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Max von Forckenbeck to Franz von Stauffenberg on the Need for National Liberal Opposition (January 19, 1879)

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Signatures ought to be collected in support of this program, as in the case of the Declaration by the 224,* at the same time, preparations are being made for the meeting of the Economics Society that Bamberger has just reported on. Lasker is supposed to be kept out of it. What has been disclosed is that he is firmly committed to taking the floor in the Reichstag in defense of free trade and is already working on his speech.

Although [Rudolf von] Bennigsen and [Johannes] Miquel ought to be notified and consulted, proceeding by ourselves and without them was also considered as a possible avenue.

I do not know what has become of the matter. The odd reference in the National-Zeitung leads me to surmise that the negotiations continue and that an agreement with Bennigsen has been reached.**

There is, admittedly, a very reactionary current in the country, but signs of resistance are growing. Under no circumstance will I swim with this reactionary tide; I would rather perish, as you write. I have not the slightest desire to serve as [Reichstag] President in the midst of such developments. I believe that the time has come for firm and clear opposition, alongside many or few – as long as they are like-minded people. [ . . . ]

The Kaiser and Crown Prince treated me very graciously on the occasion of my arrival and reception [on assuming his duties as mayor]. During the City Council reception, the Kaiser even expressed his wish that I stay on as President of the Reichstag. (But this is confidential). My position as Lord Mayor of Berlin is truly beset with many difficulties, but that will not be the decisive consideration.

By the way, in Berlin a lively opposition sentiment predominates in all circles; at the same time, it is connected with a great fondness for the Kaiser, who once again appears to be very sprightly and rides around in his open carriage – as if nothing had happened.***

* This figure should probably be 204 or fewer – trans.
** Bismarck had offered the National Liberal Party leader a cabinet post in order to secure his party's support, but Bennigsen rejected the offer – ed.
*** Forckenbeck’s reference here is to the two assassination attempts on Kaiser Wilhelm I’s life in May and June 1878 – ed.

Source: From the private papers of Franz von Stauffenberg.

Original German text reprinted in Julius Heyderhoff and Paul Wentzcke, eds, Deutscher Liberalismus im Zeitalter Bismarcks. Eine politische Briefsammlung [German Liberalism in Bismarck's Era: A Collection of Political Letters], 2 vols., vol. 2, Im Neuen Reich 1871-1890. Politische Briefe aus dem Nachlaß liberaler Parteiführer [In the New Reich 1871-1890. Political Letters from the Private Papers of Liberal Party Leaders], ed. Paul Wentzke. Bonn, Leipzig: Kurt Schroeder Verlag, 1926, pp. 230-31.

Translation: Erwin Fink

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