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Karl Biedermann to Eduard Lasker, Agonizing over Liberalism’s Stance on Exceptional Laws (June 12, 1872)

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I am also of the opinion, however, that once the Reich Government and the Federal Council have taken the initiative for direct action against the Jesuits (I would have deemed other disciplinary measures more appropriate and effective), the Reichstag would damage their authority and provide adversaries with the desired encouragement by simply rejecting the bill. Therefore, I believe the Reichstag ought to recast the law by means of an amendment that would of course have to change its entire purport; this change of direction would purge the spiteful and, indeed, violent elements (as an emergency law of the worst kind) and nevertheless render the purpose itself – a blow to the Jesuits – acceptable in different ways. (For instance, I am thinking about an amendment to § 128 of the Penal Code that could threaten the membership of a secret society headed by foreign leaders with the loss of civic rights [§ 32 ff.], in addition to the already stipulated imprisonment, along with being put under police surveillance [§ 38]. This would mean forfeiting the right to vote and eligibility for public office, etc.!) One can only hope that such an idea will take hold in our parliamentary caucus, which more than any other has both the power and the duty to act in this regard (and, if anyone, you would be able to convince others of this), in which case I would like to attend the discussions in the caucus about the draft legislation (no matter how much I am detained here, partly because of business matters, partly due to a family emergency that has not quite been resolved). If such discussions were not scheduled and things came down to a simple yes or no, I would have to ask myself whether I should come to Berlin at all for a roll-call in which I would only cast a nay vote anyway.

[ . . . ]

The entire matter has taken hold of me in such a way that I feel quite uncomfortable. Rarely have I sensed so clearly that something ought not to happen and that it will happen nonetheless.

Source: Private papers of Eduard Lasker

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 Wentzcke. Bonn, Leipzig: Kurt Schroeder Verlag, 1926, pp. 53-54.

Translation: Erwin Fink

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