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Bismarck on "Pragmatic" Colonization (June 26, 1884)

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I think, too, that a colony of this kind should possess a representative of imperial authority with the title of consul or resident, whose duty it would be to receive complaints; while the disputes which might arise out of these commercial enterprises would be decided by one of our maritime or mercantile courts at Bremen, Hamburg, or somewhere else.

Our intention is not to establish provinces but rather to protect commercial enterprises. We will, however, use the most advanced methods to ensure their free development and to protect them against attacks from their immediate neighbors and from oppression and damage wrought by other European powers. This even includes those enterprises that acquire sovereignty, a commercial sovereignty that ultimately means that the enterprise remains in a dependent relationship with the German Empire and stays under its patronage. Apart from this, we also hope that the tree will thrive overall through the activities of the gardeners who planted it. And if it fails to do so, then the plant is a failure, but the damage will have less of an impact on the Empire – since the costs we demand are not significant – than on the entrepreneurs who have adopted the wrong approach for their projects. Herein lies the difference: In the system that I called the French one, the national government always wants to assess whether each enterprise is appropriate and warrants the prospect of success; in our system, on the other hand, we leave the choice to trade interests, to the private person, and if we see that the tree puts down roots, grows, and thrives, and then calls on the Empire for protection, we will stand by it, and I fail to see how we can lawfully deny it that assistance.

Source of English translation (with slight editorial amendments): William Harbutt Dawson, Bismarck and State Socialism: An Exposition of the Social and Economic Legislation of Germany since 1870. London: S. Sonnenschein & Co., 1891, pp. 149-51; reprinted in Theodore S. Hamerow, ed., The Age of Bismarck: Documents and Interpretations. New York: Harper & Row, 1973, pp. 305-07. [Please note: the final paragraph was omitted from Hamerow’s anthology. It was translated by Erwin Fink for German History in Documents and Images.]

Original German text reprinted in Otto von Bismarck, Werke in Auswahl. Jahrhundertausgabe zum 23. September 1862 [Selected Works. Centennial Edition for September 23, 1862], Gustav Adolf Rein et al., eds., 8 vols, vol. 7, Reichsgestaltung und Europäische Friedenswahrung [Formation of the Reich and Keeping Peace in Europe], Part 3, 1883-1890, ed. Alfred Milatz. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2001, pp. 162-80, here pp. 167, 169-70.

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