Essay on Prussia and Bismarck

Submitted By wizardking09
Words: 3056
Pages: 13

Bismarck and German unity
Bismarck who earned the nickname “the Iron Chancellor” has been credited to the state of modern Germany but never really ruled it. He orchestrated the formation of the German Empire in 1871 - and by doing so completely altered the course of European and world history since then. He was not charismatic or a great speaker. He had no military credentials, led no political party, had no great wealth, and served at the whim of three different emperors. And yet, he dominated Germany and Europe as few have before or since. He controlled his contemporaries so completely that most of them described him as a ‘tyrant’.
Otto Van Bismarck was born April 1st 1815, son of mother Wilhelmine von Bismarck, and father Ferdinand, a Prussian landowner. He studied at Gottingen and Berlin, and after holding minor administrative offices he was elected to the Prussian Landtag in 1847. While in the Landtag, he advocated the unification of Germany under the aegis of Prussia, and was opposed to the liberal movements. He gained the position of ambassador to St. Petersburg, in 1859, and soon after became the ambassador to Paris in 1862. There he would gain much insight and experience that would determine his future policies.
In 1848 and 1849, the reformers of Germany, as of other countries, had made a vigorous effort to effect real changes in the political institutions of their country and to introduce parliamentary democracy . But their success proved to be short-lived and by 1850, the old institutions were once more solidly established in their old positions. In place of the Frankfort parliament, that had earnestly been trying for German unity so long, the old Diet of 1815 resumed its sessions from 1851 and devoted its attention to the removal of the ‘debris ‘ left by the revolutionary hurricane that had just swept by. The King of Prussia, Frederick William IV had granted a constitution and created a parliament during the recent convulsion but it soon became evident that he had no intention of establishing the parliamentary system as it had been developed in England. No new taxes or laws might be passed without the consent of the new chamber but old ones could be continued without that consent. The chamber had no control whatever over the ministry. Such a parliament, therefore, instead of being able to prevent reaction, itself became one of the instruments of reaction. The reaction and even repression, in many forms, followed soon. Abuses of power became frequent. Even reactionaries felt the pinch at times. Bismarck , who was then a diplomat, wrote his wife :” I cannot write you much about politics, for all letters are opened. Do not forget, when you write to me, that your letters are not read simply by myself but are also read at the post office, by spies of every description: be always prudent in your remarks.” The governing forces were the king and the landed nobility, called the ‘Junkers’. Bismarck himself was a junker but he later called them the “ pariahs of modern civilization”, hide-bound conservatives, seeped in the ideas of old feudalism. The House of Lords was now one of their seats of power. Its members, indignant at the earlier freeing of their serfs, succeeded in regaining old rights such as police power on their estates. They had a monopoly of the higher grades in the army. All these measures irritated various classes of society and unrest was the ominous result. The period from 1849 to 1858 was one of the saddest in the history of Prussia. But there also appeared signs of the dawning of a new day. The economic evolution of the country was proceeding quietly and that evolution tended directly towards liberty, because it meant the transformation of Germany from an agricultural and feudal nation into a great industrial one. This economic