GERMAN UNIFICATION

INTRODUCTION

  • Prior to 1806, German-speaking Central Europe included more than 300 political entities, most of which were part of the Holy Roman Empire.
  • The common criticism of the precursor to modern Germany, the Holy Roman Empire (headed by Habsburg dynasty), was that it was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.

 

CONTRIBUTION OF NAPOLEON IN THE CAUSE OF GERMAN UNIFICATION

  • Directly by his constructive statesmanship, and indirectly by the results which opposition to his rule aroused, Napoleon contributed to the formation of united Germany and laid the foundation of German Empire.
  • Territorial reorganisation by Napoleon
    • He simplified the map of Germany by reduction of over two hundred independent states of Germany into 39 states which indirectly advanced the cause of German unity and nationality.
  • Abolition of the Holy Roman Empire of Napoleon:
    • Napoleon abolished the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 and replaced it by a Confederation of States dependent upon France.
    • The Hapsburg House of Austria (which ruled the Holy Roman Empire) yielded up its historic claims to be the ruler of Germany; henceforth it was possible to conceive a Germany in which Austria had no place.

 

 

  • Reforms of Napoleon:
    • Napoleonic liberal reforms like religious toleration, freedom of press, equality before law etc. increased the hunger of self-governance.
  • Rise of German nationalism:
    • The shared experience of German-speaking Central Europe during the years of French hegemony contributed to a sense of common cause to remove the French invaders and reassert control over their own lands.
    • Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812 disillusioned many Germans, princes and peasants alike.
    • Napoleon’s Continental System nearly ruined the Central European economy which disillusined many Germans.
    • From the German perspective, critical role played by Prussia in defeat of Napoleon in the battle of Waterloo and Leipzig offered a rallying point of pride and enthusiasm.

 

RISE OF GERMAN DUALISM AFTER CONGRESS OF VIENNA

  • After Napoleon’s defeat, the Congress of Vienna reorganized Europe into spheres of influence, which, in some cases, suppressed the aspirations of the various nationalities, including the Germans and Italians.
  • Generally, an enlarged Prussia and the 38 other states consolidated from the reorganised territories of 1803 by Napoleon were confederated within the Austrian Empire’s sphere of influence.
  • The Congress established a loose German Confederation (1815–1866), headed by Austria, with a “Federal Diet” (called the Bundestag, an assembly of appointed leaders) that met in the city of Frankfurt.
  • In recognition of the imperial position traditionally held by the Habsburgs, the emperors of Austria became the titular presidents of this parliament and Prussia became Vice President. So, Austrian-Prussian dualism got established.
  • This Diet had two defects:
    • Its members were the representatives of the German princes, not of the people.
    • It had no machinery to enforce its decision.
  • Problematically, the built-in Austrian dominance failed to take into account Prussia’s 18th century emergence as a powerful state.

 

 

 

ROLE OF THE CUSTOMS UNION (ZOLLVEREIN) IN UNIFICATION OF GERMANY UNDER PRUSSIA

  • Initially conceived by the Prussian Finance Minister Bulow, as a Prussian customs union in 1818, Zollverein or German Customs Union was finally organised by the 1833 Zollverein treaties.
  • The Zollverein formally came into existence on 1 January 1834.
  • The Zollverein linked many Prussian and other German Princely territories. Over the ensuing more than thirty years, many other German states (except Austria) joined.
  • The Zollverein is considered as a key institution to unifying the German states under Prussia:
    • It helped to create a larger sense of economic unification among German states.
    • The Union helped to reduce protectionist barriers among the German states.
      • This was particularly important for the emerging industrial centers.
    • Prussia was the prime motivating force behind the creation of the customs union.
      • Austria was excluded from the Zollverein because of its highly protected industry and also because Metternich was against the idea as it was proposed by Prussia.
    • The Zollverein set the groundwork for the unification of Germany under Prussian guidance instead of Austria.

 

 

 

REVOLUTION OF 1830 IN GERMANY

  • A successful revolution broke out in France in July 1830 against the autocratic rule of Charles X. The news of this revolution greatly inspired the patriots of Germany, who were cruelly crushed by Metternich with the help of the Carlsbad Decrees.

 

 

  1. The rulers of almost all states except Austria and Prussia were compelled to introduce liberal constitutions in their respective states.
  2. The Empire of Austria remained untouched by the influence of the revolution.
    • At that time the influence and power of Metternich was at its zenith.
    • He adopted strict and repressive measures to suppress the revolutions of the different states of Germany.
  3. As a whole, the effects of the July Revolution of 1830 were nullified in German states. The influence of Metternich remained unchallenged in Germany till 1848.

 

REVOLUTIONS OF 1848-49 IN GERMANY (MARCH REVOLUTION)

  • It was initially part of the Revolutions of 1848 that broke out in many European countries.
    • They were also inspired by street demonstrations of workers and artisans in Paris, France, in February 1848, which resulted in the abdication by King Louis Philippe of France and his going into exile in Britain. [Matternich had said: “When France catches cold, all Europe sneezes“]
  • The leading forces of the revolutionary March movement were mostly representatives of the liberal bourgeoisie.
  • The movement spread to all over Germany.
  • Surprised and overthrown by the strength of the movement many monarchs declared their willingness to install most of the basic democratic principles demanded.
    • Everywhere, up to the middle of March, new governments were established, dominated by moderately liberal representatives of the bourgeoisie and proclaiming programs of liberal reform.
    • Frederick William IV of Prussia was frightened into granting a constitution and his example was followed by Saxony, Hanover and Bavaria.
    • In Bavaria the events resulted in the abdication of the King.
  • About this time, Vienna rose in revolt.
    • The people put up armed resistance to the troops.
    • After the uprising of the workers in the suburbs and the ultimatum by the liberal bourgeoisie, the state leadership of the Habsburg regime decided to give in.
    • This resulted in the resignation of Metternich as chief minister to Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria, and his going into exile in Britain.

 

 

 

THE FRANKFURT PARLIAMENT AND TRIUMPH OF REACTION

  • During Revolutions of 1848, William IV of Prussia yielding to the liberal and nationalist impulses of the hour, promised to assume the leadership of the national movement for a united Germany.
    • It aroused great enthusiasm among German liberals.
    • They summoned a national preliminary parliament called Preliminary Parliament which met in March 1848 in Frankfurt and it called for the election of a national assembly which was duly held.
  • Frankfurt National Assembly or German National Assembly (May 1848–June 1849), elected by universal suffrage, met in Frankfurt on May 18.
  • Moderate liberals held a majority in the assembly. The liberal Heinrich Gagern was elected president of the parliament.
  • Its task was:
    • to draw up a constitution for a united Germany to replace the constitution of German Bund.
    • to create a unified Germany, characterised by constitutional monarchy.
  • The Frankfurt National Assembly spent much time debating various plans for a unified Germany, but it also had to decide on immediate practical problems, such as the nature of the executive power and Germany’s territorial extent.
  • By this time, Prussia’s Frederick William IV had lost all patience with the liberals and had turned increasingly toward ultraconservative advisers.

 

 

  • In Austria the emperor Ferdinand had abdicated in favour of his nephew Francis Joseph, who likewise relied on conservative ministers.
  • The Frankfurt National Assembly was finally able to adopt a proposed federal constitution (with constitutional monarchy and parliament government) for German states, excluding Austria, on March 28, 1849.
    • This document provided for universal suffrage, parliamentary government, and a hereditary emperor.
  • On April 3 the king received a deputation from the assembly that came to offer him the crown. The offer was refused (on the advice of Bismarck) because:
    • Frederick William was too deeply conservative to receive a German imperial crown from any hands except those of the other German princes. He did not like to receive crown from revolutionary assembly who were socially inferior and considered it as a “crown of shame”.
    • He felt that it might lead to war with Austria.
  • Prussia also rejected the proposed constitution. Many of the States refused to accept the constitution. This led to the floundering of the entire scheme and destruction of German Revolution.
  • Prussia had dismissed the Diet which was at work making a constitution. But Prussian King voluntarily gave the people a constitution, which though not democratic, secured to the Prussian people a share in the government.

 

 

  • German nation united under one banner presented significant questions.
    • There was no readily applicable definition for who the German people would be or how far the borders of a German nation would stretch.
    • There was also uncertainty as to who would best lead and defend “Germany”.
    • Different groups offered different solutions to this problem.
      • In the Kleindeutschland (“Lesser Germany“) solution, the German states would be united under the leadership of the Prussian Hohenzollerns which would exclude Austria;
      • In the Grossdeutschland (“Greater Germany“) solution, the German states would be united under the leadership of the Austrian Habsburgs.

 

 

 

GOOD RESULTS OF FAILURE OF 1848 REVOLUTION FOR GERMAN UNIFICATION

  • Nationalists destroyed many illusions and prepared the way for more practical measures.
  • Austria could never honestly support nationalism in Germany, nor could the princes of German states, as it would endanger their own positions.
  • Failure of the Frankfort Parliament proved that no new Germany could be created by a popular movement undirected by princes.
  • Thus the pre-requisites of the German unification had been singled out:
    • German Confederation must be dissolved.
    • Austrian interference in German affairs must be prevented.
    • New adjustment of relations with princes effected.

 

PRUSSIA WAS A NATURAL LEADER OF GERMANY BECAUSE:

  • She had stimulated national resistance to Napoleon and played important part in his defeat. (as explained earlier)
  • By her acquisition of Rhenish territories in 1815, she stood forth as the guardian of Germany against the hereditary enemy France.
  • Prussia was already head of Zollverein (explained earlier).
  • Prussia had granted a constitution and created a Parliament and had thereby stimulated the hopes of the Liberals. From Austria they had nothing to expect in that direction.

 

INTERNATIONAL SITUATIONS FAVOURABLE TO PRUSSIA:

  • The Crimean war weakened Russia, the champion of absolutism in Europe and brought about an entanglement between her and Austria.
  • The rising star of Bonapartism in France was more friendly to national movement. The known sympathy of Napoleon III with the success of national cause everywhere was exploited by Prussia to the best advantage.

 

WILHELM I GIVES A NEW VIGOUR TO PRUSSIAN POLICY:

  • King Frederick William IV suffered a stroke in 1857 and could no longer rule. This led to his brother William becoming Prince Regent of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1858 and then king in 1861.
    • Unlike his brother, he had a mind of his own, which though not quick and brilliant, was solid and sound.
    • He was a strong believer of autocracy and believed in the destiny and mission of his country.
    • He had the gift to select good servants for the state and wisdom to repose full confidence in them.

 

 

 

STRUGGLE OVER ARMY REFORM:

  • William I was a true Hohenzollern in his belief and his belief that Prussia’s destiny depends on her army. So he wanted to reorganise army.
  • He appointed Von Moltke as chief of the Prussian General Staff, who was later to achieve fame as the greatest strategist of his time.
  • Conflict with Diet over army reform:
    • Prussian army reforms (especially how to pay for them) caused a constitutional crisis beginning in 1860 because both parliament (Diet) and William — via his minister of war — wanted control over the military budget.
    • As liberals who dominated the Prussian Diet, were determined to have constitutional reform before military.
    • A deadlock continued and Diet in 1862 refused to vote the necessary money for the army.
    • This developed into a constitutional conflict in which issue at the stake was whether the king or the Diet was to be the ultimate authority.
    • The King’s ministers could not convince legislators to pass the budget, and the King was unwilling to make concessions.
    • King Wilhelm I appointed Otto von Bismarck, a resolute adherent of the royal cause, to the position of Minister-President of Prussia in 1862. It proved to be the most momentous step King ever took. Bismarck resolved the crisis in favor of the war minister.
    • Bismarck’s conflict with the legislators intensified in the coming years but he rode rough shod over the constitution. He continued to levy and collect taxes without parliament grant and fully carried out military reform.
  • In 1863, the House of Deputies resolved that it could no longer come to terms with Bismarck; in response, the King dissolved the Diet, accusing it of trying to obtain unconstitutional control over the ministry, which, under the Constitution, was responsible solely to the king.

Bismarck then issued an edict restricting the freedom of the press.

 

BISMARCK

 

  • Early career:
    • Born in 1815, he belonged to old landed aristocracy of Prussia.
    • In university he had high spirit and disregarded for any discipline.
    • He joined Prussian Civil Service on its judicial side but resigned and busied himself with the management of his family estate.
    • In 1847, he made his debut in politics as a member of United Prussian Diet which was summoned by Frederick William IV.
  • His attitude towards movements:
    • He was anti-revolutionary, denounced democracy and liberalism and defended the cause of Prussian monarchy.
    • He was against any plan which was likely to merge Prussia in Germany or would commit Prussian monarchy to a policy of compromise with democracy or constitutionalism.
    • He supported the refusal of King to accept Frankfort crown and even approved of the Austrian triumph at Olmutz.
    • His ultra-royalist policy was rewarded by his appointment as Prussian representative at the Federal Diet at Frankfurt in 1851.
  • Bismarck at Frankfurt:
    • In the period of 8 years as a Prussian representative at Federal Diet,, he studied and practiced the art of diplomacy, gained larger view of problems confronted by Prussia, came to know about intentions of Austria so developed strong anti-Austrian sentiment. He came to the conclusion that Germany is too narrow for Austria and Prussia.
    • He realised that the fundamental problem of German question was the expulsion of Austria and attitude of smaller German states.
  • Bismarck as ambassador to Russia and France:
    • His attitude soon became too bold and independent for William IV who wished to continue on good terms with Austria and so he was transferred to Saint Petersburg.
    • As Prussian ambassador to Russia, he secured good will of the Tsar which was of invaluable help to Prussia later on.
    • Next for a short time, he was ambassador to France where he secured accurate insight into the complexities of the character of Napoleon.
    • In 1862, he was summoned to Berlin to head the ministry.
  • Bismarck as Minister-President of Prussia:
    • His aim and policy:
      • He thought that a powerful army was essential to the role which Prussia to play in unification of Germany.
      • He realised that victory of Parliament would be fatal and progressives i.e. liberals would not support his ambitious schemes. Hence he entered into conflict with Parliament, determined to carry out scheme of army reform.
      • Bismarck announces his policy of Blood and Iron:
        • He declared that Germany was looking not to Prussia’s liberalism but to his power and said “not by speeches and resolutions of the majorities are the great questions of the day to be decided but by Blood and Iron.”
        • He had clear views that Germany must be united but only under leadership of Prussia. (a Prussianised Germany)
        • But Prussia would never be able to assume the leadership of Germany so long as there was Austria, hence Austria must go and she would not go voluntarily. War was necessary.
      • He overrides the Constitution and carries out army reform:
        • For 4 years, he had to struggle against majority in parliament but he rode rough shod over the Constitution.
        • He continued to levy and collect taxes without Parliamentary grant and fully carried out the military reforms.
    • Bismarck’s diplomatic preparations:
      • Foreign policy:
        • He tried to isolate Austria.
        • He began by quoting the friendship of Napoleon III, the recent enemy of Austria and concluded a commercial treaty of France, giving her favourable terms.
        • In 1863, he took the advantage of revolt in Russian Poland to win good will of Tsar.
          • The feeling in Germany was on the side of Poles and great powers (England, France and Austria) sympathised with Poles.
          • But Bismarck offered help to Tsar in suppressing Polish revolt and this masterstroke secured to Prussia the good will of Tsar and Austria lost it by her pro-Polished attitude.
      • He frustrates Austria’s attempt at Federal reform:
        • He persuaded the King William not to attend the Congress of Princes summoned by Austria in 1863 for the reform of German Confederation as it might strengthened Austrian position in Germany.
        • It ruined all hopes of reform by which Austria had sought to consolidate her leadership of Germany.

 

BISMARCK AND REALPOLITIK

  • Bismarck, Roon and Moltke took charge at a time when relations among the Great Powers—Great Britain, France, Austria and Russia—had been shattered by the Crimean War of 1854–55 and the Italian War of 1859.
    • Their combined agendas established Prussia as the leading German power through a combination of foreign diplomatic triumphs — backed up by the possible use of Prussian military might — and an internal conservativism tempered by pragmatism, which came to be known as Realpolitik.
  • Bismarck expressed the essence of Realpolitik in his subsequently famous “Blood and Iron” speech to the Budget Committee of the Prussian Chamber of Deputies on 30 September 1862, shortly after he became Minister President:
    • Prussia must concentrate and maintain its power for the favorable moment which has already slipped by several times. Prussia’s boundaries according to the Vienna treaties are not favorable to a healthy state life. The great questions of the time will not be resolved by speeches and majority decisions—that was the great mistake of 1848 and 1849—but by iron and blood.”
  • Although Bismarck was an outstanding diplomat, the phrase “blood and iron” has become a popular description of his foreign policy partly because he did on occasion resort to war in a highly effective manner to aid in the unification of Germany and the expansion of its continental power.
  • By 1862, when Bismarck made his speech, the idea of a German nation-state in the peaceful spirit of Pan-Germanism had shifted from the liberal and democratic character of 1848 to accommodate Bismarck’s more conservative Realpolitik.
  • While the conditions of the treaties binding the various German states to one another prohibited Bismarck from taking unilateral action, the politician and diplomat in him realized the impracticality of such an action. In order to get the German states to unify, Bismarck needed a single, outside enemy that would declare war on one of the German states first, thus providing a cause to rally all Germans behind.
  • Three episodes proved fundamental to the administrative and political unification of Germany.
    • First, the death without male heirs of Frederick VII of Denmark led to the Second War of Schleswig in 1864.
    • Second, the unification of Italy provided Prussia an ally against Austria in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866.
    • Finally, France — fearing Hohenzollern encirclement — declared war on Prussia in 1870, resulting in the Franco-Prussian War.
  • Was German unification achieved more by ‘coal and iron’ than by ‘blood and iron’?
    • Prussian Prime Minister and great diplomat had once said that the unification of Germany would to achieved through ‘blood and iron’.
    • The great British economist of 20th century John Maynard Keynes had observed that the German Empire was not founded on ‘blood and iron’ but on ‘coal and iron’.
    • ‘Coal and iron’ refers to economic ties and economic strength unifying Germany and ‘blood and iron’ refers to the unification of Germany through force.
    • German unification was achieved through ‘coal and iron’ because:
      • Adopting free trade, the same currency, weights and measures allowed more cooperation between German states who became member of the Prussian Customs Union (Zollverein) increased their dependence on each other.
      • As Zollverein was founded and ran by Prussia it firmly established her as the economic leader in Germany and many states also regarded Prussia as the natural leader of a united Germany.
      • The Zollverein was also a political effect in isolating Austria who was at the time had larger possibility to be the leader of unified Germany.
        • By 1851 all the states had joined the Zollverein and only Austria was left out.
        • This increased Prussian power in the confederation and paved the way for German unification under Prussia.
        • This indicates that even before the appointment of Bismarck, Prussian leadership was successful in stimulating the economy.
      • Economic forces like the Zollverein shifted power from individual rulers of states to the middle classes who realised power and money could be gained from unification.
      • Blood and Iron policy of Bismarck lay in Prussia’s military strength which would not have been possible without her economic strength (i.e. ‘coal and iron’) providing resources and technology for military.
      • Due to expansion of communication system like railways between the states increased greatly and now not only were economic barriers broken down but also physical ones.
        • The railways helped with the spread of German press.
        • Now state news would become a national affair.
      • Keynes argued that the industrial and economic preparation before the wars, which united Germany, were more important.
        • This is because the economic strength created by the rapid industrialisation enabled the creation of a powerful Prussia.
        • It was under this powerful Prussia, with some skillful diplomacy and opportunism by Bismarck, that Germany was successfully united in the wars of German Unification.
    • German unification was achieved through ‘blood and iron’ because:
      • The role of Bismarck in the unification of Germany was a key factor.
      • There were attempted unification through ‘coal and iron’. Bismarck realised that economy was not going to unify Germany so he used force to achieve this.
      • Attempt to unify Germany failed in 1848 and 1851 which showed that economy was still not enough.
      • Even though the states were economically unified under Prussia through the Zollverein they still turned to Austria when it came to political matters.
      • Bismarck realised that however much Germany was economically unified, it would take a lot more to unite them politically under Prussia.
        • Bismarck adopted method of ‘blood and iron’ and he waged three wars with Denmark, Austria and France, before German unification was achieved.
        • Second war (The Battle of Sadowa, 1866) was with Austria in which Austria was badly defeated and Prussia now gained political dominance as she was to dictate the terms of the peace treaty. This treaty abolished the Bundstag and Austria was excluded from the North German Confederation.
        • War with France (The Battle of Sedan, 1870) completed the German unification.
    • Conclusion:
      • The base for German unification was prepared by ‘coal and iron’ on which Bismarck policy of ‘blood and iron’ built upon.
      • Hence, both had played its role in the unification with different degree of impact at different time.

 

CRIMEAN WAR HELPED IN GERMAN UNIFICATION

  • The Crimea War led to an important regrouping of Powers, which made the unification of Germany possible.
  • During war, Austria’shostile neutrality had irritated Russia who had saved Austrian Empire from dissolution during Hungarian revolt of 1848-49. The result was that old alliance of the three despotic powers (Russia, Austria and Prussia) which was the cornerstone of Metternich’s policy which till now had saved the Austrian Empire from disruption, was now broken.
  • Furious at Austrian ingratitude Russia turned to Prussia whose friendly neutrality she appreciated. The state of things led to a new regrouping of Powers which gave rise to important developments afterwards.
  • Bismarck took advantage of Russia’s estrangement from Austria and began to court the friendship of the Czar in order to further his project of ousting Austria from Germany.
    • The result was that Austria was completely isolated during the Austro-Prussian War that followed, Russia remaining neutral as Austria had done.
    • Austria was defeated and the German Empire (after unification of Germany) that Prussia subsequently built up was largely based upon Russian neutrality.

 

THE SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN QUESTION

 

  • The first episode in the saga of German unification under Bismarck came with the Schleswig-Holstein Question.
  • Schleswig-Holstein question was controversy between Denmark, Prussia, and Austria over the status of Schleswig and Holstein.
  • At this time the population of Schleswig was Danish in its northern portion, German in the south, and mixed in the northern towns and centre. The population of Holstein was almost entirely German.
  • After 1474 both Schleswig and Holstein were ruled as separate duchies by the kings of Denmark, although Holstein also remained a fief of the Holy Roman Empire and, later, from 1815, a member of the German Confederation.
  • The Napoleonic Wars awakened German national feeling, and the political bonds that had existed between Schleswig and Holstein suggested that the two regions should form a single state within the German Confederation.
  • The Danish nationalists hoped to incorporate Schleswig into Denmark, in the process detaching it from Holstein.
  • German nationalists conversely sought to confirm Schleswig’s association with Holstein, in the process detaching the former from Denmark.
  • In 1863, the Liberal government prevailed on the new Danish king, Christian IX, to sign a new joint constitution for Denmark and Schleswig.
    • On 18 November 1863, Christian IX signed the Danish November Constitution and declared the Duchy of Schleswig a part of Denmark.
    • The German Confederation saw this act as a violation of the London Protocol of 1852, which emphasized the status of the kingdom of Denmark as distinct from the independent duchies of Schleswig and Holstein.
    • Prussia and Austria were now able to intervene as the upholders of the 1852 protocol.
    • The German Confederation could use the ethnicities of these duchies as a rallying cry: large portions of both Schleswig and Holstein were of German origin and spoke German in everyday life (though Schleswig had a sizable Danish population).
    • The Duke of Augustenburg also revive his claim and offered himself to put as a head against Denmark Resistance.
  • Bismarck exploited the situation:
    • He wanted that the duchies should go neither to Denmark nor to The Duke of Augustenburg whose claim Federal Diet supported, but to Prussia.
    • His first move was to use Austria as an ally in order to act jointly against Denmark. If he had acted alone he might have faced opposition of the Federal Diet of which Austria was the President. It was agreed that Austria and Prussia should settle the matter without interference of the Diet.
    • In the ensuing German-Danish War (1864), Danish military resistance was crushed by Prussia and Austria. By the Peace of Vienna (October 1864), Christian IX ceded Schleswig and Holstein to Austria and Prussia.
    • Quarrel over the disposition of the two duchies:
      • Bismarck began to put obstacles in the way of the Austrian proposal that the duchies should be handed over to the Duke of Augustenburg.
      • To ease the tensions, the Prussian minister-president Bismarck met with the Austrian envoy Blome at Gastein in the Austrian Alps.
      • Gastein Convention:
        • The pact provided that both the emperor of Austria and the king of Prussia were to be sovereign over the duchies, Prussia administering Schleswig and Austria administering Holstein
        • Both duchies were to be admitted to the Zollverein (German Customs Union), headed by Prussia, though Austria was not a member. Also the question of the duchies was not to be brought before Diet.
        • This convention was a great diplomatic triumph for Bismarck.
          • It put down claim of the Duke of Augustenburg,
          • included duchies into Zollverein and
          • Austria administering Holstein was sandwiched between Schleswig to the north and Prussian territory to the south which made it difficult for Austria to rule.

 

SEVEN WEEKS’ WAR OR AUSTRO-PRUSSIAN WAR (1866)

  • The Gastein Convention was highly disadvantage to Austria and so was not likely to last long. War with Austria was necessary for the fulfillment of his great design of unification of Germany under Prussian leadership.
  • The Gastein Convention soon collapsed due to Bismarck’s efforts to provoke a war with Austria as well as to eliminate Austria from the German Confederation. These efforts led to the outbreak of the Austro-Prussian War, also known as the Seven Weeks’ War, in June 1866.
  • Austria had no intention of keeping Holstein which was sandwiched in between Prussian territory.
    • On 1 June 1866 she asked the Federal Convention for a resolution on the status of Holstein, which Prussia regarded as a breach of the mutual agreement.
    • Bismarck used this as an excuse to start a war with Austria by accusing them of violating the Gastein Convention. Bismarck sent Prussian troops to occupy Holstein and expelled Austrians.
  • But it was not enough for Bismarck to only provoke Austria to war.
    • It was necessary that cause of war should involve the whole German question. So he proposed the reform of German confederation on the basis of universal suffrage, with Austria excluded.
    • He made Prussia appear not merely as an aggrieved party in regard to Shlesweig-Holstein question, but as the champion of national unification.
    • Austria naturally turned down Prussian proposal of reform and prevailed upon Diet to mobilise federal troops against Prussia to punish Prussia for the infraction of Austrian region in Holstein.
    • Prussia therefore seceded from the confederation and declared war upon Austria appearing to take up arms in self defence. This war is called Seven Weeks War.
  • The timing of the declaration was perfect, because:
    • Bismarck made an alliance with Italy, committing it to the war if Prussia entered one against Austria within three months, which was an obvious incentive for Bismarck to go to war with Austria within three months to divert Austrian strength away from Prussia.
    • All other European powers were either bound by alliances that forbade them from entering the conflict, or had domestic problems that had priority.
    • Britain had no stake economically or politically in war between Prussia and Austria.
    • Russia was unlikely to enter on the side of Austria, due to ill will over Austrian support of the anti-Russian alliance during the Crimean War and Prussia had stood by Russia during the January Uprising in Poland whereas Austria had not.
    • France was also unlikely to enter on the side of Austria, because Bismarck and Napoleon III met and Bismarck was guaranteed French neutrality in the event of a war.
    • Italy was already allied with Prussia, which meant that Austria would be fighting both with no major allies of its own.
  • Bismarck may well have been encouraged to go to war by the advantages of the Prussian army against the Austrian Empire.
  • Battle of Sadowa:
    • A quick decisive victory was essential to keep other powers like France or Russia from entering the conflict on Austria’s side. Austria had already appealed to Napoleon III for help.
    • The day-long Battle of Koniggratz or Sadova gave Prussia an uncontested and decisive victory.
  • Treaty of Prague and Peace of Vienna:
    • The war was formally concluded on August 23, 1866 by the Treaty of Prague.
    • The Austrians had accepted mediation from France’s Napoleon III.
    • The Peace of Prague resulted in the dissolution of the German Confederation and the permanent exclusion of Austria from German affairs.
    • The treaty assigned Schleswig-Holstein to Prussia. The latter also annexed Hanover, Hesse-Kassel, Nassau, and Frankfurt outright.
    • By the Peace of Vienna (Oct. 3, 1866) Austria ceded Venetia for transfer to Italy although the Austrians were far more successful in the military field against Italian troops.
  • North German Confederation (1867):
    • Prussia’s victory in the war enabled it to organize the North German Confederation of all the states north of river Main with the Prussian king as the President. Austria, and most of its allies, were excluded from the North German Confederation.
    • The new North German Confederation had its own constitution, flag, and governmental and administrative structures.
    • The North German Constitution created a national parliament with universal suffrage (for men above the age of 25), the Reichstag.
  • Results of the Seven Weeks War:
    • Effect on Austria:
      • The end of Austrian dominance of the German states and her shifted attention to the Balkans. She also abandoned policy of centralisation by Compromise with Hungarians.
      • Austrian emperor Franz Joseph accepted a settlement (the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 which lasted till the end of the First World War when Austrian Empire fell apart) in which he gave his Hungarian holdings equal status with his Austrian domains, creating the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary.
      • This compromise satisfied two races of Austrian Empire, Germans of Austria and Magyars of Hungary.
    • Effect on Prussia:
      • Prussia emerged as great military power and North confederation united her scattered territory and gave her a scientific frontier as well as an invaluable site for the construction of a naval bas at Kiel.
      • Her astonishing victory altered balance of power.
      • Triumph of Bismarckism:
        • The success of the war closed the constitutional struggle over army reform and it was blow to German liberals. Militarism was justified.
        • New political party national Liberal Party came out whose programme was Bismarckism, i.e. to uphold Bismarck in his national endevours.
        • Bismarck, the “best hated” man became most popular man.
      • Through military victory, Prussia under Bismarck’s influence had overcome Austria’s active resistance to the idea of a unified Germany.
      • Austria’s influence over the German states may have been broken, but the war also splintered the spirit of pan-German unity: most of the German states resented Prussian power politics.
    • Effect on Italy:
      • Italy acquired Venetia and advanced one step further for her unification.
    • Effect on France:
      • The French public resented the Prussian victory and demanded “Revenge for Sadova”, illustrating anti-Prussian sentiment in France — a problem that would accelerate in the months leading up to the Franco-Prussian War.
      • The Austro-Prussian War damaged relations with the French government. At a meeting in Biarritz in September 1865 with Napoleon III, Bismarck had let it be understood that France might annex parts of Belgium and Luxembourg in exchange for its neutrality in the war. These annexations did not happen, resulting in animosity from Napoleon towards Bismarck.
      • Prussia chose not to seek Austrian territory for itself, and this made it possible for Prussia and Austria to ally in the future, since Austria felt threatened more by Italian and Pan-Slavic irredentism than by Prussia.
      • The war left Prussia dominant in German politics.

 

THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR (1870-71)

  • Causes of War:
    • Stronger Prussia and worried France:
      • The causes of the Franco-Prussian War are deeply rooted in the events surrounding the German unification.
      • In the aftermath of the Austro-Prussian War (1866), Prussia had annexed numerous territories and formed the North German Confederation. This new power destabilized the European balance of power established by the Congress of Vienna (1815) after the Napoleonic Wars. Prussia then turned its attention towards the south of Germany, where it sought to expand its influence.
      • France was strongly opposed to the annexation of the Southern German States which would have created a too powerful a country next to its border. It is said: “It was France that was defeated in Sadowa”I
      • In Prussia, a war against France was deemed necessary to arouse German nationalism in those States that would allow the unification of a great German empire.
    • Internal Difficulties of Napoleon III:
      • French ruler Napoleon III was on increasingly shaky ground in domestic politics.
      • Napoleon III was confronted with demands for democratic reform from leading republicans.
      • In addition, French aspirations in Mexico had suffered a final defeat with the execution of the Austrian-born, French puppet Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico in 1867.
      • The French imperial government looked to a diplomatic success to stifle demands for a return to either a republic or a Bourbon monarchy.
      • A war with Prussia and resulting territorial gains in the Rhineland and later Luxembourg and Belgium seemed the best hope to unite the French nation behind the Bonapartist dynasty.
      • With the resulting prestige from a successful war, Napoleon III could then safely suppress any lingering republican or revolutionary sentiment behind reactionary nationalism and return France to the center of European politics.

 

 

    • Bismarck and German nationalism:
      • Prussia in turn was also beset with problems.
      • While revolutionary fervour was far more muted than in France, Prussia had in 1866 acquired millions of new citizens as a result of the Austro-Prussian War.
      • The remaining German kingdoms and principalities maintained a steadfastly parochial attitude towards Prussia and German unification.
      • The German princes insisted upon their independence and balked at any attempt to create a federal state that would be dominated by Berlin. Their suspicions were heightened by Prussia’s quick victory and subsequent annexations.
      • Bismarck had an entirely different view after the war in 1866:
        • Uniting Germany appeared immaterial to him unless it improved Prussia’s position.
        • He wished for unification to ‘Prussianise’ Germany and not other way around.
        • In these difficulties, Bismarck could have united Germany under Prussia only through war.
    • Immediate cause of War:
      • The immediate cause of the Franco-German War, however, was the candidacy of Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern (who was related to the Prussian royal house) for the Spanish throne, which had been left vacant when Queen Isabella II had been deposed in 1868.
      • The Prussian chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, and Spain’s de facto leader, Juan Prim, persuaded the reluctant Leopold to accept the Spanish throne in June 1870.
      • This move greatly alarmed France, who felt threatened by a possible combination of Prussia and Spain directed against it. Leopold’s candidacy was withdrawn under French diplomatic pressure, but the Prussian king William I was unwilling to bow to the French ambassador’s demands that he promise to never again allow Leopold to be a candidate for the Spanish throne.
        • Bismarck edited William’s telegraphed description of this interview, and on July 14 he published this provocative message (the Ems telegram), which accomplished his purposes of infuriating the French government and provoking it into a declaration of war.
      • The French emperor, Napoleon III, declared war on Prussia on July 19, 1870, because his military advisers told him that the French army could defeat Prussia and that such a victory would restore his declining popularity in France.
  • Bismarck’s Diplomacy isolates France:
    • He isolated France by selling good wills to powers.
    • Russia still remembered Bismarck’s offer to help during Polish trouble and Napoleon’s part in Crimean War. Bismarck improved relation by encouraging Russian design against Turkey and consenting to the repudiation by Russia of the Black Sea clauses of Treaty of Paris (1856).
    • He had also taken care of good will of Austria by treating her with moderation after Sadowa. He had not penalised Austria with any loss of territory and didn’t humiliate by sending troops to Vienna.
    • He retained friendship with Italy by holding out to her prospect of acquiring Rome which was defended by French troops.
    • He tried to convince Powers that new era of French aggression was likely to begin after Napoleon demands and Spanish matters. Public opinion was universally turned anti-French. English people became angry when Napoleon asked for Belgium as compensation.
    • Finally France was completely isolated. Even the southern German states who were hostile to Prussia did not side with France as they thought Napoleon wanted territorial compensation at the expense of German states.
  • Battle of Sedan:
    • An important asset was the Prussian army’s general staff, which planned the rapid, orderly movement of large numbers of troops to the battle zones.
      • This superior organization and mobility enabled the chief of the general staff, General Moltke, to exploit German superiority in numbers in most of the war’s battles.
      • The efficient German mobilization contrasted with confusion and delay on the French side.
    • The speed of Prussian mobilization astonished the French, and the Prussian ability to concentrate power at specific points overwhelmed French mobilization.
      • Utilizing their efficiently laid rail grid, Prussian troops were delivered to battle areas rested and prepared to fight, whereas French troops had to march for considerable distances to reach combat zones.
      • After a number of battles, decisive battle was fought at Sedan.
    • Battle of Sedan (Sept. 1, 1870), decisive defeat of the French army in the Franco-German War, which led to the fall of the Second French Empire; it was fought at the French border fortress of Sedan. French army surrendered to Moltke and Napoleon III was taken prisoner.
  • Siege of Paris and Proclamation of Germany Emperor:
    • The humiliating capture of the French emperor and the loss of the French army, threw the French government into turmoil; Napoleon’s energetic opponents overthrew his government and proclaimed the Third Republic.
    • The German High Command expected an overture of peace from the French, but the new republic initially refused to surrender. The Prussian army invested Paris and held it under siege until mid-January.
    • On 18 January 1871, the German princes and senior military commanders proclaimed Wilhelm “German Emperor” in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles in France.
  • Treaty of Frankfurt:
    • Under the subsequent Treaty of Frankfurt, signed in Frankfurt on 10 May 1871, France relinquished most of its traditionally German regions (Alsace and the German-speaking part of Lorraine); paid an indemnity, calculated (on the basis of population); and accepted German administration of Paris and most of northern France, with “German troops to be withdrawn stage by stage with each installment of the indemnity payment”. (to the surprise of Germany, the French paid the indemnity quickly).
    • Natural resources in Alsace-Lorraine (iron-ore, and coal), military annexation and unification of the German people appear to have played a role in Germany’s fight for the areas annexed. At the same time, France lost 20% of its mining and steel potential.
    • This treaty polarized French policy towards Germany for the next 40 years. The reconquest of Alsace-Lorraine, the “lost provinces,” became an obsession characterized by a revanchism which would be one of the most powerful motives in France’s involvement in World War I.
  • Consequences of Franco-Prussian War:
    • The Franco-German War had far-reaching consequences. It led to important results in Germany, Italy and France.
    • Completion of unification of Germany and constitution of German Empire:
      • In Germany, the most important consequence of the war was the completion of the unification of Germany and the creation of the German Empire which lasted till the Second World War.
      • The great victories, won by the united efforts of the states of the North and South, created the desire for a permanent union.
      • Accordingly on January 18, 1871, in the royal palace of Versailles, King William of Prussia was proclaimed German Emperor.
      • The Constitution of the North German confederation was so widened as to include all the German states.
      • Germany was recognised as a federal government.
    • Completion of the unity of Italy:
      • The Pope had been supported in Rome by a French garrison. But this war compelled France to withdraw her troops from Rome.
      • With Napoleon III no longer in power to protect them, the Papal States were annexed by Italy under Victor Emmanuel (Sept. 20, 1870), thereby completing that nation’s unification.
      • The temporal power of the Pope came to an end and Rome became the capital of united Italy.
    • The Third Republic in France:
      • For a few months following the Treaty of Frankfurt, the communist Party in Paris as well as some lawless elements made an attempt to set up a government of their own, which they called Commune (1871).
      • They seized Paris and held it for 2 months, doing enormous damage.
      • Then followed a period of arrest and executions after which France settled down to a peaceful and orderly life.
      • the Third Republic of France had now passed which proved success, offering a stable government to that distracted country.
    • Russia tore up Treaty of Paris:
      • Russia took the advantage of this war to tear up clauses of Treaty of Paris (signed after loss in Crimean War) which had neutralised the Black Sea and she began to fortify Sevastopol.
    • Other effects:
      • The international effects of the war was still more important. Germany from being the weakest state in Europe suddenly became the strongest military and political power of the continent.
      • The Germans’ crushing victory over France in the war consolidated their faith in Prussian militarism, which would remain a dominant force in German society until 1945.
      • The Prussian system of conscript armies controlled by a highly trained general staff was soon adopted by the other great powers.

Most importantly, Germany’s annexation of Alsace-Lorraine aroused a deep longing for revenge in the French people.

 

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