The more honestly the royal government desires peace, the more its members feel obliged to refrain from any discussion of past criticisms…. Remember the lesson from foreign affairs, that peace can hardly ever be concluded if one demands as a precondition that one of the parties confess: â€œNow I see that I acted unjustly.â€ We desire peace, not because we are incapable of carrying on this domestic struggle; on the contrary, the tide is now flowing in our direction more than it did some years ago. Nor do we desire peace in order to evade possible future criminal prosecution; I do not believe that we will be indicted, and even if that happened, I do not believe that we would be convicted, and in any case, many reproaches have been made against this ministry, but never the reproach of fearfulness!
We desire peace because in our opinion the fatherland needs it at the present moment more than it did before. We desire it and seek it also because we believe that we can now attain it; we would have sought it earlier, if we could have hoped earlier to find it. Now we believe that we can find it because you have perceived that the royal government stand closer to the goals that a majority of you also support than you thought a few years ago, stands closer than you had reason to believe because of the silence of the government about many things that had to be kept quiet.
For this reason we believe that we can find peace and seek it honestly; we have extended the hand to you, and the committee’s proposal [i.e., the Indemnity Bill] gives us the guarantee that you will grasp that hand. We will then approach all problems that remain to be solved together with you in partnership; I do not by any means exclude from these problems improvements in our domestic affairs, in line with the promises made in our constitution.
(Lively Bravo from all sides.)
Only together can we solve them, as we both seek with good will to serve the same fatherland, without casting doubt on the honesty of the other.
But in this moment the problems of foreign policy are not yet solved; the dazzling successes of the army have in a sense raised the stakes of the game, we have more to lose than before, but the game is by no means won as yet; the more firmly we hold together at home, the more certain we are to win it. If you study conditions abroad, if you study the Vienna newspapers, especially those which are commonly thought to represent the views of the imperial government, you will find the same expressions of hatred and anger toward Prussia that could be found before the war and contributed not a little to making that war a necessity for the imperial government, which it could not have avoided even if it had wanted to. If you study the behavior of the peoples of southern Germany, as they are represented in the armies, you will find that a spirit of reconciliation and acknowledgment of shared tasks for all Germany is certainly not present as long as Bavarian troops on railroad cars treacherously fire on Prussian officers. If you examine the attitude of the various foreign governments toward the institutions that must be established [for the new North German Confederation], it is satisfactory with some and hostile with others, but you will certainly find hardly any power in Europe that offers benevolent support for the construction of this new common life for Germany…. Therefore, gentlemen, our task is not yet accomplished, and it demands unity from the whole country in word and deed.
Even though it has often been said, â€œWhat the sword has won, the pen has lost,â€ I have complete confidence that we will never hear it said, What the sword and pen have won, has been destroyed by this rostrum!