Bülow's 'Hammer and Anvil' Speech before the Reichstag (The English Translation)
Bernhard von Bülow
Hammer and Anvil Speech before the Reichstag,
December 11, 1899
(English translation; excerpts)
From: Buchners Kolleg Geschichte, Das Kaiserreich 1871 bis 1918 (Bamberg: C.C. Buchners Verlag, 1987), pp. 137 ff.
Translation by Richard Hacken.
Bernhard von Bülow in a speech before the Reichstag on 11 Dezember 1899
In our nineteenth century, England has increased its colonial empire -- the largest the world has seen since the days of the Romans -- further and further; the French have put down roots in North Africa and East Africa and created for themselves a new empire in the Far East; Russia has begun its mighty course of victory in Asia, leading it to the high plateau of the Pamir and to the coasts of the Pacific Ocean. Four years ago the Sino-Japanese war, scarcely one and a half years ago the Spanish-American War have put things further in motion; they've led to great, momentous, far-reaching decisions, shaken old empires, and added new and serious ferment. [...] The English prime minister said a long time ago that the strong states were getting stronger and stronger and the weak ones weaker and weaker. [...] We don't want to step on the toes of any foreign power, but at the same time we don't want our own feet tramped by any foreign power (Bravo!) and we don't intend to be shoved aside by any foreign power, not in political nor in economic terms.(Lively applause.) It is time, high time, that we [...] make it clear in our own minds what stance we have to take and how we need to prepare ourselves in the face of the processes taking place around us which carry the seeds within them for the restructuring of power relationships for the unforeseeable future. To stand inactively to one side, as we have done so often in the past, either from native modesty (Laughter) or because we were completely absorbed in our own internal arguments or for doctrinaire reasons -- to stand dreamily to one side while other people split up the pie, we cannot and we will not do that. (Applause.) We cannot for the simple reason that we now have interests in all parts of the world. [...] The rapid growth of our population, the unprecedented blossoming of our industries, the hard work of our merchants, in short the mighty vitality of the German people have woven us into the world economy and pulled us into international politics. If the English speak of a 'Greater Britain;' if the French speak of a 'Nouvelle France;' if the Russians open up Asia; then we, too, have the right to a greater Germany (Bravo! from the right, laughter from the left), not in the sense of conquest, but indeed in the sense of peaceful extension of our trade and its infrastructures. [...] We cannot and will not permit that the order of the day passes over the German people [...] There is a lot of envy present in the world against us (calls from the left), political envy and economic envy. There are individuals and there are interest groups, and there are movements, and there are perhaps even peoples that believe that the German was easier to have around and that the German was more pleasant for his neighbors in those earlier days, when, in spite of our education and in spite of our culture, foreigners looked down on us in political and economic matters like cavaliers with their noses in the air looking down on the humble tutor. (Very true! - Laughter.) These times of political faintness and economic and political humility should never return (Lively Bravo.) We don't ever again want to become, as Friedrich List put it, the 'slaves of humanity.' But we'll only be able to keep ourselves at the fore if we realize that there is no welfare for us without power, without a strong army and a strong fleet. (Very true! from the right; objections from the left ) The means, gentlemen, for a people of almost 60 million -- dwelling in the middle of Europe and, at the same time, stretching its economic antennae out to all sides -- to battle its way through in the struggle for existence without strong armaments on land and at sea, have not yet been found. (Very true! from the right.) In the coming century the German people will be a hammer or an anvil.