Bismarck's policies. While when he was Chancellor, Bismarcks main aim will have been to maintain a strong German Empire, eradicating certain opponents within the Empire and keeping peace in Europe. These aims are reflected in his policies between
On the 23rd September 1862, Bismarck was appointed Minister president and foreign minister of Prussia under King Wilhelm I. and in 1871 he became the first chancellor of the German Empire. During his time as Minister president Bismarck wanted to create a dominant state of Prussia, which was stronger than Austria and had more influence in the German states. Unifying the German states may only have been a way to achieve this. While when he was Chancellor, Bismarck’s main aim will have been to maintain a strong German Empire, eradicating certain opponents within the Empire and keeping peace in Europe. These aims are reflected in his policies between 1862 and 1890.
Bismarck’s first action when he came into power in 1862, was the Iron & Blood Speech, held to the General assembly to convince them of King Wilhelm’s plan of increasing the military budget. Bismarck’s aim of convincing the assembly succeeded and through this he manifested his position as minister president and also managed to increase Prussia’s military power.
The 1867 Zollverein constitution provided for a federal council of customs, the Zollbundesrat, which was comprised of personal representatives of the several rulers and an elected customs parliament Zollparlarment. This was a success for Bismarck because it meant that Prussia gained more influence in the German states through both bodies.
Bismarck’s intentions of making Prussia the single most dominant German state are evident in the German Confederation of 1867. The confederation united the 22 states, which had helped Prussia defeat Austria. Although the states kept their main governments their military forces were now controlled by the federal government, which meant that Prussia gained more influence, as the executive power was the King of Prussia and the federal Chancellor was Bismarck. Therefore Prussia basically controlled the military forces of the other states and the Confederation was a success because Prussia’s power grew and Austria was completely eliminated from Germany.
By 1871 Bismarck created the “German Empire”, which consisted of four Kingdoms, 18 lesser states, the territory of Lorraine and three city states. The creation of the German Empire was a success for Bismarck because it meant that Bismarck had achieved his aim as Prussian Minister President as he had managed to isolate the German states from Austrian influence and made Prussia the dominant German state, as Prussia had over 60% of the German territory and 247.7 million out of the 41 million people in Germany.
After Bismarck became German Chancellor in 1871, one of the first things he did was side with the National liberals who were the dominant force in the Reichstag with 125 out of 397 seats. The liberals were opposed to institutions that limited the freedom of the individual. Therefore they were perfect for Bismarck’s position in the Kulturkampf in which he fought against the Catholic Church. The Papal Infallibility introduced in 1970 stated that the Pope, as God’s representative on earth,was inevitably correct. This undermined the authority of states and meant that Bismarck had to act. Bismarck’s aims during the Kulturkampf were to diplomatically become friendlier with the Russians, who themselves had troubles with Catholic Poles as well as the anti-clerical Italians and the national liberals. By distancing himself further from the Catholics through the cutting of relationships with the Vatican in May 1872 and the the abolishment of the Jesuit Order in July of the same year, he probably achieved this. His main aim during the Kulturkampf was to oppose the “Reichsfeinde” in the German Empire, so the Catholics. Bismarck limited the power of the Catholic Church through the ban of excommunication and the compulsory civil marriage. However most radical was that Bismarck brought the inspection of Church school as well as Clerical appointments under state control. Although Bismarck managed to limit the Catholic Church’s influence through the May Laws, he didn’t achieve his aims. The Catholic Church thrived spiritually and the anti-Catholic image Bismarck created, threatened to endanger relationships with Austria increasing the chance of a Franco-Austrian cooperation. Bismarck drew the Catholics even closer to Papal authority and therefore he seized the next best opportunity to abandon many of the May Laws in 1878 and the dismissal of the symbolic figure behind these laws, Adalbert Falk in 1879, when a less radical pope was elected (LEO XIII). Furthermore Bismarck had to witness the Central Party becoming more popular. While they only had 61 seats in 1871 they increased to 91 by 1874 and then to 93 by 1873. However C. Robertson suggests that “Bismarck deliberately sacrificed victory in the Kulturkampf to victory in other issues, more important in his judgement”. Part of this could have been to show the Central Party as a purely religious party, which could helpful later on.
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After the “Great Depression” of 1873, calls became louder for protectionist policies. This lead Bismarck to change sides from the now weaker liberals to the conservatives. By 1881 the National Liberals only had 47 seats left, while the German Conservatives had 78 by 1884. The introduction to protectionist policies and the increasing amount of cartels in the 1870s and 1880s as well as fundings from the French payments increased German industry production e.g. the coal production in Germany increased from 38 million tons in 1870 to 89 million tons in 1880. Also Germany increasingly broke into other markets.
In October 1878 Bismarck introduced the Anti-Socialist Laws, which banned any group or meeting aiming to spread social principles, outlawed trade unions and closed 45 newspapers. Bismarck also attempted to take the socialists agenda away by creating social policies. In 1883, medical insurance and sick pensions were established and in 1889, old pensions were introduced. Considering it was Bismarck’s aim to eradicate socialism from the German Empire, this attempt was similarly successful as the Kulturkampf was. Between 1884 and 1890 the members of the Social Democratic Party increased from 550,000 to 1,427,000. Some historians such as Erich Eyck believe that his social policy was a fraud, only seeking short term advantage. This is supported by the elections, which showed the socialists having 35 seats by 1890, which was more than ever and therefore portrays this policy as a failure. However other historians such as A.J.P Taylor view the policies as being successful in a different aspect, that the working class was obedient to the state until 1914, hence his policies eliminated the threat of working class opposition.
Bismarck began his foreign policies with the Alvensleben Convention in 1863. Bismarck sent General Alvensleben to St. Petersburg to allow Russian troops to pass through Prussian territory in pursuit of Polish rebels, which improved the relationship between the two countries.
On the 1st February 1864, the Austrian and Prussian armies invaded Denmark. This however led to a dispute about who was to gain which territory. In general the war with Denmark was a success for Bismarck because it meant Prussian expansion. The issue of who gained which territory was resolved at the Gastein Convention on August 20th 1865. Prussia would administer Schleswig while, Austria received Holstein. However as Holstein was located between Schleswig to the north and Prussia to the south, Austria’s influence was very limited. This was a success for Bismarck because he managed to gain territory, while Austria only had limited influence over the territory it gained, especially as the Dutchies were admitted to the Zollverein of which Austria wasn’t part.
The Austro-Prussian war of 1866 was a success for Bismarck. He managed to demonstrate Prussia’s strength to the rest of Europe. He defeated his great rivals, the Austrians and also gained the territory Schleswig. Furthermore it led to the complete dominance of Prussia within the German confederation. Bismarck managed to ensure that the other great powers supported Prussia or at least stayed neutral. The meeting at Biarritz with Napoleon III. meant that France would remain neutral, however the terms of this aren’t known.
The war lead to the Treaty of Prague on the 23rd August 1866, where Bismarck told William I. to be lenient with Austria. This was a strategically intelligent move, which payed off during the Franco-Prussian war. Furthermore the German Confederation was formed and Austria excluded from the German states. This was a success because it was the ultimate victory Bismarck’s over the Austrians as Prussia was now the single dominant state in Germany.
In 1866 and 1867, Bismarck incorporated Luxembourg into the Zollverein, after France offered William III. 5,000,000 guilders to be annexed. As Prussia had a garrison in Luxembourg they declined. Bismarck managed to keep his control over Luxembourg, after the issue was resolved in the London Conference and France didn’t annex Luxembourg but Luxembourg remained in the Zollverein. This obvious success for Bismarck increased the tensions between France and Prussia.
When Queen Isabella abdicated her throne in 1868, a member of the Hohenzollern dynasty was approached as her successor. However France, hearing of this quickly pressured King Wilhelm to promise that never again would there be such a candidature. Bismarck managed to release a press-edit version of the conversation the King had with the French ambassador as the Ems Telegram. Bismarck managed to further increase the hostilities between the two states, which led to war on 19th July 1970, which was probably also Bismarck’s aim and which makes the telegram a success.
The Franco-Prussian war (19th July 1870- 19th May 1871) and the resulting Treaty of Frankfurt, were another success for Bismarck. He demonstrated to the rest of Europe Prussia’s power and the German unity. Furthermore Prussia gained Alsace-Lorraine, which was a success for Bismarck as German nationalists had long seen the Alsace-Lorraine as being part of Germany.
After Bismarck became Chancellor of the German Empire in 1871 the aims of his foreign policies changed. His principles of expanding turned into developing what had been acquired. This is shown in his quote “When we have arrived in a good harbour, we should be content to cultivate and hold what we have won”. This is also evident when looking at the wars he fought, before the unification of Germany Bismarck fought three wars, while after the unification he didn’t fight any.
On the 22nd October 1873 the Dreikaiserbund was settled, which was an understanding between Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany. The Dreikaiserbund was a success for Bismarck in the sense that none of the other two countries could ally with France, which undoubtedly was his intention. Furthermore it was a union against forces such as nationalism and liberalism and as A.J.P Taylor suggests it could “prevent a conflict between Austria-Hungary and Russia in the Eastern Question”. Therefore the Dreikaiserbund was successful in ensuring peace in Europe and making sure Germany was one of three in a Europe of five great powers.
However the Dreikaiserbund was always a superficial agreement, which can be seen through Austria’s long refusal to agree to any military features and the superficiality is also obvious in the “war in sight” crisis. Bismarck decided that a Republican French government would be the best solution, however a rise in royalist support and signs of French military preparation led to Bismarck letting threats of a preventative war circle. This was topped by the article “Is war in sight” in the Berliner Post on 9th April 1875. Both Britain and France protested in Berlin, which again demonstrated the weak of the bond between Germany and Russia.
The second event which showed the weakness of the Dreikaiserbund was the Eastern Crisis in which Austria-Hungary and Russia had a dispute about the San Stefano Settlement from which Russian client states were created. The Dreikaiserbund failed to be strong enough to prevent hostilities between Russia and Austria-Hungary and therefore the Congress ob Berlin had to solve the dispute. This maneuver of Bismarck prevented war, however it created hostilities with Russia who thought they had been unfairly treated as the San Stefano Settlement was annulated. Therefore the Dreikaiserbund was a success because it meant that neither Prussia nor Austria allied with France, however the agreement was weak and led to hostilities with Russia, which limits its success.
To possibly scare the Russians out of their diplomatic hostilities toward Germany, Bismarck set up the Dual Alliance with Austria-Hungary in 1879. This alliance meant that Germany had an ally in the case of Russian attack and when in 1882, the Dual alliance became the Triple Alliance through the joining of Italy, Germany had another ally. The alliances were only limitedly a success for Bismarck as Germany gained a valuable ally against France, with Italy, which was a success of the Triple Alliance, however Germany was also drawn into Eastern Europe, through the alliance of Austria with Serbia and Romania, in which Bismarck had no interest as seen in his statement, that no Balkan issue was “worth the healthy bones of a single Pomeranian musketeer”.
The Dreikaiserbund was renewed in 1881 due to Russia being scared of diplomatic isolation. However another crisis arose in 1886 between Russia and Austria-Hungary in Eastern matters. Bismarck had to act quickly and signed the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia, which stated that both countries were to stay neutral in case of a dispute with a third power, which wasn’t true if Germany attacked France or Russia attacked Austria-Hungary. This inhibited the acute danger of an Austro-Russian war, and put Bismarck into the position of being able to decide between which of the powers he would support in case of war.
When Bismarck decided to engage in the Scramble for Africa, particularly in the years 1884-1885 he probably did this to seek new sources of raw materials and consumers for German manufactured goods. However this episode of Bismarck’s foreign policies turned out to be a disappointment because there were not as many natural resources as anticipated with the exception of diamonds in South-West Africa and the population there wasn’t strong enough or developed enough to be potential customers of German manufactured goods.
Otto von Bismarck managed to unite Germany during his time as Minister President of President of Prussia and was successful in making Germany/Prussia one of the great powers in Europe as well as eliminating Austria from Germany. During the period from 1962 to 1971 Bismarck’s foreign policies were comparably successful to his domestic policies. However during his time as German Chancellor his domestic policies weren’t as successful because he didn’t achieve many of his aims such as eradicating socialism, while he fulfilled his primary foreign aim of keeping peace in Europe. Therefore overall his foreign policies between 1962 and 1990 were more successful than his domestic policies.