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Wilhelm II's "Easter Message" (April 7, 1917)

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I am especially anxious to see the reorganization of the Prussian parliament and the liberation of all our domestic politics from this problem. On my orders, preparations for altering the suffrage for the House of Delegates were made at the beginning of the war. I now charge you to submit to me concrete proposals from the State Ministry, so this work, which is basic to the structure of domestic politics in Prussia, will quickly be carried out by legislation, once our warriors have returned. Given the colossal achievements of the whole people in this terrible war, I am convinced that there is no room any longer for the three-class franchise system in Prussia. Furthermore, the proposed bill is to provide for the direct and secret election of deputies.

No King of Prussia will fail to appreciate the merits and enduring significance of the House of Lords for the state. But the House of Lords will better be able to meet the colossal demands of the coming age if, to a broader and more equitable extent than before, it unifies in its midst leading men from the diverse sectors and vocations of the people, men who are distinguished by the respect of their fellow citizens.

In renewing important dimensions of our firmly established and hard-tested state apparatus, I am acting in the traditions of my great forebears as I demonstrate my confidence in a loyal, brave, disciplined, and highly developed people.

I charge you to publish this decree at once.

Supreme Headquarters, April 7, 1917

Wilhelm I. R.
von Bethmann Hollweg

Source: “Erlaß Kaiser Wilhelms II. an den Reichskanzler v. Bethmann Hollweg vom 7. April 1917” [“Decree by Kaiser Wilhelm II to Chancellor von Bethmann Hollweg of April 7, 1917”], in F. Purlitz, ed., Der europäische Krieg in aktenmäßiger Darstellung: Deutscher Geschichtskalendar [The European War in Documents: A German Historical Chronology], vol. 6, Leipzig, 1919, pp. 768ff.

Reprinted in Ernst Rudolf Huber, Dokumente zur deutschen Verfassungsgeschichte [Documents on German Constitutional History]. 2 volumes. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer Verlag, 1961, Vol. 2, pp. 467-68.

Translation: Jeffrey Verhey and Roger Chickering

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