People speculate that he is deeply dissatisfied and is planning something wicked. Hänel, [Heinrich] Rickert, [Franz von] Stauffenberg, and I go to the “Kaiserhof” and rack our brains, quite downcast over what he might be up to. Hänel, in particular, is afraid of some coup de tête* and his suspicions infect the others. The caucus meeting is set for the following morning (Friday).
On that morning (Friday) Richter already looks a lot tamer.
I ask him what his silence has meant: diplomacy or protest?
He replies: In all the excitement he had just wished to avoid any hasty or overwrought statement. Now, however, he already speaks much more moderately, and by general agreement we decide to reschedule the party meeting to next Wednesday evening (the evening before the second reading in the Reichstag plenary session). By that time, he also promises me to show his cards in front of all our members, thereby indicating how he will behave in the parliamentary party meeting. The whole matter seems to have de-escalated. –
On Monday, May 5th, we – that is, Richter, Stauffenberg, Rickert, [Adolf] Hoffmann, and [Karl] Baumbach – get together again for consultations, and now Richter coolly gets out a piece of paper with probability calculations about how many votes our parliamentary party would have to provide for the bill to pass. He thinks that 25 are needed, and he now explains with the most innocent candor that, because some deputies wish to abstain from the vote, it would be much better if they simply voted in favor. In a word, there was now no one else promoting passage of the bill as eagerly as Richter, and just to be on the safe side he takes precautions that a number of those who intended to (or had to) vote against the bill would be sent away and all aye-voters sent for. Such a naïve reversal – from the comedy of indignation to effort in the opposite direction – has probably never been witnessed before. Stauffenberg and I just stared at each other as if under a spell.
Finally, Richter had [Hugo] Hermes convince quite a few faithful followers, who wanted to come, to stay home instead, and he even arranged, once again, to send away the stout [Louis] Schwarz from Württemberg, even though he was already in the building – buffoonery without parallel. This shows how useful the merger was. Had we remained separate, we would have had to pay the price and he would have hummed a triumphal song at the head of his party about the poor sinners who had saved him from the embarrassment of a parliamentary dissolution. But one needs such antibodies to resist Bismarckian policy. –
As we made our way home, Stauffenberg repeated over and over again: “That was a spectacle worth writing down.”
* Here, a hot-headed outburst or ill-considered gambit – ed.
Source: Bismarcks großes Spiel. Die geheimen Tagebücher Ludwig Bambergers [Bismarck's Great Game: The Secret Diaries of Ludwig Bamberger]. Frankfurt am Main, 1932, pp. 290-94.
Original German text reprinted in Gerhard A. Ritter, ed., Das Deutsche Kaiserreich 1871-1914. Ein historisches Lesebuch [The German Kaiserreich 1871-1914: A Historical Reader], 5th ed. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992, pp. 112-14.
Translation: Erwin Fink