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Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday Ground Up: Otto Von Bismarck: How he Used War to Justify German Unification

Otto von Bismarck was not moved by national unity, although he felt compelled to manipulate it instead of using it for a guide in political affairs. His quest was to obtain internal stability for the Hohenzollern monarchy and more external power for Prussia. However, Austria refused to accept dual supremacy over Germany on a foundation more favorable to Prussia.

Furthermore, had Prussia been more involved with foreign policy, he would have taken a more conservative route. Thus, he would have joined with Austria and Russia against the popular forces in Germany in Europe. He would have simply appealed to the middle classes using a more socialist approach, therefore outflanking liberal opposition. The issue was, however, that Bismarck’s revolutionary and volcanic temperament overshadowed his initial willingness to take the conservative route. Of course, there were greater gains to be had if involved with Germans in an alliance, therefore providing him the means to expand Prussia, and ultimately providing him with a stream of potential power.

Bismarck, seeking a constitutional government, resubmitted the army appropriations bills that was once submitted by William I. The bill sought compulsory military service, therefore if would not only strengthen the military in Prussia, but it was simply encourage obedience to the monarchy. The bill was once again ignored, yet Bismarck chose to collect taxes and reorganized the army. He had not considered war, since he wasn’t naturally a political gambler in any sense, however he did recognize that if all diplomatic alternatives were exhausted and all advantages were on his side, he would choose to wage war.

Since Bismarck's goal was to form a powerful German state, he intelligently recognized that Prussia would only fight one opponent, thus isolating them tactfully. Since the German Parliament was dominated by the Austrians, and he sought to exclude them completely from all German affairs, he persuaded them to wage war on Denmark.

Bismarck realized that if Prussia was to expand to the north, Austria would have to be excluded from affairs in the German Parliament. He conveniently worked on negotiations with Austria, while laying the ground work for their isolation. He forged an alliance with the new Italian state, promising it Venetia in the event that Austria was defeated. He also sought agreements from Russia and France to stay neutral, even promising more territory in the event of defeat.

To the surprise of Europeans, Austria was swiftly defeated, and in turn, was excluded from foreign affairs. Prussia gained the German states north of the Main River, and the southern states were forced to sign military agreements with Prussia, while maintaining their independence. His victory over Austria using military power proved that nationalism and an authoritative government could be combined.

Although France had remained neutral during the Austro-Prussian War, Napoleon III and the French were not happy with the turn of events in Germany. Napoleon sought to humiliate the Prussians, however a hurdle was once again set when Prince Leopold was offered the throne of Spain by William I. The Hohenzollern dynasty would ultimately encircle France, however the French objected to Leopold’s candidacy and forced the king to withdrawal his offer for the throne.

The French considered this a diplomatic victory and forced William I to make a formal apology to France. William I explained the situation to Bismarck in a telegram; however Bismarck edited the letter in an attempt to prod France into a war they couldn’t possibly win. Prussia, along with its military alliances crushed the French forces, and in exchange, France lost the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine to the new German state.

German unity was reached by way of the powerful Prussian monarchy and the army. Liberals rejoiced, even though German unification was possible by way of strong military alliances and an authoritative rule. Germany was now the strongest power in Europe due to the national unification under the strict eye of Otto von Bismarck.


Bismarck Photo

1 Comment:

Unknown said...

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