To Philipp zu Eulenburg
Berlin, March 12, 1881
[ . . . ]
The Chancellor [Bismarck] is a despot;
but he has the right to be one, indeed, he must be one. If he were not a despot, if he were an ideal parliamentarian who allowed his course to be determined by the dumbest thing there is, by parliamentary majorities, then we wouldn’t even have a chancellor yet, and least of all a German Reich. On the other hand, it is certainly true that only dependent characters or figures of the second and third rank can serve under such a despot, and that any free man would be well advised to resign in good time. In doing so, the free man does what is right for him; but the Chancellor also does what is right for him in not allowing himself to be swayed in his actions or inaction.
[ . . . ]
Source: Theodor Fontane to Philipp zu Eulenburg, March 12, 1881.
Original German text reprinted in Theodor Fontane, Werke, Schriften und Briefe [Works, Writings, and Letters], edited by Walter Keitel and Helmuth Nürnberger. Twenty-one volumes in four sections. Section IV, Briefe [Letters], vol. 3, 1879-1889 © 1980 Carl Hanser Verlag: Munich, p. 125.
Translation: Erwin Fink