Prince Bismarck's greatness as a statesman and his imperishable services to Prussia and Germany are historical facts of such tremendous significance that there is doubtless no man in existence, whatever his party affiliations, who would dare to place them in question. For this very reason alone it is stupid to accuse me of not having recognized the greatness of Prince Bismarck. The opposite is the truth. I revered and idolized him. Nor could it be otherwise. It should be borne in mind with what generation I grew up—the generation of the devotees of Bismarck. He was the creator of the German Empire, the paladin of my grandfather, and all of us considered him the greatest statesman of his day and were proud that he was a German. Bismarck was the idol in my temple, whom I worshiped.
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But monarchs also are human beings of flesh and blood, hence they, too, are exposed to the influences emanating from the conduct of others; therefore, looking at the matter from a human point of view, one will understand how Prince[Pg 2] Bismarck, by his fight against me, himself destroyed, with heavy blows, the idol of which I have spoken. But my reverence for Bismarck, the great statesman, remained unaltered.
While I was still Prince of Prussia I often thought to myself: "I hope that the great Chancellor will live for many years yet, since I should be safe if I could govern with him." But my reverence for the great statesman was not such as to make me take upon my own shoulders, when I became Emperor, political plans or actions of the Prince which I considered mistakes. Even the Congress of Berlin in 1878 was, to my way of thinking, a mistake, likewise the "Kulturkampf." Moreover, the constitution of the Empire was drawn up so as to fit in with Bismarck's extraordinary preponderance as a statesman; the big cuirassier boots did not fit every man.
Then came the labor-protective legislation. I most deeply deplored the dispute which grew out of this, but, at that time, it was necessary for me to take the road to compromise, which has generally been my road both on domestic and foreign politics. For this reason I could not wage the open warfare against the Social Democrats which the Prince desired. Nevertheless, this quarrel about political measures cannot lessen my admiration for the greatness of Bismarck as a statesman; he remains the creator of the German Empire, and surely no one man need have done more for his country than that.
Owing to the fact that the great matter of unifying[Pg 3] the Empire was always before my eyes, I did not allow myself to be influenced by the agitations which were the commonplaces of those days. In like manner, the fact that Bismarck was called the majordomo of the Hohenzollerns could not shake my trust in the Prince, although he, perhaps, had thoughts of a political tradition for his family. As evidence of this, he felt unhappy, for instance, that his son Bill felt no interest in politics and wished to pass on his power to Herbert.