The crisis of the Prussian Constitution

1862-03-14 - Otto Von Bismarck


After the election of last fall we could hope that the ministry, supported by the progressive consciousness of the people, would adopt a more emphatic policy in keeping with the needs of our fatherland, a policy of maintaining our place of honor among the nations of Europe. We can no longer hope this. It is all the more necessary for parliament to assert the constitutional rights of the people independently and resolutely, regardless of the desires of the leading statesmen. The House of Representatives can achieve little in legislation and administration at the moment. Its influence on these areas is slight. Its effort to influence is regarded with jealousy and mistrust. But it has decisive power in its control over the finances of the country. Here it has the inescapable duty to exercise this control to the best of its ability, not to allow it to become an empty form but to employ it in such a way as to accomplish other reform.

The government still expects to see its will alone decide, still behaves according to the absolutist formula of refusing to make any concession to parliament, recognizing no limitation on its judgment, demanding always that the other side yield...

We could not delay in this matter. For one thing, the government's bill on budget control threatened to render permanent our inadequate control over the grant of funds. For another, we could no longer delay a final determination on the army budget without making permanent the excessive military expenditures and three-year term of service, which hinder all improvement in any other area. We believe that the general obligation to military service and the complete development of the people's capacity to defend itself can only be achieved if, in addition to other savings, we lighten the burden on both money and manpower by reducing the term of service in the infantry to two years.... The constitution is not worth much if it only serves to procure money and soldiers in greater quantity than was ever possible without it in the past. We believe that those who bring the Crown and the people into conflict do a disservice to both. We believe that the true interests of both parties in Prussia coincide completely, and that one does not oppose the monarchy when one feels compelled to reject one of its government's demand

...The ministers have appealed to the populace to elect new representatives to express its opinion. We hope for an unambiguous expression of the same.... There's only one issue, not to abandon the constitutional rights without which representatives cannot fulfill the duties of their mandate. We are convinced that the government pursues a course that is neither beneficial nor in touch with the views and will of the people when it burdens the economic forces of the country with excessive new military expenditures, when it prevents the free development of intellectual and material interests that could strengthen the nation, and especially when it fails to offer any popular and national policy that might compensate for such excessive burdens with successes.

We hope that the Prussian people will display that prudence and persistence which are the foremost political virtues and guarantee victory in this conflict, which not only jeopardizes our hopes for rapid and secure progress, but also the constitutional rights already won.

Confident in the future, we hope to see emerge from this election a majority of men who dutifully defend the rights of the people, men who, in these days of decision, preserve undiminished that constitutional foundation without which the banner of progress combined with legal order cannot be unfurled. A defeat for this foundation would be a disaster for Prussia and all Germany. Remember the loud agreement which we secured in the last elections from all portions of the German fatherland, which also support the measures of the legislature today. Eyes everywhere are eagerly watching for the result. The enemies of Prussia hope for a paralyzing continuation of the dispute. The German people, however, which may well be divided from the Prussian government but never again from the Prussian people, knows that Prussia's future lies in the development of liberty, and that this must be secured in Prussia for all of Germany. The current of public opinion favors this development, and the Prussian people has an opportunity to accomplish something for the progress of Europe. The greatness of this cause demands that every friend of the fatherland do whatever he can to promote success, so that a disastrous retreat can be prevented, so that the old cry of victory can soon ring out again—an energetic Charge!



Enviado por Enrique Ibañes