|German Unification Course Summary up to 1871 (1871-90 still to come!):
Section 1: The German Confederation, 1815-48
Section 2: Revolutions in Germany, 1848-9
Section 3: The rise of Prussia, 1850-62
Section 4: Diplomacy and War, 1862-71
Section 5: The role of Bismarck in unification
1. The German Confederation, 1815-48
Key questions to think about when revising:
- (a) Why was German unification unlikely in 1815?
- (b) What were the forces for change (which made unification MORE likely) from 1815-48?
(a)Why was German unification unlikely in 1815?
*Because of the way the German Confederation was set up at the Congress of Vienna (1815):
-Independence of individual German states: Confederation divided into 39 separate states ruled by individual princes each of whom was concerned with maintaining sovereignty over his own state.
-The set up of the DIET of the Confederation (which met permanently in Frankfurt):
~was attended by representatives CHOSEN BY THE INDIVIDUAL PRINCES
~had the Austrian ambassador as President of the Diet
~laws had to be passed unanimously (or at least by 2/3 majority) by the INNER COUNCIL and then the PLENARY SESSION
~lacked an army or civil service to put its decisions into practice.
~Was regularly subject to the influence of Metternich who, for example, pressured it into passing the Carlsbad Decrees of 1819 (following the murder of the reactionary writer Kotzebue) and the Six Articles of 1832 (following the nationalist Hambach Festival) which strictly limited the freedom of the press and of associations and protest etc within the states of the Bund (German Confederation).
-Domination of Austria and Prussia
~Metternich’s setting up of the Congress System, to stamp out revolution and maintain the power of ‘legitimate’ rulers throughout Europe, which saw the setting up of the Troppau Protocol / Holy Alliance between Austria, Russia and Prussia. This ensured that, until international relations began to change with the Crimean War of 1854-6, Prussia was tied into a reactionary alliance with Austria.
~The Austrian Habsburg Empire, with its population of 25 million, was immensely powerful
~Austria acted as a deterrent to Prussia uniting the smaller states. Austria favoured a loose Confederation of states dominated by the Habsburg Emperor.
~Prussia was given land to the west in the Rhineland (rich in raw materials and thus possessing great industrial potential) and in the east in Posen and on the Russian border and its population was increased from about 5 million to 10 million. Prussia itself, however, suffered a West-East divide with the traditional Junker-dominated east lacking affinity with the more modern, liberal-minded and industrialised West.
Cultural/national disunity within the Confederation
*Many non-Germans lived in the Confederation
*some of the Confederation states were ruled by non-German governments (e.g. Hanover - Britain, Luxemburg - Netherlands, Schleswig and Holstein - Denmark etc.)
-There was a religious divide between the Catholic states (mainly in the South who looked to Austria for support) and the Protestant states (mainly in the North who looked to Prussia for support).
-German society was dominated by the JUNKERS (landowning aristocrats who were against change and loyal to the individual Monarchs).
Conservative army and civil service
-Army and civil service/bureaucracy were mainly aristocratic and loyal to the monarchy
Lack of industrialisation / urbanisation
-Only 10% of the population lived in the towns which were not nearly as industrialised as the towns in, for example, Britain.
(b) What were the forces of change (which made unification MORE likely) between 1815 and 1848?
-Grew out of Prussian Customs Union (set up in 1818) regulating the Prussian economy and getting rid of all customs barriers within Prussia.
-In 1830 Hesse-Cassel left the rival Middle Customs Union and joined the Prussian Customs Union leading to the collapse of the Middle Union and 18 states (including Prussia) joining the Prussian Customs Union to form the Zollverein in 1834.
-By 1844 only Austria, Hanover, Oldenburg, Mecklenburg and the Hanseatic towns were NOT in the Zollverein.
-The Zollverein encouraged cooperation and boosted trade between the German states by abolishing customs barriers and unifying the currency and system of weights and measures within the states of the Zollverein.
The growth of German Nationalism:
-Students and other educated middle class people began studying the writings of Fichte, Arndt and Jahn (see Shreeves, pp.109-112). Students formed themselves into nationalist organisations called Burscherschaften. The Burscherschaften were, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, at their height when Bismarck and other eventual leaders of German unification were at university.
-Nationalist demonstrations organised by Burscherschaften took place at Wartburg (1817) and Hambach (1832) (see Shreeves, p.112). These, whilst impressive, involving feasting, throwing reactionary books onto huge bonfires and speeches regarding the ‘German Fatherland’, lacked focus on exactly what a united Germany might be and were of more a romantic rather than a practical nature.
-The focus of German nationalists was sharpened firstly in 1840, when French foreign policy turned from global imperialism (as a rival to Britain) to European expansion, and secondly in 1846 when the King of Denmark tried to fully incorporate his territories of Schleswig and Holstein (part of the German Confederation) into the Kingdom of Denmark.
The growth of liberalism:
-As with many states which had been subject to the control of Napoleon I in the years leading up to 1815, the German middle classes, especially those directly ruled from France as the Rhineland Confederation, had been given a taste of power in legal, governmental and military circles, which was then taken away in Metternich’s drive for reaction throughout Europe. They were thus particularly receptive to the writings of men like Goethe and Schiller who argued that the rule of monarchs should be subject to constitutions in the form of parliaments containing educated men able to advise him.
-Liberalism gained sharper focus in the years leading up to 1848 when the rule of the South-Western state of Baden was forced in 1846 to accept a constitution based on by far the widest electoral franchise (biggest number of people able to vote for MPs) ever known in any German state. Following this success in Baden an Assembly of South Western States (with representatives from six South West German States) met in 1847 and declared that the problems facing the states of the Bund needed to be brought about by the setting up of a ‘German Republic’ (i.e. a united Germany without a king). In the same year, King Frederick William IV allowed a meeting of the Estates-General in Prussia.
2. Revolutions in Germany 1848-9.
Key questions to think about when revising.
(a)Why did revolutions break out throughout Germany in 1848? (long-term and short-term reasons)
(b)What were the main developments of the revolution in Germany?
(c)Why did the Frankfurt Parliament (May, 1848 – June 1849) fail?
(d) What was the impact of the Frankfurt Parliament/revolution in Germany?
(e) What was the impact of revolution on who controlled the German Confederation?
Why did revolutions break out throughout Germany, 1848-9?
-rising middle class demanding political representation [see also growth of Liberalism in Section 1]
-growing population throughout Europe leading to a scarcity of food
-industrialisation leading to a shift of population to towns leading to poor living and working conditions in the towns as well as the skilled Handwerker feeling that their trade was being undermined by the increasing use of factory machines and the cheap unskilled labour it took to run them.
-harvest failures throughout Europe in 1845-6 followed by an outbreak of potato blight in 1847(see Wilmot, pp.68-9).
-resultant trade recession in Europe, 1847 as rising food prices in the towns led to a dramatic fall in demand for consumer (factory-produced) goods (See Wilmot, p.69).
-Sharpening focus of nationalism and liberalism from 1846 (SEE ABOVE IN THE SECTIONS ON ‘THE GROWTH OF LIBERALISM’ AND ‘THE GROWTH OF NATIONALISM’)
- inspiration from revolutions in other European countries: e.g. Paris, February 1848; Hungary, March 1848 (against imperial Habsburg rule); Vienna, March 1848 etc.
(b) What were the main developments of the Revolutions in Germany?:
-The setting up of the FRANKFURT PARLIAMENT – a liberal dominated assembly of 596 men from all the German states given the task of drawing up a constitution for a united Germany – in May 1848.
[*set up by a Vorparlament at Heidelberg in March 1848)] SEE STILES, PP.32-9.
-The Revolution in Prussia:
*demonstrations and riots in Berlin, 13th-19th March 1848 led Frederick William IV (draped in the German colours of red, black and gold and declaring ‘I want liberty: I will have unity in Germany’) to accept the following on 21st March:
-election of an assembly to draw up a new liberal constitution for Prussia; -the appointment of a new liberal ministry (set of ministers).
(After Frederick William had left Berlin, however, he told his army in Potsdam how he felt ‘humiliated’ at the ‘concessions’ he had made to his people).
The Failure of the Revolution in Prussia
*The assembly spent March-December 1848 trying (and failing) to agree on the new Prussian constitution, largely due to the liberal/radical divide within the Assembly. It did, however, declare war on Denmark over Schleswig-Holstein and abolish many of the feudal, legal and financial privileges of the Junkers. On the other hand, it was notably moderate using middle class Civic guards to bring workers’ demonstrations under control and remaining avowedly opposed to social revolution.
*August 1848 Prussian landowners and nobles set up The League for the Protection of Landed Property in Berlin – known by its enemies as ‘The Junker Parliament’ – which aimed to abolish the Prussian Assembly and dismiss the Liberal Ministry. ALSO Junkers throughout Prussia got the peasants on their side by freeing them from several of their feudal obligations.
*By August 1848, Frederick William IV regaining control: -F.W.IV resumed control of foreign policy, concluding a peace with the Danes to the disgust of the Frankfurt Parliament; -riots by workers in Berlin in October 1848 persuaded many of the middle classes to switch their support to the king; -October 1848: successes of Emperor Franz Josef in Austria encouraged FW IV to dismiss the Liberal Ministry and appoint his uncle Count Brandenburg as the head of a new Ministry; -December 1848: the Prussian Assembly was dissolved by royal decree.
*December 1848: Frederick William IV granted HIS OWN constitution (something he did not mind as long as it was him who set it up). The constitution consisted of:
- a lower and upper house – the lower house voted for by full manhood suffrage (all adult men) in Prussia
-freedom of press, religion, association and a free legal system
Limitations: -the king could alter the constitution at any time he wanted; - in an emergency the king could suspend civil rights and collect taxes without the permission of parliament; -the king appointed his own ministers; -the king had control of the army.
Despite the limitations, most liberals and nationalists preferred Frederick William’s constitution as a means of uniting Germany (through Prussian domination) to the Frankfurt Parliament.
(c) Why did the Frankfurt Parliament fail?
-Lack of practical power: The Parliament, which lacked an army or civil service, had no real power over the individual states. An attempt was made to persuade the armies of each state to fight under the command of the Prussian Commander-in-Chief but none of them, not even the Prussian Commander-in-Chief, would agree to this.
-The Parliament members found it very difficult to reach any agreements:
*couldn’t decide whether to set up a Kleindeutschland or a Grossdeutschland and whether to set up a monarchy or a republic. This is why Karl Marx described the Frankfurt Parliament as a ‘talking shop’.
*it took until March 1849 to decide on a constitution (although many consider the fact that they succeeded on setting up the Frankfurt Parliament and reaching a decision at all was impressive. They also managed to agree on The Fifty Articles of fundamental rights of the German citizens by December 1848).
-The Parliament lacked the support of the masses:
*the peasants were granted additional rights and freedom by the Junkers early in the revolution which left them satisfied and unwilling to take any further part in the revolution
*the Parliament failed to listen to the concerns of the Handwerker (skilled craftsmen) by refusing to allow a guild system to operate in the German towns after an assembly of Handwerker meeting in Frankfurt had sent representatives to request this from the Frankfurt Parliament. The ‘Junker Parliament’ in Prussia DID allow the Prussian Handwerker a guild system (see Carr, pp.55-6)
*ALSO: The princes, who the Parliament hoped would support it, failed to offer their support: in April 1849 Frederick William IV refused to accept the crown of a united German Empire directly from the Frankfurt Parliament, or ‘from the gutter’ as he put it, saying he would only do so if the offer came from the princes. Soon afterwards the rulers of Bavaria, Saxony and Hanover rejected the united German constitution being suggested by the Frankfurt Parliament [this led most of the members of the parliament to give up and return to their individual states before the rest of the members were forcibly dispersed by Frederick William IV’s soldiers in June 1849].
-The international situation changed: In Austria, for example, Emperor Franz Josef had dissolved the Austrian Constituent Assembly (set up to limit his rule in March 1848) and had regained control of the whole Austrian Empire except Hungary by March, 1849. The Austrian Chief Minister Schwarzenberg even felt strong enough to suggest absorbing the German Confederation into the Austrian Habsburg Empire. This is largely what persuaded the princes to stand up so strongly against the Frankfurt Parliament.
(d) What was the IMPACT of the revolution in Germany, 1848-9?:
-Demonstration that liberal methods would not unite Germany: The failure of the Frankfurt Parliament proved (as Bismarck pointed out in his ‘blood and iron’ + ‘avoiding the mistakes of 1848’ speech of September 1862) that industry and war, and not liberal methods, were needed to achieve German unification. Later liberal nationalists would come round to the idea that, although for many of them it was not ideal, they should rally together behind the idea of uniting Germany under the guidance of the dominant Prussia. For this reason they would set up the German National Association in 1859.
-Greater political awareness: The experiment with the Frankfurt Parliament made more of the German middle class politically aware and caused the spread of nationalist ideas throughout Germany.
-Made ruling classes more liberal: It demonstrated to the conservative ruling classes that they needed to introduce SOME liberal reforms to keep the population happy (e.g. F.W.IV setting up a Prussian constitution in December 1848; the Junkers allowing extra rights to the peasants).
(e) What was the impact of the revolution on who controlled the Confederation?
-The Erfurt Union: Following the failure of the Frankfurt Parliament, and the power vacuum its collapse left in the Confederation (remember the Diet had also been dissolved previously when the Frankfurt Parliament replaced it in March 1848), the Prussian army general von Radowitz proposed the setting up of the ERFURT UNION – a Kleindeutschland led by Prussia with ‘special links’ to Austria – which, when it was first set up in May 1850, had a membership of 28 states.
-Austrian Chief Minister Schwarzenberg, who saw the Erfurt Union plan as a thinly veiled attempt to achieve Prussian dominance in Germany, got the support of several of the larger states for a Grossdeutschland and then summoned a meeting of the old Confederation Diet at Frankfurt in May 1850.
-The Hesse-Cassel Crisis: a dispute broke out over who (the Erfurt Union or the Frankfurt Diet) should sort out a revolution in Hesse-Cassel which led to small scale fighting between Prussia and Austria in October 1850.
-The Olmutz Declaration: Anxious to avoid war, the Prussian Minister President Manteuffel agreed to abandon the Erfurt Union at OLMUTZ ON 29TH NOVEMBER 1850. Many German nationalists would subsequently look back on the Olmutz declaration as a disgrace but Bismarck, showing his characteristic cautiousness regarding war, praised it as a very sensible act of ‘state egoism’ as, in his (probably correct) opinion, Prussia was not, at that stage, ready to wage war on Austria.
-Prussia was, however, able to confirm its economic dominance when the other states ignored the following:
*an Austrian attempt in 1849 to set up an economic alliance between Austria and the Zollverein which was to have been know as the ZOLLUNION.
*an Austrian attempt in 1851 to set up a rival Customs Union to the Zollverein.
3. The Rise of Prussia, 1850-62
Key questions to consider when revising.
-(a)What were the main economic developments in Prussia, 1850-62?
-(b)What were the main political developments in Prussia, 1850-62?
(a) What were the main economic developments in Prussia, 1850-62?:
-Rapid industrialisation in Prussia due to the effective use of Prussia’s huge supply of raw materials in the Saar, Ruhr Valley and in Silesia. From being forced to import raw materials from industrialised countries such as Britain prior to the 1850s, Prussia was both self-sufficient and able to export abroad coal, iron and oil by the 1860s.
-Increase in the length of the railways: -1845: 3,280 km; 1860: 11,633 km:
*helped trade throughout Prussia
*would later help the Prussian army move quickly around Germany during the wars of 1864-71.
-Austria experienced a period of economic stagnation. As war approached with Austria in 1865, for example, it has been calculated that, despite possessing only ½ Austria’s land and population, Prussia had a bigger grain harvest as well as producing three times as much coal and having eight times as much steam engine horse power as Austria.
-Development of banking in Prussia.
(b) What were the main political developments within and without(!) Prussia, 1850-62?:
-Austria upset Russia over the CRIMEAN WAR (1854-6) by suggesting, in the Diet, that the Prussians and Austrians set up an alliance Vs. the Russians, leading to the END OF THE HOLY ALLIANCE. Prussia refused this suggestion, remaining neutral (due largely to the obstinacy of her representative in the Diet, Otto von Bismarck) during the Crimean war. The ending of the Holy Alliance further confirmed Prussia’s shift away from being Austria’s natural ally in international affairs.
-1858: Frederick William IV was declared insane and so was replaced by his much more militaristic (war-favouring) brother William I. William I kept the Prussian Constitution and dismissed the very conservative Prime Minister Manteuffel, replacing him by a ministry of conservative and liberal ministers.
-1859: Austria was heavily defeated in war with France and Piedmont, losing control of Lombardy following the battles of Magenta and Solferino. Although the Prussian army’s attempt to get involved in this war was a disaster (it did not even manage to mobilise before the fighting was over), the defeat of Austria represented a severe blow to her prestige and weakened her army and economy.
-1859: the Liberals in Parliament set up the Nationalverein (The German National Association)– an organisation which was designed to promote the idea of national unity THROUGH PRUSSIAN LEADERSHIP. This had a big effect on public opinion, especially with regard to uniting nationalists THROUGHOUT Germany who previously had not been able to agree on what kind of united Germany they should try to achieve.
-1860-2: The new Minister for War – General von Roon – started trying to get a bill to reform the Prussian army (suggesting an increase in conscription time from 2 to 3 years, doubling the size of the army and reducing the role of the middle class ‘Landwehr’ (or Civilian Militia) in the army) passed.
-1860-2: Parliament repeatedly refused to allow von Roon’s army reforms through parliament.
-June 1861: radical liberals in the Prussian parliament set up The Progressive Party – which was determined to have a people’s army run by parliament rather than a strong, professional army controlled by the king and von Roon. The Progressives gained 110 seats in the December 1861 elections and an overall majority in the May 1862 elections.
-The Progressive majority in parliament meant that William I and von Roon were unlikely to EVER get the army reforms through parliament as the liberals did not want control of the army to pass out of their hands and solely into those of the king – this was a CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS. TO SORT OUT THIS PROBLEM VON ROON PERSUADED WILLIAM I TO APPOINT OTTO VON BISMARCK (who was famous for his conservatism and views on strengthening Prussia) MINISTER PRESIDENT OF PRUSSIA. Having begun his political as an Ultra Conservative Deputy in the Prussian Diet in 1847 and as a counter-revolutionary in 1848, he had made a name for himself as an aggressive defender of the interests of the Prussian monarchy (especially against Austria) as Prussian representative in the Federal Diet between 1851 and 1859, before acting as Prussian ambassador to Russia 1859-62 and Prussian Special Envoy to France (briefly in 1862).
- Bismarck solves the Constitutional Crisis: In order to get the army reform bill passed through parliament, Bismarck overrode parliament, declaring that he did not need the permission of parliament to bring in the army reforms. When the liberals told the people not to pay any taxes to help put the army reforms into effect, Bismarck simply replied that he had 200,000 soldiers ready to persuade them to pay!
Bismarck then implemented and collected taxes for the new and improved army and its campaigns for the next four years without even consulting parliament.
[try and organize the above developments into internal and external factors]
Later, after the Prussian victory over Austria in 1866, Bismarck got the Prussian Parliament to pass an INDEMNITY BILL which forgave him any actions he had taken during the previous 4 years without the consent of parliament – See Stiles, page 73 (under section (c) Popular Support for Bismarck). They were happy to do this by this stage due to the great victory at Sadowa and the setting up of a North German Confederation dominated by Prussia in August 1866, which also saw Prussian territory expanded by a population of about 4 million with the annexation of Hesse-Cassel, Nassau, Hanover and Frankfurt. These successes led the liberals who had opposed Bismarck to lose credibility in Prussia, further strengthening Bismarck’s position.
4. Diplomacy and War, 1862-71
Key question to consider when revising:
-How much was the unification of Germany, 1862-71 down to: (a) Bismarck’s diplomacy;(b) the actions/mistakes of others;(c) Prussia’s economy and new-found strength as a military power; (d) the rise of German Nationalism from the 1850s; or (e) changing international relations? etc.
This section will not be organised thematically, like the others, but in chronological order. As you read through it, however, do keep the question to consider at the front of your mind.
Forcing through of Von Roon’s army reforms in 1862:
-See above in section 3 under the heading ‘Bismarck solves the constitutional crisis’. ALSO BEAR IN MIND, however, that the military reforms strengthening the army were designed and put into practice by Von Roon, the minister for war, just as the later victories over Denmark, Austria and France were largely down to the tactical genius of the Prussian army’s Commander-in-Chief, von Moltke.
The Polish Revolt of 1863
Cause: -After the partition of Poland between Russia, Austria and Poland in the 18th Century, many Poles wished for independence from foreign rule. The Polish revolt of 1863 broke out as a result of the Russian Poles wanting independence from the absolutist rule of the Russian Tsar.
Events: -Bismarck offered the Tsar military assistance against the Russian Poles, which the Tsar actually turned down, claiming his armies could deal with the rebellion unaided. At the Alvensleben Convention, however, it was agreed that the Prussians would hand over to the Tsar and Russian Poles who escaped across the border into Prussia.
-Austria and France publicly condemned the actions of Russia and Prussia at Alvensleben leading Bismarck to deny the importance of the Alvensleben agreement as the agreement had not been formally signed.
Results: -Russia was angered by the Prussian denial of the importance of the Alvensleben Convention but more upset by the Austrian condemnation of Russia’s attack on the Russian Poles (remember the Austro-Russian friendship had already been badly damaged by Austria’s actions during the Crimean War, 1854-6).
War with Denmark, 1864:
Cause: -King Frederick VII of Denmark, who ruled the North German states of Schleswig and Holstein died leaving no heir and, as a result, a disputed succession between the German Prince of Augustenburg and the Danish Christian of Glucksburg arose.
Events: -Tapping into the clamour among German nationalists that the Prince of Augustenburg should succeed, Bismarck announced Prussia’s intention to fight for the Prince if necessary. Austria, worried about the prospect of Prussia appearing to the other German states as a defender of German interests, offered to join Prussia in an invasion of Schleswig and Holstein on the Prince of Augustenburg’s behalf.
-The Prussian and Austrian armies quickly defeated the Danes. At the Treaty of Vienna in October 1864 Prussia and Austria agreed to jointly govern Schleswig and Holstein. Tension, however, was caused because Prussia wanted to annex the territories of Schleswig and Holstein for herself while Austria supported the claim of the Prince of Augustenburg to rule.
-the deteriorating relations between Prussia and Austria led to an agreement at the Convention of Bad-Gastein, August 1865, whereby it was decided that Prussia should govern Schleswig (the territory which did not border Prussia) and Austria should govern Holstein (the territory which did!).
Results: -The deteriorating relations between Austria and Prussia eventually led to the outbreak of the Seven Weeks’ War between Austria and Prussia in June 1866.
The Seven Weeks’ War between Austria and Prussia, June-July 1866:
Cause: -The tension between the two states built up over the Schleswig-Holstein affair.
-Prussia made a secret alliance with Italy in April 1866 whereby Prussia promised to declare war on Austria within 3 months and hand Venetia over to Italy in the event of victory in this war in return for Italian support in the war.
Events: -Bismarck met Napoleon III at Biarritz in October 1865 to try to obtain a promise of French neutrality in the event of an Austro-Prussian war. Beside the fact that Napoleon III’s promise of neutrality was only verbal, it is unclear exactly what was agreed at Biarritz but it seems likely that France was promised Venetia (to be handed over to the Italians) in return
-Bismarck put forward plans for reform of the German Confederation which would put Prussia in a position to dominate the Confederation and also created tension by bringing up the issue of potential Prussian annexation of Holstein. The Austrians reject this suggestion and, in anticipation of the trouble this was likely to cause, mobilised their army in April 1866 as they knew their bigger but much less well drilled troops would take far longer to mobilise than the Prussians now very well organised forces. This gave the Prussians the excuse to declare war. In May 1866 Prussia invaded Holstein.
-The Prussian troops took over Hanover, Hesse-Cassel and Saxony and, with the help of the Italian army (as promised in April 1866), decisively defeated the Austrian army at Sadowa on 3rd July 1866. It is worth noting that the Austrian defeat was far from inevitable. Their army outnumbered the Prussians by 400,000 to 300,000. The decisive factors, however, were Prussia possessing five railway lines to Austria’s one running to Bohemia (the area of the Battle) and Moltke’s bold strategy of splitting his troops (for greater speed) among these lines and advancing quickly over the border into Bohemia and cutting Austria’s northern army (which had just defeated the Italians) off from their reinforcements in the south.
-William I, von Roon and the other leading Prussian army general von Moltke wanted to march on Vienna and bring the already weak Austria to its knees. However, Bismarck advised against this and instead advised that the Prussians should bring an end to the war (principally because of the risk of the French becoming involved and so that Austrian favour might later be gained if they were shown mercy by Prussia) and organised for the Prussians and Austrians to meet at Prague in August 1866.
Results: -As a result of the TREATY OF PRAGUE (August, 1866): The NORTH GERMAN CONFEDERATION was set up – this was dominated by an enlarged Prussia, which directly annexed the northern territories of Hesse-Cassel, Hanover, Frankfurt, Nassau and Schleswig-Holstein (combined population about 4 million) but allowed some independence (outside of the Bundesrat and Reichstag – the two houses of the Confederate Parliament, in which Prussia was never outvoted) to the remaining state rulers. Four south German states – Bavaria, Wurrtemberg, Baden and Hesse Darmstadt – and, of course, Austria remained outside this Confederation. Venetia was also handed from Austria to France and then from France to Italy.
-Although they were kept apart from the North German Confederation, Bismarck made secret military alliances with the Southern states whereby the Southern States promised to fight with Prussia, under the command of the head of the Prussian army, in the event of war with another country. In 1867 the Zollverein was remodeled to include a Zollparlament – whose job it was to discuss Zollverein policy – of which the southern states were members.
-By ending the war after only seven weeks, Bismarck successfully managed to avoid the risk of France joining the Austro-Prussian war.
-Austria was militarily and economically crippled by her defeat in the Seven Weeks’ War.
The Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1:
The Luxemburg Crisis (1866-7): Following the great Prussian gains made by the Treaty of Prague, Napoleon III felt pressured by his chief ministers, his wife and the French public into demanding some territory in compensation for the shift in the balance of power in Prussia’s favour. He initially asked for territory in the Prussian Rhineland but was persuaded by Bismarck to turn his attention instead towards Belgium and Luxemburg. Bismarck, at first, assisted Napoleon with this, persuading the King of the Netherlands to hand Luxemburg over to France. After Napoleon unwisely fuelled the fire of German nationalists by stirring up demonstrations in Luxemburg against ‘the hated domination of Prussia’, however, Bismarck latched onto the wave of German nationalism to claim that Luxemburg was German and declare that to lose it to France would be ‘a humiliating injury to German national feelings’. He did not, however, choose to go to war with France over the issue at this stage, although it did worsen relations between the two countries.
-The Hohenzollern Candidature Crisis: In 1868 revolutionaries drove the queen of Spain out of the country leading to a Spanish succession crisis. In February 1870 the Spanish Parliament offered the throne to Leopold of Hohenzollern, who was related to the Prussian royal family. This gave the Prussians an interesting choice – to accept the throne would give them a very useful alliance with Spain BUT would also be viewed with great concern by France (as they would then be sandwiched by two powerful allies – Spain to the West/South and Prussia/Germany to the east). At first the candidature was viewed as too risky by both William I and Leopold – even Bismarck was furiously denying rumours about the throne being offered to Leopold in May 1869. When, however, the offer was officially made by the Spanish government to Leopold, Bismarck began persuading William I that it would be ‘in Germany’s interest’ for the Hohenzollern line to accept the Spanish throne. Leopold, however, still refused the offer. In order to change this, Bismarck sent secret envoys and large sums of money as bribes to the Spanish parliament as well as putting pressure on the Hohenzollern family. Eventually, therefore, William I and Prince Leopold were reluctantly persuaded to accept the offer.
-The Ems Telegram: When the news of the Hohenzollern acceptance of the Spanish throne reached Paris on 3rd July 1870, Napoleon III, spurred on by his aggressive new foreign minister Gramont, instructed the French Ambassador in Berlin, Count Benedetti, to go to William I at Ems to demand whether he knew about Leopold’s candidacy and that, if he did, to further demand that he forbid it immediately. As soon as Benedetti had made these demands, William I apologetically forbade Leopold from accepting the candidature. As a result, on 12th July 1870 Leopold of Hohenzollern’s father withdrew his son’s candidature for the Spanish throne. On hearing this, Bismarck flew into one of his characteristic (door-handle wrenching!) rages and threatened to resign.
Things might, of course, have turned out very differently had Bismarck carried out his threat. Luckily, by overplaying his hand (trying to gain too much from a diplomatic situation which was already going well), Napoleon III stopped Bismarck from having to go through with his threat. Spurred on by French foreign minister Gramont and his (Napoleon’s!) wife the Empress Eugenie, Napoleon III sent Benedetti again to Ems this time to demand that William I renounce the Hohenzollern claim to the Spanish throne FOR ALL TIME. As this was not in keeping with the way international diplomacy was usually conducted, William I, quite reasonably, refused to give this permanent assurance. William I then sent a telegram to Bismarck describing the talks he had had with Benedetti at Ems and gave Bismarck permission to release the telegram to the European press. Bismarck did just this with his own edited version of the telegram (SEE WILMOT PAGE 260 SOURCES C and D FOR THE TWO VERSIONS OF THE EMS TELEGRAM). This edited version angered the French people, the government and Empress Eugenie to the extent that Napoleon III felt pressured to declare war on Prussia on 19th July 1870. Moltke, on seeing Bismarck’s version of the Ems Telegram, described it as having been changed from being ‘a parley’ to looking like ‘a parley in answer to a challenge’. William I simply held his head in his hands and declared ‘this is war’. Bismarck, once again taking advantage of the tide of German nationalism the German National Society was encouraging in answer to the French declaration of war, condemned it as ‘a grevious sin against humanity’ thus convincing the four southern states of the need to join Prussia and the rest of the North German Confederation in war against France.
Events: -Taking advantage of the six railway lines (to France’s two) which ran to the border territory of Alsace-Lorraine, the Prussian/German army quickly mobilised, and, using the advantage offered to them by Krupp’s breech-loading needle gun, soon gained the upper hand in this region, forcing the French army to withdraw to the fortress town of Metz. By cutting this section of the army off from the rest of the French troops in the west, Moltke soon gained the surrender of the 180,000 soldiers at Metz. On 2nd September 1870 the Prussian/German army decisively defeated the remainder of the French army at the battle of Sedan. On 2nd September 1870 the French surrendered to the Prussians – Napoleon III was taken prisoner and held in Cassel until the Spring of 1872 before he fled to England and died the following year. The Prussians/Germans kept advancing on the French until, in January 1871, they took control of Paris and, on 18th January humiliated the French by proclaiming a fully united German Empire led by King William I at Versailles.
(5)Bismarck’s role in German unification:
Questions to consider to consider when revising:
-(a) Did Bismarck have a masterplan for unification?
-(b) What other factors were involved in bringing about the unification of Germany?
-(c) To what extent were the actions of others responsible for the unification of Germany?
What was Bismarck’s ‘masterplan’?:
-Obtain Russian neutrality for a future war with Austria by making an agreement with the Russians at the Alvensleben Convention of 1863.
-Find a way of tricking Austria into war with Prussia: by setting up an argument over Schleswig and Holstein.
-Ensure French neutrality for the Austro-Prussian war by making an agreement with Napoleon III at Biarritz in October 1865.
-Ensure Austrian neutrality in the future Franco-Prussian war by treating Austria leniently at the Treaty of Prague (August 1866).
-Manipulate France into declaring war on Prussia thus encouraging the remaining German states to unite behind Prussia. Bismarck claimed he achieved this by following his “plan” to antagonise the French over the Hohenzollern Candidature Crisis and the Ems Telegram.
WHO SUPPORTS THE MASTERPLAN VIEW?: Bismarck himself!; Early German historians.
WHO THINKS BISMARCK WAS MORE AN OPPORTUNIST WHO TOOK ADVANTAGE OF FAVOURABLE CIRCUMSTANCES?: A.J.P. Taylor, W.E. Mosse (1958) – ‘If Bismarck played his hand with great skill, it was a good hand in the first place’.
What other factors were involved in bringing about the unification of Germany?:
FAVOURABLE CIRCUMSTANCES BY 1862:
-Building up of the Prussian army: *by the reforms of General von Roon and General von Moltke; *by the increase in the length of the railways; *by the growth of industry – more iron and steel etc. for making arms, the development of the needle gun (which was put on show at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851)
-Building up of the Prussian economy: *Prussian dominance and Austrian exclusion from the Zollverein; *increased industry allowing Bismarck to fund his wars without having to ask for taxes in parliament (e.g. in the case of the Danish War) etc.
-favourable international situation: *Holy Alliance between Austria and Russia destroyed by Austria’s suggestion for an alliance against Russia during the Crimean War (1854-6) and her condemnation of Russia’s attack on the Russian Poles in 1863; *Britain not interested in becoming involved in wars on the European continent. *The pressure Napoleon III felt from the French public to acquire some territory in compensation for what they saw as a Prussian diplomatic victory in 1866 leading him to adopt an aggressive approach towards Prussia leading up to 1870.
-rise of NATIONALISM. The growth in political awareness of the German middle class after the failure of the Frankfurt Parliament and the creation of the Nationalverein in 1859.
To what extent were the actions of others responsible for the unification of Germany?
- ACTIONS OF THE RUSSIAN POLES: How could Bismarck have known in advance the Russian Poles would rebel? (it’s more likely the help he offered the Russians was because of his fear that the Prussian Poles would also be encouraged to rebel – in 1861 he wrote to his sister ‘Strike the Poles so that they despair for their lives…if we want to survive we cannot but exterminate them’.)
- ACTIONS OF NAPOLEON III: It was Napoleon III, not Bismarck, who started the tension between France and Prussia by demanding Luxemburg in 1866. It was also aggressive French diplomacy over the Hohenzollern issue (Benedetti demanding that William I PERMANENTLY ban his Hohenzollern cousin from accepting the Spanish throne) which allowed Bismarck to spark trouble off with the Ems Telegram.
Mr. Pearson’s interpretation:
-Bismarck was NOT a German nationalist but a PRUSSIAN SUPREMACIST (i.e. he mainly wanted PRUSSIAN dominance of Germany rather than German unification) – see the presentation handouts we did on Bismarck’ early career and his aims in 1862.
-Bismarck WAS a skilful diplomat who reacted cleverly to situations to help bring about unification: eg.
*He did persuade William I and von Roon NOT to march on Vienna to cripple the Austrians after the victory at Konnigratz/Sadowa, which did ensure the French did not get involved in the war. By the Treaty of Prague he was also able to unite MOST of the German states behind Prussia in the North German Confederation by the Treaty of Prague.
*After the Treaty of Prague, he did bring the 4 southern states closer to Prussia by making secret military agreements with them and including them in the Zollparlament. This did make them more prepared to join Prussia in the Franco-Prussian war.
*Bismarck did finally spark off the Franco-Prussian war with his skilful editing of the Ems Telegram.
-Bismarck was using hindsight when he claimed all his diplomacy 1862-71 was preplanned and geared 100% towards unification:
*How could Bismarck have known in advance about the rebellion of the Russian Poles [see above]? ALSO: the main reason for Russia staying out of the Seven Weeks’ War was not because of the Alvensleben Convention but because of Russian anger at Austrian diplomacy during the Crimean War and in reaction to Russia’s attack on the Russian Poles.
*Throughout the Schleswig-Holstein affair, Bismarck seemed determined to settle the dispute with Austria through diplomacy rather than war. Even after it was announced in the Prussian Parliament (February 1866) that war with Austria looked inevitable, Bismarck still seriously entertained a suggestion for a peaceful situation put to him by the Austrian ambassador as late as May 1866. For a cautious and skilled diplomat like Bismarck, moreover, war was always a last resort as it had ‘too uncertain an outcome’.
*Bismarck could not have known in advance about either Napoleon III’s aggressive behaviour in relation to Luxemburg or the Hohenzollern Candidature Crisis. Also, if he had been so determined for war with France from the outset, would he not have worked harder to persuade Leopold of Hohenzollern to ACCEPT the Spanish throne? It is also worth noting that he said to a British journalist in 1867 that ‘there is nothing in our attitude to annoy France…there is nothing to prevent the maintenance of peace for ten or fifteen years, by which time the French will have become accustomed to the idea of German unity and will have ceased to care about it’ – it has, however, been suggested that this was just another example of Bismarck clever diplomacy in ensuring that the British would not try to intervene in Germany.