Specimen Questions and Answers: German Unification



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The struggle with the Prussian and German liberalism. During the revolutionary turmoil of 1848-1850, the Prussian conservatives of Bismarck's type were keenly aware of the liberal and democratic threat to the Prussian landed aristocracy, the Junkers. In the following decade, Bismarck already visualized a grand design of Prussian policy be which the German liberal and national sentiment could be harnessed to give the Prussian crown power. The conservative national assembly and still 'reap the thanks of the liberals' taking up the cause of little Germany was a double-edged move against liberalism and the Austrian pretension.
In face of the crisis of 1862, Bismarck resolved on the policy of blood and iron. It was to undermine liberalism by giving satisfaction to the popular demand for national unity and coupling it with the intoxications of military glory. During the Polish crisis, he induced Alexander II to retreat from frivolity with liberalism. In 1864, instead of allowing Augustenburg's claim to Schleswig-Holstein which would mean their union with the Confederation -- a victory of liberal nationalism, he conspired for Prussian absorption of the two provinces.

Bismarck's military encountered in February 1866 advocate of censure passed in the Prussian Diet by 263 votes to 35. He remarked "an old woman would sweep me into the gutter by a sway of her bosom, implying that his ministry might be overthrown." Hence, the policy to divert the public attention from liberty and democracy at home glory in a foreign war.


The 1867 Constitution of the North German Confederation, the master --- piece of Bismarckian conservatism rather than Prussian absolutism, preserved the Diving Right of the Prussian King, but the democratic franchise was also kept. The role of Chancellor became an ever more essential element to the constitutional system. The Chancellor, though appointed by and responsible to the Prussian King, was to serve as the president of the Bundesrat, the aristocracy and ministry were to function as the pivot of the constitutional set-up, either to mediate between monarchical absolutism and democracy or to play off one against the other. As long as Bismarck was in power, he could by his skillful leadership prevent a majority in Parliament from rising to the opposition of the government.
Thus the North German Confederation was but a graft on the kingdom of Prussia. It registered the defeat of the German political liberalism and the absorption of Germany to the North of River Main by the Prussian power.
Though Bismarck's outlook became German rather than Prussian as from 1867 onwards, his basic stand remained unchanged. He was by no means German radicalist and Pan-Germanist. His remained to transfer the Prussian idea of the monarchical, aristocratic and military state to the southern Germany.
He was not to wage a war simple to draw the south and north together. The War of 1870 was fought to rouse German nationalism in support of the Prussian domination. And South Germany was brought into the Empire when it became a military necessity to shorten the war, or to prevent South German states from concluding a separate peace with France.
The founding of the German Empire in 1871 meant the submission of liberalism and Catholicism of the south to Conservatism and Protestantism of the North, and also a resounding victory of Prussian militarism.
In the end, the German Empire of 1871 was not a national state. It left out large sections of the German population --- the Germans in Austria, Bohemia, Poland and Switzerland, and contained in it a range of non-German minorities --- Finns, Danes in Schleswig-Holstein, the French in Alsace-Lorraine, the Jews and Poles.
But in view of the popular demand for economic integration of the Zollverein generated, and of the continuous growth of liberal nationalism after 1850, Bismarck was not only compelled by the liberal opposition to take up the national mission, but was actually the instrument by which the party of little Germany achieved its goals.
In one important respect, Germany was not conquered by Prussia. In the constitutional of 1861 and that of 1873, Prussia absolutism was not to be the predominating feature. Since both pressured the democratic franchise and an elective Reichstag, the Chancellor would need political talent and skill to make the constitutional system function successfully. Undoubtedly, Bismarck made a significant concession to constitutional liberalism. Once he fell from power, the imperial government could not prevent parliamentary opposition from blocking legislations without difficulty.
Before, 1871 most German would have agreed with their historian Baungarten, who at the end of 1866 renounced the old liberalism of 1848 and said that Bismarck was now vindicated by his deeds --- "Complete liberty rests upon a complete power." Only a few would have echoed Johann Jacobiy's bitter reply: "Unity without Liberty is a union of slaves." If this was the case, it was Prussia to dissolve in Germany rather than to absorb it.
9. "German Unification as a 'victory of Prussian imperialism'". Comment.
The Congress of Vienna had deliberately drawn up the German settlement in the interest of the Great European powers. The interest of the German people for a united German nation was completely ignored. But in establishing a balance between Austria and Prussia, the powers set the stage for the political struggle between the two in the nineteenth century which finally led to Prussian supremacy and an 'expanded Prussia' if not a truly united Germany.
The years before the emergence of Bismarck in Germany were years of popular unity movement. The spirit of nationalism, once aroused by Napoleon, could never be smothered. Thus, at the Frankfurt Parliament 1849, the liberals offered the crown to the King of Prussia. However, their dream of a new German Empire was shattered by Frederick William's refusal to pick up 'the crown from the gutter'. Again the princely movement for unity ended in failure of the Frankfurt Parliament. Thereafter the work of German nationalism was destined to be Prussia's.
There is much truth in the statement that 'the unification of Germany is a victory for Prussian imperialism' and that 'Germany was conquered not united.' But this is not the whole truth. Actually many long standing factors had been working in Prussia's favour and it had been said with some justification that 'Germany was practically united before Bismarck began to work at all.'
The factors which worked for Prussian leadership in the unification movement were chiefly as follows: firstly, after 1815 Austria was on the defensive, unwilling to bear responsibility of German affairs safe in checking Prussian ambitions and keeping the balance of power. Secondly, the settlement of 1815 provided Prussia territories stretching from the Rhine to the Vistula thus making her the mistress of the whole of the North German Plain. She was in position to close the gap between the east and the west. Thirdly, the industrial revolution gave Germany both an overriding motive and means for unification. The Zollverein of the 1834, originally a device for making the unification of Germany less necessary, became in the long run a powerful instrument in Prussia's control of Germany. According to A. J. P. Taylor, the 'Prussian statesman who made the Zollverein had not the slightest idea of its political consequence, they saw only the rambling, unworkable frontiers and desired to save money on their custom officers.' However, by forcing the German states one by one into the Prussian Tariff System, Prussia had conquered Germany economically. The railway building movement and the German industrial revolution began after 1850 were corner stones for the Bismarck empire of 1871. They enhanced the sense of Germany unity and were used by Prussia empire in completing the task of the unification. Besides, Prussia was fortunate to possess the great coal fields of Ruhr which enable her to outdistance Austria in the industrial development. The years of prosperity between 1850 and 1871 greatly favoured Bismarck's policy. Economic prosperity enabled Bismarck to dissociate nationalism from liberalism.
Indeed, without Bismarck's military policy, German was never a complete fabric. The 'particularism' created by the 1815 settlement was still existent. Austria and France, the two mainstays of 'German particularism' who had worked for German territorial disunity for their own selfish aims, still stood unchallenged. It was the work of Bismarck to remove the supporters of German political disunity.
Bismarck's policy was clear from the outset when he declared in and address to the finance committee of the lower house that 'Germany looks not to the liberalism of Prussia, but its power....'. The great questions of the time cannot solve by speeches and parliamentary majorities that was the mistakes of 1848 and 1849 --- but by 'blood and iron'. He saw it right that German political unity could only be attained by the sword.
The first obstacle to German unity was Austria with Bismarck had long prepared to remove before he became prime minister. Thus he wrote in 1856,"I desire to express my conviction that at no distant time we shall have to fight with Austria for our existence." Again in 1859 he wrote that the embarrassments of Austria in Italy gave Prussia an exceptional opportunity to read just its relations to Germany. In 1862, when he became prime minister, he was racking his brain for a pretext to fight Austria. The Schleswig-Holstein Question gave chance for his plan. This was with Denmark, which ended in Austria's occupation of Holstein and Prussia's occupation of Schleswig actually sowed the seed of the Austro-Prussian War in 1866. The Treaty of Prague which terminated the War made Bismarck's dream of a united Germany under Prussian domination a reality. Austria was henceforth excluded from Germany. A North German Confederation was created. It was composed of the states north of the River Main. Schleswig-Holstein, however, Hasse-Cassel, Nassau and Frankfurt were annexed by Prussia. A constitution was drawn up by Bismarck and accepted by or forced upon the government of the states; for in this year 1866 German opinion as a whole was still on the side of Austria and even in Prussia, especially in the Rhinelands there was a resistance to the war against Austria. They opposed to Prussia predominance in the Federal Council. The liberal class was alienated by Bismarck's unconstitutional government. It is true to say that north Germany was conquered, not united, because Bismarck's outlook on European politics was always Prussian rather than German. "Prussians we are and Prussians we will remain' he said.

The Seven Weeks' War was milestone on the road of German Unification, by it Prussian hegemony was established, but German unity was still incomplete. The South German State still remained out of the Prussian fold. The way Bismarck prepared for the absorption of the south states was a war with France aiming at arousing the spirit of nationalism among them. Cause for a Franco-Prussian War were not lacking. Napoleon III's irritation and alarm at the growth of Prussian power across the Rhine and his failure to obtain territorial compensation as vaguely promised by Bismarck at Biarritz gave around for conflict. Finally the problem about the purchase Luxembourg and the Spanish candidacy lighted the power barrel of the Franco-Prussian War 1870. Exactly to the wish of Bismarck, the South German States placed their arms at the disposal of the North German Confederation, so that when the Franco-Prussian War ended with the Treaty of Frankfurt 1871, the South German states were swept into the embrace of Prussian and German Empire was declared at the coronation of the Prussian King in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles.


The imperial constitution was simply a revised edition of the North German Confederation 1867. In the new empire, the equality of the federated state was formally not material when the empire Frederick William I said, "The empire is nothing but an expanded in the Federal Council, her King was emperor, sole ruler who was to exercise power to control foreign affairs."
The German unity of 1871 was not a unity expressed in self-government by the German people. The new state was designed not to represent the will of German people but to maintain as in the general past the subjection of the people to the will of a privileged minority.
This was simply the result of the Bismarck's policy. He purposely created a 'Prussian Germany' instead of a 'Greater Germany' which could mean the end of Junker Prussia, the predominance of Roman Catholics and conflict with Russia or the world, a conflict which the Junker class to which Bismarck belonged, was not powerful enough to sustain.
In conclusion, we can say that the unification of Germany can be described as a 'victory of Prussian imperialism' but it should also be noted that without the industrial development, and economic prosperity which proceeded the political movement, Prussian imperialism could hardly be realised.
10. "Prussia created the New German Empire in its own image." Discuss.
The Congress of Vienna had deliberately drawn up the German settlement in the interest of the great European powers. The interest of the German people for a united German nation was completely ignored. But in establishing a balance between Austria and Prussia, the powers set the stage for political struggle between the two in the nineteenth century which finally led to Prussian supremacy in the German Confederation and an appearance of an 'expanded' Prussia rather than a truly in the statement that "the unification of Germany is a victory for Prussian imperialism" and that "Germany was conquered, not unified." Actually many long standing factors had been working in Prussia's favour and the work of German unification was destined to be Prussia's.
Unification of Germany of 1871 was highly characterised by Prussianization. In fact all the characteristics of the original attempt of German unification was totally scarified for the Prusso-German Empire. On the other hand, the ideas of selfish nationalism, militarism and autocracy helped to shape the 'New Germany' and laid down the foundation of Germany as a military state.
Generally speaking, there was a great divergence between German nationalism and Prussian nationalism. During the Frankfurt Parliament, the Germans showed their desire for freedom of press and liberty, in addition, they wanted to have a greater Germany with all the Germans. However, for a patriotic Prussian, Bismarck favoured a form of government under the control of monarchy. He had strong opposition of democracy and this explained his opposition of the 1848 Revolution. He believed that Prussia was truly great unit the other German states had been united around her. He experienced that the policy of 'blood and iron' was the most realistic and practical. Moreover, he was under the support of William I who favoured a Prussian-German state with military forces. Unfortunately, German nationalism was doomed to fail from Frankfurt Parliament.
In 1848-49, the liberals invited William I to be the emperor of the united Germany with parliamentary democracy as the basic system of government. But he preferred absolute government to democratic one. And his main objective was the interest of Prussia instead of German unification. Moreover, he regarded it as 'a crown of shame'. His refusal marked the downfall of Frankfurt Parliament. Prussia proposed a union with other states and presided by Prussia. Though it failed, it demonstrated that Prussia intended to be the unifier of Germany on her own term.
It was very ironical because German Confederation was subordinated to Prussian nationalism. The idea of little Germany was practiced instead of greater Germany. Bismarck regarded Austria as an obstacle which would prevent the supremacy of Prussia among other German states. Due to aggressive Prussian nationalism, Austria was excluded from the union and was treated as an alien state. The German liberals strongly opposed the military forces for they feared militarism. In addition, Bismarck took illogical measures to drive opposition and collected taxes for re-organization of Prussian army. On the other hand, after the Austro-Prussian war they were willing to support them.
The Schleswig and Holstein question was used for Bismarck to gain the support of German nationalists. He made full advantages of Austria ambition to play off Austria. Prussia paved way for further disturbance and Austria was caught. German nationalism was disturbance and Austria was caught. German nationalism was totally ignored due to aggressive Prussian nationalism. It came to power at the expense of Germans.
Finally, Austro-Prussian War was broken out due to the Schleswig question. Austria was defeated in the Battle of Sadows. It was not only a defeat of Austria but also of German liberalism.
The North German Confederation was characterized by Prussia. The King of Prussia became an all-power dictator, most of the seats were occupied by the Prussians.
Bismarck did not have any intention of unification of Germany by advocating the brotherhood of all the Germans. He tried to gain support of south German states by publishing the aggressive demand of France. His intention was to gain the support of them for fighting against France and for the extension of Prussia. The unification was highly accidental and by-product of Franco-Prussian War.
Success of Franco-Prussian War had great effect on the Germans because they believed that policy of 'blood and iron' was the most effective way to become a great power. This policy made the liberals near to militarism and further away from democracy and liberalism. It was impossible for democratic ideas to grow in Germany. On the other hand, militarism was one of the most important characteristic of the unification.
After the unification of Germany, the government of new Empire was highly Prussianized; the whole government was a Prussianized government. Prussians played a vital part in the Buderat and for the Reichstag only had limited power.

In the new empire, the equality of the federated state was formally not materialized when the emperor Frederick William I said, "the empire is nothing but an expanded Prussia," he told the truth. In short, Prussia was predominant in the Federal Council, her King was emperor, sole ruler who was to exercise power to control foreign affairs.


The German unity of 1871 was not a unity expressed in self-government by the German people. Prussians gained the upper hand in the unification because of great statesmanship and the military base. It also showed the defeat of democracy and liberalism. After the unification, the democratic ideas were uprooted and paved way for the totalitarianism. The victory of Austro-Prussian War and the Franco-Prussian War demonstrated the triumph of 'blood and iron'.
The unification of Germany can be described as 'victory of Prussian imperialism'. After the Prusso-Danish War in 1864, the Austro-Prussian War in 1866 and the French War in 1870-1871, the creation of the new German Empire in 1871 was founded.
To historians, the New German Empire was nothing but just an expanded Prussia and German Unification was a victory of Prussian expansion. In other words, Germany was not unified but conquered by Prussia.
The Unification of German was greatly caused by Prussia. Although, it should also be noted that without the industrial development and economic prosperity which preceded the political movement. Prussian imperialism could hardly be realised. Prussia still played an important part of German Unification for it created the new German Empire in its own image.
11. Why did France and Prussia go to war in 1870?
After 1866 war between Prussia and the new German Confederation was inevitable. It lay, as Bismarck said, 'in the logic of history.' It seems obvious that both had strong reasons to fight the war. France was determined to fight to stop the Prussian expansion while Prussia had a clear objective to be achieved by defeating France.
France was alarmed at the success of Bismarck. Napoleon III was afraid to use the creation of a strong national state on her eastern frontier. He was determined to fight rather than allow any further extension of Prussian War was such based on this jealousy. Moreover, a unified Germany would be the logical outcome of Prussian conquest and expansion and this must involve France in war with Prussia as Napoleon III long desired the national frontier of the Rhine and it was so true because Napoleon III after 1866 and asked for Rhineland compensations and for vague hints of these had agreed at Biarritz to reman neutral.
Furthermore, France wanted European balance of power preserved. A war with Prussia was necessary to prevent this from being further upset by Prussia. For failing to receive compensation for Prussian expansion after 1866, the balance of power tipped in Prussian favour and fear of France roused. The war was therefore fought to maintain European balance of power.
The internal development also prompted Napoleon III to war. He was faced with opposition at home. To divert attention and to gratify these elements opposing him, glory must be sought and the war served well the purpose. It would not only divert opposition and unite the nation behind him, but would be able to strengthen his position by glory and victory. Also, the Empress Eugenie was anxious for a victorious was to save the tottering empire for her son. The war party at court added to the impetus. After all, the clerical faction favoured Austria and inclined to condemn Protestant Prussia.
At last, it was believed that France must average on Prussia for the humiliations suffered after 1866 in the hands of Bismarck. Bismarck had rejected French say in the Peace of Rickelsburg, and had refused to support French protection over Belgium and had upset French purchase of Luxembourg.
On the other hand, Bismarck desired a war with France. Germany had had long-standing grievance against France because of the bitter memories left by the conquest of Germany by Napoleon I and also France had had always endeavoured to keep Germany weak and divided. To Bismarck, the war was inevitable if he was to unify Germany under Prussia. France stood in the way. Napoleon III declared that further union of the three parts of the North German Confederation, South German states and Austria would be opposed and if Bismarck should venture 'to touch the south German states', 'France guns would on off by themselves'. Yet Bismarck wanted unification and as Germany demanded that the war lay in the logic of history. It was necessary in the interest of Prussia and German unity. Bismarck believed France would oppose Prussia's growing power. He thus wanted to strike at her at a time convenient to Prussia, not to France.
The European situation was favourable for Bismarck as France was diplomatically isolated. Bismarck did not really have to do anything to isolate France from Italy, for the Italian resented the presence of the French garrison in Rome stationed there since 1849. Besides, Italy had acquired Venetia through the help of Prussia. England resented the French claim to Belgium, a claim revealed by Bismarck, as Belgian independence had been guaranteed by Britain. It was therefore very unlikely that she would help France in the event of war with Prussia. Russia was on friendly terms with Prussia on account of the personal friendship between Bismarck and the Russian Czar, so that Russian neutrality was more or less assured. Besides, Bismarck had strengthened this friendship by promising to agree to tearing up of the Black Sea Clause of the Treaty of Paris. The Black Sea had been neutralized so that no warships, not even Russian, could be kept in the Black Sear. Also, Bismarck know that Austria would not be in a position to help France. She had not yet recovered from the Austro-Prussian War. She had to watch Russia on her eastern frontiers. She felt grateful to Prussia for the moderate terms imposed on her in the Treaty of Prague.
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