Nationalism: state-building in Germany (Part 3)
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 trritories 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 3 with the success of national cause everywhere was exploited by Prussia to the best advantage.
Wilhelm I gives a new vigour to Prussian Policy and struggle over army Reform
- 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.
- Meanwhile, Von Moltke had become chief of the Prussian General Staff in 1857, and Von Roon would become Prussian Minister of War in 1859. Both believed in autocracy and militarism. This shuffling of authority within the Prussian military establishment would have important consequences. Roon and William (who took an active interest in military structures) began reorganizing the Prussian army, while Moltke redesigned the strategic defense of Prussia by streamlining operational command.
- 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 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.
- William (crowned as King Wilhelm I upon his brother Frederick Wilhelm IV’s death in 1861), appointed Otto von Bismarck to the position of Minister-President of Prussia in 1862. 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.
- Following the Alvensleben Convention of 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 remained a largely unpopular politician. His supporters fared poorly in the elections of October 1863, in which a liberal coalition, whose primary member was the Progress Party, won over two-thirds of the seats. The House made repeated calls for Bismarck to be dismissed, but the King supported him, because he feared that if he did dismiss the Minister President, he would likely be succeeded by a liberal.
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. In the aftermath of this disarray, the convergence of von Moltke’s operational redesign, von Roon and Wilhelm’s army restructure, and Bismarck’s diplomacy influenced the realignment of the European balance of power. 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.
- Realpolitik is politics or diplomacy based primarily on considerations of power and on practical and material factors, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral or ethical premises. In this respect, it shares aspects of its philosophical approach with those of realism and pragmatism.
- 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.
- Bismarck’s words, “iron and blood“, have often been misappropriated as evidence of a German lust for blood and power. His emphasis on blood and iron did not imply simply the unrivaled military might of the Prussian army but rather two important aspects: the ability of the assorted German states to produce iron and other related war materials and the willingness to use those war materials if necessary.
- The need for both iron and blood soon became apparent. 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. Ever the pragmatist, Bismarck understood the possibilities, obstacles, and advantages of a unified state.
- 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.
- Bismarck was neither villain nor saint: by manipulating events of 1866 and 1870, he demonstrated the political and diplomatic skill that had caused Wilhelm to turn to him in 1862.
- 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. Through a combination of Bismarck’s diplomacy and political leadership, von Roon’s military reorganization, and von Moltke’s military strategy, Prussia demonstrated that none of the European signatories of the 1815 peace treaty could guarantee Austria’s sphere of influence in Central Europe, thus achieving Prussian hegemony in Germany and ending the dualism debate.
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.
- The duchy of Schleswig (Slesvig) was a dependency of Denmark in the 13th and 14th centuries, but from 1386 to 1460 it was united with Holstein. 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. A countermovement developed among the Danish population in northern Schleswig and from 1838 in Denmark itself, where the Liberals insisted that Schleswig had belonged to Denmark for centuries and that the frontier between Germany and Denmark had to be the Eider River (which had historically marked the border between Schleswig and Holstein). The Danish nationalists thus 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.
- On 15 November 1863, King Christian IX of Denmark became king of Denmark and duke of Schleswig and Holstein. Both duchies formed southern half of Jutland. Schleswig was a fief of Denmark while Holstein was a member of German confederation, but the two duchies were regarded as indissolubly linked together.
- These differences led in March 1848 to an open uprising by Schleswig-Holstein’s German majority in support of independence from Denmark and close association with the German Confederation. The uprising was helped by the military intervention of Prussia, whose army drove Denmark’s troops from Schleswig-Holstein.The Duke of Augustenburg who had strong claim upon the duchies also resisted Danish attempt.
- This war between Denmark and Prussia lasted three years (1848–50) and ended only when the Great Powers pressured Prussia into accepting the London Protocol of 1852. Under the terms of this peace agreement, the German Confederation returned Schleswig-Holstein to Denmark.In an agreement with Prussia under the 1852 protocol, the Danish government in return undertook not to tie Schleswig more closely to Denmark than to its sister duchy of Holstein.
- In 1863, nevertheless, the Liberal government prevailed on the new Danish king, Christian IX, to sign a new joint constitution for Denmark and Schleswig. Prussia and Austria were now able to intervene as the upholders of the 1852 protocol.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 in two brief campaigns. By the Peace of Vienna (October 1864), Christian IX ceded Schleswig and Holstein to Austria and Prussia.
- On 18 November 1863, he 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. The populations of Schleswig and Holstein, furthermore, greatly valued this separate status.
- 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 minority).
- 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.
- Convention of Gastein was agreement between Austria and Prussia reached on Aug. 20, 1865, after their seizure of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein from Denmark.
- It temporarily postponed the final struggle between them for hegemony over Germany. 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 (which was sandwiched between Schleswig to the north and Prussian territory to the south). 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.
- Though Prussia benefitted from the treaty, Bismarck noticed that it did not answer the German question nor did it ease the Austria–Prussia rivalry. Moreover the treaty ran counter to the legal basis of the German Confederation, which led to the refusal both by the smaller Confederation states and the European powers; it was nevertheless appreciated by Russia in view of her enmity with Austria after the Crimean War.
Seven Weeks’ War or Austro-prussian War (1866)
- The Gastein Convention was highly disadvantage to Austria and so was not likely to last long. As Bismarck himself said, it merely “papered over the cracks”m and that was exactly what Bismarck wanted. War with Austria was necessary for the fulfilment 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. She had tolerated the rule of Duke Frederick VIII of Schleswig-Holstein. 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 thus 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 propoal 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 in Biarritz and allegedly discussed whether or not France would intervene in a potential Austro-Prussian war. The details of the discussion are unknown but many historians think 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.
- Although several German states initially sided with Austria, they stayed on the defensive and failed to take effective initiatives against Prussian troops. The Austrian army therefore faced the technologically superior Prussian army with support only from Saxony. France promised aid, but it came late and was insufficient.
- By the alliance with Italy, Bismarck contrived to divert part of the Austrian forces to the south in Venetia and on the Adriatic sea. This advantage, together with that of Prussia’s modernized army discipline, resulted in a Prussian victory.
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.
- In order to forestall intervention by France or Russia, Bismarck pushed King William I of Prussia to make peace with the Austrians rapidly, rather than continue the war in hopes of further gains.
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, thus acquiring the territory that had separated the eastern and the western parts of the Prussian state.
- 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. Another important organ was the Bundesrat, the ‘federal council’ of the representatives of the allied governments. To adopt a law, a majority in the Reichstag and in the Bundesrat was necessary. This gave the allied governments, meaning the states and their princes, an important veto.
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.
- The Austrian Chancellor Ferdinand von Beust was “impatient to take his revenge on Bismarck for Sadowa.” As a preliminary step, the Ausgleich (Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867) with Hungary was rapidly concluded. Beust persuaded Francis Joseph to accept Magyar (of Hungary) demands which he had until then rejected. 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. These two were made independent in all matters except war and diplomacy. Vienna became capital of Austria and Budapest of Hungary. Both were to have same ruler, who in Austria would bear the title of Emperor and in Hungary of King. Each was to have its own separate constitution, legislature and administration and each was to control its internal affairs without interference from each other.
- This compromise satisfied two races of Austrian Empire, Germans of Austria and Magyars of Hungary. But the subordinate race, especially Slavs refused to acquiesce in this system and demanded the same privileges as were accorded to Hungarians. They wanted Federal andnot Dual Empire.
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 (or Napoleon had thought he 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 (since Austria was now excluded from Germany and no longer the top German power), and German nationalism would encourage the remaining independent states to ally with Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, and then to accede to the crowning of King William of Prussia as German Emperor in 1871. The united German states would become one of the most influential of all the European powers.