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Austrian Memorandum (1863)

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These truths, as lamentable as they are, would be twice as dangerous if one were to close one's eyes to them or subject oneself to them like an irrevocable fate without undertaking a resolute attempt at remedying them. Wise governments will certainly not voluntarily choose a moment of danger and crisis to rattle the remnants of a legal order that, while having become wobbly, has not yet been replaced by new and more perfect creations. But it must almost sound like irony if one should want to apply this intrinsically correct sentence to the status quo of German confederal relations. The ground of the confederal agreements is tottering underneath the feet of those who have placed themselves on it, the structure of the constitutional order reveals fissures and crevices everywhere, and merely wishing that the rotten walls might withstand the next storm can never give them back the necessary solidity. Neither Austria, nor Prussia, nor the other German states can rely with any degree of confidence on the Confederation in its current condition. The more clearly they recognize this, the less they may have any doubt about the complete legitimacy of the longing for a reform through which the confederal principle would be filled with vitality. Just take an impartial look at the voices that are raising this call nowadays! They no longer ring out only from the camp of the destructive parties; there, to the contrary, every hope for a legal reform of the German confederal constitution is scorned and ridiculed; for radicalism knows its harvest ripens in a field in which no healthy crop has been planted. Today it is the German governments themselves that see their salvation in the reorganization of the Confederation. In the [parliamentary] chambers it is the moderate parties that are impatiently pushing toward this goal because they feel that the longer reform is delayed, the greater the chance that even more far-reaching demands will be ventured and find support in the spirit of the people. It is the drive toward self-preservation that is showing the governments and the chambers the way. – But Austria and Prussia should comply with such a just desire not only for the sake of their German allies; rather, it is in their own interest to remember that they owe it to themselves and the world not to shy away from the greatest effort and sacrifice in order to maintain the Confederation, which forms Europe's center, in viable condition.

As far as Austria is concerned, it has completely made up its mind on this point. With firm resolve, even with that extreme caution that corresponds with its principles and traditions, the imperial [Habsburg] government has approached the question of the development of the confederal constitution and especially the difficult task of organizing the legislative power of the Confederation. It has proposed taking the momentous step of appealing to the representative bodies of the individual states to participate in confederal affairs, initially just in the form of a provisional measure, an experiment that will have to stand the test of experience. Only the rejection of its motion at an ad hoc assembly of delegates compelled it to promise that it would participate even more decisively in an organic reform. Since then, Austria's word has been pledged on behalf of a serious effort toward this goal, and the Emperor feels pressured to fulfill this promise. The Emperor has bestowed modern institutions on his own empire. He recognizes fully that the German nation as a whole also justly expects a reform of its political constitution, and He regards it as His duty as a prince of the Confederation to explain openly to His fellow princes what He regards as possible in this respect and what He is prepared to grant of His own accord.

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