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Bernhard von Bülow Dissolves the Reichstag over the Colonial Issue (December 13, 1906)

Bernhard von Bülow (1849-1929) had governed Germany since 1900 with a coalition of conservatives, liberals, and Catholics. The Catholic Center Party, however, came to oppose the colonial policies that he and Kaiser Wilhelm pursued. Therefore, Bülow dissolved the Reichstag in 1906 and called new elections. The result was a coalition that briefly held a majority without the Catholics.

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Gentlemen, at this late stage in the debate, I consider it my duty to point out, once again, the great responsibility that you assume with the current resolutions. The question is not whether a few million Marks more or fewer should be approved for our colonies. As the representative of the General Staff has persuasively argued, it is a question of whether we want to defend our colonies at all. As I might add as the executive director of imperial affairs, it is a question of whether we want to jeopardize our reputation abroad, our military honor (loud protests from the Social Democrats, a spirited “Bravo” from the right) – let me repeat, despite your objections: as I might add as the executive director of imperial affairs, it is a question of whether we want to jeopardize our military honor, our position in the world, our reputation, in order to save a relatively small sum of money at the end of a campaign that has us cost hundreds of millions (“Bravo!” from the right, protests from the Social Democrats). Do we want to risk the fruits of the gallant efforts we have been making for some years in a moment of weakness (disquiet among the Social Democrats). Will the sacrifices for our colonies, the great price we have paid in property and blood, will this be sufficient to bring victory to the colonies and the Fatherland, or will these sacrifices have been made in vain?

A government mustn’t let parties and parliament dictate the number of troops it needs for military operations (protests from the left, “So true!” from the right). Gentlemen, where would it lead us if we grew accustomed to allowing party resolutions or party interests to dictate military measures in wartime – military measures whose proper execution is crucial for the life and health of our troops, for our military honor, and, in certain cases, even for the well-being and future of our entire country! (A loud “Bravo” from the right.)

Gentlemen, our soldiers are on the front lines, Germans who have fought, made an enormous effort, and are about to defeat the last resistance, the last remnants of the enemy – would you have them retreat now because of our cowardice, because a cowardly government wants to abandon them and disregard their valor for fear of parliamentary or party interests? (A loud “Bravo” from the right.)

Gentlemen, think of the colonial wars other nations have fought without batting an eyelash, the English, the French, the Dutch. Should the German people not stand as tall as the others? Should they be more humble? It is this question to which the allied governments demand an answer, a clear and unequivocal answer (“So true!” from the right).

We may feel regret, Gentlemen, that a revolt has broken out that has cost us so many lives and such large amounts of money. We may feel regret about this, but we cannot go back. We must see this matter through!

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