The Turbulent 191st Session of the German Reichstag (Part of the article The Saccharin Saga – Part 2)

The Turbulent 191st Session of the German Reichstag (Part of the article The Saccharin Saga – Part 2)

Author: Klaus Roth, Erich Lück

The 2nd Sweetener Statute was dealt with in the German Reichstag on 11 June 1902. Proponents of the statute (the Conservatives, German Nationalists, and the Center) wished essentially to prohibit saccharin trade in Germany. Up in arms about destruction of the entire saccharin industry were the Social Democrats and the Progressive Party. Dr. Otto Hermes, delegate from the Progressives, zoologist, and Director of the Berlin Aquarium, was noteworthy in the debate as a consequence of his tart oral presentation, as well as his chemical expertise:

Dr. Hermes, delegate
: “Gentlemen, a government that adopts a law through which a blossoming industry is simply destroyed must be agricultural into its very bones.

(“Absolutely right!” from the left.)

In any case, gentlemen, this process, as it shows itself here, stands alone, at least in modern times. One would have to go far back to draw a comparison with current conditions: indeed, to the year 1594.

(Laughter from the right.)

That was when the Regensburg Reichstag ordered capital punishment for those who imported indigo, namely because the woad plant Isatis tinctoria (an alternative though inferior source of indigo) was cultivated domestically, and farmers in those days quite naturally – just like today – were not pleased with the idea of competition.

(Shouts of “Very good!” and laughter from the right.)

Gentlemen, only the form is different here – the spirit remains the same. The agrarian party is today still dominated by this medieval spirit, which finds expression everywhere it has to do with their interests.

(“Absolutely right!” from the left.)

Gentlemen, it is truly fortunate that the indigo plant isn’t cultivated in Germany; the wonderful discovery by Professor Baeyer, who solved the problem of artificial production of indigo, would, as here in the case of saccharin, have surely been suppressed. Fortunately, however, the indigo plant does not grow here, so the agrarian party – apart from here in this Parliament – has no interest in it, and so the recent discovery has this happenstance to thank for the fact that the industry resulting from it has not been suppressed.”


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