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

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Bismarck’s policies

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.


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