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Bismarck Tells the British Ambassador that Germany has Achieved its Legitimate Objectives (February 11, 1873)

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He had had trouble & vexation enough to combat the Emperors desire to annex the German Provinces of Austria, the population of which certainly desired to form part of the great German Family, but that desire he would oppose so long as he was in power, because he preferred the Alliance and friendship of Austria to the annexation of Provinces that would add nothing to the strength and security of Germany and the loss of which would lessen the value of Austria as an ally. –

The Swiss, for instance, were a German speaking nation, but Switzerland was of greater value as an independent friendly neighbor to Germany than as a province of the German Empire. –

After the Danish War the Emperor had not spoken to him for a week so displeased was His Majesty with him for not having annexed a larger portion of Denmark. – In his opinion Germany had too many Danish speaking subjects and he would willingly pay out of his own pocket to rid Germany of them, but public opinion would not yet allow a German minister to give up any portion of territory so recently acquired. In like manner he held that Germany had too many Polish subjects, but how to deal with them was a question which must depend on the success of the measures now under discussion for the neutralization of the antinational Roman Catholic Element in the new Empire. It was now evident that the strength of Germany was in the Protestant North, – her weakness in the Catholic South.

Prince Bismarck paused and puffed away the smoke from his long meerschaum pipe for some time in silence, and then he added in measured terms: “Our honour may compel us to deal differently with the South of Germany than we originally wished or intended.” –He then rang his bell, called for a bottle of Beer and another Pipe and went on [ . . . ] to repeat his grievance against his Imperial Master for resisting the introduction of a system of administration under a responsible Premier as in England which he (Prince Bismarck) considered the best method of developing the political education of the Germans and teaching them the art of Self government. – If however, he should have the misfortune of outliving the Emperor William he foresaw no difficulty in persuading the Crown Prince to follow the good example of England, which His Imperial Highness understood and appreciated as the best for Germany.

[ . . . ]

Sincerely yours,
Odo Russell

Source: British Ambassador to Germany, Lord Odo Russell, Berlin, to British Foreign Secretary Lord Granville, London, February 11, 1873, in Paul Knaplund, ed., Letters from the Berlin Embassy, 1871-1874, 1880-1885. Washington, D.C.: USGPO, 1944, pp. 87-89.

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