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Kaiser Wilhelm I’s Royal Proclamation on Social Policy
(November 17, 1881)

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As a first step along these lines, the draft bill submitted by the allied governments during the last session on insuring workers against industrial accidents will be revised with a view to the debate that took place in the Reichstag on this same bill, in order to pave the way for still more debate on this proposal. As a supplement, another bill will be added; the additional bill will aim to give consistent organization to the commercial health insurance system. [It should not be forgotten], however, that all those persons who have become unfit for gainful employment through age or disability also have a legitimate claim to a greater degree of state welfare than they have received thus far.

Finding the proper ways and means to ensure this level of welfare is difficult, but it is also one of the highest tasks of any community that rests upon the moral foundations of a Christian national life. Closer connection to the real forces of this national life and the combination of those forces in the form of corporate cooperatives under state protection and state support will, as We hope, allow us to successfully accomplish even those tasks that are beyond the reach of state authority alone. But reaching the goal, even in this way, will still be impossible without the investment of substantial funds.

[ . . . ]

Documented by Our own hand and affixed with an Imperial Seal.

Given in Berlin on November 17, 1881
L.S. [instead of a seal] Wilhelm
von Bismarck

Then, the Chancellor, Prince Bismarck, announced the opening of the Reichstag with the following words: “In the name of the allied governments, I declare, on the order of His Majesty the Emperor, the Reichstag open.”

After this, the royal Bavarian plenipotentiary to the Federal Council, the extraordinary envoy Count von Lerchenfeld-Koefering, gave a Hail! to His Majesty the Emperor, and the assembly joined him enthusiastically.

Source: Stenographische Berichte über die Verhandlungen des Reichstags [Stenographic Reports on the Proceedings of the Reichstag], 5th Legislative Period, First Session 1881/82. Opening Session, November 17, 1881. Berlin: Printing Office of the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, 1882, pp. 1-3.

Translation: Erwin Fink

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