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Albrecht von Stosch to Count Alfred von Waldersee on Bismarck's Successor (January 30, 1890)

Bismarck's forced resignation as German chancellor on March 20, 1890, was preceded by furious machinations on the part of many éminences grises. In this letter of January 1890, Albrecht von Stosch (1818-1896), who served as Chief of the Admiralty from 1872 to 1883 until he was ousted by Bismarck, writes to another of Bismarck's leading rivals, Count Alfred von Waldersee (1832-1904), Chief of the General Staff since 1888. Stosch's opening remark – that the time has come to consider Bismarck's successor – is especially piquant. Stosch stood close to left-liberals who had hoped for a new era of reform under Kaiser Friedrich III before his premature death in 1888, and he had once allegedly topped the liberals' list to succeed Bismarck. Waldersee had nurtured close relations with Friedrich's son, now Kaiser Wilhelm II; he was in close contact with anti-Bismarckian frondeurs among the Conservatives; and he too was considered prime chancellor material – at least by those on the far Right. Stosch outlines what he believes is required of Bismarck's successor. Despite the uncertain support a new chancellor will receive from the young Wilhelm, Stosch recommends both continuity and a new beginning.

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Bismarck's succession must be reflected upon. Since [Franz von] Roggenbach has now told me about having discussed the matter with you once before – I cannot share any of his views, though – and since I quite agree, on the other hand, with the opinion of [Johannes] Miquel, who among us all is the one most familiar with the issues, allow me to be so bold as to convey to you my thinking on the subject, without expecting an answer or response.

1. The Chancellor's successor simply must move into the entirely undiminished position of power that Bismarck holds now, and a reduction in this power over the course of time cannot be contemplated.

2. The successor must be a soldier.

3. He must possess the Kaiser's trust so absolutely that everyone knows it.

4. In order to maintain the balance of Bismarck's political capital, upon succession, a declaration is required in the [Prussian] Landtag and the Reichstag stating the intention to stay the course that has been embarked upon.

In elaboration and substantiation of these four points allow me to make the following remarks:

Re. 1. The unity of the German princes must form the cornerstone of a unified Germany, and the German princes would much rather endure a powerful chancellor than a powerful Kaiser. Only if the German monarchs are united does the Reich government have power, particularly vis-à-vis the Reichstag and its more or less liberal tendencies. The Reichstag grants, by way of public opinion (it is the best and most heard voice in the country), the surest means for overcoming particularistic inclinations; however, if the Reich government wishes to remain independent of the Reichstag, it cannot just rely on parliament for the maintenance of its own [i.e., the Reich government's] position. All of the German princes – I think there are no exceptions – have yet to get over their loss of sovereignty. According to the wording of the constitution, they are only allies of the King of Prussia; at the same

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