1849-1862 1871-1918

Prussia 1862-1871

Administration . King Wilhelm II. (1848-1888), chancellor Otto von Bismarck (1862-1890).

Foreign Policy . In 1862, Otto von Bismarck was appointed Prussian chancellor. In the Blood- and Iron Speech he announced his program of doubling the army (and the bidget for the army) and achieving German unification by waging war. The speech was criticized and even mocked, as the financing of an increased army budget (by a Prussian state with huge debt and a chronically deficitary budget) was regarded as unrealistic as military success in wars waged with other great powers.
In 1864, allied Prussia and Austria defeated Denmark, which ceded Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg; Schleswig, Lauenburg and Kiel came under Prussian administration. In the Seven Weeks War 1866, Prussia defeated Austria and her German allies, annexed Hannover, Hessen-Kassel, Nassau and Frankfurt, as well as Schleswig-Holstein. The German Federation was dissolved, a Northern German Federation under Prussian leadership established instead. In 1870-1871, Prussia and her German Allies defeated France in the Franco-German War; Germany was unified, with King Wilhelm II. of Prussia as Emperor Wilhelm I., with Bismarck as chancellor and with Berlin as capital.

The Prussian Cabinet amd Domestic Policy . Bismarck declared his intention to rule without approval of the Abgeordnetenhaus and without a budget. The Beamtenerlass (decree on civil servants) required the latter to act loyally toward the crown; it permitted reprimanding critical state servants. A draft of a law according to which ministers were to be held responsible to parliament failed to gain the majority of the votes (1863); when the Abgeordnetenhaus in May 1863 demanded Bismarck and his cabinet to step down, the Abgeordnetenhaus was dissolved. Bismarck decreed a press ordinnance which enabled him to close down oppositional newspapers. Bismarck, who supported the Russian policy in Poland, was extremely unpopular.
Elections to the Abgeordnetenhaus in Oct. 1863, despite measures taken by the Prussian administration to silence critics, strengthened the opposition; liberal parties held c. 70 % of the seats. The Abgeordnetenhaus rejected the war credits requested for the German-Danish War 1864. The success of Bismarck's policy began to have an effect on public opinion. The Austro-Prussian War, also refered to as the Deutsch-Deutscher Bruderkrieg (German-German fraternal war), was a strain on national identity (in Prussia, there were many who, until then, desired a Greater Germany). Quick military victories, achieved with minimal investment, the lenient treatment given to Austria, and, most of all, visible success of the policy toward German unification - in the establishment of the North German Confederation, resulted in the emergence of a national liberal movement, which supported Bismarck (foundation of National Liberal Party 1868). Elections held in fall 1865 still returned a strong liberal majority; elections held in 1866 (the Abgeordnetenhaus was frequently dissolved) saw the conservatives replacing the Fortschrittspartei as Prussia's strongest party.

The Formation of Political Parties . In 1863, Ferdinand Lassalle founded the Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein, a party organization which accepted membership in Prussia and the minor and medium-size German states, but not in Austria; Bismarck was in communication with Lassalle. In 1869, August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht founded the Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei, which not only ideologically differed from Lassalle's Arbeiterverein, but also was 'Greater German, in accepting members from Austria. Wilhelm Liebknecht was a Berliner. Ferdinand Lassalle died in 1864.

The Economy . In 1862 Prussia and France signed a trade agreement based on the principle of free trade.
In Dec. 1863 Prussia cancelled the Zollverein Treaty, effective Dec. 1865, (knowing that without Prussia there would be no Zollverein). The government of Württemberg, which supported an Austrian entry, gave in; in 1864 a new Zollverein treaty was signed, on a free trade basis within member states. In 1865, the Zollverein signed a trade agreement with Austria.
The economy, booming between 1862 and 1865, entered a brief recession in 1866; boom resumed in 1867. In 1868, Rhine tolls were abolished. The North German Confederation (since 1867) in 1868 established Gewerbefreiheit (freedom of (choice of) trade). In 1869 a Gewerbeordnung (industry regulations) permitted the formation of labour unions, as well as the right tp strike.
Prussia experienced ongoing population growth, rapid urbanization, emigration. 1865 legislation liberalized the mining industry. Nikolaus Otto, a native of Cologne in the Rhine Province, was awarded a gold medal on the Paris World Exhibition 1867 for his highly efficient model of an internal combustion engine (most modern cars still use engines derived from Otto's invention).
The annexation of Frankfurt meant Frankfurt's stock exchange, with its roots in the 16th century, became Prussia's leading bourse. In 1870 the Deutsche Bank was founded.

Culture . In 1867 the Prussian Ministry of Culture permitted philosophical and medical faculties of universities to accept doctoral theses written in German (instead of Latin).
In 1864-1869, zoologist Alfred Brehm published Brehm's Tierleben (Brehm's Life of Animals, 6 volumes). In 1870, Heinrich Schliemann began with his excavations in Asia Minor and Greece; he was to excavate Troy, Mycenae, Tiryns and Orchomenos.

Historical Encyclopedia Entries on Bismarck 1878-1886

Geschichte der Deutschen Bank, from Bankgeschichte, in German
Ferdinand Lassalle, from EB 1911, from SPD Berlin, in German
Biography Wilhelm Liebknecht, from DHM, in German
Otto von Bismarck, from German Embassy, India, from Otto von Bismarck-Stiftung, in German
Mehr national als liberal. Vom Zerfall der Fortschrittspartei bis zur Grundung der DDP (More national than liberal. From Disintegration of the Fortschrittspartei to the foundation of the DDP), from Zur Geschichte des Deutschen Liberalismus, by Udo Leuschner, in German
Article Fortschrittspartei, from Net Lexikon, in German
Deutsche Geschichte von 1849-1871 (German History 1849-1871), from Glasnost Berlin, in German
Nationalliberale Partei, from LSG, in German
DOCUMENTS Rulers of Prussia, from World Statesmen by Ben Cahoon
Excerpt of Bismarck's Memoires, posted by Hanover Historical Texts Project
REFERENCE Hans-Joachim Schoeps, Preussen, Geschichte eines Staates, Berlin : Propyläen 1966, in German [G]
Institut für Geschichte der Deutschen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, ed., Deutsche Geschichte in Daten, Berlin (Ost) : Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften 1967 [G]
Article : Prussia, in : The American Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events 1863 p.776 [G]

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First posted on May 8th 2004, last revised on October 28th 2007

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