I am resolved to lend a hand in improving the situation of German workers within the limits that have been drawn on account of the need to keep German industry competitive on the world market and to thus secure the livelihood of workers. The decline of domestic enterprises due to the loss of foreign sales would not only cost entrepreneurs but also workers their livelihood. International competition is the root cause of the difficulties involved in improving our workers’ situation, and these difficulties can only be diminished, if not entirely overcome, through international agreement between those countries that share in the domination of the world market. Convinced that other governments are also inspired by the wish to subject these efforts to joint examination, an examination already undertaken by the workers of these countries in the course of international negotiations, I would like, as a start, for My diplomatic representatives in France, England, Belgium, and Switzerland to officially inquire as to whether those governments would be inclined to enter into negotiations with us for the purpose of an international agreement on the possibility of making concessions regarding the needs and wishes of workers that have come to light through the strikes of recent years. As soon as assent to My suggestion has been reached in principle, I commission you to invite the cabinets of all governments taking an equal interest in the workers’ question to a conference for the purpose of consultation on the relevant questions.
Wilhelm I. R. [King and Kaiser]
Source: Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Decree of February 4, 1890 to the Reich Chancellor. Reichs- und Staatsanzeiger [Reich and State Gazette], no. 34 (February 5, 1890).
Original German text reprinted in Ernst Rudolf Huber, ed., Dokumente zur Deutschen Verfassungsgeschichte [Documents on German Constitutional History], 3rd rev. ed., vol. 2, 1851-1900. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1986, pp. 510-11.
Translation: Erwin Fink