Bismarck - 19th Century Encyclopedia Entries

Nordisk Familjebok 1876-1899, Meyer 1885-1892,

Nordisk Familjebok 1876-1899, Article : Bismarck-Schönhausen (1878)
Bismarck-Schönhausen, Otto Eduard Leopold von. German statesman, born on April 1st 1815 on the estate of Schönhausen in Brandenburg. It had been decided that he was to take on a career in diplomacy, and in 1832 he enrolled in the University of Göttingen, where he earned the reputation of "a happy fellow" and a frequent participant in duels ("in students' war games"). Nonetheless, in 1835 he passed the juridic examination at the University of Berlin with honour. Since, he served for several years as a state official, administrated the family estate, in 1845 became the owner of Schönhausen. "The crazy Bismarck", a nickname he earned because his not always regular lefestyle, now became a highly respected man and was elected as a representative in the diet of the Province of Saxony. In this function he became member of the "United Diet", an assembly of notables and of the provincial diets' estates, where he appeared as a strong defender of absolute monarchy, a stubborn opponent of the emancipation of the Jews, especially when it came to grant them access to high state office. Already at this stage with justification he could have been called "the Hector of the feudal party", and he declared openly : "I am proud to be a Prussian junker and regard myself honoured by this title."
It is clear that such a marked reactionary should stubbornly oppose the liberal concessions, which the Revolution of 1848 forced the government to make. Therefore he also protested in the 2nd United Diet, which began its sessions on April 2nd that year, against the address in which the diet thanked the king for the liberal reforms. Also on other occasions did he take a position opposing the then dominant Prussian policy, for instance he disapproved of the campaign into Slesvig-Holstein [Schleswig-Holstein]. In 1849 Bismarck was elected into the Prussian diet, where he displayed the most anti-democratic mindset and an extremely unfriendly position toward the sentiment for German unification which had grown out of the revolution. As a member of both the diet and of the Erfurt parliament he strongly fought for a Prusso-Austrian alliance, in which he saw the only medium to free Germany from "Revolution's Hydra". He approved of the Olmütz Punctation, this crushing defeat of the Prussian reform policy, and dared to demand that Prussia should subordinate itself to the Emperor's state.
As one of the foremost spokespersons of feudalism and absolute monarchy, Bismarck soon got the attention of the holders of power. Manteuffel in 1851 appointed him Prussian emissary to the Frankfurt parliament, where he was to work for a cooperation of Prussia with Austria. However, he soon figured out, especially after an extraordinary mission to Vienna in 1852, that the leading statesmen of the Emperor's state regarded Prussia rather a vassal state, and that the motto for their German policy was Schwarzenberg's quote "Il faut avilir la Prusse et apres la demolir" (Prussia has to be humiliated and then destroyed). These observations caused him to gradually develop a bitter feeling toward Austria, a feeling which caused him to publish one or the other essay in the columns of "Kladderadatsch". Already during his stay in Frankfurt he should have developed the idea of excluding Austria from the German Confederation. In this period he travelled a lot, and among others visited Sweden.
When in 1858 it became clear that peace between Italy [!] and Austria would be broken, Bismarck demanded that Prussia should either side with the former, or at least remain strictly neutral. The government did not share his views, so in 1859 he was appointed ambassador in St. Petersburg. The position he displayed there seems, to a not small degree, to have contributed to Russia's benevolent neutrality in the wars of 1866 and 1870-1871. In 1862 he was appointed French ambassador in Paris, but only a few months later he was appointed Prussian prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. This appointment caused an extraordinary consternation in the liberal camp, as it was interpreted that this appointment marked the definitive breach of King Wilhelm with the liberal opinion, and a conclusion to "the new era". General dissatisfaction was expressed in the quote "Bismarck is a coup d'etat".
At this time the relations between government and the chamber of deputees were tense; the latter, which insisted on its right to approve or disprove of taxation and refused to provide the economic basis for the new army ordinnance, which King Wilhelm unilaterally had introduced while still prince-regent. Bismarck got involved in the parliamentary debates, and he did so in a way which confirmed that he still defended the positions of the Junkers. He openly declared that the crown was the foremost power in the state, so that it would be his task, according to his own interpretation, to clear the unclear points ("gaps") in the constitution. The dissatisfaction caused by this declaration, turned into the most lively expressions, when Bismarck, in a session of the budget committee, uttered that the great questions of the time are not solved with phrases, but with "iron and blood", a quote which perhaps at that time was misinterpreted. More determined than before, the Chamber of Deputees refused to approve the governments' proposal for an army budget; but Bismarck regarded it within his authority - with the support of the Ghamber of Lords - to run the business of government without a budget passed in conformity with the constitution. In 1863 the dispute with the Chamber of Deputees arose again, which now was treated in the most inconsiderate manner by Bismarck. This is shown by his public declaration that "might goes before right". This situation went so far, that the aforementioned chamber petitioned the king for a new minister, a request which was responded to by the dissolution of the chamber, without a budget having been approved. General disapproval of Bismarck further increased by a sharp press ordinnance of June 1st 1863.
Despite of the domestic disputes Bismarck unfolded lively activity in the area of foreign policy. He expressed his plans with an openness hitherto unheard of, and openly declared that "Prussia's army was too large for such a small state". In early 1863 there was an exchange of sharp notes with the Austrian government, which was displeased by the trade agreement France and Prussia had concluded in 1862, which was to prevent Austria from joining the Zollverein. In his depeches Bismarck did not avoid threatening phrases, and among others expressed "Austria should find its center in Ofen" [Buda, as in Budapest]. He rejected the Emperor's suggestion of a reform of the German Confederation, as its approval would not have coincided with Prussia's power and reputation. During the Polish Rebellion of 1863 he granted Russia many, good services, a policy which resulted in him being reprimanded by the Chamber of Deputees.
At the time of the death of Danish King Fredrik VII. (November 15th 1863) the tension between Prussia and Austria had reached its climax. But the political development now took on a different direction. The Slesvig-Holstein [Schleswig-Holstein] Question now again became the center of attention. Bismarck, who in the past had stated that Holstein should be separated from the [Danish] helstat [unified state, i.e. a Denmark including Slesvig/Schleswig], now, in Prussia's interest, took the lead of the movement to aid "the brotherly people in the north". He took the matter out of the hand of the German Confederation and "lured" Austria into joining into an alliance with Prussia to wage war against Denmark, a political move by which he isolated the Emperor's state from the middle-size states [in Germany], which did not want to participate in the war. It is known that the duchies [Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg] were ceded to the winning powers in the Peace of Vienna 1864, and that the question of the claim of inheritance of the Prince of Augustenburg was given by Bismarck to the lawyers of the Prussian crown, who all rejected the prince's claim. By the Treaty of Gastein (1865) the booty was split by the winners, which just before had been so divided that a war seemed to be close between both. Bismarck should not have wished for anything more than to quickly draw the sword, but King Wilhelm's desire for peace still gained the upper hand.
During a visit to Biarritz in 1864 Bismarck made known to the French government a possible expansion of Prussia's power in northern Germany. In the following year negotiations with France were continued, and with Napoleon's [III.] approval in 1866 an alliance was concluded with Italy, a completion to the trade agreement which both countries had concluded in 1865.
After Bismarck assured himself of Napoleon's neutrality - one still does not know with certainty what kind of territorial compensation Preussen promised in return for the latter - he did not hesitate in implementing his plans in regard to Austria. In the beginning of 1866 a preparatory paper war, in the form of the exchange of notes, was fought. Bismarck accused Austria of favoring the Prince of Augustenburg's interest in the duchies on the Elbe. The Imperial government responded to these accusations, that Bismarck, by the conspiratory acts of his agents, would prepare the annexation of the latter. After both sides accused each other of preparing for war, and both sides demanded disarmament. The formal challenge against Austria was issued on April 9th that year, when Bismarck at the convention of the German Confederation suggested the convocation of a German Imperial diet (Reichstag), the members of which were to be elected in a general, direct ballot. On June 10th Bismarck outlined the basis of a reform of the confederation, which would exclude Austria from the confederation, and on the 14th of the same month, as Prussian troops had entered Holstein, Austria, by the majority of the convention, tried to force Prussia to give in. At this time Bismarck had succeeded to completely win the king over for his plans, and because of the attempted assassination of him, undertaken by Karl Cohen (Blind), he had gained a hitherto unknown popularity. The moment to draw the sword had come, and on May 21st Prussia declared war on those states who had mobilized against Prussia. Military events developed with unusual speed; after the victory near Königgrätz (Sadowa) on July 3rd 1866 there was no more hope for Austria. In the Peace of Prague (August 23rd), Austria agreed to leave the German Confederation, and the Schleswig-Holstein Question was solved in Prussia's favour. Almost simultaneously, peace was concluded with Württemberg, Baden and Bayern, some time later with Saxony and Hessen-Darmstadt. With the right of a winning power Preussen expanded its territory by annexation of Frankfurt, Hannover, Electoral Hessen [Hessen-Kassel] and Nassau. Preussen compensated most dethroned princes financially, in order to appease Europe with its policy of annexation as much as possible.
After the Peace of Prague, Bismarck was the most popular man in Prussia. Also it did not take long, until he, in front of the Chamber of Deputees, with whom until then he had been in an uninterrupted feud, and which once had been dissolved by him, was granted indemnity for the irregular budgets of the previous years. For his services, Bismarck was rewarded by the king by being appointed General in the Landwehr [militia] (in which he had been an officers since his youth), and by the Prussian diet by a state dotation, the estate of Varzin in Pomerania, a resort which he frequently had visited, when he was free of the business of state. He had been elevated to Count in 1865 after the conclusion of the Treaty of Gastein, and the purchase of Lauenburg.
The first of the creations which prepared German unity came into being in 1867. This product of his organizational skill was the North German Federation, the chancellor of which he became. It consisted of 22 states which a [combined] population of 29 million. Another of Bismarcks creations was the Zollverein parliament formed in 1868, which brought about a closer tie between northern and southern Germany.
Bismarck's foremost task now was to "seat the new Federation into the saddle"; but while he employed his energies in the implementation of this task, the first signs of a breach with France became apparent. The Luxemburg Question opened the path to conflict. Still Prussian troops held the former federal fortress of Luxemburg occupied. France demanded that the Prussian garrison should leave the fortress, and began negotiations with the King of Holland [!] in order to gain possession of the Duchy of Luxemburg. Bismarck launched a strong protest, according to which this small country was to become a "bullwark against Germany". Both opponents began to prepare for war, when the dispute was settled by a conference in London (1867) which determined, that Luxemburg should remain - in the possession of the King of Holland [!] - should remain neutral territory, and that the Prussian garrison should leave the fortress, which afterward was to be razed. The defeat, which Napoleon had suffered politically, caused great bitterness in France, and soon began the Chauvinist Party to loudly demand that the Empire should display its power against "that confederation of states in the north". Napoleon began to fear for the continuation of his dynasty, and soon after the solution to the Luxemburg Question he focused on ways to humiliate Prussia. The meeting of Napoleon and the Austrian Emperor in Salzburg 1867 was regarded as a preparatory step toward a Franco-Austrian alliance directed against Prussia. When France denied this interpretation, Bismarck responded with the famous circular telegram, in which he stated that the German nation never would permit the interference of foreign powers in her internal affairs. The bitterness created in France by this statement was further increased by the news that Bismarck had concluded a defensive and offensive alliance with the southern German states. Both sides now were determined to go to war. Napoleon must have desired a war for dynastic reasons, and Bismarck was convinced that a general German campaign against the "archenemy" should kill particularist tendencies and achieve the unity about which one so long had talked and sung. The question of the candidacy of Leopold von Hohenzollern for the Spanish throne therefore, by both opponents, was perceived as a coincidence fitting to switch from word to deed. Bismarck's measures immediately after the French declaration of war (July 15th 1870) could have been rather doubting in his moral basis, but it is certain that he acted with a degree of cleverness and calculation, which stands in the strongest constrast to the inability and lack of such of the French holders of power. It is regarded a splendid diplomatic move, when Bismarck had published in the Times on July 25th that year a draft to a Treaty between France and Prussia, which according to Bismarck emanated from the French government. This draft, be it genuine or alleged, spread suspicion regarding Napoleon's policy of annexation, with the consequence, that Napoleon lost sympathies in England, Belgium and many other countries (see under Benedetti). Bismarck, who accompanied King Wilhelm during the war, participated in the fighting by preventing all outsiders from interfering.
The outcome of the great struggle (1870-1871) corresponded to the statesman's calculations. On January 18th 1871 King Wilhelm in Versailles was proclaimed Emperor of Germany, and when the peace treaty was signed, on May 10th that year, Bismarck represented the new empire as its chancellor. When the first German Reichstag was opened on March 22nd 1871, the Emperor granted him the title of prince; at the same time he was granted a state dotation consisting of an impressive domain in the Duchy of Lauenburg.
After the establishment of the German Empire Bismarck worked on stabilizing this new coup d'etat by the way of legislation and reform. One of his most important tasks was to fend off the attempt by the Roman curia [i.e. the Papacy] clearly expressed in syllabus and dogma of infallibility, to establish the Catholic Church as a state within the state, and to revive the old medieval dogma of papal supremacy even in wordly matters. Bismarck, in his correspondence with representatives of the Ultramontane Party (Zentrum) in the Reichstag and in Prussia's diet, has unmistakably expressed his position in this question. He regards the existence of the state threatened by the excessive claim of the Roman curia, and by the strife of the ultramontane clergy to turn themselves into the supreme instance in every conflict between state and church interests. He regards the formation of Zentrum party (1872) as a challenge of the government, and he wants to fight the views, for which this party is an expression, with all means at his disposal. But he does not fight against the teaching of the Catholic Church, as far as it does not conflict with the purpose of the state. For these ideas Bismarck has striven by various legislative measures. In 1872 Reichstag was presented a law suggesting the expulsion of the Jesuits, in 1873 the Prussian Landtag passed 4 church laws proposed by government (the May laws, in the meantime completed by two more laws), which regulate relations between church and state. These laws have been implemented with immovable severity. Scores of priests have been deposed, church leaders punished by imprisonment, fines, restraint or expulsion. Thus turned into martyrs, despite the distance, they exercised greater influence than before over their flocks. In the meantime, all of liberal and Protestant Germany is on Bismarck's side, and sees in the old Junker a spokesperson in one of the vital questions of modern society. This view was greatly supported when in 1874 an ultramontane fanatic, Kullmann, attempted to assassinate Bismarck; an event, to which Bismarck in ignoble fashion responded by an attack on the Zentrum.
Bismarck is one of the greatest statesmen of our time. He contemplates his plans long and deep, but when the hour for action has come, he does not give way, but steadfastly inforces his will, which not rarely goes over into lack of consideration and unnecessary harshness. All resources of the art of diplomacy are at his disposal, and still he expresses his plans with an openness, which supporters of the old cabinet policy of secrecy can not grasp. As a parlamentary speaker he is characterized by strong expressions and fresh humour, both of which often help him achieve his goal.

source in Swedish, posted by Project Runeberg

Meyer's Konversationslexikon 1885-1892, Article : Bismarck, Fürst.
Bismarck, Otto Eduard Leopold, prince, chancellor of the German Empire and Prussian prime minister, born on April 1st 1815 on the family estate of Schönhausen in the altmark, into a family of old nobility, which already in the 13th century resided in the town of Bismarck, and which from there moved into the nearby city of Stendal. Rule von Bismarck in 1309 is mentioned as a tailor apprentice in Stendal. His son excelled in the service of Archbishop Dietrich Kagelwid of Magdeburg and of Margrave Ludwig the Elder of Brandenburg, and in 1345 was enfiefed by the latter with the estate of Burgstall. In 1562 the family exchanged the latter for Crevese, Schönhausen and other possessions, most of which were lost to the family in the course of time. The Bismarck family, several branches of which acquired the title of Baron or Count, produced a considerable number of officers and even two ministers, minister of justice Levin Friedrich von Bismarck, born in 1703, died in 1774, and his son, minister of finances August Wilhelm von Bismarck, born in 1750, died in 1783. Bismarck's father, Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand von Bismarck (born November 13th 1771, died in 1845) retired as a major of the cavalry to administrate his estates in Schönhausen and Kniephof, Külz and Jarchelin in Pomerania; in 1806 he married Luise Wilhelmine Mencken, the daughter of Cabinet Councillor Mencken, a beautiful, spiritually important women (she died in 1839); the marriage produced 6 children, of which Bismarck was the 4th, and of whom one elder brother Bernhard, municipal councilman in Naugard, and one younger sister, Malwine, wife of chamber deputee von Arnim Kröchelndorf, still are alive.
Otto von Bismarck first attended Plamann's Educational Institute 1821-1827, from 1827 to 1830 the Friedrich Wilhelm Gymnasium, 1830 to 1832 the [Gymnasium at the] Grey Monastery in Berlin, and at Easter 1832 he enrolled at the University of Göttingen, where for three semesters he did enjoy the life of a student and dedicated little time to juridical studies, but where he enriched knowledge and his views through his vivid spirit. After having conducted intense private studies in Berlin, he passed the auscultator examination in 1835 and worked at Berlin municipal court, until he transferred to the administration in 1836 and was posted in Aachen. After having taken the 2nd juridical examination, in 1837 he was employed as an intern by the Potsdam government, Easter 1838 he joined the battalion of mounted infantry guards as a volunteer serving for a year, but in the fall had himself transferred to the 2nd mounted infantry battalion in Greifswald, so that he simultaneously could study agriculture in Eldena. Because after the death of his mother (January 1st 1839) his father retreated to Schönhausen, Otto and his brother Bernhard were to jointly take over the administration of the indebted and dilapidated family estates in Pomerania. When their father died on November 22nd 1845, [Otto von] Bismarck received Kniephof and Schönhausen, which had been much reduced in size by the sale of the larger part of the estate; here he established his residence; he was elected dyke warden and deputee to the Landtag [diet] of the Province of Saxony. In the latter function in 1847 he became member of the United Diet in 1847. Even Bismarck realised that Prussia had to take the important step to give itself a more liberal political constitution. Within himself, Old Prussian patriotism dominated, and on May 17th, during his first appearance in a parliamentary assembly with determination he objected to the liberal satatement that political freedom would have been the goal of the Wars of Liberation 1813-1815, and, accompanied by the grumbling of the house, only was willing to accept the liberation from foreign rule as such. Also on other occasions he took position against liberal views and demands, with brash overconfidence, as he insisted on the independence of the monarchy and on the voluntary nature of the concessions granted by the latter. He declared himself against the admission of Jews to public office, and on this occasion he stated that he belonged to the faction [of parliamentarians] described by the Liberals as obscure and medieval, the large bulk which still was stuck to its prejudices. The reputation of an ultraconservative Junker he conformed by his appearance in the second session of the United Diet in April 1848, where he, lamenting the defeat of the Prussian monarchy and of the hitherto ruling estates, voted against the address of gratitude to the king, and by one or the other expression of his wrath against what was going on in Berlin in those days, such as "the large cities, as breeding-grounds of the revolution, ought to be destroyed". So he was elected into the Second Chamber [of the Prussian Landtag] at the end of 1848, after the political reversal; the chamber convened in 1849. Also here he opposed democratic and national-German tendencies. The Imperial constitution of 1849, in his opinion, left too little authority to the monarchy; if Prussia did not want to endanger its existence, Prussia had to command the Germans what their constitution was to be, and first, by restoration of a strong monarchy, internal concord and a strong military, and until then had to act jointly with Austria. Therefore he opposed Radowitz' policy of union in the Erfurt Parliament, and on December 3rd 1850 even defended the Olmütz Punctation in the Prussian Second Chamber. The formation of a strong monarchist party was his main goal, which he tried to promote by contributing to the "Kreuzzeitung" [a Berlin newspaper].
King Friedrich Wilhelm IV., who personally respected Bismarck and who appreciated his political accomplishments, in May 1851 appointed him legate at the Prussian legation in the Bundestag [federal diet] in Frankfurt / Main, and on August 18th to Prussian emissary to the Bundestag. Here Bismarck experienced the woefullness and incorrigibility of the German Confederation, the narrow-mindedness, the jealousy, the fear and cowardry of the medium and small size states, the intrigant policy of Austria, as it had been restored by Prince Schwarzenberg, and he recognized that Prussia never could count on a true and open friendship with Austria, but that it neither hat to fear its German confederates. Indeed, the respect which the young, inexperienced diplomat gained, even from the Austrian presidial emissary, proved, that Prussia could occupy a very different position in Germany, if it wanted to, and it was in Frankfurt when Bismarck first got the idea of a Zollverein parliament, and to resume a policy of Prussian hegemony. In 1859 it seemed to him that the moment had come to free Prussia from Austrian guardianship, and to occupy a more fitting position in Germany. He openly stated that Prussia should not provide to Austria the service of a vassall, that it should not participate in the war without compensation. Instead the new ministry Hohenzollern-Schleinitz did not want to renege on its responsibilities, and thus Bismarck on March 5th 1859 was recalled from Frankfurt and appointed ambassador in St. Petersburg. The eight years of stay in the federal capital [Frankfurt], interrupted by many travels in foreign countries, form an important phase in the development of Bismarck as a statesman.
In Petersburg Bismarck stayed for three years; by his canded, confident appearance he gained the favour of the Czar and of society, also that of Gorchakov, as a student of whom Bismarck described himself, in order to flatter the vane man. While he dedicated his time and effort to the execution of his duties, the education of his children and to the pleasure of hunting, he observed the development of matters in Prussia and Germany with a keen mind, and in 1861 in Baden-Baden gave King Wilhelm I. a memorandum on the German constitutional question, which caused the latter in March 1862, after the dismissal of the Ministry of the New Era, to have Bismarck return to Berlin. But he still had qualms to appoint a man to prime minister who seemed so outspokenly the representative of one party, as a prime minister was to establish an understanding with the Landtag; on May 24th 1862 he appointed Bismarck ambassador in Paris. In the meantime the new ministry Hohenlohe-Heydt not only failed to master its tasks, but after the election results of 1862 in favour of the Progressive Party only sharpened the conflict on the army issue, already in September Bismarck was recalled from Biarritz, and on September 24th 1862 he was appointed minister of state, with the interimist presidency in the council of ministers.
The situation in Prussia was a difficult one, as the king did not want to go back on the reorganization of the army; the House of Deputees protested against the latter by not approving the funds, and made use of its right to set the budget by distracting the additional costs in the military budget. Bismarck took over the task to secure the reorganization. He hoped to achieve this in the House of Deputees by appearing conciliatory in the session of the Budget Commission on September 30th, by pointing out the necessity of a policy of armament for Prussia, as Germany would not look at its Liberalism, but at its power, and as the great questions of the time would not be decided by grand speeches and majority decisions, but by blood and iron. But instead this "policy of blood and iron" met only ironic suspicion. Bismarck was regarded as the limited Junker of 1848, the willing tool of the reaction who wanted to destroy the constitution, and in cooperation with Austria, wanted to enslave Germany. The memory of the weekly German policy of Friedrich Wilhelm IV. as well as that of Schleinitz and Bernstorff, the memory of the suspicion against all measures and words emanating from the government, were an indication of the political immaturity of Prussia, which had not yet been overcome. They did not permit the thought to rise within the opposition that Prussia once would draw its sword for the unification of Germany; the overwhelming majority of the house therefore did not want to be responsible for the reorganization of the army, and for the additional costs, and on October 7th accepted a proposal which was to fully maintain the right of the house to set the budget. Bismarck, who was appointed prime minister and minister of foreign affairs on October 8th, under these circumstances, decided to no longer pursue a policy of reconciliation with the house, and decided, after the House of Lords had rejected the budget drafted by the House of Deputees, to govern without a budget, and to overcome the resistance in the country by implementing the declared German policy without the support of the House of Deputees. From this moment onward he treated the latter with frank, inconsiderate words, and caused a storm of indignation by expressing his view that the House, by stubbornly holding on to its one-sided position, and rejecting any compromise with the other powers of the state, had brought about a conflict, that conflicts would lead to the quest of power, and that those who would hold power, then would proceed in this way. Parliamentary disputes, such as the extension of disciplinary authority of the prime minister over the ministers, as demanded by Bismarck, only served to increase the tension between the ministry and the House of Deputees. Sharp measures, such as the press law of June 1st 1863, and a number of petty acts against liberal offices or persons conducted by partially irrelevant colleagues of Bismarck in the people increased the fear of the reaction, as well as suspicion of the government, so that reconciliation between government and the representation of the people indeed seemed impossible.
In the meantime, Bismarck had taken on the solution of the German question. Already in the January of 1863 he had declared to Austria that it either had to share the administration of German affairs with Prussia in amiable spirit, or to risk an open breach with Prussia. Austria, however, believed Prussia and Bismarck so weakened by the constitutional conflict, that it attempted in August 1863, at the Congress of German Princes in Frankfurt to bring about a new constitution for Germany, the purpose of which was to control Prussia and to make it serve Austria's interests. Bismarck foiled this policy by persuading the king not to attend the congress, and on September 15th declared it to be the purpose of his German policy to have a German popular representation convene. But by pointing at the prospect of the implementation of the hopes which had failed in 1849, he met the same ironic disbelief he encountered with his Schleswig-Holstein policy 1863-1864, which was based on a masterly understanding of the situation, of a keen judgment of the other powers, and which was magnificently justified by its outcome, but which could not have succeeded if its goal would have been announced beforehand. Therefore it had not been understood and honored by the Prussian Liberals, and not accepted as a cause for reconciliation. When the Peace of Vienna and the rejection of the claims of the Augustenburgers, at least in Prussia, permitted the conviction to spread, that Bismarck excellently had defended Prussia's position as a power, the postponement of the conflict with Austria by the Treaty of Gastein, which Bismarck concluded on September 15th 1865, giving in to the king's love of peace, again confirmed the suspicion against the government's foreign policy, and the constitutional dispute again broke out in 1866, with increased intensity. This conflict confirmed Austria and the medium-size states in their mininterpretation of Prussia's military power and bellicosity, and also deceived Napoleon III. in regard to the expected outcome of the German war of decision, so that the latter remained neutral. On April 8th 1866 Bismarck gained an ally in Italy. Among the people, Bismarck's policy was bitterly opposed; on May 7th 1866 a student by the name of Cohen, a stepson of K. Blind, failed in his attempt to assassinate Bismarck. It took Bismarck great effort to win over the king for a war against Austria. Fortunately all attempts to mediate in the conflict, which Bismarck had not been able to prevent, failed because of the inflexibility of the opponents, who did not want to believe that Prussia was serious this time around. But Bismarck conducted policy grand style. On April 9th in the Bundestag he called for the convocation of a German parlament, on June 10th he outlined the basics of a new federal constitution. When the Bundestag accepted the Austrian proposal to mobilize the non-Prussian federal armies against Prussia because of the violation of federal rights in Holstein, on June 14th Bismarck responded by Prussia's withdrawal from the German Confederation. The rejection of the Prussian ultimatum by Electoral Hessen [Hessen-Kassel], Hannover and Saxony decided the abolition of these states. Bismarck participated in the war by spending his time in the company of the king. The Prussian sword, sharpened in the period of conflict, stood the test on the battlefield in the most glorious way. After the victory, Bismarck wanted to conclude peace in direct negotiations, but the latter preferred to throw itself into the arms of France and to call for the mediation of the latter, which Bismarck could not reject. He understood the necessity to restrain himself in the exploitation of the victory, and he pressed home against the king and his military advisors the signing of a truce, the integrity of Austrian territory (except for Venetia), the sparing of the southern German states, and contented himself with enlarging Prussian territory by the annexation of Schleswig-Holstein, Hannover, Electoral Hessen [Hessen-Kassel], Nassau and Frankfurt, and thus to establish Prussian hegemony in northern Germany; he also conceded in the Treaty of Prague, at French request, the paragraph on a plebiscite in Schleswig. But he determinedly rejected France's demands to be compensated with Rhenish territory, and he tied the southern German states by secret treaties of protection and alliance with Northern Germany.
After the elections to the Prussian House of Deputees on July 3rd 1866 had significantly increased the number of supporters of the government, and the magnificent military and diplomatic successes had brought about a turnaround of public opinion, Bismarck completed the reconciliation with the popular representation by recognizing the latter's right to decide the budget, by requesting the latter to grant indemnity for the budgetless period of 1862-1866. From now on he found effective support in what hitherto had been the larger part of the opposition, the National Liberal Party. The dotation granted to him he used to purchase the estate of Varzin in Further Pomerania. During the discussions of the constitution of the North German Federation he showed himself loyal to the smaller states, and thus gained the trust of the princes. On the constituant session of the North German Reichstag [diet] he energetically defended the provisions of the drafted constitution, in most cases successfully, so the universal direct suffrage, and sole responsibility of the chancellor. In the Luxemburg Question of 1867 he proved to the world an unambiguous proof of his peacable attitude. He did foresee the coming of the war with France, which constantly molested him with suggestions of an alliance and of joint steps of annexation, which he neither accepted nor rejected, but he wanted to use any opportunity to avoid bloody war. In order to deprive Napoleon [III.] of any pretext he avoided anything which could accelerate the accession of the southern German states to the [Northern German] Federation; even when his attempt to establish a Zollverein parliament failed in 1868, he did not exercise pressure on the latter. Thus he was able to postpone the war and to test the patience of French politicians in such a way, that they finally used the [Hohenzollern] candidacy to the Spanish throne [as a pretext] to declare war, and by doing so, appeared as the aggressor, thus giving up on any prospect of gaining an ally. By making public Napoleon's intentions in regard to Belgium in his circular of July 29th 1870 he turned public opinion in England against France. During the war he again accompanied the king, and directed foreign policy from his headquarters. At the right time, in circulars of September 13th and 16th, he expressed it to be Germany's intention and right to protect itself against future French attacks to move the defenseless border of southern Germany westward and to secure the recently conquered fortresses on Rhine and Mosel, and refrained from stressing the national perspective in his negotiations with the French. He rejected foreign interference in the peace negotiations, pointing out that Germany had fought the war on its own, and that it thus would be entitled to conclude peace on its own. The treaties regarding the accession of the southern German states to the German Reich [Empire] he concluded in Versailles, and he did not shy away from granting special concessions to Bavaria. The Treaty of Frankfurt / Main on May 10th 1871 he concluded in person. Upon the establishment of the German Reich [Empire] he was appointed chancellor of the latter. On March 21st 1871 he was elevated to the status of prince, and he was dotated a large domain in Lauenburg which included the Sachsenwald.
He dedicated special attention to the newly acquired Reichsland Elsass-Lothringen [Alsace-Lorraine], all measures concerning the latter have been suggested by him, and defended by him in the Reichstag. After the Franco-German War, his main attention was dedicated to the Kulturkampf [conflict with the Catholic Church], which he conducted with all his energy, as soon as it had been started by the Zentrum [Center Party], which united all elements hostile to the Reich under a clerical banner. In the first years in the Landtag he held several important speeches for safeguarding the state against papal pretension, but by doing so became the target of the most vehement attacks by the Ultramontanes. On July 13th 1874 a fanatised apprentice cooper, Kullmann, attempted to assassinate Bismarck in Kissingen. The heavy burden of his duties, the energy-consuming activity of his earlier years, the uninterrupted hostilities he was exposed to, even by former supporters [i.e. the Conservatives], since he governed with the support of the Liberals, especially in the case of Arnim, affected his health to such an extent, that from November 21st 1872 to November 10th 1873 he had himself discharged of the Prussian prime ministership, and from 1878 onward had implemented a regular proxy. Repeatedly he asked to be dismissed, but the king did not grant it, as he expressed not to want to part with him. So he often extended his stay at Varzin or Friedrichsruh for the purpose of recreation over months; the summer he usually spent in Kissingen. His tireless spirit constantly found new tasks to achieve his goals. The power and greatness of his fatherland, the project of an Imperial railroad service [nationalization of the railroads], after the failure of which he pushed through the purchase of the [private] railroads in Prussia by the state, in 1879 the new customs and economic policy, in the pursuance of which he broke with the National Liberals, in response to which, in order to win over the Ultramontanes, he terminated the Kulturkampf; in order to implement the economic reforms, he even personally took over the Prussian ministry of ecoinomic affairs. The new customs legislation, which increased state revenues and raised several branches of the industry, was followed by social reforms, which by addressing the justified demands of the working class, were to save the latter from the pernicious influence of Social Democracy. Here Bismarck was opposed by the Liberals. Bismarck had no scruples when it came to promoting the split of the latter, but he did not succeed in establishing a Conservative majority in the Reichstag. Because of the sharply oppositional position of the Progressive Party Bismarck had to lean on the Zentrum, and to make several concessions to the latter in the ecclesiastic dispute. Only with difficulty, after long negotiations, the health insurance act and the accident insurance act were passed by Reichstag, but the tobacco monopoly act was rejected.
Bismarck continued to conduct foreign policy with the usual mastery, so that the nation in this respect trusted him unconditionally. His goal was to maintain peace, during the Russo-Turkish War his efforts had this goal in mind and were successful, and received recognition as Berlin was chosen as the location for the peace congress, and Bismarck himself was elected as the president of the congress. Bismarck distanced himself more and more from Russia and turned toward Austria, with which he concluded a defensive alliance in 1879. This resulted in common actions of Austria and Germany, and was renewed in 1883. Bismarck even managed to temporarily improve relations with France by wise restraint. Based on good relations of Germany with the continental powers, Bismarck in 1884 took it upon himself to acquire colonies for Germany; he understood to brush aside English resistance by diplomatic means. It proved more difficult to overcome the clerical and progressive opposition in the Reichstag against the plan to subvention steamer lines connecting with foreign continents. All the more the successful activity in this regard of Bismarck was respected by the powers, as the outcome of the conference proves, which Bismarck had convened in Berlin, as well as the respect of the German people. With restored health, in 1885 in the Reichstag Bismarck held several speeches on his foreign and colonial policy, which were strongly applauded by the people. Bismarck's 70th birthday therefore was celebrated on April 1st 1885 by glorious ovations in all parts and by all classes of Germany, the day turned into a general popular festival. The rich funds of the "Bismarckspende" [money collection for B.] were used to purchase the estate of Schönhausen, which had been lost to the Bismarck family in 1830, and which now was presented to him.
Bismarck is tall, his marrowy stature, his high forehead, his sharply developed facial features, the vivid look emanating from strongly protruding eyes under bushy eyebrows permit to recognize the spirited, powerful personality by its outward features. By knightly exercise he has strengthened his body since the days of his youth, riding and hunting always were his favorite form of relaxation. His bodily and spiritual powers are subordinate to his will; even in the moments of greatest excitement he remains calm and cool, his deep sentiment, the passion of his strong personality only rarely become apparent to the public. As a speaker Bismarck has to struggle with the sheer number of the ideas flowing to him, often he seems to get stuck in a speech, because he chooses his words with cautious care, which are to express his views in the most precise manner, and which do not express more than he intends to. Therefore his speeches make a greater impression on the reader than on the person listening to them. Because of the power of the ideas expressed in them, because of the fresh clarity with which the former are presented, spiced with humour, they have an impact far beyond the circle whom they address. Bismarcks wife, Princess Johanna von Bismarck, born von Puttkamer, was born on April 11th 1824. The marriage, which was concluded on July 28th 1847, produced three children : Countess Marie, born on April 21st 1848, since 1878 married to Legate Count Rantzau, Count Herbert, born on December 28th 1849, undersecretary of state in the Foreign Office, and often charged with important diplomatic missions, and Count Wilhelm, born on August 1st 1852, Counselor in Hanau.
See : Hesekiel, Das Buch des Fürsten von Bismarck, 3rd ed., Bielefeld 1873, L. Bamberger, Herr von Bismarck, Breslau 1868, Vilbort, L'oeuvre de Monsieur de Bismarck, Paris 1869 (German trsl. Berlin 1870), Klee, Fürst Bismarck und unsre Zeit, Berlin 1879, von Köppen, Fürst Bismarck, der deutsche Reichskanzler, Leipzig 1875, Hahn, Fürst Bismarck (collection of his speeches, his publications of state etc.), Berlin 1878, 3 vols., and his smaller publication "Zwanzig Jahre, 1862-1882", Berlin 1883. M. Busch, Graf Bismarck und seine Leute während des Kriegs mit Frankreich, Leipzig 1878, 2 vols., M. Busch, Unser Reichskanzler, Berlin 1884, W. Müller, Reichskanzler Fürst Bismarck, Stuttgart 1881, von Poschinger, Preussen im Bundestag, Leipzig 1882-1884, 4 vols., Bismarck nach dem Kriege, anonymous, Berlin 1883. A complete edition of his speeches since 1847 was edited by Böhm, Stuttgart 1885, the "Reden in den Parlamenten 1847-1851" by Riedel (2nd ed. Berlin 1885), "Ausgewählte Reden Bismarcks 1862 bis 1881" were published in 3 volumes, Berlin 1877-1881.

source in German, posted by Retro Bibliothek


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First posted on June 1st 2009

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