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German Crown Princess Victoria Criticizes Bismarck’s Personal Regime as Dictatorial (1887-89)

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What a blessed thing it would be if this regime of Bismarck’s omnipotence were not to last forever, if other motives and sentiments and another spirit were to pervade the German government. B. is very great, a man of genius and power, does his best and has done great things for his country. One must be just and grateful, but as you cannot gather grapes of thorns or figs from thistles, so can you not expect from him that which modern Germany lacks and which it thirsts for, and that is peace among its classes, races, religions and parties, good and friendly relations with its neighbors, liberty and the respect of right instead of force, and the protection of the weak against the oppression of the strong.

[ . . . ]

Prince Bismarck’s dodge is always to make the Germans think they are going to be attacked, wronged, insulted, and their interests betrayed if he were not there to protect them. There are many who are silly and ignorant and shortsighted enough to believe all this trash, and who would sacrifice their rights and liberties and their prosperity if only Prince Bismarck would stay and protect them!!! From what? Against what? I really do not think they know!!

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Some think when Bismarck is no more that all this party will be scattered to the winds; for as he has no principles he cannot build up. The party have a leader, but no program. They will follow him everywhere and are in constant admiration, but with no firm institutions and principles a party cannot hold together when the leader is gone. Still the mischief will not be over when he disappears, as he has thoroughly corrupted all moral sense in the young men who will come after him. Where is the hand and the mind to take up Bismarck’s position and work on the lines of honesty and moderate rational progress for the development of true freedom? I see none.

Source: Frederick Ponsonby, ed., Letters of the Empress Frederick. New York: Macmillan, 1930, pp. 220, 246-47, 272, 332-33, 368.

Original English text reprinted in Theodore S. Hamerow, ed., The Age of Bismarck: Documents and Interpretations. New York: Harper & Row, 1973, pp. 156-58.

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