Otto von Bismarck—Blood and Iron
Scope: Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898), the “Iron Chancellor,” unified Germany in three wars and came to embody everything brutal and ruthless about Prussian culture. The real Bismarck had a different character, a hypochondriac, a brilliant and well-read man, a convert to an extreme form of Protestant mysticism, and one of the few Prussians who never served in the king’s army. Bismarck’s mother dominated his upbringing and gave him a bourgeois education, complete with university and a law degree, neither the sort of thing that proper Prussian chaps considered respectable. This lecture examines the strange relationship between Bismarck and King William I. Count Waldersee remarked cynically after Bismarck had been the king’s prime minister for more than 20 years, “Bismarck is the king’s last mistress because only such a creature could have such power over an old man.” Did that relationship change the course of modern history?
Bismarck was Prime minister of Prussia (1862-73, 1873-90) and founder and first chancellor (1871-90) of the German Empire. Once the empire was established, he actively and skillfully pursued pacific policies in foreign affairs, succeeding in preserving the peace in Europe for about two decades. But in domestic policies his patrimony was less benign, for he failed to rise above the authoritarian proclivities of the landed squirearchy to which he was born. Early years Bismarck was born at Schönhausen, in the Kingdom of Prussia. His father, Ferdinand von Bismarck-Schönhausen, was a Junker squire descended from a Swabian family that had ultimately settled as estate owners in Pomerania. Ferdinand was a typical member of the Prussian landowning elite. The family's economic circumstances were modest—Ferdinand's farming skills being perhaps less than average—and Bismarck was not to know real wealth until the rewards flowed in after the achievement of German unification. His mother, Wilhelmine Mencken, came from an educated bourgeois family that had produced a number of higher civil servants and academics. She had been married to Ferdinand von Bismarck at age 16 and found provincial life confining. When her son Otto was seven, she enrolled him in the progressive Plamann Institute in Berlin and moved to the capital to be near him. The young Bismarck resented exchanging an easy life in the country for a more circumscribed life in a large city, where in school he was pitted against the sons of Berlin's best-educated families. He spent five years at the school and went on to the Frederick William gymnasium for three years. He took his university entrance examination (Abitur) in 1832. With his mother's encouragement, he took up the study of law at the University of Göttingen in the kingdom of Hanover. Evidently Bismarck was a mediocre student who spent much of his time drinking with his comrades in an aristocratic fraternity. After a brief stint at the university in Berlin, he entered the Prussian civil service, where he was plagued by boredom and an inability to adhere to the hierarchical principles of the bureaucracy. His mother's death in 1839 gave him the opportunity of resigning in order to come to the assistance of his father, who was experiencing financial difficulties in the management of his estate. From 1839 to 1847 Bismarck lived the ordinary life of a Prussian country squire. Subsequently he romanticized these years on the land and wondered why he had abandoned an idyllic existence for the insecurities of a life in politics. This frequently expressed nostalgia may have been more guise than reality. During this period he met and married Johanna von Puttkamer, the daughter of a conservative aristocratic family famed for its devout pietism. While courting Johanna, Bismarck experienced a religious conversion that was to give him inner strength and security. A subsequent critic was to remark that Bismarck believed in a God who invariably agreed with him on all issues. There is no question that the marriage was a very happy one. In fact, Bismarck's last words before dying in 1898 expressed the wish that he would once again see Johanna, who had passed away some years earlier. His politics during the 1840s did not diverge substantially from those of a typical country squire. If anything, his politics were more conservative. He believed in a Christian state that received its sanction ultimately from the deity. The existing social and political order was to be defended in order to prevent a Hobbesian chaos of all against all. Given his views, Bismarck was welcomed as a member of the religious conservative circle around the brothers von Gerlach, who were stout defenders of the noble estate against the encroachments of bureaucratic centralization. Bismarck had nothing but sarcasm for aristocratic liberals who viewed England as a model for Prussia. In 1847 he attended the Prussian United Diet, where his speeches against Jewish emancipation and contemporary liberalism gained him the reputation of a backwoods conservative, out of touch with the dynamic forces of his age. Bismarck's response to the liberal revolution that swept through Europe in 1848 confirmed his image as a reactionary. He opposed any concessions to the liberals and expressed contempt for the king's willingness to bargain with the revolutionaries. He even considered marching his peasants to Berlin to free Frederick William IV from the baneful influence of the rebels. With other archconservatives, including Ernst Ludwig von Gerlach, he began contributing to the Kreuzzeitung newspaper (1848) as an organ of antirevolutionary sentiment. For Bismarck's future role, it is important to understand his analysis of the revolution. He identified the forces of change as confined solely to the educated and propertied middle class. The vast majority of Prussians, however, were peasants and artisans, who, in Bismarck's view, were loyal monarchists. The task of the forces of order was to confirm the loyalty of these two groups by means of material concessions. The economic policies of the urban middle-class radicals were rooted in pure self-interest, he maintained. The radicals would spur industrial growth at the expense of the lower middle class and the farm population. Ultimately, even the middle class itself might be won over by tactical concessions and success in foreign policy. This strategic and opportunist thinking distanced Bismarck from the ideological conservatives, who were wedded to traditional concepts of authority. His vision of a manipulative state that sustained its power by rewarding obedient groups remained with him throughout his political career. Early career In 1849 he was elected to the Prussian Chamber of Deputies (the lower chamber of the Prussian Diet) and moved his family to Berlin. At this stage he was far from a German nationalist. He told one of his fellow conservatives, "We are Prussians, and Prussians we shall remain . . .. We do not wish to see the Kingdom of Prussia obliterated in the putrid brew of cosy south German sentimentality." In 1851 Frederick William IV appointed Bismarck as the Prussian representative to the federal Diet in Frankfurt, a clear reward for his loyalty to the monarchy. With the defeat of the revolution in central Europe, Austria had reasserted its supremacy in the German Confederation, and Bismarck, being an archconservative, was assumed to support the status quo, which included Austrian hegemony. He lived in Frankfurt for eight years, where he experienced a commercial and cultural environment quite different from that of a Prussian estate. It was in Frankfurt that Bismarck began to reassess his view of German nationalism and the goals of Prussian foreign policy. Not only did he find the constant deference to the Austrians in Frankfurt demeaning, but he also realized that the status quo meant acceptance of Prussia as a second-rate power in central Europe. In 1854 he opposed close cooperation with Austria, arguing that it entailed "binding our spruce and seaworthy frigate to the wormy old warship of Austria." Gradually he began to consider the options that would make Prussia the undisputed power in Germany. A vision of a Prussian-dominated northern Europe and a redirection of Austrian power to the Slavic areas in the south took shape in his mind. If necessary, a war with Austria to destroy its hegemony was not to be excluded. Implementation of such a policy would be anything but conservative because it would entail radical changes in the map of Europe as it had been drawn by the conservative powers at Vienna, Austria, in 1815. Prime minister In 1859 Bismarck was sent to Russia as Prussian ambassador, and not long thereafter (May 1862) he moved to Paris as ambassador to the court of Napoleon III. Thus he had 11 years of experience in foreign affairs before he became prime minister and foreign minster of Prussia in September 1862. He had come to know personally the architects of French, Russian, and Austrian foreign policy. Ironically, Bismarck was called back by Emperor William I (1861-88) to the reigns of power at a critical juncture in Prussia's internal development. For more than two years William had been locked in a battle with the Chamber of Deputies over military reform. Having been in the army much of his adult life, the monarch (similar to earlier Prussian kings) considered it entirely within his prerogative to increase the size of the military and the years of service. When the liberal majority did not approve the revenue for these reforms, William refused to negotiate or compromise with liberal politicians over the fundamental issue of sovereignty. He prorogued Parliament twice, and each time the liberal majority increased. The appointment of Bismarck was the monarch's last desperate effort to avoid parliamentary sovereignty over the military. The Chamber of Deputies interpreted it as an act of defiance—a throwing down of the gauntlet. But the Bismarck who returned to Berlin from Paris was not the backwoods conservative of 1848. Having lived in Frankfurt and Paris, he had come to appreciate the growing importance of the propertied and educated middle class. And in France he had experienced the Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III, which relied on the combination of success in foreign policy and plebiscites at home to shore up the emperor's authoritarian regime. Bismarck had changed to such a degree that he actually returned with the idea of seeking a compromise over the military issue. But William I rejected a sensible proposal offered by Bismarck, leaving him no alternative but a policy of confrontation. Bismarck then announced that there was a "gap" in the constitution. If the king and the members of the Upper Chamber and the Chamber of Deputies, who together were responsible for the budget, failed to come to an agreement, the government in the interim had to proceed without it. Taxes were to be collected (and spent) on the basis of the old budget because civil servants had to be paid and the government had to continue functioning. This tactic, applied from 1863 to 1866, allowed him to implement the military reforms without the sanction of Parliament. Bismarck did, indeed, appear to be the reactionary, confrontational aristocrat out of tune with his time. But there were hints that this was more appearance than reality. Bismarck said that "Prussia must collect and keep its strength for the right moment, which has been missed several times already; Prussia's frontiers as laid down by the Vienna treaties are not conducive to a healthy national life; it is not by means of speeches and majority resolutions that the great issues of the day will be decided—that was the great mistake of 1848 and 1849—but by blood and iron." He was giving the opposition evidence that he intended to use Prussia's military might not for internal suppression but for the liberal goal of achieving national unification. The liberal opposition, however, chose to ignore these hints, and on May 22, 1863, by a vote of 239 to 61, they informed William I that they would not deal with his prime minister any further. After eight months in office, Bismarck had failed to achieve any agreement with the parliamentary opposition. Bismarck now turned to foreign policy in the hope that success on this front would weaken the electorate's clear desire for political reform. Trouble had been brewing since 1848 between the Danes and the German population of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. (Both duchies were in union with Denmark; Schleswig, however, had a large German population, and Holstein was a member of the German Confederation.) When the Danish king acted rashly, Bismarck made sure that it was Prussia and Austria rather than the German Confederation which represented German interests. Liberal leaders like Rudolf Virchow still saw Bismarck as an unrepentant reactionary who was "no longer the man who joined us with feeling that he was going to accomplish something with an energetic foreign policy." A quick successful war against Denmark left the fate of Schleswig and Holstein up to Bismarck and the Austrians. After much haggling, the Convention of Gastein was signed on August 20, 1865; it provided for Schleswig to be administered by Prussia and Holstein by Austria. Liberals remained unappeased by Prussian military prowess and once again defeated the army bill in January 1865. In 1866 Bismarck nonetheless continued his efforts to divert liberal interest from the budget conflict and toward the success of Prussian arms. He repeatedly told the Austrians that their future lay in the south and that they would be wise to yield dominance in Germany. But in both cases his words fell on deaf ears. Bismarck had clearly decided to play the German national card in order to achieve a Prussian-dominated Germany. After making sure that Russia would not intervene and after gaining an alliance with Italy, he set about fostering conflict with the Austrians. He stirred up Hungarian nationalism against Austria—a policy that showed how radical means could be used in the service of his own conservative ends. On June 9, 1866, Prussian troops invaded Holstein, and a few days later Austria, supported by the smaller states of Saxony, Hesse-Kassel, and Hanover, went to war. Within six weeks Prussia had inflicted a major defeat on the Austrians at Königgrätz (Sadowa). Bismarck then counseled moderation so that Austria would not be humiliated. Against a king and generals who wanted to march to Vienna, he urged a quick cessation of hostilities, recognizing that other powers might intervene if the war continued. Europe was stunned: in a few weeks Prussia had transformed the distribution of power in central Europe. Austria, the major power in Germany for centuries, was now relegated to secondary status. Bismarck now showed both ruthlessness and moderation. The Peace of Nikolsburg scarcely demanded anything from Austria. But Hanover, Hesse-Kassel, Nassau, and Frankfurt, all of which had fought against Prussia, were annexed, to the shock of conservatives. The king of Hanover was removed from power, as was the ruling house in Hesse. While conservatives were appalled at the German civil war between the two powers who had been opposed to revolution, the liberal middle class flocked to support Bismarck. Their goal of German unification seemed close at hand. Bismarck, moreover, now apologized for his high-handedness over the issue of the military budget and offered an olive branch of peace to the liberals. The party divided over Bismarck's offer. He had achieved one of his major goals—gaining a large part of the middle class to see the Prussian monarchy as their ally. The North German Confederation was established in 1867 with Prussia as its matrix. Its constitution, on the surface, appeared progressive. To begin with, it established universal manhood suffrage with a secret ballot. But this was a result of Bismarck's belief that the vast majority of Prussians, if enfranchised, would vote conservative. From this perspective, a restricted ballot aided the liberals. (Of course, in 1867 neither the socialists nor the Catholic Centre had established political parties.) Moreover, whereas in theory the lower house (Reichstag) seemed an important reservoir of power given its ability to reject any bill, in practice its powers were circumscribed in the areas of military and foreign policy. Ministers were chosen by and responsible to the emperor and not the legislature. Nevertheless, the constitution provided a basis for evolution in a democratic direction. Although Bismarck voiced doubts whether unification would occur in his lifetime, he actually set about tying the southern states to the north almost immediately. An all-German customs parliament was proposed, joint military training was negotiated, and a plan was advanced which entailed that the southern states recognize William as German emperor. All these efforts failed because of popular opposition in the south. Bismarck then sought to propel history a bit faster by seeking conflict with France. If he could not bring the south into a united German nation by reason, he would rely on the passions aroused by war. Ever the master tactician, he worked behind the scenes to be certain that neither Russia nor Austria would intervene in such a war. Nor did he have to work hard to produce a conflict, because the French emperor, Napoleon III, was indignant at the sudden emergence of Prussia, especially since he did not receive the compensation he sought—the annexation of Luxembourg. When in 1869 the Spanish throne was offered to the king's cousin, Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, Napoleon III perceived this as an effort to encircle France. He twice sent his ambassador, Vincent Benedetti, to the Prussian king at Bad Ems, once to demand that acceptance of the offer be withdrawn (which it was on July 12) and a second time to demand that under no circumstances should a member of the Hohenzollern family accept the Spanish throne in the future. The king politely refused the second request. Bismarck received a telegram from Bad Ems (the Ems telegram) giving a detailed account of the interview between William I and the French ambassador, which he proceeded to edit and abridge for the press in such a way that the French appeared to seek a humiliation of the Prussian monarch, and the monarch's rejection of Napoleon's demands seemed insultingly brusque to the French. The French responded by declaring war on Prussia on July 19, 1870. When the French were decisively defeated at Sedan in September, it appeared as though Bismarck would be able to score a third rapid victory in seven years. But guerilla warfare broke out, and Paris held out despite the capture of the emperor. Bismarck, however, stirred anti-French passions to such a fever pitch that in January 1871 the four southern states joined the North German Confederation to create the German Empire. The lesser German solution, with seven million German-speaking Austrians excluded, was the result of Bismarck's three wars. He was showered with honours and hailed as a national hero. Imperial chancellor It is important to note that the Germany Bismarck created was not the result of strong popular currents of nationalist sentiment but of cabinet diplomacy and war. Not all German-speaking areas of Europe were included but only as many as Prussia could unite while retaining hegemony. The new constitution was a revision of the Prussian constitution from 1867; it included the position of chancellor, designed with Bismarck specifically in mind. Bismarck also remained prime minister of Prussia until 1890, apart from a brief period in 1872-73. The peace treaty with France was harsh. Alsace and part of Lorraine, two French provinces with sizable German-speaking populations, were annexed. Also, a five-billion-franc indemnity was exacted. While Austria and Denmark quickly forgot their defeats, France did not. Regardless of whether Bismarck annexed the provinces in response to German public opinion or for other reasons, French hostility was to haunt the German Empire until the provinces were returned to France in 1918. Foreign policy Until his resignation in 1890, Bismarck had a relatively free hand in the conduct of foreign policy. After three successful wars, he saw his task as promoting peace and gaining time so that the powerful German Empire would come to be accepted as natural. Bismarck's two areas of concern were the Balkans, where the disintegration of the Turkish empire could easily lead to conflict between the Habsburg monarchy and Russia, and France, where the desire to avenge the defeat at Sedan was strong. In each area a general European conflagration could flare up and involve Germany. In 1873 he embraced a pacific foreign policy when he negotiated the Dreikaiserbund (Three Emperors' League) with Russia and Austria-Hungary. But the alliance did not survive the Russo-Turkish War of 1877. When the Austrians and British threatened war over a Carthaginian peace imposed on Turkey by the Russian victors, Bismarck called for a peace congress in Berlin. The German chancellor succeeded in getting the Russians to moderate their gains, and peace was preserved. But a European conflagration had barely been averted. Soon after the conference, Bismarck negotiated a defensive alliance with Austria-Hungary, which remained in effect through World War I. Although in the mid-1860s he had rejected such an alliance as harmful, he now considered it advantageous. Because he feared that the dissolution of the Habsburg monarchy would lead to Russian expansion into central Europe, he sought the alliance to gain leverage in Vienna. He steadfastly used it to prevent a war in the Balkans. In addition, he did not want seven million Austro-German Catholics seeking admission to the empire. Having a solid ally, Bismarck demonstrated his virtuosity by negotiating a revived Dreikaiserbund in 1881. He now had influence in St. Petersburg as well as in Vienna to prevent a Balkan war. In 1882 Italy, fearing French hostility, joined the Dual Alliance, making it into the Triple Alliance. On the surface Bismarck had triumphed. France had no allies for a war of revenge, and, for the moment, a Balkan war seemed unlikely. But the ephemeral nature of all these alliances soon became apparent. A crisis in Bulgaria inflamed Russo-Austrian relations, leading to a breakup of the revived league. Once again a war was avoided with Bismarck's intervention, but his efforts could not reconstitute the league. He then negotiated a separate secret treaty with Russia, while maintaining the 1879 accord with Austria-Hungary. Between 1870 and 1890 Bismarck earned the respect of European leaders for his earnest efforts in behalf of peace. Apart from a few colonial acquisitions in the mid-1880s, Germany had acted as a satiate power. All of Bismarck's considerable tactical skills had been successful in creating a powerful German Empire in his first decade in power. For the next two decades these same skills maintained the peace. Domestic policy From the defeat of Austria in 1866 until 1878 Bismarck was allied primarily with the National Liberals. Together they created a civil and criminal code for the new empire and accomplished Germany's adoption of the gold standard and move toward free trade. Just as they had earlier written off Bismarck as an archconservative, liberals now viewed him as a comrade—a man who had rejected his conservative roots. Many conservative leaders agreed with this assessment. Bismarck had cashiered kings, gone to war against conservative regimes, and adopted policies that promoted rapid industrialization. Their fears were further enhanced when he joined liberals in a campaign against political Catholicism (Kulturkampf) in 1873. Bismarck had not counted on the emergence of new parties such as the Catholic Centre or the Social Democratic Party, both of whom began participating in imperial and Prussian elections in the early 1870s. Along with the left liberal Progressive Party, he labeled them all enemies of the empire (Reichsfeinde). Each in its own way rejected his vision of a united Germany. The Progressives found the empire too conservative and its elite essentially feudal; the socialists questioned its capitalist character; and for the Centre the empire was Protestant and too centralized. Bismarck's aim was clearly to destroy the Catholic Centre Party. He and the liberals feared the appeal of a clerical party to the one-third of Germans who professed Roman Catholicism. In Prussia the minister of public worship and education, Adalbert Falk, with Bismarck's blessing, introduced a series of bills establishing civil marriage, limiting the movement of the clergy, and dissolving religious orders. All church appointments were to be approved by the state. Clerical civil servants were purged from the Prussian administration. Hundreds of parishes and several bishoprics were left without incumbents. The Kulturkampf failed to achieve its goals and, if anything, convinced the Catholic minority that their fear of persecution was real. Bismarck gradually relented in his campaign, especially after the death of the activist pope, Pius IX, in 1878. But he never relented in his hatred for the Centre leader, Ludwig Windthorst, a Hanoverian who had earlier experienced Bismarck's methods in the annexation of his kingdom. Bismarck's speeches continued to be barbed with anticlericalism until his fall in 1890. In 1878-79 Bismarck initiated a significant change in economic policy, which coincided with his new alliance with the conservative parties at the expense of the liberals. Tariffs were introduced on iron as well as on major grains. The new policy was a result of the "great depression" that had swept Europe and the United States in the mid-1870s. Bismarck's shift had serious political implications: it signified his opposition to any further evolution in the direction of political democracy. The liberal ministers Falk and Rudolph von Delbrück resigned, and Robert von Puttkamer became minister of public worship and education in 1879 and minister of interior in 1881. The grain tariffs provided the Junker estate owners of Prussia, who constituted the main opposition to political reform, subventions that isolated them somewhat from the world market. From 1879 onward, the landed elite, major industrialists, the military, and higher civil servants formed an alliance to forestall the rise of social democracy. Ever since the Commune of Paris of 1871, Bismarck had developed an uncompromising hatred for socialists and anarchists. His attacks on them were egregious. At one point he wrote, "They are this country's rats and should be exterminated." Another time he called them "a host of enemies bent on pillage and murder." He thus introduced a crude and unsavory discourse into everyday German politics that was to be long-lived. Although only two socialists sat in the Reichstag in 1871, their number and support grew with each election, until they had 35 seats in 1890. As early as 1876 Bismarck had sought legislation to outlaw the party but failed to get a majority. After two assassination attempts against William I he prorogued Parliament and ran a campaign in which the socialists (quite unjustly) were blamed for the failed efforts to kill the emperor. The conservative parties triumphed and the Social Democratic Party was banned in 1878. The ban was renewed until 1890. The second part of Bismarck's strategy to destroy social democracy was the introduction of social legislation to woo the workers away from political radicalism. During the 1880s, accident and old-age insurance as well as a form of socialized medicine were introduced and implemented by the government. But Bismarck's two-pronged strategy to win the workers for the conservative regime did not succeed. Support for the Social Democrats increased with each election. The election of 1890 was a disaster for Bismarck. The Centre, the Social Democrats, and the Progressives, the parties that he had termed enemies of the empire, gained more than half of the seats in the new Reichstag. The new young emperor William (Wilhelm) II, who was emperor and king of Prussia from 1888 to 1918, did not want to begin his reign with a bloodbath or a coup d'é:tat by the state. Seventy-five years old in 1890, Bismarck resigned with a sense of having failed. The antisocialist law was not revived, and the new government set out to win the workers to the regime. Bismarck retired to his estate an embittered man. That he was now a prince and extremely wealthy did not ease his retirement. For the next eight years until his death in 1898 he issued sharp critiques of his successors. Elected to the Reichstag, he chose not to take his seat. He wrote his memoirs, which became best-sellers. To some extent he orchestrated the Bismarck legend that was to dominate German historical writing for the next half century. Assessment Bismarck was a towering figure who put his stamp on his age, as Luther and Metternich had done earlier. When Bismarck became prime minister of Prussia in 1862, the kingdom was universally considered the weakest of the five European powers. Less than nine years later Prussia had been victorious in three wars, and a unified German Empire had emerged in the heart of Europe, arousing envy and fear among its rivals. When Bismarck left office in 1890, after 28 years as prime minister of Prussia and 19 as chancellor of the German Empire, the map of Europe had been changed beyond measure. The European centre, characterized by a weak conglomeration of small and medium-sized states for centuries, was now home to the foremost military and industrial power on the Continent. Bismarck's legacy to the next generation, however, was a mixed one. In foreign affairs his skill had led to 20 years of peace in Europe, which had gained him a deserved reputation for moderation and a sense of limits. Bismarck's greatest achievement, the German Empire, only survived him by 20 years. Although he had united Germany in one sense, he had failed to create an internally unified people. In domestic affairs—as in foreign policy—he sought to freeze the status quo after 1871. His empire was designed to be conservative. Thus he opposed the Catholic Centre in the 1870s and the socialists in the 1880s because both constituted unforeseen threats to his authoritarian creation. He also introduced a vicious rhetoric into German politics that forestalled a sense of common destiny. While German industry developed rapidly during his decades in power, he would allow no evolution in the political system toward greater participation. In this sense, Bismarck was a last representative of the world of the ancien régime and cabinet diplomacy.
I. Bismarck’s transformation of Europe and his unification of Germany cannot be understood without first examining the peculiarity of Prussia as a kingdom. We saw earlier the astonishing level of absolutism in Prussia, but we need to examine the nature of that absolute state in its 19th-century form.
A. From 1640 to 1918, Prussia was a military state.
1. Frederick William, Prince-Elector of the Holy Roman Empire (1640–1688), had an important idea
during the Thirty Years’ War: “Alliances are good, but one’s own forces are better.” This idea was not obvious, because in that period, most princes hired troops for the war, who were paid by what they could loot.
2. Frederick William’s innovation was what we now call the standing army, which had to be paid regularly or it would mutiny. The Elector could not pay the troops from his own revenues as a landlord and ruling prince, because Prussia, unlike Saxony, was a poor state.
3. Frederick William created a corps of tax collectors who operated across his lands. To secure this system, he had to suppress his parliaments and buy off nobles, which he had achieved by the 1660s.
4. When the elector died in 1688, he left an army of 30,000. From that point, army and state fused. The state grew to finance the army, and the army saw itself as the highest expression of the state.
5. The Elector’s success involved a deal: The aristocracy agreed to the elimination of parliament in exchange for a Junker (a Prussian aristocrat) monopoly of the officer corps and bureaucracy.
6. By the time of Frederick the Great’s father, King Frederick William I (1713–1740), Prussia had a
standing army of 80,000.
7. As we saw earlier, Frederick II transformed his father’s realm both in military and civil affairs. His
legacy loomed over subsequent Prussian history.
that they must inject “soul” and willing participation into the Frederician “machine state.”
1. Army reform meant opening careers to talented non-nobles, which infringed the traditional monopoly
Prussian reform era followed the nation’s shattering defeat by Napoleon in 1806. Reformers agreed
of the aristocracy. The Prussian aristocracy outlasted the reformers, and the middle classes were
excluded until 1918 from the aristocratic regiments.
2. To rouse patriotism and expel the French meant liberation of the peasants (1807) and some sort of
3. After 1815, Metternich insisted that constitutions be revoked or reduced in importance. That year
marked the frustration of most of the aims of the reformers.
4. In 1848, revolution broke out in Berlin. King Frederick William IV (1840–1859) gave in to the
revolutionaries for a time. When he regained his courage and put the reform down, Prussia was left with the constitution of 1850, which rested on universal but unequal male suffrage (and was not abolished until 1918!).
C. In 1850, Prussia enjoyed an increase in German prestige, because Frederick William had attempted to unify Germany from 1848–1850.
1. Prussia had become an industrial state and had completed the Zollverein, or “customs union,” which tied the smaller German states to a free trade zone with Prussia but excluded Austria.
2. Free compulsory primary education spread across Prussia. Prussian universities turned out scientific pioneers, and technical colleges trained engineers who could apply science to industry.
3. Industrialization in Prussia was rapid. The coal deposits of the Rhine, Ruhr, and Wupper valleys and the development of iron and steel produced the basic materials for a modern army and for the railroad boom of the 1850s and 1860s.
4. Prussia in 1860 presented a paradox. The Prussian aristocracy still monopolized power in the army and civil service, while society had begun to industrialize. This process brought with it the rise of a wealthy middle class and a large working class that demanded more representation and genuine parliamentary politics. Prussia remained a military state but one with huge factories, big cities, and advanced technology.
The achievement of Otto von Bismarck was the unification of Germany “from above,” without really undermining royal power. Bismarck, the political genius of the mid-19th century, preserved much of Frederick the Great’s absolutism and bequeathed it to the 20th century.
Bismarck was as interesting as Frederick the Great, a brilliant, complex, and witty conservative with a low view of human nature.
Bismarck’s background was unusual for an aristocrat. He had a thoroughly middle-class education, which gave him a peculiar status. He never served in the Prussian army, which for some old Prussians meant that he was a “pen-pusher” and, of course, too clever by half.
1. He was born on the family estate in Brandenburg on April 1, 1815. His father was from an old
Brandenburg junker family, but his mother, Wilhelmine Mencken, was bourgeois, the daughter of a
prominent Prussian civil servant.
2. His mother was the dominant influence in his life; it was she who decided that he would go to
gymnasium (a high school with strong teaching in Latin and Greek), not to a military academy.
3. He went to university at Göttingen and Berlin, where he studied law, an unusual of choice for a
Junker, because it was a low, bourgeois profession.
4. After holding minor judicial and administrative offices, he quit with a characteristic Bismarckian
flourish: “If I cannot play first violin, I shall not make music at all.”
5. The years on his estate turned out be formative. He fell in love with a noble lady who belonged to the
Pietist Christians (a form of born-again spiritual Christianity that rejected “walled churches”) and eventually married her equally aristocratic and Christian friend, Johanna von Puttkamer. To make the marriage, Bismarck had to convert. The spiritual connection in the Pietist movement included many of the most influential Junker families and brought the brilliant young Bismarck to some influential people.
6. He owed his political career to several families in this community, who helped him, in the early stages of the revolution of 1848, to get elected to the Prussian Landtag (“parliament”), then to write for the reactionary newspaper, the Kreuzzeitung (“The Cross Newspaper”).
7. The first authentic Bismarckian tones were heard in a speech on December 2, 1850, when the Prussian Landtag debated the so-called “Shame of Olmütz,” a treaty forced on Prussia by Austria. Bismarck coolly defended the treaty on “realist” grounds.
8. Bismarck’s oratorical brilliance gained him an amazing promotion as the Prussian minister to the German Diet at Frankfurt from 1851 to 1859, where his “realism in politics” (in German, Realpolitik) horrified his former patrons, who remained Christian conservatives, persons of principle.
9. The break came when Bismarck defended the establishment of the French Second Empire on the grounds that Napoleon III kept order. Bismarck’s patrons hated Napoleon III as a revolutionary.
10. Bismarck rejected emotions and ideologies in his foreign policies. This new tone of realism and his biting cynicism made him feared and distrusted in upper-class Prussian circles. He made too many jokes.
Bismarck practiced what came to be known as Realpolitik, which was then and remains today a disturbing form of foreign political activity. Bismarck refused to allow sympathy, principle, or even his religious convictions to influence his policies.
III. The typical biography of Bismarck does not usually depict him as servant of the king, but without understanding the peculiar chemistry of that relationship, Bismarck’s career cannot be explained.
A. Bismarck became Prussian minister-president on September 22, 1862, because the entire Prussian state faced a possible revolution.
1. The issue was army reform. The Austro-French War and the unification of Italy led to a threat of war,
and Prussia mobilized.
2. The failures of the mobilization led to the establishment of a military reform commission to
recommend changes in service conditions. The draft was to be extended from two to three years, to be followed by five years in the active reserves. At a stroke, a better trained army would grow by 50 percent in size.
3. The voluntary militia units were to be abolished or merged with the main force. Militias are, by nature, democratic and represent the citizen-soldier. Think of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as an example.
4. The Prussian liberal parties campaigned against the reforms, because they gave parliament no say and because they represented change imposed from above by the king and aristocratic generals.
5. Successive elections resulted in majorities against the army and the king; the court circles and the generals began to fear another 1848.
6. The minister of war from 1859 was Albrecht Theodor Emil, Graf von Roon (1803–1879), a Prussian general, a military reformer, and a noble lord. In 1849, serving under Prince William, he helped suppress the revolt in Baden.
7. Roon was a political reactionary but smart. He knew that only Bismarck, now Prussian ambassador in Paris, had the guile and intelligence to get the army reforms through without a revolution. He urged Bismarck to speak with the king, an audience that changed the history of the world.
B. Bismarck used his literary talents to convince the king that he would be no more than a loyal, obedient servant, promising to stand by royal policy even if it led to violence.
1. Bismarck knew that if revolution threatened, the king would abdicate in favor of his son, Prince
Frederick, who was married to Princess Victoria, the passionately liberal daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. A liberal reign meant parliamentary government and English-style reforms, Bismarck’s worst scenario.
2. Bismarck knew, as well, that Queen Augusta hated and distrusted him because of his attempt in 1848 to persuade the then-Prince Wilhelm to lead a coup against his brother, Frederick William IV, who had granted liberal concessions to the revolutionaries.
3. Bismarck’s first speech as prime minister became his most famous and almost put an end to his tenure of office after a week. To the Budget Committee on September 30, 1862, he said, “not by speeches and majority votes are the great questions of the day decided...but by blood and iron.”
4. The effect on even right-wing opinion was catastrophic. The effect on the king was even worse. He was taking the waters at Baden-Baden but decided to interrupt his holiday, go back to Berlin, and fire Bismarck.
5. Bismarck knew that his career—and, as we now know, the future of Europe—was at stake. Before William even reached Berlin, Bismarck boarded the train and managed to persuade the king to defend his own position to the death.
6. William I was 65 years old when that scene took place; Bismarck was 47. Bismarck’s entire career of 28 years, in which he fought three major wars, unified Germany under a Prussian-style constitution, prevented the growth of parliamentary democracy, and preserved the Prussian army from parliamentary control, depended on the heartbeat and good will of an elderly man.
IV. Bismarck’s career can only be explained by a biographical approach, which highlights his masterly capacity to manipulate the emotions of an elderly, stubborn autocrat and, at the same time, avoid the fatal burst of royal impatience that would get him dismissed.
A. The king once observed that it was difficult to be emperor under a prime minister such as Bismarck, which was funny but also true. For his part, Bismarck once said, “The character of the king is my constant study.” That was also true. How did the partnership work?
1. William I was no autocrat and, though a soldier, he preferred to arrive at peaceful solutions to
2. Bismarck was not a reactionary but a realist. He made deals and used intrigue, as well as force.
3. Bismarck outmaneuvered the liberal forces by using democracy to undermine them. He knew that
parliament in Prussia represented only the top 15 percent of taxpayers. In his declaration explaining why Prussia would not go to a conference of the princes sponsored by Austria in early 1863, he demanded that a future German constitution have universal manhood suffrage. The whole country mocked him, but he was right. The masses voted for their lords (and still do).
4. The king must have seen Bismarck’s genius and accepted that he could not get his ends accomplished without this difficult man.
B. Purely as a matter of speculation, there may have been a deeper bond that united William and Bismarck.
1. William had a powerful queen, an even more dramatic and powerful daughter-in-law, and a weak,
apparently hen-pecked son, the crown prince.
2. Bismarck had been dominated by his strong mother and had suffered from the weakness of his father.
3. Bismarck manoeuvred the king into a triangle in which Bismarck played the “good son,” while
Frederick, corrupted by the bossy English woman, played the “bad son,” full of unpleasant liberal
ideas about constitutional monarchy.
4. Bismarck had hysterical fits and hypochondriac ailments and threatened to resign whenever the king
refused to do what he wanted. The king always gave in, often very grumpily. He needed the “good son.”
5. For 26 years, Bismarck ruled by the magic that he exerted over the old man. As General Alfred Count
von Waldersee remarked in 1887, “Bismarck is the king’s last mistress because only such a creature could have such power over an old man.”
C. Biography in this case gives us insight into a relationship that created our modern world and reminds us that in all the noise of arms and machines, individual actors still make the crucial decisions in our lives.
Alan John Percivale Taylor, Bismarck, the Man and the Statesman.
Theodor Fontane, Effi Briest, Hugh Rorrison and Helen Chambers, trans.
Questions to Consider:
Can you imagine an American president or secretary of state talking the language of realpolitik? If not, why not?
Why did Bismarck see democracy as a weapon against liberalism?
At the Vienna Peace Settlement of 1815, it was decided that it was neither possible nor desirable to restore the 360 or so states that Napoleon had reduced to 39. Furthermore, with the goals of rewarding the victors and creating barriers against any future French aggression, Austria was given domination of Italy, and Prussia received Swedish Pomerania and lands in the Rhine area. This not only made Prussia more western but also gave it what became the industrial heartland and the means to power.
As for the Holy Roman Empire, which Napoleon had ended in 1806, it was not re-established. However, as it was felt that some form of co-ordinating of defences was needed, the new German Confederation (der deutsche Bund) was created. Although its diet met in Frankfurt-am-Main in Hesse, it was dominated by Austria.
The "Dualism" (the competition between Austria and Prussia for leadership of Germany) wasn't a big problem as even Frederick William IV accepted Austrian leadership and there was no one in Prussia like Metternich's calibre until Bismarck emerged in 1862.
UNIT TOPIC: 1848 WAS THE "YEAR OF REVOLUTIONS" IN GERMANY, JUST AS IT WAS IN MUCH OF EUROPE
1. After 1815, German liberals, who were predominantly writers, teachers, lawyers, and doctors, had met from time to time to discuss plans for reform in the various states and for national unification. They were motivated partly by idealism, but also because they felt their careers were affected, for example, by censorship, and by the privileges of the nobility for whom the top posts were generally reserved. While 53 liberals were holding one such meeting in Heidelberg in March 1848, they were taken by surprise by spontaneous popular revolutions occurring in most German states, just as they did in many parts of Europe, in what came to be termed "The Year of Revolutions".
The Communist Manifesto, written by the German intellectuals Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, was published in February 1848, too late to contribute to the outbreak of the revolutions of 1848.
2. The German revolutions began with the one in Vienna on 12th March 1848. As elsewhere in Europe, there were food shortages and unemployment. There had been poor harvests in Germany in and after 1846 which helped cause a depression in manufacturing and trade. What started the Viennese revolt was the Paris February revolution. This inspired certain Hungarian leaders on 3rd March to demand a measure of freedom for Hungarians which brought the demonstrations in Vienna on 12th March by discontented Viennese workers, many of them unemployed. When clashes between demonstrators and troops occurred, the Emperor Ferdinand lost his nerve; on 13th March, the Chancellor Prince Metternich, who had led Austria since 1809, and who had consistently fought revolution, left for England, and on 15th March Ferdinand promised a constituent assembly.
3. News of the events in Vienna sparked off in Berlin on 15th March a similar revolution, which got worse after a chance shot, fired by whom is unknown, barricades were erected and street fighting occurred. King Frederick William IV panicked, withdrawing troops from Berlin, and promising not only a constitution for Prussia but the merging of Prussia in a united Germany. The King later commented that "in those days, we crawled on our stomachs".
4. After the events in Vienna and Berlin, which among other things meant that Austrian and Prussian troops were not available to crush disturbances elsewhere, revolutions occurred throughout Germany. Rulers quickly gave in to petitions and demands, which were often supported by demonstrations, and agreed to constitutions limiting their powers. Bloodshed occurred only in three states, Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt, and Prussia. Only the King here in Bavaria, Ludwig, was forced to abdicate, in favour of his son, Maximilian II, and at that, only because of his affair with the dancer Lola Montez, who was in fact Irish and whose real name was Mary James. (this isn't in your textbook!) Rather surprisingly, there was no widespread demand for the establishment of republics.
5. Although taken by surprise, the liberals meeting in Heidelberg saw their chance to create a liberal united Germany and arranged the election of an assembly on the basis of universal male suffrage. On 18th May 1848, the 830 deputies who had been elected met in the Church of St. Paul in Frankfurt-am-Main for the first session of what came to be called the Frankfurt Parliament or the Frankfurt Assembly. There was no representative of the urban proletariat (workers) and only one peasant; 17 were priests, 16 were army officers, and 118 were higher civil servants; the rest were intellectuals. They elected Heinrich von Gagern as the Assembly's President and Erzherzog Johann (Archduke John), a liberal member of the Habsburg family, as the Imperial Regent (until they could find a real king).
Only by March 1849 had the intellectuals agreed on the terms of a liberal constitution for a united Germany.
The main sticking point had been over whether it should be Greater Germany (Grossdeutschland), which included the Austrian Empire, or Lesser Germany (Kleindeutschland), which excluded Austria, for the population of the Austrian Empire was predominantly Slav and only 25% German. In the end, it was decided to exclude Austria.
It was decided to offer the new imperial crown to the Prussian King, partly as Prussia was the strongest state after Austria, and partly because Frederick William IV had displayed certain promising signs, notably in 1847 arranging a United Provincial Diet.
However, Frederick was no liberal or nationalist and on 3rd April 1849 refused the position of "German Emperor", for he was not "Emperor of Germany", which implied real power, and the crown was "from the gutter", that is offered by the people, not by his peers, his fellow monarchs.
A German flag was adopted, although it was dropped when the revolution was overthrown in 1849. However, it was restored in 1919 with the inauguration of the Weimar Republic and is still the German flag.
6. As early as November 1848, the German rulers, following the Prussian and Austrian lead, had begun to reassert their authority and get rid of or water down the constitutions they had conceded. Finally, in April 1848, Prussian troops disbanded the Frankfurt Parliament, although a small group met in Stuttgart, the capital of Württemberg, until June, when it too was forced to disperse.
7. There were a number of reasons for the failure of the revolutions:
i) The intellectual leaders made the mistake of not deposing the monarchs, partly because they were moderate and partly because they thought the old rulers would share power. Above all, too much faith was placed in the liberalism of Frederick William IV of Prussia.
ii) The intellectual belief in persuasion instead of using force was perhaps unrealistic. Moreover, too much time was spent on arguing over the constitution, so that the ancien règime had the chance to recover first its nerve, and then its power. It was especially unfortunate that no decisive leader emerged.
iii) There was no mass support for the Frankfurt Parliament, whose members were out of touch with ordinary people. The Parliament was unpopular too because it had been powerless to help the Germans in the Duchy of Schleswig against the Danes who tried to make it part of Denmark; the Parliament had had to appeal to the Prussians to field an army, and could do nothing when the Prussians, without consulting the Parliament, arranged a compromise with the Danes.
iv) Energies were divided between the local and the national revolutions. In addition, liberals were not always nationalists, and vice versa, so that there were bitter disagreements. There was also the complication of the Austrian Empire, and fear of Prussian domination should the Austrian Habsburgs be excluded from Germany.
8. The German revolutions of 1848 may have failed, but they were not without importance:
i) For Austria, Prince Metternich, the symbol of conservatism, had fled to England in March 1848. Then, in December 1848, Emperor Ferdinand was persuaded, by the Chancellor Prince Felix Schwarzenberg, to give up power in favour of his more presentable 18 year old nephew Franz Josef, who reigned until 1916. Ferdinand was "an imbecile, epileptic and rickety; his character was expressed in his only sensible remark, 'I'm the Emperor and I want dumplings'''. The national revolutions within the Austrian Empire had been crushed, but Austria was increasingly plagued by nationalism.
ii) In Prussia, King Frederick William IV kept his moderate constitution which he had been forced by the revolutionaries to concede in December 1848. He didn't believe in democracy but wanted some sort of consultation. In addition, a Diet could be a useful safety valve for protest. Although after 1848 the Prussian Diet survived, elected by universal male suffrage, elections were on a three-class system (until April 1917), and the King selected the ministers, who were not responsible to the parliament.
iii) Many German intellectuals - lawyers, journalists and writers, teachers - despaired of reform and emigrated to the United States. Of those who remained, many were later ready to accept the illiberal system of Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian chief minister from 1862 to 1890, because he achieved Germany unity, which 1848 had made seem an impossibility. Other intellectuals concluded that a greater appeal had to be made to the masses, who had been generally ignored in 1848.
The failure of the Frankfurt Parliament meant that the Austrian Habsburg dynasty had not only not been expelled from Germany but still dominated the region. The Prussians challenged the Austrian dominated Frankfurt Diet by arranging in 1850 another union of monarchs, the Erfurt Union (or Prussian Union). The Austrians, however, demanded the end of this new Union; Radowitz and others were prepared to go to war, but in November 1850, Frederick William IV accepted the Austrian ultimatum and agreed to the Punctuation of Olmütz which the Prussians regarded as the "Humiliation of Olmütz". Frederick William not only clung to the old tradition of Austrian leadership of Germany, but feared that the Erfurt Union might become democratic; in addition, Saxony, Hanover and other states had already deserted the new union.
I. Otto von Bismarck, 1815-98.
1. His father was a Prussian Junker (squire) but his mother came from a middle class bureaucratic family and Bismarck himself, after studying at various German universities worked for a time in the Prussian civil service before returning at the age of 24 to help his elder brother manage the family estate in Pomerania. He had disliked the civil service because he was expected to take orders, and his impractical father had allowed the estate to go to ruin.
2. In 1845, he was elected a deputy in the provincial diet of Pomerania) and then, in 1847, to the new United Provincial Diet that King Frederick William summoned. In 1848, he vehemently opposed the Frankfurt Parliament. Between 1851 and 1859, he represented Prussia in the Frankfurt Diet, an experience which made him anti-Austrian. Between 1859 and 1862, he served as Prussian ambassador in St. Petersburg. In 1862, he was sent to Paris as ambassador, but was recalled that same year to become Prime Minister of Prussia. By this time, he had gained considerable experience of bureaucracy, diets, and foreign countries.
3. As Prime Minister (Minister-President) of Prussia, he had by 1871 brought about the creation of the German Empire, which united the German states except for Austria, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Switzerland. From 1871 until 1890, he was Chancellor of the German Reich.
4. In his Memoirs, written in the 1890s, he claimed that he had always intended to unite Germany. However, the facts do not support this contention. For example, the German Empire was not a union of equals but a Prussian Empire. He was not a German nationalist and his main goals seem to have been first to replace Austria as the dominant power in Germany and then to assert Prussian domination in Europe, which would mean overawing France. However, he seems to have come gradually to the conclusion that the union of Germany was not only possible but necessary because he was afraid that German liberals would eventually create a united liberal Germany in which Prussia would not only be dominated but would be dominated by the liberals, whom he despised. To prevent Prussia from being submerged in a liberal united Germany, his Prussia had to take over Germany. If he united Germany, he would win the support of those liberals who were also nationalists, and the liberal strength would be weakened. He had no specific timetable, but was a brilliant opportunist.
5. He was over 6 feet tall and was of considerable physical strength. He was also a man of courage and martial skill, having allegedly fought 26 duels, in which he was wounded only once. As a youth, he had won the epithet of "the Mad Junker" for acts such as releasing a fox in a lady-friend's drawing-room to watch the reaction. His insubordination, his extreme right-wing views, his unwillingness to forgive, and his intemperateness and rages prompted King Frederick William IV to consider him unsuitable for high office, and he only became chief minister in 1862 because there was a government crisis. He did not shrink from instigating wars to further his aims when peaceful methods failed. He was apparently the "Iron Chancellor", confident and ruthless, and the master of machiavellianism (which I mentioned in class), which he termed "Realpolitik" (political realism); he believed that "Not kennt kein Gebot" (necessity knows no law), and asserted that "the great questions of the day are not to be solved by speeches and parliamentary votes, but by iron and blood" (which, oddly, is traditionally translated in English as "blood and iron").
6. However, he felt it necessary to relieve his conscience and feelings by smashing crockery against the wall as we saw in the film, was deeply religious, and confessed: "What scoundrels we should be if we did for ourselves what we do for our country".
7. His excesses were also moderated by the passage of the years. He was a masterful opportunist and manipulator, himself pointing out that while the British Prime Minister, William Gladstone, felled trees as a hobby, he planted them! He knew when to stop or retreat; for example, in 1871, he said "We have done enough for our generation", and, in the 1880s, he retreated from his conflict with the Catholic Church. He was also a talented writer.
II. Bismarck became Prussian Minister-President (Prime Minister) in 1862 because of a government crisis so serious that the King even contemplated abdication.
The crisis resulted from the proposal in December 1859 by Albrecht von Roon, the Prussian Minister of War, for an increase in the size of the army, which he alleged was necessary because of the French threat. The liberal majority in the Diet agreed to the increase, but insisted that the time served by conscripts be reduced from 3 years to 2 years. This would mean that, rather than a larger army, there would be a larger body of trained men, who could be called on in an emergency, and that the Landwehr, the voluntary militia, which was dominated by the liberals, would remain important and strong enough to discourage the government from attempting to impose its will on them. When von Roon refused to compromise, apparently because he wanted to destroy the Landwehr, the liberals refused to vote the necessary budget increase. An impasse resulted as neither side would compromise, and reluctantly King William I was persuaded by von Roon, "as a last resort" to make Bismarck the Minister-President. Bismarck pushed through von Roon's reforms, ignoring parliament, which took no action. As in 1848, the liberals believed in persuasion and peaceful methods.
III. In 1863, Bismarck blocked Austrian proposals for the reform of the Confederation, including an assembly of delegates from the parliaments of the member states and a greater degree of co-operation and unity. He did this by threatening to resign, and thereby forcing William to refuse to attend the congress of German princes held in Frankfurt-am-Main to discuss the Austrian proposals. Without Prussian participation and support, the congress could achieve nothing.
IV. In 1863, Bismarck secured good relations with Russia by means of the Alvensleben Convention (arranged by Konstantin, Count von Alvensleben). This agreement permitted Russian forces to cross into Prussian territory in pursuit of Polish rebels, the Poles having risen in 1863 in an attempt to throw off Russian rule. Bismarck's attitude contrasted sharply with that of the French and British, who were very critical of the Russians, and, as intended, made the Russian government favourably disposed to Berlin. Russian support was very useful in the years to come.
V. Between 1864 and 1871, Bismarck united Germany by means of three wars, the first in 1864 against the Danes, the second in 1866 against the Austrians, and the third in 1870-1871 against the French.
1. Although each of the three wars was limited with regard to the number of combatants and casualties, and to the duration of conflict, they had far reaching results, comparable to the results of the Napoleonic Wars and affecting not just Germany, which at last was united, but also the other countries of Europe, and even the world.
2. His first war was against the Danes in 1864.
i. The sequence of events leading to his first war, that against the Danes, began when the government of the Danish King, Christian IX (1863-1906), incorporated into the kingdom the Duchy of Schleswig, whose population, while predominantly Danish, also included a large German minority. Christian clearly hoped to take advantage not just of Austro-Prussian disagreement over the recent Austrian proposals for the reform of the Bund, but also of Prussian preoccupation with the constitutional crisis. However, Bismarck decided war was his best, if not his only course of action, for the incorporation had prompted the German Confederation to decide on joint action to preserve the independence of Schleswig and its union with the neighbouring Duchy of Holstein. Bismarck opposed such action by the Confederation for a number of reasons. In particular, he wanted Prussia to take the lead in Germany, not the Bund, which was dominated by the Austrians and by the liberals, both of whom he detested. Moreover, he coveted the Duchies for Prussia because they would make possible a Kiel Canal linking the Baltic to the North Sea and thereby obviating the passage round Jutland which was easily blocked. He also saw his chance to divert Prussian public opinion from the constitutional crisis over the Landwehr, and to win popular support. Consequently, Bismarck cleverly proposed joint action with the Austrians, whose leaders had to accept the Prussian lead, being unable not to act in defence of German nationals, and having no wish to see the Bund take the initiative.
ii. In February 1864, Prussian and Austrian forces invaded Schleswig, which was quickly occupied, although the Düppel forts fell only in April. Thereafter, Denmark was quickly overrun and in October Christian agreed to the Treaty of Vienna.
iii. The Danish forces had really had no chance against the extremely talented team of Albert von Roon (Prussian Minister of War) and Helmuth von Moltke (Prussian Chief of Staff), who, moreover, were strengthened by the growth of Prussian industry, and, with the Austrians as allies, had the advantage of superior numbers. In addition, as Bismarck had assumed, no other country came to assist the Danes.
iv. Although the war had in theory been fought to preserve the independence and unity of the Duchies, in the end, by the August 1865 Convention of Gastein (south of Salzburg), it was arranged that Prussia and Austria were to have joint responsibility for the Duchies, but that Prussia was to administer Schleswig, which made possible the construction of the Kiel Canal, and Austria was to administer Holstein.
v. However, the war had other more important results. Leadership of Germany had clearly passed to Prussia in place of Austria, and the 1850 "Humiliation of Olmütz" had been avenged; Bismarck had won liberal support in Prussia, and the constitutional crisis was largely forgotten; and an excuse later for war against Austria had been obtained.
3. The next of Bismarck's wars came in 1866 against Austria.
i. Bismarck had apparently hoped to assert Prussian leadership of Germany by diverting Austria to domination of southern Europe, for example, Venetia and the Balkans. Then, when the Austrians refused to go along with this, Bismarck decided on war, but only once he had made the necessary diplomatic moves to ensure that Austria not only had no allies but would have to fight a war on two fronts. This was achieved by April 1866. He had met Napoleon III at Biarritz in October 1865 and secured French neutrality by vague offers of compensation, and, in April 1866, he had arranged an alliance with the Italians, who, by providing a second front, would divert a large part of the Austrian army. He calculated that the Russians would be grateful for his support in 1863 against the Polish rebels.
ii. Thus, on 9th April, he proposed that the Frankfurt Diet should be elected by universal male suffrage, in the expectation not only that this would defeat the liberals since the bulk of Germany's population were conservative peasants and craftsmen, but would also lead to confrontation with the Austrians. Austro-Prussian relations indeed deteriorated, and both sides began to mobilize their armed forces, the Austrians at the end of April, and the Prussians in May.
iii. Then, when, on 6th June the Austrian governor of Holstein called a meeting of the Holstein Diet to discuss the future of the Duchy, Bismarck declared this a breach of the joint sovereignty clause of the Convention of Gastein, and on 7th June Prussian troops occupied Holstein.
iv. On l4th June, the majority in the Frankfurt Diet voted for general mobilization against Prussia, whereupon the Prussian delegates declared the Bund ended. On the night of 15th-16th June, Prussian forces invaded Hanover, Hesse and Saxony. On 20th June, the Italians declared war on Austria.
v. The Austrians and their allies were so quickly defeated that the Austro-Prussian War came to be called the "Seven Weeks' War". Field Marshal Ludwig Benedek was beaten decisively, on 3rd July 1866, between Sadowa and Königgrätz (modern Hradec Kralove, in the Czech Republic) by the Prussian commanders Prince Frederick Charles and Herwath von Bittenfeld. Prussian troops advanced to Vienna, and in July, peace preliminaries were signed. The Austrians had beaten the Italians at Custoza (near Verona) in June and in a naval engagement off the island of Lissa (modern Vis, in Croatia) in July, but this did not affect the final outcome.
vi. In August 1866, the Austrians signed the Treaty of Prague, which Bismarck made quickly to forestall any French intervention. Austria surrendered Schleswig to Prussia and Venetia to Italy, and agreed to pay Prussia a small indemnity of £3,000,000.
vii. The quick victory by the Prussians, which came as a surprise to many, for they had faced formidable odds, was the result of the same combination of factors that had beaten the Danes.
Bismarck had prepared the diplomatic ground, establishing friendly relations with France and Russia, and securing the Italian alliance. The best Austrian general, Archduke Albert, had been sent to the Italian front so that he, a Habsburg, would not risk defeat, and the less able Benedek had commanded at Sadowa.
Victory was very much the result of the ability of Roon and Moltke, which was clearly illustrated by the use they made of the new railway and telegraph systems, and by the way the Prussian troops were equipped with the needle-gun, the first successful breech-loading rifle. The Prussians also had the advantage of superior productive capacity as a result of their industrial revolution.
Napoleon III of France, who, expecting a drawn-out affair, probably clinched Prussian victory by failing to go to the assistance of the Austrians; and by the time he thought of intervening, the war was over and the Treaty of Prague made.
viii. The Austrian War had even greater repercussions than the Danish conflict.
Prussia gained 27,000 square miles and 4,000,000 people by taking over the North German states, such as Frankfurt-am-Main, Hanover and Hesse-Kassel, which had supported Austria.
The other north German states were forced to join the new North German Confederation (Norddeutsche Bund), which was set up in 1867. This new Bund of 21 states, which replaced the old Confederation, was dominated by Prussia, with Bismarck as Chancellor and the Prussian King as overall President. Bismarck had thus united most of Germany, but on his terms, and it was not a union really, but a Prussian conquest. Austria had not just ceased to be the leader of Germany, but was outside it as it was not a member of the new Bund.
Many liberals in Germany accepted Bismarck, despite his authoritarianism, because he had satisfied their nationalist aspirations; the liberal-democratic movement was thus weakened, never really recovering, and the way was paved in the long run for Hitler.
Not just Germany was affected by this war. The Italian House of Savoy gained Venetia, a late but important step in the Risorgimento (the unification of Italy). However, more important was the fact that the Austrian position was clearly weakened, which encouraged the nations within the empire. Initially, it was the Magyars of Hungary; in 1867, their leaders forced Vienna to concede the so-called Ausgleich (Compromise), whereby the Austrian Empire became the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary, with Hungary sharing the same, joint, monarch as Austria, but otherwise being self-governing and sharing with the Austrians in ruling the other nations, the "subject nations", within the Empire, such as the Croats, Czechs, Poles, and Slovaks. These "subject nations" were also encouraged, although this only became clear later. For its part, Vienna, was encouraged to set its sights on the Balkans, as compensation for its exclusion from Germany; this contributed to the outbreak of the First World War.
4. The third and last of Bismarck's wars was the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 against Napoleon III's Second Empire.
i. Bismarck had probably not envisaged war against France, but the Spanish revolution of 1868 set in motion a train of events that Bismarck, an opportunist, could not let pass.
When Queen Isabella of Spain was deposed in 1868 for misrule, Bismarck, partly by means of bribes, supported the candidature of Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen for the vacant throne. This would mean the encirclement of the French, who would thus be kept in their place, and would make the Prussian House of Hohenzollern dominant in Europe.
However, an accidental release of information alerted the French government leaders, who naturally were alarmed and protested. As a result, King William, weakly in Bismarck's opinion, knuckled down to the French and agreed that Leopold should let his candidacy drop.
Feeling that he and Prussia had been humiliated, especially in the face of exultant French jubilation, Bismarck edited the telegram he had received from the King, who was taking the waters at Ems. This "Ems telegram" made it seem that the King had broken off diplomatic relations with the French, which was not the case, and the French Assembly, against Napoleon's advice, declared war on Prussia on 19th July 1870. Bismarck referred to the telegram as a "red flag to the Gallic bull", but he was apparently surprised, although gratified, that the French had taken the bait.
ii. Prussian victory was quick, although not quite as rapid as in the two previous wars, although the final outcome was never in doubt. In September 1870, Napoleon capitulated at Sedan. In October, French forces led by Marshal François Bazaine, surrendered at Metz. At last, on 28th January 1871, Paris surrendered to the Prussians, who had besieged the French capital since September.
iii. Victory came for the same reasons as previously.
France fought alone as Bismarck had once again prepared the ground diplomatically and isolated the enemy. He leaked to the British Napoleon's proposals to him for the French acquisition of Belgium (in return for his neutrality in the Austro-Prussian War), which was not favourably received in London! The Austrians had not recovered from the war of 1866, and anyway, the Treaty of Prague with Austria in 1866 had been moderate, so that there was little interest in a war of revenge. The Italians were Prussian allies, especially as the war enabled them to take over Rome, which had been protected for the Pope by French troops. The Russian emperor was won over by Bismarck's support in 1863 during the Polish rebellion, and in 1870 over the revision of the Treaty of Paris of 1856, which had closed the Black Sea to the Russian fleet.
The Prussians also had the advantages of their industrial revolution and the ability of Roon and Moltke. The French "chassepot" rifle and "mitrailleuse" rapid-firing gun were superior to German infantry equipment, but Prussian artillery, training and organization were better.
iv. The main results of the war were the assertion of Prussian domination of Europe and the completion of German unity. In 1871, the south German states, Baden, Bavaria, Hesse, and Wurttemberg, joined the North German Confederation, and on 18th January 1871 the new German Reich (Empire) of 25 states and 40,000,000 people was proclaimed in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, with the Prussian King being crowned German Emperor, and Bismarck becoming Imperial Chancellor. Exactly why the south German states agreed to inclusion in the Reich is unclear. Their leaders were no doubt afraid of a French war of revenge, and feared for their security if they did not join the North German Confederation. However, the deciding factor seems to have been the way Bismarck won over King Ludwig II of Bavaria, apparently by offering him money for the continuation of his extensive castle building programme. Once Bavaria, the largest southern state, had joined, the others had little option.
The Italians shared in the Prussian triumph for they gained Rome as a result of the French being unable to protect the "Eternal City".
In contrast, Napoleon III lost his throne, the Second Empire giving way to the Third Republic. Moreover, the French felt humiliated, not just by their rapid defeat, but also by the relatively harsh Treaty of Frankfurt, signed in May 1871. Bismarck failed to repeat the moderation of the Treaty of Prague. The French did not object so much to the clauses imposing an army of occupation until an indemnity of £200,000,000 had been paid (in fact paid quickly by 1873) as this was traditional practice and the indemnity was modest; the problem was that they also had to cede most of Alsace and Lorraine (Elsass-Lothringen), which, as Bismarck was aware, invited a war of revenge, and indeed contributed to bringing about the First World War. Possibly Bismarck deliberately antagonised the French to make another French war seem likely, as this would alarm the south German states, since they were on the likely path of any French attack. More likely, however, he felt he had no alternative to annexing Alsace-Lorraine, for exultant German nationalism would not easily permit the French to retain these German-speaking areas.
After 1871, Bismarck's Prussia fought no more wars, Bismarck wisely deciding that the gains of the 1860s had to be assimilated. Indeed, thereafter, Bismarck became the leading promoter of peace, working to prevent war on a number of occasions. However, his three wars had transformed the European and also the world scene, for Germany became not just the strongest European power but also a world power. In many ways, Bismarck unwittingly paved the way for the First and Second World Wars by uniting Germany, by weakening liberal-democracy, and by giving many Germans a superiority complex.
D. THE GERMAN REICH UNTIL 1890 WHEN BISMARCK RESIGNED AS CHANCELLOR
I. The nature of the unified Germany.
1. The 1871 Constitution was an extended version of that of the 1867 North German Confederation.
At the head was the German Emperor, a title which dissatisfied William, who would have preferred that of Emperor of Germany. The central executive power in Berlin was exercised by ministers, the chief minister having the title of Chancellor. The Emperor selected the chancellor and appointed the ministers, although William I in practice let the chancellor nominate the ministers. The central legislature was bicameral, with a Reichstag (Federal Diet) elected for 5 years by all males, and a Bundesrat representing the state governments. The Reichstag had the right to initiate and to veto legislation. However, the chancellor could in practice ignore parliament because he was responsible (that is, answerable) to the Emperor and not to parliament, and, as customs and excise revenues were fixed with individual states paying a matricular contribution to the central government, parliament had no financial control, except over the defence budget, which was voted every 7 years. As for the Bundesrat, it was never consulted on any important issue, and details of its meetings and votes were not made public. No state had the right to secede.
The constitution was criticised as "the fig-leaf of absolutism" and "fraudulent federalism" (Karl Liebknecht, 1871-1919, one of the socialist leaders). The Reichstag could admittedly be ignored, and, as Bismarck calculated, the masses could be manipulated; for example, he apparently caused a war scare with France in 1875 to help win support. Until 1879, Bismarck was able to count on the support of the National Liberal Party (Nationalliberale Partei), with 120 deputies in the Reichstag, led by Rudolph von Bennigsen. Then, when the National Liberals had split over the question of replacing free trade by protection, he came to rely on the Conservatives (Konservativen) and Free Conservatives. None the less, the Reichstag was elected by universal male suffrage (women gained the right to vote in 1919), and Bismarck found it increasingly hard to secure Reichstag support, especially in view of the growth of the Social Democratic Party, the heirs to Karl Marx, which, by 1912, was the largest party in the Reichstag. Thus, in 1890, Bismarck proposed ending the constitution and ruling by decree because of his difficulty in manipulating the Reichstag.
There is more truth in the criticism of "fraudulent federalism", for Prussia did dominate; in the Reichstag, it, as the state with the largest population, held 235 out of 382 seats, while in the Bundesrat, it had 17 out of 61 seats, which enabled it to block constitutional reforms. In addition, Prussian systems, for example in bureaucratic, military and educational affairs, were extended to the other states. However, Bismarck had had to make concessions to Saxony and the South German states of Bavaria, Baden and Wurttemberg; for example, they retained their kings, or in Baden's case, the Grand Duke, and Bavaria and Wurttemberg retained their own postal systems, and Bavaria its own army.
2. The different systems of the member states were harmonised. For example, in 1871, the seven separate currency systems (such as the Krone, Pfund, Schilling, and Thaler) were replaced by the Mark and the Pfennig. In 1873, uniform legal procedures were introduced, with the High Court of Appeal being sited in Leipzig. Uniform weights and measures, in the form of the metric system, were introduced. A Reich postal service was begun. In 1874, the armed forces were united.
II. Unification facilitated the German industrial revolution.
1. By 1900, Germany had overtaken Britain as the leading European industrial power and in the world was second only to the United States. According to the economist Lord Keynes (in his book The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1919), "the German Empire has been built more truly on coal and iron than on blood and iron".
German coal production increased from an average of 34,500,000 tons a year between 1871 and 1875, to 191,500,000 tons in 1913. Pig iron production increased from 1,600,000 tons in 1871 to 14,800,000 tons in 1910. German manufacturers also became the world leaders in the chemical, electrical, and engineering industries. The urban population increased from about 25% in 1871, to about 40% in 1880, and 60% in 1910. The 18,000 kilometres of railway in 1870 had grown to 61,000 kilometres by 1914. A large merchant marine was also built up.
2. As well as making Germany powerful, industrialization also brought the growth of socialism.
Ferdinand Lassalle (1825-64), the son of a prosperous Jewish Silesian merchant, was the founder of German socialism. In 1863, he had organized the General Union of German Workers, although this had fewer than 5,000 members at the time of his death in a duel. He opposed Marx, believing in the nation and state socialism, and seeing not violence but universal male suffrage and control of the state as the key to greater social justice.
German Marxism was begun by Wilhelm Liebknecht (1826-1900), a Hessian lawyer and writer, who in his early years was generally in exile in France or Britain. He was allowed into Prussia in 1862, but in 1865, he was expelled on Bismarck's orders, and went to Saxony. There he met August Bebel (1841-1913), a woodturner, who was won to the cause and proved himself an outstanding leader, complementing Liebknecht, the writer, by his oratorical skills. In 1869, a congress of workingmen's associations, meeting in Eisenach, established the Social Democratic Workingmen's Party (Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei), SDAP.
In 1875 at the Gotha Congress, the Lassallians and the followers of Liebknecht agreed on the united "Gotha Programme" and formed the Socialist Workingmen's Party (renamed the Social Democratic Party by the 1891 Erfurt Congress). Despite Marxist rhetoric, the Programme was in practice largely Lassallian.
In 1869, 2 Socialists were elected to the Reichstag, and thereafter socialist representation in the Reichstag slowly grew until by 1912 they were the largest single group.
In 1879, Adolf Stoecker established the Christian Socialist Workers' Party, appealing to the lower middle class. Stoecker was unfortunately anti-Semitic and proclaimed war on Jews.
3. Bismarck hated the socialists because of their belief in democracy, republicanism, pacifism and internationalism, which led them to oppose him. He tried to destroy them by a mixture of welfare legislation and repression.
In 1883, sickness insurance was introduced, with the employer paying 1/3 of the contributions. In 1884, accident insurance was begun, with the employer paying the contributions. In 1889, old age insurance was initiated, with contributions paid half by the workers and half by the employers, and Bismarck fixing 65 as the right retirement age. All this was pioneering welfare work, which was copied later elsewhere, for example, the retirement age of 65, and the system of contribution by the purchase of special stamps to be stuck on a special card.
In 1861, Saxony became the first German state to relax the anti-association laws by which unions were banned. In 1871, the new Reich had guaranteed workers the right to organize. However, in 1878, two assassination attempts were made on the Kaiser (Emperor), the first in January by Emil Hödel, a deranged radical, and the second in June by Dr. Karl Nobiling, another radical, who badly wounded William, and Bismarck took advantage of these to pass anti-socialist laws, despite the fact that there was no sign that the socialists had been involved! Thus the Socialist Party was declared illegal, and freedom of speech, press and association were ended by means of vague laws against those who "aim at the overthrow of the existing order of state or society".
4. Industrialization, and the depression of the 1870s, were powerful incentives for Bismarck to support protection and a colonial policy. Thus the German colonies in Africa were acquired: South West Africa, modern Namibia; West Africa - Togo and Kamerun; East Africa - Burundi, Rwanda and Tanganyika. In 1873, Germans occupied the first of the Caroline Islands in the Pacific.
III. Bismarck came into conflict with Catholicism, whose influence and power he disliked, especially as it challenged his position, above all in the church schools and sermons. The Protestants were less of a problem as they were divided, especially between Lutherans and Calvinists, and in general eschewed politics. There thus began what Rudolf Virchow (anthropologist, pathologist, and social reformer) of the Catholic Centre Party in 1873 called a "Kulturkampf" (a cultural struggle).
For example, in 1872, the Jesuits were expelled. Then the May Laws of 1873 of Adalbert Falk, the Prussian Minister of Public Worship, made the state responsible for training and appointing priests; required from Catholic clergy an oath of loyalty; and barred clergy from discussing political matters in sermons, from registering births, deaths and marriages, and from inspecting schools. Two archbishops, three bishops, and thousands of clergy refused to comply and were arrested. In 1875, the Prussian "Breadbasket Bill" cut off payments by the state to priests who failed to comply. In the same year, religious orders other than those caring for the sick were declared dissolved.
In May 1872, Bismarck had promised "We shall not go...to Canossa", referring to the surrender made by the German Emperor Henry IV at Canossa (Italy) to Pope Gregory VII in 1077. However, he gradually halted his campaign against the Catholic Church. It had not been especially successful; Pope Pius IX died in 1878 and his successor Leo XIII was more accommodating; and Pope and Chancellor both increasingly felt they needed an ally against the growing socialist challenge.
IV. Bismarck's foreign policy 1871-90. (See the chapter on International Relations.)
1. In contrast to the years 1864-71, Bismarck after 1871 was a man of peace, working not only to prevent German involvement in war but any European war involving other states. His Germany had no need for further war. He admitted "We have done enough for our generation", having achieved all, if not more than, he had hoped for, and being preoccupied with consolidating the gains of the 1860s. Moreover, he was busy with pressing new problems such as the challenge from the socialists and the Catholic Church, although of course foreign policy could be used to drum up support. As for wars between other European states, these might upset the balance of power, would be bad for trade, and might easily suck in Germany.
i. He was aware of the threat to peace from certain Frenchmen, who hoped to avenge the humiliation of 1870-71 and regain Alsace-Lorraine. However, he was also aware of the industrial weakness of France and of its stagnating population which hovered at the 40,000,000 mark while Germany's increased from 40,000,000 in 1871 to 52,000,000 in 1895 (and 65,000,000 by 1914). Of course, France allied to Austria or Russia, while unlikely, was not an impossibility, and would have to be guarded against.
ii. None the less, the Near Eastern Crisis of 1875-78 (see 3 below) emphasised the danger of what Prince Metternich (the Austrian Chancellor between 1821 and 1848) had taught earlier in the century, namely that the main danger to peace came from Austro-Russian competition in the Balkans. Bismarck was also alarmed at the possibility of another Italian war against Austria with the goal of gaining those territories, for example the South Tyrol, which the Italians claimed, but were still held by the Austrians. He was also aware that competition for colonies overseas had in the past led to war.
iii. The main means to preserve peace employed by Bismarck was the organization of congresses and alliances. "Always try to be 'à trois' in a world of five powers" was his guideline. Also, as he pointed out, every alliance had to have a horse and rider; he, of course, was to be the rider!
iv. He was also alarmed at the spread of liberalism and socialism, and alliances would be a means to discourage their further growth.
2. In 1873, Austria, Germany and Russia became associated in the First Dreikaiserbund (Three Emperors' League). Bismarck had not in fact initiated this League, which resulted from meetings in May 1873 between Kaiser William I and Tsar Alexander II in St. Petersburg, where, to Bismarck's alarm, military support was promised if either went to war. When Bismarck refused to endorse this agreement, Austrian and Russian representatives in June met in the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna and made an agreement to consult if any problem threatened to divide them and if either became involved in war. Bismarck approved of this agreement and secured German adhesion. The League restored the co-operation that the Holy Alliance and the Neo-Holy Alliance had brought between 1815 and 1853.
3. The 1875 war scare with France.
i. In March 1875, the export of horses from Germany was stopped and a German press campaign -"Is war in sight?"- inspired. The French Foreign Minister, Louis, Duc Decazes, published views that had been expressed by Josef von Radowitz, one of Bismarck's representatives, to the effect that certain circles in Germany favoured a preventive war against France. Decazes tried to enlist the support of Austria, Britain and Russia, whereupon Bismarck gave assurances that it was a false alarm, and the crisis disappeared.
ii. Bismarck's motives are unclear. He may have wanted to frighten the French; perhaps he was surprised by the speed of French recovery after 1871, and was annoyed by the sympathy shown by the right-wing French government for German Catholics struggling against his Kulturkampf. Possibly he hoped to bully the French into an alliance. Most likely, he wanted to divert German public opinion away from the Kulturkamnpf and to win electoral support.
4. In 1878, Bismarck arranged the Congress of Berlin, which settled the Near Eastern Crisis and perhaps prevented a repeat of the Crimean war.
i. In July 1875, the Serbs of Bosnia-Herzegovina rebelled against Turkish misrule, and in May 1876 were joined by the Bulgars, who were quickly subjected to what became known in Britain as "the Bulgarian atrocities". In June 1876, the Serbs of Serbia (which in 1830 had been recognized as autonomous by the Turks), in the expectation of Russian help, declared war on the Ottoman Empire, with the twin goals of helping their fellow Serbs and making gains for themselves.
ii. Following the Sultan's rejection of Austro-German-Russian proposals for reform (for example, the Andrassy Note of December 1875 and the Berlin Memorandum of May 1876) and Ottoman victory against the Serbs, the Russians in April 1877 declared war on the Turks. Bismarck promised to support the Russians, but only if the Austrians agreed with the Russian action, which they did not. By December 1877, Russian troops were at the gates of Constantinople. This alarmed the Austrians and British, who demanded an armistice. The Russians, not being ready for war against both Britain and Austria, stopped fighting in March 1878, but imposed on the Turks the Treaty of San Stefano (modern Yesilkoy, a suburb of Istanbul). By this, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Rumania and Serbia were to gain full independence and Bosnia-Herzegovina was to achieve home-rule. Russia rewarded itself with Bessarabia at the mouth of the Danube and expected to dominate the big Bulgaria that had been created and which, by including Macedonia, stretched as far as the Aegean Sea.
iii. However, the Austrians and British refused to accept the terms of San Stefano and demanded a conference to revise them. In this situation, Bismarck arranged the Congress of Berlin, claiming to act as the "honest broker" between Austria and Russia. The Treaty of Berlin which resulted limited the Russian advance by creating only a little Bulgaria, about 1/3 the size of the big one, and without an Aegean littoral as Rumelia and Macedonia were returned to Turkey, albeit with a measure of self-government. Austria and Britain also gained a share of the spoils; for example, Britain gained Cyprus, and Austria gained the right to occupy Bosnia-Herzegovina.
5. In 1879, Bismarck arranged his first alliance, the Dual Alliance with Austria.
i. The Treaty of Gastein (in Austria, south of Salzburg), the terms of which were only published in 1888, promised mutual assistance if either was attacked by Russia, and benevolent neutrality if either was attacked by another power, by which was presumably meant France. The treaty was to last for 5 years, but was renewable, and was still in effect in 1914.
ii. Bismarck's motives for the alliance are unclear. The obvious motive was alarm at French recovery. However, the timing suggests that he was worried more by the prospect of an Austro-Russian war and hoped by means of the alliance to restrain Austria.
6. In 1881, Bismarck arranged the Second Dreikaiserbund, which was renewed in 1884, but allowed to lapse in 1887 during the Bulgarian Crisis. (See 10 below.)
i. The signatories promised benevolent neutrality if another went to war against a fourth country, unless the fourth were the Ottoman Empire, where special agreement was necessary. The Austrians agreed not to oppose the union of Bulgaria and Rumelia, and the Russians agreed that Austria might annex Bosnia-Herzegovina.
ii. The initiative for the League came from the Russians who pressed for it from 1879, but Bismarck supported the idea apparently as he saw in it a means to keep Austria and Russia from going to war over the Balkans.
7. In 1882, Bismarck arranged the Triple Alliance of Austria, Germany and Italy, which was still in effect in 1915. Austria and Germany were to help the Italians against a French attack; the Italians were to help the Germans against a French attack; and if any member was attacked by another power, there was to be benevolent neutrality at least.
Bismarck's obvious motive was to keep the French under control by making them fear that an attack on Germany would also involve war on the Italian front. However, Bismarck was also alarmed by the prospect of an Italian - Austrian war, which might give the Russians an opportunity to strengthen their position in the Balkans. For their part, the Italians were anxious for support against the French in colonial competition; in particular, the Italians disliked the French occupation in 1881 of Tunisia, which they themselves had coveted.
8. In 1884-5, Bismarck embarked on a colonial policy and arranged the 15 nation Berlin Conference on Africa, November 1884-February 1885. Bismarck had previously eschewed colonialism, asserting that his map of Africa lay in Europe. So his action is rather puzzling.
i. He was being pressed by German businessmen for colonies and it would be a means to gain popular support. In addition, German imperial claims would probably mean competition and bad relations with the British, thereby providing a common cause with Jules Ferry, the imperialist French Prime Minister (1880-1, 1883-5), and bringing better relations with France.
ii. However, if Bismarck had hoped for better relations with France, he was to be disappointed, for, in the event, the British Prime Minister of the day, William Gladstone, was no imperialist and made no objection to German acquisition of colonies in Africa, such as Kamerun, Tanganyika, Togo and South West Africa. The competing imperial claims in Africa by Germany and other countries were settled amicably in the Berlin Conference. Bismarck may also have hoped to show the heir to the throne, Frederick, who was married to Queen Victoria's eldest daughter Victoria and was Anglophile, that co-operation with Britain was not possible.
9. In 1887, Bismarck arranged the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia, the Three Emperors' League having been allowed to lapse. Russia was to be neutral unless Germany attacked France; and Germany was to be neutral unless Russia attacked Austria. In addition, Bismarck agreed to support the Russians in their claims to the Balkans and the Straits, in the expectation presumably that the British would be able to deter any Russian advance. The Treaty was not renewed when it expired in 1890 as Bismarck had resigned and William opposed a renewal.
10. The Bulgarian Crisis of 1885-8 tested Bismarck's arrangements by once again raising the possibility of an Austro-Russian war over the Balkans.
i. In 1885, Eastern Rumelia (capital Plovdiv) selected as its king, Alexander of Battenberg, who had been King of Bulgaria from 1879. Milan, King of Serbia, having failed to gain compensation for his country following the increase in size of Bulgaria, declared war in 1885 on Bulgaria, but the Austrians stepped in and restored peace in order to stop the Bulgarians from exploiting their victory in the battle at Slivnitza, north of Sofia. However, that was not the end of the matter.
ii. The problem reappeared in August 1886, when Alexander was kidnapped by his opponents and forced to abdicate. It was not only assumed that the Russians had connived at Alexander's removal because he had declined to be their puppet, but it was also feared that they might invade and occupy Bulgaria. As a result, the Austrian government warned the Tsar not to intervene. Bismarck refused to support either side (cf. 1914) and, in 1888, published details of the Dual Alliance as a warning to the Russians that Germany would support Austria if war came.
iii. The crisis finally ended in 1888 when the Bulgarians selected as king Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, for, although the Russians persuaded the Turks to declare the appointment invalid, no-one took any notice, and the Russians did nothing!
11. Bismarck had apparently been responsible for preserving peace on a number of occasions, and Europe after 1890, lacking his moderating influence, drifted into the First World War.
However, even he had found it increasingly difficult to keep Austria and Russia together, and autocratic Russia and republican France were already moving closer before 1890. Would he have been able after 1890 to prevent the Russian defection and alliance with France, which meant the division of Europe into two hostile armed camps? Moreover, the creation of a crisis for domestic purposes, for example, the war scare with France in 1875, was underhand and dangerous.
V. In 1890, Bismarck was forced to resign. William I, whom Bismarck had found relatively easy to dominate, died in 1888. The new Emperor, Frederick, was a liberal Anglophile, but he died of cancer after three months. Frederick's son, William II (1859-1941) was young, determined to rule, and considered that Germany needed a "new course" and a younger chancellor than the 75-year-old Bismarck. Thus in 1890, as the Punch cartoon put it, "the pilot" of the ship-of-state was "dropped".
VI. Germany after 1890 lacked Bismarck's leadership. However, his authoritarianism meant that Germany had not begun to gain experience in operating a democratic system. He had accustomed Germans to the use of force as the solution to problems, and all Europe to the idea that war would be short and relatively painless. Despite his much vaunted success in foreign affairs, he was having increasing difficulty in preserving peace, and his alliance system was likely to provoke an opposing one.
E. WILHELMINIAN GERMANY, 1890-1918
I. Germany lacked direction after Bismarck's resignation, and in 1914, the Austrian Foreign Minister, Count Berchtold, asked: "Who rules in Berlin?" Bismarck himself was partly responsible for this situation as he had prepared no successor.
1. Wilhelm (William) II, Kaiser (Emperor) from 1888 to 1918, was blustering and impetuous and was determined to exercise personal influence, asserting that: "It is I who rule" and "I am the instrument of the Most High". The Reichstag was to be ignored and the chancellors were to do his bidding. Thus in 1890, "the pilot (Bismarck) was dropped".
i. He insisted on making appointments, but lacked the ability to select men of calibre and preferred men who would do as they were told. Thus, for example, none of his chancellors was outstanding (see 2 below) and, in 1906, despite the protests of the generals, he appointed Helmuth von Moltke as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, apparently in the belief that the name guaranteed that he would be as good as his uncle had been in the wars of the 1860s!
However, William lacked the ability to supervise, so that government officials were often able to do what they wanted, or persuade him to follow a course of action, so that there was often no cohesion. In particular, foreign affairs from 1890 to 1906 were largely in the hands of the Foreign Office official, Friedrich von Holstein, who was unknown outside the Foreign Office. Thus under William, Germany pursued what came to be called, thanks to a Punch cartoon, "Full steam ahead" policies, which were likely to take the country on a collision course.
ii. He was sensitive about his undeveloped right arm, which he had had from birth and which perhaps made him anxious to assert himself and display what he imagined was virility. He also believed in German superiority, saying on one occasion that "God has created us (the Germans) in order to civilize the world". He had a cruel sense of humour, for example, making old generals run around and do gymnastics, or turning his rings in and squeezing people's hands until they cried out. After 1918, in exile in the Netherlands, he seemed indifferent to accusations that he was responsible for war crimes.
2. None of his chancellors was outstanding.
i. General Leo von Caprivi, Chancellor from 1890-1894, was an able soldier, honest, well meaning, and a capable administrator, and the best of William's chancellors, but he was inexperienced and not an outstanding politician. His "New Course" upset too many influential groups and he was soon forced to resign. His reduction in 1893 of military service from 3 years to 2 upset the militarists, even though this was intended as a sop to gain acceptance of a much larger army, which upset liberals, especially because of the cost. His reduction of tariffs upset the farmers. The imperialists disliked his July 1890 agreement with Britain whereby Britain gained from Germany the island of Heligoland in the North Sea and in return ceded to Germany Zanzibar and Pemba Islands off East Africa. His attempts to win over the Poles inside the Reich upset the German nationalists.
ii. Chlodwig, Fürst zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, Chancellor from 1894 to 1900, was William's 75 year old uncle, with some experience as a diplomat and in Bavarian politics, but he was too old and did not oppose William, who tried to act as both chancellor and foreign minister.
iii. Count Bernhard von Bülow, Chancellor from l900 to 1909, a former diplomat who had advised William since 1897, was a considerable orator and not without ability, but he was a reactionary sycophant.
iv. Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, Chancellor from 1909 to 1917, had been the Minister of the Interior and was a bureaucrat, industrious, honest, and well-intentioned, but lacking brilliance, imagination, and experience in foreign affairs. From August 1916, the military, and especially General Erich Ludendorff, were the de facto rulers of Germany.
v. Georg Michaelis, an obscure official (July-October 1917), and Count Georg von Hertling (November 1917-30th September 1918) were also dominated by Ludendorff, who in September 1918 decided that the liberal Prince Max von Baden should be Chancellor and should transform Germany into a constitutional monarchy, which, it was assumed, would make peace talks easier.
II. Bismarck's political system remained intact.
1. This occurred despite the growing socialist strength. In 1892, there were 35 Social Democrat deputies in the Reichstag, but by 1912, there were 110, and the SDs were the largest single party, with about 1/3 of the seats. However, most SDs were moderate, believed in peaceful political change, and voted for war credits in 1914.
2. Caprivi saw the need for political reform but did nothing. In 1910 Bethmann-Hollweg's modest proposals were blocked by conservatives. "Fraudulent federalism" and "the fig-leaf of absolutism" remained.
3. Germany in fact moved further from a democratic constitutional monarchy as William tried to dominate. In 1913, a local Chamber of Deputies was permitted in Alsace-Lorraine, but when this tried to assert itself, William threatened to "smash your constitution to atoms and reduce you to a province".
III. As in Bismarck's day, an attempt was made to wean the proletariat from socialism by means of social reform. However, these reforms were considered inadequate by the workers, and socialist support increased.
1. Social reforms were instituted especially by Caprivi, with the support of the Kaiser. Above all, Bismarck's anti-socialist laws were ended. This made possible the 1891 socialist Congress at Erfurt, which re-established the socialist party, called the Social Democratic Party. The Erfurt Programme drawn up by the Congress began with a statement of Marxist principles, but went on to commit the party to working with the state.
In 1890, laws regulated the hours of work for women and children, and established industrial courts to mediate in wage disputes. In 1891, government inspection of factories was improved to ensure that companies were complying with government regulations concerning working conditions. In 1892, a government Labour Department was created to provide information on labour matters.
2. William lost interest in reform when it did not, as he had hoped it would, win the urban proletariat away from socialism. None the less, there were still some reforms. In 1895, a housing programme was begun. In 1899, it was made legal for societies to join together, which greatly strengthened the hand of the unions as they could now combine. In 1899 and 1900, accident and old age insurance reforms increased the compensation and pensions paid, and extended the system to occupations previously excluded; in 1903, health insurance laws were improved, to give greater cover for a longer period (26 weeks instead of 13); and in 1910, the National Insurance Code consolidated and extended the previous regulations. A 1908 Act prohibited children under 13 from working, and fixed the maximum working hours per day for young people age 13 to 14 at six and those age 14 to 16 at ten.
IV. Germany continued to develop industrially and to increase its lead in Europe, despite the reimposition of tariffs.
When, in 1887, Bismarck increased tariffs on Germany's imports, this not only raised food prices in Germany, but also reduced exports as Germany's trading partners, especially Austria and Russia, had retaliated. In 1892, there were bread riots in Berlin, the situation not having been helped by a succession of poor German harvests. Caprivi therefore negotiated tariff reduction treaties with a number of countries, including Austria, Italy, and Russia. He was bitterly opposed by the very influential German farmers, and all those who felt that reliance on foreign imports of food would be dangerous should Germany have to go to war. In 1902, the powerful Farmers' League was able to force Bülow to raise tariffs.
V. There were worrying signs of excessive self-confidence and national feeling.
l. Efforts continued to Germanize the Danish and Polish minorities. The attempt to use German only in Polish elementary schools was thwarted by passive resistance. However, in 1908, the Expropriation Bill created a Land Commission, which was empowered to buy up land at its price to foster German settlement.
2. According to the anthropologist Alfred Woltmann, "All European civilization, even in the Slavonic and Latin countries, has been brought about by the German race". The famous Berlin University professor of history, Heinrich von Treitschke (1834-96), extolled military virtues and German nationalism in his books and teaching.
3. From 1890, anti-Semitism increased, associated most with Adolf Stöcker, leader of the Christian Socialists. In 1893, sixteen representatives pledged to anti-Jewish policies were elected to the Reichstag.
VI. German foreign policy especially lacked direction after Bismarck's "resignation".
1. Wilhelminian Germany followed a particularly disastrous course in foreign policy.
i. Germany adopted a "Weltpolitik" (world-wide policy) of world-wide involvement in place of Bismarck's limited commitment. For example, Bismarck had eschewed a colonial and a naval policy in order to avoid futile conflict with France and Britain.
ii. German diplomatic methods were those of the "big-stick" (the build up of and threat to use force) and "full steam ahead". A cartoon in Punch described German policies as "Full-steam ahead", that is, rapid advances despite the danger of collision resulting. (See the Chapters on International Relations from 1848 to 1918 and on the First World War).
2. Far Eastern affairs.
i. In 1897, following the murder of two German missionaries, Germany forced the Chinese to grant them a 99 year lease on Jiaozhou (Kiaochow) Bay. This caused a certain amount of tension with the other European powers and sparked off a European "scramble" for similar leases; for example, the British arranged a 99 year lease on the New Territories opposite Hong Kong Island.
ii. The European powers managed to co-operate in crushing the Chinese anti-foreign Boxer Rebellion in 1900, the International Force being headed by a German.
3. Relations with the Ottoman Empire. In 1898, the Kaiser visited the Sultan. In Damascus, he made a speech in which he said he was the friend of the 300,000,000 Moslems. The visit also brought about the start of construction in 1899 of the Berlin-Bagdad Railway.
4. Relations with Britain.
i. Minor colonial differences were settled in 1890, when the Germans gave up claims in East Africa and the British ceded Heligoland, which they had gained in 1815 from the Danes.
ii. In January 1896, William sent a telegram to President Paulus Kruger of the Transvaal (capital Pretoria) congratulating him on the failure of the Jameson Raid, a British attempt to take over in the Transvaal. In 1899 and 1900, the Germans proposed a Continental League of European powers against Britain to help the Dutch settlers of southern Africa fight the British in the Boer War (1899-1902).
iii. In 1898, the Minister of the Marine, Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, supported by the Kaiser, secured passage of the German Navy Bill. This had the goal of building a fleet that equalled the greatest fleet of the day, that is the British Royal Navy, with the avowed purposes of protecting German colonies and trade, and of making Germany's weight felt internationally.
iv. Despite the above, Joseph Chamberlain, the British Colonial Secretary between 1895 and 1903, in 1898-9, and again in 1901, proposed an alliance. However, the Germans refused, convinced of the permanent hostility of Britain with regard to France and Russia, and wary of any co-operation with a democratic state.
v. Alarm at German "Weltpolitik" was one reason why Britain came out of its diplomatic isolation and made the Entente with France in 1904, followed by that with Russia in 1907. (See the chapter on International Relations, section IV.6 and 8.)
vi. The acceleration of the German naval building programme in 1908 caused great alarm in Britain. There was a popular cry of "We want eight and we won’t wait", the eight being eight Dreadnoughts, the most advanced warships of the day. Relations were not improved when the Kaiser said: "Good relations with England at the price of the building of a German fleet are not desired by me. The German fleet is not built against anyone and also not against England but according to our need". Respect for the Kaiser did not increase when, in October 1908, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, he announced that he was Britain's only friend in Germany, and in the Boer War had suggested to Britain the outline of the successful strategy adopted by Lord Roberts to win the war! The interview also helped bring Bulow's resignation in 1909.
vii. The Morocco Crises of 1905 and 1911 (see below, points 5 and 7) alarmed the British, who felt that the Germans were interfering in matters that did not concern them, just to show their power. The 1905 crisis resulted in Anglo-French military talks in 1906, which marked the beginning of the transformation of their Entente into something more formal. The 1911 crisis resulted in a war scare following the speech at the Mansion House in London by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George. It also brought about in 1912 the first firm military British commitment to France; by this, in the event of war, the Royal Navy would be concentrated in the Channel and the French fleet in the Mediterranean. This meant that although there was no formal Anglo-French alliance, Britain would presumably support France in the event of a Franco-German War.
viii. All British attempts after 1909 to halt the naval arms race with Germany failed. The Germans consistently, and ominously, offered a deal only in return for a British promise of neutrality in the event of war.
ix. However, the Kaiser's visits to Britain for the funerals of his relatives, Queen Victoria 1901 and Edward VII 1910, were friendly occasions.
5. The First Morocco Crisis 1905.
i. In March 1905, the Kaiser, while on a Mediterranean cruise, was pushed by Bülow into making a speech in Tangier in favour of Moroccan independence, which seemed threatened by French imperialism.
ii. According to the Bülow, the "aim was to show that Germany was not to be treated as a negligible quantity". Presumably, the Germans also hoped to show the French that the recent entente with Britain was valueless, and to bring about the resignation of the French Foreign Minister, Théophile Delcassé. Possibly, they also hoped to make gains from a grateful Morocco, in particular a naval base on the Moroccan Atlantic coast. The French Premier, Maurice Rouvier, was ready to concede the Germans a Moroccan port, but the Germans insisted on a conference, where they presumably hoped to humiliate the French. Such a conference met at Algeciras in Spain between January and April 1906, but only the Austrians and the Turks supported the German cause, and the Algeciras Conference arranged indirect French domination while guaranteeing the Sultan's authority: Morocco was to be policed by a Franco-Spanish force under a Swiss Inspector General; and the Moroccan state bank was to be internationalized, with France having the largest share.
6. The 1908 Bosnian or Near Eastern Crisis. In September 1908 at Buchlau (modern Buchlovice in the Czech Republic), Austrian and Russian representatives apparently agreed that the Russians would support Austrian annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in return for Austrian support for the revision of the 1841 Straits Rule to permit the passage through the Dardanelles of Russian warships. When in October 1908, the Austrian Foreign Minister, Count Alois Aehrenthal, announced the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Izvolski protested because there had been no revision of the Straits Rule. The Germans, after their initial annoyance with Austria, supported Vienna and, in March 1909, by means of veiled threats, forced Russia to accept the annexation.
7. The Second Morocco Crisis 1911. In 1911, French forces occupied Fez following a revolt which forced the Moroccan Sultan to seek shelter with the French consul. This was just one of a number of instances of the French breaking the 1906 Algeciras Agreement which had guaranteed Moroccan independence. The German Foreign Minister, Alfred von Kiderlin-Wächter, consequently instructed the German gunboat "Panther" to go to Agadir to protect the German business community there, one German having to be brought from Mogador to be protected! The Germans presumably hoped that a show of strength would make the French see that Britain could not be relied on for support, and would bring Germany gains. The German government demanded compensation, which was finally agreed on in November 1911 when the French ceded to Germany part of the French Congo. However, war had seemed likely in September, not just against France but also against Britain. Moreover, instead of separating Britain and France, the Crisis had brought them closer together.
8. The Balkan Wars 1912-13. When Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia fought the Turks to gain the remainder of the Ottoman lands in Europe, and then fought among themselves over the spoils, it seemed likely that the Austrians and Russians would intervene and fight for control of the Balkans. At the December 1912 meeting of William with his military commanders, the general view expressed was that war against Russia was inevitable, and that the longer it was delayed, the more difficult it would be to beat a Russia that was rapidly modernizing. However, the Navy Minister, Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, pleaded for a postponement of war until the completion of the widening of the Kiel Canal, which came in June 1914. Without German support, the Austrians decided against risking war with Russia. The Russians also decided against war and the conflict remained limited.
9. The crisis of June 1914 and the outbreak of the First World War.
i. When the heir to the Austrian throne, Franz Ferdinand, and his wife were assassinated by a Serbian nationalist on 28th June 1914 in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, there was no immediate expectation of war. However, on 28th July, the Austrians declared war on Serbia and by August the First World War was underway.
ii. While the German government was not solely responsible for causing the First World War, it did play the leading role.
iii. At first, Bethmann-Hollweg and the Kaiser seem to have thought that Austria was not ready for war. When this was shown not to be the case, Bethmann-Hollweg felt he had to support the one sure ally, Austria. Moreover, he had to prevent a Russian victory, as this would mean Russian supremacy in Europe. In addition, the Germans had growing commercial interests in Turkey, highlighted by the construction of the railway link from Berlin to Bagdad in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) where there was oil. Indeed, this German interest in Turkey had resulted in a German general, Liman von Sanders, being seconded to advise and help command the Ottoman Army.
iv. The Chancellor also seems to have concluded that war against Russia was inevitable as, sooner or later, Russia would try to expand into the Balkans, and a general European war would result. Moreover, the longer war was delayed, the harder it would be to beat Russia, which was rapidly modernizing. Indeed, according to his secretary after the war, Bethmann-Hollweg had been pessimistic in 1914 about the chances of victory. Moltke, the Chief of the General Staff, seems also to have considered war inevitable and to have been doubtful about whether Germany could win.
v. In his September Programme (1914), Bethmann-Hollweg laid out an ambitious expansionist plan. Parts of France and Belgium and all Luxembourg were to be annexed to Germany. The Netherlands were to enjoy a special "relationship". Western Russia was to be dismembered, parts being annexed to Germany and parts becoming independent under German domination. An extensive African empire was to be acquired. Such gains would weaken Russia permanently, secure German domination of Europe, and help pay for the war. However, expansion was not the cause of war, but a consequence.
vi. It has been alleged that Bethmann-Hollweg saw a short successful war as a means to overawe the Social Democratic majority in the Reichstag and prevent the establishment of a real parliamentary system. However, there was no guarantee that the Social Democrats, being socialists and internationalist, would support a war, which would be difficult without popular support.
vii. When, belatedly, William sought a diplomatic solution in an attempt to avoid war, he was deliberately kept in the dark and encouraged to go on a holiday cruise, so that he could not interfere and prevent war. This does not excuse him entirely from helping to bring about war; not only had he failed to give the necessary leadership to promote peace, but his vacillatory, arrogant, and aggressive approach previously had created a climate of mistrust in the capitals of Europe.
viii. The German government took the responsibility for spreading the war to the west. It was assumed, especially in view of bellicose statements by certain eminent Frenchmen, that the French, would support the Russians to avenge the humiliation of 1871 and regain Alsace-Lorraine. Consequently, on 3rd August 1914, Germany declared war on France and issued an ultimatum to the Belgians to permit the transit of German troops. The German government had inherited the 1839 Treaty guaranteeing Belgian independence and neutrality, but the Kaiser dismissed the Treaty as "a scrap of paper". As the Germans knew, Belgium, "the dagger pointing at the heart of Britain", would be defended by the British. Right enough, on 4th August, following the German failure to give guarantees about respecting Belgian independence (in line with the Treaty of London of 1839), Edward Grey, the British Foreign Minister, reluctantly announced the British declaration of war on Germany.
VII. The war years.
l. The early popular support for the war waned as fighting unexpectedly dragged on with appalling casualties, growing shortages, and no prospect of victory. From the start, the radical Social Democrats, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, had denounced the war. In the spring of l9l5, the Social Democrats split; the Majority Socialists led by Philip Scheidemann and Friedrich Ebert supported the continuation of the war, while the Minority Socialists, led by Hugo Haase, opposed the war and the grant of further war credits, and eventually in 1916 formed the Independent SD Party (USDP - Unabhöngig SD Partei). The winter of 1916-1917 was the "Turnip Winter", and from 1916, there were more and more strikes; sending the strike leaders to the front did not help as they merely stirred trouble! In July 1917, the Reichstag passed a resolution in favour of a compromise peace.
2. After August 1916, General Ludendorff, on behalf of General Hindenburg, was virtually running the government and exercising a veiled military dictatorship. Ludendorff had no political ambitions but considered it necessary for the war effort. Walther Rathenau, appointed head of the German Raw Material Department in August 1914, had created the successful Kriegswirtschaft (War Economy) controlling the German economy. Then, from 1916, Ludendorff extended government controls, in what came to be called "War Socialism" (cf. War Communism in Russia). Control of companies increased, workers were drafted wherever necessary for national defence, and strikes were ruthlessly suppressed, although efforts were also made to placate workers if possible.
3. By 1917, the Majority Social Democrats and the Catholic Centre Party, the latter led by Matthias Erzberger, were also beginning to turn against the war. In July 1917, Bethmann-Hollweg resigned as Chancellor, being replaced by Georg Michaelis, who served only from July to October 1917, before being replaced by Count Georg Hertling, who was in office from November 1917 to September 1918.
4. In October 1918, with discontent increasing, Ludendorff arranged the appointment as Chancellor of the liberal Prince Max von Baden. This was partly the consequence of the United States President Woodrow Wilson having made it clear that he would make peace only with a democratic Germany. The Prince converted Germany into a constitutional monarchy, for example, establishing ministerial responsibility, and giving the Reichstag responsibility for making war and peace. He also permitted freedom of speech, press and assembly, granted an amnesty to political prisoners, and promised electoral reform.
5. In November 1918, the German government agreed to an armistice on the assumption that the eventual peace treaty would be based on the generous "Fourteen Points" proposed in January 1918 by President Wilson.
VIII. The aftermath of war.
1. The German revolutions of 1918 and the establishment of the Weimar Republic in 1919.
i. The end of the First World War saw revolution and fear of revolution in a number of countries. One of the most important revolutionary situations occurred in Germany.
ii. The revolution broke out in Germany when failure in the war added to pre-war dissatisfaction and acted as a catalyst for revolution. The chief causes of dissatisfaction before 1914 had been the "fig-leaf of absolutism" (Karl Liebknecht), fraudulent federalism, and inadequate social reform. Then came the hardships and shortages of war, without the compensation of victory. Consequently Germany from 1916 was plagued by a series of strikes and in 1916, Hugo Haase had led the more radical SDs into the Independent SD Party (USPD), dedicated, among other things to the immediate end of the war. Not surprisingly, revolution seemed more likely after the inspiration of the successful ones in Russia in March and November 1917.
iii. A revolution might have been averted in Germany had the German government, which really meant the Kaiser William II, reformed itself in time into a constitutional empire. Belatedly, under pressure from Ludendorff and Hindenburg, themselves influenced by pressure from the United States President, Woodrow Wilson, the Emperor on 4th October 1918 appointed as Chancellor the liberal Prince Max von Baden, who at once set about transforming Germany into a constitutional empire.
iv. Prince Max's reforms might even at this stage have averted revolution had it not been for the mutiny by the Kiel sailors on 28th October. This was the result of Ludendorff's call for resistance "… l'outrance", which prompted A.J.P. Taylor to write that "Ludendorff ....was the sole author of the October Revolution". The mutiny, being badly handled by the authorities, spread on 4th November to the towns and civilians, first near Kiel, and then over much of industrial Germany. Soviets (Councils) of Soldiers and Workers, on the Russian model, were set up, and soon a Congress of Soldiers' and Workers' Soviets, which appointed a Council of Six People's Commissars to run Germany. The question was now whether the Reichstag could prevent the Soviet from taking over.
v. While the workers' revolution was proceeding, the SD majority in the Reichstag were carrying out a revolution of their own. The moderate SD leaders, Friedrich Ebert and Philip Scheidemann were opposed to a workers' or radical revolution, partly as they feared this would bring disorder. Ebert and Scheidemann were extremely capable and managed to retain control although not without difficulty. While they were ready to co-operate with the old order, they were fortunate in that the leaders of the old order saw the need to co-operate and compromise with the moderate Socialists. The German employers in the Ruhr, for example, agreed to shorter working hours and General Wilhelm Groener, who had replaced Ludendorff on 26th October as the head of the German armed forces, agreed to support the SDs to crush Bolshevism. Thus, with a combination of political skill, force and luck, radical revolution was averted.
vi. On 6th November, the SDs in the Reichstag threatened to leave the government and arrange a general strike if William did not abdicate. William refused to abdicate, even though this did not necessarily mean the end of the monarchy. However, on 9th November, Prince Max, on his own initiative when faced with the walk out of the SDs and the start of the general strike, declared Williams's abdication and arranged Ebert's appointment as the new chancellor. That same day, Scheidemann declared Germany a republic; this declaration annoyed Ebert, who thought the question should have been settled by a constituent assembly, but it probably saved the moderates as it deflated the radicals, especially the Independent SD, Emil Barth, leader of the Obleute (shop stewards), and Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, who eventually on 30th December 1918 formed the German Communist Party. These German communists usually called themselves Spartacists after Spartacus, who led the slave revolt of 73-71 BC against the Romans.
vii. A radical revolutionary situation persisted but Ebert arranged two important deals. First, he made his deal with General Groener and the Army for support against Bolshevism. This had the added advantage of discouraging an attempted military coup, which would have been supported by the "Freikorps", the right-wing bands of demobilized soldiers; it also discouraged the possibility of civil war, for, as the existence of the Freikorps shows, there was considerable right wing support in Germany. Then, secondly, Ebert dealt with the Congress of Soviets. Luckily, Ebert and Scheidemann were both members of the six man Council of Commissars appointed by the Soviet, and managed to persuade the Congress on 19th December 1918 to agree to the election of a Constituent Assembly, which had been arranged for January 1919, and to let this decide on the form the new government should take. The demand for nationalization of the main means of production and distribution was deflected by the appointment of a commission.
viii. Barth, Liebknecht and Luxemburg were still a danger, but none of them was of Lenin's calibre, and they missed their chances, especially on 23rd December 1918. In fact, the radical revolution failed very much because the leaders were too slow to act and gave the supporters of the right a chance to recover from their surprise and to organize.
ix. The crisis of 23rd December began when sailors in Berlin rose on being ordered to leave their billets in the palace. The soldiers stationed in Berlin refused to crush the sailors, who seized the Chancellery, making Ebert a prisoner. However, loyal soldiers on 24th December crushed the sailors. In protest at this, on 27th December, the Independent SDs committed political suicide by leaving the government and so giving up any influence they had; they had thus missed the chance to call for radical revolution. At the same time, Gustav Noske, an ex-basket weaver and union leader, became Minister of Home Defence and at once supplemented loyal troops with the right wing Freikorps.
x. Eventually, between 5th and 15th January, much too late to have any real chance of success, the Spartacists rose, in an attempt to impose a Bolshevik system. Liebknecht and Luxemburg, according to A.J.P. Taylor, knew they had little chance of success and were not rising but responding to attacks organized since December by Barth, Groener and Scheidemann. In the event, in January, the Spartacist leaders were slow to act, Noske used the Freikorps, and the Spartacists were crushed, about 1,200 dying in the process in Berlin, with Liebknecht and Luxemburg being killed on their way to prison.
xi. On 19th January 1919, the elections for the Constituent Assembly were held as planned, with the SDs emerging victorious. (For the details, see 2 below.) In February 1919, Ebert was elected Provisional President by the Assembly, and in July 1919 the new constitution was approved, coming into force in August. Germany became a democratic republic but little else changed, for the old officials and the wealthy landowners and industrialists retained their influence in the new Weimar Republic, to which they generally transferred their allegiance.
xii. While Berlin was obviously the centre of the revolutions, important events took place elsewhere, notably in Bavaria, Baden, and Saxony. On 7th November 1918, King Ludwig III of Bavaria was deposed and the King of Saxony and the Grand Duke of Baden abdicated. In Munich, capital of Bavaria, following mass demonstrations, Kurt Eisner, the radical Independent SD and socialist editor of the newspaper, Vorwärts (Forward), established a "Democratic and Socialist Republic". However, in February 1919, Eisner was murdered by a right wing fanatic. This unleashed a period of confusion, with a Soviet Republic being established for a short time in April, until Franz, Ritter von Epp, who used Freikorps forces, restored order. Bavaria, like Saxony and Baden, became states or "Lands" of the new democratic federal republic set up in August 1919.
xiii. Thus while there was revolution, it was a very moderate one; indeed, some would deny that it was a real revolution as in general the old elite remained in authority. That Germany did not go the same way as Russia was very much because of popular German fear of disorder and the fact that German workers were not badly off as their Russian counterparts. However, this cannot detract from the capable lead given by Prince Max, Ebert, Scheidemann, Noske, Groener, a sharp contrast with the weak leadership of the radical left.
2. The establishment of the Weimar Republic.
i. On 19th January 1919, the elections for a constituent assembly were held, on the basis of proportional representation, with all those over 19 years of age, including women, who were voting for the first time. The Social Democrats, with 163 out of 421 seats, were the largest single party; the Independent Socialists won only 22 seats. The draft constitution, largely the work of the eminent Jewish Berlin lawyer, Hugo Preuss, was completed by July 1919 and was officially adopted on 11th August 1919.
ii. Germany was a democratic federal republic of 18 Länder (states), the smaller ones of the Second Reich having been merged with larger neighbours, and Prussia having been reduced in size (although it still had about half the total German population). The federal government had extensive powers, being responsible for national matters such as defence, foreign policy, finances, taxation, communications, welfare and education. The central (federal) Parlament was bicameral: the Reichstag, elected every 4 years by all over 20 years by proportional representation , represented the people; the Reichsrat represented the state governments, the number of representatives depending on the number of people in the state, with the proviso that no state (that is, Prussia) should have more than 40% of the seats. The Reichsrat could delay measures but not veto them. The federal executive was headed by a Chancellor and Cabinet, who did not have to come from parliament, who were responsible to the parliament, and who were appointed by the President. The President was elected by the people every 7 years, and was invested with considerable powers; for example, he could dismiss parliament (although fresh elections had to be held within 60 days) and was empowered by Article 48 to rule by decree in an emergency.
iii. Instead of holding fresh elections, the Constituent Assembly (that is, an assembly with the task of drawing up a constitution) declared itself the Reichstag and extended to 1925 the term of office of Ebert, who had been elected as Provisional President in February 1919.
3. The new republic was generally unpopular, and the epithet Weimar was appended initially as a pejorative.
i. The fact that from 1919 to 1920 the government met in Weimar to escape the instability in Berlin was taken as the symbol of its general weakness.
ii. The new Weimar Republic was especially unpopular because it signed the Treaty of Versailles. Philip Scheidemann resigned as Chancellor rather than accept the treaty, but Matthias Erzberger, the Catholic Centre leader and Foreign Minister, signed on 28th June 1919 because there was no alternative; it would have been impossible to resume hostilities, and Germany was starving because of the British blockade, which was lifted only on 12th July 1919 once the treaty had been signed.
iii. At Versailles, Germany had to accept sole responsibility for causing the war; limit its army to 100,000 and forgo a navy and an airforce; pay reparations, which were fixed in 1921 at œ6,600,000,000; surrender its empire (for example, in Africa, Burundi, Kamerun, Rwanda, South West Africa, Tanganyika, and Togo; its Chinese possessions like Jiaozhou (Kiaochow) and Liaodong; and the Caroline, Mariana and Marshall Islands in the Pacific); cede 13% of its European land area, especially Alsace Lorraine to France and the Polish Corridor to Poland (the latter meaning that East Prussia was cut off from Germany proper), and forgo union (Anschluss) with an Austria now bereft of its non-German peoples, who had become independent. Germany thus lost 74% of its iron ore, 68% of its zinc and 26% of its coal.
Although the Germans generally complained about the harshness of Versailles, it was in fact less harsh than the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which they imposed in March 19l8 on Russia, and the Treaty of Bucharest of May 1918, which they imposed on Rumania; for example, the Russians lost 1/3 of their population, 1/3 of the their farmland, and about 1/2 of their industry. Moreover, the Hungarians, who were forced to sign the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, lost even more, about 2/3 of their population and 3/4 of their land.
iv. The Weimar Republic was also unpopular because of the worsening economic situation, the result of defeat and the attempt during the fighting to finance the war effort by printing worthless money, on the assumption that victory would be achieved and the defeated made to pay for the war. The situation became even worse in 1923 when French and Belgian troops occupied the Ruhr because of German default on reparation payments; the German workers in the Ruhr responded by going on strike and were supported by the government, which printed more paper money. As a result, the dollar, which had been worth 4.2 Marks in 1913 by November 1923 was worth 4,200,000,000 Marks!
v. Until 1923, the Republic was assailed from both right and left, with assassinations and risings. For example, in 1921, right-wing nationalists murdered Matthias Erzberger, who had signed the armistice agreement at Compiègne and the Treaty of Versailles. In March 1920, the right-wing banker, Reichstag member and monarchist, Wolfgang Kapp, with military support, nearly succeeded in seizing power, being foiled only when a general strike was called. (When Hitler began his dictatorship in 1933, he was very worried by the prospect of a similar general strike, but none was called.) In October 1923, in Saxony and Thuringia, the communists tried and failed to seize power. Then, in November 1923, Hitler and the Nazis staged their right-wing Beerhall Putsch in Munich.
As a result of the danger, the government between 1919 and 1920 worked in the quiet Saxon town of Weimar, which was safer than Berlin, but which earned the regime the pejorative epithet "Weimar".
vi. After 1923, matters improved, with both economic and political stability being achieved. This was very much the work of Gustav Stresemann, the leader of the German People's Party (Volkspartei), who was Chancellor in 1923 and the dominant force in German politics until his death in 1929. The adoption in 1924 of the "Dawes Plan" (named after the American banker, Charles Dawes) solved German economic problems and, in 1925, the Treaty of Locarno, which among other things gave Germany a coveted seat on the League of Nations Council, apparently marked the end of anti-German feelings in Western Europe and brought recognition of German status as a power. In short, Germany was reconciled with its neighbours and the bitterness that the Great War had brought seemed a thing of the past.
How Bismarck defeated Austria
History essay: How did Prussia defeat Austria in 1866?
This essay will discuss how Prussia defeated Austria in one of the shortest wars in European history. This essay will include the weaknesses that Austria faced, and the Strengthening of Prussia that helped defeat Austria. It will include the weakening of Austria in the loss of its allies, and the controversy within its country and the ever growing Prussia and the strength within its leader and the war that Prussia was trying to provoke with Schleswig- Holstein.
One of the reasons why Austria lost the war against Prussia even though it had a bigger army, was because they had no allies, because Austria and Russia did not have a alliance anymore because Austria did not help Russia in the Crimean war. They also did not get any help from France because Bismarck promised Napoleon III Belgium if it stayed neutral. This was an important negotiation because France had the most powerful army in Europe and liked to have a balance of power (countries/states did not get too powerful), so since the had a negotiation they did not help out Austria. They also did not get any help from Britain because they also wanted a balance of power but did not do anything because they were happy that Prussia and Austria were fighting each other. One of the mane alliances that Prussia formed was the one with Italy, because Italy did not like Austria because they had Venezia and South Tirol but it was in Austria's control, so they could not have it. (1) (2) (3) (4)
In November 1863, the king of Denmark died, King Frederick VII. Frederick VII had no kids when he died, and he was a also a ruler of two duchies called Schleswig and Holstein that had been ruled by Denmark for 400 years, The population was Holstein was almost all German were as the population of Schleswig was German and Danish. When King Frederick VII died, Christian of Glucksburg, who was the heir to the throne through the marriage of the King’s first cousin. But Schleswig-Holsteins put forward Prince of Augustenburg, because they said forbidden to have inheritance through the female line. Prince Augustenburg did not object as he was paid a large sum to agree. When Christian of Glucksburg became King of Denmark in November 1863, government officials in Holstein refused to swear allegiance to him, and the son of the Prince of Augustenburg claimed both states (Schleswig-Holsteins), on the grounds that his father had not signed away his rights to them. All the German nationalists supported supported his decision.King Christian immediately put himself in the wrong by violating the 1852 treaty and placing Schleswig into Denmark, due to Christians actions the smaller states said that his actions were tyranny and sent in there army into Holstein on behalf of Duke of Augustenburg (the prince of Augustenburg's son).
Bismarck, implying he too supported Augustenburg, kept his expansion agenda a secret and agreeing to an alliance, Austria and Prussian wanted and ultimatum to Denmark threatening to occupy Schleswig unless it withdrew the new constitution in less the 48 hours. Denmark refused, and so Austria and Prussia’s armies took over Schleswig and Holstein. Then Prussia gave Holstein to Austria and kept Schleswig to themselves. Prussia was trying to provoke war because Austria had to go through Prussia’s territory if they wanted to go into Holstein, and this was about to cause Austria to attack, because Prussians got really annoyed with Austria marching through Prussia. Prussia wanted Austria to attack them so they looked like the good guys. But Austria did not Attack.
(1) (2) (4)
A reason why Prussia beat Austria was because Austria was still in corruption from the 1848 revolutions, because since a lot of countries revolutionized and became there own country, the different nationalisms within the Austro-Hungary empire were also wanting to revolutionize and become there own countries, because they did not like Austrians very much. Prussia was homogenous so everybody believed in Prussia and they all spoke the same language and shared the same beliefs were as Austria was very multinational so some people within Austria liked Prussia were as others did not so there was a lot of controversy.
Austria was known as ‘the Jailor of nations’ because they kept many different nations and different states within their country, so it was a confederation of many different states and nations, but Austria had some of the states Italy and other countries had so many countries/states did not like Austria for that. That is why Italy was enemies with Austria, because austria had states Italy wanted such as Venezia and south Tirol. (1) (4)
For Prussia to achieve it’s dream of Kleindeutchland, Prussia had to have a lot strength to beat Austria. Prussia had to have a better and a stronger army, which they had because Bismarck was improving the army by funding it and making it bigger and stronger and making the years working in the army by law longer from 2 years to 3 years.
Another reason why Prussia won the war was because at the Vienna Peace Settlement Prussia received more northern, western territory which were the industrial places were they made Iron, this was good for Prussia because the Iron was used in weapons so they had very modern and very good weapons. Were as Austria received more South, east land which was more farmland, so Austria had a big disadvantage compared to Prussia because Austrians were more farmers and Prussia was more industrial and had better weapons.
One of the big factors do do with Prussia winning the war was that they had Otto Von Bismarck as their leader. In 1898 Bismarck wrote ‘I am not so arrogant to assume that the likes of us are able to make history. My task is to keep an eye on the currents of the latter and steer my ship in them as best i can.’, This means Bismarck was saying that anybody can make history, but his task was to keep an eye on the world, and keep Prussia as safe and secure he can and avoiding the change and things that are happening around him, and keeping Prussia as powerful as he can. (1) (2) (3) (4)
In conclusion It has been shown. That Austria was defeated by many factors, such as the lack of allies, international weakness, and the great strengths of Prussia.
To achieve Kleindeutsch under Prussian control Bismarck had to defeat Austria. Bismarck once decided on a war with Austria set about trying to isolate her. Russia was already hostile with Austria, Britain was overjoyed at the thought of war between Austria and Prussia as was France who was also bribed with more hints of compensation at the secret Biarritz Conference. Unwilling to fight the war alone he forged an alliance with the Kingdom of Italy. A promise of the Austrian territory of Venetia to Italy ensured the alliance. The Prussian invasion of Holstein failed to start a war and forced Bismarck to use other methods. To obtain the support of the Liberals both in Prussia and the other German states Bismarck proposed universal suffrage in a new German Diet that would replace the old Confederation Diet. Austria was to be excluded from the new parliament. This move was a masterstroke by Bismarck as it won him support and forced Austria to declare war on Prussia. Austria encouraged nine states including the all the large states to take its side and Prussia six states. The north and centre states were defeated by Prussia with little resistance. Austria and Saxony were defeated in an overwhelming victory at Konniggratz. The Austrians were entirely successful against the Italians but this failed to change the course of the war. With the road to Vienna open Bismarck arranged an armistice. Bismarck’s true diplomatic genius is evident here as he robbed France any chance of claiming advantage out of the war. The Treaty of Prague expelled Austria from the German Confederation and Venetia was seceded to Italy. The extraordinary lenient treaty was designed so that Austria did not remain an enemy of Prussia. Prussia annexed Hanover, North Hesse, Schleswig and Holstein and formed the North German Confederation out of these states, Prussia and Saxony. Only Napoleon III's attitude and local feeling prevented the confederation including the southern states. Bismarck through military might and diplomatic brilliance defeated Austria allowing Prussia to become dominant in Germany.
Bismarck - the master Planner? Views on Bismarck
According to the traditional historical view of the establishment of the German Empire Bismarck had a very clear and precise aim and a carefully formulated stage by stage plan by which the aim was realised.
1. To obtain friendship of Russia
2. To trick Austria into declaring war on Prussia
3. To ensure French neutrality in event of war with Austria
4. To treat Austria leniently after her defeat
5. To manipulate France into war to win support of the SGS
• Some critics argue that Bismarck did not plan to unite Germany ..."Bismarck's plan was to preserve and extend the power of Prussia. He was a Prussian and not a German nationalist ...It was Bismarck's task to take over the leadership of the German unification movement and manage it in such a way that Prussia remained intact and more powerful than before." (Shreeves)
• Importance of kleindeutschland over grossdeutschland
• Importance of Prussian form of society & government to Bismarck - This system under threat from industrialisation
• Junkers had important role to play in Prussian administration
• Disagreement over master plan theory - spread by his memoirs & German nationalist historians
"There is no exact science of politics ... the professors & their imitators in the newspapers constantly decry the fact that I have not revealed a set of principles by which I direct my policies ... politics is neither arithmetic nor mathematics...”
"In chess one should never base a move on the positive assumption that the other player in turn will make a certain move. For it may be that this won't happen and then the game is lost ... one must always have two irons in the fire." (Bismarck)
• "In fact, Bismarck had no master plan but was, like Cavour, brilliant at making use of whatever opportunities came his way." (Shreeves)
Some believe this was a myth created by Bismarck in his memoirs and built on by German nationalist historians.
To be a master-planner it follows that Bismarck's aim was to unite Germany. However, German historian Ritter states `Bismarck had nothing to do with the nationalism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and its blind fanaticism.' He believes Bismarck was a Prussian and not a German nationalist.
To be a master-planner and unite Germany it follows that Bismarck engineered the wars of the 1860s and with France in 1870. What do historians say about Bismarck's designs on war with France?
A.J.P.Taylor states `Certainly there is not a scrap of evidence that Bismarck worked deliberately for a war with France, still less that he timed it for the summer of 1870'.Bismarck, the Man and Statesman (1965).
• M. Howard believes `The explanation that the conflict was planned by Bismarck as the necessary climax to a long nurtured scheme for the unification of Germany is one which does not today command general assent'. Michael Howard, The Franco-Prussian War (1961).
• However, Kent believes `It now seems fairly certain, on the basis of newly discovered documents and a reinterpretation of old ones, that Bismarck planned a war from the very beginning.' G. 0. Kent Bismarck and His Times (1978).
`The Hohenzollern candidature, far from being designed to provoke a war with France which could complete the unification of Germany, was intended rather to make German unification possible without a war... He had neither planned the war nor even foreseen it. But he claimed it as his own once it became inevitable'. H. Bohme The Foundation of the German Empire (1971)
• `...This is not to say that Bismarck planned the Hohenzollern candidature in order to trap France into a war which would result in the accession of the south German states to the Confederation... To impute to Bismarck the prior planning of every detail of developments as they occurred is to make of him a kind of superman, to whom nothing could happen that he had not intended'. W.M. Simon Germany: A Brief History (1967)
• Pflanze says `Bismarck's goal was not an alliance, but a crisis with France. He deliberately set sail on a collision course wit the intent of provoking wither a war or a French internal collapse. The partisans of his innocence ask us to believe a most improbable case: that the shrewdest diplomatic mind of recent history permitted Germany (Prussia) to be drawn into a war which he was eager to avoid ...In the end war came because Bismarck believed it necessary and opportune and because the French cabinet had neither the wisdom nor the firmness of will to avoid it'. O. Pflanze Bismarck and the Development of Germany: Unification 1815-18'1. (1963).
• `Some historians have recently... endeavoured to prove either that the whole affair was an example of brinkmanship which went wrong, or even that Bismarck’s aims were peaceful and defensive, and that no-one was more surprised than he at the result... what we seem to have in this case is an example of Bismarck's skilful pursuit of alternative courses. There were two possibilities; either that France would acquiesce in the Hohenzollern election, in which case Prussia would be no worse off …or France would not, in which case there might be a war, for which he was ready. What we must reject is that he was innocently unaware of this second possibility'. W. Medlicott Bismarck and Modern Germany, (1965).
l. The Importance of the Zollverein to the Unification of Germany
Clear need to evaluate the importance of the Zollverein but don't forget to make some reference to other factors too!
• Stiles argues that the Zollverein was a'force for unity in the 1840s and therefore a focal point for nationalist sentiments'
• Williamson plays down the importance of the Zollverein saying that `it is no means clear that it could have achieved German unity unaided by other factors."
Makes the point that many Zollverein members sided with Austria against Prussia
• Taylor argues that the German princes came to support the Zollverein as a means of winning back the middle classes from revolutionary activity thus making political unity unnecessary
• Lee acknowledges the importance of economic unity but emphasises the need to deal with the political impasse (the Bund)
• Bohme states that Prussia's defence against Austrian attempts to establish ‘a great economic order' was the foundation for her `own later hegemony'
• Perhaps need to echo Keynes in stressing the importance of the boom in the Prussian economy - foundations for this laid in 1815 in the Vienna Settlement. Strong economy meant strong army!
• Echoing Lee Bismarck should receive much credit for overcoming the political barrier to unity in destroying the Bund & replacing it with the NGF
2. The Nature of the new German Empire
• Bismarck seemed to have rejected liberalism following his experiences in 1848-9 but worked with the National Liberals in the Prussian Land tag in the 1860s
• Bismarck created a bi-cameral system of government - the Bundesrat & the Reichstag
• Reichstag elected by universal adult male suffrage!
• German socialist Liebknecht described Reichstag as `a fig leaf covering the nakedness of absolutism'
• Bismarck as Chancellor was only responsible to the Kaiser
• Could ignore resolutions from the Reichstag - hired & fired ministers
• Emperor retained huge amount of power - appointed Chancellor, could dissolve Reichstag, commanded the Army, controlled foreign policy, possessed right to interpret constitution
Conservative nature of Empire revealed by structure of the Empire - federal system
• State governments granted large degree of autonomy especially the South German States
• Empire functioned as federation of 25 states - each had its own representative assembly - local royal families retained
Low level of nationalism?
• Lack of national symbols eg anthem & flag
• New Empire contained non German minorities + some German minorities excluded
• Prussian power expanded so some nationalist needs met?
3. Bismarck & the Wars
Wilmot points out the need to consider 3 important questions : a) Did Bismarck possess an overall blueprint for unification? b) Did he owe his success to a coincidental gathering of favourable international and domestic circumstances? c) Was he merely an opportunist, cleverly exploiting the mistakes of his adversaries & taking calculated risks which happened to be successful?
Bismarck claimed that the Polish Revolt was an opportunity to secure Russian neutrality in the forthcoming clash with Austria - this is supported by Cowie & Wolfson ... "Bismarck had long contended that Prussia needed Russian friendship if she were to succeed in fashioning Germany as she wished."
According to Wilmot Bismarck had more practical reasons for dealing with the Poles - their Catholic faith and their radical tradition + "The Alvenslben Convention was in all probability an attempt to gain security against possible disturbances in Prussia's Polish territories"
War with Denmark - German nationalists excited over issue of the 2 Duchies- many supported claim by Prince of Augustenburg but Bismarck less than keen. According to Wilmot he wanted both duchies for Prussia. Cowie & Wolfson argue that Bismarck was anxious to revenge a similar slight in 1848 + Kiel Canal ran through this territory. Also emphasise Bismarck's desire to see Prussian interests served.
Bismarck claimed that this issue was the pretext he required to provoke Austria into war but
Wilmot only partly agrees. "Bismarck's only clear policy was his determination to prevent any attempt by Austria to reassert their leadership of the German states... it seemed that Bismarck was not following a set plan but was pursuing a `wait and see' policy"
Bismarck referred to the Convention of Gastein as having `papered over the cracks'
According to Taylor Bismarck preferred to win the states through diplomacy... "Bismarck was a diplomatic genius, inexperienced in war and disliking its risks. He may well have hoped to manoeuvre Austria out of the duchies, perhaps even out of the headship of Germany, by diplomatic strokes ... His diplomacy in this period seems rather calculated to frighten Austria rather than to prepare for war."
War with Austria
Bismarck met Napoleon III at Biarritz in October 1865 - neutrality apparently secured with deal over Venetia - according to Wilmot Bismarck saw this as first necessary step to success against Austria
Both Wilmot & Taylor emphasise the favourable international situation at this time
Wilmot stresses the high level of risk in the war with Austria and that Bismarck was anxious for a quick resolution of the conflict
According to Cowie & Wolfson Bismarck was prepared to make deal with Austria but Francis Joseph was not prepared to surrender presidency of the Bund so war had to be considered (though only as a last resort).
Wilmot concludes by saying that `It seems unlikely [in 1866] that he was looking ahead to a war with France to complete the unification of Germany.'
War with France - considerable debate over this!
Source quoted in Wilmot from Bismarck in 1867 ...'I shall never consent to a war that is avoidable, much less seek it. But this was with France will surely come. It will be forced upon us by the French Emperor. I can see that clearly.'
Bismarck wrote to the Prussian ambassador in July 1870 saying that Prussia would not go to war over the Spanish Succession but "Should the French attack us, however, we shall of course resist."
Taylor argues that Bismarck did not plan the war saying that the object of the Hohenzollern Candidature was `to act as a check on France, not to provoke her into war... Bismarck's overriding concern was with southern Germany and a Hohenzollern on the Spanish throne was designed to raise Prussian prestige south of the Maine.'
Taylor... "Certainly there is not a scrap of evidence that Bismarck worked deliberately for a war with France, still less that he timed it for the summer of 1870."
"The explanation that the conflict was planned by Bismarck as the necessary climax to a long matured scheme for the unification of Germany is one which does not today command general assent." (Howard)
"The Hohenzollern candidature, far from being designed to provoke a war with France which could complete the unification of Germany, was intended to make German unification possible without war... He had neither planned the war nor even foreseen it. But he claimed it as his own once it became inevitable." (Bohme)
Pflanze argues that Bismarck did have a major responsibility in starting the war...'He deliberately set sail on a collision course with France with the intent of either provoking war or a French internal collapse.'
Mann sees that Bismarck was willing to fight France but that it was unnecessary to the unification process...' For the attainment of the Prussian goal, the establishment of a `little Germany’, no war against France should have been necessary.'
According to Cowie & Wolfson there is no evidence to support the usual assumption that Bismarck deliberately intervened in the Spanish Marriage question in order to provoke France into war.
Many of these are quoted in the BBC series Fall of Eagles:
- A government must not waiver once it has chosen its course. It must not look to the left or right but go forward.
- A journalist is a person who has mistaken his calling.
- A statesman... must wait until he hears the steps of God sounding through events, then leap up and grasp the hem of His garment.
- All treaties between great states cease to be binding when they come in conflict with the struggle for existence.
- An appeal to fear never finds an echo in German hearts.
- Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war.
- Be polite; write diplomatically; even in a declaration of war one observes the rules of politeness.
- I have seen three emperors in their nakedness, and the sight was not inspiring.
- Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.
- Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.
- No civilisation other than that which is Christian, is worth seeking or possessing.
- People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.
- Politics is not an exact science.
- Politics is the art of the next best (or Politics is the art of the possible).
- Politics ruins the character.
- The great questions of the day will not be settled by means of speeches and majority decisions but by iron and blood.
- The main thing is to make history, not to write it.
- The secret of politics? Make a good treaty with Russia.
- There is a Providence that protects idiots, drunkards, children and the United States of America.
- When a man says he approves of something in principle, it means he hasn't the slightest intention of carrying it out in practice.
- When you want to fool the world, tell the truth.
- Whoever speaks of Europe is wrong: it is a geographical expression.
- With a gentleman I am always a gentleman and a half, and with a fraud I try to be a fraud and a half.
- Your Majesty, so long as you have this present officer corps, you can do as you please. But when this is no longer the case, it will be very different for you.
- Jena came twenty years after the death of Frederick the Great; the crash will come twenty years after my departure if things go on like this" ―( a prophecy fulfilled almost to the month...)
Quotes about Bismarck
D.G . Williamson: “In the immediate post war years Bismarck was primarily concerned to prolong French isolation”
J. Joll: “In the years between 1870 and 1890 it was German foreign policy that dominated the international scene.”
W. Carr: “Germany faced the real danger of war on two fronts if she was on bad terms with France and Russia simultaneously.”
W. Carr: “Bismarck was a past master in the diplomatic arts.”
W. Carr: "As long as William I lived, German foreign policy was conducted by Bismarck alone."
M. Sturmer: “Bismarck cultivated alliances with both Russia and Austria, but due to the stirrings of the Balkan Slavs against their Turkish overlords, this became increasingly difficult.”
Preparation for Bismarck End of Unit Work
Opening of Debate- Was Bismarck a Great Man?
Scenes from Grand Theft Otto
Princess Vicky and Bismarck square off
Vicky appeals to Fritz to speak out against Bismarck's machinations
Bismarck reveals to Moltke his dastardly plan to take Austria
King Ludwig holds a council of war only to be outmanoeuvred by Bismarck's threat to jump out the window
War breaks out in the Seven Weeks War
Next stage in Bismarck's plan- The Ems Telegram