« AnteriorContinuar »
sovereigns, and especially the King of Bavaria, did not wish to subordinate themselves to the King of Prussia. They desired that the King of Prussia as Emperor should merely be primus inter pares and that the fact that he was not Emperor of Germany should be expressed even in his title. He was merely to be German Emperor. Prince Bismarck has told us in his Memoirs that William the First objected to that title. He wrote:
His Majesty raised a fresh difficulty when we were fixing the form of the Imperial title, it being his wish to be called Emperor of Germany if Emperor it had to be. . . . In the final Conference of January 17, 1871, he declined the designation of German Emperor, and declared that he would be Emperor of Germany or no Emperor at all. . . . I urged that the title Emperor of Germany involved a sovereign claim to the non-Prussian dominions which the Princes were not inclined to allow; that it was suggested in the letter from the King of Bavaria that the exercise of the Presidential rights should be associated with the assumption of the title of German Emperor.'
The Sovereigns of the south, and especially the Bavarian King, feared that they might become mere cyphers under Prussia's leadership, that their independence would be lost, that their individuality would be entirely merged in the German Empire. They wished to have their position guaranteed not only by the Constitution but also by binding promises made by Prince Bismarck on behalf of Prussia. On November 27, 1870, Prince Bismarck wrote to King Ludwig of Bavaria with regard to the proposed creation of a German Empire:
The title German Emperor signifies that his rights have originated from the voluntary concession of the German Sovereigns and tribes. History teaches that the great princely houses of Germany never regarded the existence of an Emperor elected by them as derogatory to their high position in Europe.
In his reply, dated December 2, 1870, King Ludwig wrote to Prince Bismarck:
I hope, and hope with assurance, that Bavaria will in the future preserve her independent position, for it is surely consistent with a loyal unreserved Federal policy, and it will be safest to obviate a pernicious centralisation.
Prince Bismarck wrote in answer to the King:
Your Majesty rightly presumes that I expect no salvation from centralisation, that I perceive in that very maintenance of the rights which the Federal Constitution secures to individual members of the Federation the form of development best suited to the German spirit, and, at the same time, the surest guarantee against the dangers to which law and order might be exposed in the free movement of the political life of to-day. The hostile position taken up by the Republican party throughout Germany in regard to the re-establishment of the Imperial dignity, through the initiative of your Majesty and of the Federal princes, proves that it is conducive to promoting the Conservative and Monarchical interests.
The King of Bavaria's fears and doubts regarding the position of Prussia were not entirely dispelled by the wording of the Constitution and by Bismarck's assurances. Hence he wrote to the Imperial Chancellor on July 31, 1874, regarding the Federal principle, and in reply Bismarck wrote on August 10:
Apart from personal guarantees, your Majesty may securely reckon on those comprised in the very Constitution of the Empire. That Constitution rests on the federal basis accorded in the treaties of federation, and it cannot be violated without breach of treaty. Therein the Constitution of the Empire differs from every national Constitution. Your Majesty's rights form an indissoluble part of the Constitution of the Empire. They rest on the same secure basis of law as all the institutions of the Empire. Germany, in the institution of its Federal Council, and Bavaria, in its
dignified and intelligent representation on that Council, have a firm guarantee against any deterioration or exaggeration of efforts in the direction of unitarian aspirations. Your Majesty will be able to place the fullest confidence in the security of the treaty-guarded law of the Constitution, even when I no longer have the honour of serving the Empire as Chancellor.
Not only the King of Bavaria but other sovereigns also wished to assert their independence and to guard themselves against being dragged into a war against their will by the King of Prussia. They asserted their constitutional rights on suitable occasions. For instance on June 7, 1875, at the time when it was believed that Bismarck contemplated an attack upon France, von Mittnacht, the Würtemberg Prime Minister, wrote to Prince Bismarck:
Germany places the greatest confidence in the diplomatic representation of the Empire by the Emperor and in the direction of Germany's policy by your Serene Highness. At the same time it should be pointed out that for a declaration of war in the name of the Empire the consent of the Federal Council is required unless the Federal territory is threatened with an attack.
Bismarck essayed to define the position of the Emperor and that of the other sovereigns of Germany not only in the written Constitution and in confidential letters which he exchanged with the sovereigns and statesmen of the Southern States, but also in public speeches on the Constitution. For instance, in his speech in the Reichstag on April 9, 1871, he expressly stated that the sovereignty of the Empire was not in the hands of the Emperor, but in those of the Allied Governments. He said:
I believe that the Federal Council has a great future because for the first time an attempt has been made by its creation to concentrate power in a federal board which exercises the sovereignty of the whole Empire although it does not deprive the individual States of the benefits of
the Monarchical Power or of their ancient republican government. The sovereignty of the German Empire does not lie in the hands of the Emperor, but in those of the allied Governments as a whole. At the same time it is useful if the wisdom, or, if you like, the unwisdom, of twentyfive individual governments is brought into the deliberations of the Federal Council, for thus we obtain a variety of views which we have never had within the Government of any single State. Prussia is great, but she has been able to learn from the small and from the smallest States, and these have learned from us. .. My experience has taught me to believe that I have made considerable progress in my political education by participating in the deliberations of the Federal Council owing to the stimulating friction provided by twenty-five German Governments, and thus I have learned a great deal in addition. Therefore I would ask you Do not touch the Federal Council! I see in it a kind of Palladium of our future. I see in it a great guarantee for Germany's future.
The Chancellor laid particular stress upon the fact that the German Empire was created for defence, that the existence of article eleven, quoted in the beginning of this chapter, guaranteed Germany against a wanton war of aggression. In his speech delivered in the Reichstag on November 4, 1871, he stated:
A strong guarantee for the peacefulness of the new Empire lies in this, that the Emperor has renounced the unlimited right to declare war which he possessed in his former position as King of Prussia. In this renunciation lies a strong guarantee against a wanton war of aggression. The guaran
tee lies in this, that according to the constitution the Federal Council must consent to a war of aggression. By the right given to it by the Constitution the Federal Council cannot prevent mobilisation, but it can prevent a declaration of war. It cannot prevent preparation for war which the Emperor has recognised to be necessary, for the co-operation of the Federal Council is only required in the action of declaring war unless the war is purely a war of defence which has been forced upon Germany by an attack upon its territories.
In this respect the Federal Council may be compared to an enlarged Cabinet.
It is only fair to add that Bismarck did not disregard the possibility of Germany having to act on the aggressive. Hence he added:
As regards the theory of a war of aggression conducted by Germany for the purpose of defence which was mentioned by a previous speaker, I believe that the attack is often the most efficient form of defence. It has been a frequent occurrence, and it is very useful for a country, such as Germany, which is situated in the centre of Europe and which can be attacked from three or four directions. It may be necessary to follow the example set by Frederick the Great, who, before the Seven Years' War, did not wait until the net in which he was to be caught had been thrown over his head, but tore it to pieces. I believe that those are in error who imagine that the German Empire will quietly wait until a powerful opponent or mighty coalition consider the moment favourable for an attack. Only an unskilful diplomacy could act thus. In such a case it is the duty of the Government to select a moment for making war when the danger is smallest and when the struggle can be fought at the lowest cost to the nation and at the least danger, provided, of course, that war is really unavoidable. The nation can expect that in such a case the Government will take the initiative.
The fact that Bismarck disapproved of a war of aggression such as the present one may be clearly seen from numerous important statements of his, some of which I quoted in my book, The Foundations of Germany' (Smith, Elder & Co., 1916).
Naturally the professors of Constitutional Law who commented upon the Constitution expounded it in accordance with its plain meaning and with the teachings of Prince Bismarck. They taught, up to the outbreak of the present War, that the sovereignty of the country was not in the hands of the Emperor, but in those of the Allied States,