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  • O

    style='font-size:31.5pt;font-family:ATClassicRoman;color:black'>TTO VON BISMARC KAND GERMAN UNIFICATION

     

    BISMARCKS STATECRAFT

    Otto von Bismarck (181598) was the great architect of German unification.

    It is often assumed that since he successfully guided Prussias course of action,

    74

    he had a carefully worked-out plan that achieved unification. Bismarck had a

    clear conception of his goals but was flexible in the means he took to achieve

    them. He did not plan wars but waged them only when diplomatic alternatives

    were exhausted. The so-called Iron Chancellor was a conservative statesman

    who believed that the state was the major agent of history and that all of history

    was directed by God. Bismarck took the raison détat as the guiding star

    of his diplomacy, which has been called Realpolitik. As a statesman he was no

    opportunist but was flexible in the conduct of policy while holding strong ultimate

    goals. Pertinent here was his absolute aim to preserve the dominant position

    of the monarchy. That did not mean that he favored an autocratic king

    who suppressed his nobility and people. He believed that the nobility were the

    strongest possible supporters for the monarchy. He actually favored popular

    participation in the affairs of state and even criticism, but it was the kings prerogative

    to control the army and direct foreign policy. He was opposed to German

    nationalism as it was advocated by liberals and parliamentarians, and

    deeply resented the efforts of the National Assembly in 1848 to achieve German

    unification by democratic means. The only reform of the German Confederation

    that Bismarck would accept was that which would not change the

    character of the Prussian monarchy. As far as war was concerned he was not a

    warmonger and did not consider war lightheartedly. Rather it was a natural

    part of life and acceptable in accomplishing his political goals. He was opposed

    Otto von Bismarck and German Unification 75

    Napoleon III and

    Bismarck, after a

    painting by

    Camphausen (Library

    of Congress)

    to preventive war and wars for prestige but considered wars for the honor of

    the state to be acceptable.

    Bismarcks political conservatism found its ultimate sanction in the Christian

    faith. He was opposed to whatever the French Revolution had birthed, as

    his mentor Leopold von Gerlach had held. For Bismarck patriotism meant subordination

    of all principles and sentiments to the interests of the state. Bismarck

    was willing to accept the German Confederation as insurance against revolution,

    but he was opposed to Prussian cooperation with Austria. Finally, it probably

    was in Bismarcks dealings with Napoleon III of France that he announced

    a modification of his position on foreign policy to a belief that principles could

    be changed. His firm adherence, however, to the principle of legitimacy gave

    Prussian policy continuity.

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