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“Germany does not look to Prussia's liberalism, but to its power. Bavaria, Wurttemberg, and Baden would like to turn to liberalism, but they shall not assume Prussia's role. Prussia must collect its forces for the favorable occasion, which has several times been neglected; Prussia's borders are not favorable to a healthy national life. Not by speeches and decisions of majorities will the greatest problems of the time be decided - that was the mistake of 1848-49 - but by iron and blood.” – Otto Von Bismark
Realpolitik or "the politics of reality" is a political approach that calls for practical methods to achieve the interests of the individual or the state without regard for ethical concerns
The term "Junker" refers to the class of landed nobility from the eastern provinces of Germany, notably Prussia
Diet: Legislative Branch of Germany
Kulturkampf, which in German means struggle for culture, was the name for a conflict between the Catholic Church and the Protestant-dominated government of a newly united Germany from 1871 to 1878 over the control of church and educational appointments.
Bismark edited the Ems Telegram to lead Germans to believe that France had delivered an ultimatum to King Wilhelm; and the French to believe that Wilhelm had rudely rebuffed a French effort to resolve the diplomatic crisis. The telegram was published in Paris on the eve of the national holiday, Bastille Day and the feeling of insult combined with French national pride led to a quick declaration of war.
Otto von Bismarck exemplified realpolitik as he cajoled, bribed, and lied his way to German unification. He made Germany a powerful industrial, military state, yet he knew his goals and rejected a conquest of the European continent in favor of a strong empire within secure borders.
In 1847, Bismarck was appointed to the legislature for Prussian domains and showed his conservatism when he chastised those liberals and democrats who had protested monarchical power. Bismarck proclaimed that the existing political structure, which reinforced the enormous influence of the elite Junkers (the landed aristocracy), represented the natural order. A statesman, he asserted, should protect this order—the Crown must rule through a hereditary aristocracy or else liberalism would destroy Prussia.
When the Diet, or Confederation legislature, began debating how to strengthen the union, which consisted of Prussia, Austria, and numerous smaller states and free cities, Bismarck, as a Prussian representative, favored a "Small German" program. Under it, Prussia would avoid joining with Austria and instead dominate the smaller states. He also worked hard to block any Austrian designs and supported neutrality in the Crimean War. He maintained this position to win Russia's favor in any maneuvers against Austria.
In 1862, King Wilhelm I appointed Bismarck prime minister of Prussia and minister of foreign affairs. In this capacity, he began his domination of Prussian politics. As the king had expected and desired, Bismarck rode roughshod over the Prussian legislature, illegally collecting taxes and spending revenues to enlarge the army. He suppressed opposition newspapers and had some opposition representatives arrested.
Bismarck pursued his main goal of ending the German Confederation and building a Prussian empire separate from Austria, and his eventual success in this endeavor allowed him to maintain the power of the king and nobility over the middle class. In 1864, he manipulated Austria into joining with Prussia in a war against Denmark, from which the allied obtained several duchies. He then turned on the Austrians, claiming they had improperly administered one of the duchies, Holstein. He subsequently ordered Prussian troops into Holstein and provoked a war. The conflict lasted only seven weeks, largely because Bismarck had signed a secret treaty with Italy (in violation of the German Confederation), and the Austrians thus found themselves fighting on two fronts. The Austrian defeat led to Prussia annexing several states, including Hanover, Hesse-Cassel, and Schleswig-Holstein. Yet Bismarck overruled those Prussians who wanted to severely punish Austria, for he realized he might need that nation's help or at least forbearance in the future. By 1871, Bismarck had unified Germany under Prussian leadership.
The new confederation adopted a constitution under Bismarck's direction that provided for a legislature, but it had few real powers, and its decisions could be vetoed by the Federal Council, which had delegates from all the member states. Prussian votes dominated, so the king of Prussia really ruled Germany. In this arrangement, Bismarck became chancellor. In the meantime, he provoked yet another war. In a move Bismarck knew would anger France, (Ems Telegram) he attempted to get a Prussian-backed prince elevated to the Spanish throne. This maneuver greatly worried the French, who believed Prussia was trying to surround them. When France opposed Bismarck's move, the Prussian leader unleashed a virulent anti-French campaign in the German newspapers, raising tensions further and provoking France into declaring war in July 1870.
In this Franco-Prussian War, Bismarck's army defeated the French early in 1871, and the chancellor obtained Alsace and most of Lorraine, two mineral-rich provinces. The war solidified the attachment of the South German states to the North, and on January 18, 1871, the German Empire was declared with Wilhelm I as emperor. Bismarck continued as chancellor and foreign minister and was also made a prince.
After beating the French, Bismarck refrained from any additional territorial conquest. By defeating France and Austria, he had defeated his most powerful enemies and now worked to secure Germany against any other threats. He modernized German society by developing railroads and a central bank. In the 1870s, he struck against the German Center Party, which consisted mainly of Catholics, by initiating anti-Catholic legislation in his Kulturkampf campaign. (He repealed these laws in the 1880s to gain Catholic support against the Liberals and Social Democrats, who had become his main opponents.)
In 1879, Bismarck established a protective tariff to help German industry and agriculture. To contain labor unrest, particularly by the socialists, he promoted legislation to assist workers. In 1882, the government enacted compulsory insurance against illness, and in 1884, a similar bill was passed to cover accidents. A social security system soon followed, with insurance for old age. The first modern, universal, publicly founded health insurance system for the residents of Germany was initially developed by OttovonBismark in 1881. Within hundred years, the Germans have perfected the system and enjoyed financial security. The national priority in Germany is to maintain low cost of health care and health insurance and a high standard of medical care. Also in the 1880s, Bismarck formed an alliance with Austria to guard against any French attack, an action he always thought possible.