- PRAKASH ARULAPPA After the creation of the German empire in 1871, Berlin became the political capital of Europe and Bismark assumed the office of imperial chancellor. He held this exalted office till 1870. During these two decades he was undoubtedly the most dominating personality in European politics and this period is known as the age of Bismark.
The constitution which Germany adopted in 1871 may be described as a federal empire. It was a federation of 25 states. The king of Prussia was always to be the emperor. He was assisted by a federal chancellor responsible to him alone. The emperor and the chancellor formed the executive government of the new state. The legislative powers were vested in two houses namely Bundesrat - which represented the different states and the Reichstag - representing the people of the whole empire. These two houses embodied the double character of a federal state. Besides this imperial constitution each state retained its full souvereignty in local matters and had its own government.
The constitution was neither democratic nor responsible. It was monarchical institution. Its delegates were appointed by the rulers of the states and had to vote accordng to the instructions given to them by their respective home governments. The states were not eaqually respresented in the Bundesrat. Thus out of 58 members Prussia has 17, Baveria 6 and so forth according to a descending scale, proportionate to the size and importance of the states. The Reichstag was indeed a democratic body elected by manhood sufferage. It could neither control the finances nor the ministers and was overshadowed by the Bundesrat, by a simple majority could overthrow any measure passed by it. This majority was easily commanded by Prussia and the chancellor was responsible not to the Reichstag but to the emperor. There were indeed political parties in the Reichstag but they could not bring about the fall of chancellor.
BISMARK AS IMPERIAL CHANCELLOR: -
In 1871 Bismark created a empire and was appointed the first imperial chancellor. He held in hands all the strings of government and managed all the affairs of the state almost as a dictator.
Ottovan Bismark was born of 1st April 1815 in Prussia. After completing his education he joined the civil service. After a few years he resigned and devoted himself to the management of his family estate. It was henceforth that he began to take active part in politics. In 1847 Bismark entered politics as a member of the United Prussian Diet. From 1859 to 1862 he held various diplomatic assignments as the Prussian ambasidor to St.Petersberg in Russia and then at Paris.
In 1861 A.D. Fredrick William-IV died and was succeeded by Willaim-I. In 1862 William-I called back Bismark from Paris and appointed him as his chief minister.
Bismark had to face a number of problems. In domestic affairs the chief aim of Bismark was to consolidate the empire of which he was the chief architect. Bismark followed a policy of blood and iron. During his period of 20 years in office he had to face many problems relating to the internal administration
1.Fight with the Catholic Church –Kulthur-Campf:
The conflict between the church and the state is known as Kultur-Campf or the struggle for the civilization. The catholics had organized themselves as a strong political party and were hostile to the new German Empire in which protestant Prussia as supreme. They were very keen upon restoring the temporal power of the Papacy-the power of which the Pope had been deprived of as a result of the completion of Italian unity. As the attitude of the catholics was likely to weaken the solidarity of the newly founded empire Bismark looked upon the catholics as enemies of the empire and he decided to crush them. In 1864 Pope Pius-X issued syllabus of errors. Then he issued the laws called Papal Infallibility-which declared that the catholics were subordinate to the Pope than to the king. The German emperor could not tolerate this. The liberals, atheists and scientists who criticised the policies of Roman Catholics and several reactionaries supported Bismark.
2. THE FALK LAWS OR MAY LAWS:
Bismark took aggressive measures. The Jesuits were expelled in 1872 and diplomatic relations between Prussia and the Vatican broken off. In May 1873-74 a few ordinances were passed in the name of the education minister Falk popularly known as the Falk Laws. Accordingly a civil servant in Prussia had to study either in a German public school or in the German university. All German Roman Catholic institutions were to be controlled by the government and declared that no bishop or priest might be appointed without a notification to the government. The Pope declared the May Laws null and void and the catholics offered stiff resistance to the policy of Bismark. Bismark severely criticized the Pope’s attitude and mercilessly curbed the opponents. Many bishops and priests were either expelled or imprisoned. The Roman Catholics were dismissed from the government service. Enraged at this, the catholics improved their organization forming centre party under the leader Windthrost, to oppose all the laws passed against the catholics. The party grew in strength day by day and in 1874 elections catholics captured many seats in the parliament and became a great menace to Bismark. As the socialist menace was more serious than catholicism Bismark had to be stop passing ordinances against the Roman Catholics. The reconciliation with the Papacy was made easier by the death of Pope Pius-X. Pope Leo-XIII was more diplomatic and moderate. Bismark cancelled all the ordinances against the catholics.
3.STRUGGLE WITH SOCIALISM: -PRAKASH ARULAPPA
The industrial revolution that began in Germany gave rise to many problems. The 40 million population of 1871 increased to 65 millions in two or three decades. The labourers posed many problems. The socialists made use of this opportunity and the labourers were influenced by them. The Socialist Democratic Party came into being in 1875 which in 1887 secured 12 seats in the Reichstag. This party advocated political democracy, revolutionary social legislation and anti-militarism. This party dedicated itself to the welfare of the labourers and became enemy to the capitalists. It brought pressure upon the government to nationalize industries. They severely criticized Bismark’s policies. They twice tried unsuccessful attempts to assassinate William-I in 1878. Enraged at this Bismark had to deal with them mercilessly. He passed many ordinances curbing their activities. The meetings of socialists were prohibited, their publications suppressed, their funds confiscated and their leaders arrested. Extensive powers were granted to the police to arrest any suspected person. On contrary to this Bismark wanted to convince the working classes that government was not unmindful of their grievances, He increased their wages, pension was introduced and medical facilities were given to them. Insurance became compulsory for labourers. Financial losses were compensated and remedies were provided to those who met with accidents. He passed an ordinance against the employment of women and children in the factories. Sunday was declared a holiday and working hours were fixed. This policy of Bismark is known as State Socialism and in this respect he was a pioneer. As Prof.Hayes says “among those who worked for the welfare of the labourers, Bismark was the best”.
The industrialists opposed all social ordinances adopted by the government. In 1890 elections the socialists captured a majority of seats in the Reichstag. At last William-II had to withdraw all the laws imposed on them.
4.PROTECTIVE POLICY OR FISCAL POLICY:
Bismark was the first European statesman to abandon the policy of laissez-faire (free trade) and to adopt the policy of protection. His objects were twofold. He wanted to protect the infant industries of Germany against foreign competition so as to make his country a great industrial state. Secondly he wanted increase the imperial revenue. Thus Bismark’s protective policy gave an impetus to industrial development. By an ordinance of 1879 extra import duties were imposed on foreign goods and only then the native products began to appear in the local markets. Thus the German factories, agriculture, trade and commerce were patronised.
5. OTHER REFORMS: -PRAKASH ARULAPPA
The legal system of Germany was transformed. Instead of different system of laws for the different states, a uniform code of law for the entire German empire was adopted. An imperial bank was set up in 1876 and a new common coinage was instituted. Railways mostly owned by the states were put under the supervision of an imperial board and their relations to the military and postal organisation of the empire were carefully regulated. The Prussian military system was extended to all the states. The strength of the German army during peace time was fixed at 4 lakhs.
6.THE ACQUISITION OF COLONIES:
Bismark did not believe in colonies at first. He feared that colonial enterprises would involve the risk of hostility with other nations and would especially wound Great Britain’s susceptibilities. But he had to revise his views after he adopted the system of protection as his fiscal policy. The need of colonies was spelt for securing raw materials for her expanding industries and as outlets for her growing population. He had wish to see even Germany a great world power and there was an irresistible national demand for overseas expansion. Trading companies were formed and secured concessions and established stations on the coasts of Africa-Togoland, Camaroons etc. and in the south seas.
FOREIGN POLICY OF BISMARK 1870-1890:
Bismark had won for his country national unity by a policy of blood and iron. The supreme object of Bismark’s foreign policy after 1871 was to safeguard the German empire which he had created with great efforts. He had declared Germany as a satiated country.
1.ISOLATION OF FRANCE:
For the maintenance of peace in Europe, it was in the German interest to keep France isolated. Bismark feared that the defeated and humbled France must wage a war to take revenge against Germany sooner or later. And in this situation the European powers were likely to come to her aid, as it was not in their interest to help France. France was again humiliated. Bismark was also avoiding another war with her neighbour France. This could be possible if France was kept without allies. France will not risk a war with German empire.
2.THREE EMPEROR’S LEAGUE (DREIKAISERBUND):
As the new German empire was surrounded by enemies all around Bismark entered into many treaties and formed a confideracy. In 1873 he set up the Three Emperors League, consisting of emperors of Austria, Russia and Germany. It was just a friendly union and not a treaty of alliance. It emphasized the common interest of the three emperors.
3.AUSTRO-GERMAN ALLIANCE: -PRAKASH ARULAPPA
In the congress of Berlin 1878 Bismark played the role of an honest broker. But Bismark sided Austria against Russia. Due to this reason Czar Alexander-II of Russia left the membership of the Three Emperors League. By 1879 the friendly relationship between Russia and Germany was broken off. Bismark ultimately succeeded in entering into an alliance with Austria called Dual Alliance and this friendly relationship continued till 1914.
A military alliance was made between Austria, Germany and Italy in 1882. This was known as The Triple Alliance. It was renewed several times till the beginning of the First World War.
The Triple Alliance enabled Bismark to safeguard German Security in co-operation with Austria and Italy. Russia, France and England were still isolated from each other. More over colonial interests divided English from Russia in Asia and from France in Africa. Therefore it was quite unlikely that these three powers would unite to invade Germany. If Russia or France invaded Germany the Triple Alliance would come into effect. Italy like Germany was afraid of French attack. She felt secure because under the Triple Alliance she was entitled to military assistance from Germany and Austria against France. The Triple Alliance was essentially defensive in its approach and character.
Bismark had no idea of securing colonies. Hence he did not strengthen the navy. If he had to do so, he had to compete with England. But eventually his policy had to be changed. As the German industry prospered he had to find colonies for her raw materials and market to feed her growing population. The German Colonial Union Company was started in 1882, found colonies in New Guinea, Togoland and Archipelago.
FALL OF BISMARK:
From 1871 to 1890 Bismark was supreme in the affairs of the state. The relation between Bismark and William-I were cordial throughout his reign till March 1888. After his death he was succeeded by emperor Frederick who ruled only for 3 months and he was succeeded by Willaim-II in 1888. Soon after his accession to the throne there developed misunderstanding between the young emperor and old chancellor and this ultimately resulted in the resignation of Bismark in March 1890. (dropping of the pilot). -PRAKASH ARULAPPA
Bismark is the chief architect of modern Germany. He was a remarkable statesman. In domestic affairs his achievements are remarkable. He introduced many reforms in agriculture, army and worked hard for the welfare of labourers. Under his leadership Germany witnessed all round development and secured a place in the international sphere. Bismark will live in history as the creator of a new Germany.