by which the military supremacy of Prussia was secured; in this chapter every detail is arranged and provided for; the armies of all the various States were henceforth to form one army, under the command of the King of Prussia, with common organisation and similar uniform in every State; in every State the Prussian military system was to be introduced, and all the details of Prussian military law.

Now let us compare with this the navy: the army represented the old Germany, the navy the new; the army was arranged and organised as Prussian, Saxon, Mecklenburg; the navy, on the other hand, was German and organised by the new Federal officials. There was a Federal Minister of Marine, but no Federal Minister of War; the army continued the living sign of Prussian supremacy among a group of sovereign States, the navy was the first fruit of the united German institutions which were to be built up by the united efforts of the whole people—a curious resemblance to the manner in which Augustus also added an Imperial navy to the older Republican army.

The very form in which the Constitution was presented is characteristic; in the Parliamentary debates men complained that there was no preamble, no introduction, no explanation. Bismarck answered that this was omitted for two reasons: first, there had not been time to draw it up, and secondly, it would be far more difficult to agree on the principles which the Constitution was to represent than on the details themselves. There is no attempt at laying down general principles, no definitions, and no enumeration of fundamental rights; all these rocks, on which so often in Germany, as in France, precious months had been wasted, were entirely omitted.

And now let us turn to that which after the organisation of the army was of most importance,—the arrangement of the administration and legislation. Here it is that we see the greatest originality. German writers have often explained that it is impossible to classify the new State in any known category, and in following their attempts to find the technical definition for the authority on which it rests, one is led almost to doubt whether it really exists at all.

There are two agents of government, the Federal Council, or Bundesrath, and the Parliament, or Reichstag. Here again we see the blending of the old and new, for while the Parliament was now created for the first time, the Council was really nothing but the old Federal Diet. Even the old system of voting was retained; not that this was better than any other system, but, as Bismarck explained, it was easier to preserve the old than to agree on a new. Any system must have been purely arbitrary, for had each State received a number of votes proportionate to its population even the appearance of a federation would have been lost, and Bismarck was very anxious not to establish an absolute unity under Prussia.

It will be asked, why was Bismarck now so careful in his treatment of the smaller States? The answer will be found in words which he had written many years ago:

"I do not wish to see Germany substituted for Prussia on our banner until we have brought about a closer and more practical union with our fellow-countrymen."

Now the time had come, and now he was to be the first and most patriotic of Germans as in old days he had been the strictest of Prussians. Do not let us in welcoming the change condemn his earlier policy. It was only his loyalty to Prussia which had made Germany possible; for it is indeed true that he could never have ruled Germany had he not first conquered it. The real and indisputable supremacy of Prussia was still preserved; and Prussia was now so strong that she could afford to be generous. It was wise to be generous, for the work was only half completed; the southern States were still outside the union; he wished to bring them into the fold, but to do so not by force of arms but of their own free will; and they certainly would be more easily attracted if they saw that the North German States were treated with good faith and kindness.

Side by side with the Council we have the Reichstag; this was, in accordance with the proposal made in the spring of 1866, to be elected by universal suffrage. And now we see that this proposal, which a few months ago had appeared merely as a despairing bid for popularity by a statesman who had sacrificed every other means of securing his policy, had become a device convincing in its simplicity; at once all possibility of discussion or opposition was prevented; not indeed that there were not many warning voices raised, but as Bismarck, in defending this measure, asked,—what was the alternative? Any other system would have been purely arbitrary, and any arbitrary system would at once have opened the gate to a prolonged discussion and political struggle on questions of the franchise. In a modern European State, when all men can read and write, and all men must serve in the army, there is no means of limiting the franchise in a way which will command universal consent. In Germany there was not any old historical practice to which men could appeal or which could naturally be applied to the new Parliament; universal suffrage at least gave something clear, comprehensible, final. Men more easily believed in the permanence of the new State when every German received for the first time the full privilege of citizenship. We must notice, however, that Bismarck had always intended that voting should be open; the Parliament in revising the Constitution introduced the ballot. He gave his consent with much reluctance; voting seemed to him to be a public duty, and to perform it in secret was to undermine the roots of political life. He was a man who was constitutionally unable to understand fear. We have then the Council and the Parliament, and we must now enquire as to their duties. In nearly every modern State the popular representative assembly holds the real power; before it, everything else is humbled; the chief occupation of lawgivers is to find some ingenious device by which it may at least be controlled and moderated in the exercise of its power. It was not likely that Bismarck would allow Germany to be governed by a democratic assembly; he was not satisfied with creating an artificial Upper House which might, perhaps, be able for one year or two to check the extravagances of a popular House, or with allowing to the King a veto which could only be exercised with fear and trembling. Generally the Lower House is the predominant partner; it governs; the Upper House can only amend, criticise, moderate. Bismarck completely reversed the situation: the true government, the full authority in the State was given to the Council; the Parliament had to content itself with a limited opportunity for criticism, with the power to amend or veto Bills, and to refuse its assent to new taxes. In England the government rests in the House of Commons; in Germany it is in the Federal Council, and for the same reason—that the Council has both executive and legislative power. Constitutions have generally been made by men whose chief object was to weaken the power of the Government, who believed that those rulers do least harm who have least power, with whom suspicion is the first of political virtues, and who would condemn to permanent inefficiency the institutions they have invented. It was not likely Bismarck would do this. The ordinary device is to separate the legislative and executive power; to set up two rival and equal authorities which may check and neutralise each other. Bismarck, deserting all the principles of the books, united all the powers of government in the Council. The whole administration was subjected to it; all laws were introduced in it. The debates were secret; it was an assembly of the ablest statesmen in Germany; the decisions at which it arrived were laid in their complete form before the Reichstag. It was a substitute for a Second Chamber, but it was also a Council of State; it united the duties of the Privy Council and the House of Lords; it reminds us in its composition of the American Senate, but it would be a Senate in which the President of the Republic presided.

Bismarck never ceased to maintain the importance of the Federal Council; he always looked on it as the key to the whole new Constitution. Shortly after the war with France, when the Liberals made an attempt to overthrow its authority, he warned them not to do so.

"I believe," he said, "that the Federal Council has a great future. Great as Prussia is, we have been able to learn much from the small, even from the smallest member of it; they on their side have learnt much from us. From my own experience I can say that I have made considerable advance in my political education by taking part in the sittings of the Council and by the life which comes from the friction of five and twenty German centres with one another. I beg you do not interfere with the Council. I consider it a kind of Palladium for our future, a great guarantee for the future of Germany in its present form."

Now, from the peculiar character of the Council arose a very noticeable omission; just as there was no Upper House (though the Prussian Conservatives strongly desired to see one), so, also, there was no Federal Ministry. In every modern State there is a Council formed of the heads of different administrative departments; this was so universal that it was supposed to be essential to a constitution. In the German Empire we search for it in vain; there is only one responsible Minister, and he is the Chancellor, the representative of Prussia and Chairman of the Council. The Liberals could not reconcile themselves to this strange device; they passed it with reluctance in the stress of the moment, but they have never ceased to protest against it. Again and again, both in public and in private, we hear the same demand: till we have a responsible Ministry the Constitution will never work. Two years later a motion was introduced and passed through the Reichstag demanding the formation of a Federal Ministry; Bismarck opposed the motion and refused to carry it out.

He had several reasons for omitting what was apparently almost a necessary institution. The first was respect for the rights of the Federal States. If a Ministry, responsible to Parliament, had existed, the executive power would have been taken away from the Bundesrath, and the Princes of the smaller States would really have been subjected to the new organ; the Ministers must have been appointed by the President; they would have looked to him and to the Reichstag for support, and would soon have begun to carry out their policy, not by agreement with the Governments arrived at by technical discussions across the table of the Council-room, but by orders and decrees based on the will of the Parliament. This would inevitably have aroused just what Bismarck wished to avoid. It would have produced a struggle between the central and local authorities; it would again have thrown the smaller Governments into opposition to national unity; it would have frightened the southern States.

His other reasons for opposing the introduction of a Ministry were that he did not wish to give more power to the Parliament, and above all he disliked the system of collegiate responsibility.

"You wish," he said, "to make the Government responsible, and do it by introducing a board. I say the responsibility will disappear as soon as you do so; responsibility is only there when there is a single man who can be brought to task for any mistakes.... I consider that in and for itself a Constitution which introduces joint ministerial responsibility is a political blunder from which every State ought to free itself as soon as it can. Anyone who has ever been a Minister and at the head of a Ministry, and has been obliged to take resolutions upon his own responsibility, ceases at last to fear this responsibility, but he does shrink from the necessity of convincing seven people that that which he wishes is really right. That is a very different work from governing a State."

These reasons are very characteristic of him; the feeling became more confirmed as he grew older. In 1875 he says:

"Under no circumstances could I any longer submit to the thankless rôle of Minister-President of Prussia in a Ministry with joint responsibility, if I were not accustomed, from my old affection, to submit to the wishes of my King and Master. So thankless, so powerless, and so little responsible is that position; one can only be responsible for that which one does of one's own will; a board is responsible for nothing."

He always said himself that he would be satisfied with the position of an English Prime Minister. He was thinking, of course, of the constitutional right which the Prime Minister has, to appoint and dismiss his colleagues, which if he has strength of character will, of course, give him the real control of affairs, and also of the right which he enjoys of being the sole means by which the views of the Ministers are represented to the sovereign. In Prussia the Minister-President had not acquired by habit these privileges, and the power of the different Ministers was much more equal. In the new Federation he intended to have a single will directing the whole machine.

The matter is of some interest because of the light it throws on one side of his character. He was not a man with whom others found it easy to work; he did not easily brook opposition, and he disliked having to explain and justify his policy to anyone besides the King. He was not able to keep a single one of his colleagues throughout his official career. Even Roon found it often difficult to continue working with him; he complained of the Hermit of Varzin, "who wishes to do everything himself, and nevertheless issues the strictest prohibition that he is never to be disturbed." What suited him best was the position of almost absolute ruler, and he looked on his colleagues rather as subordinates than as equals.

But, it will be objected, if there was to be a single will governing the whole, the government could not be left to the Council; a board comprising the representatives of twenty States could not really administer, and in truth the Council was but the veil; behind it is the all-pervading power of the King of Prussia—and his Minister. The ruler of Germany was the Chancellor of the Federation; it was he alone that united and inspired the whole. Let us enumerate his duties. He was sole Minister to the President of the Confederation (after 1870 to the Emperor). The President (who was King of Prussia) could declare peace and war, sign treaties, and appointed all officials, but all his acts required the signature of the Chancellor, who was thereby Foreign Minister of the Confederation and had the whole of the patronage. More than this, he was at the head of the whole internal administration; from time to time different departments of State were created,—marine, post-office, finance,—but the men who stood at the head of each department were not co-ordinate with the Chancellor; they were not his colleagues, but were subordinates to whom he delegated the work. They were not immediately responsible to the Emperor, Council, or Reichstag, but to him; he, whenever he wished, could undertake the immediate control of each department, he could defend its actions, and was technically responsible to the Council for any failure. Of course, as a matter of fact, the different departments generally were left to work alone, but if at any time it seemed desirable, the Chancellor could always interfere and issue orders which must be obeyed; if the head of the department did not agree, then he had nothing to do but resign, and the Chancellor would appoint his successor.

The Chancellor was, then, the working head of the Government; but it will be said that his power would be so limited by the interference of the Emperor, the Council, the Parliament, that he would have no freedom. The contrary is the truth. There were five different sources of authority with which he had to deal: the President of the Federation (the Emperor), who was King of Prussia, the Council, the Prussian Parliament, the German Parliament, and the Prussian Ministry. Now in the Council he presided, and also represented the will of Prussia, which was almost irresistible, for if the Constitution was to work well there must be harmony of intention between Prussia and the Federal Government; here therefore he could generally carry out his policy: but in the Prussian Ministry he spoke as sole Minister of the Federation and the immense authority he thus enjoyed raised him at once to a position of superiority to all his colleagues. More than this, he was now free from the danger of Parliamentary control; it was easier to deal with one Parliament than two; they had no locus standi for constitutional opposition to his policy. The double position he held enabled him to elude all control. Policy was decided in the Council; when he voted there he acted as representative of the King of Prussia and was bound by the instructions he received from the Prussian Minister of Foreign Affairs; the Reichstag had nothing to do with Prussian policy and had no right to criticise the action of the Prussian Minister. It did not matter that Bismarck himself was not only Chancellor of the Diet, but also Minister-President of Prussia and Foreign Minister, and was really acting in accordance with the instructions he had given to himself; the principle remained,—each envoy to the Diet was responsible, not to the Reichstag, but to the Government he represented. When, however, he appeared in the Reichstag to explain and defend the policy adopted by the Council, then he stood before them as representative not necessarily of his own policy, but of that which had been decided on by a board in which he had possibly been outvoted. The Reichstag could reject the proposal if it were a law or a tax; they could criticise and debate, but there was no ground on which they could constitutionally demand the dismissal of the Minister.

Of course Bismarck did not attempt to evade the full moral responsibility for the policy which he advocated, but he knew that so long as he had the confidence of the King of Prussia and the majority of the Allied States, all the power of Parliament could not injure him.

What probably not even he foresaw was that the new Constitution so greatly added to the power of the Minister that even the authority of the King began to pale before it. As before, there was only one department of State where his authority ceased,—the army.

It will be easily understood that this Constitution, when it was laid before the assembly, was not accepted without much discussion and many objections. There were some—the representatives of conquered districts, Poles, Hanoverians, and the deputies from Schleswig-Holstein—who wished to overthrow the new Federation which was built up on the destruction of the States to which they had belonged. Theirs was an enmity which was open, honourable, and easy to meet. More insidious and dangerous was the criticism of those men who, while they professed to desire the ends which Bismarck had attained, refused to approve of the Constitution because they would have to renounce some of the principles of the parties to which they belonged.

There were some to whom it seemed that he gave too much freedom to the individual States; they wished for a more complete unity, but now Bismarck, for the first time, was strong enough to shew the essential moderation of his character; he knew what the Liberals were ready to forget, that moderation, while foolish in the moment of conflict, is the proper adornment of the conqueror. When they asked him to take away many of the privileges reserved to the smaller States, he reminded them that, though Mecklenburg and the Saxon duchies were helpless before the increased power of the Prussian Crown, they were protected by Prussian promises, and that a King of Prussia, though he might strike down his enemies, must always fulfil in spirit and in letter his obligations to his friends. The basis of the new alliance must be the mutual confidence of the allies; he had taught them to fear Prussia, now they must learn to trust her.

The Prussian Conservatives feared that the power of the Prussian King and the independence of the Prussian State would be affected; but Bismarck's influence with them was sufficient to prevent any open opposition. More dangerous were the Progressives, who apprehended that the new Constitution would limit the influence of the Prussian Parliament. On many points they refused to accept the proposals of the Government; they feared for liberty. For them Bismarck had no sympathy and no words but contempt, and he put curtly before them the question, did they wish to sacrifice all he had attained to their principles of Parliamentary government? They demanded, for instance, that, as the Constitution of Prussia could not be altered without the consent of the Prussian Parliament, the new Federal Constitution must be laid before the Prussian Parliament for discussion and ratification. It is curious to notice that this is exactly the same claim which Bismarck in 1852 had supported as against Radowitz; he had, however, learned much since then; he pointed out that the same claim which was made by the Prussian Parliament might be made by the Parliament of each of the twenty-two States. It was now his duty to defend the unification of Germany against this new Particularism; in old days Particularism found its support in the dynasties, "now it is," he said, "in the Parliaments.

"Do you really believe," he said, "that the great movement which last year led the peoples to battle from the Belt to the Sicilian Sea, from the Rhine to the Pruth and the Dniester, in the throw of the iron dice when we played for the crowns of kings and emperors, that the millions of German warriors who fought against one another and bled on the battle-fields from the Rhine to the Carpathians, that the thousands and ten thousands who were left dead on the battle-field and struck down by pestilence, who by their death have sealed the national decision,—that all this can be pigeon-holed by a resolution of Parliament? Gentlemen, in this case you really do not stand on the height of the situation.... I should like to see the gentlemen who consider this possibility answer an invalid from Königgrätz when he asks for the result of this mighty effort. You would say to him: 'Yes, indeed, for the German unity nothing is achieved, the occasion for that will probably come, that we can have easily, we can come to an understanding any day, but we have saved the Budget-right of the Chamber of Deputies, we have saved the right of the Prussian Parliament every year to put the existence of the Prussian army in question,' ... and therewith the invalid must console himself for the loss of his limbs and the widow as she buries her husband."

It is interesting to compare this speech with the similar speech he made after Olmütz: how great is the similarity in thought and expression, how changed is the position of the speaker! He had no sympathy with these doubts and hesitations; why so much distrust of one another? His Constitution might not be the best, it might not be perfect, but at least let it be completed. "Gentlemen," he said, "let us work quickly, let us put Germany in the saddle; it will soon learn to ride." He was annoyed and irritated by the opposition he met.

"If one has struggled hard for five years to achieve that which now lies before us, if one has spent one's time, the best years of one's life, and sacrificed one's health for it, if one remembers the trouble it has cost to decide quite a small paragraph, even a question of punctuation, with two and twenty Governments, if at last we have agreed on that as it here lies before us, then gentlemen who have experienced little of all these struggles, and know nothing of the official proceedings which have gone before, come forward in a manner which I can only compare to that of a man who throws a stone at my window without knowing where I stand. He knows not where he hits me, he knows not what business he impedes."

He compared himself with Hotspur when after the battle he met the courtier who came to demand his prisoners, and when wounded and tired from the fight had to hear a long lecture over instruments of slaughter and internal wounds.

The debates were continued for two months with much spirit and ability; again and again a majority of the Parliament voted amendments against which Bismarck had spoken. When they had completed the revision of the Constitution, these had again to be referred to the separate Governments. Forty were adopted; on two only Bismarck informed the Parliament that their proposals could not be accepted. One of these was the arrangements for the army Budget; so soon did a fresh conflict on this matter threaten. A compromise was agreed upon; in consideration of the immediate danger (it was just the time when a war with France regarding Luxemburg appeared imminent), the House voted the money required for the army for the next four years; in 1871 a new arrangement would have to be made, but for this time the Government was able to maintain the army at the strength which they wished for. The other matter was of less immediate importance: the majority of the House had voted that members of the Parliament should receive payment for their services. Bismarck had spoken strongly against this; now he made it a question of confidence, and warned them that the Governments would not accept it. The House had no alternative except to withdraw their vote.

The Constitution as finally agreed on exists to this day as that of the German Empire. Notwithstanding the evil forebodings made at the time, it has worked well for over thirty years.

From the moment that the new State had been created and the new Constitution adopted, a great change took place in Bismarck's public position. He was no longer merely the first and ablest servant of the Prussian King; he was no longer one in the distinguished series of Prussian Ministers. His position was—let us recognise it clearly—greater than that of the King and Emperor, for he was truly the Father of the State: it was his will which had created and his brain which had devised it; he watched over it with the affection of a father for his son; none quite understood it but himself; he alone could authoritatively expound the laws of the Constitution. A criticism of it was an attack upon himself; opposition to him was scarcely to be distinguished from treason to the State. Is it not inevitable that as years went on we should find an increasing intolerance of all rivals, who wished to alter what he had made, or to take his place as captain of his ship, and at the same time a most careful and strict regard for the loyal fulfilment of the law and spirit of the Constitution? From this time all other interests are laid aside, his whole life is absorbed in the prosperity of Germany.

Of course Germany did not at once settle down to political rest; there were many difficulties to be overcome on which we cannot enter here. The most serious arose from the regulation of the affairs in the conquered provinces, and especially in the Kingdom of Hanover. The annexation to Prussia was very unpopular among all classes except the tradesmen and middle classes of the towns. The Hanoverian deputies to both the Prussian Parliament and the Parliament of the North German Confederation on principle opposed all measures of the Government. The King himself, though in exile, kept up a close connection with his former subjects. There were long negotiations regarding his private property. At last it was agreed that this should be paid over to him. The King, however, used the money for organising a Legion to be used when the time came against Prussia; it was therefore necessary to cease paying him funds which could be used for this purpose. This is the origin of the notorious Welfenfond. The money was to be appropriated for secret service and especially for purposes of the Press. The party of the Guelphs, of course, maintained a bitter feud against the Government in their papers. Bismarck, who had had ample experience of this kind of warfare, met them on their own ground.

He defended this proposal by drawing attention to one of the weaknesses of Germany. What other country, he asked, was there where a defeated party would look forward to the help of foreign armies? "There are unfortunately," he said, "many Coriolani in Germany, only the Volsci are wanting; if they found their Volsci they would soon be unmasked." Everyone knew that the Volsci from over the Rhine would not be slow to come when the occasion offered.

"It was," he said, "a melancholy result of the centuries of disunion. There were traitors in the country; they did not hide themselves; they carried their heads erect; they found public defenders even in the walls of Parliament."

Then he continued:

"Everywhere where corruption is found there a form of life begins which no one can touch with clean kid gloves. In view of these facts you speak to me of espionage. In my nature I am not born to be a spy, but I believe we deserve your thanks if we condescend to follow malignant reptiles into their cave to observe their actions."

This is the origin of the expression "the reptile Press," for the name was given by the people not to those against whom the efforts of the Government were directed, but to the paid organs to which, if report is true, so large a portion of the Guelph fund was given.

But we must pass on to the events by which the work of 1866 was to be completed.