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Reply of the King to Address of the Municipality of Berlin—Royal Speech at & is of the Chambers—Unsatisfactory Speech of the President of the Council— Address of the Chamber of Deputies—The King refuses to receive the Deputation from the Chamber—His Reply–His Answer to the Upper House—Convention between Prussia and Russia as to Polish Refugees—Unseemly collision between the President of the Council and the President of the Chamber–Message from the King on the subject–His Answer to the Address in reply—The Chambers closed by the King—His Speech read to the House–Ordinance against the Press—Remonstrances of the Crown Prince—Dissolution of the Chambers—Question of the Schleswig-Holstein Succession—Address of the Chamber of Deputies—Speech of M. Von Bismark—Refusal by the Chamber to grant a Loan.
IN his reply to the New Year's Address of the municipality of Berlin the King said:— “The present position of affairs in Prussia, which has been styled a conflict, has arisen from the confusion prevailing in the public mind. “I intend to maintain and protect the Constitution. I am compelled to carry out by every means within the limits of the Constitution that which I consider essential to the welfare of the country, without regarding the fact of my being at present misunderstood.” The Session of the Chambers was opened on the 14th of January, but the King was not present. The royal Speech was read by the President of the Council, M. Von Bismark Schönhausen, and the following were the most important passages:— “The Government of His Majesty greets you with the lively wish that in this Session a durable understanding may be attained with respect to those questions which last year remained unsolved. This object will be arrived at if our Constitution be firmly adhered to as the basis for the correct apprehension of the position of the representatives of the country, and if the legislative powers, with mutual consideration of each other's constitutional rights, take their common task to be the promotion of the power and welfare of the Fatherland. “The establishment of the Budget is prominent among the objects that will occupy you. “The state of the finances is thoroughly satisfactory. “Last year's receipts were so good that in most branches of the administration they considerably exceeded the estimates, and will afford means completely to cover the expenditure, including all extraordinary demands. The deficit shown by the estimates for 1862 will, therefore, as was anticipated at the time of their discussion, in reality not exist. “In the absence of a legally-fixed Budget for 1862, the Government has especially aimed at conducting the administration with economy; it nevertheless has not neglected to make all such expenditure as was necessary for the regular carrying on of the administration of the country, for the maintenance and advancement of existing State institutions, and for the welfare of the land. As soon as accounts have been finally balanced, Government will present a proposition concerning the receipts and expenditure of the past year, and move for the retrospective approbation of both Houses of Parliament for the expenses incurred. “The Budget for the year 1863 will again be laid before you. The dispositions of the same have been further corrected by the experiences since obtained, and in certain items rectifications have been made corresponding to circumstances. It has thus been found possible to diminish the deficit shown by the previous draft. Considering the results of the past year, and the circumspection with which the revenue is estimated, the hope appears well-grounded that this deficit, like those of previous years, will be fully covered by excess of income. . . . . . “In pursuance of the identical notes addressed to the Royal Cabinet in the month of February, 1861, by a number of German Federal Governments, motions have been made by the same Governments in the Diet, the which, less by their substance than by the interpretation of the Federal compact they involve, have acquired an important significance for the position of Prussia relatively to the Federal Diet. The Government is also, for its part, fully persuaded that the Federal treaties no longer correspond, in the form in which they were concluded in 1815, with the altered circumstances of the times. Above all, however, it is aware of the duty of a conscientious observance of existing treaties, and resolved to exact complete reciprocity in the fulfilment of that duty as the first condition of the maintenance of such treaties.” In the course of the debate on the Address in the Chamber of Deputies, M. Bismark, the President of the Council, made a †. which caused intense dissatisfaction amongst the members. e said:— “Your decisions alone are to regulate the Budget as regards its total amount and its details; if you are to have the right to demand of the King the dismissal of Ministers who do not enjoy your confidence; if, by your decisions with regard to the expenditure, you are to have the right to do away with the army organization; if you had the right (as you constitutionally have it not, although claiming it in this Address) to control the relations between the executive power and its functionaries; if you had all these rights, you would be de facto in possession of the
complete power of Government in this country. On the basis of these demands this Address reposes. By it the Royal House of Hohenzollern is required to abdicate its constitutional rights of Government in favour of the majority of this House.” The Chamber met this assertion by a storm of contradiction, and the President rang his bell. M. Von Bismark persisted in his assertion. “It is the same thing,” he said, “in another form. You declare the Constitution violated so soon as the Crown and the Upper House do not do your will. You address the reproach of such violation to the Ministry, and not to the Crown, whose fidelity to the Constitution you, on the contrary, place beyond all doubt. But you know, as well as any one in Prussia, that the Ministry acts in the name and according to the commands of His Majesty. The Prussian Ministry is in this respect quite different from the English. The latter, call it what you will, is only the Ministry of the Parliament; but we are the Ministers of the King. It is not in order to make a shield for ourselves that I reject the severance of Crown and Ministry. We need no such shield; we stand firm in the consciousness of our good right. I reject the distinction you would make, because by it the fact is concealed that it is now a question of an Address against the Crown, and not only against the Ministry.” M. Bismark proceeded to say that theoretically it was undeniable that the Chamber had the right to o: the whole Budget, and thereby to bring about the dismissal of all functionaries, the abandonment of the army reorganization, and many other things besides. . But such a theory was incompatible with practice; practically, the like had not yet happened. After the last dissolution of the Chamber, Government had made great concessions. These were met by unreasonable demands. The Chamber came to a resolution which was an abuse of its right:— “You asked of His Majesty the disbanding of about one-third of the cavalry, and about half the infantry; in its totality your resolution was inexecutable, because it had a retrospective action. By this, I may well say, radical resolution, you first got into the cul de sac out of which you now seek an exit you will have great difficulty in finding. The Government came to your assistance by offering to accept the Wincke amendment. Instead of availing yourselves of the bridge thus laid down for you, you replied by a resolution which destroyed all hope of an understanding. We closed the session in the hope that you would return hither in a more conciliatory mood than that in which you departed. It is now your turn to make concessions, and, unless you do so, we shall have difficulty in terminating the conflict.” In the Address of the Chamber of Deputies, which was carried by 255 out of 323 votes, they severely commented upon the unconstitutional mode in which the Government was conducted, SaWing : — y Šio last Session the Ministers have carried on the public
administration against the Constitution, and without a legal Budget. The supreme right of the representatives of the people has thereby been attacked. The country has been alarmed, and has stood by its representatives. “A small minority of the people only has, encouraged by the Ministers, carried the worst calumnies against the Chamber of Deputies to the foot of the throne in the form of addresses. “Abuses of the power of the Government are now taking place just as in the sad years which preceded the Regency. Your Majesty recently declared that nobody should doubt your intention of maintaining the Constitution, but the Constitution has already been violated by the Ministers. “Our position imposes on us the most urgent duty of solemnly declaring that peace at home and power abroad can only be restored to the Government by its returning to a constitutional state of things.” The King refused to receive the deputation appointed to carry. up the Address; but he communicated his reply to the President of the Chamber, who read it to the House. In it he said that the Chamber advanced, as grounds for the complaint of a violation of the Constitution, acts of the Government which had been done with the Royal approbation. The King would not have permitted those acts if he had recognized in them a violation of the Constitution; he was fully convinced that the charge against his Government was unfounded, and he rejected it accordingly. The Chamber of Deputies used its constitutional right of co-operation in the establishment of the Budget in such a manner that it was impossible for the Government—as it repeatedly had declared— to give its assent to the impracticable decisions of that House. In the exercise of its equally constitutional right, the Upper Chamber had rejected the Budget, which the Deputies had altered until it became impracticable. The regulation of the Budget, as prescribed by the Constitution, having become impossible for last year's Session, and the Constitution containing no provision for such a case, it is incomprehensible that the Chamber should discern a violation of the Constitution in that the Government had carried on the administration without a legally established Budget. The King must rather point it out as a transgression of the constitutional powers of the Chamber of Deputies, that that body persists in regarding its one-sided decisions concerning the grant or refusal of the State expenditure as definitively binding on his Government. The Address qualified the right of granting the expenditure as the first right of the representatives of the people. The King continued— “I also recognize that right, and will observe and guard it so far as it is founded on the Constitution. But I must call the attention of the House to the fact that, according to the Constitution, the members of both Houses of the Diet represent the whole people, and the Budget can be established only by law,
to wit, by a resolution agreed to by both Chambers, and approved by me. If such agreement was not to be brought about, it was the duty of the Government, until such time as it should be arrived at, to carry on the administration without interruption. It would have acted unjustifiably had it not done so. “I am in the highest degree surprised that the Address should say that ‘the new Session has begun without the Government having, by any practical steps, so much as opened a prospect of a return to regularity in the administration of the finances, and to the establishment of the arrangements of the army on legal bases.’ Thereby it is entirely ignored that, in the Speech at the opening of Parliament, the bringing in of the Budgets of 1863 and 1864, and of a complement to the law of the 3rd of September, 1814, concerning the obligation to military service, was announced, and also that the production of accounts of receipts and expenditure for 1862 was promised, for the purpose of their supplementary approval by the Chamber of Deputies; which productions will take place at the time specified by my Finance Minister. After that, how can the Chamber close its eyes to the fact that my Government holds it for its most urgent care to replace the finance administration of the State, as soon as possible, on a legal basis? . . . . . “The House of Deputies will have to recognize the limits set in the Constitution to the various powers (in the State); for only on that basis is an understanding possible with respect to the extent to which a working together of my Government with the national representatives is requisite. I deeply deplore the conflict of views that has arisen with respect to the establishment of the Budget. An agreement on that point is not, however, to be arrived at by abandoning the constitutional rights of the Crown and of the Chamber of Lords; neither can the right of granting and refusing the State expenditure be devolved exclusively, in opposition to the Constitution, on the Chamber of Deputies. It is my duty, as a * to preserve undiminished the constitutional prerogatives of the Crown which I have inherited, because I therein recognize a necessary condition of the preservation of internal peace, of the welfare of the country, and of the authority and consideration of Prussia in its European position. “After I have, for a year past, proved, by a diminution of nearly four millions in the sums demanded from the people, as well as by ready acquiescence in the practicable wishes of its representatives, that my sole aim is to bring about a termination of the opposition which the measures of my Government have encountered as well in great things as in small, I expect that the Chamber of Deputies will no longer disregard these proofs of a conciliatory disposition, and I now call upon it to testify on its part its desire to meet my patriotic and paternal (Landesräterlichen) views in such a manner as to render possible that work of agreement which is a necessity of my heart—of my heart, whose only desire