[ . . . ] I completely agree with your assessment of the situation.
The Bismarck System is developing terribly quickly in exactly the way I always feared. Universal compulsory military service, unreasonable and exorbitant indirect taxes, a disciplined and humiliated Reichstag, and public opinion that is corrupted by the battle of all material interests and thus helpless – that indeed constitutes the politics of powerlessness of the peoples, the destruction of any constitutionally liberal development, and at the same time a dreadful danger for the entire Reich and the young [imperial institution of] Kaiserdom.
Now then, is the National Liberal Party with its current politics, its current program, and its current composition a suitable instrument to counter such dangers? Are we not being led deeper into the quagmire step by step? Is pure opposition not becoming a duty?
These questions have tormented me continuously amidst the pressure of difficult business. On the morning of the second Christmas holiday [26 December], [Eduard] Lasker paid me a visit. His first words revealed that the very same questions were upsetting him terribly. We arranged to meet on New Year’s Eve. Attending this meeting were Benda, [Heinrich] Rickert, [Ludwig] Bamberger, Lasker, and me. [Karl] Braun had been invited but did not show up. The draft legislation about the Reichstag’s mandate to discipline its own members was not yet known in detail. We agreed that Lasker should draft a short program.
a.) Resistance to the arbitrary domestic policies of Bismarck that rush everything and force everything
into a state of confusion.
b.) Only the requirements of the Reich can determine the extent to which indirect taxes will be increased,
therefore [they can be raised] only to the level necessary to make up for the matricular contributions
c.) No import duties can be imposed on essential commodities, grain, and livestock. For this reason
and in general, [there is] opposition to the letter dated 15 December.
* Contributions to the Reich budget by the individual German states derived from their own tax revenues – trans.