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Ludwig Bamberger on Hopes for Parliamentary Government under Kaiser Friedrich III (March 31, 1888)

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Why has the Reichstag had such a difficult time, and why has it failed to keep abreast with Kaiserdom? Precisely because what nourishes feeling does not benefit the Reichstag nearly as much as it does imperial rule. And yet, as little as one can sing the praises of its position, one thing has been accomplished nonetheless: the Reichstag gets most of the publicity and therefore has a much bigger share of the public’s ear than the individual state parliaments [Landtage], even those in the bigger states. What it lacks above all is the laurels of victories won. Imperial rule and the Reichstag emerged from the same origin and with the same legitimation from the victorious war of nations – nevertheless, it was still the hero in the camp and in arms, not the ruler in council and in the peace of laws, who was the victor. The former was left with the glory, whereas the people’s representation remained in the shadows of history. If the parliament of 1848 had survived, it could have developed (thanks to an emergence more wrested than granted) something of the natural strength of its particular ground on its own. However, the fact that it was incapable of standing its ground was precisely due to the victory from which it had resulted, a victory won too easily.

Instead of a natural but weak ground, it is a legitimate but therefore strong ground from which the people’s representation arose in 1871. Yet it was not born in the military camp. Casting off the consequences of its origins is not easy; it has become increasingly difficult as all of Europe has been turning more into a military camp.

Source: Ludwig Bamberger, Die Nation [The Nation], March 31, 1888, in Ludwig Bamberger, Gesammelte Schriften [Collected Writings], vol. 5. Berlin, 1897, pp. 189-95.

Original German text reprinted in Gerhard A. Ritter, Hg., Das Deutsche Kaiserreich 1871-1914. Ein historisches Lesebuch [The German Kaiserreich 1871-1914: A Historical Reader], 5th ed. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992, pp. 253-56.

Translation: Erwin Fink

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