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Title: Bismarck and the Foundation of the German Empire
Author: Headlam, James Wycliffe, 1863-1929
Language: English
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The greater portion of the following pages were completed before the
death of Prince Bismarck; I take this opportunity of apologising to the
publishers and the editor of the series, for the unavoidable delay which
has caused publication to be postponed for a year.

During this period, two works have appeared to which some reference is
necessary. The value of Busch's _Memoirs_ has been much exaggerated;
except for quite the last years of Bismarck's life they contain little
new information which is of any importance. Not only had a large portion
of the book already been published in Busch's two earlier books, but
many of the anecdotes and documents in those parts which were new had
also been published elsewhere.

Bismarck's own _Memoirs_ have a very different value: not so much
because of the new facts which they record, but because of the light
they throw on Bismarck's character and on the attitude he adopted
towards men and political problems. With his letters and speeches, they
will always remain the chief source for our knowledge of his inner life.

The other authorities are so numerous that it is impossible here to
enumerate even the more important. I must, however, express the
gratitude which all students of Bismarck's career owe to Horst Kohl; in
his _Bismarck-Regesten_ he has collected and arranged the material so as
infinitely to lighten the labours of all others who work in the same
field. His _Bismarck-Jahrbuch_ is equally indispensable; without this it
would be impossible for anyone living in England to use the innumerable
letters, documents, and anecdotes which each year appear in German
periodicals. Of collections of documents and letters, the most important
are those by Herr v. Poschinger, especially the volumes containing the
despatches written from Frankfort and those dealing with Bismarck's
economic and financial policy. A full collection of Bismarck's
correspondence is much wanted; there is now a good edition of the
private letters, edited by Kohl, but no satisfactory collection of the
political letters.

For diplomatic history between 1860 and 1870, I have, of course, chiefly
depended on Sybel; but those who are acquainted with the recent course
of criticism in Germany will not be surprised if, while accepting his
facts, I have sometimes ventured to differ from his conclusions.

September, 1899. J.W.H.


BIRTH AND PARENTAGE..................................... 1

EARLY LIFE, 1821-1847.................................. 14

THE REVOLUTION, 1847-1852.............................. 34

THE GERMAN PROBLEM, 1849-1852.......................... 70

FRANKFORT, 1851-1857................................... 86

ST. PETERSBURG AND PARIS, 1858-1862................... 127

THE CONFLICT, 1862-1863............................... 162

SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN, 1863-1864......................... 192

THE TREATY OF GASTEIN, 1864-1865................... ...226

OUTBREAK OF WAR WITH AUSTRIA, 1865-1866................240

THE CONQUEST OF GERMANY, 1866..........................259


THE OUTBREAK OF WAR WITH FRANCE, 1867-1870.............315

THE EMPIRE, 1870-1871..................................346

THE NEW EMPIRE, 1871-1878..............................377


RETIREMENT AND DEATH, 1887-1898........................440



BISMARCK _Frontispiece_
[From a painting by F. Von Lenbach.]

BISMARCK'S COAT OF ARMS..................................2

SCHÖNHAUSEN CHURCH--INTERIOR.............................6

LUISE WILHELMINE VON BISMARCK...........................10
Bismarck's Mother.

KARL WILHELM FERD. VON BISMARCK.........................12
Bismarck's Father.

BISMARCK IN 1834........................................18

SCHÖNHAUSEN CASTLE......................................26

BISMARCK IN 1848........................................66

PRINCESS BISMARCK.......................................88

BISMARCK IN 1860.......................................130

GENERAL VON ROON.......................................140

EMPEROR WILLIAM I......................................162

EMPEROR FRANCIS JOSEPH.................................194

[From a painting by F. Von Lenbach.]

GENERAL VON MOLTKE.....................................248

THE CAPITULATION OF SEDAN..............................250
[From a painting by Anton Von Werner.]

BISMARCK AND HIS DOGS..................................288

AFTER THE BATTLE OF SEDAN..............................352
[From a painting by Wilhelm Camphausen.]

OF GERMANY, VERSAILLES, JANUARY 18, 1871...............370
[From a painting by Anton Von Werner.]

LOUIS ADOLPHE THIERS...................................372


THE CONGRESS OF BERLIN, 1878...........................406
[From a painting by Anton Von Werner.]

[From a photograph by Strumper & Co., Hamburg.]

EMPEROR FREDERICK......................................446


[Where Bismarck's Mausoleum will be erected.]





Otto Eduard Leopold Von Bismarck was born at the manor-house of
Schoenhausen, in the Mark of Brandenburg, on April 1, 1815. Just a month
before, Napoleon had escaped from Elba; and, as the child lay in his
cradle, the peasants of the village, who but half a year ago had
returned from the great campaign in France, were once more called to
arms. A few months passed by; again the King of Prussia returned at the
head of his army; in the village churches the medals won at Waterloo
were hung up by those of Grossbehren and Leipzig. One more victory had
been added to the Prussian flags, and then a profound peace fell upon
Europe; fifty years were to go by before a Prussian army again marched
out to meet a foreign foe.

The name and family of Bismarck were among the oldest in the land. Many
of the great Prussian statesmen have come from other countries: Stein
was from Nassau, and Hardenberg was a subject of the Elector of Hanover;
even Blücher and Schwerin were Mecklenburgers, and the Moltkes belong to
Holstein. The Bismarcks are pure Brandenburgers; they belong to the old
Mark, the district ruled over by the first Margraves who were sent by
the Emperor to keep order on the northern frontier; they were there two
hundred years before the first Hohenzollern came to the north.

The first of the name of whom we hear was Herbort von Bismarck, who, in
1270, was Master of the Guild of the Clothiers in the city of Stendal.
The town had been founded about one hundred years before by Albert the
Bear, and men had come in from the country around to enjoy the
privileges and security of city life. Doubtless Herbort or his father
had come from Bismarck, a village about twenty miles to the west, which
takes its name either from the little stream, the Biese, which runs near
it, or from the bishop in whose domain it lay. He was probably the first
to bear the name, which would have no meaning so long as he remained in
his native place, for the _von_ was still a mark of origin and had not
yet become the sign of nobility. Other emigrants from Bismarck seem also
to have assumed it; in the neighbouring town of Prenzlau the name
occurs, and it is still found among the peasants of the Mark; as the
Wends were driven back and the German invasion spread, more adventurous
colonists migrated beyond the Oder and founded a new Bismarck in

Of the lineage of Herbort we know nothing[1]; his ancestors must have
been among the colonists who had been planted by the Emperors on the
northern frontier to occupy the land conquered from the heathen. He
seems himself to have been a man of substance and position; he already
used the arms, the double trefoil, which are still borne by all the
branches of his family. His descendants are often mentioned in the
records of the Guild; his son or grandson, Rudolph or Rule, represented
the town in a conflict with the neighbouring Dukes of Brunswick. It was
his son Nicolas, or Claus as he is generally called, who founded the
fortunes of the family; he attached himself closely to the cause of the
Margrave, whom he supported in his troubles with the Duke of Brunswick,
and whose interests he represented in the Town Council. He was amply
rewarded for his fidelity. After a quarrel between the city and the
Prince, Bismarck left his native home and permanently entered the
service of the Margrave. Though probably hitherto only a simple citizen,
he was enfiefed with the castle of Burgstall, an important post, for it
was situated on the borders of the Mark and the bishopric of Magdeburg;
he was thereby admitted into the privileged class of the
_Schlossgesessenen_, under the Margrave, the highest order in the feudal
hierarchy. From that day the Bismarcks have held their own among the
nobility of Brandenburg. Claus eventually became Hofmeister of
Brandenburg, the chief officer at the Court; he had his quarrels with
the Church, or rather with the spiritual lords, the bishops of Havelburg
and Magdeburg, and was once excommunicated, as his father had been
before him, and as two of his sons were after him.

Claus died about the year 1385. For two hundred years the Bismarcks
continued to live at Burgstall, to which they added many other estates.
When Conrad of Hohenzollern was appointed Margrave and Elector, he found
sturdy supporters in the lords of Burgstall; he and his successors often
came there to hunt the deer and wild boars, perhaps also the wolves
and bears, with which the forests around the castle abounded; for the
Hohenzollerns were keen sportsmen then as now, as their vassals found
to their cost. In 1555, Hans George, son of the reigning Elector,
Albert Achilles, bought the neighbouring estate of Letzlingen from
the Alvenslebens; there he built a house which is still the chief
hunting-lodge of the Kings of Prussia. Soon he cast envious eyes on the
great woods and preserves which belong to Burgstall, and intimated that
he wished to possess them. The Bismarcks resisted long. First they were
compelled to surrender their hunting rights; this was not sufficient;
the appetite of the Prince grew; in his own words he wished "to be rid
of the Bismarcks from the moor and the Tanger altogether." He offered in
exchange some of the monasteries which had lately been suppressed; the
Bismarcks (the family was represented by two pairs of brothers, who all
lived together in the great castle) long refused; they represented that
their ancestors had been faithful vassals; they had served the Electors
with blood and treasure; they wished "to remain in the pleasant place to
which they had been assigned by God Almighty." It was all of no use; the
Prince insisted, and his wrath was dangerous. The Bismarcks gave in;
they surrendered Burgstall and received in exchange Schoenhausen and
Crevisse, a confiscated nunnery, on condition that as long as the
ejected nuns lived the new lords should support them; for which purpose
the Bismarcks had annually to supply a certain quantity of food and
eighteen barrels of beer.

Of the four co-proprietors, all died without issue, except Friedrich,
called the Permutator, in whose hands the whole of the family property
was again collected; he went to live at Schoenhausen, which since then
has been the home of the family. No remains of the old castle exist, but
the church, built in the thirteenth century, is one of the oldest and
most beautiful in the land between the Havel and the Elbe. House and
church stand side by side on a small rising overlooking the Elbe. Here
they took up their abode; the family to some extent had come down in the
world. The change had been a disadvantageous one; they had lost in wealth
and importance. For two hundred years they played no very prominent part;
they married with the neighbouring country gentry and fought in all the
wars. Rudolph, Friedrich's son, fought in France in behalf of the
Huguenots, and then under the Emperor against the Turks. His grandson,
August, enlisted under Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar; afterwards he fought in
the religious wars in France and Germany, always on the Protestant
side; lastly, he took service under the Elector of Brandenburg.

It was in his lifetime that a great change began to take place which was
to alter the whole life of his descendants. In 1640, Frederick William,
known as the great Elector, succeeded his father. He it was who laid the
foundations for that system of government by which a small German
principality has grown to be the most powerful military monarchy in
modern Europe. He held his own against the Emperor; he fought with the
Poles and compelled their King to grant him East Prussia; he drove the
Swedes out of the land. More than this, he enforced order in his own
dominions; he laid the foundation for the prosperity of Berlin; he
organised the administration and got together a small but efficient
military force. The growing power of the Elector was gained to a great
extent at the expense of the nobles; he took from them many of the
privileges they had before enjoyed. The work he began was continued by
his son, who took the title of King; and by his grandson, who invented
the Prussian system of administration, and created the army with which
Frederick the Great fought his battles.

The result of the growth of the strong, organised monarchy was indeed
completely to alter the position of the nobles. The German barons in the
south had succeeded in throwing off the control of their territorial
lords; they owned no authority but the vague control of the distant
Emperor, and ruled their little estates with an almost royal
independence; they had their own laws, their own coinage, their own
army. In the north, the nobles of Mecklenburg Holstein, and Hanover
formed a dominant class, and the whole government of the State was in
their hands; but those barons whose homes fell within the dominion of
the Kings of Prussia found themselves face to face with a will and a
power stronger than their own; they lost in independence, but they
gained far more than they lost. They were the basis on which the State
was built up; they no longer wasted their military prowess in
purposeless feuds or in mercenary service; in the Prussian army and
administration they found full scope for their ambition, and when the
victories of Frederick the Great had raised Prussia to the rank of a
European Power, the nobles of Brandenburg were the most loyal of his
subjects. They formed an exclusive caste; they seldom left their homes;
they were little known in the south of Germany or in foreign countries;
they seldom married outside their own ranks. Their chief amusement was
the chase, and their chief occupation was war. And no king has ever had
under his orders so fine a race of soldiers; they commanded the armies
of Frederick and won his battles. Dearly did they pay for the greatness
of Prussia; of one family alone, the Kleists, sixty-four fell on the
field of battle during the Seven Years' War.

They might well consider that the State which they had helped to make,
and which they had saved by their blood, belonged to them. But if they
had become Prussians, they did not cease to be Brandenburgers; their
loyalty to their king never swerved, for they knew that he belonged to
them as he did to no other of his subjects. He might go to distant
Königsberg to assume the crown, but his home was amongst them; other
provinces might be gained or lost with the chances of war, but while a
single Hohenzollern lived he could not desert his subjects of the Mark.
They had the intense local patriotism so characteristic of the German
nation, which is the surest foundation for political greatness; but
while in other parts the Particularists, as the Germans called them,
aimed only at independence, the Brandenburger who had become a Prussian
desired domination.

Among them the Bismarcks lived. The family again divided into two
branches: one, which became extinct about 1780, dwelling at Crevisse,
gave several high officials to the Prussian Civil Service; the other
branch, which continued at Schoenhausen, generally chose a military
career. August's son, who had the same name as his father, rebuilt the
house, which had been entirely destroyed by the Swedes during the Thirty
Years' War; he held the position of Landrath, that is, he was the head
of the administration of the district in which he lived. He married a
Fräulein von Katte, of a well-known family whose estates adjoined those
of the Bismarcks. Frau von Bismarck was the aunt of the unfortunate
young man who was put to death for helping Frederick the Great in his
attempt to escape. His tomb is still to be seen at Wust, which lies
across the river a few miles from Schoenhausen; and at the new house,
which arose at Schoenhausen and still stands, the arms of the Kattes
are joined to the Bismarck trefoil. The successor to the estates, August
Friedrich, was a thorough soldier; he married a Fräulein von Diebwitz
and acquired fresh estates in Pomerania, where he generally lived.

He rose to the rank of colonel, and fell fighting against the Austrians
at Chotusitz in 1742. "Ein ganzer Kerl" (a fine fellow), said the King,
as he stood by the dying officer. His son, Carl Alexander, succeeded to
Schoenhausen; the next generation kept up the military traditions of the
family; of four brothers, all but one became professional officers and
fought against France in the wars of liberation. One fell at Möckern in
1813; another rose to the rank of lieutenant-general; the third also
fought in the war; his son, the later Count Bismarck-Bohlen, was wounded
at Grossbehren, and the father at once came to take his place during his
convalescence, in order that the Prussian army might not have fewer
Bismarcks. When the young Otto was born two years later, he would often
hear of the adventures of his three uncles and his cousin in the great
war. The latter, Bismarck-Bohlen, rose to very high honours and was to
die when over eighty years of age, after he had witnessed the next great
war with France. It is a curious instance of the divisions of Germany in
those days that there were Bismarcks fighting on the French side
throughout the war. One branch of the family had settled in South
Germany; the head of it, Friedrich Wilhelm, had taken service in the
Wurtemburg army; he had become a celebrated leader of cavalry and was
passionately devoted to Napoleon. He served with distinction in the
Russian campaign and was eventually taken prisoner by the Germans in the
battle of Leipzig.

The youngest of the four brothers, Karl Wilhelm Friedrich v. Bismarck,
had retired from the army at an early age: he was a quiet, kindly man of
domestic tastes; on the division of the estates, Schoenhausen fell to
his lot, and he settled down there to a quiet country life. He took a
step which must have caused much discussion among all his friends and
relations, for he chose as wife not one of his own rank, not a Kleist,
or a Katte, or a Bredow, or an Arnim, or an Alvensleben, or any other of
the neighbouring nobility; he married a simple Fräulein Mencken. She
was, however, of no undistinguished origin. Her father, the son of a
professor at the University of Leipzig, had entered the Prussian Civil
Service; there he had risen to the highest rank and had been Cabinet
Secretary to both Frederick William II. and Frederick III. He was a man
of high character and of considerable ability; as was not uncommon among
the officials of those days, he was strongly affected by the liberal and
even revolutionary doctrines of France.

Fräulein Mencken, who was married at the age of sixteen, was a clever
and ambitious woman. From her her son inherited his intellect; from
his father he derived what the Germans call _Gemüth_, geniality,
kindliness, humour. By his two parents he was thus connected with the
double foundation on which Prussia had been built: on his father's side
he had sprung from the fighting nobles; on his mother's, from the
scholars and officials. In later life we shall find that while his
prejudices and affections are all enlisted on the side of the noble,
the keen and critical intellect he had inherited from his mother enabled
him to overcome the prejudices of his order.

The early life of the young pair was not altogether fortunate. Several
children died at a very early age; the defeat of Prussia brought foreign
occupation; Schoenhausen was seized by French troopers; the marks of
their swords are still to be seen in a beam over one of the doors, and
Rittmeister v. Bismarck had to take his wife away into the woods in
order to escape their violence.

Of all the children of the marriage only three lived: Bernhard, who was
born in 1810, Otto, and one sister, Malvina, born in 1827.

Otto did not live at Schoenhausen long; when he was only a year old, his
father moved to Pomerania and settled on the estates Kniephof and Kulz,
which had come into the family on his grandfather's marriage. Pomerania
was at that time a favourite residence among the Prussian nobility; the
country was better wooded than the Mark, and game more plentiful; the
rich meadows, the wide heaths and forests were more attractive than the
heavy corn-lands and the sandy wastes of the older province. Here, in
the deep seclusion of country life, the boy passed his first years; it
was far removed from the bustle and turmoil of civilisation. Naugard,
the nearest town, was five miles distant; communication was bad, for it
was not till after 1815 that the Prussian Government began to construct
highroads. In this distant province, life went on as in the olden days,
little altered by the changes which had transformed the State. The
greater portion of the land belonged to large proprietors; the noble as
in old days was still all-powerful on his own estate; in his hands was
the administration of the law, and it was at his manorial court that men
had to seek for justice, a court where justice was dealt not in the name
of the King but of the Lord of the Manor. He lived among his people and
generally he farmed his own lands. There was little of the luxury of an
English country-house or the refinement of the French noblesse; he would
be up at daybreak to superintend the work in the fields, his wife and
daughters that of the household, talking to the peasants the pleasant
_Platt Deutsch_ of the countryside. Then there would be long rides or
drives to the neighbours' houses; shooting, for there was plenty of deer
and hares; and occasionally in the winter a visit to Berlin; farther
away, few of them went. Most of the country gentlemen had been to Paris,
but only as conquerors at the end of the great war.

They were little disturbed by modern political theories, but were
contented, as in old days, to be governed by the King. It was a
religious society; among the peasants and the nobles, if not among the
clergy, there still lingered something of the simple but profound faith
of German Protestantism; they were scarcely touched by the rationalism
of the eighteenth or by the liberalism of the nineteenth century; there
was little pomp and ceremony of worship in the village church, but the
natural periods of human life--birth, marriage, death--called for the
blessing of the Church, and once or twice a year came the solemn
confession and the sacrament. Religious belief and political faith were
closely joined, for the Church was but a department of the State; the
King was chief bishop, as he was general of the army, and the sanctity
of the Church was transferred to the Crown; to the nobles and peasants,
criticism of, or opposition to, the King had in it something of
sacrilege; the words "by the Grace of God" added to the royal title were
more than an empty phrase. Society was still organised on the old
patriarchal basis: at the bottom was the peasant; above him was the
_gnädiger Herr_; above him, _Unser allergnädigste Herr_, the King, who
lived in Berlin; and above him, the _Herr Gott_ in Heaven.

To the inhabitants of South Germany, and the men of the towns, these
nobles of Further Pomerania, the _Junker_ as they were called, with
their feudal life, their medieval beliefs, their simple monarchism, were
the incarnation of political folly; to them liberalism seemed another
form of atheism, but in this solitude and fresh air of the great plain
was reared a race of men who would always be ready, as their fathers had
been, to draw their sword and go out to conquer new provinces for their
King to govern.




Of the boy's early life we know little. His mother was ambitious for her
sons; Otto from his early years she designed for the Diplomatic Service;
she seems to have been one of those women who was willing to sacrifice
the present happiness of her children for their future advancement. When
only six years old the boy was sent away from home to a school in
Berlin. He was not happy there; he pined for the free life of the
country, the fields and woods and animals; when he saw a plough he would
burst into tears, for it reminded him of his home. The discipline of the
school was hard, not with the healthy and natural hardships of life in
the open air, but with an artificial Spartanism, for it was the time
when the Germans, who had suddenly awoke to feelings of patriotism and a
love of war to which they had long been strangers, under the influence
of a few writers, were throwing all their energies into the cultivation
of physical endurance. It was probably at this time that there was laid
the foundation of that dislike for the city of Berlin which Bismarck
never quite overcame; and from his earliest years he was prejudiced
against the exaggerated and affected Teutonism which was the fashion
after the great war. A few years later his parents came to live
altogether in the town; then the boy passed on to the Gymnasium,
boarding in the house of one of the masters. The teaching in this school
was supplemented by private tutors, and he learned at this time the
facility in the use of the English and French languages which in after
years was to be of great service to him. The education at school was of
course chiefly in the classical languages; he acquired a sufficient
mastery of Latin. There is no evidence that in later life he continued
the study of classical literature. In his seventeenth year he passed the
Abiturienten examination, which admitted him as a student to the
university and entitled him to the privilege of serving in the army for
one instead of three years. His leaving certificate tells us that his
conduct and demeanour towards his comrades and teachers were admirable,
his abilities considerable, and his diligence fair.

The next year he passed in the ordinary course to the university,
entering at Göttingen; the choice was probably made because of the
celebrity which that university had acquired in law and history. It is
said that he desired to enter at Heidelberg, but his mother refused her
permission, because she feared that he would learn those habits of
beer-drinking in which the students of that ancient seat of learning
have gained so great a proficiency; it was, however, an art which, as
he found, was to be acquired with equal ease at Göttingen. The young
Bismarck was at this time over six feet high, slim and well built, of
great physical strength and agility, a good fencer, a bold rider, an
admirable swimmer and runner, a very agreeable companion; frank,
cheerful, and open-hearted, without fear either of his comrades or of
his teachers. He devoted his time at Göttingen less to learning than to
social life; in his second term he entered the Corps of the Hanoverians
and was quickly noted for his power of drinking and fighting; he is
reported to have fought twenty-six duels and was only wounded once, and
that wound was caused by the breaking of his opponent's foil. He was
full of wild escapades, for which he was often subjected to the ordinary
punishments of the university.

To many Germans, their years at the university have been the
turning-point of their life; but it was not so with Bismarck. To those
who have been brought up in the narrow surroundings of civic life,
student days form the single breath of freedom between the discipline of
a school and the drudgery of an office. To a man who, like Bismarck, was
accustomed to the truer freedom of the country, it was only a passing
phase; as we shall see, it was not easy to tie him down to the drudgery
of an office. He did not even form many friendships which he continued
in later years; his associates in his corps must have been chiefly young
Hanoverians; few of his comrades in Prussia were to be found at
Göttingen; his knowledge of English enabled him to make the
acquaintance of the Americans and English with whom Göttingen has always
been a favourite university; among his fellow-students almost the only
one with whom in after life he continued the intimacy of younger days
was Motley. We hear little of his work; none of the professors seem to
have left any marked influence on his mind or character; indeed they had
little opportunity for doing so, for after the first term his attendance
at lectures almost entirely ceased. Though never a student, he must have
been at all times a considerable reader; he had a retentive memory and
quick understanding; he read what interested him; absorbed, understood,
and retained it. He left the university with his mind disciplined indeed
but not drilled; he had a considerable knowledge of languages, law,
literature, and history; he had not subjected his mind to the dominion
of the dominant Hegelian philosophy, and to this we must attribute that
freshness and energy which distinguishes him from so many of his ablest
contemporaries; his brain was strong, and it worked as easily and as
naturally as his body; his knowledge was more that of a man of the world
than of a student, but in later life he was always able to understand
the methods and to acquire the knowledge of the subjects he required in
his official career. History was his favourite study; he never
attempted, like some statesmen, to write; but if his knowledge of
history was not as profound as that of a professed historian, he was
afterwards to shew as a parliamentary debater that he had a truer
perception of the importance of events than many great scholars who
have devoted their lives to historical research, and he was never at a
loss for an illustration to explain and justify the policy he had
assumed. For natural science he shewed little interest, and indeed at
that time it scarcely could be reckoned among the ordinary subjects of
education; philosophy he pursued rather as a man than as a student, and
we are not surprised to find that it was Spinoza rather than Kant or
Fichte or Hegel to whom he devoted most attention, for he cared more for
principles of belief and the conduct of life than the analysis of the

His university career does not seem to have left any mark on his
political principles; during just those years, the agitation of which
the universities had long been the scene had been forcibly repressed; it
was the time of deep depression which followed the revolution of 1830,
and the members of the aristocratic corps to which he belonged looked
with something approaching contempt on this _Burschenschaft_, as the
union was called, which propagated among the students the national

After spending little more than a year at Göttingen, he left in
September, 1833; in May of the following year he entered as a student at
Berlin, where he completed his university course; we have no record as
to the manner in which he spent the winter and early spring, but we find
that when he applied to Göttingen for permission to enter at Berlin, it
was accorded on condition that he sat out a term of imprisonment which
he still owed to the university authorities. During part of his time in
Berlin he shared a room with Motley. In order to prepare for the final
examination he engaged the services of a crammer, and with his
assistance, in 1835, took the degree of Doctor of Law and at once passed
on to the public service.

He had, as we have seen, been destined for the Diplomatic Service from
early life; he was well connected; his cousin Count Bismarck-Bohlen
stood in high favour at Court. He was related to or acquainted with all
the families who held the chief posts both in the military and civil
service; with his great talents and social gifts he might therefore look
forward to a brilliant career. Any hopes, however, that his mother might
have had were destined to be disappointed; his early official life was
varied but short. He began in the judicial department and was appointed
to the office of Auscultator at Berlin, for in the German system the
judicature is one department of the Civil Service. After a year he was
at his own request transferred to the administrative side and to
Aix-la-Chapelle; it is said that he had been extremely pained and
shocked by the manner in which the officials transacted the duties of
their office and especially by their management of the divorce matters
which came before the court. The choice of Aix-la-Chapelle was probably
owing to the fact that the president of that province was Count Arnim of
Boytzenburg, the head of one of the most numerous and distinguished
families of the Mark, with so many members of which Bismarck was in
later years to be connected both for good and evil. Count Arnim was a
man of considerable ability and moderate liberal opinions, who a few
years later rose to be the first Minister-President in Prussia. Under
him Bismarck was sure to receive every assistance. He had to pass a
fresh examination, which he did with great success. His certificate
states that he shewed thoroughly good school studies, and was well
grounded in law; he had thought over what he had learnt and already had
acquired independent opinions. He had admirable judgment, quickness in
understanding, and a readiness in giving verbal answers to the questions
laid before him; we see all the qualities by which he was to be
distinguished in after life. He entered on his duties at Aix-la-Chapelle
at the beginning of June; at his own request Count Arnim wrote to the
heads of the department that as young Bismarck was destined for a
diplomatic career they were to afford him every opportunity of becoming
acquainted with all the different sides of the administrative work and
give him more work than they otherwise would have done; he was to be
constantly occupied. His good resolutions did not, however, continue
long; he found himself in a fashionable watering-place, his knowledge of
languages enabled him to associate with the French and English visitors,
he made excursions to Belgium and the Rhine, and hunting expeditions to
the Ardennes, and gave up to society the time he ought to have spent in
the office. The life at Aix was not strict and perhaps his amusements
were not always edifying, but he acquired that complete ease in
cosmopolitan society which he could not learn at Göttingen or Berlin,
and his experiences during this year were not without use to him when
he was afterwards placed in the somewhat similar society of Frankfort.
This period in his career did not last long; in June, 1837, we find him
applying for leave of absence on account of ill-health. He received
leave for eight days, but he seems to have exceeded this, for four
months afterwards he writes from Berne asking that his leave may be
prolonged; he had apparently gone off for a long tour in Switzerland and
the Rhine. His request was refused; he received a severe reprimand, and
Count Arnim approved his resolution to return to one of the older
Prussian provinces, "where he might shew an activity in the duties of
his office which he had in vain attempted to attain in the social
conditions of Aachen."

He was transferred to Potsdam, but he remained here only a few weeks; he
had not as yet served in the army, and he now began the year as a
private soldier which was required from him; he entered the Jaeger or
Rifles in the _Garde Corps_ which was stationed at Potsdam, but after a
few weeks was transferred to the Jaeger at Stettin. The cause seems to
have been partly the ill-health of his mother; she was dying, and he
wished to be near her; in those days the journey from Berlin to
Pomerania took more than a day; besides this there were pecuniary
reasons. His father's administration of the family estates had not been
successful; it is said that his mother had constantly pressed her
husband to introduce innovations, but had not consistently carried them
out; this was a not unnatural characteristic in the clever and ambitious
woman who wished to introduce into agricultural affairs those habits
which she had learnt from the bureaucrats in Berlin. However this may
be, matters had now reached a crisis; it became necessary to sell the
larger part of the land attached to the house at Schoenhausen, and in
the next year, after the death of Frau von Bismarck, which took place on
January 1, 1839, it was decided that Herr von Bismarck should in future
live at Schoenhausen with his only daughter, now a girl of twelve years
of age, while the two brothers should undertake the management of the
Pomeranian estates.

So it came about that at the age of twenty-four all prospect of an
official career had for the time to be abandoned, and Otto settled down
with his brother to the life of a country squire. It is curious to
notice that the greatest of his contemporaries, Cavour, went through a
similar training. There was, however, a great difference between the two
men: Cavour was in this as in all else a pioneer; when he retired to his
estate he was opening out new forms of activity and enterprise for his
countrymen; Bismarck after the few wild years away from home was to go
back to the life which all his ancestors had lived for five hundred
years, to become steeped in the traditions of his country and his caste.
Cavour always points the way to what is new, Bismarck again brings into
honour what men had hastily thought was antiquated. He had to some
extent prepared himself for the work by attending lectures at a newly
founded agricultural college in the outskirts of Greifswald. The
management of the estate seems to have been successful; the two brothers
started on their work with no capital and no experience, but after
three or four years by constant attention and hard work they had put the
affairs in a satisfactory state. In 1841, a division was made; Otto had
wished this to be done before, as he found that he spent a good deal
more money than his brother and was gaining an unfair advantage in the
common household; from this time he took over Kniephof, and there he
lived for the next four years, while his brother took up his abode four
miles off at Kulz, where he lived till his death in 1895. Otto had not
indeed given up the habits he had learnt at Göttingen; his wild freaks,
his noisy entertainments, were the talk of the countryside; the beverage
which he has made classical, a mixture of beer and champagne, was the
common drink, and he was known far and wide as the mad Bismarck. These
acts of wildness were, however, only a small part of his life; he
entered as a lieutenant of Landwehr in the cavalry and thereby became
acquainted with another form of military service. It was while he was at
the annual training that he had an opportunity of shewing his physical
strength and courage. A groom, who was watering horses in the river, was
swept away by the current; Bismarck, who was standing on a bridge
watching them, at once leaped into the river, in full uniform as he was,
and with great danger to himself saved the drowning man. For this he
received a medal for saving life. He astonished his friends by the
amount and variety of his reading; it was at this time that he studied
Spinoza. It is said that he had among his friends the reputation of
being a liberal; it is probable enough that he said and did many things
which they did not understand; and anything they did not understand
would be attributed to liberalism by the country gentlemen of Pomerania;
partly no doubt it was due to the fact that in 1843 he came back from
Paris wearing a beard. We can see, however, that he was restless and
discontented; he felt in himself the possession of powers which were not
being used; there was in his nature also a morbid restlessness, a
dissatisfaction with himself which he tried to still but only increased
by his wild excesses. As his affairs became more settled he travelled;
one year he went to London, another to Paris; of his visit to England we
have an interesting account in a letter to his father. He landed in
Hull[2], thence he went to Scarborough and York, where he was hospitably
received by the officers of the Hussars; "although I did not know any of
them, they asked me to dinner and shewed me everything"; from York he
went to Manchester, where he saw some of the factories.

  "Generally speaking I cannot praise too highly the extraordinary
  courtesy and kindness of English people, which far surpass what I
  had expected; even the poor people are pleasant, very unassuming,
  and easy to get on with when one talks to them. Those who come
  much into intercourse with strangers--cab-drivers, porters,
  etc.--naturally have a tendency to extortion, but soon give in
  when they see that one understands the language and customs and
  is determined not to be put upon. Generally I find the life much
  cheaper than I expected."

In 1844, his sister, to whom he was passionately devoted, was married to
an old friend, Oscar von Arnim. Never did an elder brother write to his
young sister more delightful letters than those which she received from
him; from them we get a pleasant picture of his life at this time.
Directly after the wedding, when he was staying with his father at
Schoenhausen, he writes:

  "Just now I am living here with my father, reading, smoking, and
  walking; I help him to eat lamperns and sometimes play a comedy
  with him which it pleases him to call fox-hunting. We start out
  in heavy rain, or perhaps with 10 degrees of frost, with Ihle,
  Ellin, and Karl; then in perfect silence we surround a clump of
  firs with the most sportsmanlike precautions, carefully observing
  the wind, although we all, and probably father as well, are
  absolutely convinced that there is not a living creature in it
  except one or two old women gathering firewood. Then Ihle, Karl,
  and the two dogs make their way through the cover, emitting the
  most strange and horrible sounds, especially Ihle; father stands
  there motionless and on the alert with his gun cocked, just as
  though he really expected to see something. Ihle comes out just
  in front of him, shouting 'Hoo lala, hey heay, hold him, hie,
  hie,' in the strangest and most astonishing manner. Then father
  asks me if I have seen nothing, and I with the most natural tone
  of astonishment that I can command, answer 'No, nothing at all.'
  Then after abusing the weather we start off to another wood,
  while Ihle with a confidence that he assumes in the most natural
  manner praises its wealth in game, and there we play over the
  game again _dal segno_. So it goes on for three or four hours;
  father's, Ihle's, and Fingal's passion does not seem to cool for
  a moment. Besides that, we look at the orange house twice a day
  and the sheep once a day, observe the four thermometers in the
  room once every hour, set the weather-glass, and, since the
  weather has been fine, have set all the clocks by the sun and
  adjusted them so closely that the clock in the dining-room is the
  only one which ever gives a sound after the others have struck.
  Charles V. was a stupid fellow. You will understand that with so
  multifarious an occupation I have little time left to call on the
  clergymen; as they have no vote for the election it was quite

  "The Elbe is full of ice, the wind E.S.E., the latest thermometer
  from Berlin shews 8 degrees, the barometer is rising and at 8.28.
  I tell you this as an example how in your letters you might write
  to father more the small events of your life; they amuse him
  immensely; tell him who has been to see you, whom you have been
  calling on, what you had for dinner, how the horses are, how the
  servants behave, if the doors creak and the windows are firm--in
  short, facts and events. Besides this, he does not like to be
  called papa, he dislikes the expression. _Avis au lecteur_."

On another occasion he says:

  "Only with difficulty can I resist the temptation of filling a
  whole letter with agricultural lamentations over frosts, sick
  cattle, bad reap, bad roads, dead lambs, hungry sheep, want of
  straw, fodder, money, potatoes, and manure; outside Johann is
  persistently whistling a wretched schottische out of tune, and I
  have not the cruelty to interrupt it, for he seeks to still by
  music his violent love-sickness."

Then we have long letters from Nordeney, where he delighted in the sea,
but space will not allow us to quote more. It is only in these letters,
and in those which he wrote in later years to his wife, that we see the
natural kindliness and simplicity of his disposition, his love of
nature, and his great power of description. There have been few better
letter-writers in Germany or any other country.

His ability and success as an agriculturist made a deep impression on
his neighbours. As years went on he became much occupied in local
business; he was appointed as the representative of his brother, who was
Landrath for the district; in 1845 he was elected one of the members for
the Provincial Diet of Pomerania. He also had a seat in the Diet for the
Saxon province in which Schoenhausen was situated. These local Diets
were the only form of representative government which existed in the
rural districts; they had little power, but their opinion was asked on
new projects of law, and they were officially regarded as an efficient
substitute for a common Prussian Parliament. Many of his friends,
including his brother, urged him again to enter the public service, for
which they considered he was especially adapted; he might have had the
post of Royal Commissioner for Improvements in East Prussia.

He did make one attempt to resume his official career. At the beginning
of 1844 he returned to Potsdam and took up his duties as Referendar,
but not for long; he seems to have quarrelled with his superior. The
story is that he called one day to ask for leave of absence; his chief
kept him waiting an hour in the anteroom, and when he was admitted asked
him curtly, "What do you want?" Bismarck at once answered, "I came to
ask for leave of absence, but now I wish for permission to send in my
resignation." He was clearly deficient in that subservience and ready
obedience to authority which was the best passport to promotion in the
Civil Service; there was in his disposition already a certain truculence
and impatience. From this time he nourished a bitter hatred of the
Prussian bureaucracy.

This did not, however, prevent him carrying out his public duties as a
landed proprietor. In 1846 we find him taking much interest in proposals
for improving the management of the manorial courts; he wished to see
them altered so as to give something of the advantages of the English
system; he regrets the "want of corporate spirit and public feeling in
our corn-growing aristocracy"; "it is unfortunately difficult among most
of the gentlemen to awake any other idea under the words 'patrimonial
power' but the calculation whether the fee will cover the expenses." We
can easily understand that the man who wrote this would be called a
liberal by many of his neighbours; what he wanted, however, was a reform
which would give life, permanency, and independence to an institution
which like everything else was gradually falling before the inroads of
the dominant bureaucracy. The same year he was appointed to the
position of Inspector of Dykes for Jerichow. The duties of this office
were of considerable importance for Schoenhausen and the neighbouring
estate; as he writes, "it depends on the managers of this office
whether from time to time we come under water or not." He often refers
to the great damages caused by the floods; he had lost many of his
fruit-trees, and many of the finest elms in the park had been destroyed
by the overflowing of the Elbe.

As Bismarck grew in age and experience he associated more with the
neighbouring families. Pomerania was at this time the centre of a
curious religious movement; the leader was Herr von Thadden, who lived
at Triglaff, not many miles from Kniephof. He was associated with Herr
von Semft and three brothers of the family of Below. They were all
profoundly dissatisfied with the rationalistic religion preached by the
clergy at that time, and aimed at greater inwardness and depth of
religious feeling. Herr von Thadden started religious exercises in his
own house, which were attended not only by the peasants from the village
but by many of the country gentry; they desired the strictest
enforcement of Lutheran doctrine, and wished the State directly to
support the Church. This tendency of thought acquired greater importance
when, in 1840, Frederick William IV succeeded to the throne; he was also
a man of deep religious feeling, and under his reign the extreme
Lutheran party became influential at Court. Among the ablest of these
were the three brothers von Gerlach. One of them, Otto, was a
theologian; another, Ludwig, was Over-President of the Saxon province,
and with him Bismarck had much official correspondence; the third,
Leopold, who had adopted a military career, was attached to the person
of the King and was in later years to have more influence upon him than
anyone except perhaps Bunsen. The real intellectual leader of the party
was Stahl, a theologian.

From about the year 1844 Bismarck seems to have become very intimate
with this religious coterie; his friend Moritz v. Blankenburg had
married Thadden's daughter and Bismarck was constantly a visitor at
Triglaff. It was at Blankenburg's wedding that he first met Hans v.
Kleist, who was in later years to be one of his most intimate friends.
He was, we are told, the most delightful and cheerful of companions; in
his tact and refinement he shewed an agreeable contrast to the ordinary
manners of Pomerania. He often rode over to take part in Shakespeare
evenings, and amused them by accounts of his visit to England[3]. He was
present occasionally at the religious meetings at Triglaff, and though
he never quite adopted all the customs of the set the influence on him
of these older men was for the next ten years to govern all his
political action. That he was not altogether at one with them we can
understand, when we are told that at Herr von Thadden's house it would
never have occurred to anyone even to think of smoking. Bismarck was
then, as in later life, a constant smoker.

The men who met in these family parties in distant Pomerania were in a
few years to change the whole of European history. Here Bismarck for the
first time saw Albrecht von Roon, a cousin of the Blankenburgs, then a
rising young officer in the artillery; they often went out shooting
together. The Belows, Blankenburgs, and Kleists were to be the founders
and leaders of the Prussian Conservative party, which was Bismarck's
only support in his great struggle with the Parliament; and here, too,
came the men who were afterwards to be editors and writers of the _Kreuz

The religious convictions which Bismarck learnt from them were to be
lasting, and they profoundly influenced his character. He had probably
received little religious training from his mother, who belonged to the
rationalistic school of thought. It was by them that his monarchical
feeling was strengthened. It is not at first apparent what necessary
connection there is between monarchical government and Christian faith.
For Bismarck they were ever inseparably bound together; nothing but
religious belief would have reconciled him to a form of government so
repugnant to natural human reason. "If I were not a Christian, I would
be a Republican," he said many years later; in Christianity he found the
only support against revolution and socialism. He was not the man to be
beguiled by romantic sentiment; he was not a courtier to be blinded by
the pomp and ceremony of royalty; he was too stubborn and independent to
acquiesce in the arbitrary rule of a single man. He could only obey the
king if the king himself held his authority as the representative of a
higher power. Bismarck was accustomed to follow out his thought to its
conclusions. To whom did the king owe his power? There was only one
alternative: to the people or to God. If to the people, then it was a
mere question of convenience whether the monarchy were continued in
form; there was little to choose between a constitutional monarchy where
the king was appointed by the people and controlled by Parliament, and
an avowed republic. This was the principle held by nearly all his
contemporaries. He deliberately rejected it. He did not hold that the
voice of the people was the voice of God. This belief did not satisfy
his moral sense; it seemed in public life to leave all to interest and
ambition and nothing to duty. It did not satisfy his critical intellect;
the word "people" was to him a vague idea. The service of the People or
of the King by the Grace of God, this was the struggle which was soon to
be fought out.

Bismarck's connection with his neighbours was cemented by his marriage.
At the beginning of 1847, he was engaged to a Fräulein von Puttkammer,
whom he had first met at the Blankenburgs' house; she belonged to a
quiet and religious family, and it is said that her mother was at first
filled with dismay when she heard that Johanna proposed to marry the mad
Bismarck. He announced the engagement to his sister in a letter
containing the two words, "All right," written in English. Before the
wedding could take place, a new impulse in his life was to begin. As
representative of the lower nobility he had to attend the meeting of the
Estates General which had been summoned in Berlin. From this time the
story of his life is interwoven with the history of his country.





Bismarck was a subject of the King of Prussia, but Prussia was after all
only one part of a larger unit; it was a part of Germany. At this time,
however, Germany was little more than a geographical expression. The
medieval emperors had never succeeded in establishing permanent
authority over the whole nation; what unity there had been was
completely broken down at the Reformation, and at the Revolution the
Empire itself, the symbol of a union which no longer existed, had been
swept away. At the restoration in 1815 the reorganisation of Germany was
one of the chief tasks before the Congress of Vienna. It was a task in
which the statesmen failed. All proposals to restore the Empire were
rejected, chiefly because Francis, who had taken the style of Emperor of
Austria, did not desire to resume his old title. Germany emerged from
the Revolution divided into thirty-nine different States; Austria was
one of the largest and most populous monarchies in Europe, but more than
half the Austrian Empire consisted of Italian, Slavonic, and Hungarian
provinces. The Emperor of Austria ruled over about 20,000,000 Germans.
The next State in size and importance was Prussia. Then came four
States, the Kingdoms of Saxony, Hanover, Bavaria, and Würtemberg,
varying in size from five to two million inhabitants; below them were
some thirty principalities of which the smallest contained only a few
thousand inhabitants. By the principles adopted in the negotiations
which preceded the Congress of Vienna, every one of these States was
recognised as a complete independent monarchy, with its own laws and
constitutions. The recognition of this independence made any common
government impossible. Neither Austria nor Prussia would submit to any
external authority, or to one another; the Kings of Bavaria and
Würtemberg were equally jealous of their independence. All that could be
done was to establish a permanent offensive and defensive alliance
between these States. For the management of common concerns, a Diet was
appointed to meet at Frankfort; the Diet, however, was only a union of
diplomatists; they had to act in accordance with instructions from their
governments and they had no direct authority over the Germans; each
German was officially regarded as a subject, as the case might be, of
the King of Prussia, the Prince of Reuss, the Grand Duke of Weimar.
There was no German army, no German law, no German church. No
development of common institutions was possible, for no change could be
introduced without the universal consent of every member of the

This lamentable result of the Congress of Vienna caused much
dissatisfaction among the thinking classes in Germany. A very strong
national feeling had been aroused by the war against Napoleon. This
found no satisfaction in the new political institutions. The discontent
was increased when it was discovered that the Diet, so useless for all
else, was active only against liberty. Prince Metternich, a very able
diplomatist, knew that the Liberal and National ideas, which were so
generally held at that time, would be fatal to the existence of the
Austrian Empire; he therefore attempted to suppress them, not only in
Austria, but also in Germany, as he did in Italy. Unfortunately the King
of Prussia, Frederick William III., whose interests were really entirely
opposed to those of Austria, was persuaded by Metternich to adopt a
repressive policy. The two great powers when combined could impose their
will on Germany; they forced through the Diet a series of measures
devoted to the restriction of the liberty of the press, the control of
the universities, and the suppression of democratic opinion.

The result of this was great discontent in Germany, which was especially
directed against Prussia; in 1830 the outbreak of revolution in Paris
had been followed by disturbances in many German States; Austria and
Prussia, however, were still strong enough to maintain the old system.
The whole intellect of the country was diverted to a policy of
opposition; in the smaller States of the south, Parliamentary government
had been introduced; and the great aim of the Liberals was to establish
a Parliament in Prussia also.

In 1840 the old King died; the son, Frederick William IV., was a man of
great learning, noble character, high aspirations; he was, however,
entirely without sympathy or understanding for the modern desires of his
countrymen; he was a child of the Romantic movement; at the head of the
youngest of European monarchies, he felt himself more at home in the
Middle Ages than in his own time. There could be no sympathy between him
and the men who took their politics from Rousseau and Louis Blanc, and
their religion from Strauss. It had been hoped that he would at once
introduce into Prussia representative institutions. He long delayed, and
the delay took away any graciousness from the act when at last it was
committed. By a royal decree published in 1822 it had been determined
that no new loan could be made without the assent of an assembly of
elected representatives; the introduction of railways made a loan
necessary, and at the beginning of 1847 Frederick William summoned for
the first time the States General.

The King of Prussia had thereby stirred up a power which he was unable
to control; he had hoped that he would be able to gather round him the
representatives of the nobles, the towns, and the peasants; that this
new assembly, collecting about him in respectful homage, would add
lustre to his throne; that they would vote the money which was required
and then separate. How much was he mistaken! The nation had watched for
years Parliamentary government in England and France; this was what they
wished to have, and now they were offered a modern imitation of
medieval estates. They felt themselves as grown men able and justified
in governing their own country; the King treated them as children. The
opening ceremony completed the bad impression which the previous acts of
the King had made. While the majority of the nation desired a formal and
written Constitution, the King in his opening speech with great emphasis
declared that he would never allow a sheet of paper to come between him
and God in heaven.

Bismarck was not present at the opening ceremony; it was, in fact, owing
to an accident that he was able to take his seat at all; he was there as
substitute for the member for the _Ritterschaft_ of Jerichow, who had
fallen ill. He entered on his Parliamentary duties as a young and almost
unknown man; he did not belong to any party, but his political
principles were strongly influenced by the friends he had found in
Pomerania. They were soon to be hardened by conflict and confirmed by
experience; during the first debates he sat silent, but his indignation
rose as he listened to the speeches of the Liberal majority. Nothing
pleased them; instead of actively co-operating with the Government in
the consideration of financial measures, they began to discuss and
criticise the proclamation by which they had been summoned. There was
indeed ample scope for criticism; the Estates were so arranged that the
representatives of the towns could always be outvoted by the landed
proprietors; they had not even the right of periodical meetings; the
King was not compelled to call them together again until he required
more money. They not only petitioned for increased powers, they demanded
them as a right; they maintained that an assembly summoned in this form
did not meet the intentions of previous laws; when they were asked to
allow a loan for a railway in East Prussia, they refused on the ground
that they were not a properly qualified assembly.

This was too much for Bismarck: the action of the King might have been
inconclusive; much that he said was indiscreet; but it remained true
that he had taken the decisive step; no one really doubted that Prussia
would never again be without a Parliament. It would be much wiser, as it
would be more chivalrous, to adopt a friendly tone and not to attempt to
force concessions from him. He was especially indignant at the statement
made that the Prussian people had earned constitutional government by
the part they took in the war of liberation; against this he protested:

  "In my opinion it is a bad service to the national honour to
  assume that the ill-treatment and degradation that the Prussians
  suffered from a foreign ruler were not enough to make our blood
  boil, and to deaden all other feelings but that of hatred for the

When told that he was not alive at the time, he answered:

  "I cannot dispute that I was not living then, and I have been
  genuinely sorry that I was not born in time to take part in that
  movement; a regret which is diminished by what I have just heard.
  I had always believed that the slavery against which we fought
  lay abroad; I have just learned that it lay at home, and I am
  not grateful for the explanation."

The ablest of the Liberal leaders was George v. Vincke; a member of an
old Westphalian family, the son of a high official, he was a man of
honesty and independence, but both virtues were carried to excess; a
born leader of opposition, domineering, quarrelsome, ill to please, his
short, sturdy figure, his red face and red hair were rather those of a
peasant than a nobleman, but his eloquence, his bitter invective, earned
the respect and even fear of his opponents. Among these Bismarck was to
be ranged; in these days began a rivalry which was not to cease till
nearly twenty years later, when Vincke retired from the field and
Bismarck stood triumphant, the recognised ruler of the State. At this
time it required courage in the younger man to cross swords with the
experienced and powerful leader.

Vincke was a strong Liberal, but in the English rather than the Prussian
sense; his constant theme was the rule of law; he had studied English
history, for at that time all Liberals prepared themselves for their
part by reading Hallam or Guizot and Dahlmann; he knew all about Pym and
Hampden, and wished to imitate them. The English Parliament had won its
power by means of a Petition of Right and a Bill of Rights; he wished
they should do the same in Prussia; it escaped him that the English
could appeal to charters and ancient privileges, but that in Prussia the
absolute power of the King was the undisputed basis on which the whole
State had been built up, and that every law to which they owed their
liberty or their property derived its validity from the simple
proclamation of the King.

Bismarck, if he had read less, understood better the characteristics of
England, probably because he knew better the conditions of his own
country. He rose to protest against these parallels with England;
Prussia had its own problems which must be settled in its own way.

  "Parallels with foreign countries have always something
  disagreeable.... At the Revolution, the English people were in a
  very different condition from that of Prussia to-day; after a
  century of revolution and civil war, it was in a position to be
  able to give away a crown and add conditions which William of
  Orange accepted. On the other hand, we are in possession of a
  crown whose rights were actually unlimited, a crown held by the
  grace not of the people but of God, and which of its own
  free-will has given away to the people a portion of its
  rights--an example rare in history."

It shows how strong upon him was the influence of his friends in
Pomerania that his longest and most important speech was in defence of
the Christian monarchy. The occasion was a proposal to increase the
privileges of the Jews. He said:

  "I am no enemy of the Jews; if they become my enemies I will
  forgive them. Under certain circumstances I love them; I am ready
  to grant them all rights but that of holding the magisterial
  office in a Christian State. This they now claim; they demand to
  become Landrath, General, Minister, yes even, under
  circumstances, Minister of Religion and Education. I allow that
  I am full of prejudices, which, as I have said, I have sucked in
  with my mother's milk; I cannot argue them away; for if I think
  of a Jew face to face with me as a representative of the King's
  sacred Majesty, and I have to obey him, I must confess that I
  should feel myself deeply broken and depressed; the sincere
  self-respect with which I now attempt to fulfil my duties towards
  the State would leave me. I share these feelings with the mass of
  the lower strata of the people, and I am not ashamed of their

And then he spoke of the Christian State:

  "It is as old as every European State; it is the ground in which
  they have taken root; no State has a secure existence unless it
  has a religious foundation. For me, the words, 'by the Grace of
  God,' which Christian rulers add to their name, are no empty
  phrase; I see in them a confession that the Princes desire to
  wield the sceptre which God has given them according to the will
  of God on earth. As the will of God I can only recognise that
  which has been revealed in the Christian Gospel--I believe that
  the realisation of Christian teaching is the end of the State; I
  do not believe that we shall more nearly approach this end by the
  help of the Jews.... If we withdraw this foundation, we retain in
  a State nothing but an accidental aggregate of rights, a kind of
  bulwark against the war of all against all, which ancient
  philosophy has assumed. Therefore, gentlemen, do not let us spoil
  the people of their Christianity; do not let us take from them
  the belief that our legislation is drawn from the well of
  Christianity, and that the State aims at the realisation of
  Christianity even if it does not attain its end."

We can well understand how delighted Herr von Thadden was with his
pupil. "With Bismarck I naturally will not attempt to measure myself,"
he writes; "in the last debates he has again said many admirable
things"; and in another letter, "I am quite enthusiastic for Otto
Bismarck." It was more important that the King felt as if these words
had been spoken out of his own heart.

Among his opponents, too, he had made his mark; they were never tired of
repeating well-worn jests about the medieval opinions which he had
sucked in with his mother's milk.

At the close of the session, he returned to Pomerania with fresh
laurels; he was now looked upon as the rising hope of the stern and
unbending Tories. His marriage took place in August, and the young Hans
Kleist, a cousin of the bride, as he proposed the bridegroom's health,
foretold that in their friend had arisen a new Otto of Saxony who would
do for his country all that his namesake had done eight hundred years
before. Careless words spoken half in jest, which thirty years later
Kleist, then Over-President of the province, recalled when he proposed
the bridegroom's health at the marriage of Bismarck's eldest daughter.
The forecast had been more than fulfilled, but fulfilled at the cost of
many an early friendship; and all the glory of later years could never
quite repay the happy confidence and intimacy of those younger days.

Followed by the good wishes of all their friends, Bismarck and his young
wife started on their wedding tour, which took them through Austria to
Italy. At Venice he came across the King of Prussia, who took the
opportunity to have more than one conversation with the man who had
distinguished himself in the States General. At the beginning of the
winter they returned to Schoenhausen to settle down to a quiet country
life. Fate was to will it otherwise. The storm which had long been
gathering burst over Europe. Bismarck was carried away by it; from
henceforth his life was entirely devoted to public duties, and we can
count by months the time he was able to spend with his wife at the old
family house; more than forty years were to pass before he was able
again to enjoy the leisure of his early years.

The revolution which at the end of February broke out in Paris quickly
spread to Germany; the ground was prepared and the news quickly came to
him, first of disorder in South Germany, then of the fall of the
Ministry in Dresden and Munich; after a few days it was told that a
revolution had taken place in Vienna itself. The rising in Austria was
the signal for Berlin, and on the 18th of March the revolution broke out
there also. The King had promised to grant a Constitution; a fierce
fight had taken place in the streets of the city between the soldiers
and the people; the King had surrendered to the mob, and had ordered the
troops to withdraw from the city. He was himself almost a prisoner in
his castle protected only by a civilian National Guard. He was exposed
to the insults of the crowd; his brother had had to leave the city and
the country. It is impossible to describe the enthusiasm and wild
delight with which the people of Germany heard of these events. Now the
press was free, now they also were going to be free and great and
strong. All the resistance of authority was overthrown; nothing, it
seemed, stood between them and the attainment of their ideal of a united
and free Germany. They had achieved a revolution; they had become a
political people; they had shewn themselves the equals of England and of
France. They had liberty, and they would soon have a Constitution.
Bismarck did not share this feeling; he saw only that the monarchy which
he respected, and the King whom, with all his faults, he loved and
honoured, were humiliated and disgraced. This was worse than Jena. A
defeat on the field of battle can be avenged; here the enemies were his
own countrymen; it was Prussian subjects who had made the King the
laughing-stock of Europe. Only a few months ago he had pleaded that they
should not lose that confidence between King and people which was the
finest tradition of the Prussian State; could this confidence ever be
restored when the blood of so many soldiers and citizens had been shed?
He felt as though someone had struck him in the face, for his country's
dishonour was to him as his own; he became ill with gall and anger. He
had only two thoughts: first to restore to the King courage and
confidence, and then--revenge on the men who had done this thing. He at
least was not going to play with the revolution. He at once sat down and
wrote to the King a letter full of ardent expressions of loyalty and
affection, that he might know there still were men on whom he could
rely. It is said that for months after, through all this terrible year,
the King kept it open by him on his writing-table. Then he hurried to
Berlin, if necessary to defend him with the sword. This was not
necessary, but the situation was almost worse than he feared; the King
was safe, but he was safe because he had surrendered to the revolution;
he had proclaimed the fatal words that _Prussia was to be dissolved in

At Potsdam Bismarck found his old friends of the Guard and the Court;
they were all in silent despair. What could they do to save the monarchy
when the King himself had deserted their cause? Some there were who even
talked of seeking help from the Czar of Russia, who had offered to come
to the help of the monarchy in Prussia and place himself at the head of
the Prussian army, even if necessary against their own King. There was
already a Liberal Ministry under Count Arnim, Bismarck's old chief at
Aachen; the Prussian troops were being sent to support the people of
Schleswig-Holstein in their rebellion against the Danes; the Ministers
favoured the aspirations of Poland for self-government; in Prussia there
was to be a Constituent Assembly and a new Constitution drawn up by it.
Bismarck did what he could; he went down to Schoenhausen and began to
collect signatures for an address of loyalty to the King; he wished to
instil into him confidence by appealing to the loyalty of the country
against the radicalism of the town. Then he hurried back to Berlin for
the meeting of the Estates General, which had been hastily summoned to
prepare for the new elections. An address was proposed thanking the King
for the concessions he had made; Bismarck opposed it, but he stood
almost alone.

  "I have not changed my opinion," he said, "in the last six
  months; the past is buried, and I regret more bitterly than any
  of you that no human power can reawaken it, now that the Crown
  itself has cast the earth on its coffin."

Two men alone voted against the address--Bismarck and Herr von Thadden.
"It is easy to get fame nowadays," said the latter; "a little courage is
all one requires."

Courage it did require; Berlin was terrorised; the new National Guard
was unable to maintain order; men scarcely dared to appear in the
streets in the ordinary dress of a gentleman. The city was full of
Polish insurgents, many of whom had only just been released from prison.
When the National Assembly came together, it became the organ of the
extreme Republican party; all the more moderate men and more
distinguished had preferred to be elected for that general German
Assembly which at the same time was sitting at Frankfort to create a new
Constitution for the whole Confederation. How quickly had the balance of
parties altered: Vincke, until a few months ago the leader of the
Liberals, found himself at Frankfort regarded as an extreme
Conservative; and Frankfort was moderate compared to Berlin. At this
time an ordinary English Radical would have been looked upon in Germany
as almost reactionary. Bismarck did not seek election for either of the
Assemblies; he felt that he could do no good by taking part in the
deliberations of a Parliament, the very meeting of which seemed to him
an offence against the laws and welfare of the State. He would indeed
have had no logical position; both Parliaments were Constituent
Assemblies; it was the duty of the one to build up a new Germany, of the
other a new Prussia; their avowed object was the regeneration of their
country. Bismarck did not believe that Prussia wanted regenerating; he
held that the roots for the future greatness of the State must be found
in the past. What happened to Germany he did not much care; all he saw
was that every proposal for the regeneration of Germany implied either a
dissolution of Prussia, or the subjection of the Prussian King to the
orders of an alien Parliament.

During the summer he did what he could; he contributed articles to the
newspapers attacking the Polish policy of the Government, and defending
the landlords and country gentry against the attacks made on them. As
the months went by, as the anarchy in Berlin increased, and the violence
of the Assembly as well as the helplessness of the Government became
more manifest, he and some of his friends determined to make their
voices heard in a more organised way. It was at the house of his
father-in-law at Rheinfeld that he, Hans Kleist, and Herr von Below
determined to call together a meeting of well-known men in Berlin, who
should discuss the situation and be a moral counterpoise to the
meetings of the National Assembly; for in that the Conservative party
and even the Moderate Liberals were scarcely represented; if they did
speak they were threatened by the mob which encumbered the approaches to
the House. Of more permanent importance was the foundation of a
newspaper which should represent the principles of the Christian
monarchy, and in July appeared the first number of the _New Prussian
Gazette_, or, as it was to be more generally known, the _Kreuz Zeitung_,
which was to give its name to the party of which it was the organ.
Bismarck was among the founders, among whom were also numbered Stahl,
the Gerlachs, and others of his older friends; he was a frequent
contributor, and when he was at Berlin was almost daily at the office;
when he was in the country he contributed articles on the rural affairs
with which he was more specially qualified to deal.

These steps, of course, attracted the attention and the hostility of the
dominant Liberal and Revolutionary parties; the _Junker_, as they were
called, were accused of aiming at reaction and the restoration of the
absolute monarchy. As a matter of fact, this is what many of them
desired; they were, however, only doing their duty as members of
society; it would have been mere cowardice and indolence had they
remained inactive and seen all the institutions they valued overthrown
without attempting to defend them. It required considerable courage in
the middle of so violent a crisis to come forward and attempt to stop
the revolution; it was a good example that they began to do so by
constitutional and legal means. They shewed that Prussia had an
aristocracy, and an aristocracy which was not frightened; deserted by
the King they acted alone; in the hour of greatest danger they founded a
Conservative party, and matters had come to this position that an
organised Conservative party was the chief necessity of the time.

At first, however, their influence was small, for a monarchical party
must depend for its success on the adhesion of the King, and the King
had not yet resolved to separate himself from his Liberal advisers.
Bismarck was often at Court and seems to have had much influence; both
to his other companions and to the King himself he preached always
courage and resolution; he spoke often to the King with great openness;
he was supported by Leopold von Gerlach, with whom at this time he
contracted a close intimacy. For long their advice was in vain, but
in the autumn events occurred which shewed that some decision must be
taken: the mob of Berlin stormed the _Zeughaus_ where the arms
were kept; the Constitution of the Assembly was being drawn up so as to
leave the King scarcely any influence in the State; a resolution was
passed calling on the Ministers to request all officers to leave the
army who disliked the new order of things. The crisis was brought about
by events in Vienna; in October the Austrian army under Jellachich
and Windischgrätz stormed the city, proclaimed martial law, and forcibly
overthrew the Revolutionary Government; the King of Prussia now summoned
resolution to adopt a similar course. It is said that Bismarck suggested
to him the names of the Ministers to whom the task should be entrusted.
The most important were Count Brandenburg, an uncle of the King's, and
Otto v. Manteuffel, a member of the Prussian aristocracy, who with
Bismarck had distinguished himself in the Estates General. He seems to
have been constantly going about among the more influential men,
encouraging them as he encouraged the King, and helping behind the scenes
to prepare for the momentous step. Gerlach had suggested Bismarck's name
as one of the Ministers, but the King rejected it, writing on the side of
the paper the characteristic words, "Red reactionary; smells of blood;
will be useful later." Bismarck's language was of such a nature as to
alarm even many of those who associated with him. Count Beust, the Saxon
Minister, was at this time in Berlin and met Bismarck for the first time;
they were discussing the conduct of the Austrian Government in shooting
Robert Blum, a leading demagogue who had been in Vienna during the siege.
Beust condemned it as a political blunder. "No, you are wrong," said
Bismarck; "when I have my enemy in my power I must destroy him."

The event fully justified Bismarck's forecast that nothing was required
but courage and resolution. After Brandenburg had been appointed
Minister, the Prussian troops under Wrangel again entered Berlin, a
state of siege was proclaimed, the Assembly was ordered to adjourn to
Brandenburg; they refused and were at once ejected from their
meeting-place, and as a quorum was not found at Brandenburg, were
dissolved. The Crown then of its own authority published a new
Constitution and summoned a new Assembly to discuss and ratify it. Based
on the discipline of the army the King had regained his authority
without the loss of a single life.

Bismarck stood for election in this new Assembly, for he could accept
the basis on which it had been summoned; he took his seat for the
district of the West Havel in which the old city of Brandenburg, the
original capital of the Mark, was situated. He had come forward as an
opponent of the Revolution. "Everyone," he said in his election address,
"must support the Government in the course they have taken of combating
the Revolution which threatens us all." "No transaction with the
Revolution," was the watchword proposed in the manifesto of his party.
He appealed to the electors as one who would direct all his efforts to
restore the old bond of confidence between Crown and people. He kept his
promise. In this Assembly the Extreme Left was still the predominant
party; in an address to the Crown they asked that the state of siege at
Berlin should be raised, and that an amnesty to those who had fought on
the 18th of March should be proclaimed. Bismarck did not yet think that
the time for forgiveness had come; the struggle was indeed not yet over.
He opposed the first demand because, as he said, there was more danger
to liberty of debate from the armed mob than there was from the Prussian
soldiers. In one of the most careful of his speeches he opposed the
amnesty. "Amnesty," he said, "was a right of the Crown, not of the
Assembly"; moreover the repeated amnesties were undermining in the
people the feeling of law; the opinion was being spread about that the
law of the State rested on the barricades, that everyone who disliked a
law or considered it unjust had the right to consider it as
non-existent. Who that has read the history of Europe during this year
can doubt the justice of the remark? Then he continues:

  "My third reason for voting against the amnesty is humanity. The
  strife of principles which during this year has shattered Europe
  to its foundations is one in which no compromise is possible.
  They rest on opposite bases. The one draws its law from what is
  called the will of the people, in truth, however, from the law of
  the strongest on the barricades. The other rests on authority
  created by God, an authority by the grace of God, and seeks its
  development in organic connection with the existing and
  constitutional legal status ... the decision on these principles
  will come not by Parliamentary debate, not by majorities of
  eleven votes; sooner or later the God who directs the battle will
  cast his iron dice."

These words were greeted with applause, not only by the men who sat on
his side of the House, but by those opposite to him. The truth of them
was to be shewn by the events which were taking place at that very time.
They were spoken on the 22d of March. The next day was fought the battle
of Novara and it seemed that the last hopes of the Italian patriots were
shattered. Within a few months the Austrian army subdued with terrible
vengeance the rising in Lombardy and Venetia; Hungary was prostrate
before the troops whom the Czar sent to help the young Austrian
Emperor, and the last despairing outbreak of rebellion in Saxony and in
Baden was to be subdued by the Prussian army. The Revolution had failed
and it had raised up, as will always happen, a military power, harder,
crueller, and more resolute than that it had overthrown. The control
over Europe had passed out of the hands of Metternich and Louis Philippe
to fall into those of Nicholas, Schwarzenberg, and Napoleon III.

In Prussia the King used his power with moderation, the conflict of
parties was continued within legal limits and under constitutional

The Parliament which still claimed that control over the executive
government which all Parliaments of the Revolution had exercised, was
dissolved. A new Assembly met in August; the King had of his own
authority altered the electoral law and the new Parliament showed a
considerable majority belonging to the more moderate Liberal party.
Bismarck retained his old seat. He still found much to do; his influence
was increasing; he opposed the doctrines of the more moderate Liberalism
with the same energy with which he had attacked the extreme Revolution.
The most important debates were those concerning the Constitution; he
took part in them, especially opposing the claim of the Parliament to
refuse taxes. He saw that if the right was given to the Lower House of
voting the taxes afresh every year they would be able to establish a
complete control over the executive government; this he did not wish. He
was willing that they should have the right of discussing and rejecting
any new taxes and also, in agreement with the Crown and the Upper House,
of determining the annual Budget. It was maintained by the Liberals that
the right to reject supplies every year was an essential part of a
constitutional system; they appealed to the practice in England and to
the principles adopted in the French and Belgian Constitutions. Their
argument was that this practice which had been introduced in other
countries must be adopted also in Prussia. It was just one of those
arguments which above all offended Bismarck's Prussian patriotism. Why
should Prussia imitate other countries? Why should it not have its own
Constitution in its own way? Constitution, as he said, was the _mot
d'ordre_ of the day, the word which men used when they were in want of
an argument. "In Prussia that only is constitutional which arises from
the Prussian Constitution; whatever be constitutional in Belgium, or in
France, in Anhalt Dessau, or there where the morning red of Mecklenburg
freedom shines, here that alone is constitutional which rests on the
Prussian Constitution." If he defended the prerogative of the Crown he
defended the Constitution of his country. A constitution is the
collection of rules and laws by which the action of the king is
governed; a state without a constitution is a mere Oriental despotism
where each arbitrary whim of the king is transmuted into action; this
was not what Bismarck desired or defended; there was no danger of this
in Prussia. He did not even oppose changes in the law and practice of
the Constitution; what he did oppose was the particular change which
would transfer the sovereignty to an elected House of Parliament. "It
has been maintained," he once said, "that a constitutional king cannot
be a king by the Grace of God; on the contrary he is it above all

The references to foreign customs were indeed one of the most curious
practices of the time; the matter was once being discussed whether the
Crown had the power to declare a state of siege without the assent of
the Chambers; most speakers attempted to interpret the text of the
Prussian Constitution by precedents derived from the practice in France
and England; we find the Minister of Justice defending his action on the
ground of an event in the French Revolution, and Lothar Bucher, one of
the ablest of the Opposition, complained that not enough attention had
been paid to the procedure adopted in England for repealing the _Habeas
Corpus Act_, entirely ignoring the fact that there was no Habeas Corpus
Act in Prussia. We can easily understand how repulsive this was to a man
who, like Bismarck, wished nothing more than that his countrymen should
copy, not the details of the English Constitution, but the proud
self-reliance which would regard as impertinent an application of
foreign notions.

The chief cause for this peculiarity was the desire of the Liberal party
to attain that degree of independence and personal liberty which was
enjoyed in England or France; the easiest way to do this seemed to be to
copy their institutions. There was, however, another reason: the study
of Roman law in Germany in which they had been educated had accustomed
them to look for absolute principles of jurisprudence which might be
applied to the legislation of all countries; when, therefore, they
turned their minds to questions of politics, they looked for absolute
principles of constitutional government, on which, as on a law of
nature, their own institutions might be built up. To find these they
analysed the English Constitution, for England was the classical land of
representative government; they read its rules as they would the
institutions of a Roman Jurisconsult and used them to cast light on the
dark places of their own law. Bismarck did not share this type of
thought; his mind was rather of the English cast; he believed the old
Prussian Constitution was as much a natural growth as that of England,
and decided dark points by reference to older practice as an Englishman
would search for precedents in the history of his own country.

At that time the absolute excellence of a democratic constitution was a
dogma which few cared to dispute; it appeared to his hearers as a mere
paradox when Bismarck pointed out how little evidence there was that a
great country could prosper under the government of a Parliament elected
by an extended franchise. Strictly speaking, there was no evidence from
experience; France, as he said, was the parent of all these theories,
but the example of France was certainly not seductive. "I see in the
present circumstances of France nothing to encourage us to put the
_Nessus_ robe of French political teaching over our healthy body." (This
was in September, 1849, when the struggle between the Prince President
and the Assembly was already impending.) The Liberals appealed to
Belgium; it had, at least, stood the storm of the last year, but so had
Russia, and, after all, the Belgian Constitution was only eighteen years
old, "an admirable age for ladies but not for constitutions." And then
there was England.

  "England governs itself, although the Lower House has the right
  of refusing taxes. The references to England are our misfortune;
  give us all that is English which we have not, give us English
  fear of God and English reverence before the law, the whole
  English Constitution, but above all the complete independence of
  English landed property, English wealth and English common-sense,
  especially an English Lower House, in short everything which we
  have not got, then I will say, you can govern us after the
  English fashion."

But this was not all. How could they appeal to England as a proof that a
democratic Parliament was desirable? England had not grown great under a
democratic but under an aristocratic constitution.

  "English reform is younger than the Belgian Constitution; we have
  still to wait and see whether this reformed Constitution will
  maintain itself for centuries as did the earlier rule of the
  English aristocracy."

That, in Bismarck's opinion, it was not likely to do so, we see a few
years later; with most Continental critics of English institutions, he
believed that the Reform Bill had destroyed the backbone of the English
Constitution. In 1857 he wrote:

  "They have lost the 'inherited wisdom' since the Reform Bill;
  they maintain a coarse and violent selfishness and the ignorance
  of Continental relations."

It was not merely aristocratic prejudice; it was a wise caution to bid
his countrymen pause before they adopted from foreign theorists a form
of government so new and untried, and risked for the sake of an
experiment the whole future of Prussia.

In later years Bismarck apologised for many of the speeches which he
made at this period: "I was a terrible Junker in those days," he said;
and biographers generally speak of them as though they required
justification or apology. There seems no reason for this. It would have
been impossible for him, had he at that time been entrusted with the
government of the State, entirely to put into practice what he had said
from his place in the Chamber. But he was not minister; he was only a
party leader; his speeches were, as they were intended to be, party
speeches; they had something of the exaggeration which conflict always
produces. They were, moreover, opposition speeches, for he was
addressing not so much the Government as the Chamber and the country,
and in them the party to which he belonged was a very small minority.
But why was there not to be a Conservative party in Prussia?

It was necessary for the proper development of constitutional life that
the dominant Liberal doctrines should be opposed by this bold criticism.
Bismarck was only doing what in England was done by the young Disraeli,
by Carlyle, and by Ruskin; the world would not be saved by
constitutional formulæ.

There were some of his party whose aims went indeed beyond what may be
considered morally legitimate and politically practicable. The Gerlachs
and many of their friends, and the purely military party which was
headed by Prince Charles Frederick, the King's youngest brother, desired
to do away with the Constitution, to dismiss the Parliament, and to
restore the absolute monarchy in a form which would have been more
extreme than that which it had had since 1815. The King himself
sympathised with their wishes and he probably would have acted according
to them were it not that he had sworn to maintain the Constitution. He
was a religious man and he respected his oath. There does not appear any
evidence that Bismarck wished for extreme action of this kind. Even in
his private correspondence, at least in that part of it which has been
published, one finds no desire to see Prussia entirely without a
Parliament. It was a very different thing to wish as he did that the
duties of the Parliament should be strictly limited and that they should
not be allowed completely to govern the State. We must always remember
how much he owed to representative assemblies. Had the Estates General
never been summoned, had the Revolution never taken place, he would
probably have passed his life as a country gentleman, often discontented
with the Government of the country but entirely without influence. He
owed to Parliament his personal reputation, but he owed to it something
more than that. Up to 1847 the only public career open to a Prussian
subject was the Civil Service; it was from them that not only the
subordinate officials but the Ministers of the State were selected. Now
we have seen that Bismarck had tried the Civil Service and deliberately
retired from it. The hatred of bureaucracy he never overcame, even when
he was at the head of the Prussian State. It arose partly from the
natural opposition between the nobleman and the clerk. Bismarck felt in
this like Stein, the greatest of his predecessors, who though he had
taken service under the Prussian Crown never overcame his hatred of
"_the animal with a pen_" as he called Prussian Civil Servants, and shed
tears of indignation when he was first offered a salary. Bismarck was
never a great nobleman like Stein and he did not dislike receiving a
salary; but he felt that the Civil Servants were the enemies of the
order to which he belonged. He speaks a few years later of "the biting
acid of Prussian legislation which in a single generation can reduce a
mediatised Prince to an ordinary voter." He is never tired of saying
that it was the bureaucracy which was the real introducer of the
Revolution into Prussia. In one of his speeches he defends himself and
his friends against the charge of being enemies to freedom; "that they
were not," he says;

  "Absolutism with us is closely connected with the omnipotence of
  the _Geheimrath_ and the conceited omniscience of the Professors
  who sit behind the green table, a product, and I venture to
  maintain a necessary product, of the Prussian method of
  education. This product, the bureaucracy, I have never loved."

When, as he often does, he maintains that the Prussian Parliament does
not represent the people, he is thinking of the predominance among them
of officials, for we must always remember that many of the extreme
Liberal party and some of their most active leaders were men who were
actually at that time in the service of the Crown.

It was the introduction of a Representative Assembly that for the first
time in Prussian history made possible a Conservative opposition against
the Liberalism of the Prussian Government. There are two kinds of
Liberalism. In one sense of the word it means freedom of debate, freedom
of the press, the power of the individual as against the Government,
independence of character, and personal freedom. Of Liberalism in this
sense of the word there was indeed little in the Prussian Government.
But Liberalism also meant the overthrow of the old established
institutions inherited from the Middle Ages, especially the destruction
of all privileges held by the nobility; it meant on the Continent
opposition to all form of dogmatic religious teaching; it meant the
complete subjection of the Church to the State; it meant the abolition
of all local distinctions and the introduction of a uniform system of
government chiefly imitated from French institutions. It was in this
sense of the word that, with the exception of the first few years of the
reign of Frederick William IV., the Prussian Government had been
Liberal, and it was this Liberalism which Bismarck and his friends hated
almost as much as they did the Liberalism of the Revolution.

The clearest instance of his attitude on such matters is to be found in
his opposition to the Bill introduced for making civil marriage
compulsory. He opposed it in a speech which was many years later to be
quoted against him when he himself introduced a measure almost identical
with that which he now opposed. Civil marriage, he said, was a foreign
institution, an imitation of French legislation; it would simply serve
to undermine the belief in Christianity among the people, "and" he said,
"I have seen many friends of the illumination during the last year or
two come to recognise that a certain degree of positive Christianity is
necessary for the common man, if he is not to become dangerous to human
society." The desire for introducing this custom was merely an instance
of the constant wish to imitate what is foreign.

  "It would be amusing," he said, "if it were not just our own
  country which was subjected to these experiments of French
  charlatanism. In the course of the discussion it has often been
  said by gentlemen standing in this place that Europe holds us for
  a people of thinkers. Gentlemen, that was in old days. The
  popular representation of the last two years has deprived us of
  this reputation. They have shown to a disappointed Europe only
  translators of French stucco but no original thinkers. It may be
  that when civil marriage also rejoices in its majority, the
  people will have their eyes opened to the swindle to which they
  have been sacrificed; when one after another the old Christian
  fundamental rights have been taken from them: the right to be
  governed by Christian magistrates; the right to know that they
  have secured to their children a Christian education in schools
  which Christian parents are compelled to maintain and to use;
  the right of being married in the Christian fashion which his
  faith requires from everyone, without being dependent on
  constitutional ceremonies. If we go on in this way I hope still
  to see the day when the fool's ship of the time will be wrecked
  on the rock of the Christian Church; for the belief in the
  revealed Word of God still stands firmer among the people than
  the belief in the saving power of any article of the

In the same way he was able from his place in Parliament to criticise
the proposals of the Government for freeing the peasants from those
payments in kind, and personal service which in some of the provinces
still adhered to their property; he attacked their financial proposals;
he exposed the injustice of the land tax; he defended the manorial
jurisdiction of the country gentlemen. Especially he defended the nobles
of Prussia themselves, a class against whom so many attacks had been
made. He pointed out that by them and by their blood the Prussian State
had been built up; the Prussian nobles were, he maintained, not, as so
often was said, unpopular; a third of the House belonged to them; they
were not necessarily opposed to freedom; they were, at least, the truest
defenders of the State. Let people not confuse patriotism and
Liberalism. Who had done more for the true political independence of the
State, that independence without which all freedom was impossible, than
the Prussian nobles? At the end of the Seven Years' War boys had stood
at the head of the army, the only survivors of their families. The
privileges of the nobles had been taken from them, but they had not
behaved like the democrats; their loyalty to the State had never
wavered; they had not even formed a Fronde. He was not ashamed of the
name of Junker: "We will bring the name to glory and honour," were
almost the last words he spoke in Parliament.

Bismarck soon became completely at home in the House. Notwithstanding
the strength of his opinions and the vigour with which he gave
expression to them, he was not unpopular, even among his opponents. He
was always a gentleman and a man of the world; he did not dislike mixing
with men of all classes and all parties; he had none of that stiffness
and hauteur which many of his friends had acquired from their military
pursuits. His relations with his opponents are illustrated by an
anecdote of which there are many versions. He found himself one day
while in the refreshment room standing side by side with d'Ester, one of
the most extreme of the Republican party. They fell into conversation,
and d'Ester suggested that they should make a compact and, whichever
party succeeded in the struggle for power, they should each agree to
spare the other. If the Republicans won, Bismarck should not be
guillotined; if the monarchists, d'Ester should not be hung. "No,"
answered Bismarck, "that is no use; if you come into power, life would
not be worth living. There must be hanging, but courtesy to the foot of
the gallows."

If he was in after years to become known as the great adversary of
Parliamentary government, this did not arise from any incapacity to
hold his own in Parliamentary debate. He did not indeed aim at oratory;
then, as in later years, he always spoke with great contempt of men who
depended for power on their rhetorical ability. He was himself deficient
in the physical gifts of a great speaker; powerful as was his frame, his
voice was thin and weak. He had nothing of the actor in him; he could
not command the deep voice, the solemn tones, the imposing gestures, the
Olympian mien by which men like Waldeck and Radowitz and Gagern
dominated and controlled their audience. His own mind was essentially
critical; he appealed more to the intellect than the emotions. His
speeches were always controversial, but he was an admirable debater. It
is curious to see how quickly he adopts the natural Parliamentary tone.
His speeches are all subdued in tone and conversational in manner. Many
of them were very carefully prepared, for though he did not generally
write them out, he said them over and over again to himself or to
Kleist, with whom he lived in Berlin. They are entirely unlike any other
speeches--he has, in fact, in them, as in his letters, added a new
chapter to the literature of his country, hitherto so poor in prose.

They shew a vivid imagination and an almost unequalled power of
illustration. The thought is always concrete, and he is never satisfied
with the vague ideas and abstract conceptions which so easily moved his
contemporaries. No speeches, either in English or in German, preserve so
much of their freshness. He is almost the only Parliamentary orator
whose speeches have become to some extent a popular book; no other
orator has enriched the language as he has done with new phrases and
images. The great characteristic of his speeches, as of his letters, is
the complete absence of affectation and the very remarkable intellectual
honesty. They are often deficient in order and arrangement; he did not
excel in the logical exposition of a connected argument, but he never
was satisfied till he had presented the idea which influenced him in
words so forcible and original that it was impressed on the minds of his
audience, and he was often able to find expressions which will not be
forgotten so long as the German language is spoken.

We can easily imagine that under other circumstances, or in another
country, he would have risen to power and held office as a Parliamentary
Minister. He often appeals to the practice and traditions of the English
Parliament, and there are few Continental statesmen who would have been
so completely at home in the English House of Commons; he belonged to
the class of men from whom so many of the great English statesmen had
come and whom he himself describes:

  "What with us is lacking is the whole class which in England
  carries on politics, the class of gentlemen who are well-to-do
  and therefore Conservative, who are independent of material
  interests and whose whole education is directed towards making
  them English statesmen, and the object of whose life is to take
  part in the Commonwealth of England."

They were the class to whom he belonged, and he would gladly have taken
part in a Parliamentary government of this kind.

The weakness of his position arose from the fact that he was really
acquainted with and represented the inhabitants of only one-half of the
monarchy. So long as he is dealing with questions of landed property, or
of the condition of the peasants, he has a minute and thorough
knowledge. He did not always, however, avoid the danger of speaking as
though Prussia consisted entirely of agriculturists. The great
difficulty then as now of governing the State, was that it consisted of
two parts: the older provinces, almost entirely agricultural, where the
land was held chiefly by the great nobles, and the new provinces, the
Rhine and Westphalia, where there was a large and growing industrial
population. To the inhabitants of these provinces Bismarck's constant
appeal to the old Prussian traditions and to the achievements of the
Prussian nobility could have little meaning. What did the citizens of
Cologne and Aachen care about the Seven Years' War? If their ancestors
took part in the war, it would be as enemies of the Kings of Prussia.
When Bismarck said that they were Prussians, and would remain Prussian,
he undoubtedly spoke the opinion of the Mark and of Pomerania. But the
inhabitants of the Western Provinces still felt and thought rather as
Germans than as Prussians; they had scarcely been united with the
monarchy thirty years; they were not disloyal, but they were quite
prepared--nay, they wished to see Prussia dissolved in Germany. No one
can govern Prussia unless he is able to reconcile to his policy these
two different classes in the State. It was this which the Prussian
Conservatives, to which Bismarck at that time belonged, have always
failed to do. The Liberals whom he opposed failed equally. In later
years he was very nearly to succeed in a task which might appear almost





Bismarck, however, did not confine himself to questions of
constitutional reform and internal government. He often spoke on the
foreign policy of the Government, and it is in these speeches that he
shews most originality.

The Revolution in Germany, as in Italy, had two sides; it was Liberal,
but it was also National. The National element was the stronger and more
deep-seated. The Germans felt deeply the humiliation to which they were
exposed owing to the fact that they did not enjoy the protection of a
powerful Government; they wished to belong to a national State, as
Frenchmen, Englishmen, and Russians did. It was the general hope that
the period of revolution might be used for establishing a government to
which the whole of Germany would pay obedience. This was the task of the
Constituent Assembly, which since the spring of 1848 had with the
permission of the Governments been sitting at Frankfort. Would they be
able to succeed where the diplomatists of Vienna had failed? They had
at least good-will, but it was to be shewn that something more than
honest endeavour was necessary. There were three great difficulties with
which they had to contend. The first was the Republican party, the men
who would accept no government but a Republic, and who wished to found
the new state by insurrection. They were a small minority of the German
people; several attempts at insurrection organised by them were
suppressed, and they were outvoted in the Assembly. The second
difficulty was Austria. A considerable portion of Germany was included
in the Austrian Empire. If the whole of Germany were to be included in
the new State which they hoped to found, then part of the Austrian
Empire would have to be separated from the rest, subjected to different
laws and a different government; nothing would remain but a personal
union between the German and Slavonic provinces. The Government of
Austria, after it had recovered its authority at the end of 1848,
refused to accept this position, and published a new Constitution,
binding all the provinces together in a closer union. The Assembly at
Frankfort had no power to coerce the Emperor of Austria; they therefore
adopted the other solution, viz.: that the rest of Germany was to be
reconstituted, and the Austrian provinces left out. The question,
however, then arose: Would Austria accept this--would she allow a new
Germany to be created in which she had no part? Surely not, if she was
able to prevent it. The third difficulty was the relation between the
individual States and the new central authority. It is obvious that
whatever powers were given to the new Government would be taken away
from the Princes of the individual States, who hitherto had enjoyed
complete sovereignty. Those people who in Germany were much influenced
by attachment to the existing governments, and who wished to maintain
the full authority of the Princes and the local Parliaments, were called
_Particularists_. During the excitement of the Revolution they had been
almost entirely silenced. With the restoration of order and authority
they had regained their influence. It was probable that many of the
States would refuse to accept the new Constitution unless they were
compelled to do so. Where was the power to do this? There were many in
the National Assembly who wished to appeal to the power of the people,
and by insurrection and barricades compel all the Princes to accept the
new Constitution. There was only one other power in Germany which could
do the work, and that was the Prussian army. Would the King of Prussia
accept this task?

The German Constitution was completed in March, 1849. By the exercise of
much tact and great personal influence, Heinrich von Gagern, the
President of the Assembly and the leader of the Moderate party in it,
had procured a majority in favour of an hereditary monarchy, and the
King of Prussia was elected to the post of first German Emperor. At the
beginning of April there arrived in Berlin the deputation which was to
offer to him the crown, and on his answer depended the future of
Germany. Were he to accept, he would then have undertaken to put
himself at the head of the revolutionary movement; it would be his duty
to compel all the other States to accept the new Constitution, and, if
necessary, to defend it on the field of battle against Austria. Besides
this he would have to govern not only Prussia but Germany; to govern it
under a Constitution which gave almost all the power to a Parliament
elected by universal suffrage, and in which he had only a suspensive
veto. Can we be surprised that he refused the offer? He refused it on
the ground that he could not accept universal suffrage, and also because
the title and power of German Emperor could not be conferred on him by a
popular assembly; he could only accept it from his equals, the German

The decision of the King was discussed in the Prussian Assembly, and an
address moved declaring that the Frankfort Constitution was in legal
existence, and requesting the King to accept the offer. It was on this
occasion that Bismarck for the first time came forward as the leader of
a small party on the Extreme Right. He at once rose to move the previous
question. He denied to the Assembly even the right of discussing this
matter which belonged to the prerogative of the King.

He was still more strongly opposed to the acceptance of the offered
crown. He saw only that the King of Prussia would be subjected to a
Parliamentary Assembly, that his power of action would be limited. The
motto of his speech was that Prussia must remain Prussia. "The crown of
Frankfort," he said, "may be very bright, but the gold which gives
truth to its brilliance has first to be won by melting down the
Prussian crown." His speech caused great indignation; ten thousand
copies of it were printed to be distributed among the electors so as to
show them the real principles and objects of the reactionary party.

His opposition to any identification of Prussia and Germany was
maintained when the Prussian Government itself took the initiative and
proposed its own solution. During the summer of 1849, the Prussian
programme was published. The Government invited the other States of
Germany to enter into a fresh union; the basis of the new Constitution
was to be that of Frankfort, but altered so far as might be found
necessary, and the union was to be a voluntary one. The King in order to
carry out this policy appointed as one of his Ministers Herr von
Radowitz. He was a man of the highest character and extreme ability. An
officer by profession, he was distinguished by the versatility of his
interests and his great learning. The King found in him a man who shared
his own enthusiasm for letters. He had been a member of the Parliament
at Frankfort, and had taken a leading part among the extreme
Conservatives; a Roman Catholic, he had come forward in defence of
religion and order against the Liberals and Republicans; a very eloquent
speaker, by his earnestness and eloquence he was able for a short time
to give new life to the failing hopes of the German patriots.

Bismarck always looked on the new Minister with great dislike. Radowitz,
indeed, hated the Revolution as much as he did; he was a zealous and
patriotic Prussian; but there was a fundamental difference in the nature
of the two men. Radowitz wished to reform Germany by moral influence.
Bismarck did not believe in the possibility of this. To this perhaps we
must add some personal feeling. The Ministry had hitherto consisted
almost entirely of men who were either personal friends of Bismarck, or
whom he had recommended to the King. With Radowitz there entered into it
a man who was superior to all of them in ability, and over whom Bismarck
could not hope to have any influence. Bismarck's distrust, which
amounted almost to hatred, depended, however, on his fear that the new
policy would bring about the ruin of Prussia. He took the extreme
Particularist view; he had no interest in Germany outside Prussia;
Würtemberg and Bavaria were to him foreign States. In all these
proposals for a new Constitution he saw only that Prussia would be
required to sacrifice its complete independence; that the King of
Prussia would become executor for the decrees of a popular and alien
Parliament. They were asked to cease to be Prussians in order that they
might become Germans. This Bismarck refused to do. "Prussians we are,"
he said, "and Prussians we will remain." He had no sympathy with this
idea of a United Germany which was so powerful at the time; there was
only one way in which he was willing that Germany should be united, and
that was according to the example which Frederick the Great had set. The
ideals of the German nation were represented by Arndt's famous song,
"Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland?" The fatherland of the Germans was not
Suabia or Prussia, not Austria or Bavaria, it was the whole of Germany
wherever the German tongue was spoken. From this Bismarck deliberately
dissociated himself. "I have never heard," he said, "a Prussian soldier
singing, 'Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland?'" The new flag of Germany was
to be the German tricolour, black and white and gold.

  "The Prussian soldiers," cried Bismarck, "have no tricoloured
  enthusiasm; among them you will find, as little as in the rest of
  the Prussian people, the desire for a national regeneration; they
  are contented with the name of Prussia, and proud of the name of
  Prussia. These troops follow the black and white flag, not the
  tricolour; under the black and white they die with joy for their
  country. The tricolour they have learnt since the 18th of March
  to look on as the colours of their foes."

These words aroused intense indignation. One of the speakers who
followed referred to him as the Prodigal Son of the German Fatherland,
who had deserted his father's house. Bismarck repudiated the epithet. "I
am not a prodigal son," he said; "my father's house is Prussia and I
have never left it." He could not more clearly repudiate the title
German. The others were moved by enthusiasm for an idea, he by loyalty
to an existing State.

Nothing was sound, he said, in Germany, except the old Prussian

  "What has preserved us is that which is specifically Prussian. It
  was the remnant of the _Stock-Preussenthum_ which has survived
  the Revolution, the Prussian army, the Prussian treasure, the
  fruits of many years of intelligent Prussian administration, and
  the living co-operation between King and people. It was the
  attachment of the Prussian people to their hereditary dynasty,
  the old Prussian virtues of honour, loyalty, obedience, and the
  courage which, emanating from the officers who form its bone and
  marrow, permeates the army down to the youngest recruit."

He reminded the House how the Assembly at Frankfort had only been saved
from the insurgent mob by a Prussian regiment, and now it was proposed
to weaken and destroy all these Prussian institutions in order to change
them into a democratic Germany. He was asked to assent to a Constitution
in which the Prussian Government would sink to the level of a provincial
council, under the guidance of an Imperial Ministry which itself would
be dependent on a Parliament in which the Prussian interests would be in
a minority. The most important and honourable duties of the Prussian
Parliament would be transferred to a general Parliament; the King would
lose his veto; he would be compelled against his will to assent to laws
he disliked; even the Prussian army would be no longer under his sole
command. What recompense were they to gain for this?

  "The pleasant consciousness of having followed an unselfish and
  noble policy; of having satisfied the requirements of a national
  regeneration; of having carried out the historical task of
  Prussia, or some such vague expression."

With this he contrasted what would have been a true Prussian policy, a
policy which Frederick the Great might have followed.

  "He would have known that now as in the day of our fathers the
  sound of the trumpets which summoned them to their sovereign's
  flag has not lost its power for Prussian ears; he would have had
  the choice either of joining our old comrade Austria, and
  undertaking the brilliant part which the Emperor of Russia has
  played, and destroying the cause of the Revolution, or by the
  same right by which he took Silesia, he might, after refusing to
  accept the crown, have ordered the Germans what constitution they
  should have, and thrown the sword into the scale; then Prussia
  would have been in the position to win for Germany its place in
  the Council of Europe.

  "We all wish the same. We all wish that the Prussian eagle should
  spread out his wings as guardian and ruler from the Memel to the
  Donnersberg, but free will we have him, not bound by a new
  Regensburg Diet. Prussians we are and Prussians will we remain; I
  know that in these words I speak the confession of the Prussian
  army and the majority of my fellow-countrymen, and I hope to God
  that we will still long remain Prussian when this sheet of paper
  is forgotten like a withered autumn leaf."

The policy of Radowitz was doomed to failure, not so much because of any
inherent weakness in it, but because Prussia was not strong enough to
defend herself against all the enemies she had called up. The other
Courts of Germany were lukewarm, Austria was extremely hostile. The
Kings of Hanover and Saxony retreated from the alliance on the ground
that they would enter the union only if the whole of Germany joined;
Bavaria had refused to do so; in fact the two other Kings had privately
used all their influence to prevent Bavaria from joining, in order that
they might always have an excuse for seceding. Prussia was, therefore,
left surrounded by twenty-eight of the smaller States. A Parliament from
them was summoned to meet at Erfurt in order to discuss the new
Constitution. Bismarck was elected a member of it; he went there
avowedly to protect the Prussian interests. He had demanded from the
Government that at least the Constitution agreed on in Erfurt should
again be submitted to the Prussian Chamber; he feared that many of the
most important Prussian rights might be sacrificed. His request was
refused, for it was obvious that if, after the Parliament of Erfurt had
come to some conclusion, the new Constitution was to be referred back
again to the twenty-eight Parliaments of the allied States, the new
union would never come into effect at all. It is curious here to find
Bismarck using the rights of the Prussian Parliament as a weapon to
maintain the complete independence of Prussia. Sixteen years later, when
he was doing the work in which Radowitz failed, one of his chief
difficulties arose from the conduct of men who came forward with just
the same demand which he now made, and he had to refuse their demands as
Radowitz now refused his.

He did not take much part in the debates at Erfurt; as he was one of the
youngest of the members, he held the position of Secretary; the
President of the Assembly was Simpson, a very distinguished public man,
but a converted Jew. "What would my father have said," observed
Bismarck, "if he had lived to see me become clerk to a Jewish scholar?"
On one occasion he became involved in what might have been a very
serious dispute, when he used his power as Secretary to exclude from the
reporters' gallery two journalists whose reports of the meeting were
very partial and strongly opposed to Austria. His attitude towards the
Assembly is shewn by the words:

  "I know that what I have said to you will have no influence on
  your votes, but I am equally convinced that your votes will be as
  completely without influence on the course of events."

The whole union was, as a matter of fact, broken down by the opposition
of Austria. Bismarck had, in one of his first speeches, warned against a
policy which would bring Prussia into the position which Piedmont had
held before the battle of Novara, when they embarked on a war in which
victory would have brought about the overthrow of the monarchy, and
defeat a disgraceful peace. It was his way of saying that he hoped the
King would not eventually draw the sword in order to defend the new
Liberal Constitution against the opposition of Austria. The day came
when the King was placed in this position. Austria had summoned the old
Diet to meet at Frankfort; Prussia denied that the Diet still legally
existed; the two policies were clearly opposed to one another: Austria
desiring the restoration of the old Constitution, Prussia, at the head
of Liberal Germany, summoning the States round her in a new union. There
were other disputes about Schleswig-Holstein and the affairs of Hesse,
but this was the real point at issue. The Austrians were armed, and were
supported by the Czar and many of the German States; shots were actually
exchanged between the Prussian and Bavarian outposts in Hesse. The
Austrian ambassador had orders to leave Berlin; had he done so, war
could not have been avoided. He disobeyed his orders, remained in
Berlin, asked for an interview with the King, and used all his influence
to persuade him to surrender. The Ministry was divided; Radowitz stood
almost alone; the other Ministers, Bismarck's friends, had always
distrusted his policy. They wished to renew the old alliance with
Austria; the Minister of War said they could not risk the struggle; it
was rumoured that he had deliberately avoided making preparations in
order to prevent the King putting himself at the head of the Liberal
party. During the crisis, Bismarck was summoned to the King at
Letzlingen; there can be no doubt what his advice was; eventually the
party of peace prevailed, and Radowitz resigned. Bismarck on hearing the
news danced three times round the table with delight. Brandenburg died
almost immediately after; Manteuffel became Minister-President; he asked
Schwarzenberg for an interview, travelled to Olmütz to meet him, and an
agreement was come to by which practically Prussia surrendered every
object of dispute between the two great Powers.

The convention of Olmütz was the most complete humiliation to which any
European State has ever been subjected. Prussia had undertaken a policy,
and with the strong approval of the great majority of the nation had
consistently maintained it for over a year; Austria had required that
this policy should be surrendered; the two States had armed; the
ultimatum had been sent, everything was prepared for war, and then
Prussia surrendered. The cause for this was a double one. It was partly
that Prussia was really not strong enough to meet the coalition of
Austria and Russia, but it was also that the King was really of two
minds; he was constitutionally unable to maintain against danger a
consistent course of policy.

Bismarck was one of the few men who defended the action of the Ministry.
In the ablest of all his speeches he took up the gauntlet, and exposed
all the weakness and the dangers of Radowitz's policy. This was not a
cause in which Prussia should risk its existence. Why should they go to
war in order to subject Prussia not to the Princes but to the Chambers
of the smaller States? A war for the Union would, he said, remind him of
the Englishman who had a fight with the sentry in order that he might
hang himself in the sentry-box, a right which he claimed for himself and
every free Briton. It was the duty of the councillors of the King to
warn him from a policy which would bring the State to destruction.

  "Still I would not shrink, from the war; I would advise it, were
  anyone able to prove to me the necessity for it, or to point out
  a worthy end which could be attained by it and in no other way.
  Why do great States wage war nowadays? The only sound principle
  of action for a great State is political egoism and not
  Romanticism, and it is unworthy of a great State to fight for any
  matter which does not concern its own interests. Shew us,
  gentlemen, an object worthy of war and you have my vote. It is
  easy for a statesman in his office or his chamber to blow the
  trumpet with the breath of popularity and all the time to sit
  warming himself by his fireside, while he leaves it to the
  rifleman, who lies bleeding on the snow, whether his system
  attains victory and glory. Nothing is easier; but woe to the
  statesman who at such a time does not look about for a reason for
  the war which will be valid when the war is over. I am convinced
  you will see the questions which now occupy us in a different
  light a year hence, when you look back upon them through a long
  perspective of battle-fields and conflagrations, misery and
  wretchedness. Will you then have the courage to go to the peasant
  by the ashes of his cottage, to the cripple, to the childless
  father, and say: 'You have suffered much, but rejoice with us,
  the Union is saved. Rejoice with us, Hassenpflug is no longer
  Minister, Bayernhofer rules in Hesse.'"

Eloquent words; but what a strange comment on them his own acts were to
afford. In 1850 Prussia had a clearer and juster cause of war than in
1866; every word of his speech might have been used with equal effect
sixteen years later; the Constitution of 1850 was little different from
that which Bismarck himself was to give to Germany. The policy of
Radowitz was the only true policy for Prussia; if he failed, it was
because Prussia's army was not strong enough; war would have been
followed by defeat and disaster. There was one man who saw the evils as
they really were; the Prince of Prussia determined that if ever he
became King the army of Prussia should be again made strong and

It was probably this speech which determined Bismarck's future career.
He had defended the agreement with Austria and identified himself with
the policy of the Government; what more natural than that they should
use him to help to carry out the policy he had upheld. Prussia consented
to recognise the restoration of the Diet; it would be necessary,
therefore, to send an envoy. Now that she had submitted to Austria the
only wise policy was to cultivate her friendship. Who could do this
better than Bismarck? Who had more boldly supported and praised the new
rulers of Austria? When the Gotha party, as they were called, had wished
to exclude Austria from Germany, he it was who said that Austria was no
more a foreign State than Würtemberg or Bavaria. The appointment of
Bismarck would be the best proof of the loyal intentions of the Prussian

A few years later he himself gave to Motley the following account of his

  "In the summer of 1851," Motley writes, "he told me that the
  Minister, Manteuffel, asked him one day abruptly, if he would
  accept the post of Ambassador at Frankfort, to which (although
  the proposition was as unexpected a one to him as if I should
  hear by the next mail that I had been chosen Governor of
  Massachusetts) he answered, after a moment's deliberation, 'yes,'
  with out another word. The King, the same day, sent for him, and
  asked him if he would accept the place, to which he made the same
  brief answer, 'Ja.' His Majesty expressed a little surprise that
  he made no inquiries or conditions, when Bismarck replied that
  anything which the King felt strong enough to propose to him, he
  felt strong enough to accept. I only write these details, that
  you may have an idea of the man. Strict integrity and courage of
  character, a high sense of honour, a firm religious belief,
  united with remarkable talents, make up necessarily a combination
  which cannot be found any day in any Court; and I have no doubt
  that he is destined to be Prime Minister, unless his obstinate
  truthfulness, which is apt to be a stumbling-block for
  politicians, stands in his way."




Bismarck when he went to Frankfort was thirty-six years of age; he had
had no experience in diplomacy and had long been unaccustomed to the
routine of official life. He had distinguished himself by qualities
which might seem very undiplomatic; as a Parliamentary debater he had
been outspoken in a degree remarkable even during a revolution; he had a
habit of tearing away the veil from those facts which everyone knows and
which all wish to ignore; a careless good-fellowship which promised
little of that reserve and discretion so necessary in a confidential
agent; a personal and wilful independence which might easily lead him
into disagreement with the Ministers and the King. He had not even the
advantage of learning his work by apprenticeship under a more
experienced official; during the first two months at Frankfort he held
the position of First Secretary, but his chief did not attempt to
introduce him to the more important negotiations and when, at the end of
July, he received his definite appointment as envoy, he knew as little
of the work as when he arrived at Frankfort.

He had, however, occupied his time in becoming acquainted with the
social conditions. His first impressions were very unfavourable.
Frankfort held a peculiar position. Though the centre of the German
political system it was less German than any other town in the country.
The society was very cosmopolitan. There were the envoys of the German
States and the foreign Powers, but the diplomatic circle was not graced
by the dignity of a Court nor by the neighbourhood of any great
administrative Power. Side by side with the diplomatists were the
citizens of Frankfort; but here again we find indeed a great
money-market, the centre of the finance of the Continent, dissociated
from any great productive activity. In the neighbourhood were the
watering-places and gambling-tables; Homburg and Wiesbaden, Soden and
Baden-Baden, were within an easy ride or short railway journey, and
Frankfort was constantly visited by all the idle Princes of Germany. It
was a city in which intrigue took the place of statesmanship, and never
has intrigue played so large a part in the history of Europe as during
the years 1850-1870. Half the small States who were represented at
Frankfort had ambitions beyond their powers; they liked to play their
part in the politics of Europe. Too weak to stand alone, they were also
too weak to be quite honest, and attempted to gain by cunning a position
which they could not maintain by other means. This was the city in which
Bismarck was to serve his diplomatic apprenticeship.

Two extracts from letters to his wife give the best picture of his
personal character at this time:

  "On Saturday I drove with Rochow to Rüdesheim; there I took a
  boat and rowed out on the Rhine, and bathed in the
  moonlight--only nose and eyes above the water, and floated down
  to the Rat Tower at Bingen, where the wicked Bishop met his end.
  It is something strangely dreamlike to lie in the water in the
  quiet, warm light, gently carried along by the stream; to look at
  the sky with the moon and stars above one, and, on either side,
  to see the wooded mountain-tops and castle parapets in the
  moonlight, and to hear nothing but the gentle rippling of one's
  own motion. I should like a swim like this every evening. Then I
  drank some very good wine, and sat long talking with Lynar on the
  balcony, with the Rhine beneath us. My little Testament and the
  starry heavens brought us on Christian topics, and I long shook
  at the Rousseau-like virtue of his soul."

  "Yesterday I was at Wiesbaden, and with a feeling of melancholy
  revisited the scenes of former folly. May it please God to fill
  with His clear and strong wine this vessel in which the champagne
  of twenty-one years foamed so uselessly.... I do not understand
  how a man who reflects on himself, and still knows, and will
  know, nothing of God, can endure his life for contempt and
  weariness. I do not know how I endured this in old days; if, as
  then, I were to live without God, thee, and the children, I do
  not know why I should not put life aside like a dirty shirt; and
  yet most of my acquaintances live thus."

Now let us see what he thinks of his new duties:

  "Our intercourse here is at best nothing but a mutual suspicion
  and espionage; if only there was anything to spy out and to hide!
  It is pure trifles with which they worry themselves, and I find
  these diplomatists with their airs of confidence and their petty
  fussiness much more absurd than the member of the Second Chamber
  in his conscious dignity. Unless some external events take place,
  and we clever men of the Diet can neither direct nor foresee
  them, I know already what we shall bring about in one or two or
  three years, and will do it in twenty-four hours if the others
  will only be reasonable and truthful for a single day. I am
  making tremendous progress in the art of saying nothing in many
  words; I write reports many pages long, which are smooth and
  finished like leading articles, and if Manteuffel after reading
  them can say what they contain, he can do more than I. We all do
  as though we believed of each other that we are full of thoughts
  and plans, if only we would express them, and all the time we
  none of us know a hair's breadth more what will become of

Of the Austrian Envoy who was President of the Diet he writes:

  "Thun in his outward appearance has something of a hearty good
  fellow mixed with a touch of the Vienna _roué_. Underneath this
  he hides, I will not say great political power and intellectual
  gifts, but an uncommon cleverness and cunning, which with great
  presence of mind appears from underneath the mask of harmless
  good-humour as soon as politics are concerned. I consider him as
  an opponent who is dangerous to anyone who honestly trusts him,
  instead of paying back in his own coin."

His judgment on his other colleagues is equally decisive; of the
Austrian diplomatists he writes:

  "one must never expect that they will make what is right the
  foundation of their policy for the simple reason that it is the
  right. Cautious dishonesty is the characteristic of their
  association with us. They have nothing which awakens confidence.
  They intrigue under the mask of good-fellowship."

It was impossible to look for open co-operation from them;

  "their mouths are full of the necessity for common action, but
  when it is a question of furthering our wishes, then officially
  it is, 'We will not oppose,' and a secret pleasure in preparing

It was just the same with the envoys of the other countries: with few
exceptions there is none for whom right has any value in itself.

  "They are caricatures of diplomatists who put on their official
  physiognomy if I ask them for a light, and select gestures and
  words with a truly Regensburg caution, if they ask for the key of
  the water-closet." Writing to Gerlach he speaks of "the lying,
  double-tongued policy of the Austrians. Of all the lies and
  intrigues that go on up and down the Rhine an honest man from the
  old Mark has no conception. These South German children of nature
  are very corrupt."

His opinion of the diplomatists does not seem to have improved as he
knew them better. Years later he wrote:

  "There are few diplomatists who in the long run do not prefer to
  capitulate with their conscience and their patriotism, and to
  guard the interests of their country and their sovereign with
  somewhat less decision, rather than, incessantly and with danger
  to their personal position, to contend with the difficulties
  which are prepared for them by a powerful and unscrupulous

He does not think much better of his own Prussian colleagues; he often
complains of the want of support which he received. "With us the
official diplomacy," he writes, "is capable of playing under the same
roof with strangers against their own countrymen."

These letters are chiefly interesting because of the light they throw on
his own character at the beginning of his diplomatic career; we must not
take them all too seriously. He was too good a raconteur not to make a
good story better, and too good a letter-writer not to add something to
the effect of his descriptions; besides, as he says elsewhere, he did
not easily see the good side of people; his eyes were sharper for their
faults than their good qualities.[4] After the first few passages of
arms he got on well enough with Thun; when he was recalled two years
later Bismarck spoke of him with much warmth. "I like him personally,
and should be glad to have him for a neighbour at Schönhausen."

It is however important to notice that the first impression made on him
by diplomatic work was that of wanton and ineffective deceit. Those who
accuse him, as is so often done, of lowering the standard of political
morality which prevails in Europe, know little of politics as they were
at the time when Schwarzenberg was the leading statesman.

It was his fate at once to be brought in close contact with the most
disagreeable side of political life. In all diplomatic work there must
be a good deal of espionage and underhand dealing. This was a part of
his duties which Bismarck had soon to learn. He was entrusted with the
management of the Press. This consisted of two parts: first of all, he
had to procure the insertion of articles in influential papers in a
sense agreeable to the plans of the Prussian Government; secondly, when
hostile articles appeared, or inconvenient information was published, he
had to trace the authors of it,--find out by whom the obnoxious paper
had been inspired, or who had conveyed the secret information. This is a
form of activity of which it is of course not possible to give any full
account; it seems, however, clear that in a remarkably short time
Bismarck shewed great aptitude for his new duties. His letters to
Manteuffel are full of curious information as to the intrigues of those
who are hostile to Prussia. He soon learns to distrust the information
supplied by the police; all through his life he had little respect for
this department of the Prussian State. He soon had agents of his own. We
find him gaining secret information as to the plans of the Ultramontane
party in Baden from a compositor at Freiburg who was in his pay. On
other occasions, when a Court official at Berlin had conveyed to the
newspapers private information, Bismarck was soon able to trace him out.
We get the impression, both from his letters and from what other
information we possess, that all the diplomatists of Germany were
constantly occupied in calumniating one another through anonymous
contributions to a venal Press.

It is characteristic of the customs of the time that he had to warn his
wife that all her letters to him would be read in the post-office before
he received them. It was not only the Austrians who used these methods;
each of the Prussian Ministers would have his own organ which he would
use for his own purposes, and only too probably to attack his own
colleagues. It was at this time that a curious fact came to light with
regard to Herr von Prokesch-Osten, the Austrian Ambassador at Berlin. He
had been transferred from Berlin to Frankfort, and on leaving his house
sold some of his furniture. In a chest of drawers was found a large
bundle of papers consisting of newspaper articles in his handwriting,
which had been communicated to different papers, attacking the Prussian
Government, to which he at the time was accredited. Of Prokesch it is
that Bismarck once writes: "As to his statements I do not know how much
you will find to be Prokesch, and how much to be true." On another
occasion, before many witnesses, Bismarck had disputed some statement he
made. "If it is not true," cried Prokesch, "then I should have lied in
the name of the Royal and Imperial Government." "Certainly," answered
Bismarck. There was a dead pause in the conversation. Prokesch
afterwards officially admitted that the statement had been incorrect.

This association with the Press formed in him a habit of mind which he
never lost: the proper use of newspapers seemed to him, as to most
German statesmen, to be not the expression of public opinion but the
support of the Government; if a paper is opposed to the Government, the
assumption seems to be that it is bribed by some other State.

  "The whole country would rejoice if some of the papers which are
  supported by foreign sources were suppressed, with the express
  recognition of their unpatriotic attitude. There may be
  opposition in the internal affairs, but a paper which in Prussia
  takes part against the policy of the King on behalf of foreign
  countries, must be regarded as dishonoured and treated as such."

Politically his position was very difficult; the Diet had been restored
by Austria against the will of Prussia; the very presence of a Prussian
Envoy in Frankfort was a sign of her humiliation. He had indeed gone
there full of friendly dispositions towards Austria; he was instructed
to take up again the policy which had been pursued before 1848, when all
questions of importance had been discussed by the two great Powers
before they were laid before the Diet. Bismarck, however, quickly found
that this was no longer the intention of Austria; the Austria which he
had so chivalrously defended at Berlin did not exist; he had expected to
find a warm and faithful friend--he found a cunning and arrogant enemy.
Schwarzenberg had spared Prussia but he intended to humble her; he
wished to use the Diet as a means of permanently asserting the
supremacy of Austria, and he would not be content until Prussia had been
forced like Saxony or Bavaria to acquiesce in the position of a vassal
State. The task might not seem impossible, for Prussia appeared to be on
the downward path.

Of course the Diet of Frankfort was the place where the plan had to be
carried out; it seemed an admirable opportunity that Prussia was
represented there by a young and untried man. Count Thun and his
successors used every means to make it appear as though Prussia was a
State not of equal rank with Austria. They carried the war into society
and, as diplomatists always will, used the outward forms of social
intercourse as a means for obtaining political ends. On this field,
Bismarck was quite capable of meeting them. He has told many stories of
their conflicts.

As President of the Diet, Thun claimed privileges for himself which
others did not dare to dispute.

  "In the sittings of the military commission when Rochow was
  Prussian envoy, Austria alone smoked. Rochow, who was a
  passionate smoker, would also have gladly done so, but did not
  venture. When I came I did not see any reason against it; and
  asked for a light from the Presiding State; this seemed to be
  noticed with astonishment and displeasure by him and the other
  gentlemen; it was obviously an event for them. This time only
  Austria and Prussia smoked. But the others obviously held it so
  important that they sent home a report on it. Someone must have
  written about it to Berlin, as a question from the late King
  arrived; he did not smoke himself and probably did not find the
  affair to his taste. It required much consideration at the
  smaller Courts, and for quite half a year only the two great
  Powers smoked. Then Schrenk, the Bavarian envoy, began to
  maintain the dignity of his position by smoking. The Saxon
  Nostitz would doubtless have liked to begin too, but I suppose he
  had not yet received permission from his Minister. But when next
  time he saw that Bothmer, the Hanoverian, allowed himself a
  cigar, he must have come to an understanding with his neighbour
  (he was a good Austrian, and had sons in the Austrian army), for
  he brought out his pouch and lit up. There remained only the
  Würtemberger and the Darmstadter, and they did not smoke at all,
  but the honour and the importance of their States required it,
  and so on the following day the Würtemberger really brought out
  his cigar. I can see him with it now, a long, thin, yellow thing,
  the colour of rye-straw,--and with sulky determination, as a
  sacrifice for his Swabian fatherland, he smoked at least half of
  it. Hesse-Darmstadt alone refrained."

On another occasion Thun received Bismarck in his shirt sleeves: "You
are quite right," said Bismarck, "it is very hot," and took off his own

In the transaction of business he found the same thing. The plan seemed
to be deliberately to adopt a policy disadvantageous to Prussia, to
procure the votes of a majority of the States, thereby to cause Prussia
to be outvoted, and to leave her in the dilemma of accepting a decision
which was harmful to herself or of openly breaking with the Federation.
On every matter which came up the same scenes repeated themselves; now
it was the disposal of the fleet, which had to a great extent been
provided for and maintained by Prussian money; Austria demanded that it
should be regarded as the property of the Confederation even though most
of the States had never paid their contribution. Then it was the
question of the Customs' Union; a strong effort was made by the
anti-Prussian party to overthrow the union which Prussia had established
and thereby ruin the one great work which she had achieved. Against
these and similar attempts Bismarck had constantly to be on the
defensive. Another time it was the publication of the proceedings of the
Diet which the Austrians tried to make a weapon against Prussia. The
whole intercourse became nothing but a series of disputes, sometimes
serious, sometimes trivial.

Bismarck was soon able to hold his own; poor Count Thun, whose nerves
were not strong, after a serious discussion with him used to go to bed
at five o'clock in the afternoon; he complained that his health would
not allow him to hold his post if there were to be continuous quarrels.
When his successor, Herr v. Prokesch, left Frankfort for Constantinople,
he said that "it would be like an Eastern dream of the blessed to
converse with the wise Ali instead of Bismarck."

As soon as the first strangeness had passed off Bismarck became
reconciled to his position. His wife and children joined him, he made
himself a comfortable home, and his house soon became one of the most
popular in the town; he and his wife were genial and hospitable and he
used his position to extend his own influence and that of his country.
His old friend, Motley, visited him there in 1855 and wrote to his wife:

                                          "Monday, July 30, 1855.

  " ... The Bismarcks are as kind as ever--nothing can be more
  frank and cordial than her manners. I am there all day long. It
  is one of those houses where everyone does what he likes. The
  show apartments where they receive formal company are on the
  front of the house. Their living rooms, however, are a _salon_
  and dining-room at the back, opening upon the garden. Here there
  are young and old, grandparents and children and dogs all at
  once, eating, drinking, smoking, piano-playing, and pistol-firing
  (in the garden), all going on at the same time. It is one of
  those establishments where every earthly thing that can be eaten
  or drunk is offered you; porter, soda water, small beer,
  champagne, burgundy, or claret are about all the time, and
  everybody is smoking the best Havana cigars every minute."

He had plenty of society, much of it congenial to him. He had given up
playing since his marriage, and was one of the few diplomatists who was
not found at the Homburg gaming-tables, but he had a sufficiency of
sport and joined with the British envoy, Sir Alexander Malet, in taking
some shooting. A couple of years later in contradicting one of the
frequent newspaper reports, that he aimed at supplanting the Minister,
he says:

  "My castle in the air is to spend three to five years longer at
  Frankfort, then perhaps the same time in Vienna or Paris, then
  ten years with glory as Minister, then die as a country

A prospect which has been more nearly fulfilled than such wishes
generally are.

He was for the first year still a member of the Second Chamber and
occasionally appeared in it; his interest in his diplomatic work had,
however, begun to overshadow his pleasure in Parliamentary debate.

  "I am thoroughly tired of my life here," he writes in May, 1853,
  to his wife from Berlin, "and long for the day of my departure. I
  find the intrigues of the House immeasurably shallow and
  undignified; if one always lives among them, one deceives oneself
  and considers them something wonderful. When I come here from
  Frankfort and see them as they really are, I feel like a sober
  man who has fallen among drunkards. There is something very
  demoralising in the air of the Chambers; it makes the best people
  vain without their knowing it."

So quickly has he outgrown his feelings of a year ago: then it was the
intrigues of diplomatists that had seemed to him useless and
demoralising. Now it was Parliamentary debates; in the opinion he formed
at this time he never wavered.

His distaste for Parliamentary life was probably increased by an event
which took place about this time. As so often before in the course of
debate he had a sharp passage of words with Vincke; the latter referred
contemptuously to Bismarck's diplomatic achievements. "All I know of
them is the famous lighted cigar."

Bismarck answered with some angry words and at the close of the sitting
sent a challenge. Four days later a duel with pistols took place--the
only one he ever fought. Neither was injured. It seems that Vincke, who
had the first shot, seeing that Bismarck (who had received the sacrament
the night before) was praying, missed on purpose; Bismarck then shot
into the air.

For these reasons he did not stand for re-election when the Chamber was
dissolved in 1852, although the King was very much displeased with his
determination. He was shortly afterwards appointed member of the newly
constituted House of Lords, but though he occasionally voted, as in duty
bound, for Government measures, he never spoke; he was not to be heard
again in the Parliament until he appeared there as President of the
Ministry. He was glad to be freed from a tie which had interfered with
his duties at Frankfort; to these he devoted himself with an
extraordinary energy; all his old repugnance to official life had
disappeared; he did not confine himself to the mere routine of his
duties, or to carrying out the instructions sent to him from Berlin.

His power of work was marvellous: there passed through his hands a
constant series of most important and complicated negotiations; up to
this time he had no experience or practice in sedentary literary work,
now he seems to go out of the way to make fresh labours for himself. He
writes long and careful despatches to his Minister on matters of general
policy; some of them so carefully thought out and so clearly expressed
that they may still be looked on as models. He is entirely free from
that circumlocution and involved style which makes so much diplomatic
correspondence almost worthless. His arguments are always clear,
complete, concise. He used to work long into the night, and then, when
in the early morning the post to Berlin had gone, he would mount his
horse and ride out into the country. It was in these years that he
formed those habits to which the breakdown of his health in later years
was due; but now his physical and intellectual vigour seemed

He never feared to press his own views as to the policy which should be
pursued. He also kept up a constant correspondence with Gerlach, and
many of these letters were laid before the King, so that even when
absent he continued as before to influence both the official and
unofficial advisers. He soon became the chief adviser on German affairs
and was often summoned to Berlin that his advice might be taken; within
two years after his appointment he was sent on a special mission to
Vienna to try and bring about an agreement as to the rivalry concerning
the Customs' Union. He failed, but he had gained a knowledge of persons
and opinions at the Austrian Court which was to be of much use to him.

During these years, indeed, he acquired a most remarkable knowledge of
Germany; before, he had lived entirely in Prussia, now he was at the
centre of the German political system, continually engaged in important
negotiations with the other Courts; after a few years there was not a
man of importance in German public life whose character and opinions he
had not gauged.

Further experience only confirmed in him the observations he had made at
the beginning, that it was impossible to maintain a good understanding
with Austria. The tone of his letters soon changes from doubt and
disappointment to settled and determined hostility. In other matters
also he found that the world was not the same place it had seemed to
him; he had been accustomed to regard the Revolution as the chief danger
to be met; at Frankfort he was in the home of it; here for nearly a year
the German Assembly had held its meetings; in the neighbouring States of
Baden, Hesse, and in the Palatinate, the Republican element was strong;
he found them as revolutionary as ever, but he soon learnt to despise
rather than fear them:

  "The population here would be a political volcano if revolutions
  were made with the mouth; so long as it requires blood and
  strength they will obey anyone who has courage to command and, if
  necessary, to draw the sword; they would be dangerous only under
  cowardly governments.

  "I have never seen two men fighting in all the two years I have
  been here. This cowardice does not prevent the people, who are
  completely devoid of all inner Christianity and all respect for
  authority, from sympathising with
  the Revolution."

His observations on the character of the South Germans only increased
his admiration for the Prussian people and his confidence in the
Prussian State.

He had not been at Frankfort a year before he had learnt to look on this
hostility of Austria as unsurmountable. As soon as he had convinced
himself of this, he did not bewail and bemoan the desertion of their
ally; he at once accustomed himself to the new position and considered
in what way the Government ought to act. His argument was simple.
Austria is now our enemy; we must be prepared to meet this enmity either
by diplomacy or war; we are not strong enough to do so alone; therefore
we must have allies. There was no sure alliance to be had in Germany; he
despised the other German States. If there were to be a war he would
rather have them against him than on his side. He must find help abroad;
Austria had overcome Prussia by the alliance with Russia. Surely the
only thing to be done was to seek support where it could be got, either
with Russia or with France, if possible with both. In this he was only
reverting to the old policy of Prussia; the alliance with Austria had
only begun in 1813. From now until 1866 his whole policy was ceaselessly
devoted to bringing about such a disposition of the forces of Europe
that Austria might be left without allies and Prussia be able to regain
the upper hand in German affairs.

The change was in his circumstances, not in his character; as before he
was moved by a consuming passion of patriotism; something there was too
of personal feeling,--his own pride, his own ambitions were engaged,
though this was as nothing compared to love of his country and loyalty
to the King. He was a soldier of the Prussian Crown: at Berlin he had to
defend it against internal enemies; now the danger had shifted, the
power of the Government was established, why waste time in fighting
with Liberalism? Other enemies were pressing on. When Jellachich and
Windischgätz had stood victorious by the blood-stained altar of St.
Stephen's, the Austrian army had destroyed the common foe; now it was
the same Austrian army and Austrian statesmen who desired to put a limit
to Prussian ambition. Bismarck threw himself into the conflict of
diplomacy with the same courage and relentless persistence that he had
shewn in Parliamentary debates. He had already begun to divine that the
time might come when the Prussian Crown would find an ally in Italian
patriots and Hungarian rebels.

It was the Eastern complications which first enabled him to shew his
diplomatic abilities in the larger field of European politics. The plans
for the dismemberment of the Turkish Empire which were entertained by
the Czar were opposed by England, France, and Austria; Prussia, though
not immediately concerned, also at first gave her assent to the various
notes and protests of the Powers; so that the ambition of the Czar was
confronted by the unanimous voice of Europe.

Bismarck from the beginning regarded the situation with apprehension; he
saw that Prussia was being entangled in a struggle in which she had much
to lose and nothing to gain. If she continued to support the Western
Powers she would incur the hatred of Russia; then, perhaps, by a sudden
change of policy on the part of Napoleon, she would be left helpless and
exposed to Russian vengeance. If war were to break out, and Prussia took
part in the war, then the struggle between France and Russia would be
fought out on German soil, and, whoever was victorious, Germany would be
the loser. What interests of theirs were at stake that they should incur
this danger? why should Prussia sacrifice herself to preserve English
influence in the Mediterranean, or the interests of Austria on the
Danube? He wished for exactly the opposite policy; the embarrassment of
Austria must be the opportunity of Prussia; now was the time to recover
the lost position in Germany. The dangerous friendship of Austria and
Russia was dissolved; if Prussia came to an understanding with the Czar,
it was now Austria that would be isolated. The other German States would
not desire to be dragged into a war to support Austrian dominion in the
East. Let Prussia be firm and they would turn to her for support, and
she would once more be able to command a majority of the Diet.

For these reasons he recommended his Government to preserve an armed
neutrality, in union, if possible, with the other German States. If they
were to take sides, he preferred it should not be with the Western
Powers, for, as he said,--

  "We must look abroad for allies, and among the European Powers
  Russia is to be had on the cheapest terms; it wishes only to grow
  in the East, the two others at our expense."

It shews the advance he had made in diplomacy that throughout his
correspondence he never refers to the actual cause of dispute; others
might discuss the condition of the Christians in Turkey or the Holy
Places of Jerusalem; he thinks only of the strength and weakness of his
own State. The opening of the Black Sea, the dismemberment of Turkey,
the control of the Mediterranean, the fate of the Danubian
Principalities--for all this he cared nothing, for in them Prussia had
no interests; they only existed for him so far as the new combinations
among the Powers might for good or evil affect Prussia.

The crisis came in 1854: a Russian army occupied Moldavia and Wallachia;
England and France sent their fleets to the Black Sea; they determined
on war and they wished for the alliance of Austria. Austria was inclined
to join, for the presence of Russian troops on the Danube was a menace
to her; she did not dare to move unless supported by Prussia and
Germany; she appealed to the Confederacy and urged that her demands
might be supported by the armies of her allies; but the German States
were little inclined to send the levies of their men for the Eastern
interests of the Emperor. If they were encouraged by Prussia, they would
refuse; the result in Germany, as in Europe, depended on the action of
Prussia, and the decision lay with the King.

Was Prussia to take part with Russia or the Western Powers? That was the
question which for many months was debated at Berlin.

The public opinion of the nation was strong for the Western Powers; they
feared the influence of Russia on the internal affairs of Germany; they
had not forgotten or forgiven the part which the Czar had taken in 1849;
the choice seemed to lie between Russia and England, between liberty and
despotism, between civilisation and barbarism. On this side also were
those who wished to maintain the alliance with Austria. Russia had few
friends except at the Court and in the army, but the party of the _Kreuz
Zeitung,_ the Court Camarilla, the princes and nobles who commanded the
_Garde Corps_, wished for nothing better than a close alliance with the
great Emperor who had saved Europe from the Revolution. "Let us draw our
sword openly in defence of Russia," they said, "then we may bring
Austria with us; the old alliance of the three monarchies will be
restored, and then will be the time for a new crusade against France,
the natural enemy of Germany, and the upstart Emperor."

The conflict of parties was keenest in the precincts of the Court;
society in Berlin was divided between the Russian and the English; the
Queen was hot for Russia, but the English party rallied round the Prince
of Prussia and met in the salons of his wife. Between the two the King
wavered; he was, as always, more influenced by feeling than by
calculation, but his feelings were divided. How could he decide between
Austria and Russia, the two ancient allies of his house? He loved and
reverenced the Czar; he feared and distrusted Napoleon; alliance with
infidels against Christians was to him a horrible thought, but he knew
how violent were the actions and lawless the desires of Nicholas. He
could not ignore the opinions of Western Europe and he wished to stand
well with England. The men by whose advice he was guided stood on
opposite sides: Bunsen was for England, Gerlach for Russia; the Ministry
also was divided. No efforts were spared to influence him; the Czar and
Napoleon each sent special envoys to his Court; the Queen of England and
her husband warned him not to forget his duty to Europe and humanity; if
he would join the allies there would be no war. Still he wavered; "he
goes to bed an Englishman and gets up a Russian," said the Czar, who
despised his brother-in-law as much as he was honoured by him.

While the struggle was at its height, Bismarck was summoned to Berlin,
that his opinion might also be heard. At Berlin and at Letzlingen he had
frequent interviews with the King. In later years he described the
situation he found there:

  "It was nothing strange, according to the custom of those days,
  that half a dozen ambassadors should be living in hotels
  intriguing against the policy of the Minister."

He found Berlin divided into two parties: the one looked to the Czar as
their patron and protector, the other wished to win the approval of
England; he missed a reasonable conviction as to what was the interest
of Prussia. His own advice was against alliance with the Western Powers
or Austria; better join Russia than England; better still, preserve
neutrality and hold the balance of Europe. He had the reputation of
being very Russian, but he protested against the term. "I am not
Russian," he said, "but Prussian." He spoke with great decision against
the personal adherents of the King, men who looked to the Czar rather
than to their own sovereign, and carried their subservience even to
treason. As in former days, courage he preached and resolution. Some
talked of the danger of isolation; "With 400,000 men we cannot be
isolated," he said. The French envoy warned him that his policy might
lead to another Jena; "Why not to Waterloo?" he answered. Others talked
of the danger of an English blockade of their coasts; he pointed out
that this would injure England more than Prussia.

  "Let us be bold and depend on our own strength; let us frighten
  Austria by threatening an alliance with Russia, frighten Russia
  by letting her think we may join the Western Powers; if it were
  true that we could never side with Russia, at least we must
  retain the possibility of threatening to do so."

The result was what we might expect from the character of the King;
unable to decide for either of the contending factors, he alternated
between the two, and gave his support now to one, now to the other. In
March, when Bismarck was still in Berlin, sudden disgrace fell upon the
English party; Bunsen was recalled from London, Bonin, their chief
advocate in the Ministry, was dismissed; when the Prince of Prussia, the
chief patron of the Western alliance, protested, he was included in the
act of disfavour, and had to leave Berlin, threatened with the loss of
his offices and even with arrest. All danger of war with Russia seemed
to have passed; Bismarck returned content to Frankfort. Scarcely had he
gone when the old affection for Austria gained the upper hand, and by a
separate treaty Prussia bound herself to support the Austrian demands,
if necessary by arms. Bismarck heard nothing of the treaty till it was
completed; the Ministers had purposely refrained from asking his advice
on a policy which they knew he would disapprove. He overcame his
feelings of disgust so far as to send a cold letter of congratulation to
Manteuffel; to Gerlach he wrote:

  "His Majesty should really see to it that his Ministers should
  drink more champagne; none of the gentry ought to enter his
  Council without half a bottle under his belt. Our policy would
  soon get a respectable colour."

The real weakness lay, as he well knew, in the character of the King.
"If here I say to one of my colleagues, 'We remain firm even if Austria
drives matters to a breach,' he laughs in my face and says, 'As long as
the King lives it will not come to a war between Austria and Prussia.'"
And again, "The King has as much leniency for the sins of Austria as I
hope to have from the Lord in Heaven."

It was a severe strain on his loyalty, but he withstood it; he has, I
believe, never expressed his opinion about the King; we can guess what
it must have been. It was a melancholy picture: a King violent and
timid, obstinate and irresolute; his will dragged now this way, now
that, by his favourites, his wife and his brother; his own Ministers
intriguing against each other; ambassadors recommending a policy instead
of carrying out their instructions; and the Minister-President standing
calmly by, as best he could, patching up the appearance of a Consistent

It was probably the experience which he gained at this time which in
later years, when he himself had become Minister, made Bismarck so
jealous of outside and irresponsible advisers; he did not choose to
occupy the position of Manteuffel, he laid down the rule that none of
his own subordinates should communicate with the King except through
himself; a Bismarck as Foreign Minister would not allow a Gerlach at
Court, nor a Bismarck among his envoys. He had indeed been careful not
to intrigue against his chief, but it was impossible to observe that
complete appearance of acquiescence which a strong and efficient
Minister must demand. Bismarck was often asked his opinion by the King
directly; he was obliged to say what he believed to be the truth, and he
often disapproved of that which Manteuffel advised. In order to avoid
the appearance of disloyalty, he asked Gerlach that his letters should
be shewn to Manteuffel; not all of them could be shewn, still less would
it be possible to repeat all he said. If they were in conflict, his duty
to the King must override his loyalty to the Minister, and the two could
not always be reconciled. To Englishmen indeed it appears most improper
that the King should continually call for the advice of other
politicians without the intervention or the knowledge of his Ministers,
but this is just one of those points on which it is impossible to apply
to Prussian practice English constitutional theory. In England it is a
maxim of the Constitution that the sovereign should never consult anyone
on political matters except the responsible Ministry; this is possible
only because the final decision rests with Parliament and the Cabinet
and not with the sovereign. It was, however, always the contention of
Bismarck that the effective decision in Prussia was with the King. This
was undoubtedly the true interpretation of the Prussian Constitution;
but it followed from this that the King must have absolute freedom to
ask the advice of everyone whose opinions would be of help to him; he
must be able to command the envoys to foreign countries to communicate
with him directly, and if occasion required it, to consult with the
political opponents of his own Ministers. To forbid this and to require
that all requests should come to him by the hands of the Ministers would
be in truth to substitute ministerial autocracy for monarchical

Something of this kind did happen in later years when the German Emperor
had grown old, and when Bismarck, supported by his immense experience
and success, guided the policy of the country alone, independent of
Parliament, and scarcely allowing any independent adviser to approach
the Emperor. This was exceptional; normally a Prussian Minister had to
meet his opponents and critics not so much in public debate as in
private discussion. Under a weak sovereign the policy of the country
must always be distracted by palace intrigue, just as in England under a
weak Cabinet it will be distracted by party faction. The Ministers must
always be prepared to find their best-laid schemes overthrown by the
influence exerted upon the royal mind by his private friends or even by
his family. It may be said that tenure of office under these conditions
would be impossible to a man of spirit; it was certainly very
difficult; an able and determined Minister was as much hampered by this
private opposition as by Parliamentary discussion. It is often the
fashion to say that Parliamentary government is difficult to reconcile
with a strong foreign policy; the experiences of Prussia from the year
1815 to 1863 seem to shew that under monarchical government it is
equally difficult.

Meanwhile he had been maturing in his mind a bolder plan: Why should not
Prussia gain the support she required by alliance with Napoleon?

The Germans had watched the rise of Napoleon with suspicion and alarm;
they had long been taught that France was their natural enemy. When
Napoleon seized the power and assumed the name of Emperor, the old
distrust was revived; his very name recalled memories of hostility; they
feared he would pursue an ambitious and warlike policy; that he would
withdraw the agreements on which the peace of Europe and the security of
the weaker States depended, and that he would extend to the Rhine the
borders of France. He was the first ruler of France whose internal
policy awoke no sympathy in Germany; his natural allies, the Liberals,
he had alienated by the overthrow of the Republic, and he gained no
credit for it in the eyes of the Conservatives. The monarchical party in
Prussia could only have admiration for the man who had imprisoned a
Parliament and restored absolute government; they could not repudiate an
act which they would gladly imitate, but they could not forgive him that
he was an usurper. According to their creed the suppression of liberty
was the privilege of the legitimate King.

It was the last remnant of the doctrine of legitimacy, the belief that
it was the duty of the European monarchs that no State should change its
form of government or the dynasty by which it was ruled; the doctrine of
the Holy Alliance that kings must make common cause against the
Revolution. How changed were the times from the days when Metternich had
used this as a strong support for the ascendancy of the House of
Austria! Austria herself was no longer sound; the old faith lingered
only in St. Petersburg and Berlin; but how weak and ineffective it had
become! There was no talk now of interference, there would not be
another campaign of Waterloo or of Valmy; there was only a prudish
reserve; they could not, they did not dare, refuse diplomatic dealings
with the new Emperor, but they were determined there should be no
cordiality: the virgin purity of the Prussian Court should not be
deflowered by intimacy with the man of sin.[5] If there could not be a
fresh crusade against Buonapartism, at least, there should be no
alliance with it.

From the beginning Bismarck had little sympathy with this point of view;
he regarded the _coup d'état_ as necessary in a nation which had left
the firm ground of legitimacy; France could not be governed except by an
iron hand. As a Prussian, however, he could not be pleased, for he saw
an enemy who had been weak strengthened, but he did not believe in
Napoleon's warlike desires. In one way it was an advantage,--the
overthrow of the Republic had broken the bond which joined the German
revolutionists to France. He did not much mind what happened in other
countries so long as Prussia was safe.

There is no ground for surprise that he soon began to go farther; he
warned his friends not to irritate the Emperor; on the occasion of the
Emperor's marriage the _Kreuz Zeitung_ published a violent article,
speaking of it as an insult and threat to Prussia. Bismarck's feelings
as a gentleman were offended by this useless scolding; it seemed,
moreover, dangerous. If Prussia were to quarrel with France, they would
be obliged to seek the support of the Eastern Powers: if Russia and
Austria should know this, Prussia would be in their hands. The only
effect of this attitude would be to cut off the possibility of a useful
move in the game of diplomacy:

  "There is no good in giving our opposition to France the stamp of
  irrevocability; it would be no doubt a great misfortune if we
  were to unite ourselves with France, but why proclaim this to all
  the world? We should do wiser to act so that Austria and Russia
  would have to court our friendship against France than treat us
  as an ally who is presented to them."

It is a topic to which he often refers:

  "We cannot make an alliance with France without a certain degree
  of meanness, but very admirable people, even German princes, in
  the Middle Ages have used a sewer to make their escape, rather
  than be beaten or throttled."

An alliance with Napoleon was, however, according to the code of honour
professed, if not followed, in every German State, the sin for which
there was no forgiveness. It was but a generation ago that half the
German princes had hurried to the Court of the first Napoleon to receive
at his hands the estates of their neighbours and the liberties of their
subjects. No one doubted that the new Napoleon would be willing to use
similar means to ensure the power of France; would he meet with willing
confederates? The Germans, at least, do not seem to have trusted one
another; no prince dared show ordinary courtesy to the ruling family of
France, no statesman could visit Paris but voices would be heard crying
that he had sold himself and his country. An accusation of this kind was
the stock-in-trade which the Nationalist press was always ready to bring
against every ruler who was obnoxious to them. It required moral
courage, if it also shewed political astuteness, when Bismarck proposed
deliberately to encourage a suspicion from which most men were anxious
that their country should be free. He had already plenty of enemies, and
reports were soon heard that he was in favour of a French alliance; they
did not cease for ten years; he often protests in his private letters
against these unworthy accusations; the protests seem rather absurd, for
if he did not really wish for an alliance between Prussia and France, he
at least wished that people should dread such an alliance. A man cannot
frighten his friends by the fear he will rob them, and at the same time
enjoy the reputation for strict probity.

He explains with absolute clearness the benefits which will come from a
French alliance:

  "The German States are attentive and attracted to us in the same
  degree in which they believe we are befriended by France.
  Confidence in us they will never have, every glance at the map
  prevents that; and they know that their separate interests and
  the misuse of their sovereignty always stand in the way of the
  whole tendency of Prussian policy. They clearly recognise the
  danger which lies in this; it is one against which the
  unselfishness of our Most Gracious Master alone gives them a
  temporary security. The opinions of the King, which ought at
  least for a time to weaken their mistrust, will gain his Majesty
  no thanks; they will only be used and exploited. In the hour of
  necessity gratitude and confidence will not bring a single man
  into the field. Fear, if it is used with foresight and clearness,
  can place the whole Confederacy at our feet, and in order to
  instil fear into them we must give clear signs of our good
  relations with France."

He objected to Prussia following what was called a German policy, for,
as he said, by a national and patriotic policy is meant that Prussia
should do what was for the interest, not of herself, but of the smaller

It was not till after the Crimean War that he was able to press this
policy. Napoleon had now won his position in Europe; Gerlach had seen
with pain and disgust that the Queen of England had visited his Court.
The Emperor himself desired a union with Prussia. In this, sympathy and
interest combined: he had much affection for Germany; his mind, as his
education, was more German than French; he was a man of ideas; he was
the only ruler of France who has sincerely desired and deliberately
furthered the interests of other countries; he believed that the nation
should be the basis of the State; his revolutionary antecedents made him
naturally opposed to the House of Austria; and he was ready to help
Prussia in resuming her old ambitious policy.

The affair of Neuchâtel gave him an opportunity of earning the personal
gratitude of the King, and he did not neglect it, for he knew that in
the royal prejudice was the strongest impediment to an alliance. In 1857
Bismarck was sent to Paris to discuss this and other matters. Two years
before he had been presented to the Emperor, but it had been at the time
when he was opposed to the French policy. Now for the first time the two
men who were for ten years to be the leaders, now friends, then rivals,
in the realm of diplomacy, were brought into close connection. Bismarck
was not impressed by the Emperor's ability. He wrote:

  "People exaggerate his intellect, but underrate his heart."
  Napoleon was very friendly; his wish to help the King went
  farther than his duty to follow French policy. He said: "Why
  should we not be friends; let us forget the past; if everyone
  were to attach himself to a policy of memories, two nations that
  have once been at war must be at war to all eternity; statesmen
  must occupy themselves with the future."

This was just Bismarck's opinion; he wrote home suggesting that he might
prepare the way for a visit of the Emperor to Prussia; he would like to
come and it would have a good effect. This was going farther than the
King, grateful though he was, would allow; he told Gerlach not to answer
this part of the letter at all while Bismarck was in Paris. Bismarck,
however, continued in his official reports and private letters to urge
again and again the political advantages of an understanding with
France; it is Austria that is the natural enemy, for it is Austria whose
interests are opposed to Prussia. If they repel the advance of Napoleon,
they will oblige him to seek an alliance with Russia, and this was a
danger which even in those days Bismarck never ceased to fear. Prince
Napoleon, cousin of the Emperor, was at that time on a visit to Berlin;
on his way through Frankfort he had singled out Bismarck, and (no doubt
under instructions) had shown great friendliness to him; the _Kreuz
Zeitung_ again took the opportunity of insulting the ruler of France;
Bismarck again remonstrated against the danger of provoking hostility by
these acts of petty rancour, disguised though they might be under the
name of principle. He did not succeed in persuading the King or his
confidant; he was always met by the same answer: "France is the natural
enemy of Germany; Napoleon is the representative of the Revolution;
there can be no union between the King of Prussia and the Revolution."
"How can a man of your intelligence sacrifice your principles to a
single individual?" asks Gerlach, who aimed not at shewing that an
alliance with France would be foolish, but that it would be wrong. Five
years before, Bismarck would have spoken as Gerlach did; but in these
years he had seen and learnt much; he had freed himself from the
influence of his early friends; he had outgrown their theoretic
formalism; he had learned to look at the world with his own eyes, and to
him, defending his country against the intrigues of weaker and the
pressure of more powerful States, the world was a different place from
what it was to those who passed their time in the shadow of the Court.
He remembered that it was not by strict obedience to general principles
that Prussia had grown great. Frederick the Second had not allowed
himself to be stopped by these narrow searchings of heart; his successor
had not scrupled to ally himself with revolutionary France. This rigid
insistence on a rule of right, this nice determining of questions of
conscience, seemed better suited to the confessor's chair than to the
advisers of a great monarch. And the principle to which he was asked to
sacrifice the future of his country,--was it after all a true principle?
Why should Prussia trouble herself about the internal constitution of
other States, what did it concern her whether France was ruled by a
Bourbon or an Orleans or a Bonaparte? How could Prussia continue the
policy of the Holy Alliance when the close union of the three Eastern
monarchies no longer existed? If France were to attack Germany, Prussia
could not expect the support of Russia, she could not even be sure of
that of Austria. An understanding with France was required, not by
ambition, but by the simplest grounds of self-preservation.

These and other considerations he advanced in a long and elaborate
memorandum addressed to Manteuffel, which was supplemented by letters to
the Minister and Gerlach. For closeness of reasoning, for clearness of
expression, for the wealth of knowledge and cogency of argument these
are the most remarkable of his political writings. In them he sums up
the results of his apprenticeship to political life, he lays down the
principles on which the policy of the State ought to be conducted, the
principles on which in future years he was himself to act.

"What," he asks, "are the reasons against an alliance with France? The
chief ground is the belief that the Emperor is the chief representative
of the Revolution and identical with it, and that a compromise with the
Revolution is as inadmissible in internal as in external policy." Both
statements he triumphantly overthrows. "Why should we look at Napoleon
as the representative of the Revolution? there is scarcely a government
in Europe which has not a revolutionary origin."

  "What is there now existing in the world of politics which has a
  complete legal basis? Spain, Portugal, Brazil, all the American
  Republics, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Greece, Sweden,
  England, which State with full consciousness is based on the
  Revolution of 1688, are all unable to trace back their legal
  systems to a legitimate origin. Even as to the German princes we
  cannot find any completely legitimate title for the ground which
  they have won partly from the Emperor and the Empire, partly from
  their fellow-princes, partly from the Estates."

He goes farther: the Revolution is not peculiar to France; it did not
even originate there:

  "It is much older than the historical appearance of Napoleon's
  family and far wider in its extent than France, if we are to
  assign it an origin in this world, we must look for it, not in
  France, but in England, or go back even earlier, even to Germany
  or Rome, according as we regard the exaggerations of the
  Reformation or of the Roman Church as responsible."

But if Napoleon is not the sole representative of revolutions, why make
opposition to him a matter of principle? He shews no desire of

  "To threaten other States by means of the Revolution has been for
  years the trade of England, and this principle of not associating
  with a revolutionary power is itself quite modern: it is not to
  be found in the last century. Cromwell was addressed as Brother
  by European potentates and they sought his friendship when it
  appeared useful. The most honourable Princes joined in alliance
  with the States-General before they were recognised by Spain. Why
  should Prussia now alone, to its own injury, adopt this excessive

He goes farther: not only does he reject the principle of
legitimacy,--he refuses to be bound by any principles; he did not free
himself from one party to bind himself to another; his profession was
diplomacy and in diplomacy there was no place for feelings of affection
and antipathy.

What is the proper use of principles in diplomacy? It is to persuade
others to adopt a policy which is convenient to oneself.

  "My attitude towards Foreign Governments springs not from any
  antipathy, but from the good or evil they may do to Prussia." "A
  policy of sentiment is dangerous, for it is one-sided; it is an
  exclusively Prussian peculiarity." "Every other Government makes
  its own interests the sole criterion of its actions, however much
  it may drape them in phrases about justice and sympathy." "My
  ideal for foreign policy is freedom from prejudice; that our
  decisions should be independent of all impressions of dislike or
  affection for Foreign States and their governments."

This was the canon by which he directed his own actions, and he expected
obedience to it from others.

  "So far as foreigners go I have never in my life had sympathy for
  anyone but England and its inhabitants, and I am even now not
  free from it; but they will not let us love them, and as soon as
  it was proved to me that it was in the interest of a sound and
  well-matured Prussian policy, I would let our troops fire on
  French, English, Russian, or Austrian, with the same

  "I cannot justify sympathies and antipathies as regards Foreign
  Powers and persons before my feeling of duty in the foreign
  service of my country, either in myself or another; therein lies
  the embryo of disloyalty against my master or my country. In my
  opinion not even the King himself has the right to subordinate
  the interests of his country to his own feelings of love or
  hatred towards strangers; he is, however, responsible towards God
  and not to me if he does so, and therefore on this point I am

This reference to the King is very characteristic. Holding, as he did,
so high an ideal of public duty himself, he naturally regarded with
great dislike the influence which, too often, family ties and domestic
affection exercised over the mind of the sovereign. The German Princes
had so long pursued a purely domestic policy that they forgot to
distinguish between the interests of their families and their land. They
were, moreover, naturally much influenced in their public decisions, not
only by their personal sympathies, but also by the sympathies and
opinions of their nearest relations. To a man like Bismarck, who
regarded duty to the State as above everything, nothing could be more
disagreeable than to see the plans of professional statesmen criticised
by irresponsible people and perhaps overthrown through some woman's
whim. He was a confirmed monarchist but he was no courtier. In his
letters at this period he sometimes refers to the strong influence which
the Princess of Prussia exercised over her husband, who was heir to the
throne. He regarded with apprehension the possible effects which the
proposed marriage of the Prince of Prussia's son to the Princess Royal
of England might have on Prussian policy. He feared it would introduced
English influence and Anglomania without their gaining any similar
influence in England. "If our future Queen remains in any degree
English, I see our Court surrounded by English influence." He was not
influenced in this by any hostility to England; almost at the same time
he had written that England was the only foreign country for which he
had any sympathy. He was only (as so often) contending for that
independence and self-reliance which he so admired in the English. For
two hundred years English traditions had absolutely forbidden the
sovereign to allow his personal and family sympathies to interfere with
the interests of the country. If the House of Hohenzollern were to
aspire to the position of a national monarch it must act in the same
way. At this very time the Emperor Napoleon was discussing the Prussian
marriage with Lord Clarendon. "It will much influence the policy of the
Queen in favour of Prussia," he said. "No, your Majesty," answered the
English Ambassador. "The private feelings of the Queen can never have
any influence on that which she believes to be for the honour and
welfare of England." This was the feeling by which Bismarck was
influenced; he was trying to educate his King, and this was the task to
which for many years he was devoted. What he thought of the duties of
princes we see from an expression he uses in a letter to Manteuffel:
"Only Christianity can make princes what they ought to be, and free them
from that conception of life which causes many of them to seek in the
position given them by God nothing but the means to a life of pleasure
and irresponsibility." All his attempts to win over the King and Gerlach
to his point of view failed; the only result was that his old friends
began to look on him askance; his new opinions were regarded with
suspicion. He was no longer sure of his position in Court; his
outspokenness had caused offence; after reading his last letter, Gerlach
answered: "Your explanation only shews me that we are now far asunder";
the correspondence, which had continued for almost seven years,
stopped. Bismarck felt that he was growing lonely; he had to accustom
himself to the thought that the men who had formerly been both
politically and personally his close friends, and who had once welcomed
him whenever he returned to Berlin, now desired to see him kept at a
distance. In one of his last letters to Gerlach, he writes: "I used to
be a favourite; now all that is changed. His Majesty has less often the
wish to see me; the ladies of the Court have a cooler smile than
formerly; the gentlemen press my hand less warmly. The high opinion of
my usefulness is sunk, only the Minister [Manteuffel] is warmer and more
friendly." Something of this was perhaps exaggerated, but there was no
doubt that a breach had begun which was to widen and widen: Bismarck was
no longer a member of the party of the _Kreuz Zeitung_. It was fortunate
that a change was imminent in the direction of the Prussian Government;
the old figures who had played their part were to pass away and a new
era was to begin.




In the autumn of 1857 the health of the King of Prussia broke down; he
was unable to conduct the affairs of State and in the month of September
was obliged to appoint his brother as his representative to carry on the
Government. There was from the first no hope for his recovery; the
commission was three times renewed and, after a long delay, in October
of the following year, the King signed a decree appointing his brother
Regent. At one time, in the spring of 1858, the Prince had, it is said,
thought of calling on Bismarck to form a Ministry. This, however, was
not done. It was, however, one of the first actions of the Prince Regent
to request Manteuffel's resignation; he formed a Ministry of moderate
Liberals, choosing as President the Prince of Hohenzollern, head of the
Catholic branch of his own family.

The _new era_, as it was called, was welcomed with delight by all
parties except the most extreme Conservatives. No Ministry had been so
unpopular as that of Manteuffel. At the elections which took place
immediately, the Government secured a large majority. The Prince and his
Ministers were able to begin their work with the full support of
Parliament and country.

Bismarck did not altogether regret the change; his differences with the
dominant faction at Court had extended to the management of home as well
as of foreign affairs; for the last two years he had been falling out of
favour. He desired, moreover, to see fresh blood in the Chamber.

  "The disease to which our Parliamentary life has succumbed, is,
  besides the incapacity of the individual, the servility of the
  Lower House. The majority has no independent convictions, it is
  the tool of ministerial omnipotence. If our Chambers do not
  succeed in binding the public interest to themselves and drawing
  the attention of the country, they will sooner or later go to
  their grave without sympathy."

Curious it is to see how his opinion as to the duties and relations of
the House towards the Government were to alter when he himself became
Minister. He regarded it as an advantage that the Ministry would have
the power which comes from popularity; his only fear was that they might
draw the Regent too much to the left; but he hoped that in German and
foreign affairs they would act with more decision, that the Prince would
be free from the scruples which had so much influenced his brother, and
that he would not fear to rely on the military strength of Prussia.

One of their first acts was to recall Bismarck from Frankfort; the
change was inevitable, and he had foreseen it. The new Government
naturally wished to be able to start clear in their relations to
Austria; the Prince Regent did not wish to commit himself from the
beginning to a policy of hostility. It was, however, impossible for a
cordial co-operation between the two States to be established in German
affairs so long as Bismarck remained at Frankfort; the opinions which he
had formed during the last eight years were too well known. It was,
moreover, evident that a crisis in the relations with Austria was
approaching; war between France and Austria was imminent; a new factor
and a new man had appeared in Europe,--Piedmont and Cavour.

In August, 1858, Cavour had had a secret and decisive interview with
Napoleon at Plombières; the two statesmen had come to an agreement by
which France engaged to help the Piedmontese to expel the Austrians from
Italy. Bismarck would have desired to seize this opportunity, and use
the embarrassment of Austria as the occasion for taking a stronger
position in Germany; if it were necessary he was prepared to go as far
as an alliance with France. He was influenced not so much by sympathy
with Piedmont, for, as we have seen, he held that those who were
responsible for foreign policy should never give way to sympathy, but by
the simple calculation that Austria was the common enemy of Prussia and
Piedmont, and where there were common interests an alliance might be
formed. The Government were, however, not prepared to adopt this
policy. It might have been supposed that a Liberal Ministry would have
shewn more sympathy with the Italian aspirations than the Conservatives
whom they had succeeded. This was not the case, as Cavour himself soon
found out.

After his visit to Plombières, Cavour had hurried across the frontier
and spent two days at Baden-Baden, where he met the Prince of Prussia,
Manteuffel, who was still Minister, and other German statesmen. Bismarck
had been at Baden-Baden in the previous week and returned a few days
later; he happened, however, on the two days when Cavour was there, to
be occupied with his duties at Frankfort; the two great statesmen
therefore never met. Cavour after his visit wrote to La Marmora saying
that he had been extremely pleased with the sympathy which had been
displayed to him, both by the Prince and the other Prussians. So far as
he could foresee, the attitude of Prussia would not be hostile to
Italian aspirations. In December, however, after the change of Ministry,
he writes to the Italian Envoy at Frankfort that the language of
Schleinitz, the new Foreign Minister, is less favourable than that of
his predecessor. The Cabinet do not feel the same antipathy to Austria
as that of Manteuffel did; German ideas have brought about a

  "I do not trust their apparently Liberal tendencies. It is
  possible that your colleague, Herr von Bismarck, will support us
  more closely, but I fear that even if he is kept at Frankfort he
  will not exercise so much influence as under the former

Cavour's insight did not deceive him. The Italian question had for the
moment re-awakened the old sympathy for Austria; Austria, it seemed, was
now the champion of German nationality against the unscrupulous
aggression of France. There were few men who, like Bismarck, were
willing to disregard this national feeling and support the Italians. To
have deliberately joined Napoleon in what after all was an unprovoked
attack on a friendly prince of the same nation, was an act which could
have been undertaken only by a man of the calibre of Frederick the
Great. After all, Austria was German; the Austrian provinces in Italy
had been assigned to the Emperor by the same authority as the Polish
provinces to Prussia. We can imagine how great would have been the
outcry had Austria joined with the French to set up a united Poland,
taking Posen and West Prussia for the purpose; and yet this act would
have been just of the same kind as that which would have been committed
had Prussia at this time joined or even lent diplomatic support to the
French-Italian alliance. It is very improbable that even if Bismarck had
been Minister at this period he would have been able to carry out this

The Prussian Government acted on the whole correctly. As the war became
more imminent the Prince Regent prepared the Prussian army and
eventually the whole was placed on a war footing. He offered to the
Emperor of Austria his armed neutrality and a guarantee of the Austrian
possessions in Italy. In return he required that he himself should have
the command of all the forces of the German Diet. Had Austria accepted
these terms, either the war would have been stopped or the whole force
of Germany under the King of Prussia would have attacked France on the
Rhine. The Emperor however refused to accept them; he required a
guarantee not only of his possessions in Italy but also of his treaties
with the other Italian princes. Moreover, he would accept the assistance
of Prussia only on condition that the Prussian army was placed under the
orders of the general appointed by the Diet. It was absurd to suppose
that any Prussian statesman would allow this. The action of Austria
shewed in fact a distrust and hatred of Prussia which more than
justified all that Bismarck had written during his tenure of office at
Frankfort. In the end, rather than accept Prussian assistance on the
terms on which it was offered, the Emperor of Austria made peace with
France; he preferred to surrender Lombardy rather than save it by
Prussian help. "Thank God," said Cavour, "Austria by her arrogance has
succeeded in uniting all the world against her."

The spring of the year was spent by Bismarck at St. Petersburg. He had
been appointed Prussian Minister to that capital--put out in the cold,
as he expressed it. From the point of dignity and position it was an
advance, but at St. Petersburg he was away from the centre of political
affairs. Russia had not yet recovered from the effects of the Crimean
War; the Czar was chiefly occupied with internal reforms and the
emancipation of the serfs. The Eastern Question was dormant, and Russia
did not aim at keeping a leading part in the settlement of Italian
affairs. Bismarck's immediate duties were not therefore important and he
no longer had the opportunity of giving his advice to the Government
upon the general practice. It is improbable that Herr von Schleinitz
would have welcomed advice. He was one of the weakest of the Ministry;
an amiable man of no very marked ability, who owed his position to the
personal friendship of the Prince Regent and his wife. The position
which Bismarck had occupied during the last few years could not but be
embarrassing to any Minister; this man still young, so full of
self-confidence, so unremitting in his labours, who, while other
diplomatists thought only of getting through their routine work, spent
the long hours of the night in writing despatches, discussing the whole
foreign policy of the country, might well cause apprehension even to the
strongest Minister.

From the time of Bismarck's departure from Frankfort our knowledge of
his official despatches ceases; we lose the invaluable assistance of his
letters to Manteuffel and Gerlach. For some time he stood so much alone
that there was no one to whom he could write unreservedly on political

He watched with great anxiety the progress of affairs with regard to
Italy. At the beginning of May he wrote a long letter to Schleinitz, as
he had done to Manteuffel, urging him to bold action; he recounted his
experiences at the Diet, he reiterated his conviction that no good would
come to Prussia from the federal tie--the sooner it was broken the
better; nothing was so much to be desired as that the Diet should
overstep its powers, and pass some resolution which Prussia could not
accept, so that Prussia could take up the glove and force a breach. The
opportunity was favourable for a revision of the Constitution. "I see,"
he wrote "in our Federal connection only a weakness of Prussia which
sooner or later must be cured, _ferro et igni_." Probably Schleinitz's
answer was not of such a kind as to tempt him to write again. In his
private letters he harps on the same string; he spent June in a visit to
Moscow but he hurried back at the end of the month to St. Petersburg to
receive news of the war. Before news had come of the peace of
Villafranca he was constantly in dread that Prussia would go to war on
behalf of Austria:

  "We have prepared too soon and too thoroughly, the weight of
  the burden we have taken on ourselves is drawing us down the
  incline. We shall not be even an Austrian reserve; we shall
  simply sacrifice ourselves for Austria and take away the war from

How disturbed he was, we can see by the tone of religious resignation
which he assumes--no doubt a sign that he fears his advice has not yet
been acted upon.

  "As God will. Everything here is only a question of time; peoples
  and men, wisdom and folly, war and peace, they come and go like
  rain and water, and the sea alone remains. There is nothing on
  earth but hypocrisy and deceit."

The language of this and other letters was partly due to the state of
his health; the continual anxiety and work of his life at Frankfort,
joined to irregular hours and careless habits, had told upon his
constitution. He fell seriously ill in St. Petersburg with a gastric and
rheumatic affection; an injury to the leg received while shooting in
Sweden, became painful; the treatment adopted by the doctor, bleeding
and iodine, seems to have made him worse. At the beginning of July,
1860, he returned on leave to Berlin; there he was laid up for ten days;
his wife was summoned and under her care he began to improve. August he
spent at Wiesbaden and Nauheim, taking the waters, the greater part of
the autumn in Berlin; in October he had to go Warsaw officially to
receive and accompany the Czar, who came to Breslau for an interview
with the Prince Regent. From Breslau he hurried back to Berlin, from
Berlin down to Pomerania, where his wife was staying with her father;
then the same week back to Berlin, and started for St. Petersburg. The
result of these long journeys when his health was not completely
reestablished was very serious. He was to spend a night on the journey
to St. Petersburg with his old friend, Herr von Below, at Hohendorf, in
East Prussia; he had scarcely reached the house when he fell dangerously
ill of inflammation of the lungs and rheumatic fever. He remained here
all the winter, and it was not until the beginning of March, 1860, that
he was well enough to return to Berlin. Leopold von Gerlach, who met him
shortly afterwards, speaks of him as still looking wretchedly ill. This
prolonged illness forms an epoch in his life. He never recovered the
freshness and strength of his youth. It left a nervous irritation and
restlessness which often greatly interfered with his political work and
made the immense labour which came upon him doubly distasteful. He loses
the good humour which had been characteristic of him in early life; he
became irritable and more exacting. He spent the next three months in
Berlin attending the meetings of the Herrenhaus, and giving a silent
vote in favour of the Government measures; he considered it was his duty
as a servant of the State to support the Government, though he did not
agree with the Liberal policy which in internal affairs they adopted. At
this time he stood almost completely alone. His opinions on the Italian
question had brought about a complete breach with his old friends. Since
the conclusion of the war, public opinion in Germany, as in England, had
veered round. The success of Cavour had raised a desire to imitate him;
a strong impulse had been given to the national feeling, and a society,
the _National Verein_, had been founded to further the cause of United
Germany under Prussian leadership. The question of the recognition of
the new Kingdom of Italy was becoming prominent; all the Liberal party
laid much stress on this. The Prince Regent, however, was averse to an
act by which he might seem to express his approval of the forcible
expulsion of princes from their thrones. As the national and liberal
feeling in the country grew, his monarchical principles seemed to be
strengthened. The opinions which Bismarck was known to hold on the
French alliance had got into the papers and were much exaggerated; he
had plenty of enemies to take care that it should be said that he wished
Prussia to join with France; to do as Piedmont had done, and by the
cession of the left bank of the Rhine to France to receive the
assistance of Napoleon in annexing the smaller states. In his letters of
this period Bismarck constantly protests against the truth of these
accusations. "If I am to go to the devil," he writes, "it will at least
not be a French one. Do not take me for a Bonapartist, only for a very
ambitious Prussian." It is at this time that his last letter to Gerlach
was written. They had met at the end of April, and Gerlach wrote to
protest against the opinion to which Bismarck had given expression:

  "After the conversation which I have had with you I was
  particularly distressed that, by your bitterness against Austria,
  you had allowed yourself to be diverted from the simple attitude
  towards law and the Revolution. For you an alliance with France
  and Piedmont is a possibility, a thought which is far from me
  and, dear Bismarck, ought to be far from you. For me Louis
  Napoleon is even more than his uncle the incarnation of the
  Revolution, and Cavour is a Rheinbund Minister like Montgellas.
  You cannot and ought not to deny the principles of the Holy
  Alliance; they are no other than that authority comes from God,
  and that the Princes must govern as servants appointed by God."

Bismarck answers the letter the next day:

  "I am a child of other times than you. No one loses the mark
  impressed on him in the period of his youth. In you the
  victorious hatred of Bonaparte is indelible; you call him the
  incarnation of the Revolution and if you knew of any worse name
  you would bestow it upon him. I have lived in the country from my
  twenty-third to my thirty-second year and will never be rid of
  the longing to be back again; I am in politics with only half my
  heart; what dislike I have of France is based rather on the
  Orleans than the Bonapartist régime. It is opposed to
  bureaucratic corruption under the mask of constitutional
  government. I should be glad to fight against Bonaparte till the
  dogs lick up the blood but with no more malice than against
  Croats, Bohemians, and Bamberger fellow-countrymen."

The two friends were never to meet again. The old King of Prussia died
at the beginning of the next year, and Gerlach, who had served him so
faithfully, though perhaps not always wisely, survived his master
scarcely a week.

In the summer of 1860 Bismarck returned to his duties in Russia; and
this time, with the exception of a fortnight in October, he spent a
whole year in St. Petersburg. He had still not recovered from the
effects of his illness and could not, therefore, go out much in society,
but he was much liked at Court and succeeded in winning the confidence
both of the Emperor and his family. His wife and children were now with
him, and after the uncertainty of his last two years he settled down
with pleasure to a quieter mode of life. He enjoyed the sport which he
had in the Russian forests; he studied Russian and made himself
completely at home. Political work he had little to do, except what
arose from the charge of "some 200,000 vagabond Prussians" who lived in
Russia. Of home affairs he had little knowledge:

  "I am quite separated from home politics, as besides the
  newspapers I receive scarcely anything but official news which
  does not expose the foundation of affairs."

For the time the reports of his entering the Ministry had ceased; he
professed to be, and perhaps was, quite satisfied.

  "I am quite contented with my existence here; I ask for no change
  in my position until it be God's will I settle down quietly at
  Schönhausen or Reinfeld and can leisurely set about having my
  coffin made."

In October he had to attend the Czar on a journey to Warsaw where he had
an interview with the Prince Regent. The Prince was accompanied by his
Minister-President, the Prince of Hohenzollern, who took the opportunity
of having long conversations with the Ambassador to St. Petersburg. It
is said that as a result of this the Minister, who wished to be relieved
from a post which was daily becoming more burdensome, advised the Prince
Regent to appoint Bismarck Minister-President. The advice, however, was
not taken.

Meanwhile events were taking place in Prussia which were to bring about
important constitutional changes. The success of the Ministry of the
_new era_ had not answered the expectations of the country. Their
foreign policy had been correct, but they had shewn no more spirit than
their predecessors, and the country was in that excited state in which
people wanted to see some brilliant and exciting stroke of policy,
though they were not at all clear what it was they desired. Then a rift
had begun to grow between the Regent and his Ministers. The Liberalism
of the Prince had never been very deep; it owed its origin in fact
chiefly to his opposition to the reactionary government of his brother.
As an honest man he intended to govern strictly in accordance with the
Constitution. He had, however, from the beginning no intention of
allowing the Chambers to encroach upon the prerogatives of the Crown.
The Ministers on the other hand regarded themselves to some extent as a
Parliamentary Ministry; they had a majority in the House and they were
inclined to defer to it. The latent causes of difference were brought
into activity by the question of army reform.

The Prince Regent was chiefly and primarily a soldier. As a second son
it had been doubtful whether he would ever succeed to the throne. He had
an intimate acquaintance with the whole condition of the army, and he
had long known that in many points reform was necessary. His first
action on succeeding his brother was to appoint a Commission of the War
Office to prepare a scheme of reorganisation. A memorandum had been
drawn up for him by Albert von Roon, and with some alterations it was
accepted by the Commission. The Minister of War, Bonin (the same who had
been dismissed in 1854 at the crisis of the Eastern complications),
seems to have been indifferent in the matter; he did not feel in himself
the energy for carrying through an important reform which he had not
himself originated, and of which perhaps he did not altogether approve.
The Prince Regent had set his mind upon the matter; the experience
gained during the mobilisation of 1859 had shewn how serious the defects
were; the army was still on a war footing and it was a good opportunity
for at once carrying through the proposed changes. Bonin therefore
resigned his office and Roon, in December, 1859, was appointed in his

This appointment was to have far-reaching results; it at once destroyed
all harmony in the Ministry itself. The rest of the Ministers were
Liberals. Roon was a strong Conservative. He was appointed professedly
merely as a departmental Minister, but he soon won more confidence with
the Regent than all the others. He was a man of great energy of
character and decision in action. The best type of Prussian officer, to
considerable learning he joined a high sense of duty founded on
deep-rooted and simple religious faith. The President of the Ministry
had practically retired from political life and the Government had no
longer a leader. Roon's introduction was in fact the beginning of all
the momentous events which were to follow. But for him there would have
been no conflict in the Parliament and Bismarck would never have become

At the beginning of 1860 the project of law embodying the proposals for
army reform was laid before the Lower House. It was ordered by them in
accordance with the practice to be referred to a small Committee.

The proposals consisted of (a) an increase in the number of recruits to
be raised each year, (b) a lengthening of the term of service with the
colours, (c) an alteration in the relations of the Landwehr to the rest
of the army.

The Committee appointed to consider these reforms accepted the first,
but rejected the second and third. They asserted that the three years'
service with the colours was not necessary, and they strongly disliked
any proposal for interfering with the Landwehr. The report of the
Committee was accepted by the House. It was in vain that the more
far-seeing members of the Liberal party tried to persuade their leaders
to support the Government; it was in vain that the Ministers pointed out
that the Liberal majority had been elected as a Government majority, and
it was their duty to support Ministers taken from their own party. The
law had to be withdrawn and the Government, instead, asked for a vote of
nine million thalers, provisionally, for that year only, as a means of
maintaining the army in the state to which it had been raised. In asking
for this vote it was expressly stated that the principles of the
organisation should be in no wise prejudiced.

  "The question whether in future a two or three years' service
  shall be required; whether the period with the Reserve shall be
  extended; in what position the Landwehr shall be placed--all this
  is not touched by the present proposal."

On this condition the House voted the money required, but for one year
only. The Government, however, did not keep this pledge; the Minister
of War simply continued to carry out the reorganisation in accordance
with the plan which had been rejected; new regiments were formed, and by
the end of the year the whole army had been reorganised. This action was
one for which the Prince and Roon were personally responsible; it was
done while the other Ministers were away from Berlin, and without their

When the House met at the beginning of the next year they felt that they
had been deceived; they were still more indignant when Roon informed
them that he had discovered that the whole of the reorganisation could
be legally carried through in virtue of the prerogative of the Crown,
and that a fresh law was not required; that therefore the consideration
of the changes was not before the House, and that all they would have to
do would be to vote the money to pay for them. Of course the House
refused to vote the money; after long debates the final settlement of
the question was postponed for another year; the House, though this time
by a majority of only eleven votes, granting with a few modifications
the required money, but again for one year only.

All this time Bismarck was living quietly at St. Petersburg; he had no
influence on affairs, for the military law had nothing to do with him,
and the Regent did not consult him on foreign policy. No one, however,
profited by Roon's appointment so much as he; he had once more a friend
and supporter at Court, who replaced the loss of Gerlach. Roon and he
had known one another in the old Pomeranian days. There was a link in
Moritz Blankenburg, who was a "Dutz" friend of Bismarck's and Roon's
cousin. We can understand how untenable Roon's position was when we find
the Minister of War choosing as his political confidants two of the
leaders of the party opposed to the Ministry to which he belonged.

Ever since Roon had entered the Government there had been indeed a
perpetual crisis.

The Liberal Ministers were lukewarm in their support of the military
bill; they only consented to adopt it on condition that the King would
give his assent to those measures which they proposed to introduce, in
order to maintain their positions as leaders of the party; they proposed
to bring in bills for the reform of the House of Lords, for the
responsibility of Ministers, for local government. These were opposed to
the personal opinions of the King; he was supported in his opposition by
Roon and refused his assent, but he neither dismissed the Ministers nor
did they resign. So long as they were willing to hold office on the
terms he required, there was indeed no reason why he should dismiss
them; to do so would be to give up the last hope of getting the military
Bill passed. All through 1861 the same uncertainty continued; Roon
indeed again and again wrote to his master, pointing out the necessity
for getting rid of his colleagues; he wished for a Conservative Ministry
with Bismarck as President. Here, he thought, was the only man who had
the courage to carry through the army reform. Others thought as he did.
Who so fitted to come to the help of the Crown as this man who, ten
years before, had shewn such ability in Parliamentary debate? And
whenever the crisis became more acute, all the Quidnuncs of Berlin shook
their heads and said, "Now we shall have a Bismarck Ministry, and that
will be a _coup d'état_ and the overthrow of the Constitution."

Bismarck meanwhile was living quietly at St. Petersburg, awaiting
events. At last the summons came; on June 28, 1861, Roon telegraphed to
him that the pear was ripe; he must come at once; there was danger in
delay. His telegram was followed by a letter, in which he more fully
explained the situation. The immediate cause of the crisis was that the
King desired to celebrate his accession, as his brother had done, by
receiving the solemn homage of all his people; the Ministry refused
their assent to an act which would appear to the country as "feudal" and
reactionary. A solemn pledge of obedience to the King was the last thing
the Liberals wanted to give, just for the same reasons that the King
made a point of receiving it; his feelings were deeply engaged, and Roon
doubtless hoped that his colleagues would at last be compelled to
resign; he wished, therefore, to have Bismarck on the spot.

Bismarck could not leave St. Petersburg for some days; he, however,
answered by a telegram and a long letter; he begins in a manner
characteristic of all his letters at this period:

  "Your letter disturbed me in my comfortable meditations on the
  quiet time which I was going to enjoy at Reinfeld. Your cry 'to
  horse' came with a shrill discord. I have grown ill in mind,
  tired out, and spiritless since I lost the foundation of my

And at the end:

  "Moving, quarrelling, annoyance, the whole slavery day and night
  form a perspective, which already makes me homesick for Reinfeld
  or St. Petersburg. I cannot enter the swindle in better company
  than yours; but both of us were happier on the Sadower Heath
  behind the partridges."

So he wrote late at night, but the next morning in a postscript he
added: "If the King will to some extent meet my views, then I will set
to the work with pleasure." In the letter he discusses at length the
programme; he does not attach much importance to the homage; it would be
much better to come to terms on the military question, break with the
Chamber, and dissolve. The real difficulty he sees, however, is foreign
policy; only by a change in the management of foreign affairs can the
Crown be relieved from a pressure to which it must ultimately give way;
he would not himself be inclined to accept the Ministry of the Interior,
because no good could be done unless the foreign policy was changed, and
that the King himself would probably not wish that.

  "The chief fault of our policy is that we have been Liberal at
  home and Conservative abroad; we hold the rights of our own King
  too cheap, and those of foreign princes too high; a natural
  consequence of the difference between the constitutional tendency
  of the Ministers and the legitimist direction which the will of
  his Majesty gives to our foreign policy. Of the princely houses
  from Naples to Hanover none will be grateful for our love, and we
  practise towards them a truly evangelical love of our enemies at
  the cost of the safety of our own throne. I am true to the sole
  of my foot to my own princes, but towards all others I do not
  feel in a single drop of blood the slightest obligation to raise
  up a little finger to help them. In this attitude I fear that I
  am so far removed from our Most Gracious Master, that he will
  scarcely find me fitted to be a Councillor of his Crown. For this
  reason he will anyhow prefer to use me at the Home-Office. In my
  opinion, however, that makes no difference, for I promise myself
  no useful results from the whole Government unless our attitude
  abroad is more vigorous and less dependent on dynastic

Bismarck arrived in Berlin on July 9th. When he got there the crisis was
over; Berlin was nearly empty; Roon was away in Pomerania, the King in
Baden-Baden; a compromise had been arranged; there was not to be an act
of homage but a coronation. There was, therefore, no more talk of his
entering the Ministry; Schleinitz, however, told him that he was to be
transferred from Russia, but did not say what post he was to have. The
next day, in obedience to a command, he hurried off to Baden-Baden; the
King wished to have his advice on many matters of policy, and instructed
him to draw up a memorandum on the German question. He used the
opportunity of trying to influence the King to adopt a bolder policy. At
the same time he attempted to win over the leaders of the Conservative
party. A general election was about to take place; the manifesto of the
Conservative party was so worded that we can hardly believe it was not
an express and intentional repudiation of the language which Bismarck
was in the habit of using; they desired

  "the unity of our German fatherland, though not like the Kingdom
  of Italy through 'blood and fire' [_Blut und Brand;_ almost the
  words which Bismarck had used to describe the policy which must
  be followed], but in the unity of its princes and peoples holding
  firm to authority and law."

Bismarck, on hearing this, sent to his old friend Herr von Below, one of
the leaders of the party, a memorandum on German affairs, and
accompanied it by a letter. He repeated his old point that Prussia was
sacrificing the authority of the Crown at home to support that of other
princes in whose safety she had not the slightest interest. The
solidarity of Conservative interests was a dangerous fiction, unless it
was carried out with the fullest reciprocity; carried out by Prussia
alone it was Quixotry; it prevented King and Government from executing
their true task, the protection of Prussia from all injustice, whether
it came from home or abroad; this was the task given to the King by God.

  "We make the unhistorical, the jealous, and lawless
  mania for sovereignty of the German Princes the bosom
  child of the Conservative party in Prussia, we are enthusiastic
  for the petty sovereignties which were created
  by Napoleon and protected by Metternich, and are blind
  to the dangers which threaten Prussia and the independence
  of Germany."

He wishes for a clear statement of their policy; a stricter
concentration of the German military forces, reform of the Customs'
Unions, and a number of common institutions to protect material
interests against the disadvantages which arise from the unnatural
configuration of the different states.

  "Besides all this I do not see why we should shrink
  back so bashfully from the idea of a representation of
  the people. We cannot fight as revolutionary an institution
  which we Conservatives cannot do without even in
  Prussia, and is recognised as legitimate in every German
  State." [6]

This letter is interesting as shewing how nearly his wishes on German
affairs coincided with those of the Liberal party and of the National
Verein: he was asking the Conservatives to adopt the chief points in
their opponents' programme. Of course they would not do so, and the King
himself was more likely to be alarmed than attracted by the bold and
adventurous policy that was recommended to him. Bismarck's anticipation
was justified; the King was not prepared to appoint him Foreign
Minister. Herr von Schleinitz indeed resigned, but his place was taken
by Bernstorff, Minister at London; he had so little confidence in the
success of his office that he did not even give up his old post, and
occupied the two positions, one of which Bismarck much desired to have.

After attending the coronation at Königsberg, Bismarck, therefore,
returned to his old post at St. Petersburg; his future was still quite
uncertain; he was troubled by his own health and that of his children;
for the first time he begins to complain of the cold.

  "Since my illness I am so exhausted that I have lost all my
  energy for excitement. Three years ago I would have made a
  serviceable Minister; when I think of such a thing now I feel
  like a broken-down acrobat. I would gladly go to London, Paris,
  or remain here, as it pleases God and his Majesty. I shudder at
  the prospect of the Ministry as at a cold bath."

In March he is still in ignorance; his household is in a bad state.

  "Johanna has a cough, which quite exhausts her; Bill is in bed
  with fever, the doctor does not yet know what is the matter with
  him; the governess has no hope of ever seeing Germany again."

He does not feel up to taking the Ministry; even Paris would be too
noisy for him.

  "London is quieter; but for the climate and the children's
  health, I would prefer to stay here. Berne is an old idea of
  mine; dull places with pretty neighbourhoods suit old people;
  only there is no sport there, as I do not like climbing after

The decision depended on the events at home; the position of the
Government was becoming untenable. The elections had been most
unfavourable; the Radicals had ceased to efface themselves, the old
leaders of 1848 had appeared again; they had formed a new party of
"Progressives," and had won over a hundred seats at the expense of the
Conservatives and the moderate Liberals; they were pledged not to carry
out the military reforms and to insist on the two years' service. They
intended to make the difference of opinion on this point the occasion of
a decisive struggle to secure and extend the control of the House over
the administration, and for this purpose to bring into prominence
constitutional questions which both Crown and Parliament had hitherto
avoided. From the day the session opened it was clear that there was now
no chance of the money being voted for the army. Before the decisive
debate came on, the majority had taken the offensive and passed what was
a direct vote of want of confidence in the Ministry. On this the
Ministry handed in their resignations to the King; their place was taken
by members of the Conservative party and Parliament again dissolved
after sitting only six weeks. It was the end of the _new era_.

It was doubtful whether the new Ministers would have the skill and
resolution to meet the crisis; they still were without a leader; Prince
von Hohenlohe, a member of the Protestant branch of the family to which
the present Chancellor of the Empire belongs, was appointed provisional
President. The opinions of the country was clear enough; the elections
resulted in the complete defeat not only of the Conservatives but of the
moderate Liberals; not a single one of the Ministers was returned. There
was, therefore, no doubt that the King would either have to give in on
the question of the army or to govern against the will of the majority
of the Chamber. The struggle was no longer confined to the question of
the army; it was a formal conflict for power between the House and the
Crown. The attempt to introduce a Parliamentary government which had
been thwarted ten years before was now revived. Who could say what the
end would be? All precedent seemed to shew that in a struggle between
Crown and Parliament sooner or later the King must be beaten, unless,
indeed, he was prepared to adopt the means which Napoleon used. The King
would not give in; he believed that the army reform was necessary to the
safety of his country; on the other hand, he was a man of too loyal a
character to have recourse to violence and a breach of the Constitution.
If, however, the Constitution proved to be of such a kind that it made
it impossible for him to govern the country, he was prepared to retire
from his post; the position would indeed be untenable if on his
shoulders lay the responsibility of guiding the policy and defending the
interests of Prussia, and at the same time the country refused to grant
him the means of doing so.

The elections had taken place on May 6th; four days later Bismarck
arrived in Berlin; he had at last received his recall. As soon as he was
seen in Berlin his appointment as Minister-President was expected; all
those who wished to maintain the authority of the Crown, looked on him
as the only man who could face the danger. Roon was active, as usual, on
his side and was now supported by some of his colleagues, but
Schleinitz, who had the support of the Queen, wished to be President
himself; there were long meetings of the Council and audiences of the
King; but the old influences were still at work; Bismarck did not wish
to enter the Ministry except as Foreign Minister, and the King still
feared and distrusted him. An incident which occurred during these
critical days will explain to some extent the apprehensions which
Bismarck so easily awoke. The chronic difficulties with the Elector of
Hesse had culminated in an act of great discourtesy; the King of Prussia
had sent an autograph letter to the Elector by General Willisen; the
Elector on receiving it threw it unopened on the table; as the letter
contained the final demands of Prussia, the only answer was to put some
of the neighbouring regiments on a war footing. Bernstorff took the
opportunity of Bismarck's presence in Berlin to ask his advice; the
answer was: "The circumstance that the Elector has thrown a royal letter
on the table is not a clever _casus belli_; if you want war, make me
your Under Secretary; I will engage to provide you a German civil war of
the best quality in a few weeks." The King might naturally fear that if
he appointed Bismarck, not Under Secretary, but Minister, he would in a
few weeks, whether he liked it or not, find himself involved in a German
civil war of the best quality. He wanted a man who would defend the
Government before the Chambers with courage and ability; Bismarck, who
had gained his reputation as a debater, was the only man for the post.
He could have had the post of Minister of the Interior; he was offered
that of Minister-President without a Portfolio; but if he did not
actually refuse, he strongly disapproved of the plan; he would not be
able to get on with Bernstorff, and Schleinitz would probably interfere.
"I have no confidence in Bernstorff's eye for political matters; he
probably has none in mine." Bernstorff was "too stiff," "his collars
were too high." During these long discussions he wrote to his wife:

  "Our future is obscure as in Petersburg. Berlin is now to the
  front; I do nothing one way or another; as soon as I have my
  credentials for Paris in my pocket I will dance and sing. At
  present there is no talk of London, but all may change again. I
  scarcely get free of the discussions all day long; I do not find
  the Ministers more united than their predecessors were."

Disgusted with the long waiting and uncertainty he pressed for a
decision; after a fortnight's delay he was appointed Minister at Paris,
but this was in reality only a fresh postponement; nothing had really
been decided; the King expressly told him not to establish himself
there. To his wife he wrote from Berlin:

  "I am very much pleased, but the shadow remains in the
  background. I was already as good as caught for the Ministry.
  Perhaps when I am out of their sight they will discover another
  Minister-President. I expect to start for Paris to-morrow;
  whether for long, God knows; perhaps only for a few months or
  even weeks. They are all conspired together that I should stay
  here. I have had to be very firm to get away from this hotel life
  even for a time."

He did not really expect to be away more than ten days or a fortnight.
At a farewell audience just before he started, the King seems to have
led him to expect that he would in a very few days be appointed as he
wished, Foreign Minister.

He arrived in Paris on the 30th, to take up his quarters in the empty
Embassy. He did not wait even to see his wife before starting and he
wrote to her that she was not to take any steps towards joining him.

  "It is not decided that I am to stay here; I am in the middle of
  Paris lonelier than you are in Reinfeld and sit here like a rat
  in a deserted house. How long it will last God knows. Probably in
  eight or ten days I shall receive a telegraphic summons to Berlin
  and then game and dance is over. If my enemies knew what a
  benefit they would confer on me by their victory and how
  sincerely I wish it for them, Schleinitz out of pure malice would
  probably do his best to bring me to Berlin."

Day after day, however, went by and the summons did not come; on the
contrary Bernstorff wrote as though he were proposing to stay on; he did
not however, suggest giving up his post in London, Roon wrote that he
had raised the question in conversation with the King; that he had found
the old leaning towards Bismarck, and the old irresolution. The Chamber
had met, but the first few weeks of the session passed off with
unexpected quiet and it was not till the autumn that the question of the
Budget would come up. Bismarck wrote to Bernstorff to try and find out
what was to happen to him, but the King, before whom the letter was
laid, was quite unable to come to any decision.

Bismarck therefore determined to use his enforced leisure in order to go
across to London for a few days. He had only visited England once as a
young man, and, expecting as he did soon to be responsible for the
conduct of foreign affairs, it was desirable that he should make the
personal acquaintance of the leading English statesmen. Undoubtedly, one
of the reasons why he had been sent to Paris was that he might renew his
acquaintance with the Emperor. There was also a second International
Exhibition and everyone was going to London. We have, unfortunately, no
letters written from England; after his return he writes to Roon:

  "I have just come back from London; people there are much better
  informed about China and Turkey than about Prussia. Loftus must
  write more nonsense to his Ministers than I thought."

The only event of which we have any information was his meeting with Mr.
Disraeli, who at that time was leader of the Opposition in the House of
Commons; it took place at a dinner given by the Russian Ambassador to
the Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar. Among the guests was Count Vitzthum,
Saxon Envoy; he saw Bismarck and Disraeli engaged in a long conversation
after dinner; afterwards the English statesman told him the substance of
it. Bismarck had spoken as follows:

  "I shall soon be compelled to undertake the leadership of the
  Prussian Government. My first care will be, with or without the
  help of Parliament, to reorganise the army. The King has rightly
  set himself this task; he cannot however carry it through with
  his present councillors. When the army has been brought to such a
  state as to command respect, then I will take the first
  opportunity to declare war with Austria, burst asunder the German
  Confederation, bring the middle and smaller States into
  subjection, and give Germany a national union under the
  leadership of Prussia. I have come here to tell this to the
  Queen's Ministers."

Disraeli added to Vitzthum, who, of course, as Saxon Envoy was much
interested: "Take care of that man; he means what he says." It does not
appear that Bismarck had an opportunity of explaining his project either
to Lord Palmerston or to Lord Russell.

All through July he remained in Paris, to which he was called back in
order to receive some despatches which after all never arrived; the same
uncertainty continued; there was no work to be done there, Emperor and
Ministers were going away; he was still all alone in the Embassy without
servants, or furniture. As he wrote to his wife, he did not know what
to have for dinner or what to eat it on. He therefore applied for leave;
he was himself of opinion that as the King would not immediately give
him the Foreign Office it was not yet time for him to enter the
Ministry. Writing to Roon he advised that the Government should prolong
the conflict, draw the Chamber into disputes on small matters which
would weary the country; then when they were getting worn out and hoped
that the Government would meet them half-way so as to end the conflict,
then would be the time to summon him,

  "as a sign that we are far from giving up the battle. The
  appearance of a new battalion in the Ministerial array would then
  perhaps make an impression that would be wanting now, especially
  if beforehand a commotion was created by expressions about a
  _coup d'état_ and a new Constitution; then my own reputation for
  careless violence would help me and people would think, 'now it
  is coming!' Then, all the half-hearted would be inclined to
  negotiation. I am astonished at the political incapacity of our
  Chambers and yet we are an educated country. Undoubtedly too much
  so; others are not cleverer but they have not the childish
  self-confidence with which our political leaders publish their
  incapacity in its complete nakedness as a model and pattern. How
  have we Germans got the reputation of retiring modesty? There is
  not a single one of us who does not think that he understands
  everything, from strategy to picking the fleas off a dog, better
  than professionals who have devoted their lives to it."

It was only with difficulty he could even get leave of absence, for the
King was as irresolute as ever; as to the cause of the difficulty we get
some hint in Roon's letters. There was a party which was pushing
Schleinitz, the only member of the Liberal Ministry who remained in
office; he had very influential support.

  "Her Majesty the Queen returns to Babelsburg on Sunday; she is
  much agitated, there will be scenes; the temperature towards the
  Ministry will fall to zero or below."

He eventually got away at the end of July with six weeks' leave of
absence; he travelled down to Bordeaux and Bayonne and across the
Pyrenees to San Sebastian; he was away from all news of the world; for
weeks he scarcely saw even a German paper.

On the 14th of September he was at Toulouse; the sea-bathing, the
mountain air, the freedom from work and anxiety, and the warmth had
completely restored his health; for the first time since he went to St.
Petersburg he had recovered his old spirit, his decision, and directness
of action. He wrote that he must have some definite decision; otherwise
he would send in his resignation. "My furniture is at St. Petersburg and
will be frozen up, my carriages are at Stettin, my horses at Berlin, my
family in Pomerania, and I on the highroad." He was prepared to be his
Majesty's Envoy at Paris but he was also ready at once to enter the
Ministry. "Only get me certainty, one way or another," he writes to
Roon, "and I will paint angels' wings on your photograph." Two days
later, just as a year before, he received a telegram from Roon telling
him to come at once. On the 17th he was in Paris and on the morning of
the 20th he arrived in Berlin.

The long-delayed crisis had at last come; the debates on the Budget and
the vote for the army reform began on September 11th; it was continued
for five days, and at the end the House, by a majority of 273 to 62,
refused the money required for the increased establishment. The result
of this vote would be that if the wishes of the House were carried out,
the whole of the expenditure which had already been made for eight
months of the current year was illegal; moreover, the regiments which
had already existed for two years must be disbanded. It was a vote which
could not possibly be carried into effect, as the money had already been
spent. At a meeting of the Ministry which was held the next morning, the
majority, including this time even Roon, seemed to have been inclined to
attempt a compromise. The King alone remained firm. When he had heard
the opinion of all the Ministers, he rose and said that in that case it
would be impossible for him to carry on the Government any longer; it
would only remain for him to summon the Crown Prince. As he said this he
put his hand on the bell to call a messenger. The Ministers all sprang
from their chairs and assured him that he might depend upon them, and
they would support him to the end. Such were the circumstances in which
Roon summoned Bismarck. None the less the influence of the Queen and the
Crown Prince were so strong that the King still doubted whether he
ought to continue the struggle; on one thing he was determined, that if
he had to give way he would abdicate. Two days later he again asked Roon
his advice. "Appoint Bismarck Minister-President," was the answer. "But
he is not here, he will not accept," objected the King, referring
doubtless to the difficulties which Bismarck had raised formerly. "He is
in Berlin at this moment," said Roon. The King ordered him to come to
Potsdam. When Bismarck arrived there he found the King sitting at his
table, and in front of him the act of abdication, already signed. The
King asked him whether he was willing to undertake the Government, even
against the majority of the Parliament and without a Budget. Bismarck
said he would do so. It was one last chance, and the King tore up the
act of abdication. Two days later Bismarck was appointed provisional
Minister-President, and, at the beginning of October, received his
definite appointment as President and Foreign Minister.




The circumstances under which Bismarck accepted office were such as to
try the nerves of the strongest man. The King had not appealed to him so
long as there was anyone else who would carry on the Government; he was
the last resource, and had taken up a burden from which all others
shrunk. He had pledged himself to support the King in a conflict against
the whole nation; with the exception of the Upper House he had no
friends or supporters. The opinion in Europe was as decisively against
him as that in Prussia; he was scarcely looked on as a serious
politician; everyone believed that in a few weeks he would have to
retire, and the King to give up the useless conflict on which he was
staking his throne. Bismarck was under no illusion as to his position;
he had been summoned by the King, he depended for his office entirely on
the King, but would the King have the strength of will and courage to
resist? Only a few days after his appointment, the King had gone to
Baden-Baden for a week, where he met the Queen. When he came back, he
was completely disheartened. Bismarck, who had travelled part of the way
to meet him, got into the train at a small roadside station. He found
that the King, who was sitting alone in an ordinary first-class
carriage, was prepared to surrender. "What will come of it?" he said.
"Already I see the place before my castle on which your head will fall,
and then mine will fall too." "Well, as far as I am concerned," answered
Bismarck, "I cannot think of a finer death than one on the field of
battle or the scaffold. I would fall like Lord Strafford; and your
Majesty, not as Louis XVI., but as Charles I. That is a quite
respectable historical figure."

For the moment the centre of interest lay in the House. The new Minister
began by what he intended as an attempt at reconciliation: he announced
that the Budget for 1863 would be withdrawn; the object of this was to
limit as much as possible the immediate scope of difference; a fresh
Budget for the next year would be laid before them as soon as possible.
There would remain only the settlement of the Budget for the current
year. This announcement was badly received; the House was distrustful,
and they interpreted it as an attempt to return to the old practice of
deferring consideration of the Budget until the beginning of the year to
which it applied. The first discussion in which Bismarck took part was
not in the House itself, but in the Budget Committee. The Committee
proposed a resolution requiring the Government at once to lay before the
House the Budget for 1863, and declaring that it was unconstitutional
to spend any money which had been expressly and definitely refused by
the House of Representatives. On this there took place a long
discussion, in which Bismarck spoke repeatedly; for the discussions in
Committee, which consisted only of about thirty members, were
conversational in their nature. There was no verbatim report, but the
room was crowded with members who had come to hear the new Minister.
They were not disappointed. He spoke with a wit, incisiveness, and
versatility to which, as one observer remarked, they were not accustomed
from Prussian Ministers. He warned them not to exaggerate their powers.
The Prussian Constitution did not give the House of Representatives the
sole power of settling the Budget; it must be settled by arrangement
with the other House and the Crown. There was a difference of opinion in
the interpretation of the Constitution; all constitutional government
required compromise; a constitution was not something dead, it must be
enlivened; it was interpreted by custom and practice; it would be wiser
not to hasten this practice too quickly; then the question of law might
easily become one of power. It was not the fault of the Government that
they had got into this position; people took the situation too
tragically, especially in the press; they spoke as though the end of all
things was come; "but," he added, "a constitutional struggle is not a
disgrace, it is rather an honour; after all we are all children of the
same country." A true note, but one which he was not always able to
maintain in the struggle of the coming years. Then he expounded the
view of the German character which we have learnt from his letters: it
was customary to speak of the sobriety of the Prussian people; yes, but
the great independence of the individual made it difficult in Prussia to
govern with the Constitution; in France it was different; there this
individual independence was wanting; "we are perhaps too educated to
endure a constitution; we are too critical"; the capacity for judging
measures of the Government and acts of the Representatives was too
universal; there were in the country too many Catilinarian existences,
which had an interest in revolutions. He reminded them that Germany did
not care for the Liberalism of Prussia, but for its power; Bavaria,
Wurtemberg, Baden, might indulge in Liberalism; Prussia must concentrate
its power and hold itself ready for the favourable moment which had
already been passed over more than once; Prussia's boundaries, as fixed
by the Congress of Vienna, were not favourable to a sound political
life; "not by speeches and majority votes are the great questions of the
time decided--that was the great blunder of 1848 and 1849--but by blood
and iron." He appealed for confidence: "Do not force a quarrel; we are
honest people and you can trust us."

The effect of these speeches was very unfavourable; the very quickness
of thought and originality of expression produced a bad impression; even
the free indulgence in long foreign words offended patriotic
journalists. They seemed to his audience reckless; what was this
reference to the Treaties of Vienna but an imitation of Napoleonic
statesmanship? They had the consciousness that they were making history,
that they were involved in a great and tragic conflict, and they
expected the Minister to play his part seriously and solemnly; instead
of that they had listened to a series of epigrams with no apparent
logical connection. We know how dangerous it is, even in England, for a
responsible statesman to allow himself to be epigrammatic in dealing
with serious affairs. Much more was it in Germany, where the Ministers
were nearly always officials by training. Bismarck had the dangerous
gift of framing pregnant and pithy sentences which would give a ready
handle to his opponents: _Macht geht vor Recht_; he had not said these
words, but he had said something very much like them, and they
undoubtedly represented what seemed to his audience the pith of his
speeches. And then these words, _blood and iron_. He has told us in
later years what he really meant:

  "Put the strongest possible military power, in other words, as
  much blood and iron as you can, into the hands of the King of
  Prussia, then he will be able to carry out the policy you wish;
  it cannot be done with speeches and celebrations and songs, it
  can only be done by blood and iron." [7]

What everyone thought he meant was that blood must be shed and iron
used; and perhaps they were not so far wrong.

The attempt at conciliation failed; the report of the Committee was
adopted, and an amendment proposed by Vincke, which Bismarck was
prepared to accept, was rejected. Bismarck warned the House not to push
the conflict too far; the time would come when the prospect of a
peaceful solution would have disappeared; then the Government too would
be prepared to oppose theory to theory and interpretation to

He showed to the President of the House a twig of olive. "I gathered
this in Avignon to bring it to the House; it does not seem to be time

The Budget was sent up to the House of Lords in the amended form in
which the House of Representatives had passed it; the Lords unanimously
threw it out, as they were legally justified in doing; not content with
that, they altered it to the original form in which it had been proposed
by the Government and sent it down again to the Lower House. This was
clearly illegal. Their action, however, was most useful to the
Government. A conflict had now arisen between the two Houses, and
technically the responsibility for the failure to bring the conciliation
about was taken away from the Government; they could entrench themselves
behind the impregnable position that the law required the Budget to be
passed by both Houses; until this was done they could do nothing. The
Houses would not agree; the Government was helpless. The House of
Representatives at once passed a motion declaring the vote of the Upper
House for altering the Budget null and void, as indeed it was; in the
middle of the discussion a message was brought down by the President
announcing that the House was to be prorogued that afternoon; they had
just time to pass the resolution and to send it in a cab which was
waiting at the door to the Upper House, where it was read out amidst the
boisterous laughter of the Peers; then both Chambers were summoned to
the Palace, and the session closed. The first round in the conflict was

The recess was short; the next session was by the Constitution obliged
to begin not later than January 15th; there were many who expected that
the Constitution would be ignored and the Parliament not summoned. This
was not Bismarck's plan; he fulfilled all the technical requirements in
the strictest way; he carefully abstained from any action which he could
not justify by an appeal to the letter of the Constitution; the
government of the country was carried on with vigour and success; he
allowed no loophole by which his opponents might injure his influence
with the King. It is true that they were spending money which had not
been voted, but then, as he explained, that was not his fault; the
provisions of the law were quite clear.

It was the duty of the Government to submit the Budget to the Lower
House, who could amend it; it had then to be passed in the form of a
law, and for this the assent of both Houses of Parliament and of the
Crown was required. The Upper House had not the right of proposing
amendments, but they had the right of rejecting them. In this case they
had made use of their right; no law had been passed the two Houses had
not agreed. What was to happen? The Constitution gave no help; there was
a gap in it. The Government therefore had to act as best they could.
They could not be expected to close the Government offices, cease to pay
the troops, and let the government of the country come to an end; they
must go on as best they could, taking all the responsibility until they
could come to some agreement.

As soon as the House met it began to vote an address to the King. They
adopted the obvious fiction, which, in fact, they could not well avoid,
that he was being misled by his Ministers, and the attitude of the
country misrepresented to him; even had they known as well as we do that
the Ministers were only carrying out the orders of the King, they could
not well have said so. Bismarck, however, did not attempt to conceal the
truth; the address, he said, touched the King; the acts complained of
were done in the name of the King; they were setting themselves against
him. The contest was, who was to rule in Prussia, the House of
Hohenzollern or the House of Parliament. He was at once accused of
disloyalty; he was, they said, protecting himself behind the person of
the sovereign, but, of course, it was impossible for him not to do so.
The whole justification for his action was that he was carrying out the
King's orders. What was at the root of the conflict but the question,
whether in the last resort the will of the King or the majority of the
House should prevail? To have adopted the English practice, to have
refrained from mentioning the King's name, would have been to adopt the
very theory of the Constitution for which the House was contending, the
English theory that the sovereign has neither the right of deciding nor
responsibility; it would have been to undermine the monarchical side of
the Constitution which Bismarck was expressly defending. The King
himself never attempted to avoid the responsibility; in a public speech
he had already said that the army organisation was his own work: "It is
my own and I am proud of it; I will hold firmly to it and carry it
through with all my energy." In his answer to the address from the
House, both on this and on later occasions, he expressly withdrew the
assumption that he was not well informed or that he did not approve of
his Ministers' action.

The address was carried by a majority of 255 to 68; the King refused to
receive it in person. The House then proceeded to throw out a Bill for
military reorganisation which was laid before them; they adopted a
resolution that they reserved for later discussion the question, for
what part of the money illegally spent in 1862 they would hold the
Ministry personally responsible. They then proceeded to the Budget of
1863, and again rejected the army estimates; they refused the money
asked for raising the salaries of the ambassadors (Bismarck himself,
while at St. Petersburg, had suffered much owing to the insufficiency of
his salary, and he wished to spare his successors a similar
inconvenience); and they brought in Bills for the responsibility of
Ministers. The public attention, however was soon directed from these
internal matters to even more serious questions of foreign policy.

At the beginning of February the Poles had once more risen in revolt
against the Russian Government. Much sympathy was felt for them in
Western Europe. England, France, and Austria joined in representations
and remonstrances to the Czar; they expected that Prussia would join

Nothing could have been more inconvenient to Bismarck; he was at the
time fully occupied in negotiations about German affairs, and he was
probably anxious to bring to a speedy issue the questions between
Prussia and Austria; it was therefore most important to him to be on
good terms with France and England, for he would not challenge Austria
unless he was sure that Austria would have no allies; now he must
quarrel with either Russia or with France. An insurrection in Poland
was, however, a danger to which everything else must be postponed; on
this his opinion never varied, here there could be no compromise. He was
perfectly open: "The Polish question is to us a question of life and
death," he said to Sir Andrew Buchanan. There were two parties among the
Poles; the one, the extreme Republican, wished for the institution of an
independent republic; the other would be content with self-government
and national institutions under the Russian Crown; they were supported
by a considerable party in Russia itself. Either party if successful
would not be content with Russian Poland; they would demand Posen, they
would never rest until they had gained again the coast of the Baltic and
deprived Prussia of her eastern provinces. The danger to Prussia would
be greatest, as Bismarck well knew, if the Poles became reconciled to
the Russians; an independent republic on their eastern frontier would
have been dangerous, but Polish aspirations supported by the Panslavonic
party and the Russian army would have been fatal. Russia and Poland
might be reconciled, Prussia and Poland never can be. Prussia therefore
was obliged to separate itself from the other Powers; instead of sending
remonstrances to the Czar, the King wrote an autograph letter proposing
that the two Governments should take common steps to meet the common
danger; General von Alvensleben, who took the letter, at once concluded
a convention in which it was agreed that Prussian and Russian troops
should be allowed to cross the frontier in pursuit of the insurgents; at
the same time two of the Prussian army corps were mobilised and drawn up
along the Polish frontier.

The convention soon became known and it is easy to imagine the
indignation with which the Prussian people and the House of
Representatives heard of what their Government had done. The feeling was
akin to that which would have prevailed in America had the President
offered his help to the Spanish Government to suppress the insurrection
in Cuba. The answers to questions were unsatisfactory, and on February
26th Heinrich von Sybel rose to move that the interests of Prussia
required absolute neutrality. It was indeed evident that Bismarck's
action had completely isolated Prussia; except the Czar, she had now
not a single friend in Europe and scarcely a friend in Germany. Bismarck
began his answer by the taunt that the tendency to enthusiasm for
foreign nationalities, even when their objects could only be realised at
the cost of one's own country, was a political disease unfortunately
limited to Germany. It was, however, an unjust taunt, for no one had
done more than Sybel himself in his historical work to point out the
necessity, though he recognised the injustice, of the part Prussia had
taken in the partition of Poland; nobody had painted so convincingly as
he had, the political and social demoralisation of Poland. Bismarck then
dwelt on the want of patriotism in the House, which in the middle of
complicated negotiations did not scruple to embarrass their own
Government. "No English House of Commons," he said, "would have acted as
they did," a statement to which we cannot assent; an English Opposition
would have acted exactly as the majority of the Prussian Parliament did.
When a Minister is in agreement with the House on the general principles
of policy, then indeed there rests on them the obligation not to
embarrass the Government by constant interpolation with regard to each
diplomatic step; self-restraint must be exercised, confidence shewn.
This was not the case here; the House had every reason to believe that
the objects of Bismarck were completely opposed to what they wished;
they could not be expected to repose confidence in him. They used this,
as every other opportunity, to attempt to get rid of him.

The question of Poland is one on which Bismarck never altered his
attitude. His first public expression of opinion on foreign affairs was
an attack on the Polish policy of the Prussian Government in 1848.

  "No one then," he wrote, "could doubt that an independent Poland
  would be the irreconcilable enemy of Prussia and would remain so
  till they had conquered the mouth of the Vistula and every
  Polish-speaking village in West and East Prussia, Pomerania, and

Forty years later one of the last of his great speeches in the Reichstag
was devoted to attacking the Polish sympathies of the Catholic party in
Prussia. He was never tired of laughing at the characteristic German
romanticism which was so enthusiastic for the welfare of other nations.
He recalled the memories of his boyhood when, after the rebellion of
1831, Polish refugees were received in every German town with honours
and enthusiasm greater than those paid to the men who had fought for
Germany, when German children would sing Polish national airs as though
they were their own.

Nothing shews the change which he has been able to bring about in German
thought better than the attitude of the nation towards Poland. In the
old days the Germans recollected only that the partition of Poland had
been a great crime; it was their hope and determination that they might
be able to make amends for it. In those days the Poles were to be found
in every country in Europe, foremost in fighting on the barricades; they
helped the Germans to fight for their liberty, and the Germans were to
help them to recover independence. In 1848, Mieroslawski had been
carried like a triumphant hero through the streets of Berlin; the Baden
rebels put themselves under the leadership of a Pole, and it was a Pole
who commanded the Viennese in their resistance to the Austrian army; a
Pole led the Italians to disaster on the field of Novara. At a time when
poets still were political leaders, and the memory and influence of
Byron had not been effaced, there was scarcely a German poet, Platen,
Uhland, Heine, who had not stirred up the enthusiasm for Poland. It was
against this attitude of mind that Bismarck had to struggle and he has
done so successfully. He has taught that it is the duty of Germany to
use all the power of the State for crushing and destroying the Polish
language and nationality; the Poles in Prussia are to become Prussian,
as those in Russia have to become Russian. A hundred years ago the
Polish State was destroyed; now the language and the nation must cease
to exist.

It is a natural result of the predominance of Prussia in Germany. The
enthusiasm for Poland was not unnatural when the centre of gravity of
Germany was still far towards the West. Germany could be great,
prosperous, and happy, even if a revived Poland spread to the shores of
the Baltic, but Prussia would then cease to exist and Bismarck has
taught the Germans to feel as Prussians.

The danger during these weeks was real; Napoleon proposed that Austria,
England, and France should present identical notes to Prussia
remonstrating with and threatening her. Lord Russell refused; it was, as
Bismarck said in later years, only the friendly disposition of Lord
Russell to Germany which saved Prussia from this danger. Bismarck's own
position was very insecure; but he withstood this attack as he did all
others, though few knew at what expense to his nerves and health; he
used to attribute the frequent illnesses of his later years to the
constant anxiety of these months; he had a very nervous temperament,
self-control was difficult to him, and we must remember that all the
time when he was defending the King's Government against this public
criticism he had to maintain himself against those who at Court were
attempting to undermine his influence with the King.

He had, however, secured the firm friendship of Russia. When he was in
St. Petersburg he had gained the regard of the Czar; now to this
personal feeling was added a great debt of gratitude. What a contrast
between the action of Austria and Prussia! The late Czar had saved
Austria from dissolution, and what had been the reward? Opposition in
the East, and now Austria in the Polish affair was again supporting the
Western Powers. On the other hand Prussia, and Prussia alone, it was
which had saved Russia from the active intervention of France and
England. Napoleon had proposed that a landing should he made in
Lithuania in order to effect a junction with the Poles; Bismarck had
immediately declared that if this were done he should regard it as a
declaration of war against Prussia. So deep was the indignation of
Alexander that he wrote himself to the King of Prussia, proposing an
alliance and a joint attack on France and Austria. It must have been a
great temptation to Bismarck, but he now shewed the prudence which was
his great characteristic as a diplomatist; he feared that in a war of
this kind the brunt would fall upon Prussia, and that when peace was
made the control of negotiations would be with the Czar. He wished for
war with Austria, but he was determined that when war came he should
have the arrangement of the terms of peace. On his advice the King
refused the offer.

The bitterness of the feeling created by these debates on Poland
threatened to make it impossible for Ministers any longer to attend in
the House; Bismarck did his part in increasing it.

  "You ask me," he said, "why, if we disagree with you, we do not
  dissolve; it is that we wish the country to have an opportunity
  of becoming thoroughly acquainted with you."

He was tired and angry when during one of these sittings he writes to

  "I am obliged to listen to particularly tasteless speeches out of
  the mouths of uncommonly childish and excited politicians, and I
  have therefore a moment of unwilling leisure which I cannot use
  better than in giving you news of my welfare. I never thought
  that in my riper years I should be obliged to carry on such an
  unworthy trade as that of a Parliamentary Minister. As envoy,
  although an official, I still had the feeling of being a
  gentleman; as [Parliamentary] Minister one is a helot. I have
  come down in the world, and hardly know how.

  "April 18th. I wrote as far as this yesterday, then the sitting
  came to an end; five hours' Chamber until three o'clock; one
  hour's report to his Majesty; three hours at an incredibly dull
  dinner, old important Whigs; then two hours' work; finally, a
  supper with a colleague, who would have been hurt if I had
  slighted his fish. This morning, I had hardly breakfasted, before
  Karolyi was sitting opposite to me; he was followed without
  interruption by Denmark, England, Portugal, Russia, France, whose
  Ambassador I was obliged to remind at one o'clock that it was
  time for me to go to the House of phrases. I am sitting again in
  the latter; hear people talk nonsense, and end my letter. All
  these people have agreed to approve our treaties with Belgium, in
  spite of which twenty speakers scold each other with the greatest
  vehemence, as if each wished to make an end of the other; they
  are not agreed about the motives which make them unanimous,
  hence, alas! a regular German squabble about the Emperor's beard;
  _querelle d'Allemand_. You Anglo-Saxon Yankees have something of
  the same kind also.... Your battles are bloody; ours wordy; these
  chatterers really cannot govern Prussia. I must bring some
  opposition to bear against them; they have too little wit and too
  much self-complacency--stupid and audacious. Stupid, in all its
  meanings, is not the right word; considered individually, these
  people are sometimes very clever, generally educated--the
  regulation German university culture; but of politics, beyond the
  interests of their own church tower, they know as little as we
  knew as students, and even less; as far as external politics go,
  they are also, taken separately, like children. In all other
  questions they become childish as soon as they stand together _in
  corpore_. In the mass stupid, individually intelligent."

Recalling these days, Bismarck said in later years:

  "I shall never forget how I had every morning to receive the
  visit of Sir Andrew Buchanan, the English Ambassador, and
  Talleyrand, the representative of France, who made hell hot for
  me over the inexcusable leanings of Prussian policy towards
  Russia, and held threatening language towards us, and then at
  midday I had the pleasure of hearing in the Prussian Parliament
  pretty much the same arguments and attacks which in the morning
  the foreign Ambassadors had made against me."

Of course the language used in the House weakened his influence abroad,
and the foreign Governments shewed more insistence when they found out
that the Prussian Parliament supported their demands. It was noticed
with satisfaction in the English Parliament that the nation had
dissociated itself from the mean and disgraceful policy of the

At last personal friction reached such a point that the session had to
be closed. In order to understand the cause of this we must remember
that in Prussia the Ministers are not necessarily members of either
House; they enjoy, however, by the Constitution, the right of attending
the debates and may at any time demand to be heard; they do not sit in
the House among the other members, but on a raised bench to the right of
the President, facing the members. They have not, therefore, any feeling
of _esprit de corps_ as members of the assembly; Bismarck and his
colleagues when they addressed the House spoke not as members, not as
the representatives of even a small minority, but as strangers, as the
representatives of a rival and hostile authority; it is this which
alone explains the almost unanimous opposition to him; he was the
opponent not of one party in the House but of the Parliament itself and
of every other Parliament. In the course of a debate he came into
conflict with the Chair; the President pointed out that some of his
remarks had nothing to do with the subject; Bismarck at once protested:
"I cannot allow the President the right to a disciplinary interruption
in my speech. I have not the honour of being a member of this assembly;
I have not helped to vote your standing orders; I have not joined in
electing the President; I am not subject to the disciplinary power of
the Chamber. The authority of the President ends at this barrier. I have
one superior only, his Majesty the King." This led to a sharp passage
with the President, who maintained that his power extended as far as the
four walls; he could not indeed withdraw the right of speech from a
Minister, but could interrupt him. Bismarck at once repeated word for
word the obnoxious passage of his speech. The President threatened, if
he did so again, to close the sitting; Bismarck practically gave way; "I
cannot," he said, "prevent the President adjourning the House; what I
have said twice I need not repeat a third time"; and the debate
continued without further interruption. A few weeks later a similar
scene occurred, but this time it was not Bismarck but Roon, and Roon had
not the same quick feeling for Parliamentary form; Bismarck had defied
the President up to the extreme point where his legal powers went, Roon
passed beyond them. The President wished to interrupt the Minister;
Roon refused to stop speaking; the President rang his bell. "When I
interrupt the Minister," he said, "he must be silent. For that purpose I
use my bell, and, if the Minister does not obey, I must have my hat
brought me." When the Chairman put on his hat the House would be
adjourned. Roon answered, "I do not mind if the President has his hat
brought; according to the Constitution I can speak if I wish, and no one
has the right to interrupt me." After a few more angry words on either
side, as Roon continued to dispute the right of the President, the
latter rose from his seat and asked for his hat, which he placed on his
head. All the members rose and the House was adjourned. Unfortunately
the hat handed to him was not his own; it was much too large and
completely covered his head and face, so that the strain of the
situation was relieved by loud laughter. After this the Ministers
refused to attend the House unless they received an assurance that the
President no longer claimed disciplinary authority over them; a series
of memoranda were exchanged between the House and the Ministry; the
actual point in dispute was really a very small one; it is not even
clear that there was _any_ difference of opinion; everyone acknowledged
that the Ministers might make as many speeches as they liked, and that
the Chairman could not require them to stop speaking. The only question
was whether he might interrupt them in order to make any remarks
himself; but neither side was prepared to come to an understanding. The
King, to whom the House appealed, supported the Ministry, and a few
days later the House was prorogued. The second session was over.

Three days later, by Royal proclamation, a series of ordinances was
published creating very stringent regulations for the control of the
Press; they gave the police the right of forbidding a newspaper to
appear for no other reason except disapproval of its general tendency.
It was a power more extreme than in the worst days of the Carlsbad
decrees had ever been claimed by any German Government. The ordinances
were based on a clause in the Constitution which gave the Government at
times of crisis, if Parliament were not sitting, the power of making
special regulations for the government of the Press. The reference to
the Constitution seemed almost an insult; the kind of crisis which was
meant was obviously a period of civil war or invasion; it seemed as
though the Government had taken the first pretext for proroguing
Parliament to be able to avail themselves of this clause. The ordinances
reminded men of those of Charles X.; surely, they said, this was the
beginning of a reign of violence.

The struggle was now no longer confined to Parliament. Parliament indeed
was clearly impotent; all that could be done by speeches and votes and
addresses had been done and had failed; the King still supported the
Ministry. It was now the time for the people at large; the natural
leaders were the corporations of the large towns; the Liberal policy of
the Prussian Government had given them considerable independence; they
were elected by the people, and in nearly every town there was a large
majority opposed to the Government. Headed by the capital, they began a
series of addresses to the King; public meetings were organised; at
Cologne a great festival was arranged to welcome Sybel and the other
representatives from the Rhine. It was more serious that in so
monarchical a country the discontent with the personal action of the
King found public expression. The Crown Prince was at this time on a
tour of military inspection in East Prussia; town after town refused the
ordinary loyal addresses; they would not welcome him or take part in the
usual ceremonies; the ordinary loyal addresses to the King and other
members of the Royal Family were refused. It was no longer a conflict
between the Ministry and the Parliament, but between the King and the

Suddenly the country learned that the Crown Prince himself, the Heir
Apparent to the throne, was on their side. He had always disliked
Bismarck; he was offended by the brusqueness of his manner. He disliked
the genial and careless _bonhommie_ with which Bismarck, who hated
affectation, discussed the most serious subjects; he had opposed his
appointment, and he now held a position towards his father's Government
similar to that which ten years before his father had held towards his
own brother. He was much influenced by his English relations, and the
opinion of the English Court was strongly unfavourable to Bismarck.
Hitherto the Crown Prince had refrained from any public active
opposition; he had, however, not been asked his opinion concerning the
Press ordinances, nor had he even received an invitation to the council
at which they were passed. Bitterly offended at this slight upon
himself, seriously alarmed lest the action of the Government might even
endanger the dynasty, on his entry into Danzig he took occasion to
dissociate himself from the action of the Government. He had not, he
said, been asked; he had known nothing about it; he was not responsible.
The words were few and they were moderate, but they served to shew the
whole of Germany what hitherto only those about the Court had known,
that the Crown Prince was to be counted among the opponents of the

An incident followed a few days later which could only serve to increase
the breach. After his speech at Danzig, the Crown Prince had offered to
surrender all his official positions; the King had not required this of
him, but had strictly ordered him not again to come into opposition to
his Government. The Crown Prince had promised obedience, but continued
his private protests against "these rude and insolent Ministers." The
letters on both sides had been affectionate and dignified. A few days
later, however, the Berlin correspondent of the _Times_ was enabled to
publish the contents of them. It is not known who was to blame for this
very serious breach of confidence; but the publication must have been
brought about by someone very closely connected with the Crown Prince;
suspicion was naturally directed towards the Court of Coburg. It was not
the last time that the confidence of the Crown Prince was to be abused
in a similar manner.

The event naturally much increased Bismarck's dislike to the entourage
of the Prince. There was indeed a considerable number of men, half men
of letters, half politicians, who were glad to play a part by attaching
themselves to a Liberal Prince; they did not scruple to call in the help
of the Press of the foreign countries, especially of England, and use
its influence for the decision of Prussian affairs. Unfortunately their
connections were largely with England; they had a great admiration for
English liberty, and they were often known as the English party. This
want of discretion, which afterwards caused a strong prejudice against
them in Germany, was used to create a prejudice also against England.
People in Germany confused with the English nation, which was supremely
indifferent to Continental affairs, the opinions of a few writers who
were nearly always German. For many years after this, the relations
between Bismarck and the Crown Prince were very distant, and the breach
was to be increased by the very decided line which the Crown Prince
afterwards took with regard to the Schleswig-Holstein affair.

The event shewed that Bismarck knew well the country with which he was
dealing; the Press ordinances were not actually illegal, they were
strictly enforced; many papers were warned, others were suppressed; the
majority at once changed their tone and moderated their expression of
hostility to the Government. In England, under similar circumstances, a
host of scurrilous pamphlets have always appeared; the Prussian police
were too prompt for this to be possible. The King refused to receive the
addresses; an order from the Home Office forbade town councils to
discuss political matters; a Bürgermeister who disregarded the order was
suspended from his office; public meetings were suppressed. These
measures were successful; the discontent remained and increased, but
there was no disorder and there were no riots. Great courage was
required to defy public opinion, but with courage it could be defied
with as much impunity as that of the Parliament. Englishmen at the time
asked why the people did not refuse to pay the taxes; the answer is
easy: there would have been no legal justification for this, for though,
until the estimates had been passed, the Ministers were not legally
enabled to spend a farthing of public money, the taxes could still be
levied; they were not voted annually; once imposed, they continued until
a law was passed withdrawing them. The situation, in fact, was this,
that the Ministry were obliged to collect the money though they were not
authorised in spending it. To this we must add that the country was very
prosperous; the revenue was constantly increasing; there was no
distress. The socialist agitation which was just beginning was directed
not against the Government but against society; Lassalle found more
sympathy in Bismarck than he did with the Liberal leaders. He publicly
exhorted his followers to support the Monarchy against these miserable
Bourgeois, as he called the Liberals. Except on the one ground of the
constitutional conflict, the country was well governed; there was no
other interference with liberty of thought or action.

Moreover, there was a general feeling that things could not last long;
the Liberals believed that the future was with them; time itself would
bring revenge. At the worst they would wait till the death of the King;
he was already nearly seventy years of age; the political difficulties
had much injured his health. When he was gone, then with the Crown
Prince the constitutional cause would triumph.

How different was the future to be! Year after year the conflict
continued. Each year the House was summoned and the Budget laid before
it; each year the House rejected the Budget; they threw out Government
measures, they refused the loans, and they addressed the King to dismiss
his Ministers. The sessions, however, were very short; that of 1864
lasted only a few weeks.

Each year Bismarck's open contempt for the Parliament and their
unqualified hatred of him increased. The people still continued to
support their representatives. The cities still continued to withhold
their loyal addresses to the King. With each year, however, the
Government gained confidence. It was easy to see that the final result
would depend on the success of the Government in external affairs. To
these we must now turn.

English opinion at that time was unanimously opposed to the King; it is
difficult even now to judge the issue. It was natural for Englishmen to
sympathise with those who wished to imitate them. Their pride was
pleased when they found the ablest Parliamentary leaders, the most
learned historians and keenest jurists desirous to assimilate the
institutions of Prussia to those which existed in England. It is just
this which ought to make us pause. What do we think of politicians who
try to introduce among us the institutions and the faults of foreign
countries? "Why will not the King of Prussia be content with the
position which the Queen of England holds, or the King of the
Belgians,--then all his unpopularity would be gone?" was a question
asked at the time by an English writer. We may ask, on the other hand,
why should the King of Prussia sacrifice his power and prerogative? The
question is really as absurd as it would be to ask, why is not an
English Parliament content with the power enjoyed by the Prussian
Parliament? It was a commonplace of the time, that the continued
conflict shewed a want of statesmanship; so it did, if it is
statesmanship always to court popularity and always to surrender one's
cause when one believes it to be right, even at the risk of ruining
one's country. It must be remembered that through all these years the
existence of Prussia was at stake. If the Prussian Government insisted
on the necessity for a large and efficient army, they were accused of
reckless militarism. People forgot that the Prussian Monarchy could no
more maintain itself without a large army than the British Empire could
without a large navy. In all the secret diplomatic negotiations of the
time, the dismemberment of Prussia was a policy to be considered. France
wished to acquire part of the left bank of the Rhine, Austria had never
quite given up hope of regaining part of Silesia; it was not fifty years
since Prussia had acquired half the kingdom of Saxony; might not a
hostile coalition restore this territory? And then the philanthropy of
England and the intrigues of France were still considering the
possibility of a revived Poland, but in Poland would have to be included
part of the territory which Prussia had acquired.

It is often said that from this conflict must be dated the great growth
of militarism in Europe; it is to the victory of the King and Bismarck
that we are to attribute the wars which followed and the immense
armaments which since then have been built up in Europe. To a certain
extent, of course, this is true, though it is not clear that the
presence of these immense armies is an unmixed evil. It is, however,
only half the truth; the Prussian Government was not solely responsible.
It was not they who began arming, it was not they who first broke the
peace which had been maintained in Europe since 1815. Their fault seems
to have been, not that they armed first, but that when they put their
hand to the work, they did it better than other nations. If they are
exposed to any criticism in the matter, it must rather be this, that the
Government of the late King had unduly neglected the army; they began to
prepare not too soon but almost too late. It was in Austria in 1848 that
the new military dominion began; Austria was supported by Russia and
imitated by France; Prussia, surrounded by these empires, each at least
double herself in population, was compelled to arm in self-defence. By
not doing so sooner she had incurred the disgrace of Olmütz; her whole
policy had been weak and vacillating, because the Government was
frightened at stirring up a conflict in which they would almost
certainly be defeated.

There is one other matter with regard to the conflict so far as regards
Bismarck personally. We must always remember that he was not responsible
for it. It had originated at a time when he was absent from Germany, and
had very little influence on the conduct of affairs. Had he been
Minister two years before, there probably would have been no conflict at
all. The responsibility for it lies partly with the leaders of the
Liberal party, who, as we know from memoirs that have since been
published, were acting against their own convictions, in opposing the
military demands of the Government, for they feared that otherwise the
party would not follow them. Much of the responsibility also rests with
the Ministry of the _new era_; they had mismanaged affairs; the
mismanagement arose from the want of union among them, for the Liberal
majority were in many matters opposed to the King and the throne. It was
this want of cordial co-operation in the Ministry which led to the great
blunder by which the Minister of War acted in a way which seemed to be,
and in fact was, a breach of an engagement made by the Minister of
Finance. Had Bismarck been in authority at the time, we can hardly doubt
that he would have found some way of effecting a compromise between the
Government and the leaders of the Moderate Liberal party. At least no
blame attached to him for what had happened. Still less can we afford
him anything but the highest commendation, that, when the King had got
into an absolutely untenable position, he came forward, and at the risk
of his reputation, his future, perhaps his life, stood by his side.




We have seen that the result of the conflict would eventually depend
upon the management of foreign affairs. Bismarck before his appointment
had always said that the Government could only gain freedom at home by a
more vigorous policy abroad. He was now in a position to follow the
policy he desired. The conflict made him indispensable to the King; if
he retired, the King would have to surrender to the House. This was
always present to his mind and enabled him to keep his influence against
all his enemies, who throughout the spring had used every effort to
undermine his authority with the King.

There were many who thought that he deliberately maintained the friction
in order to make himself indispensable, and in truth his relations to
the Parliament had this advantage, that there was no use in attempting
to take into consideration their wishes. Had he been supported by a
friendly House he would have had to justify his policy, perhaps to
modify it; as it was, since they were sure to refuse supplies whatever
he did, one or two more votes of censure were a matter of indifference
to him, and he went on his own way directing the diplomacy of the
country with as sure and firm a hand as though no Parliament existed.

In the autumn he had the first opportunity for shewing how great his
influence already was. During the summer holidays, he was in almost
constant attendance on the King, who as usual had gone to Gastein for a
cure. Perhaps he did not venture to leave the King, but he often
complained of the new conditions in which his life was passed; he wished
to be back with his wife and children in Pomerania. He writes to his
wife from Baden: "I wish that some intrigue would necessitate another
Ministry, so that I might honourably turn my back on this basin of ink
and live quietly in the country. The restlessness of this life is
unbearable; for ten weeks I have been doing clerk's work at an inn--it
is no life for an honest country gentleman."

At the end of July, a proposal came from the Emperor of Austria which,
but for Bismarck's firmness, might have had very far-reaching results.
The Emperor had visited the King and discussed with him proposals for
the reform of the Confederation. He explained an Austrian plan for the
reform which was so much needed, and asked the King if he would join in
an assembly of all the German Princes to discuss the plan. The King for
many reasons refused; nevertheless two days afterwards formal
invitations were sent out to all the Princes and to the Burgomasters of
the free cities, inviting them to a Congress which was to meet at
Frankfort. All the other Princes accepted, and the Congress met on the
15th of August. The Emperor presided in person, and he hoped to be able
to persuade them to adopt his proposals, which would be very favourable
for Austria. It was, however, apparent that without the presence of the
King of Prussia the Congress would come to no result; it was therefore
determined to send a special deputation to invite him to reconsider his
refusal. The King had the day before moved from Karlsbad to Baden and
was therefore in the immediate neighbourhood of Frankfort. It was very
difficult for him not to accept this special invitation. "How can I
refuse," he said, "when thirty Princes invite me and they send the
message by a King!"

Personally he wished to go, though he agreed with Bismarck that it would
be wiser to stay away; all his relations pressed him to go. It would
have been pleasant for once to meet in friendly conclave all his fellow
Princes. Bismarck, however, was determined that it should not be. He
also had gone to Baden-Baden; the King consulted him before sending the
answer. After a long and exhausting struggle, Bismarck gained his point
and a refusal was sent. He had threatened to resign if his advice were
not taken. As soon as the letter was sealed and despatched, Bismarck
turned to a tray with glasses which stood on the table and smashed them
in pieces. "Are you ill?" asked a friend who was in the room. "No," was
the answer; "I was, but I am better now. I felt I must break something."
So much were his nerves affected by the struggle.

The Congress went on without the representative of Prussia. The Kings
and Princes discussed the proposals in secret session. They enjoyed this
unaccustomed freedom; for the first time they had been able to discuss
the affairs of their own country without the intervention of their
Ministers. The Ministers had, of course, come to Frankfort, but they
found themselves excluded from all participation in affairs. With what
admiration and jealousy must they have looked on Bismarck, but there was
none of them who had done for his Prince what Bismarck had for the King
of Prussia.

Perhaps it was his intention at once to press forward the struggle with
Austria for supremacy in Germany. If so, he was to be disappointed. A
new difficulty was now appearing in the diplomatic world: the
Schleswig-Holstein question, which had been so long slumbering, broke
out into open fire, and nearly three years were to pass before Bismarck
was able to resume the policy on which he had determined. Men often
speak as though he were responsible for the outbreak of this difficulty
and the war which followed; that was far from being the case; it
interrupted his plans as much as did the Polish question. We shall have
to see with what ingenuity he gained for his country an advantage from
what appeared at first to be a most inconvenient situation.

We must shortly explain the origin of this question, the most
complicated that has ever occupied European diplomacy.

The Duchy of Holstein had been part of the German Empire; for many
hundreds of years the Duke of Holstein had also been King of Denmark;
the connection at first had been a purely personal union; it was,
however, complicated by the existence of the Duchy of Schleswig.
Schleswig was outside the Confederation, as it had been outside the
German Empire, and had in old days been a fief of the Kingdom of
Denmark. The nobles of Holstein had, however, gradually succeeded in
extending German influence and the German language into Schleswig, so
that this Duchy had become more than half German. Schleswig and Holstein
were also joined together by very old customs, which were, it is said,
founded on charters given by the Kings of Denmark; it was claimed that
the two Duchies were always to be ruled by the same man, and also that
they were to be kept quite distinct from the Kingdom of Denmark. These
charters are not undisputed, but in this case, as so often happens in
politics, the popular belief in the existence of a right was to be more
important than the legal question whether the right really existed.

The trouble began about 1830. There was a double question, the question
of constitution and the question of inheritance. The Danes, desirous to
consolidate the Monarchy, had neglected the rights of the old local
Estates in the Duchies; this led to an agitation and a conflict. It was
a struggle for the maintenance of local privileges against the Monarchy
in Copenhagen. Moreover, a vigorous democratic party had arisen in
Denmark; their object was to incorporate the whole of Schleswig in the
Danish Monarchy; they did not care what happened to Holstein. This party
were called the Eider Danes, for they wished Denmark to be extended to
the Eider. Against this proposed separation of the two Duchies violent
protests were raised, and in 1848 a rebellion broke out. This was the
rebellion which had been supported in that year by Prussia, and it had
the universal sympathy of everyone in Germany, Princes and people alike.

The question of constitution was complicated by one of succession. The
male line of the Royal House which ruled in Denmark was dying out;
according to a law introduced in 1660, descendants of the female branch
might succeed in the Kingdom. This law had probably never been legally
enacted for the Duchies; in Schleswig and Holstein the old Salic law
prevailed. In the ordinary course of things, on the death of Frederick
VII., who had succeeded in 1847, the long connection between Holstein
and Denmark would cease. Would, however, Schleswig go with Holstein or
with Denmark? Every Schleswig-Holsteiner and every German declared that
the two Duchies must remain for ever "unvertheilt"; the majority of the
Danes determined, whatever the law might be, that they would keep
Schleswig, which had once been Danish. The King took a different line;
he wished to maintain all the possessions in his House, and that the
same man should succeed both in the Kingdom and the Duchies. There was
no authority qualified to decide the legal question; and therefore the
question of right was sure to become one of power. At first, strange as
it may seem, the power was on the side of the Danes. Germany was weak
and disunited, the Prussian troops who had been sent to help the
rebellion were withdrawn, and the surrender of Olmütz was fatal to the
inhabitants of the Duchies. The whole question was brought before a
European Congress which met at London. The integrity of the Danish
Monarchy was declared to be a European interest; and the Congress of the
Powers presumed to determine who should succeed to the ducal and royal
power. They chose Christian of Glucksburg, and all the Powers pledged
themselves to recognise him as ruler over all the dominions of the King
of Denmark.

Prussia and Austria were among the Powers who signed the Treaty of
London, but the Diet of Frankfort was not bound by it. At the same time,
Denmark had entered into certain engagements pledging itself to preserve
the separation between Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark, and also not to
oppress the German people in Schleswig. The Danes did not keep their
engagement; despising the Germans, they renewed the old policy,
attempted to drive back the German language, and introduced new laws
which were inconsistent with the local privileges of Holstein and
Schleswig. The Holstein Estates appealed for protection to the Diet. The
Germans protested, but the Danes were obstinate. As years went on, the
excitement of the Germans grew; they believed, and justly believed, that
it was a matter of honour to defend the rights of the Duchies.
Schleswig-Holstein was the symbol of German weakness and disgrace, and
in defence of them the national enthusiasm was again roused.

With this popular enthusiasm Bismarck had no sympathy; and he had no
interest for the cause of Schleswig-Holstein. He had originally
considered the inhabitants merely as rebels against their lawful
sovereign. He had learnt at Frankfort sufficient to make this
indifferent to him, but he still regarded them as foreigners and looked
on their claims merely from the point of view of Prussian interests.
Both his sympathy and his reason led him in fact rather to take the
Danish side. "The maintenance of Denmark is in our interest," he wrote
in 1857, but Denmark could only continue to exist if it were ruled, more
or less arbitrarily, with provincial Estates as it has been for the last
hundred years; and in another letter: "We have no reason to desire that
the Holsteiners should live very happily under their Duke, for if they
do they will no longer be interested in Prussia, and under certain
circumstances their interest may be very useful to us. It is important
that, however just their cause may be, Prussia should act with great
prudence." He recognised that if the complaints of the Duchies led again
to a war between Germany and Denmark all the loss would fall on Prussia;
the coast of Prussia was exposed to the attacks of the Danish fleet. If
the war was successful, the result would be to strengthen the Diet and
the Federal Constitution; and, as we know, that was the last thing which
Bismarck desired; if it failed, the disgrace and the blame would fall
upon Prussia.

The only thing which would have induced him warmly to take up the cause
was the prospect of winning the Duchies for Prussia, but of that there
seemed little hope.

So long, therefore, as he remained at Frankfort, he had endeavoured to
keep the peace, and he continued this policy after he became Minister.
The greater number of the German States wished to carry out a Federal
execution in Holstein; he tried to avert this and warmly gave his
support to Lord Russell in his attempt to settle the question by English
mediation. His efforts, however, were unavailing, for the Danish
Government, presuming on the weakness of Germany, continued their
provocative action. On March 30, 1863, a new Constitution was
proclaimed, completely severing Holstein from the rest of the Monarchy.
The Holstein Estates had not been consulted and appealed to the Diet for
protection; the law of the Federation enabled the Diet in a case like
this to occupy the territory of the offending sovereign in order to
compel him to rule according to the Constitution. The national German
party wished to go farther, to confuse the questions of Schleswig and of
Holstein, and so bring about a war with Denmark. Bismarck wrote to the
Duke of Oldenburg to explain his objections to this: it would make the
worst impression in England; and he insisted that they should attempt
nothing more than Federal execution in Holstein. As Holstein belonged to
the Federation, this would be a purely German affair and no ground
would be given for interfering to England or France. In consequence, the
simple execution in Holstein was voted. Even now, however, Bismarck did
not give up hopes of keeping peace. He brought pressure to bear on the
Danes and was supported by England. If only they would withdraw the
proclamation of March 30th, and accept English mediation for Schleswig,
he promised them that he would use all his influence to prevent the
execution and would probably be successful.

His moderation, which received the warm approval of Lord Russell, of
course only added to his unpopularity in Germany. The Danish Government,
however, refused to accept Bismarck's proposal; they brought in still
another Constitution by which the complete incorporation of Schleswig
with the Monarchy was decreed. This was an overt breach of their treaty
engagements and a declaration of war with Germany. At the beginning of
November, it was carried through the Rigsrad by the required majority of
two-thirds, and was sent up to the King to receive his signature. Before
he had time to sign it the King died.

It was expected that the death of the King would make little difference
in the situation, for it had been agreed that Christian of Glucksburg
should succeed to all the provinces of the Monarchy. The first act he
had to perform was the signature of the new Constitution; it is said
that he hesitated, but was told by the Ministers that if he refused they
would answer neither for his crown nor his head. On November 23d he

Before this had happened the situation had received an unexpected
change. A new claimant appeared to dispute his title to the Duchies. The
day after the death of the King, Frederick, eldest son of the Duke of
Augustenburg, published a proclamation announcing his succession to the
Duchy under the title of Frederick VIII. No one seems to have foreseen
this step; it was supposed that after the agreement of 1853 the question
of succession had been finally settled. The whole of the German nation,
however, received with enthusiasm the news that it was again to be

They believed that the Prince was the lawful heir; they saw in his claim
the possibility of permanently separating the Duchies from Denmark.
Nothing seemed to stand between this and accomplishment except the
Treaty of London. Surely the rights of the Duchies, and the claim of
Augustenburg, supported by united Germany, would be strong enough to
bear down this treaty which was so unjust.

The question will be asked, was the claim of Augustenburg valid? No
positive answer can be given, for it has never been tried by a competent
court of law. It may, however, I think, be said that although there were
objections, which might invalidate his right to at least a part of the
Duchies, it is almost certain that a quite impartial tribunal would have
decided that he had at least a better claim than any of his rivals. This
at least would have been true fifteen years before. When, however, the
Treaty of London was arranged it was necessary to procure the
renunciation of all the different claimants. That of the Emperor of
Russia, the Duke of Oldenburg, and others was obtained without much
difficulty; the Duke of Augustenburg long refused. In order to compel
him to renounce, the Danish Government refused to restore to him his
private property, which had been confiscated owing to the part he had
taken in the late rebellion. He had been enormously wealthy, but was now
living in exile and deprived of his revenues. By this means they had at
last induced him to sign a document, in which he promised, for himself
and his successors, not to make any attempt to enforce his claims to the
succession. The document was curiously worded; there was no actual
renunciation, only a promise to abstain from action. In return for this
a sum of money, not equal, however, to that which he had lost, was
handed over to him. Now it was Bismarck who, while envoy at Frankfort,
had carried on the negotiations; he had taken much trouble about the
matter, and earned the warm gratitude both of the King of Denmark and of
the Duke. There is, I think, no doubt that he believed that the
agreement was a _bona fide_ one and would be maintained. Since then the
Duke had renounced all his claims in favour of his eldest son; Prince
Frederick had not signed the contract and maintained that he was not
bound by it. Of course Bismarck could not admit this, and his whole
attitude towards the Prince must from the beginning be hostile.

It is only fair to point out that there was no reason whatever why the
Augustenburgs should do anything more than that to which they were bound
by the strict letter of the agreement; they had no ties of gratitude
towards Denmark; they had not, as is often said, sold their rights, for
they had received only a portion of their own possessions. However this
may be, his claim was supported, not only by the people and Parliaments,
but by leaders of the German Governments, headed by the King of Bavaria.

Bismarck was now asked to denounce the Treaty of London to which Prussia
had given her assent; to support the claims of Augustenburg; to carry
out the policy of the Diet, and if necessary to allow the Prussian army
to be used in fighting for Prince Frederick against the King of Denmark.
This he had not the slightest intention of doing. He had to consider
first of all that Prussia was bound by treaties. As he said: "We may
regret that we signed, but the signature took place. Honour as well as
wisdom allows us to leave no doubt as to our loyalty to our
engagements." He had moreover to consider that if he acted as the
Germans wished he would find himself opposed, not only by Denmark, but
also by Russia and England, and in military operations on the narrow
peninsula the power of the English fleet would easily outbalance the
superiority of the Prussian army. Moreover, and this was the point which
affected him most, what good would come to Prussia even if she were
successful in this war? "I cannot regard it as a Prussian interest to
wage war in order in the most favourable result to establish a new Grand
Duke in Schleswig-Holstein, who out of fear of Prussian aggression would
vote against us at the Diet."

His policy, therefore, was clearly marked out for him: he must refuse
to recognise the claims of Augustenburg; he must refuse to break the
Treaty of London. This, however, would not prevent him from bringing
pressure to bear on the new King of Denmark, as he had done on his
predecessor, to induce him to abide by his treaty engagements, and, if
he did not do so, from declaring war against him.

There was even at this time in his mind another thought. He had the hope
that in some way or other he might be able to gain a direct increase of
territory for Prussia. If they recognised the Augustenburg claims this
would be always impossible, for then either the Duchies would remain
under the King of Denmark or, if the Danes were defeated, they would
have to be given to the Prince.

In this policy he was supported by Austria. The Austrian Government was
also bound by the Treaty of London; they were much annoyed at the
violent and almost revolutionary agitation which had broken out in
Germany; it was with much relief that they learned that Prussia, instead
of heading the movement as in 1849, was ready to oppose it. The two
great Powers so lately in opposition now acted in close union.

Issue was joined at the Diet between the two parties. The Prince brought
his claim before it, and those who supported him proposed that, as the
succession to the Duchies was in dispute, they should be occupied by a
Federal army until the true ruler had been determined. Against this
Austria and Prussia proposed that the Federal execution in Holstein,
which had before been resolved on, should be at once carried out. If the
execution were voted it would be an indirect recognition of Christian as
ruler, for it would be carried out as against his Government; on this
point, execution or occupation, the votes were taken.

Bismarck was, however, greatly embarrassed by the strong influence which
the Prince of Augustenburg had in the Prussian Royal Family; he was an
intimate friend of the Crown Princess, and the Crown Princess and the
King himself regarded his claims with favour. Directly after his
proclamation the pretender came to Berlin; he had a very friendly
reception from the King, who expressed his deep regret that he was tied
by the London Convention, but clearly shewed that he hoped this
difficulty might be overcome. Bismarck took another line; he said that
he was trying to induce the new King not to sign the Constitution; the
Prince, to Bismarck's obvious annoyance, explained that that would be no
use; he should maintain his claims just the same.

The King disliked the Treaty of London as much as everyone else did; he
had to agree to Bismarck's arguments that it would not be safe to
denounce it, but he would have been quite willing, supposing Prussia was
outvoted in the Diet, to accept the vote and obey the decision of the
majority; he even hoped that this would be the result. Bismarck would
have regarded an adverse vote as a sufficient reason for retiring from
the Federation altogether. Were Prussia outvoted, it would be forced
into a European war, which he wished to avoid, and made to fight as a
single member of the German Confederation. Rather than do this he would
prefer to fight on the other side; "Denmark is a better ally than the
German States," he said. The two parties were contending as keenly at
the Prussian Court as at Frankfort; Vincke wrote a long and pressing
letter to the King; Schleinitz appeared again, supported as of old by
the Queen; the Crown Prince was still in England, but he and his wife
were enthusiastic on the Prince's side.

How much Bismarck was hampered by adverse influences at Court we see
from a letter to Roon:

  "I am far removed from any hasty or selfish resolution, but I
  have a feeling that the cause of the King against the Revolution
  is lost; his heart is in the other camp and he has more
  confidence in his opponents than his friends. For us it will be
  indifferent, one year or thirty years hence, but not for our
  children. The King has ordered me to come to him before the
  sitting to discuss what is to be said; I shall not say much,
  partly because I have not closed my eyes all night and am
  wretched, and then I really do not know what to say. They will
  certainly reject the loan, and his Majesty at the risk of
  breaking with Europe and experiencing a second Olmütz will at
  last join the Democracy, and work with it in order to set up
  Augustenburg and found a new State. What is the good of making
  speeches and scolding? Without some miracle of God the game is
  lost. Now and with posterity the blame will be laid upon us. As
  God will. He will know how long Prussia has to exist. But God
  knows I shall be sorry when it ceases."

The only ally that Bismarck had was Austria. Their combined influence
was sufficiently strong by a majority of one to carry through the Diet
execution instead of occupation; though there was appended to the motion
a rider that the question of succession was not thereby prejudiced.

The execution took place. During the month of December the Hanoverians
and Saxons occupied Holstein; the Danes did not resist but retreated
across the Eider. At the end of the year the occupation was complete. In
the rear of the German troops had come also the Prince of Augustenburg,
who had settled himself in the land of which he claimed to be ruler.

What was now to be done? The Augustenburg party wished at once to press
forward with the question of the succession; let the Diet decide this
immediately; then hand over Holstein to the new Duke and immediately
seize Schleswig also and vindicate it from Christian, the alien usurper.
Bismarck would not hear of this; he still maintained his policy that
Prussia should not denounce the London Convention, should recognise the
sovereignty of Christian, and should demand from him as lawful ruler of
all the Danish possessions the repeal of the obnoxious November
Constitution. In this he was still supported by Austria; if the Danes
did not acquiesce in these very moderate demands, the Germans should
enter Schleswig and seize it as a security. Then he would be able when
he wished to free himself from the Treaty of London, for war dissolves
all treaties.

The advantage of this plan was that it entirely deprived England of any
grounds for interference; Prussia alone was now defending the London
Convention; Prussia was preventing the Diet from a breach of treaty; the
claim of Denmark was one in regard to which the Danes were absolutely
wrong. Bismarck had therefore on his side Austria, Russia, probably
France, and averted the hostility of England. Against him was German
public opinion, the German Diet, and the Prussian Parliament; everyone,
that is, whom he neither feared nor regarded. So long as the King was
firm he could look with confidence to the future, even though he did not
know what it would bring forth.

With the Parliament indeed nothing was to be done; they, of course,
strongly supported Augustenburg. They refused to look at the question
from a Prussian point of view. "On your side," Bismarck said, "no one
dares honestly to say that he acts for the interests of Prussia and as a
Prussian." They feared that he proposed to hand back the Duchies to
Denmark; they refused to consider him seriously as Foreign Minister;
they spoke of him as a rash amateur. It was to attack him on his most
sensitive point. Here, at least, he felt on completely secure ground;
diplomacy was his profession; what did the professors and talkers in the
Chamber know of it? They were trying to control the policy of the State,
but, he said, "in these days an Assembly of 350 members cannot in the
last instance direct the policy of a great Power." The Government asked
for a loan for military operations; he appealed to their patriotism, but
it was in vain; the House voted an address to the King, remonstrating
against the conduct of foreign affairs, and threw out the loan by a
majority of 275 to 51. "If you do not vote the money, we shall take it
where we can get it," Bismarck had warned them. The House was
immediately prorogued after a session of only two months, not to meet
again till January, 1865.

This policy of Bismarck was proposed by Austria and Prussia at the Diet;
the other States refused to adopt it, as they wished to raise the
question of succession; on a division Prussia was outvoted. The two
great Powers therefore entered into a separate agreement in which, while
still recognising the integrity of the Danish Monarchy, they undertook
to force the King to withdraw the obnoxious Constitution, and, if he did
not consent to do so, they agreed to occupy Schleswig.

The Prussian House, in its address to the King, had declared that the
only result of this policy would be to give back the Duchies to Denmark.
Was there no fear of this? What would have happened had Denmark after
all given in, as England strongly pressed her to do? Had she withdrawn
the obnoxious Constitution, and granted all that Bismarck asked, why
then Prussia and Austria would have been bound to support the integrity
of Denmark, and, if necessary, by force of arms to eject the Federal
troops from Holstein. Bismarck had considered this contingency, and
guarded himself against it. Many years later Beust put the question to
him. "Oh, I was all right," he answered; "I had assured myself that the
Danes would not give in. I had led them to think that England would
support them, though I knew this was not the case." He had, however,
even a surer guarantee than this; the ultimatum presented to Denmark was
couched in such a form that even if he would the King could not comply
with it. The requirement was that the Constitution should be revoked
before the 1st of January. By the Constitution the King could not do
this of his own prerogative; he must have the assent of the Rigsrad.
This assent could not be obtained for the following reasons: the Rigsrad
of the old Constitution had been dissolved and had no longer a legal
existence; a new assembly could not be summoned before the 1st of
January--there was not time. If an assembly were summoned after that
date, it must be of course summoned according to the new Constitution.
To do this, however, would be to bring the obnoxious Constitution
actually into force, and would mean, so to speak, a declaration of war
against Prussia. If the King wished to give in he must have time; he
must be allowed to summon the new assembly, lay before it the German
demands, and require it to declare its own revocation. The English
Government, still anxious to keep the peace, represented to Bismarck the
dilemma in which he had placed the Danes. Lord Wodehouse, who was in
Berlin in December, requested that at least more time should be allowed.
Bismarck refused to listen to the request.

  "These constitutional questions," he said, "had nothing to do
  with him; the Danes had put off the Germans for years; they could
  not wait any longer. The King could always make a _coup d'état_;
  he would have to do so sooner or later. Germany and Denmark could
  never be at peace so long as the Democratic party had the

Denmark did not give way; the help from England, on which they had
reckoned, was not forthcoming; the fatal day passed; the Austrians and
Prussians entered Holstein, marched across that Duchy, and in the early
part of February began the invasion of Schleswig. The relations of the
Allied troops to the Federal army of occupation were very remarkable.
Both were opposed to the Danes, but they were equally opposed to one
another; had they dared to do so, the Saxons would have opposed the
Prussian advance. As it was they sullenly watched the Prussian and
Austrian columns marching north to the invasion of Denmark.

It was the first time that the remodelled Prussian army had been tested
on the field of battle; Bismarck had brought it about that they were
fighting for the cause of Germany and in alliance with Austria. As soon
as war began, his own position improved. The King and the army were, of
course, all the more confident in a Minister who had given them so good
a cause of war and allowed them to take the field side by side with
their old ally. Their superiority in number and discipline ensured
success in the military operations; the Danes evacuated their first
position at the Dannewirk; the German troops occupied the whole of
Schleswig, then after some further delay advanced into Jutland, and
finally began the siege of the strong fortification of the Düppel. The
taking of this was a difficult piece of work, which, after some delay,
was successfully carried out at the beginning of April.

Meanwhile the diplomatic difficulties had continued. There had now come
from England the proposal of a Conference. This Bismarck, always wishing
to preserve the appearance of moderation, accepted. Before doing so, he
knew that he had gained a very important ally. Napoleon was displeased
with the English Government; he it was who suggested to Bismarck that
the best solution of the difficulty would be the annexation of the
Duchies to Prussia. It was just what Bismarck himself desired. Would he
be able to bring it about? This was what was in his mind when he had to
consider the attitude he should adopt at the Conference.

He could not, of course, propose it openly; he might be able to arrange
affairs so that in the universal confusion this solution should be
welcomed. He first of all began to change his attitude towards the
German agitation for Augustenburg; hitherto he had opposed and
discouraged it; now he let it have free course. He wrote:

  "The present situation is such that it seems to me desirable to
  let loose the whole pack against the Danes at the Congress; the
  joint noise will work in the direction of making the subjugation
  of the Duchies to Denmark appear impossible to foreigners; they
  will have to consider programmes which the Prussian Government
  cannot lay before them."

What this means is that England and Russia were to be convinced that
Denmark could not regain the Duchies; then they would have to consider
who should have them. Bismarck believed that Austria was irrevocably
opposed to Augustenburg. "She would rather see the Duchies in our hands
than in those of the Prince," he wrote. Austria and Russia would,
therefore, oppose this solution; if both Denmark and Augustenburg were
impossible, then would be the time for France to ask why should they not
be given to Prussia, and to join this proposal with another one for the
division of the Duchies according to nationality.

Napoleon, in accordance with his principles, wished entirely to
disregard the question of law; he was equally indifferent to the Treaty
of London, the hereditary rights of Augustenburg, or the chartered
privileges of the Duchies. He wished to consult the inhabitants and
allow each village to vote whether it wished to be German or Danish;
thus, districts in the north where Danish was spoken would then be
incorporated in Denmark; the whole of Holstein and the south of
Schleswig would be permanently united to Germany, and by preference to
Prussia. These revolutionary principles of Napoleon were in the eyes of
the Austrian statesmen criminal, for if applied consistently not only
would Austria be deprived of Venetia, but the whole Empire would be
dissolved. It required all Bismarck's ingenuity to maintain the alliance
with Austria, which was still necessary to him, and at the same time to
keep Napoleon's friendship by giving his assent to doctrines that would
be so convenient to Prussia.

In considering Bismarck's diplomatic work we must not suppose that he
ever deceived himself into thinking that he would be able clearly to
foresee all that would happen; he knew too well the uncertain nature of
the pieces with which he had to deal: no one could quite foretell, for
instance, the result of the struggle which was going on in the English
Ministry or the votes of the House of Commons; equally impossible was it
to build on the assurances of Napoleon.

  "The longer I work at politics," he said, "the smaller is my
  belief in human calculation. I look at the affair according to my
  human understanding, but gratitude for God's assistance so far,
  raises in me the confidence that the Lord is able to turn our
  errors to our own good; that I experience daily to my wholesome

This time he had been mistaken in his forecast. In a despatch of May 23d
to Austria he suggested two solutions,--the Augustenburg succession, and
annexation by Prussia; he inclined towards the former, though, as he
said, if the Prince was to be recognised,

  "it would be imperatively necessary to obtain guarantees for a
  Conservative administration, and some security that the Duchies
  should not become the home of democratic agitations."

As he said elsewhere, "Kiel must not become a second Gotha." He no doubt
anticipated that Austria would refuse this first alternative; then the
annexation by Prussia would naturally arise for discussion. Had Austria
been consistent, all would have been well, but a change had taken place
there; the Government was not disinclined to win the popularity that
would accrue to them if they took up the Augustenburg cause; after all,
Austria would be rather strengthened than weakened by the establishment
of a new Federal State, which, as all the other smaller Princes, would
probably be inclined to take the Austrian side. In answer, therefore, to
this despatch the Austrians, throwing aside all attempt at consistency,
proposed vigorously to press the Augustenburg claim. "It is just what we
were going to suggest ourselves," they said. Bismarck therefore was
compelled now, as best he could, to get out of the difficulty, and, as
Austria had not rejected it, he begins to withdraw the proposal he had
himself made. To Bernstorff, his envoy at the Congress, he writes:

  "Austria is endeavouring to establish irrevocably the candidacy
  of Augustenburg in order by this means to render it difficult for
  Prussia to impose special conditions. We cannot consent to this.
  The dynastic questions must be discussed with special
  consideration for Prussian interests, and, consequently, other
  possibilities cannot be ruled out, until we have negotiated with
  Augustenburg and ascertained in what relation to Prussia he
  intends to place himself and his country. If the person of
  Augustenburg meets with more opposition in the Conference than
  the project of a division, then let the former drop."

The proposal, however, had to be made; for once, all the German Powers
appeared in agreement when they demanded from the neutrals the
recognition of Augustenburg; but Bismarck proposed it in such words as
to avoid pledging himself to the legality. Of course the proposal was
rejected by the Danes and Russians and it was allowed to fall to the
ground. For Bismarck the interest is for the moment diverted from London
to Berlin.

The time had come when Bismarck should definitely decide on the attitude
he was to adopt toward Augustenburg. Hitherto he had avoided committing
himself irrevocably; it was still open to him either to adopt him as the
Prussian candidate on such conditions as might seem desirable, or to
refuse to have any dealings with him. He had, in fact, kept both plans
open, for it was characteristic of his diplomatic work that he would
generally keep in his mind, and, to some extent, carry out in action,
several different plans at the same time. If one failed him he could
take up another. In this case he intended, if possible, to get the
Duchies for Prussia; it was always to be foreseen that the difficulties
might be insurmountable; he had therefore to consider the next best
alternative. This would be the creation of a new State, but one which
was bound to Prussia by a special and separate treaty. There were many
demands, some of them legitimate, which Prussia was prepared to make.
Bismarck attributed great importance to the acquisition of Kiel, because
he wanted to found a Prussian navy. Then he was very anxious to have a
canal made across Holstein so that Prussian vessels could reach the
North Sea without passing the Sound; and of course he had to consider
the military protection on the north. It would therefore be a condition
that, whoever was made Duke, certain military and other privileges
should be granted to Prussia. On this, all through the summer,
negotiations were carried on unofficially between the Prince of
Augustenburg and the Prussian authorities. We cannot here discuss them
in detail, but the Prince seems to have been quite willing to acquiesce
in these naval and military requirements. He made several suggestions
and objections in detail, and he also pointed out that constitutionally
he could not enter into a valid treaty until after he had been made Duke
and received the assent of the Estates. I think, however, that no one
can doubt that he was quite loyal to Prussia and really wished to bring
the matter to a satisfactory issue. As might be expected, he was very
cautious in his negotiations with Bismarck, but his letters to the King
are more open. Had Bismarck wished he could at any time have come to an
agreement with the Prince, but he never gave the opportunity for a
serious and careful discussion on the detailed wording of the
conditions. He did not wish to be bound by them, but he kept the
negotiations open in case events occurred which might compel him to
accept this solution.

In his treatment of the question he was, to some extent, influenced by
the personal dislike he always felt for the Prince.

What was the cause of this enmity? There was nothing in the Prince's
character to justify it; he was a modest, honourable, and educated man;
though deficient in practical ability, he had at a very critical time
announced his claims to a decision and maintained them with resolution.
Bismarck, who in private life was always able to do justice to his
enemies, recognised this: "I should have acted in just the same way
myself had I been in your place," he said. He always himself said that
his distrust of the Prince was caused by his dislike of the men whom the
latter relied upon for advice. He was too closely connected with the
Progressive party. He had surrounded himself with a kind of ministry,
consisting chiefly of men who, though by birth inhabitants of the
Duchies, had for some years been living at Gotha under the protection of
the Duke of Coburg. They were strong Liberals and belonged to that party
in Germany of which the Court of Coburg was the centre, who maintained a
close connection with the Crown Prince, and who undoubtedly were looking
forward to the time when the Crown Prince would become King of Prussia,
Bismarck would be dismissed, and their party would come into office.
This is probably quite sufficient reason to explain Bismarck's personal
dislike of Augustenburg, though it is probable that he laid more stress
on this aspect of the matter than he otherwise would have done, for he
hoped thereby to prejudice the King against the Prince; as long as the
King recognised Augustenburg's claims, his own hands would be tied in
the attempt to win the Duchies for Prussia.

He had, as we have seen, had a short interview with the Prince at the
end of the previous year now a new meeting was arranged, avowedly to
discuss the conditions which Prussia would require if she supported the
Prince. The Crown Prince, who was very anxious to help his friend,
persuaded him to go to Berlin and if possible come to some clear
understanding with the King and Bismarck. Augustenburg was reluctant to
take this step. Loyal as he was to Prussia he much distrusted Bismarck.
He feared that if he unreservedly placed his cause in Prussia's hands,
Bismarck would in some way betray him. The position he took up was
perfectly consistent. He was, by hereditary right, reigning Duke; he
only wished to be left alone with the Duchies; he knew that if he was,
they would at once recognise him and he would enter into government. In
order to win his dominions, he had required the help of Germany; it was
comparatively indifferent to him whether the help came from Prussia,
Austria, or the Federation. But he quite understood that Prussia must
have some recompense for the help it had given. What he had to fear was
that, if he entered into any separate and secret engagements with
Prussia, he would thereby lose the support he enjoyed in the rest of
Germany, and that then Bismarck would find some excuse not to carry out
his promises, so that at the end he would be left entirely without
support. We know that his suspicions were unfounded, for Bismarck was
not the man in this way to desert anyone who had entered into an
agreement with him, but Augustenburg could not know this and had every
reason for distrusting Bismarck, who was his avowed enemy.

On the 30th of May, the Prince, with many misgivings, came to Berlin.
The evening of the next day he had a long interview with Bismarck; it
began about nine o'clock and lasted till after midnight. There is no
doubt that this interview was decisive against his chances. From that
time Bismarck was determined that under no circumstances should he
succeed, and we shall see that when Bismarck wished for anything he
usually attained it. We would gladly, therefore, know exactly what
happened; both Bismarck and the Prince have given accounts of what took
place, but unfortunately they differ on very important points, and no
one else was present at the interview. It is clear that the Prince
throughout, for the reasons we have named, observed great reserve. It
would undoubtedly have been wiser of him openly to place himself
entirely in Bismarck's hands, to throw himself on the generosity of
Prussia, and to agree to the terms which Bismarck offered. Why he did
not do this we have explained. The conversation chiefly turned on the
Prussian demands for the harbour of Kiel and certain other concessions;
the Prince expressed himself quite willing to grant most of what was
required, but he could not enter into any formal treaty without the
consent of the Estates of the Duchies. When he left the room he seems to
have been fairly satisfied with what had been said. If so he deceived
himself grievously. Scarcely had he gone (it was already midnight) when
Bismarck sent off despatches to St. Petersburg, Paris, and London,
explaining that he was not inclined to support Augustenburg any longer,
and instructing the Ambassadors to act accordingly. Not content with
this he at once brought forward an alternative candidate. Among the many
claimants to the Duchies had been the Duke of Oldenburg and the Czar,
who both belonged to the same branch of the family. The Czar had, at the
end of May, transferred his claims to the Duke, and Bismarck now wrote
to St. Petersburg that he would also be prepared to support him. We must
not suppose that in doing this he had the slightest intention of
allowing the Duke to be successful. He gained, however, a double
advantage. First of all he pleased the Czar and prevented any
difficulties from Russia; secondly, the very fact of a rival candidate
coming forward would indefinitely postpone any settlement. So long as
Augustenburg was the only German candidate there was always the danger,
as at the Congress of London, that he might suddenly be installed and
Bismarck be unable to prevent it. If, however, the Duke of Oldenburg
came forward, Bismarck would at once take up the position that, as there
were rival claimants, a proper legal verdict must be obtained and that
Prussia could not act so unjustly as to prejudice the decision by
extending her support to either. It was not necessary for anyone to know
that he himself had induced the Duke of Oldenburg to revive his claim.

At the same time he took other steps to frustrate Augustenburg's hopes;
he caused the statement to be published in the Prussian papers that
during the conversation of May 31st the Prince had said that he had
never asked the Prussians for help, and that he could have got on very
well without them. It was just the sort of thing which would strongly
prejudice the King against him, and Bismarck was very anxious to destroy
the influence which the Prince still had with the King and with many
other Prussians. At that time, and always later, the Prince denied that
he had said anything of the kind. Even if, in the course of a long
conversation, he had said anything which might have been interpreted to
mean this, it was a great breach of confidence to publish these words
from a private discussion taken out of their context. The Prussian Press
received the word, and for years to come did not cease to pour out its
venom against the Prince. This action of Bismarck's seemed quite to
justify the apprehension with which the Prince had gone to Berlin.

It is not necessary to look for any far-fetched explanation of
Bismarck's action; the simplest is the most probable. He had not
arranged the interview with any intention of entrapping Augustenburg; he
had really been doubtful whether, after all, it might not be wiser to
accept the Prince and make a separate treaty with him. All depended on
his personal character and the attitude he adopted towards Prussia.
Bismarck, who had great confidence in his own judgment of mankind,
regarded a personal interview as the best means of coming to a
conclusion; the result of it was that he felt it impossible to rely on
the Prince, who, instead of being open, positive, and ready to do
business, was reserved, hesitating, distrustful, and critical. Bismarck
had given him his chance; he had failed to seize it. Instead of being a
grateful client he was a mere obstacle in the road of Prussian
greatness, and had to be swept away. Against him all the resources of
diplomacy were now directed. His influence must be destroyed, but not by
force, for his strength came from his very weakness; the task was to
undermine the regard which the German people had for him and their
enthusiasm for his cause--work to be properly assigned to the Prussian

The Conference in London separated at the end of June without coming to
any conclusion; it had, however, enabled Bismarck formally to dissociate
himself from the former Treaty of London, and henceforward he had a free
hand in his dealings with Denmark.

Another brilliant feat of arms, the transference of the Prussian troops
across the sea to the island of Alsen, completed the war. Denmark had to
capitulate, and the terms of peace, which were ultimately decided at
Vienna, were that Schleswig, Holstein, and also Lauenburg should be
given up. Christian transferred to the Emperor of Austria and the King
of Prussia all the rights which he possessed. As to Lauenburg the matter
was simple--the authority of the King of Denmark over this Duchy was
undisputed; as to Schleswig-Holstein all the old questions still
continued; the King had transferred his rights, but what were his
rights? He could only grant that which belonged to him; if the Prince of
Augustenburg was Duke, then the King of Denmark could not confer another
man's throne. There was, however, this difference: hitherto the question
had been a European one, but since the London Congress no other State
had any claim to interfere. The disputed succession of the Duchies must
be settled between Austria and Prussia. It was a special clause in the
terms of peace that it should be decided by agreement between them and
not referred to the Diet.




Bismarck always looked back with peculiar pleasure on the negotiations
which were concluded by the Peace of Vienna. His conduct of the affair
had in fact been masterly; he had succeeded in permanently severing the
Duchies from Denmark; he had done this without allowing foreign nations
the opportunity for interfering; he had maintained a close alliance with
Austria; he had pleased and flattered the Emperors of Russia and France.
What perhaps gave him most satisfaction was that, though the result had
been what the whole of the German nation desired, he had brought it
about by means which were universally condemned, and the rescue of the
Duchies had been a severe defeat to the Democratic and National party.

With the Peace a new stage begins; the Duchies had been transferred to
the Allied Powers; how were they now to be disposed of? We have seen
that Bismarck desired to acquire them for Prussia; if it were absolutely
necessary, he would accept an arrangement which would leave them to be
ruled by another Prince, provided very extensive rights were given to
Prussia. He would acquiesce in this arrangement if annexation would
involve a war with one of the European Powers. If, however, a Duke of
Schleswig-Holstein was to be created he was determined that it should
not be the Prince of Augustenburg, whom he distrusted and disliked. The
real object of his diplomacy must be to get the Duchies offered to
Prussia; it was, however, very improbable, as the Czar once said to him,
that this would happen.

He wished for annexation, but he wished to have it peacefully; he had
not forgotten his own resolution to have a war with Austria, but he did
not wish to make the Duchies the occasion of a war. Austria, however,
refused to assent to annexation unless the King of Prussia would give
her a corresponding increase of territory; this the King positively
refused. It was an unchangeable principle with him that he would not
surrender a single village from the Prussian Monarchy; his pride
revolted from the idea of bartering old provinces for new. If Austria
would not offer the Duchies to Prussia, neither would the Diet; the
majority remained loyal to Augustenburg. The people of the Duchies were
equally determined in their opposition to the scheme; attempts were made
by Bismarck's friends and agents to get up a petition to incorporate
them with Prussia, but they always failed. Even the Prussian people were
not really very anxious for this acquisition, and it required two years
of constant writing in the inspired Press to bring them into such a
state of mind that they would believe that it was, I will not say the
most honourable, but the most desirable solution. The King himself
hesitated. It was true that ever since the taking of the Düppel the lust
of conquest had been aroused in his mind; he had visited the place where
so many Prussian soldiers had laid down their lives; and it was a
natural feeling if he wished that the country they had conquered should
belong to their own State. On the other hand, he still felt that the
rights of Augustenburg could not be neglected; when he discussed the
matter with the Emperor of Austria and the subject of annexation was
raised, he remained silent and was ill at ease.

If Bismarck was to get his way, he must first of all convince the King;
this done, an opportunity might be found. There was one man who was
prepared to offer him the Duchies, and that man was Napoleon. It is
instructive to notice that as soon as the negotiations at Vienna had
been concluded, Bismarck went to spend a few weeks at his old holiday
resort of Biarritz. He took the opportunity of having some conversation
with both the Emperor and his Ministers.

He required rest and change after the prolonged anxieties of the two
years; at no place did he find it so well as in the south of France:

  "It seems like a dream to be here again," he writes to his wife.
  "I am already quite well, and would be quite cheerful if I only
  knew that all was well with you. The life I lead at Berlin is a
  kind of penal servitude, when I think of my independent life
  abroad." Seabathing, expeditions across the frontier, and sport
  passed three weeks. "I have not for a long time found myself in
  such comfortable conditions, and yet the evil habit of work has
  rooted itself so deeply in my nature, that I feel some disquiet
  of conscience at my laziness. I almost long for the
  Wilhelmstrasse, at least if my dear ones were there."

On the 25th he left "dear Biarritz" for Paris, where he found plenty of
politics awaiting him; here he had another of those interviews with
Napoleon and his Ministers on which so much depended, and then he went
back to his labours at Berlin.

At that time he was not prepared to break with Austria, and he still
hoped that some peaceful means of acquisition might be found, as he
wrote some months later to Goltz, "We have not got all the good we can
from the Austrian alliance." Prussia had the distinct advantage that she
was more truly in possession of the Duchies than Austria. This
possession would more and more guarantee its own continuance; it was
improbable that any Power would undertake an offensive war to expel her.
On the whole, therefore, Bismarck seems to have wished for the present
to leave things as they were; gradually to increase the hold of Prussia
on the Duchies, and wait until they fell of themselves into his hands.
In pursuit of this policy it was necessary, however, to expel all other
claimants, and this could not be done without the consent of Austria;
this produced a cause of friction between the two great Powers which
made it impossible to maintain the co-dominium.

There were in Holstein the Confederate troops who had gone there a year
ago and had never been withdrawn; Augustenburg was still living at Kiel
with his phantom Court; and then there were the Austrian soldiers,
Prussia's own allies. One after another they had to be removed. Bismarck
dealt first with the Confederate troops.

He had, as indeed he always was careful to have, the strict letter of
the law on his side; he pointed out that as the execution had been
directed against the government of Christian, and Christian had ceased
to have any authority, the execution itself must _ipso facto_ cease; he
therefore wrote asking Austria to join in a demand to Saxony and
Hanover; he was prepared, if the States refused, to expel their troops
by force. Hanover--for the King strongly disliked Augustenburg--at once
acquiesced; Saxony refused. Bismarck began to make military
preparations; the Saxons began to arm; the Crown treasures were taken
from Dresden to Königstein. Would Austria support Saxony or Prussia? For
some days the question was in debate; at last Austria determined to
support a motion at the Diet declaring the execution ended. It was
carried by eight votes to seven, and the Saxons had to obey. The troops
on their return home refused to march across Prussian territory; and
from this time Beust and the King of Saxony must be reckoned among the
determined and irreconcilable enemies of Bismarck.

The first of the rivals was removed; there remained Austria and the

Just at this time a change of Ministry had taken place in Austria;
Rechberg, who had kept up the alliance, was removed, and the
anti-Prussian party came to the front. It was, therefore, no longer so
easy to deal with the Prince, for he had a new and vigorous ally in
Austria. Mensdorf, the new Minister, proposed in a series of lengthy
despatches his solution of the question; it was that the rights of the
two Powers should be transferred to Augustenburg, and that
Schleswig-Holstein should be established as an independent Confederate
State. The Austrian position was from this time clearly defined, and it
was in favour of that policy to which Bismarck would never consent. It
remained for him to propose an alternative. Prussia, he said, could only
allow the new State to be created on condition that large rights were
given to Prussia; what these were would require consideration; he must
consult the different departments. This took time, and every month's
delay was so much gain for Prussia; it was not till February, 1865, that
Bismarck was able to present his demands, which were, that Kiel should
be a Prussian port, Rendsburg a Prussian fortress; that the canal was to
be made by Prussia and belong to Prussia, the management of the post and
telegraph service to be Prussian and also the railways; the army was to
be not only organised on the Prussian system but actually incorporated
with the Prussian army, so that the soldiers would take the oath of
allegiance not to their own Duke but to the King of Prussia. The Duchies
were to join the Prussian Customs' Union and assimilate their system of
finance with that of Prussia. The proposals were so drawn up that it
would be impossible for Austria to support, or for the Prince of
Augustenburg to accept them. They were, in fact, as Bismarck himself
told the Crown Prince, not meant to be accepted. "I would rather dig
potatoes than be a reigning Prince under such conditions," said one of
the Austrian Ministers. When they were officially presented, Karolyi was
instructed to meet them with an unhesitating negative, and all
discussion on them ceased.

Prussia and Austria had both proposed their solution; each State even
refused to consider the suggestion made by the other. Meanwhile, since
the departure of the Confederate troops the administration of the
Duchies was in their hands; each Power attempted so to manage affairs as
to prepare the way for the final settlement it desired, Prussia for
annexation, Austria for Augustenburg. Prince Frederick was still living
at Kiel. His position was very anomalous: he assumed the style and title
of a reigning Prince, he was attended by something like a Court and by
Ministers; throughout Holstein, almost without exception, and to a great
extent also in Schleswig, he was looked upon and treated by the
population as their lawful sovereign; his birthday was celebrated as a
public holiday; he was often prayed for in church. All this the
Austrians regarded with equanimity and indirectly supported; Bismarck
wished to expel him from the country, but could not do so without the
consent of Austria. At the end of March the matter again came up in the
Diet; Bavaria and Saxony brought in a motion that they expected that
Austria and Prussia would transfer the administration to Frederick. The
Prussian Envoy rose and explained that they might expect it, but that
Prussia would not fulfil their expectations; he moved that the claims of
all candidates should be considered by the Diet, not only those of
Augustenburg and of the Duke of Oldenburg, but also of Brandenburg.

The claims of Brandenburg were a new weapon of which Bismarck was glad
to avail himself. No one supposed that they had really any foundation;
they were not seriously put forward; but if the motion was carried, the
Diet would be involved in the solution of a very complicated and
necessarily very lengthy legal discussion. What the result was would be
known from the beginning, but the Diet and its committees always worked
slowly, and Bismarck could with much force maintain that, until they had
come to a decision, there was no reason for handing over the
administration to Augustenburg; it was at least decent not to do this
till the claims of the rivals had been duly weighed. In the months that
must elapse many things might happen. In the meantime the Diet would be
helpless. When it had come to a decision he would then be able to point
out, as he had already done, that they had no legal power for
determining who was the ruler of any State, and that their decision
therefore was quite valueless, and everything would have been again
exactly as it was before. Austria supported the motion of Saxony, which
was carried by nine votes to six. Prussia answered by sending her fleet
from Danzig to Kiel, and occupying the harbour; the Government asked
for a vote for the erection of fortifications and docks and for the
building of a fleet; the Chamber refused the money, but Roon declared
publicly in the House that Prussia would retain Kiel,--they had gone
there and did not intend to leave. The occupation of Kiel was an open
defiance to Austria; that it was intended to be so is shewn by the fact
that a few days later Bismarck wrote to Usedom, the Prussian Minister at
Florence, instructing him to sound the Italian Government as to whether
they would be willing to join Prussia in war against Austria. At the
same time he wrote to Goltz to find out in Paris whether there was any
alliance between Austria and France. It would be some time before
foreign relations could be sufficiently cleared up for him to determine
whether or not war would be safe. He occupied the intervening period by
continuing the negotiations as to the principles on which the joint
administration should be conducted. He came forward with a new proposal
and one which was extremely surprising, that the Estates of the Duchies
should be summoned, and negotiations entered into with them. It is one
of the most obscure of all his actions; he did it contrary to the advice
of those on the spot. Everyone warned him that if the Estates were
summoned their first action would be to proclaim Augustenburg as Duke.
Some suppose that the King insisted on his taking this step; that is,
however, very improbable; others that he proposed it in order that it
might be rejected by Austria, so that Austria might lose the great
influence which by her support of Augustenburg she was gaining in
Germany. Austria, however, accepted the proposal, and then negotiations
began as to the form in which the Estates should be called together;
what should be the relations to them of the two Powers? This gave rise
to a minute controversy, which could not be settled, and no doubt
Bismarck did not wish that it should be settled. One of his conditions,
however, was that, before the Estates were summoned, Augustenburg should
be compelled to leave Holstein. Of course the Prince refused, for he
well knew that, if he once went away, he would never be allowed to
return. The Duke of Oldenburg, who was always ready to come forward when
Bismarck wished it, himself demanded the expulsion of the Prince. The
King of Prussia wrote a severe letter to Augustenburg, intimating his
displeasure at his conduct and warning him to leave the country. The
Prince answered, as he always did to the King, expressing his gratitude
and his constant loyalty to Prussia, but refused, and his refusal was
published in the papers. It was still impossible to remove him except by
force, but before he ventured on that Bismarck had to make secure the
position of Prussia.

At the beginning of July events began to move towards a crisis. Bismarck
had appointed a commission of Prussian lawyers to report on the legal
claim of the different candidates for the Ducal throne; their report was
now published. They came to the conclusion, as we might anticipate that
they would, that Augustenburg had absolutely no claim, and that legally
the full authority was possessed by the two Powers who had the _de
facto_ government. Their opinion did not carry much weight even in
Prussia itself, but they seem to have succeeded in convincing the King.
Hitherto he had always been haunted by the fear lest, in dispossessing
Augustenburg, he would be keeping a German Prince from the throne which
was his right, and that to him was a very serious consideration. Now his
conscience was set at rest. From this time the last support which
Augustenburg had in Prussia was taken from him, for the Crown Prince,
who always remained faithful to him, was almost without influence.
Bismarck was henceforward able to move more rapidly. On the 5th of July
the Prince's birthday was celebrated throughout the Duchy with great
enthusiasm; this gave bitter offence to the King; shortly afterwards
Bismarck left Berlin and joined the King, who was taking his annual cure
at Carlsbad, and for July 28th a Council of State was summoned to meet
at Regensburg. Probably this is the only instance of a King coming to so
important a decision outside his own territories. The Council was
attended not only by the Ministers, but also by some of the generals and
by Goltz, who was summoned from Paris for the purpose. It was determined
to send an ultimatum to Austria; the chief demand was that Austria
should withdraw all support from Augustenburg, and agree immediately to
eject him from the Duchies. If Austria refused to agree, Prussia would
do so herself; he was to be seized, put on board a ship, and carried off
to East Prussia. To shew that they were in earnest, a beginning was made
by seizing in Holstein Prussian subjects who had written in the
newspapers in a sense opposed to the wishes of the Prussian Government,
and carrying them off to be tried at Berlin. In order to be prepared for
all possibilities, an official request was sent to Italy to ask for her
assistance in case of an outbreak of war. After these decisions were
arrived at, the King continued his journey to Gastein to complete his
cure; there, on Austrian territory in company with Bismarck, he awaited
the answer.

In Austria opinions were divided; the feeling of annoyance with Prussia
had been steadily growing during the last year. The military party was
gaining ground; many would have been only too glad to take up the
challenge. It would indeed have been their wisest plan to do so--openly
to support the claim of Augustenburg, to demand that the Estates of
Holstein should be at once summoned, and if Bismarck carried out his
threats, to put herself at the head of Germany and in the name of the
outraged right of a German Prince and a German State to take up the
Prussian challenge.

There were, however, serious reasons against this. The Emperor was very
reluctant to go to war, and, as so often, the personal feelings of the
rulers had much to do with the policy of the Government. Then the
internal condition of Austria both politically and financially was very
unsatisfactory; it would have been necessary to raise a loan and this
could not be easily done. There was also the constant danger from Italy,
for Austria knew that, even if there were no alliance, as soon as she
was attacked on one side by Prussia, the Italians on the other side
would invade Venetia. Count Metternich was instructed to ask Napoleon,
but received as an answer that they could not hope for a French
alliance; the Austrians feared that he might already be engaged on the
side of Prussia. For all these reasons it was determined to attempt to
bring about a compromise. A change of Ministry took place, and Count
Blome, one of the new Ministers, was sent to Gastein. He found both the
King and Bismarck not disinclined to some compromise. The reports both
from Florence and Paris did not seem to Bismarck to be entirely
satisfactory: he did not find such readiness as he had hoped for; he
feared that some secret understanding might be arrived at between
Austria and Napoleon; and then, as we have seen, he was really anxious
to avoid war for the sake of the Duchies; he had not given up his
intention of war with Austria some day, but it would be impossible to
find a less agreeable excuse for it.

  "Halbuber and Augustenburg are acting so that we shall soon have
  to apply force; this will cause bad blood in Vienna; it is not
  what I wish, but Austria gives us no choice,"

he had written a few days before. After a few days of indecision a
compromise therefore was agreed upon. The joint administration of the
Duchies was to be given up; Austria was to administer Holstein, Prussia,
Schleswig; they both undertook not to bring the question before the
Diet; the Duchy of Lauenburg was to be handed over absolutely to the
King of Prussia, the Emperor of Austria receiving two million thalers
for his share. Lauenburg was the first new possession which Bismarck
was able to offer to the King; the grateful monarch conferred on him the
title of Count, and in later years presented to him large estates out of
the very valuable royal domains. It was from Lauenburg that in later
years the young German Emperor took the title which he wished to confer
on the retiring Chancellor.





The arrangement made at Gastein could not be permanent; it was only a
temporary expedient to put off the conflict which henceforward was
inevitable--inevitable, that is, if the Emperor of Austria still refused
to sell Holstein to Prussia. It was, however, so far as it went, a great
gain to Prussia, because it deprived Austria of the esteem of the other
German States. Her strength had hitherto lain in her strict adhesion to
popular feeling and to what the majority of the Germans, Princes and
people alike, believed was justice; by coming to a separate agreement
with Prussia, she had shaken their confidence. Bavaria especially was
much annoyed by this change of front, and it seemed probable that the
most important of the southern States would soon be ranged on the side
of Prussia. This was a consummation which Bismarck ardently desired, and
to which he addressed himself with much energy.

The attitude of France was more important than that of the German
States, and in the autumn Bismarck made a fresh visit to that country.
Just as he had done the year before, he went to take the sea-baths at
Biarritz. This step was the more remarkable because Napoleon had
received the news of the Treaty of Gastein with marked displeasure, and
had given public expression to his opinions. Bismarck saw Drouyn de
Lhuys at Paris and then went on to Biarritz where the Emperor was; for
ten days he lived there in constant association with the Imperial
family. The personal impression which he made was very favourable: "A
really great man," wrote Mérimée, "free from feeling and full of
_esprit_." He saw Napoleon again on his return through Paris; the two
succeeded in coming to an understanding. Napoleon assured him that he
might depend on the absolute neutrality of France, in case of a war
between Prussia and Austria; it was agreed also that the annexation of
the Duchies to Prussia would not be an increase of territory which would
cause any uneasiness at Paris; Napoleon would view it with favour.
Bismarck went farther than this; he opened the subject of a complete
reform of the German Constitution on the lines that Prussia was to have
a free hand in the north of Germany; he pointed out

  "that the acquisition of the Duchies would only be an earnest for
  the fulfilment of the pledge which history had laid upon the
  State of Prussia; for the future prosecution of it we need the
  most friendly relations with France. It seems to me in the
  interest of France to encourage Prussia in the ambitious
  fulfilment of her national duty."

The Emperor acquiesced; as we know, the division of Europe into large
national States was what he meant by Napoleonic ideas; he was willing
enough to help in Germany a change such as that he had brought about in
Italy. It was agreed that events should be allowed to develop
themselves; when the time came it would be easy enough to come to some
definite agreement.

This however was not all; it was not to be expected that Napoleon should
render Prussia so valuable a service without receiving something in
exchange; we know Bismarck's opinion of a statesman who, out of sympathy
for another country, would sacrifice the interests of his own. The
creation of a strong consolidated State in the north of Germany could
not be in the interests of France; the power of France had always been
founded on the weakness of Germany. Even if Napoleon himself, with his
generous and cosmopolitan sympathies, was willing to make the sacrifice,
France was not; Napoleon knew, and Bismarck knew, that Napoleon could
not disregard the feeling of the country; his power was based on
universal suffrage and the popularity of his name; he could not, as a
King of Prussia could, brave the displeasure of the people. France must
then have some compensation. What was it to be? What were to be the
terms of the more intimate and special understanding? We do not know
exactly what was said; we do know that Bismarck led both the Emperor and
his Ministers to believe that Prussia would support them in an extension
of the frontier. He clearly stated that the King would not be willing
to surrender a single _Prussian_ village; he probably said that they
would not acquiesce in the restoration to France of any _German_
territory. France therefore must seek her reward in a French-speaking
people. It was perhaps an exaggeration if Drouyn de Lhuys said "he
offered us all kinds of things which did not belong to him," but
Napoleon also in later years repeated that Bismarck had promised him all
kinds of recompenses. No written agreement was made; that was reserved
for later negotiations, but there was a verbal understanding, which both
parties felt was binding. This was the pendant to the interview of
Plombières. But Bismarck had improved on Cavour's example; he did not
want so much, he asked only for neutrality: the King of Prussia would
not be called upon, like Victor Emmanuel, to surrender the old
possessions of his House.

Bismarck returned to Berlin with his health invigorated by the Atlantic
winds and his spirits raised by success. The first step now was to
secure the help of Italy; he had seen Nigra, the Italian Minister, at
Paris, and told him that war was inevitable; he hoped he could reckon on
Italian alliance, but there was still, however, much ground for anxiety
that Austria might succeed in arranging affairs with Italy.

The relations of the four Powers at this time were very remarkable. All
turned on Venetia. The new Kingdom of Italy would not rest until it had
secured this province. Napoleon also was bound by honour to complete his
promise and "free Italy to the Adriatic"; neither his throne nor that
of his son would be secure if he failed to do so. A war between Austria
and Prussia would obviously afford the best opportunity, and his whole
efforts were therefore directed to preventing a reconciliation between
the two German Powers. His great fear was that Austria should come to
terms with Prussia, and surrender the Duchies on condition that Prussia
should guarantee her Italian possessions. When Bismarck visited Napoleon
at Biarritz, the first question of the Emperor was, "Have you guaranteed
Venetia to Austria?" It was the fear of this which caused his anger at
the Treaty of Gastein. On the other hand, Bismarck had his reasons for
anxiety. It was always possible that Austria, instead of coming to terms
with Prussia, might choose the other side; she might surrender Venetia
in order to obtain French and Italian support in a German war. The
situation indeed was this: Austria was liable at any moment to be
attacked by both Italy and Prussia; it would probably be beyond her
strength to resist both assailants at the same time. A wise statesman
would probably have made terms with one or the other. He would have
either surrendered Venetia, which was really a source of weakness, to
Italy, or agreed with Prussia over the Duchies and the German problem,
thereby gaining Prussian support against Italy. The honourable pride of
Mensdorf and the military party in Austria refused to surrender anything
till it was too late.

None the less, the constant fear lest Austria should make terms with one
of her enemies for a long time prevented an alliance between Prussia
and Italy. The Italians did not trust Bismarck; they feared that if they
made a treaty with him, he would allow them to get entangled in war, and
then, as at Gastein, make up his quarrel with Austria. Bismarck did not
trust the Italians; he feared that they and Napoleon would even at the
last moment take Venetia as a present, and, as very nearly happened,
offer Austria one of the Prussian provinces instead. It was impossible
to have any reliance on Napoleon's promises, for he was constantly being
pulled two ways; his own policy and sympathies would lead him to an
alliance with Prussia; the clerical party, which was yearly growing
stronger and had the support of the Empress, wished him to side with the
Catholic power. In consequence, even after his return from France,
Bismarck could not pass a day with full security that he might not find
himself opposed by a coalition of Austria, France, and Italy; the
Austrians felt that they were to be made the victims of a similar
coalition between Prussia, France, and Italy; France always feared a
national union between the two great German Powers.

Bismarck began by completing and bringing to a conclusion the
arrangements for a commercial treaty with Italy; at the beginning of
January the King of Prussia sent Victor Emmanuel the order of the Black
Eagle; Bismarck also used his influence to induce Bavaria to join in the
commercial treaty and to recognise the Kingdom of Italy. Then on January
13th he wrote to Usedom that the eventual decision in Germany would be
influenced by the action of Italy; if they could not depend on the
support of Italy, he hinted that peace would be maintained; in this way
he hoped to force the Italians to join him.

Affairs in the Duchies gave Bismarck the opportunity for adopting with
good grounds a hostile attitude towards Austria; Gablenz, the new
Governor of Holstein, continued to favour the Augustenburg agitation.
Many had expected that Austria would govern Holstein as a part of the
Empire; instead of doing so, with marked design the country was
administered as though it were held in trust for the Prince; no taxes
were levied, full freedom was allowed to the Press, and while the
Prussians daily became more unpopular in Schleswig the Austrians by
their leniency won the affection of Holstein. At the end of January,
they even allowed a mass meeting, which was attended by over 4000 men,
to be held at Altona. This made a very unfavourable impression on the
King, and any action of Austria that offended the King was most useful
to Bismarck. "Bismarck is using all his activity to inspire the King
with his own views and feelings," wrote Benedetti, the French
Ambassador, at this time. At the end of January he felt sufficiently
secure to protest seriously against the Austrian action in Holstein.
"Why," he asked, "had they left the alliance against our common enemy,
the Revolution?" Austria, in return, refused peremptorily to allow
Bismarck any voice in the administration of Holstein. Bismarck, when the
despatch was read to him, answered curtly that he must consider that
henceforth the relations of the two Powers had lost their intimate
character; "we are as we were before the Danish war, neither worse nor
better." He sent no answer to the Austrian despatch and ceased to
discuss with them the affairs of the Duchies.

This was a fair warning to Austria and it was understood; they took it
as an intimation that hostilities were intended, and from this day began
quietly to make their preparations. As soon as they did this, they were
given into Bismarck's hands; the Prussians, owing to the admirable
organisation of the army, could prepare for war in a fortnight or three
weeks' time less than the Austrians would require; Austria to be secure
must therefore begin to arm first; as soon as she did so the Prussian
Government would be able, with full protestation of innocence, to point
to the fact that they had not moved a man, and then to begin their own
mobilisation, not apparently for offence but, as it were, to protect
themselves from an unprovoked attack. In a minute of February 22d Moltke
writes that it would be better for political reasons not to mobilise
yet; then they would appear to put Austria in the wrong; Austria had now
100,000 men in Bohemia and it would be impossible to undertake any
offensive movement against Prussia with less than 150,000 or 200,000; to
collect these at least six weeks would be required, and the preparations
could not be concealed. Six days later a great council was held in
Berlin. "A war with Austria must come sooner or later; it is wiser to
undertake it now, under these most favourable circumstances, than to
leave it to Austria to choose the most auspicious moment for herself,"
said Bismarck. The rupture, he explained, had already really been
effected; that had been completed at his last interview with Karolyi.
Bismarck was supported by most of the Ministers; the King said that the
Duchies were worth a war, but he still hoped that peace would be kept.
The arrangement of the foreign alliances was now pushed on. The King
wrote an autograph letter to Napoleon saying that the time for the
special understanding had come; Goltz discussed with him at length the
terms of French compensation. Napoleon did not ask for any definite
promise, but suggested the annexation of some German territory to
France; it was explained to him that Prussia would not surrender any
German territory, but that, if France took part of Belgium, the Prussian
frontier must be extended to the Maas, that is, must include the
north-east of Belgium.

Again no definite agreement was made, but Napoleon's favouring
neutrality seemed secure. There was more difficulty with Italy, for here
an active alliance was required, and the Italians still feared they
would be tricked. It was decided to send Moltke to Florence to arrange
affairs there; this, however, was unnecessary, for Victor Emmanuel sent
one of his generals, Govone, nominally to gain some information about
the new military inventions; for the next three weeks, Govone and
Barrel, the Italian Minister, were engaged in constant discussions as to
the terms of the treaty. Of course the Austrians were not entirely
ignorant of what was going on. The negotiations with Italy roused among
them intense bitterness; without actually mobilising they slowly and
cautiously made all preliminary arrangements; a despatch was sent to
Berlin accusing the Prussians of the intention of breaking the Treaty of
Gastein, and another despatch to the German Courts asking for their
assistance. Karolyi waited on Bismarck, assured him that their military
preparations, were purely defensive, and asked point-blank whether
Prussia proposed to violate the treaty. The answer, of course, was a
simple "No," but according to the gossip of Berlin, Bismarck added, "You
do not think I should tell you if I did intend to do so." On March 24th
a despatch was sent to the envoys at all the German Courts drawing their
attention to the Austrian preparations, for which it was said there was
no cause; in view of this obvious aggression Prussia must begin to arm.
That this was a mere pretext is shewn by a confidential note of Moltke
of this same date; in it he states that all the Austrian preparations up
to this time were purely defensive; there was as yet no sign of an
attempt to take the offensive. Two days later, a meeting of the Prussian
Council was held and the orders for a partial mobilisation of the army
were given, though some time elapsed before they were actually carried

Under the constant excitement of these weeks Bismarck's health again
began to break down; except himself, there was in fact scarcely a single
man who desired the war; the King still seized every opportunity of
preserving the peace; England, as so often, was beginning to make
proposals for mediation; all the Prussian diplomatists, he complained,
were working against his warlike projects. He made it clear to the
Italians that the result would depend on them; if they would not sign a
treaty there would be no war. The great difficulty in arranging the
terms of the treaty was to determine who should begin. The old suspicion
was still there: each side expected that if they began they would be
deserted by their ally. The suspicion was unjust, for on both sides
there were honourable men. The treaty was eventually signed on April
9th; it was to the effect that if Prussia went to war with Austria
within the next three months, Italy would also at once declare war;
neither country was to make a separate peace; Prussia would continue the
war till Venetia was surrendered. On the very day that this treaty was
signed, Bismarck, in answer to an Austrian despatch, wrote insisting
that he had no intention of entering on an offensive war against
Austria. In private conversation he was more open; to Benedetti he said:
"I have at last succeeded in determining a King of Prussia to break the
intimate relations of his House with that of Austria, to conclude a
treaty of alliance with Italy, to accept arrangements with Imperial
France; I am proud of the result."

Suddenly a fresh impediment appeared: the Austrians, on April 18th,
wrote proposing a disarming on both sides; the Prussian answer was
delayed for many days; it was said in Berlin that there was a difference
of opinion between Bismarck and the King; Bismarck complained to
Benedetti that he was wavering: when at last the answer was sent it was
to accept the principle, but Bismarck boasted that he had accepted it
under such conditions that it could hardly be carried out. The
reluctance of the King to go to war caused him much difficulty; all his
influence was required; it is curious to read the following words which
he wrote at this time:

  "It is opposed to my feelings, I may say to my faith, to attempt
  to use influence or pressure on your paternal feelings with
  regard to the decision on peace or war; this is a sphere in
  which, trusting to God alone, I leave it to your Majesty's heart
  to steer for the good of the Fatherland; my part is prayer,
  rather than counsel";

and then he again lays before the King the insuperable arguments in
favour of war.

Let us not suppose that this letter was but a cunning device to win the
consent of the King. In these words more than in anything else we see
his deepest feelings and his truest character. Bismarck was no Napoleon;
he had determined that war was necessary, but he did not go to the
terrible arbitrament with a light heart. He was not a man who from
personal ambition would order thousands of men to go to their death or
bring his country to ruin. It was his strength that he never forgot that
he was working, not for himself, but for others. Behind the far-sighted
plotter and the keen intriguer there always remained the primitive
honesty of his younger years. He may at times have complained of the
difficulties which arose from the reluctance of the King to follow his
advice, but he himself felt that it was a source of strength to him that
he had to explain, justify, and recommend his policy to the King.

All anxiety was, however, removed by news which came the next day. A
report was spread throughout the papers that Italy had begun to
mobilise, and that a band of Garibaldians had crossed the frontier. The
report seems to have been untrue. How it originated we know not; when
Roon heard of it he exclaimed, "Now the Italians are arming, the
Austrians cannot disarm." He was right. The Austrian Government sent a
message to Berlin that they would withdraw part of their northern army
from Bohemia, but must at once put the whole of their southern army on a
war footing. Prussia refused to accept this plea, and the order for the
mobilisation of the Prussian army went out.

As soon as Austria had begun to mobilise, war was inevitable; the state
of the finances of the Empire would not permit them to maintain their
army on a war footing for any time. None the less, another six weeks
were to elapse before hostilities began.

We have seen how throughout these complications Bismarck had desired, if
he fought Austria, to fight, not for the sake of the Duchies, but for a
reform of the German Confederation.

In March he had said to the Italians that the Holstein question was not
enough to warrant a declaration of war. Prussia intended to bring
forward the reform of the Confederation. This would take several months.
He hoped that among other advantages, he would have at least Bavaria on
his side; for the kind of proposal he had in his mind, though at this
time he seems to have had no clear plan, was some arrangement by which
the whole of the north of Germany should be closely united to Prussia,
and the southern States formed in a separate union with Bavaria at the
head. He had always pointed out, even when he was at Frankfort, that
Bavaria was a natural ally of Prussia. In a great war the considerable
army of Bavaria would not be unimportant.

At the beginning of April Bismarck instructed Savigny, his envoy at the
Diet, to propose the consideration of a reform in the Constitution. The
proposal he made was quite unexpected. No details were mentioned as to
changes in the relations of the Princes, but a Parliament elected by
universal suffrage and direct elections was to be chosen, to help in the
management of common German affairs. It is impossible to exaggerate the
bewilderment and astonishment with which this proposal was greeted. Here
was the man who had risen into power as the champion of monarchical
government, as the enemy of Parliaments and Democracy, voluntarily
taking up the extreme demand of the German Radicals. It must be
remembered that universal suffrage was at this time regarded not as a
mere scheme of voting,--it was a principle; it was the cardinal
principle of the Revolution; it meant the sovereignty of the people. It
was the basis of the French Republic of 1848, it had been incorporated
in the German Constitution of 1849, and this was one of the reasons why
the King of Prussia had refused then to accept that Constitution. The
proposal was universally condemned. Bismarck had perhaps hoped to win
the Liberals; if so, he was disappointed; their confidence could not be
gained by this sudden and amazing change--they distrusted him all the
more; "a Government that, despising the laws of its own country, comes
forward with plans for Confederate reform, cannot have the confidence of
the German people," was the verdict of the National party. The Moderate
Liberals, men like Sybel, had always been opposed to universal suffrage;
even the English statesmen were alarmed; it was two years before
Disraeli made his leap in the dark, and here was the Prussian statesman
making a far bolder leap in a country not yet accustomed to the natural
working of representative institutions. He did not gain the adhesion of
the Liberals, and he lost the confidence of his old friends. Napoleon
alone expressed his pleasure that the institutions of the two countries
should become so like one another.

There was, indeed, ample reason for distrust; universal suffrage meant
not only Democracy,--it was the foundation on which Napoleon had built
his Empire; he had shewn that the voice of the people might become the
instrument of despotism. All the old suspicions were aroused; people
began to see fresh meaning in these constant visits to France; Napoleon
had found an apt pupil not only in foreign but in internal matters. It
could mean nothing more than the institution of a democratic monarchy;
this was Bonapartism; it seemed to be the achievement of that change
which, years ago, Gerlach had foreboded. No wonder the King of Hanover
began to feel his crown less steady on his head.

What was the truth in the matter? What were the motives which influenced
Bismarck? The explanation he gave was probably the true one: by
universal suffrage he hoped to attain a Conservative and monarchical
assembly; he appealed from the educated and Liberal middle classes to
the peasants and artisans. We remember how often he had told the
Prussian House of Commons that they were not the true representatives of
the people.

  "Direct election and universal suffrage I consider to be greater
  guarantees of Conservative action than any artificial electoral
  law; the artificial system of indirect election and elections by
  classes is a much more dangerous one in a country of monarchical
  traditions and loyal patriotism. Universal suffrage, doing away
  as it does with the influence of the Liberal bourgeoisie, leads
  to monarchical elections."

There was in his mind a vague ideal, the ideal of a king, the father of
his country, supported by the masses of the people. He had a genuine
interest in the welfare of the poorest; he thought he would find in them
more gratitude and confidence than in the middle classes. We know that
he was wrong; universal suffrage in Germany was to make possible the
Social Democrats and Ultramontanes; it was to give the Parliamentary
power into the hands of an opponent far more dangerous than the Liberals
of the Prussian Assembly. Probably no one had more responsibility for
this measure than the brilliant founder of the Socialist party. Bismarck
had watched with interest the career of Lassalle; he had seen with
admiration his power of organisation; he felt that here was a man who in
internal affairs and in the management of the people had something of
the skill and courage which he himself had in foreign affairs. He was a
great demagogue, and Bismarck had already learnt that a man who aimed at
being not only a diplomatist, but a statesman and a ruler, must have
something of the demagogic art. From Lassalle he could learn much. We
have letters written two years before this in which Lassalle, obviously
referring to some previous conversation, says: "Above all, I accuse
myself of having forgotten yesterday to impress upon you that the right
of being elected must be given to all Germans. This is an immense means
of power; the moral conquest of Germany." Obviously there had been a
long discussion, in which Lassalle had persuaded the Minister to adopt
universal suffrage. The letters continue with reference to the machinery
of the elections, and means of preventing abstention from the poll, for
which Lassalle professes to have found a magic charm.

One other remark we must make: this measure, as later events were to
prove, was in some ways characteristic of all Bismarck's internal
policy. Roon once complained of his strokes of genius, his unforeseen
decisions. In foreign policy, bold and decisive as he could be, he
was also cautious and prudent; to this he owes his success; he could
strike when the time came, but he never did so unless he had tested
the situation in every way; he never began a war unless he was sure
to win, and he left nothing to chance or good fortune. In internal
affairs he was less prudent; he did not know his ground so well, and
he exaggerated his own influence. Moreover, in giving up the simpler
Conservative policy of his younger years, he became an opportunist; he
would introduce important measures in order to secure the support of a
party, even though he might thereby be sacrificing the interests of his
country to a temporary emergency. He really applied to home affairs the
habits he had learned in diplomacy; there every alliance is temporary;
when the occasion of it has passed by, it ceases, and leaves no
permanent effect. He tried to govern Germany by a series of political
alliances; but the alliance of the Government with a party can never be
barren; the laws to which it gives birth remain. Bismarck sometimes
thought more of the advantage of the alliance than of the permanent
effect of the laws.

Even after this there was still delay; there were the usual abortive
attempts at a congress, which, as in 1859, broke down through the
refusal of Austria to give way. There were dark intrigues of Napoleon,
who even at the last moment attempted to divert the Italians from their
Prussian alliance. In Germany there was extreme indignation against the
man who was forcing his country into a fratricidal war. Bismarck had
often received threatening letters; now an attempt was made on his life;
as he was walking along _Unter den Linden_ a young man approached and
fired several shots at him. He was seized by Bismarck, and that night
put an end to his own life in prison. He was a South German who wished
to save his country from the horrors of civil war. Moltke, now that all
was prepared, was anxious to begin. Bismarck still hesitated; he was so
cautious that he would not take the first step. At last the final
provocation came, as he hoped it would, from Austria. He knew that if he
waited long enough they would take the initiative. They proposed to
summon the Estates of Holstein, and at the same time brought the
question of the Duchies before the Diet. Bismarck declared that this was
a breach of the Treaty of Gastein, and that that agreement was therefore
void; Prussian troops were ordered to enter Holstein. Austria appealed
for protection to the Diet, and moved that the Federal forces should be
mobilised. The motion was carried by nine votes to seven. The Prussian
Envoy then rose and declared that this was a breach of the Federal law;
Prussia withdrew from the Federation and declared war on all those
States which had supported Austria. Hanover and Hesse had to the end
attempted to maintain neutrality, but this Bismarck would not allow;
they were given the alternative of alliance with Prussia or disarmament.
The result was that, when war began, the whole of Germany, except the
small northern States, was opposed to Prussia. "I have no ally but the
Duke of Mecklenburg and Mazzini," said the King.






Bismarck had no part in the management of the army. This the King always
kept in his own hands. He was himself Commander-in-Chief, and on all
military questions he took the advice of his Minister of War and the
chief of the staff. When his power and influence in the State were
greatest, Bismarck's authority always ceased as soon as technical and
military matters arose for consideration. He often chafed at this
limitation and even in a campaign was eager to offer his advice; there
was soldier's blood in his veins, and he would have liked himself to
bear arms in the war. At least he was able to be present on the field of
battle with the King and witness part of the campaign.

With the King he left Berlin on June 30th to join the army in Bohemia.
Already the news had come of the capitulation of the Hanoverians; the
whole of North-West Germany had been conquered in a week and the
Prussian flank was secure. The effect of these victories was soon seen:
his unpopularity was wiped out in blood. Night by night as the
bulletins arrived, crowds collected to cheer and applaud the Minister.

The King and his suite reached the army on July 1st; they were just in
time to be present at the decisive battle. At midnight on July 2d it was
known that the Austrians were preparing to give battle near Königgrätz
with the Elbe in their rear. Early the next morning the King with
Bismarck, Roon, and Moltke rode out and took up their positions on the
hill of Dub, whence they could view what was to be the decisive battle
in the history of Germany. Here, after the lapse of more than a hundred
years, they were completing the work which Frederick the Great had
begun. The battle was long and doubtful. The army of Prince Frederick
Charles attacked the Austrian division under the eyes of the King, but
could make no advance against their powerful artillery. They had to wait
till the Crown Prince, who was many miles away, could come up and attack
the right flank of the Austrians. Hour after hour went by and the Crown
Prince did not come; if he delayed longer the attack would fail and the
Prussians be defeated. We can easily imagine what must have been
Bismarck's thoughts during this crisis. On the result depended his
position, his reputation, perhaps his life; into those few hours was
concentrated the struggle to which he had devoted so much of his
lifetime, and yet he was quite helpless. Success or failure did not
depend on him. It is the crudest trial to the statesman that he must see
his best plans undone by the mistakes of the generals. Bismarck often
looked with anxiety at Moltke's face to see whether he could read in it
the result of the battle. The King, too, was getting nervous. Bismarck
at last could stand it no longer; he rode up to Moltke, took out a cigar
case, and offered it to the General; Moltke looked at the cigars
carefully and took the best; "then I knew we were all right," said
Bismarck in telling this story. It was after two when at last the cannon
of the Crown Prince's army came into action, and the Austrian army,
attacked on two sides, was overthrown.

"This time the brave grenadiers have saved us," said Roon. It was true;
but for the army which he and the King had made, all the genius of
Moltke and Bismarck would have been unavailing.

  "Our men deserve to be kissed," wrote Bismarck to his wife.
  "Every man is brave to the death, quiet, obedient; with empty
  stomachs, wet clothes, little sleep, the soles of their boots
  falling off, they are friendly towards everyone; there is no
  plundering and burning; they pay what they are able, though they
  have mouldy bread to eat. There must exist a depth of piety in
  our common soldier or all this could not be."

Bismarck might well be proud of this practical illustration which was
given of that which he so often in older days maintained. This was a
true comment on the pictures of the loyalty of the Prussian people and
the simple faith of the German peasants, which from his place in
Parliament he had opposed to the new sceptical teaching of the Liberals.
As soon as he was able he went about among the wounded; as he once
said, the King of Prussia was accustomed to look into the eyes of
wounded men on the field of battle and therefore would never venture on
an unjust or unnecessary war, and in this Bismarck felt as the King. He
writes home for cigars for distributing among the wounded. Personally he
endured something of the hardships of campaigning, for in the miserable
Bohemian villages there was little food and shelter to be had. He
composed himself to sleep, as best he could, on a dung-heap by the
roadside, until he was roused by the Prince of Mecklenburg, who had
found more acceptable quarters.

It was not for long that this life, which was to him almost a welcome
reminiscence of his sporting days, could continue. Diplomatic cares soon
fell upon him.

Not two days had passed since the great battle, when a telegram from
Napoleon was placed in the King's hands informing him that Austria had
requested France's mediation, that Venetia had been surrendered to
France, and inviting the King to conclude an armistice. Immediately
afterwards came the news that the surrender of Venetia to France had
been published in the _Moniteur_.

If this meant anything, it meant that Napoleon intended to stop the
further progress of the Prussian army, to rescue Austria, and to dictate
the terms of peace; it could not be doubted that he would be prepared to
support his mediation by arms, and in a few days they might expect to
hear that the French corps were being stationed on the frontier. What
was to be done? Bismarck neither doubted nor hesitated; it was
impossible to refuse French mediation. West Germany was almost
undefended, the whole of the southern States were still unconquered;
however imperfect the French military preparations might be, it was
impossible to run such a risk. At his advice the King at once sent a
courteous answer accepting the French proposal. He was more disposed to
this because in doing so he really bound himself to nothing. He accepted
the principle of French mediation; but he was still free to discuss and
refuse the special terms which might be offered. He said that he was
willing to accept an armistice, but it was only on condition that the
preliminaries of peace were settled before hostilities ceased, and to
them the King could not agree except after consultation with the King of
Italy. It was a friendly answer, which cost nothing, and meanwhile the
army continued to advance. An Austrian request for an armistice was
refused; Vienna was now the goal; Napoleon, if he wished to stop them,
must take the next move, must explain the terms of peace he wished to
secure, and shew by what measures he was prepared to enforce them.

By his prompt action, Bismarck, who knew Napoleon well, hoped to escape
the threatened danger. We shall see with what address he used the
situation, so that the vacillation of France became to him more useful
than even her faithful friendship would have been, for now he felt
himself free from all ties of gratitude. Whatever services France might
do to Prussia she could henceforth look to him for no voluntary
recompense. Napoleon had deceived him; he would henceforward have no
scruples in deceiving Napoleon. He had entered on the war relying on the
friendship and neutrality of France; at the first crisis this had failed
him; he never forgot and he never forgave; years later, when the news of
Napoleon's death was brought to him, this was the first incident in
their long connection which came into his mind.

Intercourse with Paris was slow and uncertain; the telegraph wires were
often cut by the Bohemian peasants; some time must elapse before an
answer came. In the meanwhile, as the army steadily advanced towards the
Austrian capital, Bismarck had to consider the terms of peace he would
be willing to accept. He had to think not only of what he would wish,
but of what it was possible to acquire. He wrote to his wife at this

  "We are getting on well. If we are not extreme in our claims and
  do not imagine that we have conquered the world, we shall obtain
  a peace that is worth having. But we are as easily intoxicated as
  we are discouraged, and I have the thankless task of pouring
  water into the foaming wine and of pointing out that we are not
  alone in Europe, but have three neighbours."

Of the three neighbours there was little to fear from England. With the
death of Lord Palmerston, English policy had entered on a new phase; the
traditions of Pitt and Canning were forgotten; England no longer aimed
at being the arbitress of Europe; the leaders of both parties agreed
that unless her own interests were immediately affected, England would
not interfere in Continental matters. The internal organisation of
Germany did not appear to concern her; she was the first to recognise
the new principle that the relations of the German States to one another
were to be settled by the Germans themselves, and to extend to Germany
that doctrine of non-intervention which she had applied to Spain and

Neither France nor Russia would be so accommodating; France, we have
already seen, had begun to interfere, Russia would probably do so; if
they came to some agreement they would demand a congress; and, as a
matter of fact, a few days later the Czar proposed a congress, both in
Paris and in London. Of all issues this was the one which Bismarck
dreaded most. A war with France he would have disliked, but at the worst
he was not afraid of it. But he did not wish that the terms of peace he
proposed to dictate should be subjected to the criticism and revision of
the European Powers, nor to undergo the fate which fell on Russia twelve
years later. Had the congress, however, been supported by Russia and
France he must have accepted it. It is for this reason that he was so
ready to meet the wishes of France, for if Napoleon once entered into
separate and private negotiations, then whatever the result of them
might be, he could not join with the other Powers in common action.

With regard to the terms of peace, it was obvious that
Schleswig-Holstein would now be Prussian; it could scarcely be doubted
that there must be a reform in the Confederation, which would be
reorganised under the hegemony of Prussia, and that Austria would be
excluded from all participation in German affairs. It might, in fact, be
anticipated that the very great successes of Prussia would enable her to
carry out the programme of 1849, and to unite the whole of Germany in a
close union. This, however, was not what Bismarck intended; for him the
unity of Germany was a matter of secondary importance; what he desired
was complete control over the north. In this he was going back to the
sound and true principles of Prussian policy; he, as nearly all other
Prussian statesmen, looked on the line of the Main as a real division.
He, therefore, on the 9th of July, wrote to Goltz, explaining the ideas
he had of the terms on which peace might be concluded.

"The essential thing," he said, was that they should get control over
North Germany in some form or other.

  "I use the term _North German Confederation_ without any
  hesitation, because I consider that if the necessary
  consolidation of the Federation is to be made certain it will be
  at present impossible to include South Germany in it. The present
  moment is very favourable for giving our new creation just that
  delimitation which will secure it a firm union."

The question remained, what form the Union should take. On this he
writes: "Your Excellency must have the same impression as myself, that
public opinion in our country demands the incorporation of Hanover,
Saxony, and Schleswig." He adds that this would undoubtedly be the best
solution of the matter for all concerned, if it could be effected
without the cession of other Prussian territory, but he did not himself
consider the difference between a satisfactory system of reform and the
acquisition of these territories sufficient to justify him in risking
the fate of the whole monarchy. It was the same alternative which had
presented itself to him about Schleswig-Holstein; now, as then,
annexation was what he aimed at, and he was not the man easily to
reconcile himself to a less favourable solution. At the same time that
he wrote this letter he sent orders that Falkenstein should quickly
occupy all the territory north of the Main.

It is important to notice the date at which this letter was sent. It
shews us that these proposals were Bismarck's own. Attempts have often
been made since to suggest that the policy of annexation was not his,
but was forced on him by the King, or by the military powers, or by the
nation. This was not the case. He appeals indeed to public opinion, but
public opinion, had it been asked, would really have demanded, not the
dethronement of the Kings of Hanover and Saxony, but the unity of all
Germany; and we know that Bismarck would never pursue what he thought a
dangerous policy simply because public opinion demanded it. It has also
been said that the dethronement of the King of Hanover was the natural
result of the obstinacy of himself and his advisers, and his folly in
going to Vienna to appeal there to the help of the Austrian Emperor.

This also is not true. We find that Bismarck has determined on this
policy some days before the King had left Thuringia. This, like all he
did, was the deliberate result of the consideration: What would tend
most to the growth of Prussian power? He had to consider three
alternatives: that these States should be compelled to come into a union
with Prussia on the terms that the Princes should hand over the command
of their forces to the Prussian King, but he knew that the King of
Hanover would never consent to this, and probably the King of Saxony
would also refuse; he might also require the reigning Kings to abdicate
in place of their sons; or he might leave them with considerable
freedom, but cripple their power by taking away part of their territory.
These solutions seemed to him undesirable because they would leave
dynasties, who would naturally be hostile, jealous, and suspicious, with
the control of large powers of government. Surely it would be better,
safer, and wiser to sweep them away altogether. It may be objected that
there was no ground in justice for so doing. This is true, and Bismarck
has never pretended that there was. He has left it to the writers of the
Prussian Press to justify an action which was based purely on policy, by
the pretence that it was the due recompense of the crimes of the rival

Sybel says that Bismarck determined on these terms because they were
those which would be most acceptable to France; that he would have
preferred at once to secure the unity of the whole of Germany, but that
from his knowledge of French thought and French character he foresaw
that this would be possible only after another war, and he did not wish
to risk the whole. So far as our information goes, it is against this
hypothesis; it is rather true to say that he used the danger of French
interference as a means of persuading the King to adopt a policy which
was naturally repugnant to him. It is true that these terms would be
agreeable to Napoleon. It would appear in France and in Europe as if it
was French power which had persuaded Prussia to stop at the Main and to
spare Austria; Bismarck did not mind that, because what was pleasant to
France was convenient to him. He knew also that the proposal to annex
the conquered territories would be very agreeable to Napoleon; the
dethronement of old-established dynasties might be regarded as a
delicate compliment to the principles he had always maintained and to
the traditional policy of his house. If, however, we wish to find
Bismarck's own motives, we must remember that before the war broke out
he had in his mind some such division of Germany; he knew that it would
be impossible at once to unite the whole in a firm union. If Bavaria
were to be included in the new Confederation they would lose in harmony
what they gained in extent. As he said in his drastic way:

  "We cannot use these Ultramontanes, and we must not swallow more
  than we can digest. We will not fall into the blunder of
  Piedmont, which has been more weakened than strengthened by the
  annexation of Naples."

Of course he could not express this openly, and even now German writers
obscure the thought, for in Germany, as in Italy, the desire for unity
was so powerful that it was difficult to pardon any statesman who did
not take the most immediate path to this result. It was fortunate for
Germany that Bismarck was strong enough not to do so, for the
Confederation of the north could be founded and confirmed before the
Catholic and hostile south was included. The prize was in his hands; he
deliberately refused to pick it up.

Supposing, however, that, after all, France would not accept the terms
he suggested--during the anxious days which passed, this contingency was
often before him. It was not till the 14th that Goltz was able to send
him any decisive information, for the very good reason that Napoleon had
not until then made up his own mind. Bismarck's anxiety was increased by
the arrival of Benedetti. He had received instructions to follow the
King, and, after undergoing the discomfort of a hasty journey in the
rear of the Prussian army, reached headquarters on the 10th at Zwittau.
He was taken straight to Bismarck's room although it was far on into the
night. He found him sitting in a deserted house, writing, with a large
revolver by his side; for as Roon complains, even during the campaign
Bismarck would not give up his old custom of working all night and
sleeping till midday or later. Bismarck received the French Ambassador
with his wonted cordiality and the conversation was prolonged till three
or four o'clock in the morning, and continued on the following days.
Bismarck hoped that he had come with full powers to treat, or at least
with full information on the intentions of his Government; that was not
the case; he had no instructions except to use his influence to persuade
Prussia to moderation; Napoleon was far too much divided in his own mind
to be able to tell him anything further. Bismarck with his usual
frankness explained what he wished, laying much stress on the
annexations in North Germany; Benedetti, so little did he follow
Napoleon's thought, protested warmly against this. "We are not," he
said, "in the times of Frederick the Great." Bismarck then tried to
probe him on other matters; as before, he assumed that Napoleon's
support and good-will were not to be had for nothing. He took it as a
matter of course that if France was friendly to Prussia, she would
require some recompense. He had already instructed Goltz to enquire what
non-German compensation would be asked; he was much disturbed when
Benedetti met his overtures with silence; he feared that Napoleon had
some other plan. Benedetti in his report writes:

"Without any encouragement on my part, he attempted to prove to me that
the defeat of Austria permitted France and Prussia to modify their
territorial limits and to solve the greater part of the difficulties
which continued to menace the peace of Europe. I reminded him that there
were treaties and that the war which he desired to prevent would be the
first result of a policy of this kind. M. de Bismarck answered that I
misunderstood him, that France and Prussia united and resolved to
rectify their respective countries, binding themselves by solemn
engagements henceforth to regulate together these questions, need not
fear any armed resistance either from England or from Russia."

What was Bismarck's motive in making these suggestions and enquiries?
German writers generally take the view that he was not serious in his
proposal, that he was deliberately playing with Napoleon, that he wished
to secure from him some compromising document which he might then be
able, as, in fact, was to happen, to use against him. They seem to find
some pleasure in admiring him in the part of _Agent provocateur_.
Perhaps we may interpret his thought rather differently. We have often
seen that it was not his practice to lay down a clear and definite
course of action, but he met each crisis as it occurred. The immediate
necessity was to secure the friendship of France; believing, as he did,
that in politics no one acted simply on principle or out of friendship,
he assumed that Napoleon, who had control of the situation, would not
give his support unless he had the promise of some important recompense.
The natural thing for him, as he always preferred plain dealing, was to
ask straight out what the Emperor wanted. When the answer came, then
fresh questions would arise; if it was of such a kind that Bismarck
would be able to accept it, a formal treaty between the two States might
be made; if it was more than Bismarck was willing to grant, then there
would be an opportunity for prolonging negotiations with France, and
haggling over smaller points, and he would be able to come to some
agreement with Austria quickly. If he could not come to any agreement
with France, and war were to break out, he would always have this
advantage, that he would be able to make it appear that the cause of war
arose not in the want of moderation of Prussia, but in the illegitimate
claims of France. Finally he had this to consider, that so long as
France was discussing terms with him, there was no danger of their
accepting the Russian proposal for a congress. Probably the one
contingency which did not occur to him was that which, in fact, was
nearest to the truth, namely, that Napoleon did not care much for any
recompense, and that he had not seriously considered what he ought to

He was, however, prepared for the case that France should not be
accommodating. He determined to enter on separate negotiations with
Austria. As he could not do this directly, he let it be known at Vienna
by way of St. Petersburg that he was willing to negotiate terms of
peace. At Brunn, where he was living, he opened up a new channel of
intercourse. An Austrian nobleman, who was well disposed towards
Prussia, undertook an unofficial mission, and announced to the Emperor
the terms on which Prussia would make peace. They were extraordinarily
lenient, namely, that, with the exception of Venetia, the territory of
Austria should remain intact, that no war indemnity should be expected,
that the Main should form the boundary of Prussian ambition, that South
Germany should be left free, and might enter into close connection with
Austria if it chose; the only condition was that no intervention or
mediation of France should be allowed. If the negotiations with France
were successful, then the French and Prussian armies united would bid
defiance to the world. If those with France failed, then he hoped to
bring about an understanding with Austria; the two great Powers would
divide Germany between them, but present a united front to all
outsiders. If both negotiations broke down, he would be reduced to a
third and more terrible alternative: against a union of France and of
Austria he would put himself at the head of the German national
movement; he would adopt the programme of 1849; he would appeal to the
Revolution; he would stir up rebellion in Hungary; he would encourage
the Italians to deliver a thrust into the very heart of the Austrian
Monarchy; and, while Austria was destroyed by internal dissensions, he
would meet the French invasion at the head of a united army of the other
German States.

After all, however, Napoleon withdrew his opposition. It was represented
to him that he had not the military force to carry out his new
programme; Italy refused to desert Prussia or even to receive Venetia
from the hands of France; Prince Napoleon warned his cousin against
undoing the work of his lifetime. The Emperor himself, broken in health
and racked by pain, confessed that his action of July 5th had been a
mistake; he apologised to Goltz for his proclamation; he asked only that
Prussia should be moderate in her demands; the one thing was that the
unity of Germany should be avoided, if only in appearance. This, we have
seen, was Bismarck's own view. Napoleon accepted the terms which Goltz
proposed, but asked only that the Kingdom of Saxony should be spared;
if this was done, he would not only adopt, he would recommend them. An
agreement was quickly come to. Benedetti went on to Vienna; he and
Gramont had little difficulty in persuading the Emperor to agree to
terms of peace by which the whole loss of the war would fall not upon
him, not even upon his only active and faithful ally, the King of
Saxony, but on those other States who had refused to join themselves to
either party. What a triumph was it of Bismarck's skill that the
addition of 4,000,000 subjects to the Prussian Crown and complete
dominion over Northern Germany should appear, not as the demand which,
as a ruthless conqueror, he enforced on his helpless enemies, but as the
solution of all difficulties which was recommended to him in reward for
his moderation by the ruler of France!

On the 23d of July an armistice was agreed on, and a conference was held
at Nikolsburg to arrange the preliminaries of peace. There was no delay.
In olden days Bismarck had shewn how he was able to prolong negotiations
year after year when it was convenient to him that they should come to
no conclusion; now he hurried through in three days the discussion by
which the whole future of Germany and Europe were to be determined. When
all were agreed on the main points, difficulties on details were easily
overcome. It remained only to procure the assent of the King. Here
again, as so often before, Bismarck met with most serious resistance. He
drew up a careful memorandum which he presented to the monarch, pressing
on him in the very strongest terms the acceptance of these conditions,
Up to the last moment, however, there seems to have been a great
reluctance; Sybel represents the difficulties as rising from the
immoderate demands of the military party at Court; they were not
prepared, after so great a victory, to leave Austria with undiminished
territory; they wished at least to have part of Austrian Silesia. This
account seems misleading. It was not that the King wanted more than
Bismarck had desired; he wanted his acquisition of territory to come in
a different way. He was not reconciled to the dethronement of the King
of Hanover; he wished to take part of Hanover, part of Saxony, part of
Bavaria, and something from Darmstadt; to his simple and honest mind it
seemed unjust that those who had been his bitterest enemies should be
treated with the greatest consideration. It was the old difficulty which
Bismarck had met with in dealing with Schleswig-Holstein: the King had
much regard for the rights of other Princes. This time, however,
Bismarck, we are surprised to learn, had the influential support of the
Crown Prince; the scruples which he had felt as regards
Schleswig-Holstein did not apply to Hanover. He was sent in to his
father; the interview lasted two hours; what passed we do not know; he
came out exhausted and wearied with the long struggle, but the King had
given in, and the policy of Bismarck triumphed. The preliminaries of
Nikolsburg were signed, and two days afterwards were ratified, for
Bismarck pressed on the arrangements with feverish impetuosity.

He had good reason to do so; he had just received intelligence that the
Emperor of Russia was making an official demand for a congress and fresh
news had come from France. On the 25th Benedetti had again come to him
and had sounded him with regard to the recompense which France might
receive. On the 26th, just as Bismarck was going to the final sitting of
the Conference, the French Ambassador again called on him, this time to
lay before him a despatch in which Drouyn de Lhuys stated that he had
not wished to impede the negotiations with Austria, but would now
observe that the French sanction to the Prussian annexations presupposed
a fair indemnification to France, and that the Emperor would confer with
Prussia concerning this as soon as his rôle of mediator was at an end.
What madness this was! As soon as the rôle of mediator was at an end, as
soon as peace was arranged with Austria, the one means which France had
for compelling the acquiescence of Prussia was lost.

What had happened was this: Napoleon had, in conversation with Goltz,
refused to consider the question of compensation: it was not worth
while, he said; the gain of a few square miles of territory would not be
of any use. He therefore, when he still might have procured them, made
no conditions. Drouyn de Lhuys, however, who had disapproved of the
whole of the Emperor's policy, still remained in office; he still
wished, as he well might wish, to strengthen France in view of the great
increase of Prussian power. He, therefore, on the 21st again approached
Napoleon and laid before him a despatch in which he brought up the
question of compensation. He was encouraged to this course by the
reports which Benedetti had sent of his conversations with Bismarck; it
was clear that Bismarck expected some demand; he had almost asked that
it should be made. "We wish to avoid any injury to the balance of
power," Goltz had said; "we will either moderate our demands or discuss
those of France." It appeared absurd not to accept this offer. Napoleon
was still reluctant to do so, but he was in a paroxysm of pain. "Leave
me in peace," was his only answer to his Minister's request, and the
Minister took it as an assent.

Bismarck, when Benedetti informed him of the demand that was to be made,
at once answered that he was quite ready to consider the proposal.
Benedetti then suggested that it would probably concern certain strips
of territory on the left bank of the Rhine; on this, Bismarck stopped
him: "Do not make any official announcements of that kind to me to-day."
He went away, the Conference was concluded, the preliminaries were
signed and ratified. France had been too late, and when the demand was
renewed Bismarck was able to adopt a very different tone.

Let us complete the history of these celebrated negotiations.

The discussion which had been broken off so suddenly at Nikolsburg was
continued at Berlin; during the interval the matter had been further
discussed in Paris, and it had been determined firmly to demand
compensation. Benedetti had warned the Government that Bismarck would
not surrender any German territory; it was no good even asking for this,
unless the demand was supported by urgent and threatening language. The
result of the considerations was that he was instructed categorically to
require the surrender to France of the Palatinate and Mayence. Benedetti
undertook the task with some reluctance; in order to avoid being present
at the explosion of anger which he might expect, he addressed the demand
to Bismarck on August 5th, by letter. Two days he waited for an answer,
but received none; on the evening of the 7th, he himself called on the
Count, and a long discussion took place. Bismarck adopted a tone of
indignation: "The whole affair makes us doubt Napoleon and threatens to
destroy our confidence." The pith of it was contained in the last words:
"Do you ask this from us under threat of war?" said Bismarck. "Yes,"
said Benedetti. "Then it will be war." Benedetti asked to have an
interview with the King; it was granted, and he received the same
answer. This was the result he had anticipated, and the next evening he
returned to Paris to consider with the Government what was to be done.
Bismarck meanwhile had taken care that some information as to these
secret negotiations should become known; with characteristic cleverness
he caused it to be published in a French paper, _Le Siècle_, that France
had asked for the Rhine country and been refused. Of course, the German
Press took up the matter; with patriotic fervour they supported the King
and Minister. Napoleon found himself confronted by the danger of a
union of all Germany in opposition to French usurpation, and his own
diplomatic defeat had become known in a most inconvenient form; he at
once travelled to Paris, consulted Benedetti, returned to his former
policy, and asked that the demand of August 5th might be forgotten; it
was withdrawn, and things were to be as if it had never been made.

Were they, however, still to give up all hope of some increase of French
territory? The demand for German soil had been refused; it was not at
all clear that Bismarck would not support the acquisition of at least
part of Belgium. In conversation with Benedetti, on August 7th, he had
said: "Perhaps we will find other means of satisfying you." Goltz was
still very sympathetic; he regarded the French desire as quite
legitimate in principle. It was determined, therefore, now to act on
these hints and suggestions which had been repeated so often during the
last twelve months; Benedetti was instructed to return with a draft
treaty; the French demands were put in three forms; first of all he was
to ask for the Saar Valley, Landau, Luxemburg, and Belgium; if this was
too much, he was to be content with Belgium and Luxemburg, and if it
seemed desirable he should offer that Antwerp be made a free city; by
this perhaps the extreme hostility of England would be averted. With
this demand, on August 20th, he again appeared before Bismarck. Of
course, the Minister, as soon as Saarbrück and Landau were mentioned,
drew himself up to his full height, adopted an angry air, and reminded
Benedetti of his repeated declaration that they were not going to give
up a single German village. Benedetti, therefore, in accordance with his
instructions, withdrew this clause. The rest of the treaty he and
Bismarck discussed together carefully; they took it line by line and
clause by clause, Bismarck dealing with the matter in a serious and
practical manner. After this had been finished a revised draft was
written out by Benedetti, Bismarck dictating to him the alterations
which had been made. This revised draft consisted of five articles: (1)
The Emperor recognised the recent acquisitions of Prussia; (2) the King
of Prussia should bind himself to assist France in acquiring Luxemburg
from the King of Holland by purchase or exchange; (3) the Emperor bound
himself not to oppose a union of the North German Federation with the
South German States and the establishment of a common Parliament; (4) if
the Emperor at any time wished to acquire Belgium, the King of Prussia
was to support him and give him military assistance against the
interference of any other Power; (5) a general treaty of alliance.

It will be seen that this treaty consists of two parts. The first refers
to what has already taken place,--the Emperor of the French in return
for past assistance is to have Luxemburg; this part would naturally come
into operation immediately. The next two clauses referred to the future;
the union of all Germany would in the natural course of events not be
long delayed; this would seriously alter the balance of power and weaken
France. Napoleon would naturally in the future use all his efforts to
prevent it, as he had done during this year, and by an alliance with
Austria he would probably be able to do so. He would, however, withdraw
his opposition if he was allowed to gain a similar increase of territory
for France. After all, the acquisition of at least part of Belgium by
France might be justified by the same arguments by which the
dethronement of the King of Hanover was defended. Many of the Belgians
were French; there was no natural division between Belgium and France;
probably the people would offer no opposition.

Bismarck had to remember that he could not complete the union of Germany
without considering Napoleon; there were only two ways of doing the
work, (1) by war with France, (2) by an alliance. Need we be surprised
that he at least considered whether the latter would not be the safer,
the cheaper, and the more humane? Was it not better to complete the work
by the sacrifice of Belgian independence rather than by the loss of
300,000 lives?

Benedetti sent the revised draft to Paris; it was submitted to the
Emperor, accepted in principle, and returned with some small alterations
and suggestions. Benedetti sent in the revision to Bismarck and said he
would be ready at any time to meet the Minister and finish the
negotiations. He himself left Berlin for Carlsbad and there awaited the
summons. It never came. Week after week went by, Bismarck retired to his
Pomeranian estate; he did not return to Berlin till December and he
never renewed the negotiations. The revised draft in Benedetti's
handwriting was in his hands; four years later, when war had been
declared against France, he published it in order to destroy whatever
sympathy for Napoleon there might be in England.

Bismarck did not continue the negotiations, for he had found a better
way. Till August 23d his relations to Austria were still doubtful; he
always had to fear that there was some secret understanding between
France and Austria, that a coalition of the two States had been
completed, and that Prussia might suddenly find herself attacked on both
sides. He had, therefore, not wished to offend France. Moreover his
relations to Russia were not quite satisfactory. The Czar took a very
serious view of the annexations in North Germany: "I do not like it," he
said; "I do not like this dethronement of dynasties." It was necessary
to send General Manteuffel on a special mission to St. Petersburg; the
Czar did not alter his opinion, but Bismarck found it possible at least
to quiet him. We do not know all that passed, but he seems to have used
a threat and a promise. If the Czar attempted to interfere in Germany,
Bismarck hinted, as he had already done, that he might have to put
himself at the head of the Revolution, and proclaim the Constitution of
1849; then what would happen to the monarchical principles? He even
suggested that a Revolution which began in Germany might spread to
Poland. The Czar explained that he was discontented with many clauses in
the Treaty of Paris. There was an understanding, if there was no formal
compact, that Prussia would lend her support, when the time came for
the Czar to declare that he was no longer willing to observe this

By the end of August Bismarck had therefore removed the chief dangers
which threatened him. Russia was quieted, France was expectant, Austria
was pacified. He had, however, done more than this: he had already laid
the foundation for the union of the whole of Germany which Napoleon
thought he had prevented.

The four southern States had joined in the war against Prussia. In a
brilliant and interesting campaign a small Prussian army had defeated
the Federal forces and occupied the whole of South Germany. The conquest
of Germany by Prussia was complete. These States had applied at
Nikolsburg to be allowed to join in the negotiations. The request was
refused, and Bismarck at this time treated them with a deliberate and
obtrusive brutality. Baron von der Pfortden, the Bavarian Minister, had
himself travelled to Nikolsburg to ask for peace. He was greeted by
Bismarck with the words: "What are you doing here? You have no
safe-conduct. I should be justified in treating you as a prisoner of
war." He had to return without achieving anything. Frankfort had been
occupied by the Prussian army; the citizens were required to pay a war
indemnity of a million pounds; Manteuffel, who was in command,
threatened to plunder the town, and the full force of Prussian
displeasure was felt by the city where Bismarck had passed so many
years. It was arranged with Austria and France that the southern States
should participate in the suspension of hostilities; that they should
preserve their independence and should be allowed to enter into any kind
of Federal alliance with one another. The result of this would have been
that South Germany would be a weak, disunited confederation, which would
be under the control partly of France and partly of Austria. This would
have meant the perpetuation in its worst form of French influence over
South Germany. When this clause was agreed on, the terms of peace
between these States and Prussia had not yet been arranged. The King of
Prussia wished that they should surrender to him some parts of their
territory. Bismarck, however, opposed this. He was guided by the same
principles which had influenced him all along. Some States should be
entirely absorbed in Prussia, the others treated so leniently that the
events of this year should leave no feeling of hostility. If Bavaria had
to surrender Bayreuth and Anspach, he knew that the Bavarians would
naturally take part in the first coalition against Prussia. With much
trouble he persuaded the King to adopt this point of view. The wisdom of
it was soon shewn. At the beginning of August he still maintained a very
imperious attitude, and talked to the Bavarians of large annexations.
Pfortden in despair had cried, "Do not drive us too far; we shall have
to go for help to France." Then was Bismarck's turn. He told the
Bavarian Minister of Napoleon's suggestion, shewed him that it was
Prussia alone who had prevented Napoleon from annexing a large part of
Bavaria, and then appealed to him through his German patriotism: Would
not Bavaria join Prussia in an alliance? Pfortden was much moved, the
Count and the Baron embraced one another, and by the end of August
Bismarck had arranged with all the four southern States a secret
offensive and defensive alliance. By this they bound themselves to
support Prussia if she was attacked. Prussia guaranteed to them their
territory; in case of war they would put their army under the command of
the King of Prussia. He was now sure, therefore, of an alliance of all
Germany against France. He no longer required French assistance. The
unity of Germany, when it was made, would be achieved by the unaided
forces of the united German States. The draft treaty with Napoleon might
now be put aside.

These negotiations mark indeed a most important change in Bismarck's own
attitude. Hitherto he had thought and acted as a Prussian; he had
deliberately refused on all occasions to support or adopt the German
programme. He had done this because he did not wish Germany to be made
strong until the ascendancy of Prussia was secured. The battle of
Königgrätz had done that; North Germany was now Prussian; the time had
come when he could begin to think and act as a German, for the power of
Prussia was founded on a rock of bronze.

This change was not the only one which dates from the great victory. The
constitutional conflict had still to be settled. The Parliament had been
dissolved just before the war; the new elections had taken place on the
3d of July, after the news of the first victory was known. The result
was shewn in a great gain of seats to the Government and to the
Moderate Liberal party. The great question, however, was, how would
Bismarck use his victory over the House? for a victory it was. It was
the cannon of Königgrätz which decided the Parliamentary conflict. The
House had refused the money to reorganise the army, and it was this
reorganised army which had achieved so unexampled a triumph. Would the
Government now press their victory and use the enthusiasm of the moment
permanently to cripple the Constitution? This is what the Conservative
party, what Roon and the army wished to do. It was not Bismarck's
intention. He required the support of the patriotic Liberals for the
work he had to do; he proposed, therefore, that the Government should
come before the House and ask for an indemnity. They did not confess
that they had acted wrongly, they did not express regret, but they
recognised that in spending the money without a vote of the House there
had been an offence against the Constitution; this could now only be
made good if a Bill was brought in approving of what had happened. He
carried his opinion, not without difficulty; the Bill of indemnity was
introduced and passed. He immediately had his reward. The Liberal party,
which had hitherto opposed him, broke into two portions. The extreme
Radicals and Progressives still continued their opposition; the majority
of the party formed themselves into a new organisation, to which they
gave the name of National Liberals. They pledged themselves to support
the National and German policy of the Government, while they undertook,
so far as they were able, to maintain and strengthen the constitutional
rights of Parliament. By this Bismarck had a Parliamentary majority, and
he more and more depended upon them rather than his old friends, the
Conservatives. He required their support because henceforward he would
have to deal not with one Parliament, but two. The North German
Confederation was to have its Parliament elected by universal suffrage.
Bismarck foresaw that the principles he had upheld in the past could not
be applied in the same form to the whole of the Confederation. The
Prussian Conservative party was purely Prussian, it was Particularist;
had he continued to depend upon it, then all the members sent to the new
Reichstag, not only from Saxony, but also from the annexed States, would
have been thrown into opposition; the Liberal party had always been not
Prussian but German; now that he had to govern so large a portion of
Germany, that which had in the past been the great cause of difference
would be the strongest bond of union. The National Liberal party was
alone able to join him in the work of creating enthusiasm for the new
institutions and new loyalty. How often had he in the old days
complained of the Liberals that they thought not as Prussians, that they
were ashamed of Prussia, that they were not really loyal to Prussia. Now
he knew that just for this reason they would be most loyal to the North
German Confederation.

Bismarck's moderation in the hour of victory must not obscure the
importance of his triumph. The question had been tried which should
rule--the Crown or the Parliament; the Crown had won not only a
physical but a moral victory. Bismarck had maintained that the House of
Representatives could not govern Prussia; the foreign affairs of the
State, he had always said, must be carried on by a Minister who was
responsible, not to the House, but to the King. No one could doubt that
had the House been able to control him he would not have won these great
successes. From that time the confidence of the German people in
Parliamentary government was broken. Moreover, it was the first time in
the history of Europe in which one of these struggles had conclusively
ended in the defeat of Parliament. The result of it was to be shewn in
the history of every country in Europe during the next thirty years. It
is the most serious blow which the principle of representative
government has yet received.

By the end of August most of the labour was completed; there remained
only the arrangement of peace with Saxony; this he left to his
subordinates and retired to Pomerania for the long period of rest which
he so much required.

During his absence a motion was brought before Parliament for conferring
a donation on the victorious generals. At the instance of one of his
most consistent opponents Bismarck's name was included in the list on
account of his great services to his country; a protest was raised by
Virchow on the ground that no Minister while in office should receive a
present, and that of all men Bismarck least deserved one, but scarcely
fifty members could be found to oppose the vote. The donation of 40,000
thalers he used in purchasing the estate of Varzin, in Pomerania which
was to be his home for the next twenty years.




We have hitherto seen Bismarck in the character of party leader,
Parliamentary debater, a keen and accomplished diplomatist; now he comes
before us in a new rôle, that of creative statesman; he adopts it with
the same ease and complete mastery with which he had borne himself in
the earlier stages of his career. The Constitution of the North German
Confederation was his work, and it shews the same intellectual resource,
the originality, and practical sense which mark all he did.

By a treaty of August 18, 1866, all the North German States which had
survived entered into a treaty with one another and with Prussia; they
mutually guaranteed each other's possessions, engaged to place their
forces under the command of the King of Prussia, and promised to enter
into a new federation; for this purpose they were to send envoys to
Berlin who should agree on a Constitution, and they were to allow
elections to take place by universal suffrage for a North German
Parliament before which was to be laid the draft Constitution agreed
upon by the envoys of the States. These treaties did not actually create
the new federation; they only bound the separate States to enter into
negotiations, and, as they expired on August 30, 1867, it was necessary
that the new Constitution should be completed and ratified by that date.
The time was short, for in it had to be compressed both the negotiations
between the States and the debates in the assembly; but all past
experience had shewn that the shorter the time allowed for making a
Constitution the more probable was it that the work would be completed.
Bismarck did not intend to allow the precious months, when enthusiasm
was still high and new party factions had not seized hold of men's
minds, to be lost.

He had spent the autumn in Pomerania and did not return to Berlin till
the 21st of December; not a week remained before the representatives of
the North German States would assemble in the capital of Prussia. To the
astonishment and almost dismay of his friends, he had taken no steps for
preparing a draft. As soon as he arrived two drafts were laid before
him; he put them aside and the next day dictated the outlines of the new

This document has not been published, but it was the basis of the
discussion with the envoys; Bismarck allowed no prolonged debates; they
were kept for some weeks in Berlin, but only three formal meetings took
place. They made suggestions and criticisms, some of which were
accepted, but they were of course obliged to assent to everything on
which Bismarck insisted. The scheme as finally agreed upon by the
conference was then laid before the assembly which met in Berlin on
February 24th.

A full analysis of this Constitution, for which we have no space here,
would be very instructive; it must not be compared with those elaborate
constitutions drawn up by political theorists of which so many have been
introduced during this century. Bismarck's work was like that of
Augustus; he found most of the institutions of government to his hand,
but they were badly co-ordinated; what he had to do was to bring them
into better relations with each other, and to add to them where
necessary. Many men would have swept away everything which existed, made
a clear field, and begun to build up a new State from the foundations.
Bismarck was much too wise to attempt this, for he knew that the
foundations of political life cannot be securely laid by one man or in
one generation. He built on the foundations which others had laid, and
for this reason it is probable that his work will be as permanent as
that of the founder of the Roman Empire.

We find in the new State old and new mixed together in an inseparable
union, and we find a complete indifference to theory or symmetry; each
point is decided purely by reference to the political situation at the
moment. Take, for instance, the question of diplomatic representation;
Bismarck wished to give the real power to the King of Prussia, but at
the same time to preserve the external dignity and respect due to the
Allied Princes. He arranged that the King of Prussia as President of
the Confederation appointed envoys and ambassadors to foreign States;
from this time there ceased to be a Prussian diplomatic service, and, in
this matter, Prussia is entirely absorbed in Germany. It would have been
only natural that the smaller Allied States should also surrender their
right to enter into direct diplomatic relations with foreign Powers.
This Bismarck did not require. Saxony, for instance, continued to have
its own envoys; England and France, as in the old days, kept a Minister
in Dresden. Bismarck was much criticised for this, but he knew that
nothing would so much reconcile the King of Saxony to his new position,
and it was indeed no small thing that the Princes thus preserved in a
formal way a right which shewed to all the world that they were not
subjects but sovereign allies. When it was represented to Bismarck that
this right might be the source of intrigues with foreign States, he
answered characteristically that if Saxony wished to intrigue nothing
could prevent her doing so; it was not necessary to have a formal
embassy for this purpose. His confidence was absolutely justified. A few
months later Napoleon sent to the King of Saxony a special invitation to
a European congress; the King at once sent on the invitation to Berlin
and let it be known that he did not wish to be represented apart from
the North German Confederation. The same leniency was shewn in 1870.
Nothing is a better proof of Bismarck's immense superiority both in
practical wisdom and in judgment of character. The Liberal Press in
Germany had never ceased to revile the German dynasties; Bismarck knew
that their apparent disloyalty to Germany arose not from their wishes
but was a necessary result of the faults of the old Constitution. He
made their interests coincide with the interests of Germany, and from
this time they have been the most loyal supporters, first of the
Confederation, and afterwards of the Empire. This he was himself the
first to acknowledge; both before and after the foundation of the Empire
he has on many occasions expressed his sense of the great services
rendered to Germany by the dynasties. "They," he said once, "were the
true guardians of German unity, not the Reichstag and its parties."

The most important provisions of the Constitution were those by which
the military supremacy of Prussia was secured; in this chapter every
detail is arranged and provided for; the armies of all the various
States were henceforth to form one army, under the command of the King
of Prussia, with common organisation and similar uniform in every State;
in every State the Prussian military system was to be introduced, and
all the details of Prussian military law.

Now let us compare with this the navy: the army represented the old
Germany, the navy the new; the army was arranged and organised as
Prussian, Saxon, Mecklenburg; the navy, on the other hand, was German
and organised by the new Federal officials. There was a Federal Minister
of Marine, but no Federal Minister of War; the army continued the living
sign of Prussian supremacy among a group of sovereign States, the navy
was the first fruit of the united German institutions which were to be
built up by the united efforts of the whole people--a curious
resemblance to the manner in which Augustus also added an Imperial navy
to the older Republican army.

The very form in which the Constitution was presented is characteristic;
in the Parliamentary debates men complained that there was no preamble,
no introduction, no explanation. Bismarck answered that this was omitted
for two reasons: first, there had not been time to draw it up, and
secondly, it would be far more difficult to agree on the principles
which the Constitution was to represent than on the details themselves.
There is no attempt at laying down general principles, no definitions,
and no enumeration of fundamental rights; all these rocks, on which so
often in Germany, as in France, precious months had been wasted, were
entirely omitted.

And now let us turn to that which after the organisation of the army was
of most importance,--the arrangement of the administration and
legislation. Here it is that we see the greatest originality. German
writers have often explained that it is impossible to classify the new
State in any known category, and in following their attempts to find the
technical definition for the authority on which it rests, one is led
almost to doubt whether it really exists at all.

There are two agents of government, the Federal Council, or
_Bundesrath_, and the Parliament, or _Reichstag_. Here again we see the
blending of the old and new, for while the Parliament was now created
for the first time, the Council was really nothing but the old Federal
Diet. Even the old system of voting was retained; not that this was
better than any other system, but, as Bismarck explained, it was easier
to preserve the old than to agree on a new. Any system must have been
purely arbitrary, for had each State received a number of votes
proportionate to its population even the appearance of a federation
would have been lost, and Bismarck was very anxious not to establish an
absolute unity under Prussia.

It will be asked, why was Bismarck now so careful in his treatment of
the smaller States? The answer will be found in words which he had
written many years ago:

  "I do not wish to see Germany substituted for Prussia on our
  banner until we have brought about a closer and more practical
  union with our fellow-countrymen."

Now the time had come, and now he was to be the first and most patriotic
of Germans as in old days he had been the strictest of Prussians. Do not
let us in welcoming the change condemn his earlier policy. It was only
his loyalty to Prussia which had made Germany possible; for it is indeed
true that he could never have ruled Germany had he not first conquered
it. The real and indisputable supremacy of Prussia was still preserved;
and Prussia was now so strong that she could afford to be generous. It
was wise to be generous, for the work was only half completed; the
southern States were still outside the union; he wished to bring them
into the fold, but to do so not by force of arms but of their own free
will; and they certainly would be more easily attracted if they saw that
the North German States were treated with good faith and kindness.

Side by side with the Council we have the Reichstag; this was, in
accordance with the proposal made in the spring of 1866, to be elected
by universal suffrage. And now we see that this proposal, which a few
months ago had appeared merely as a despairing bid for popularity by a
statesman who had sacrificed every other means of securing his policy,
had become a device convincing in its simplicity; at once all
possibility of discussion or opposition was prevented; not indeed that
there were not many warning voices raised, but as Bismarck, in defending
this measure, asked,--what was the alternative? Any other system would
have been purely arbitrary, and any arbitrary system would at once have
opened the gate to a prolonged discussion and political struggle on
questions of the franchise. In a modern European State, when all men can
read and write, and all men must serve in the army, there is no means of
limiting the franchise in a way which will command universal consent. In
Germany there was not any old historical practice to which men could
appeal or which could naturally be applied to the new Parliament;
universal suffrage at least gave something clear, comprehensible, final.
Men more easily believed in the permanence of the new State when every
German received for the first time the full privilege of citizenship. We
must notice, however, that Bismarck had always intended that voting
should be open; the Parliament in revising the Constitution introduced
the ballot. He gave his consent with much reluctance; voting seemed to
him to be a public duty, and to perform it in secret was to undermine
the roots of political life. He was a man who was constitutionally
unable to understand fear. We have then the Council and the Parliament,
and we must now enquire as to their duties. In nearly every modern State
the popular representative assembly holds the real power; before it,
everything else is humbled; the chief occupation of lawgivers is to find
some ingenious device by which it may at least be controlled and
moderated in the exercise of its power. It was not likely that Bismarck
would allow Germany to be governed by a democratic assembly; he was not
satisfied with creating an artificial Upper House which might, perhaps,
be able for one year or two to check the extravagances of a popular
House, or with allowing to the King a veto which could only be exercised
with fear and trembling. Generally the Lower House is the predominant
partner; it governs; the Upper House can only amend, criticise,
moderate. Bismarck completely reversed the situation: the true
government, the full authority in the State was given to the Council;
the Parliament had to content itself with a limited opportunity for
criticism, with the power to amend or veto Bills, and to refuse its
assent to new taxes. In England the government rests in the House of
Commons; in Germany it is in the Federal Council, and for the same
reason--that the Council has both executive and legislative power.
Constitutions have generally been made by men whose chief object was to
weaken the power of the Government, who believed that those rulers do
least harm who have least power, with whom suspicion is the first of
political virtues, and who would condemn to permanent inefficiency the
institutions they have invented. It was not likely Bismarck would do
this. The ordinary device is to separate the legislative and executive
power; to set up two rival and equal authorities which may check and
neutralise each other. Bismarck, deserting all the principles of the
books, united all the powers of government in the Council. The whole
administration was subjected to it; all laws were introduced in it. The
debates were secret; it was an assembly of the ablest statesmen in
Germany; the decisions at which it arrived were laid in their complete
form before the Reichstag. It was a substitute for a Second Chamber, but
it was also a Council of State; it united the duties of the Privy
Council and the House of Lords; it reminds us in its composition of the
American Senate, but it would be a Senate in which the President of the
Republic presided.

Bismarck never ceased to maintain the importance of the Federal Council;
he always looked on it as the key to the whole new Constitution. Shortly
after the war with France, when the Liberals made an attempt to
overthrow its authority, he warned them not to do so.

  "I believe," he said, "that the Federal Council has a great
  future. Great as Prussia is, we have been able to learn much from
  the small, even from the smallest member of it; they on their
  side have learnt much from us. From my own experience I can say
  that I have made considerable advance in my political education
  by taking part in the sittings of the Council and by the life
  which comes from the friction of five and twenty German centres
  with one another. I beg you do not interfere with the Council. I
  consider it a kind of Palladium for our future, a great guarantee
  for the future of Germany in its present form."

Now, from the peculiar character of the Council arose a very noticeable
omission; just as there was no Upper House (though the Prussian
Conservatives strongly desired to see one), so, also, there was no
Federal Ministry. In every modern State there is a Council formed of the
heads of different administrative departments; this was so universal
that it was supposed to be essential to a constitution. In the German
Empire we search for it in vain; there is only one responsible Minister,
and he is the Chancellor, the representative of Prussia and Chairman of
the Council. The Liberals could not reconcile themselves to this strange
device; they passed it with reluctance in the stress of the moment, but
they have never ceased to protest against it. Again and again, both in
public and in private, we hear the same demand: till we have a
responsible Ministry the Constitution will never work. Two years later a
motion was introduced and passed through the Reichstag demanding the
formation of a Federal Ministry; Bismarck opposed the motion and refused
to carry it out.

He had several reasons for omitting what was apparently almost a
necessary institution. The first was respect for the rights of the
Federal States. If a Ministry, responsible to Parliament, had existed,
the executive power would have been taken away from the Bundesrath, and
the Princes of the smaller States would really have been subjected to
the new organ; the Ministers must have been appointed by the President;
they would have looked to him and to the Reichstag for support, and
would soon have begun to carry out their policy, not by agreement with
the Governments arrived at by technical discussions across the table of
the Council-room, but by orders and decrees based on the will of the
Parliament. This would inevitably have aroused just what Bismarck wished
to avoid. It would have produced a struggle between the central and
local authorities; it would again have thrown the smaller Governments
into opposition to national unity; it would have frightened the southern

His other reasons for opposing the introduction of a Ministry were that
he did not wish to give more power to the Parliament, and above all he
disliked the system of collegiate responsibility.

  "You wish," he said, "to make the Government responsible, and do
  it by introducing a board. I say the responsibility will
  disappear as soon as you do so; responsibility is only there when
  there is a single man who can be brought to task for any
  mistakes.... I consider that in and for itself a Constitution
  which introduces joint ministerial responsibility is a political
  blunder from which every State ought to free itself as soon as it
  can. Anyone who has ever been a Minister and at the head of a
  Ministry, and has been obliged to take resolutions upon his own
  responsibility, ceases at last to fear this responsibility, but
  he does shrink from the necessity of convincing seven people that
  that which he wishes is really right. That is a very different
  work from governing a State."

These reasons are very characteristic of him; the feeling became more
confirmed as he grew older. In 1875 he says:

  "Under no circumstances could I any longer submit to the
  thankless rôle of Minister-President of Prussia in a Ministry
  with joint responsibility, if I were not accustomed, from my old
  affection, to submit to the wishes of my King and Master. So
  thankless, so powerless, and so little responsible is that
  position; one can only be responsible for that which one does of
  one's own will; a board is responsible for nothing."

He always said himself that he would be satisfied with the position of
an English Prime Minister. He was thinking, of course, of the
constitutional right which the Prime Minister has, to appoint and
dismiss his colleagues, which if he has strength of character will, of
course, give him the real control of affairs, and also of the right
which he enjoys of being the sole means by which the views of the
Ministers are represented to the sovereign. In Prussia the
Minister-President had not acquired by habit these privileges, and the
power of the different Ministers was much more equal. In the new
Federation he intended to have a single will directing the whole

The matter is of some interest because of the light it throws on one
side of his character. He was not a man with whom others found it easy
to work; he did not easily brook opposition, and he disliked having to
explain and justify his policy to anyone besides the King. He was not
able to keep a single one of his colleagues throughout his official
career. Even Roon found it often difficult to continue working with him;
he complained of the Hermit of Varzin, "who wishes to do everything
himself, and nevertheless issues the strictest prohibition that he is
never to be disturbed." What suited him best was the position of almost
absolute ruler, and he looked on his colleagues rather as subordinates
than as equals.

But, it will be objected, if there was to be a single will governing the
whole, the government could not be left to the Council; a board
comprising the representatives of twenty States could not really
administer, and in truth the Council was but the veil; behind it is the
all-pervading power of the King of Prussia--and his Minister. The ruler
of Germany was the Chancellor of the Federation; it was he alone that
united and inspired the whole. Let us enumerate his duties. He was sole
Minister to the President of the Confederation (after 1870 to the
Emperor). The President (who was King of Prussia) could declare peace
and war, sign treaties, and appointed all officials, but all his acts
required the signature of the Chancellor, who was thereby Foreign
Minister of the Confederation and had the whole of the patronage. More
than this, he was at the head of the whole internal administration; from
time to time different departments of State were created,--marine,
post-office, finance,--but the men who stood at the head of each
department were not co-ordinate with the Chancellor; they were not his
colleagues, but were subordinates to whom he delegated the work. They
were not immediately responsible to the Emperor, Council, or Reichstag,
but to him; he, whenever he wished, could undertake the immediate
control of each department, he could defend its actions, and was
technically responsible to the Council for any failure. Of course, as a
matter of fact, the different departments generally were left to work
alone, but if at any time it seemed desirable, the Chancellor could
always interfere and issue orders which must be obeyed; if the head of
the department did not agree, then he had nothing to do but resign, and
the Chancellor would appoint his successor.

The Chancellor was, then, the working head of the Government; but it
will be said that his power would be so limited by the interference of
the Emperor, the Council, the Parliament, that he would have no freedom.
The contrary is the truth. There were five different sources of
authority with which he had to deal: the President of the Federation
(the Emperor), who was King of Prussia, the Council, the Prussian
Parliament, the German Parliament, and the Prussian Ministry. Now in the
Council he presided, and also represented the will of Prussia, which
was almost irresistible, for if the Constitution was to work well there
must be harmony of intention between Prussia and the Federal Government;
here therefore he could generally carry out his policy: but in the
Prussian Ministry he spoke as sole Minister of the Federation and the
immense authority he thus enjoyed raised him at once to a position of
superiority to all his colleagues. More than this, he was now free from
the danger of Parliamentary control; it was easier to deal with one
Parliament than two; they had no _locus standi_ for constitutional
opposition to his policy. The double position he held enabled him to
elude all control. Policy was decided in the Council; when he voted
there he acted as representative of the King of Prussia and was bound by
the instructions he received from the Prussian Minister of Foreign
Affairs; the Reichstag had nothing to do with Prussian policy and had no
right to criticise the action of the Prussian Minister. It did not
matter that Bismarck himself was not only Chancellor of the Diet, but
also Minister-President of Prussia and Foreign Minister, and was really
acting in accordance with the instructions he had given to himself[8];
the principle remained,--each envoy to the Diet was responsible, not to
the Reichstag, but to the Government he represented. When, however, he
appeared in the Reichstag to explain and defend the policy adopted by
the Council, then he stood before them as representative not necessarily
of his own policy, but of that which had been decided on by a board in
which he had possibly been outvoted. The Reichstag could reject the
proposal if it were a law or a tax; they could criticise and debate, but
there was no ground on which they could constitutionally demand the
dismissal of the Minister.

Of course Bismarck did not attempt to evade the full moral
responsibility for the policy which he advocated, but he knew that so
long as he had the confidence of the King of Prussia and the majority of
the Allied States, all the power of Parliament could not injure him.

What probably not even he foresaw was that the new Constitution so
greatly added to the power of the Minister that even the authority of
the King began to pale before it. As before, there was only one
department of State where his authority ceased,--the army.

It will be easily understood that this Constitution, when it was laid
before the assembly, was not accepted without much discussion and many
objections. There were some--the representatives of conquered districts,
Poles, Hanoverians, and the deputies from Schleswig-Holstein--who wished
to overthrow the new Federation which was built up on the destruction of
the States to which they had belonged. Theirs was an enmity which was
open, honourable, and easy to meet. More insidious and dangerous was the
criticism of those men who, while they professed to desire the ends
which Bismarck had attained, refused to approve of the Constitution
because they would have to renounce some of the principles of the
parties to which they belonged.

There were some to whom it seemed that he gave too much freedom to the
individual States; they wished for a more complete unity, but now
Bismarck, for the first time, was strong enough to shew the essential
moderation of his character; he knew what the Liberals were ready to
forget, that moderation, while foolish in the moment of conflict, is the
proper adornment of the conqueror. When they asked him to take away many
of the privileges reserved to the smaller States, he reminded them that,
though Mecklenburg and the Saxon duchies were helpless before the
increased power of the Prussian Crown, they were protected by Prussian
promises, and that a King of Prussia, though he might strike down his
enemies, must always fulfil in spirit and in letter his obligations to
his friends. The basis of the new alliance must be the mutual confidence
of the allies; he had taught them to fear Prussia, now they must learn
to trust her.

The Prussian Conservatives feared that the power of the Prussian King
and the independence of the Prussian State would be affected; but
Bismarck's influence with them was sufficient to prevent any open
opposition. More dangerous were the Progressives, who apprehended that
the new Constitution would limit the influence of the Prussian
Parliament. On many points they refused to accept the proposals of the
Government; they feared for liberty. For them Bismarck had no sympathy
and no words but contempt, and he put curtly before them the question,
did they wish to sacrifice all he had attained to their principles of
Parliamentary government? They demanded, for instance, that, as the
Constitution of Prussia could not be altered without the consent of the
Prussian Parliament, the new Federal Constitution must be laid before
the Prussian Parliament for discussion and ratification. It is curious
to notice that this is exactly the same claim which Bismarck in 1852 had
supported as against Radowitz; he had, however, learned much since then;
he pointed out that the same claim which was made by the Prussian
Parliament might be made by the Parliament of each of the twenty-two
States. It was now his duty to defend the unification of Germany against
this new _Particularism_; in old days Particularism found its support in
the dynasties, "now it is," he said, "in the Parliaments.

  "Do you really believe," he said, "that the great movement which
  last year led the peoples to battle from the Belt to the Sicilian
  Sea, from the Rhine to the Pruth and the Dniester, in the throw
  of the iron dice when we played for the crowns of kings and
  emperors, that the millions of German warriors who fought against
  one another and bled on the battle-fields from the Rhine to the
  Carpathians, that the thousands and ten thousands who were left
  dead on the battle-field and struck down by pestilence, who by
  their death have sealed the national decision,--that all this can
  be pigeon-holed by a resolution of Parliament? Gentlemen, in this
  case you really do not stand on the height of the situation.... I
  should like to see the gentlemen who consider this possibility
  answer an invalid from Königgrätz when he asks for the result of
  this mighty effort. You would say to him: 'Yes, indeed, for the
  German unity nothing is achieved, the occasion for that will
  probably come, that we can have easily, we can come to an
  understanding any day, but we have saved the Budget-right of the
  Chamber of Deputies, we have saved the right of the Prussian
  Parliament every year to put the existence of the Prussian army
  in question,' ... and therewith the invalid must console himself
  for the loss of his limbs and the widow as she buries her

It is interesting to compare this speech with the similar speech he made
after Olmütz: how great is the similarity in thought and expression, how
changed is the position of the speaker! He had no sympathy with these
doubts and hesitations; why so much distrust of one another? His
Constitution might not be the best, it might not be perfect, but at
least let it be completed. "Gentlemen," he said, "let us work quickly,
let us put Germany in the saddle; it will soon learn to ride." He was
annoyed and irritated by the opposition he met.

  "If one has struggled hard for five years to achieve that which
  now lies before us, if one has spent one's time, the best years
  of one's life, and sacrificed one's health for it, if one
  remembers the trouble it has cost to decide quite a small
  paragraph, even a question of punctuation, with two and twenty
  Governments, if at last we have agreed on that as it here lies
  before us, then gentlemen who have experienced little of all
  these struggles, and know nothing of the official proceedings
  which have gone before, come forward in a manner which I can only
  compare to that of a man who throws a stone at my window without
  knowing where I stand. He knows not where he hits me, he knows
  not what business he impedes."

He compared himself with Hotspur when after the battle he met the
courtier who came to demand his prisoners, and when wounded and tired
from the fight had to hear a long lecture over instruments of slaughter
and internal wounds.

The debates were continued for two months with much spirit and ability;
again and again a majority of the Parliament voted amendments against
which Bismarck had spoken. When they had completed the revision of the
Constitution, these had again to be referred to the separate
Governments. Forty were adopted; on two only Bismarck informed the
Parliament that their proposals could not be accepted. One of these was
the arrangements for the army Budget; so soon did a fresh conflict on
this matter threaten. A compromise was agreed upon; in consideration of
the immediate danger (it was just the time when a war with France
regarding Luxemburg appeared imminent), the House voted the money
required for the army for the next four years; in 1871 a new arrangement
would have to be made, but for this time the Government was able to
maintain the army at the strength which they wished for. The other
matter was of less immediate importance: the majority of the House had
voted that members of the Parliament should receive payment for their
services. Bismarck had spoken strongly against this; now he made it a
question of confidence, and warned them that the Governments would not
accept it. The House had no alternative except to withdraw their vote.

The Constitution as finally agreed on exists to this day as that of the
German Empire. Notwithstanding the evil forebodings made at the time, it
has worked well for over thirty years.

From the moment that the new State had been created and the new
Constitution adopted, a great change took place in Bismarck's public
position. He was no longer merely the first and ablest servant of
the Prussian King; he was no longer one in the distinguished series
of Prussian Ministers. His position was--let us recognise it
clearly--greater than that of the King and Emperor, for he was truly the
Father of the State: it was his will which had created and his brain
which had devised it; he watched over it with the affection of a father
for his son; none quite understood it but himself; he alone could
authoritatively expound the laws of the Constitution. A criticism of it
was an attack upon himself; opposition to him was scarcely to be
distinguished from treason to the State. Is it not inevitable that as
years went on we should find an increasing intolerance of all rivals,
who wished to alter what he had made, or to take his place as captain of
his ship, and at the same time a most careful and strict regard for the
loyal fulfilment of the law and spirit of the Constitution? From this
time all other interests are laid aside, his whole life is absorbed in
the prosperity of Germany.

Of course Germany did not at once settle down to political rest; there
were many difficulties to be overcome on which we cannot enter here. The
most serious arose from the regulation of the affairs in the conquered
provinces, and especially in the Kingdom of Hanover. The annexation to
Prussia was very unpopular among all classes except the tradesmen and
middle classes of the towns. The Hanoverian deputies to both the
Prussian Parliament and the Parliament of the North German Confederation
on principle opposed all measures of the Government. The King himself,
though in exile, kept up a close connection with his former subjects.
There were long negotiations regarding his private property. At last it
was agreed that this should be paid over to him. The King, however, used
the money for organising a Legion to be used when the time came against
Prussia; it was therefore necessary to cease paying him funds which
could be used for this purpose. This is the origin of the notorious
_Welfenfond_. The money was to be appropriated for secret service and
especially for purposes of the Press. The party of the Guelphs, of
course, maintained a bitter feud against the Government in their papers.
Bismarck, who had had ample experience of this kind of warfare, met them
on their own ground.

He defended this proposal by drawing attention to one of the weaknesses
of Germany. What other country, he asked, was there where a defeated
party would look forward to the help of foreign armies? "There are
unfortunately," he said, "many Coriolani in Germany, only the Volsci are
wanting; if they found their Volsci they would soon be unmasked."
Everyone knew that the Volsci from over the Rhine would not be slow to
come when the occasion offered.

  "It was," he said, "a melancholy result of the centuries of
  disunion. There were traitors in the country; they did not hide
  themselves; they carried their heads erect; they found public
  defenders even in the walls of Parliament."

Then he continued:

  "Everywhere where corruption is found there a form of life begins
  which no one can touch with clean kid gloves. In view of these
  facts you speak to me of espionage. In my nature I am not born to
  be a spy, but I believe we deserve your thanks if we condescend
  to follow malignant reptiles into their cave to observe their

This is the origin of the expression "the _reptile Press,"_ for the name
was given by the people not to those against whom the efforts of the
Government were directed, but to the paid organs to which, if report is
true, so large a portion of the Guelph fund was given.

But we must pass on to the events by which the work of 1866 was to be




Ever since the conclusion of peace, the danger of a conflict between
France and Germany had been apparent. It was not only the growing
discontent and suspicion of the French nation and the French army, who
truly felt that the supremacy of France had been shaken by the growth of
this new power; it was not only that the deep-rooted hatred of France
which prevailed in Germany had been stirred by Napoleon's action, and
that the Germans had received confidence from the consciousness of their
own strength. Had there been nothing more than this, year after year
might have gone by and, as has happened since and had happened before, a
war always anticipated might have been always deferred. We may be sure
that Bismarck would not have gone to war unless he believed it to be
necessary and desirable, and he would not have thought this unless there
was something to be gained. He has often shewn, before and since, that
he was quite as well able to use his powers in the maintenance of peace
as in creating causes for war. There was, however, one reason which
made war almost inevitable. The unity of Germany was only half
completed; the southern States still existed in a curious state of
semi-isolation. This could not long continue; their position must be
regulated. War arises from that state of uncertainty which is always
present when a political community has not found a stable and permanent
constitution. In Germany men were looking forward to the time when the
southern States should join the north. The work was progressing; the
treaties of offensive and defensive alliance had been followed by the
creation of a new Customs' Union, and it was a further step when at
Bismarck's proposal a Parliament consisting of members elected
throughout the whole of Germany was summoned at Berlin for the
management of matters connected with the tariff. Further than this,
however, he was not able to go; the new Constitution was working well;
they could risk welcoming the States of the south into it; but this
could not be done without a war with France. Bismarck had rejected the
French proposal for an alliance. He knew, and everyone else knew, that
France would oppose by the sword any attempt to complete the unity of
Germany; and, which was more serious, unless great caution was used,
that she would be supported by Austria and perhaps by the anti-Prussian
party in Bavaria. There were some who wished to press it forward at
once. Bismarck was very strongly pressed by the National Liberals to
hasten the union with the south; at the beginning of 1870 the Grand Duke
of Baden, himself a son-in-law of the King of Prussia and always the
chief supporter of Prussian influence in the south, formally applied to
be admitted into the Federation. The request had to be refused, but
Bismarck had some difficulty in defending his position against his
enthusiastic friends. He had to warn them not to hurry; they must not
press the development too quickly. If they did so, they would stir the
resentment of the anti-Prussian party; they would play into the hands of
Napoleon and Austria. But if there was danger in haste, there was equal
danger in delay; the prestige of Prussia would suffer.

It is clear that there was one way in which the union might be brought
about almost without resistance, and that was, if France were to make an
unprovoked attack upon Germany, an attack so completely without reason
and excuse that the strong national passion it provoked might in the
enthusiasm of war sweep away all minor differences and party feelings.

There was another element which we must not omit. These years witnessed
the growth in determination and in power of the Ultramontane party. We
can find their influence in every country in Europe; their chief aim was
the preservation of the temporal power of the Pope and the destruction
of the newly created Kingdom of Italy. They were also opposed to the
unity of Germany under Prussia. They were very active and powerful in
South Germany, and at the elections in 1869 had gained a majority. Their
real object must be to win over the Emperor of the French to a complete
agreement with themselves, to persuade him to forsake his earlier
policy and to destroy what he had done so much to create. They had a
strong support in the person of the Empress, and they joined with the
injured vanity of the French to press the Emperor towards war.

In 1867, war had almost broken out on the question of Luxemburg.
Napoleon had attempted to get at least this small extension of
territory; relying on the support of Prussia he entered into
negotiations with the King of Holland; the King agreed to surrender the
Grand Duchy to France, making, however, a condition that Napoleon should
secure the assent of Prussia to this arrangement. At the very last
moment, when the treaty was almost signed, Bismarck made it clear that
the national feeling in Germany was so strong that if the transaction
took place he would have to declare war against France. At the same
time, he published the secret treaties with the southern States. These
events destroyed the last hope of maintaining the old friendly relations
with Napoleon; "I have been duped," said the Emperor, who at once began
reorganising and rearming his forces. For some weeks there was great
danger of war concerning the right of garrisoning Luxemburg; this had
hitherto belonged to Prussia, but of course with the dissolution of the
German Confederation the right had lapsed. The German nation, which was
much excited and thought little of the precise terms of treaties, wished
to defend the right; Bismarck knew that in this matter the Prussian
claim could not be supported; moreover, even if he had wished to go to
war with France he was not ready; for some time must elapse before the
army of the North German Confederation could be reorganised on the
Prussian model. He therefore preserved the peace and the matter was
settled by a European Congress. In the summer of 1867, he visited Paris
with the King; externally the good relations between the two States were
restored, but it was in reality only an armed peace.

It is difficult to decipher Napoleon's wishes; he seems to have believed
that war was inevitable; there is no proof that he desired it. He made
preparations; the army was reorganised, the numbers increased, and a new
weapon introduced. At the same time he looked about for allies.
Negotiations were carried on with Austria; in 1868 a meeting was
arranged between the two Emperors; Beust, who was now Chancellor of the
Austrian Empire, was anxious to make an attempt to overthrow the power
of Prussia in Germany. In 1870, negotiations were entered into for a
military alliance; a special envoy, General Lebrun, was sent to Vienna
to discuss the military arrangements in case of war. No treaty was
signed, but it was an almost understood thing that sooner or later an
alliance between the two Emperors should be formed against Prussia.

It will be seen then that at the beginning of 1870 everything was
tending towards war, and that under certain circumstances war was
desirable, both for France and for Germany; much seemed to depend on the
occasion of the outbreak. If Prussia took the offensive, if she
attempted by force to win the southern States, she would be faced by a
coalition of France and Austria, supported only too probably by Bavaria,
and this was a coalition which would find much sympathy among the
discontented in North Germany. On the other hand, it was for the
advantage of Prussia not to delay the conflict: the King was growing
old; Bismarck could never be sure how long he would remain in office;
moreover, the whole forces of North Germany had now been completely
reorganised and were ready for war, but with the year 1871 it was to be
foreseen that a fresh attempt would be made to reduce their numbers; it
was desirable to avoid a fresh conflict on the military budget;
everything shews that 1870 was the year in which it would be most
convenient for Prussia to fight.

Prussia, at this time, had no active allies on whom she could depend;
Bismarck indeed had secured the neutrality of Russia, but he did not
know that the Czar would come actively to his help; we may feel sure
that he would prefer not to have to call upon Russia for assistance,
for, as we have seen in older days, a war between France and Russia, in
which Germany joined, would be very harmful to Germany. It was in these
circumstances that an opportunity shewed itself of gaining another ally
who would be more subservient than Russia. One of the many revolutions
which had harassed Spain during this century had broken out. Queen
Isabella had lost the throne, and General Prim found himself obliged to
look about for a new sovereign. He applied in vain to all the Catholic
Courts; nobody was anxious to accept an honour coupled with such danger
as ruling over the Spanish people. Among others he applied to Leopold,
hereditary Prince of Hohenzollern, eldest son of that Prince of
Hohenzollern who a few years before had been President of the Prussian
Ministry. The choice seemed a good one: the Prince was an amiable,
courageous man; he was a Catholic; he was, moreover, connected with the
Napoleonic family. His brother had, three years before, been appointed
King of Roumania with Napoleon's good-will.

The proposal was probably made in all good faith; under ordinary
circumstances, the Prince, had he been willing to accept, would have
been a very proper candidate. It was, however, known from the first that
Napoleon would not give his consent, and, according to the comity of
Europe, he had a right to be consulted. Nor can we say that Napoleon was
not justified in opposing the appointment. It has indeed been said that
the Prince was not a member of the Prussian Royal House and that his
connection with Napoleon was really closer than that with the King of
Prussia. This is true, but to lay stress on it is to ignore the very
remarkable voluntary connection which united the two branches of the
House of Hohenzollern. The Prince's father had done what no sovereign
prince in Germany has ever done before or since: out of loyalty to
Prussia he had surrendered his position as sovereign ruler and presented
his dominions to the King of Prussia; he had on this occasion been
adopted into the Royal Family; he had formally recognised the King as
Head of the House, and subjected himself to his authority. More than
this, he had even condescended to accept the position of Prussian
Minister. Was not Napoleon justified if he feared that the son of a man
who had shewn so great an affection to Prussia would not be an agreeable
neighbour on the throne of Spain?

It was in the early spring of 1869 that the first proposals were made to
the Prince; our information as to this is very defective, but it seems
that they were at once rejected. Benedetti's suspicions were, however,
aroused. He heard that a Spanish diplomatist, who had formerly been
Ambassador at Berlin, had again visited the city and had had two
interviews with Bismarck. He feared that perhaps he had some mission
with regard to the Hohenzollern candidature, and, in accordance with
instructions from his Government, enquired first of Thiele and, after a
visit to Paris, saw Bismarck himself. The Count was quite ready to
discuss the matter; with great frankness he explained all the reasons
why, if the throne were offered to the Prince, the King would doubtless
advise him not to accept it. Benedetti was still suspicious, but for the
time the matter dropped. From what happened later, though we have no
proof, we must, I think, share his suspicion that Bismarck was already
considering the proposal and was prepared to lend it his support.

In September of the same year, the affair began to advance. Prim sent
Salazar, a Spanish gentleman, to Germany with a semi-official commission
to invite the Prince to become a candidate, and gave him a letter to a
German acquaintance who would procure him an introduction to the
Prince. This German acquaintance was no other than Herr von Werther,
Prussian Ambassador at Vienna. If we remember the very strict discipline
which Bismarck maintained in the Diplomatic Service we must feel
convinced that Werther was acting according to instructions.[9] He
brought the envoy to the Prince of Hohenzollern; the very greatest
caution was taken to preserve secrecy; the Spaniard did not go directly
to the castle of Weinburg, but left the train at another station, waited
in the town till it was dark, and only approached the castle when hidden
from observation by night and a thick mist. He first of all asked Prince
Charles himself to accept the throne, and when he refused, offered it to
Prince Leopold, who also, though he did not refuse point-blank, left no
doubt that he was disinclined to the proposal; he could only accept, he
said, if the Spanish Government procured the assent of the Emperor
Napoleon and the King of Prussia. Notwithstanding the reluctance of the
family to take the proffered dignity, Herr von Werther (and we must look
on him as Bismarck's agent[9]) a fortnight later travelled from Munich
in order to press on the Prince of Roumania that he should use his
influence not to allow the House of Hohenzollern to refuse the throne.
For the time, however, the subject seems to have dropped. A few months
later, for the third time, the offer was repeated, and now Bismarck uses
the whole of his influence in its favour. At the end of February,
Salazar came on an official mission to Berlin; he had three letters,
one to the King, one to Bismarck, one to the Prince. The King refused to
receive him; Prince Leopold did not waver in his refusal and was
supported by his father; their attitude was that they should not
consider the matter seriously unless higher reasons of State required
it. With Prince Bismarck, however, the envoy was more successful; he had
several interviews with the Minister, and then left the city in order
that suspicions might not be aroused or the attention of the French
Government directed to the negotiations. Bismarck pleaded with great
warmth for the acceptance of the offer; in a memoir to the King, he
dwelt on the great importance which the summons of a Hohenzollern prince
to the Spanish throne would have for Germany; it would be politically
invaluable to have a friendly land in the rear of France; it would be of
the greatest economic advantage for Germany and Spain if this thoroughly
monarchical country developed its resources under a king of German
descent. In consequence of this, a conference was held at Berlin, at
which there were present, besides the King, the Crown Prince, Prince
Carl Anton, and Prince Leopold, Bismarck, Roon, Moltke, Schleinitz,
Thiele, and Delbrück. By summoning the advice of these men, the matter
was taken out of the range of a private and family matter; it is true
that it was not officially brought before the Prussian Ministry, but
those consulted were the men by whom the policy of the State was
directed. The unanimous decision of the councillors was for acceptance
on the ground that it was the fulfilment of a patriotic duty to
Prussia. The Crown Prince saw great difficulties in the way, and warned
his cousin, if he accepted, not to rely on Prussian help in the future,
even if, for the attainment of a definite end, the Prussian Government
furthered the project for the moment. The King did not agree with his
Ministers; he had many serious objections, and refused to give any
definite order to the Prince that he should accept the offer; he left
the final decision to him. He eventually refused.

Bismarck, however, was not to be beaten; he insisted that the
Hohenzollerns should not let the matter drop; and, as he could not
persuade the King to use his authority, acted directly upon the family
with such success that Prince Carl Anton telegraphed to his third son,
Frederick, to ask if he would not accept instead of his brother.
Bismarck had now declared that the acceptance by one of the Princes was
a political necessity; this he said repeatedly and with the greatest
emphasis. At the same time, he despatched a Prussian officer of the
general staff and his private secretary, Lothar Bucher, to Spain in
order that they might study the situation. It was important that as far
as possible the official representative of Prussia should have no share
in the arrangement of this matter.

Prince Frederick came to Berlin, but, like his brother, he refused,
unless the King gave a command. At the end of April, the negotiations
seemed again to have broken down. Bismarck, who was in ill health, left
Berlin for Varzin, where he remained for six weeks.

We are, however, not surprised, since we know that Bismarck's interest
was so strongly engaged, that he was able after all to carry the matter
through. He seems to have persuaded Prince Carl Anton; he then wrote to
Prim telling him not to despair; the candidature was an excellent thing
which was not to be lost sight of; he must, however, negotiate not with
the Prussian Government, but with the Prince himself. When he wrote this
he knew that he had at last succeeded in breaking down the reluctance of
the Prince, and that the King, though he still was unwilling to
undertake any responsibility, would not refuse his consent if the Prince
voluntarily accepted. Prince Leopold was influenced not only by his
interest in the Spanish race, but also by a letter from Bismarck, in
which he said that he ought to put aside all scruples and accept in the
interests of Prussia. The envoys had also returned from Spain and
brought back a favourable report; they received an extraordinarily
hearty welcome; we may perhaps suspect with the King that they had
allowed their report to receive too rosy a colour; no doubt, however,
they were acting in accordance with what they knew were the wishes of
the man who had sent them out. In the beginning of June the decision was
made; Prince Leopold wrote to the King that he accepted the crown which
had been offered to him, since he thereby hoped to do a great service to
his Fatherland. King William immediately answered that he approved of
the decision.

Bismarck then at last was successful. A few days later Don Salazar again
travelled to Germany; this time he brought a formal offer, which was
formally-accepted. The Cortes were then in session; it was arranged that
they should remain at Madrid till his return; the election would then be
at once completed, for a majority was assured. The secrecy had been
strictly maintained; there were rumours indeed, but no one knew of all
the secret interviews; men might suspect, but they could not prove that
it was an intrigue of Bismarck. If the election had once been made the
solemn act of the whole nation, Napoleon would have been confronted with
a _fait accompli_. To have objected would have been most injurious; he
would have had to do, not with Prussia, which apparently was not
concerned, but with the Spanish nation. The feeling of France would not
allow him to acquiesce in the election, but it would have deeply
offended the dignity and pride of Spain had he claimed that the King who
had been formally accepted should, at his demand, be rejected. He could
scarcely have done so without bringing about a war; a war with Spain
would have crippled French resources and diverted their attention from
Prussia; even if a war did not ensue, permanent ill feeling would be
created. It is not difficult to understand the motives by which Bismarck
had been influenced. At the last moment the plan failed. A cipher
telegram from Berlin was misinterpreted in Madrid; and in consequence
the Cortes, instead of remaining in session, were prorogued till the
autumn. All had depended on the election being carried out before the
secret was disclosed; a delay of some weeks must take place, and some
indiscreet words of Salazar disclosed the truth. General Prim had no
course left him but to send to the French Ambassador, to give him
official information as to what had been done and try to calm his

What were Bismarck's motives in this affair? It is improbable that he
intended to use it as a means of bringing about a war with France. He
could not possibly have foreseen the very remarkable series of events
which were to follow, and but for them a war arising out of this would
have been very unwise, for German public opinion and the sympathy of all
the neutral Powers would have been opposed to Prussia, had it appeared
that the Government was disturbing the peace of Europe simply in order
to put a Prussian prince on the throne of Spain contrary to the wishes
of France. He could not ignore German public opinion now as he had done
in old days; he did not want to conquer South Germany, he wished to
attract it. It seems much more probable that he had no very clear
conception of the results which would follow; he did not wish to lose
what might be the means of gaining an ally to Germany and weakening
France. It would be quite invaluable if, supposing there were to be war
(arising from this or other causes), Spain could be persuaded to join in
the attack on France and act the part which Italy had played in 1866.
What he probably hoped for more than anything else was that France would
declare war against Spain; then Napoleon would waste his strength in a
new Mexico; he would no longer be a danger to Germany, and whether
Germany joined in the war or not, she would gain a free hand by the
preoccupation of France. If none of these events happened, it would be
an advantage that some commercial gain might be secured for Germany.

On the whole, the affair is not one which shews his strongest points as
a diplomatist; it was too subtle and too hazardous.

The news aroused the sleeping jealousy of Prussia among the French
people; the suspicion and irritation of the Government was extreme, and
this feeling was not ill-founded. They assumed that the whole matter was
an intrigue of Bismarck's, though, owing to the caution with which the
negotiations had been conducted, they had no proofs. They might argue
that a Prussian prince could not accept such an offer without the
permission of his sovereign, and they had a great cause of complaint
that this permission had been given without any communication with
Napoleon, whom the matter so nearly concerned. The arrangement itself
was not alone the cause of alarm. The secrecy with which it had been
surrounded was interpreted as a sign of malevolence.

Of course they must interfere to prevent the election being completed.
Where, however, were they to address themselves? With a just instinct
they directed their remonstrance, not to Madrid, but to Berlin; they
would thereby appear not to be interfering with the independence of the
Spaniards, but to be acting in self-defence against the insidious
advance of German power.

They could not, however, approach Bismarck; he had retired to Varzin,
to recruit his health; the other Ministers also were absent; the King
was at Ems. It was convenient that at this sudden crisis they should be
away, for it was imperative that the Prussian Government should deny all
complicity. Bismarck must not let it appear that he had any interest in,
or knowledge of, the matter; he therefore remained in the seclusion of

Benedetti also was absent in the Black Forest. On the 4th of July,
therefore, the French _Chargé d'Affaires,_ M. de Sourds, called at the
Foreign Office and saw Herr von Thiele. "Visibly embarrassed," he
writes, "he told me that the Prussian Government was absolutely ignorant
of the matter and that it did not exist for them." This was the only
answer to be got; in a despatch sent on the 11th to the Prussian agents
in Germany, Bismarck repeated the assertion. "The matter has nothing to
do with Prussia. The Prussian Government has always considered and
treated this affair as one in which Spain and the selected candidate are
alone concerned." This was literally true, for it had never been brought
before the Prussian Ministry, and no doubt the records of the office
would contain no allusion to it; the majority of the Ministers were
absolutely ignorant of it.

Of course M. de Sourds did not believe Herr von Thiele's statement, and
his Government was not satisfied with the explanation; the excitement in
Paris was increasing; it was fomented by the agents of the Ministry, and
in answer to an interpolation in the Chamber, the Duc de Grammont on the
6th declared that the election of the Prince was inadmissible; he
trusted to the wisdom of the Prussian and the friendship of the Spanish
people not to proceed in it, but if his hope were frustrated they would
know how to do their duty. They were not obliged to endure that a
foreign Power by setting one of its Princes on the throne of Charles V.
should destroy the balance of power and endanger the interests and
honour of France. He hoped this would not happen; they relied on the
wisdom of the German and the friendship of the Spanish people to avoid
it; but if it were necessary, then, strong in the support of the nation
and the Chamber, they knew how to fulfil their duty without hesitation
or weakness.

The French Ministry hereby publicly declared that they held the Prussian
Government responsible for the election, and they persisted in demanding
the withdrawal, not from Spain, but from Prussia; Prim had suggested
that as the Foreign Office refused to discuss the matter, Grammont
should approach the King personally. Benedetti received instructions to
go to the King at Ems and request him to order or advise the Prince to
withdraw. At first Grammont wished him also to see the Prince himself;
on second thoughts he forbade this, for, as he said, it was of the first
importance that the messages should be conveyed by the King; he was
determined to use the opportunity for the humiliation of Germany.

If it was the desire of the French in this way to establish the
complicity of Prussia, it was imperative that the Prussian Government
should not allow them to do so. They were indeed in a disagreeable
situation; they could not take up the French challenge and allow war to
break out; not only would the feeling of the neutral Powers, of England
and of Russia, be against them, but that of Germany itself would be
divided. With what force would the anti-Prussian party in Bavaria and
Wurtemberg be able to oppose a war undertaken apparently for the
dynastic interests of the Hohenzollern! If, however, the Prince now
withdrew, the French would be able to proclaim that he had done so in
consequence of the open threats of France; supposing they were able to
connect the King in any way with him, then they might assert that they
had checked the ambition of Prussia; Prussian prestige would be
seriously injured at home, and distrust of Prussian good faith would be
aroused abroad.

The King therefore had a difficult task when Benedetti asked for an
interview. He had been brought into this situation against his own will,
and his former scruples seemed fully justified. He complained of the
violence of the French Press and the Ministry; he repeated the assertion
that the Prussian Government had been unconnected with the negotiations
and had been ignorant of them; he had avoided associating himself with
them, and had only given an opinion when Prince Leopold, having decided
to accept, asked his consent. He had then acted, not in his sovereign
capacity as King of Prussia, but as head of the family. He had neither
collected nor summoned his council of Ministers, though he had informed
Count Bismarck privately. He refused to use his authority to order the
Prince to withdraw, and said that he would leave him full freedom as he
had done before.

These statements were of course verbally true; probably the King did not
know to what extent Bismarck was responsible for the acceptance by the
Prince. They did not make the confidence of the French any greater; it
was now apparent that the King had been asked, and had given his consent
without considering the effect on France; they could not acquiesce in
this distinction between his acts as sovereign and his acts as head of
the family, for, as Benedetti pointed out, he was only head of the
family because he was sovereign.

All this time Bismarck was still at Varzin; while Paris was full of
excitement, while there were hourly conferences of the Ministers and the
city was already talking of war, the Prussian Ministers ostentatiously
continued to enjoy their holidays. There was no danger in doing so; the
army was so well prepared that they could afford quietly to await what
the French would do. What Bismarck's plans and hopes were we do not
know; during these days he preserved silence; the violence of the French
gave him a further reason for refusing to enter into any discussion.
When, however, he heard of Benedetti's visit to Ems he became uneasy; he
feared that the King would compromise himself; he feared that the French
would succeed in their endeavour to inflict a diplomatic defeat on
Prussia. He proposed to go to Ems to support the King, and on the 12th
left Varzin; that night he arrived in Berlin. There he received the news
that the Prince of Hohenzollern, on behalf of his son, had announced
his withdrawal.

The retirement was probably the spontaneous act of the Prince and his
father; the decisive influence was the fear lest the enmity of Napoleon
might endanger the position of the Prince of Roumania. Everyone was
delighted; the cloud of war was dispelled; two men only were
dissatisfied--Bismarck and Grammont. It was the severest check which
Bismarck's policy had yet received; he had persuaded the Prince to
accept against his will; he had persuaded the King reluctantly to keep
the negotiations secret from Napoleon; however others might disguise the
truth, he knew that they had had to retreat from an untenable position,
and retreat before the noisy insults of the French Press and the open
menace of the French Government; his anger was increased by the fact
that neither the King nor the Prince had in this crisis acted as he
would have wished.

We have no authoritative statement as to the course he himself would
have pursued; he had, according to his own statement, advised the King
not to receive the French Ambassador; probably he wished that the Prince
should declare that as the Spaniards had offered him the crown and he
had accepted it, he could not now withdraw unless he were asked to do so
by Spain; the attempt of Grammont to fasten a quarrel on Prussia would
have been deprived of any responsible pretext; he would have been
compelled to bring pressure to bear on the Spaniards, with all the
dangers that that course would involve. We may suspect that he had
advised this course and that his advice had been rejected. However this
may be, Bismarck felt the reverse so keenly that it seemed to him
impossible he could any longer remain Minister, unless he could obtain
redress for the insults and menaces of France. What prospect was there
now of this? It was no use now going on to Ems; he proposed to return
next day to Varzin, and he expected that when he did so he would be once
more a private man.

He was to be saved by the folly of the French. Grammont, vain, careless,
and inaccurate, carried away by his hatred of Prussia, hot-headed and
blustering, did not even see how great an advantage he had gained. When
Guizot, now a very old man, living in retirement, heard that the Prince
had withdrawn, he exclaimed: "What good fortune these people have! This
is the finest diplomatic victory which has been won in my lifetime."
This is indeed the truth; how easy it would have been to declare that
France had spoken and her wishes had been fulfilled! the Government need
have said no more, but every Frenchman would have always told the story
how Bismarck had tried to put a Hohenzollern on the throne of Spain, had
been foiled by the word of the Emperor, and had been driven from office.
Grammont prepared to complete the humiliation of Prussia, and in doing
so he lost all and more than all he had won.

He had at first declared that the withdrawal of the Prince was worthless
when it was officially communicated to him by Prussia; now he extended
his demands. He suggested to the Prussian Ambassador at Paris that the
King should write to the Emperor a letter, in which he should express
his regret for what had happened and his assurance that he had had no
intention of injuring France. To Benedetti he telegraphed imperative
orders that he was to request from the King a guarantee for the future,
and a promise that he would never again allow the Prince to return to
the candidature. It was to give himself over to an implacable foe. As
soon as Bismarck heard from Werther of the first suggestion, he
telegraphed to him a stern reprimand for having listened to demands so
prejudicial to the honour of his master, and ordered him, under the
pretext of ill health, to depart from Paris and leave a post for which
he had shewn himself so ill-suited.

That same morning he saw Lord Augustus Loftus, and he explained that the
incident was not yet closed; Germany, he said, did not wish for war, but
they did not fear it. They were not called on to endure humiliations
from France; after what had happened they must have some security for
the future; the Duc de Grammont must recall or explain the language he
had used; France had begun to prepare for war and that would not be

  "It is clear," writes the English Ambassador, "that Count
  Bismarck and the Prussian Ministry regret the attitude which the
  King has shewn to Count Benedetti, and feel, in regard to public
  opinion, the necessity of guarding the honour of the nation."

To the Crown Prince, who had come to Berlin, Bismarck was more open; he
declared that war was necessary.

This very day there were taking place at Ems events which were to give
him the opportunity for which he longed. On Benedetti had fallen the
task of presenting the new demands to the King; it was one of the most
ungrateful of the many unpleasant duties which had been entrusted to him
during the last few years. In the early morning, he went out in the hope
that he might see someone of the Court; he met the King, himself who was
taking the waters. The King at once beckoned to him, entered into
conversation, and shewed him a copy of the _Cologne Gazette_ containing
the statement of the Prince's withdrawal. Benedetti then, as in duty
bound, asked permission to inform his Government that the King would
undertake that the candidature should not be resumed at any time. The
King, of course, refused, and, when Benedetti pressed the request,
repeated the refusal with some emphasis, and then, beckoning to his
adjutant, who had withdrawn a few paces, broke off the conversation.
When a few hours later the King received a letter from the Prince of
Hohenzollern confirming the public statement, he sent a message to
Benedetti by his aide-decamp, Count Radziwill, and added to it that
there would now be nothing further to say, as the incident was closed.
Benedetti twice asked for another interview, but it was refused.

He had done his duty, he had made his request, as he expected, in vain,
but between him and the King there had been no departure by word or
gesture from the ordinary courtesy which we should expect from these
two accomplished gentlemen. All the proceedings indeed had been unusual,
for it was not the habit of the King, as it was of Napoleon, to receive
foreign envoys except on the advice of his Ministers, and the last
conversation had taken place on the public promenade of the fashionable
watering-place; but the exception had been explained and justified by
the theory that the King's interest in the affair was domestic and not
political. Both were anxious to avoid war, and the King to the last
treated Benedetti with marked graciousness; he had while at Ems invited
him to the royal table, and even now, the next morning before leaving
Ems, granted him an audience, at the station to take leave.
Nevertheless, he had been seriously annoyed by this fresh demand; he was
pained and surprised by the continuance of the French menaces; he could
not but fear that there was a deliberate intention to force a quarrel on
him. He determined, therefore, to return to Berlin, and ordered Abeken,
Secretary to the Foreign Office, who was with him, to telegraph to
Bismarck an account of what had taken place, with a suggestion that the
facts should be published.

It happened that Bismarck, when the telegram arrived, was dining with
Roon and Moltke, who had both been summoned to Berlin. The three men
were gloomy and depressed; they felt that their country had been
humiliated, and they saw no prospect of revenge. This feeling was
increased when Bismarck read aloud the telegram to his two colleagues.
These repeated and impatient demands, this intrusion on the King's
privacy, this ungenerous playing with his kindly and pacific
disposition, stirred their deepest indignation; to them it seemed that
Benedetti had been treated with a consideration he did not deserve; the
man who came with these proposals should have been repulsed with more
marked indignation. But in the suggestion that the facts should be
published, Bismarck saw the opportunity he had wished. He went into the
next room and drafted a statement; he kept to the very words of the
original telegram, but he left out much, and arranged it so that it
should convey to the reader the impression, not of what had really
occurred, but of what he would have wished should happen. With this he
returned, and as he read it to them, Roon and Moltke brightened; here at
last was an answer to the French insults; before, it sounded like a
"Chamade" (a retreat), now it is a "Fanfare," said Moltke. "That is
better," said Roon. Bismarck asked a few questions about the army. Roon
assured him that all was prepared; Moltke, that, though no one could
ever foretell with certainty the result of a great war, he looked to it
with confidence; they all knew that with the publication of this
statement the last prospect of peace would be gone. It was published
late that night in a special edition of the _North German Gazette_, and
at the same time a copy was sent from the Foreign Office to all German
embassies and legations.

It is not altogether correct to call this (as has often been done) a
falsification of the telegram. Under no circumstances could Bismarck
have published in its original form the confidential message to him
from his sovereign; all he had to do was to communicate to the
newspapers the facts of which he had been informed, or so much of the
facts as it seemed to him desirable that the public should know. He, of
course, made the selection in such a form as to produce upon public
opinion the particular effect which for the purposes of his policy he
wished. What to some extent justifies the charge is that the altered
version was published under the heading, "Ems." The official statement
was supplemented by another notice in the _North German Gazette_, which
was printed in large type, and stated that Benedetti had so far
forgotten all diplomatic etiquette that he had allowed himself to
disturb the King in his holidays, to intercept him on the promenade, and
to attempt to force demands upon him. This was untrue, but on this point
the telegram to Bismarck had been itself incorrect. Besides this,
Bismarck doubtless saw to it that the right instructions should be given
to the writers for the Press.

But, indeed, this was hardly necessary; the statement itself was a call
to arms. During all these days the German people had been left almost
without instruction or guidance from the Government; they had heard with
astonishment the sudden outbreak of Gallic wrath; they were told, and
were inclined to believe it, that the Prussian Government was innocent
of the hostile designs attributed to it; and the calm of the Government
had communicated itself to them. They remained quiet, but they were
still uneasy, they knew not what to think; now all doubt was removed.
It was then true that with unexampled eagerness the French had fastened
an alien quarrel upon them, had without excuse or justification advanced
from insult to insult and menace to menace; and now, to crown their
unparalleled acts, they had sent this foreigner to intrude on the
reserve of the aged King, and to insult him publicly in his own country.
Then false reports came from Ems; it was said that the King had publicly
turned his back on Benedetti on the promenade, that the Ambassador had
followed the King to his house, and had at last been shewn the door, but
that even then he had not scrupled again to intrude on the King at the
railway station.[10] From one end of Germany to another a storm of
indignation arose; they had had enough of this French annoyance; if the
French wished for war then war should they have; now there could no
longer be talk of Prussian ambition; all differences of North and South
were swept away; wherever the German tongue was spoken men felt that
they had been insulted in the person of the King, that it was theirs to
protect his honour, and from that day he reigned in their hearts as
uncrowned Emperor.

The telegram was as successful in France as in Germany. There the
question of peace and war was still in debate; there was a majority for
peace, and indeed there was no longer an excuse for war which would
satisfy even a Frenchman. Then there came in quick succession the
recall and disavowment of the Prussian Ambassador, news of the serious
language Bismarck had used to Lord A. Loftus, and then despatches from
other Courts that an official message had been sent from Berlin carrying
the record of an insult offered to the King by the French Ambassador;
add to this the changed tone of the German Press, the enthusiasm with
which the French challenge had been taken up; they could have no doubt
that they had gone too far; they would now be not the accuser but the
accused; had they wished, they did not dare retreat with the fear of the
Paris mob before them, and so they decided on war, and on the 15th the
official statement was made and approved in the Chamber.

It was on this same day that the King travelled from Ems to Berlin. When
he left Ems he still refused to believe in the serious danger of war,
but as he travelled north and saw the excited crowd that thronged to
meet him at every station his own belief was almost overthrown. To his
surprise, when he reached Brandenburg he found Bismarck and the Crown
Prince awaiting him; the news that they had come to meet the King was
itself looked on almost as a declaration of war; all through the return
journey Bismarck unsuccessfully tried to persuade his master to give the
order for mobilisation. When they reached Berlin they found the station
again surrounded by a tumultuous throng; through it pressed one of the
secretaries of the Foreign Office; he brought the news that the order
for mobilisation had been given in France. Then, at last, the
reluctance of the King was broken down; he gave the order, and at once
the Crown Prince, who was standing near, proclaimed the news to all
within earshot. The North German Parliament was summoned, and five days
later Bismarck was able to announce to them that he had received the
Declaration of War from France, adding as he did so that this was the
first official communication which throughout the whole affair he had
received from the French Government, a circumstance for which there was
no precedent in history.

What a contrast is there between the two countries! On the one hand, a
King and a Minister who by seven years of loyal co-operation have learnt
to trust and depend upon one another, who together have faced danger,
who have not shrunk from extreme unpopularity, and who, just for this
reason, can now depend on the absolute loyalty of the people. On the
other side, the Emperor broken in health, his will shattered by
prolonged pain and sickness, trying by the introduction of liberal
institutions to free himself from the burden of government and weight of
responsibility which he had voluntarily taken upon his shoulders. At
Berlin, Bismarck's severity and love of power had brought it about that
the divergent policy and uncertainty of early years had ceased; there
was one mind and one will directing this State; the unauthorised
interference and amateur criticism of courtiers were no longer
permitted. In France, all the evils from which Prussia had been freed by
Bismarck were increasing; here there was no single will; the Ministry
were divided, there was no authority over them; no one could foresee by
whom the decision of the Emperor would be determined; the deliberate
results of long and painful negotiations might be overthrown in ten
minutes by the interference of the Empress or the advice of Prince
Napoleon. The Emperor would pursue half a dozen inconsistent policies in
as many hours. And then, below all, there was this fatal fact, that
Napoleon could not venture to be unpopular. He knew the folly of the
course into which he was being driven, but he did not dare to face the
mob of Paris, or to defy the Chamber of Deputies. He owed his throne to
universal suffrage, and he knew that the people who had set him up could
quickly overthrow him. No man can ever govern who fears unpopularity.
Bismarck did not, Napoleon did.

Before the campaign began, two events took place which we must record.
The first was the publication in the _Times_ of the text of the treaty
with France regarding Belgium. We need not add anything further to what
we have said regarding it; published at this moment it had a great
effect on English public opinion. The other arose out of the opposition
which the exiled King of Hanover had continued to maintain. He had used
the very large sums of money which he possessed to keep together a
Hanoverian Legion, recruited from former officers and soldiers of the
Hanoverian army. He had hoped that war would break out before this and
would be accompanied by a rising in Hanover. His means had now come to
an end, and the unfortunate men were living in Paris almost without
support. They were now exposed to a terrible alternative. They could not
return to Germany; they did not wish to take part in a war on the French
side. Their only hope was emigration to America. Bismarck heard of their
position; he offered to pardon them all and to pay to them from the
Prussian funds the full pension which they would have received had they
continued to serve in the Hanoverian army. It was a timely act of
generosity, and it had the effect that the last element of hostility in
Germany was stilled and the whole nation could unite as one man in this
foreign war.

NOTE.--In this chapter, besides the ordinary authorities, I have
depended largely on the memoirs of the King of Roumania. Bismarck, in
his own memoirs, states that the writer was not accurately informed; but
even if there are some errors in detail, the remarkable statements
contained in this work must command belief until they are fully
contradicted and disproved. There has, I believe, been no attempt to do




On July 31, 1870, Bismarck left Berlin with the King for the seat of
war, for, as in 1866, he was to accompany the army in the field. For the
next few months indeed Germany was to be governed from the soil of
France, and it was necessary for the Minister to be constantly with the
King. Bismarck never forgot that he was a soldier; he was more proud of
his general's uniform than of his civil rank, and, though not a
combatant, it was his pride and pleasure that he should share something
of the hardships and dangers of war. He was as a matter of fact never so
well as during the campaign: the early hours, the moderate and at times
meagre food, the long hours in the saddle and the open air, restored the
nerves and health which had been injured by the annoyances of office,
late hours, and prolonged sedentary work. He was accompanied by part of
the staff of the Foreign Office, and many of the distinguished strangers
who followed the army were often guests at his table; he especially
shewed his old friendliness for Americans: General Sheridan and many
others of his countrymen found a hearty welcome from the Chancellor.

It was not till the 17th of August that the headquarters came up with
the fighting front of the army; but the next day, during the decisive
battle of Gravelotte, Bismarck watched the combat by the side of the
King, and, as at Königgrätz, they more than once came under fire. At one
period, Bismarck was in considerable danger of being taken prisoner. His
two sons were serving in the army; they were dragoons in the Cuirassiers
of the Guards, serving in the ranks in the same regiment whose uniform
their father was entitled to wear. They both took part in the terrible
cavalry charge at Mars-la-Tour, in which their regiment suffered so
severely; the eldest, Count Herbert, was wounded and had to be invalided
home. Bismarck could justly boast that there was no nepotism in the
Prussian Government when his two sons were serving as privates. It was
not till the war had gone on some weeks and they had taken part in many
engagements, that they received their commissions. This would have
happened in no other country or army. This was the true equality, so
different from the exaggerated democracy of France,--an equality not of
privilege but of obligation; every Pomeranian peasant who sent his son
to fight and die in France knew that the sons of the most powerful man
in the country and in Europe were fighting with them not as officers but
as comrades. Bismarck was more fortunate than his friends in that
neither of his sons--nor any of his near relatives--lost his life;
Roon's second son fell at Sedan, and the bloody days of Mars-la-Tour and
Gravelotte placed in mourning nearly every noble family in Prussia.

From Gravelotte to Sedan he accompanied the army, and he was by the
King's side on that fatal day when the white flag was hoisted on the
citadel of Sedan, and the French general came out of the town with the
message that Napoleon, having in vain sought death at the head of his
troops, placed his sword in the hands of the King of Prussia.

The surrender of Sedan was a military event, and the conditions had to
be arranged between Moltke and Wimpffen, who had succeeded MacMahon in
command, but Bismarck was present at the conference, which was held in
his quarters, in case political questions arose. As they rode down
together to Doncheroy he and Moltke had agreed that no terms could be
offered except the unconditional surrender of the whole army, the
officers alone being allowed to retain their swords. Against these
conditions Wimpffen and his companions struggled long, but in vain.
Moltke coldly assured them that they could not escape, and that it would
be madness to begin the fight again; they were surrounded; if the
surrender were not complete by four o'clock the next morning the
bombardment of the town would begin. Wimpffen suggested that it would be
more politic of the Germans to show generosity; they would thereby earn
the gratitude of France, and this might be made the beginning of a
lasting peace; otherwise what had they to look forward to but a long
series of wars? Now was the time for Bismarck to interfere; it was
impossible, he declared, to reckon on the gratitude of nations; at times
men might indeed build with confidence on that of a sovereign and his
family; "but I repeat, nothing can be expected from the gratitude of a
nation." Above all was this true of France. "The Governments there have
so little power, the changes are so quick and so unforeseen, that there
is nothing on which one can rely." Besides, it would be absurd to
imagine that France would ever forgive us our successes. "You are an
irritable and jealous people, envious and jealous to the last degree.
You have not forgiven us Sadowa, and would you forgive us Sedan? Never."

They could not therefore modify the terms in order to win the gratitude
and friendship of France; they might have done so had there been
prospects of immediate peace. One of the officers, General Castelnau,
announced that he had a special message from Napoleon, who had sent his
sword to the King and surrendered in the hope that the King would
appreciate the sacrifice and grant a more honourable capitulation.
"Whose sword is it that the Emperor Napoleon has surrendered?" asked
Bismarck; "is it the sword of France or his own? If it is the sword of
France the conditions can be greatly softened; your message would have
an extraordinary importance." He thought and he hoped that the Emperor
wished to sue for peace, but it was not so. "It is only the sword of the
Emperor," answered the General. "All then remains as it was," said
Moltke; he insisted on his demands; Wimpffen asked at least that time
might be allowed him to return to Sedan and consult his colleagues. He
had only come from Algeria two days before; he could not begin his
command by signing so terrible a surrender. Even this Moltke refused.
Then Wimpffen declared the conference ended; rather than this they would
continue the battle; he asked that his horses might be brought. A
terrible silence fell on the room; Moltke, with Bismarck by his side,
stood cold and impenetrable, facing the three French officers; their
faces were lighted by two candles on the table; behind stood the
stalwart forms of the German officers of the staff, and from the walls
of the room looked down the picture of Napoleon I. Then again Bismarck
interfered; he begged Wimpffen not in a moment of pique to take a step
which must have such horrible consequences; he whispered a few words to
Moltke, and procured from him a concession; hostilities should not be
renewed till nine o'clock the next morning. Wimpffen might return to
Sedan and report to the Emperor and his colleagues.

It was past midnight when the conference broke up; before daybreak
Bismarck was aroused by a messenger who announced that the Emperor had
left Sedan and wished to see him. He hastily sprang up, and as he was,
unwashed, without breakfast, in his undress uniform, his old cap, and
his high boots, shewing all the marks of his long day in the saddle, he
mounted his horse and rode down to the spot near the highroad where the
Emperor in his carriage, accompanied by three officers and attended by
three more on horseback, awaited him. Bismarck rode quickly up to him,
dismounted, and as he approached saluted and removed his cap, though
this was contrary to etiquette, but it was not a time when he wished
even to appear to be wanting in courtesy. Napoleon had come to plead for
the army; he wished to see the King, for he hoped that in a personal
interview he might extract from him more favourable terms. Bismarck was
determined just for this reason that the sovereigns should not meet
until the capitulation was signed; he answered, therefore, that it was
impossible, as the King was ten miles away. He then accompanied the
Emperor to a neighbouring cottage; there in a small room, ten feet
square, containing a wooden table and two rush chairs, they sat for some
time talking; afterwards they came down and sat smoking in front of the

  "A wonderful contrast to our last meeting in the Tuileries,"
  wrote Bismarck to his wife. "Our conversation was difficult, if I
  was to avoid matters which would be painful to the man who had
  been struck down by the mighty hand of God. He first lamented
  this unhappy war, which he said he had not desired; he had been
  forced into it by the pressure of public opinion. I answered that
  with us also no one, least of all the King, had wished for the
  war. We had looked on the Spanish affair as Spanish and not as

The Emperor asked for more favourable terms of surrender, but Bismarck
refused to discuss this with him; it was a military question which must
be settled between Moltke and Wimpffen. On the other hand, when
Bismarck enquired if he were inclined for negotiations for peace,
Napoleon answered that he could not discuss this; he was a prisoner of
war and could not treat; he referred Bismarck to the Government in

This meeting had therefore no effect on the situation. Bismarck
suggested that the Emperor should go to the neighbouring Château of
Belle Vue, which was not occupied by wounded; there he would be able to
rest. Thither Bismarck, now in full uniform (for he had hurried back to
his own quarters), accompanied him, and in the same house the
negotiations of the previous evening were continued; Bismarck did not
wish to be present at them, for, as he said, the military men could be
harsher; and so gave orders that after a few minutes he should be
summoned out of the room by a message that the King wished to see him.
After the capitulation was signed, he rode up with Moltke to present it
to the King, who received it on the heights whence he had watched the
battle, surrounded by the headquarters staff and all the princes who
were making the campaign. Then, followed by a brilliant cavalcade, he
rode down to visit the captive sovereign.

Bismarck would at this time willingly have made peace, but there was no
opportunity of opening negotiations and it is doubtful whether even his
influence would have been able successfully to combat the desire of the
army to march on Paris. On September 4th, the march, which had been
interrupted ten days before, was begun. Immediately afterwards news came
which stopped all hopes of a speedy peace. How soon was his warning as
to the instability of French Governments to be fulfilled! A revolution
had broken out in Paris, the dethronement of the Emperor had been
proclaimed, and a Provisional Government instituted. They at once
declared that they were a government of national defence, they would not
rest till the invaders were driven from the land, they appealed to the
memories of 1792. They were indeed ready to make peace, for the war,
they said, had been undertaken not against France but against the
Emperor; the Emperor had fallen, a free France had arisen; they would
make peace, but they would not yield an inch of their country or a stone
of their fortresses. With great energy they prepared the defence of
Paris and the organisation of new armies; M. Thiers was instructed to
visit the neutral Courts and to beg for the support of Europe.

Under these circumstances it was Bismarck's duty to explain the German
view; he did so in two circular notes of September 13th and September
16th. He began by expounding those principles he had already expressed
to Wimpffen, principles which had already been communicated by his
secretaries to the German Press and been repeated in almost every paper
of the country. The war had not been caused by the Emperor; it was the
nation which was responsible for it. It had arisen from the intolerance
of the French character, which looked on the prosperity of other nations
as an insult to themselves. They must expect the same feeling to

  "We cannot seek guarantees for the future in French feeling. We
  must not deceive ourselves; we must soon expect a new attack; we
  cannot look forward to a lasting peace, and this is quite
  independent of the conditions we might impose on France. It is
  their defeat which the French nation will never forgive. If now
  we were to withdraw from France without any accession of
  territory, without any contribution, without any advantage but
  the glory of our arms, there would remain in the French nation
  the same hatred, the same spirit of revenge, for the injury done
  to their vanity and to their love of power."

Against this they must demand security; the demand was addressed not to
any single Government but to the nation as a whole; South Germany must
be protected from the danger of French attack; they would never be safe
so long as Strasburg and Metz were in French hands; Strasburg was the
gate of Germany; restored to Germany, these cities would regain their
defensive character. Twenty times had France made war on Germany, but
from Germany no danger of disturbance to the peace of Europe was to be

For the first time he hereby officially stated that Germany would not
make peace without some accession of territory; that this would be the
case, everyone had known since the beginning of the war. At a council of
war directly after Gravelotte it was determined to require Alsace; after
Sedan the terms naturally rose. The demand for at least some territory
was indeed inevitable. The suggestion that from confidence in the
peaceful and friendly character of the French nation they should
renounce all the advantages gained by their unparalleled victories
scarcely deserved serious consideration. Had the French been successful
they would have taken all the left bank of the Rhine; this was actually
specified in the draft treaty which General Le Brun had presented to the
Emperor of Austria. What claim had France to be treated with a leniency
which she has never shewn to any conquered enemy? Bismarck had to meet
the assumption that France was a privileged and special land; that she
had freedom to conquer, pillage, and divide the land of her neighbours,
but that every proposal to win back from her what she had taken from
others was a crime against humanity.

So long as the Provisional Government adopted the attitude that they
would not even consider peace on the basis of some surrender of
territory, there was no prospect of any useful negotiations. The armies
must advance, and beneath the walls of Paris the struggle be fought out
to its bitter end. Bismarck meanwhile treated the Government with great
reserve. They had no legal status; as he often pointed out, the Emperor
was still the only legal authority in France, and he would be quite
prepared to enter into negotiations with him. When by the medium of the
English Ambassador they asked to be allowed to open negotiations for an
armistice and discuss the terms of peace, he answered by the question,
what guarantee was there that France or the armies in Metz and Strasburg
would recognise the arrangements made by the present Government in
Paris, or any that might succeed it? It was a quite fair question; for
as events were to shew, the commander of the army in Metz refused to
recognise them, and wished to restore the Emperor to the throne; and the
Government themselves had declared that they would at once be driven
from power if they withdrew from their determination not to accept the
principle of a cession of territory. They would be driven from power by
the same authority to which they owed their existence,--the mob of
Paris; it was the mob of Paris which, from the beginning, was really
responsible for the war. What use was there in a negotiation in which
the two parties had no common ground? None the less Bismarck consented
to receive M. Jules Favre, who held the portfolio of Foreign Affairs,
and who at the advice of Lord Lyons came out from Paris, even at the
risk of a rebuff, to see if by a personal interview he might not be able
to influence the German Chancellor. "It is well at least to see what
sort of man he is," was the explanation which Bismarck gave; but as the
interview was not strictly official he did not, by granting it, bind
himself to recognise Favre's authority.

Jules Favre met Bismarck on September 18th. They had a long conversation
that evening, and it was continued the next day at Ferneres, Baron
Rothschild's house, in which the King was at that time quartered. The
French envoy did not make a favourable impression; a lawyer by
profession, he had no experience in diplomatic negotiations; vain,
verbose, rhetorical, and sentimental, his own report of the interview
which he presented to his colleagues in Paris is sufficient evidence of
his incapacity for the task he had taken upon himself. "He spoke to me
as if I were a public meeting," said Bismarck afterwards, using an
expression which in his mouth was peculiarly contemptuous, for he had a
platonic dislike of long speeches. But let us hear Favre himself:

  "Although fifty-eight years of, age Count Bismarck appeared to be
  in full vigour. His tall figure, his powerful head, his strongly
  marked features gave him an aspect both imposing and severe,
  tempered, however, by a natural simplicity amounting to
  good-nature. His manners were courteous and grave, and quite free
  from stiffness or affectation. As soon as the conversation
  commenced he displayed a communicativeness and good-will which he
  preserved while it lasted. He certainly regarded me as a
  negotiator unworthy of him and he had the politeness not to let
  this be seen, and appeared interested by my sincerity. I was
  struck with the clearness of his ideas, his vigorous good sense,
  and his originality of mind. His freedom from all pretensions was
  no less remarkable."

It is interesting to compare with this the account given by another
Frenchman of one of the later interviews between the two men[11]:

  "The negotiations began seriously and quietly. The Chancellor
  said simply and seriously what he wanted with astonishing
  frankness and admirable logic. He went straight to the mark and
  at every turn he disconcerted Jules Favre, who was accustomed to
  legal quibbles and diplomatic jobbery, and did not in the least
  understand the perfect loyalty of his opponent or his superb
  fashion of treating questions, so different from the ordinary
  method. The Chancellor expressed himself in French with a
  fidelity I have never met with except among the Russians. He made
  use of expressions at once elegant and vigorous, finding the
  proper word to describe an idea or define a situation without
  effort or hesitation."

  "I was at the outset struck by the contrast between the two
  negotiators. Count Bismarck wore the uniform of the White
  Cuirassiers, white tunic, white cap, and yellow band. He looked
  like a giant. In his tight uniform, with his broad chest and
  square shoulders and bursting with health and strength, he
  overwhelmed the stooping, thin, tall, miserable-looking lawyer
  with his frock coat, wrinkled all over, and his white hair
  falling over his collar. A look, alas, at the pair was sufficient
  to distinguish between the conqueror and the conquered, the
  strong and the weak."

This, however, was four months later, when Jules Favre was doubtless
much broken by the anxieties of his position, and perhaps also by the
want of sufficient food, and Comte d'Hérisson is not an impartial
witness, for, though a patriotic Frenchman, he was an enemy of the

Bismarck in granting the interview had said that he would not discuss an
armistice, but only terms of peace. For the reasons we have explained,
Favre refused to listen even to the proposition of the only terms which
Bismarck was empowered to bring forward. The Chancellor explained those
ideas with which we are already acquainted: "Strasburg," he said, "is
the key of our house and we must have it." Favre protested that he could
not discuss conditions which were so dishonourable to France. On this
expression we need only quote Bismarck's comment:

  "I did not succeed in convincing him that conditions, the
  fulfilment of which France had required from Italy, and demanded
  from Germany without having been at war, conditions which France
  would undoubtedly have imposed upon us had we been defeated and
  which had been the result of nearly every war, even in the latest
  time, could not have anything dishonourable in themselves for a
  country which had been defeated after a brave resistance, and
  that the honour of France was not of a different kind to that of
  other countries."

It was impossible to refuse to discuss terms of an armistice; as in 1866
the military authorities objected to any kind of armistice because from
a military point of view any cessation of hostilities must be an
advantage to France; it would enable them to continue their preparations
and get together new armies, while Germany would have the enormous
expense of maintaining 500,000 men in a foreign country. Bismarck
himself from a political point of view also knew the advantage of
bringing the war to a rapid close, while the moral effect of the great
victories had not been dissipated. However, France had no Government; a
legal Government could not be created without elections, and Favre
refused to consider holding elections during the progress of
hostilities. After a long discussion Bismarck, other suggestions being
rejected, offered an armistice on condition that the war should
continue round Metz and Paris, but that Toul and Strasburg should be
surrendered and the garrison of Strasburg made prisoners of war. "The
towns would anyhow fall into our hands," he said; "it is only a question
of engineering." "At these words," says Favre, "I sprang into the air
from pain and cried out, 'You forget that you speak to a Frenchman. To
sacrifice an heroic garrison which is the object of our admiration and
that of the world would be a cowardice. I do not promise even to say
that you have offered such a condition.'" Bismarck said that he had no
wish to offend him; if the King allowed it the article might be
modified; he left the room, and after a quarter of an hour returned,
saying that the King would accept no alteration on this point. "My
powers were exhausted," writes Favre; "I feared for a moment that I
should fall down; I turned away to overcome the tears which choked me,
and, while I excused myself for this involuntary weakness, I took leave
with a few simple words." He asked Bismarck not to betray his weakness.
The Count, who seems really to have been touched by the display of
emotion, attempted in some sort of way to console him, but a few days
later his sympathy was changed into amusement when he found that the
tears which he had been asked to pass over in silence were paraded
before the people of Paris to prove the patriotism of the man. "He may
have meant it," said Bismarck, "but people ought not to bring sentiment
into politics."

The terms which Bismarck had offered were as a matter of fact not at
all harsh; a week later the garrison of Strasburg had become prisoners
of war; had the French accepted the armistice and begun negotiations for
peace they would probably, though they could not have saved Strasburg
and Alsace, have received far better terms than those to which they had
to assent four months later.

Bismarck in refusing to recognise the Provisional Government always
reminded them that the Emperor was still the only legitimate Government
in France. He professed that he was willing to negotiate with the
Emperor, and often talked of releasing him from his confinement in
Germany, coming to terms with Bazaine, and allowing the Emperor at the
head of the army at Metz to regain his authority in France. We do not
quite know to what extent he was serious in using this language, for he
often threatened more than he intended to perform. It is at least
possible that he only used it as a means for compelling the Provisional
Government quickly to come to terms and thereby to bring the war to an
end. It is, however, certain that negotiations went on between him and
the Empress and also with Bazaine. They came to nothing because the
Empress absolutely refused to negotiate if she was to be required to
surrender any French territory. In this she adopted the language of the
Provisional Government in Paris, and was supported by the Emperor.

The negotiations with the Provisional Government were more than once
renewed; soon after the investiture of Paris had begun, General Burnside
and another American passed as unofficial messengers between the French
and German Governments, and at the beginning of November, Thiers came as
the official agent of the Government in Tours; these attempts were,
however, always without result; the French would not accept an armistice
on the only conditions which Bismarck was authorised by the King and the
military authorities to offer. During the rest of the year there was
little direct communication with the French authorities. Bismarck,
however, was not idle. In his quarters at Versailles he had with him
many of the Foreign Office staff; he had not only to conduct important
diplomatic negotiations, but also to maintain control over the nation,
to keep in touch with the Press, to communicate to the newspapers both
events and comments on them. At this crisis he could not leave public
opinion without proper direction; he had to combat the misstatements of
the French, who had so long had the ear of Europe, and were still
carrying their grievances to the Courts of the neutral Powers, and found
often eager advocates in the Press of the neutral countries. He had to
check the proposal of the neutral Powers to interfere between the two
combatants, to inform the German public of the demands that were to be
made on France and the proposals for the unity of the country, and to
justify the policy of the Government; all this was done not only by
official notes, but by articles written at his dictation or under his
instruction, and by information or suggestions conveyed by his
secretaries to his newspapers. In old days the Prussian Government had
been inarticulate, it had never been able to defend itself against the
attacks of foreign critics; it had suffered much by misrepresentation;
it had lost popularity at home and prestige abroad. In the former
struggles with France the voice of Germany had scarcely been heard;
Europe, which was accustomed to listen to every whisper from Paris,
ignored the feelings and the just grievances of Germany. Bismarck
changed all this; now he saw to it that the policy of the Government
should be explained and defended in Germany itself; for though he
despised public opinion when it claimed to be the canon by which the
Government should be directed, he never neglected this, as he never
neglected any means by which the Government might be strengthened.
Speaking now from Versailles, he could be confident that Europe would
listen to what Germany said, and it was no small benefit to his nation
that it had as its spokesman a man whose character and abilities ensured
that no word that he uttered would be neglected.

The neutral Powers really gave him little concern. There was no
intention of supporting France either in England, Russia, or Austria. He
shewed great activity, however, in defending the Germans from the
charges so freely made against them by the French Press, of conducting
the war in a cruel manner; charges which were untrue, for, according to
the unanimous testimony of foreign observers who accompanied the army,
the moderation of the German soldiers was as remarkable as their
successes. Bismarck was not content with rebutting unjust
accusations,--he carried on the war into the enemy's camp. He was
especially indignant at the misuse made by the French of irregular
troops; he often maintained that the German soldiers ought never to
imprison the _franc-tireurs,_ but shoot them at once. He feared that if
civilians were encouraged to take part in the war it would necessarily
assume a very cruel character. At Meaux he came upon a number of
_franc-tireurs_ who had been taken prisoners. "You are assassins,
gentlemen," he said to them; "you will all be hung." And, indeed, these
men who fired secretly on the German troops from behind hedges and in
forests, and had no kind of uniform, could not claim to be treated as
prisoners of war. When the bombardment of Paris began he took great
pains to defend a measure which was much attacked in other countries; he
had used all his influence that the bombardment should not be delayed,
and often spoke with great annoyance of the reluctance of the military
authorities to begin. He wished every measure to be taken which would
bring the war to an end as soon as possible. The long delay before Paris
seems to have affected his nerves and spirits; there were many anxious
hours, and it was always difficult for him to wait patiently the result
of what others were doing. The military authorities were, as always,
very jealous of all attempts by him to interfere in their department,
and he was not always satisfied with their decisions. Like all the
Germans he was surprised and angry at the unexpected resistance of
Paris, and the success of Gambetta's appeal to the nation. He was
especially indignant at the help which Garibaldi gave: "This," he said,
"is the gratitude of the Italians"; he declared that he would have the
General taken prisoner and paraded through the streets of Berlin.

During the long weeks at Versailles, Bismarck was much occupied with
German affairs. The victory of Sedan was the foundation of German unity;
Bismarck's moderation and reserve now earned its reward; he had always
refused to press the southern States into the Federation; now the offer
to join came from them. Baden asked, as she had already done at the
beginning of the year, to be received into the Union; the settlement
with Wurtemberg, and above all with Bavaria, was less simple. At the
request of the Bavarian Government Delbrück was sent to Munich for an
interchange of opinion, and the negotiations which were begun there were
afterwards continued at Versailles and Berlin. There were many
difficulties to be overcome: the Bavarians were very jealous of their
independence and were not prepared to put themselves into the position
which, for instance, Saxony occupied. But the difficulties on the
Prussian side were equally great: the Liberal party wished that the
Constitution should be revised and those points in it which they had
always disliked altered; they would have made the government of the
Federal authorities more direct, have created a Federal Ministry and a
Federal Upper House, and so really changed the Federation into a simple
State, thereby taking away all the independence of the dynasties. It was
quite certain that Bavaria would not accept this, and there was some
considerable danger that their exaggerated demands might lead to a
reaction in South Germany. Probably under any circumstances the
unification of Germany would have been completed, but it required all
Bismarck's tact to prevent the outbreak of a regular party struggle. The
most extreme line was taken by the Crown Prince of Prussia; he desired
the immediate creation of an emperor who should have sovereign authority
over the whole of Germany, and he even went so far as to suggest that,
if the Bavarians would not accept this voluntarily, they might be
compelled to do so. He had repeated conversations with Bismarck on this,
and on one occasion at least it ended in an angry scene. The Crown
Prince wished to threaten the South Germans. "There is no danger," he
said; "let us take a firm and commanding attitude. You will see I was
right in maintaining that you are not nearly sufficiently conscious of
your own power." It is almost incredible that he should have used such
language, but the evidence is conclusive; he was at this time commanding
the Bavarian troops against the French; Bavaria had with great loyalty
supported Prussia through the war and performed very valuable services,
and now he proposed to reward their friendship by compelling them to
accept terms by which the independence of the King and the very
existence of the State would be endangered. The last request which the
King of Bavaria had sent to the Crown Prince as he left Munich to take
command of the Bavarian army was that nothing might be done to interfere
with Bavarian independence. Of course Bismarck refused to listen to
these suggestions; had he done so, the probable result would have been
that the Bavarian army would have been withdrawn from France and then
all the result of the victories would have been lost.

What Bismarck did was in accordance with his usual practice to make no
greater alteration in existing institutions than was absolutely
necessary; he did not therefore undertake any reform of the Federal
Constitution, but simply proposed treaties by which the southern States,
each separately, entered into the existing alliance. Certain special
conditions were allowed: the King of Bavaria was to maintain the command
over his troops in time of peace; a Voice was given to Bavaria in the
management of foreign affairs; she retained her own post and telegraph,
and there were certain special privileges with regard to finance to meet
the system of taxation on beer; and then the Prussian military code was
not to apply to Bavaria, and Bavaria was to retain her own special laws
with regard to marriage and citizenship. These concessions were
undoubtedly very considerable, but Bismarck granted them, for, as he
said to the Bavarian envoys, "we do not want a discontented Bavaria; we
want one which will join us freely." The Liberal Publicists in Germany
with characteristic intolerance complained that when they had hoped to
see the Constitution made simpler and the central government stronger it
had really become more federal; they did not see that this federalism
was merely the expression of existing facts which could not be ignored.
They prophesied all kinds of difficulties which have not been
fulfilled, for they forgot that harmonious working, in an alliance
voluntarily made, would be a firmer bond of union than the most
stringent articles of treaties which were looked on as an unjust burden.
Bismarck's own words, spoken the evening after the agreements were
signed, give the true account of the matter:

  "The newspapers will not be satisfied, the historian may very
  likely condemn our Conventions; he may say, 'The stupid fellow
  might easily have asked for more, he would have got it, they
  would have had to give it him; his might was his right.' I was
  more anxious that these people should go away heartily satisfied.
  What is the use of treaties which men are forced to sign? I know
  that they went away satisfied. I do not wish to press them or to
  take full advantage of the situation. The Convention has its
  defects, but it is all the stronger on account of them."

He could afford now to be generous because in 1866 he had been so stern;
he had refused to take in Bavaria when it would have weakened the
association of the North; now that the nucleus had been formed he could
allow the Catholic South greater freedom. He was right; the concessions
granted to Bavaria have not been in any way a danger to the Empire.

As soon as he had signed the Convention he looked into the room where
his secretaries were and said: "The work is done; the unity of Germany
is completed and with it Kaiser and Reich." Up to this time he had
taken no open steps towards the proclamation of the Empire; but it was
unanimously demanded by almost the whole nation and especially by the
South Germans. But here he kept himself in the background; he refused to
make it appear as though he were to make the Emperor or found the
Empire. He allowed the natural wish of the people to work itself out
spontaneously. There was indeed some reluctance to assume the title at
the Prussian Court; the King himself was not anxious for a new dignity
which would obscure that title which he and his ancestors had made so
honourable. This feeling was shared by many of the nobility and the
officers; we find it strongest in Roon, who in this represents the
genuine feeling of the older Prussian nobility. They disliked a change
which must mean that the Prussia to which they were so devotedly
attached was to become merged in a greater Germany. There was also some
apprehension that with the new title the old traditions of the Prussian
Court, traditions of economy, almost of parsimony, might be forgotten,
and that a new career might begin in which they would attempt to imitate
the extravagance and pomp of less prudent sovereigns. With this perhaps
Bismarck himself had some sympathy.

The King would, of course, only assume the new title if it was offered
to him by his fellow-princes; there was some danger lest the Reichstag,
which had been summoned to ratify the treaties, might ask him to assume
it before the princes did; had they done so, he would probably have
refused. The Crown Prince, who was very eager for the new title, and
the Grand Duke of Baden used all their influence with their
fellow-princes. The initiative must come from the King of Bavaria; he
was in difficulty as to the form in which the offer should be made.
Bismarck, who throughout the whole negotiations worked behind the
scenes, smoothing away difficulties, thereupon drafted a letter which he
sent by special messenger to the King of Bavaria. The King at once
adopted it, copied it out and signed it, and at the same time wrote
another letter to the other princes, asking them to join in the request
which he had made to the King of Prussia, to assume the title of Emperor
which had been in abeyance for over sixty years. So it came about that
the letter by which the offer to the King was made had really emanated
from his own Chancellor. It shews to what good purpose Bismarck used the
confidence which, by his conduct in the previous negotiations, the King
of Bavaria had been led to place in him.

On the 18th of January, 1871, in the Palace of Versailles, the King
publicly assumed the new title; a few days later Bismarck was raised to
the rank of Prince.

A few days later Paris fell; the prolonged siege was over and the power
of resistance exhausted; then again, as three months before, Favre asked
for an audience, this time to negotiate the capitulation of the city; we
need not here dwell on the terms of the capitulation--we need only quote
what Favre himself says of Bismarck's attitude:

  "I should be unfaithful to truth if I did not recognise that in
  these mournful discussions I always found the Chancellor eager to
  soften in form the cruelty of his requirements. He applied
  himself as much as was possible to temper the military harshness
  of the general staff, and on many points he consented to make
  himself the advocate of our demands."

A few weeks were allowed for elections to be held and an assembly to
meet at Bordeaux, and then once more M. Thiers appeared, to negotiate
the terms of peace. He knew that the demands would be very heavy; he
anticipated that they would be asked to surrender Alsace, including
Belfort, and of Lorraine at least the department of the Moselle, with
Metz; he expected a large war indemnity--five thousand million francs.
The terms Bismarck had to offer were almost identical with these, except
that the indemnity was placed at six thousand million francs. The part
Thiers had to play was a very difficult one; he knew that if Germany
insisted on her full demands he must accept; he was too experienced a
politician to be misled by any of the illusions under which Favre had
laboured. He, as all other Frenchmen, had during the last three months
learned a bitter lesson. "Had we made peace," he said, "before the fall
of Metz, we might at least have saved Lorraine." He hoped against hope
that he might still be able to do so. With all the resources of his
intellect and his eloquence he tried to break down the opposition of the
Count. When Metz was refused to him then he pleaded for Belfort. Let us
hear what Favre, who was present at the decisive interview, tells us; we
may use his authority with more confidence that he was a silent and
passive auditor.

  "One must have been present at this pathetic scene to have an
  idea of the superhuman resources which the illustrious statesman
  displayed. I still see him, pale, agitated, now sitting, now
  springing to his feet; I hear his voice broken by grief, his
  words cut short, his tones in turn suppliant and proud; I know
  nothing grander than the sublime passion of this noble heart
  bursting out in petitions, menaces, prayers, now caressing, now
  terrible, growing by degrees more angry in face of this cruel
  refusal, ready for the last extremities, impervious to the
  counsels of reason, so violent and sacred were the sentiments by
  which he was governed."

Bismarck remained obdurate; he would surrender neither Metz nor Belfort.
Then Thiers cried out:

  "Well, let it be as you will; these negotiations are a pretence.
  We appear to deliberate, we have only to pass under your yoke. We
  ask for a city absolutely French, you refuse it to us; it is to
  avow that you have resolved to wage against us a war of
  extremity. Do it! Ravish our provinces, burn our houses, cut the
  throats of their unoffending inhabitants, in a word, complete
  your work. We will fight to the last breath; we shall succumb at
  last, but we will not be dishonoured."

It was a burst of passion, all the more admirable that Thiers knew his
threats were vain; but it was not ineffective. Bismarck was troubled; he
said he understood what they suffered; he would be glad to make a
concession, "but," he added, "I can promise nothing; the King has
commanded me to maintain the conditions, he alone has the right to
modify them; I will take his orders; I must consult with Mons. de
Moltke." He left the room; it was nearly an hour before he could find
Moltke; then he returned to give the answer to the Frenchmen. "You had
refused that we should enter Paris; if you will agree that the German
troops occupy Paris, then Belfort shall be restored to you." There could
be no doubt as to the answer, and some hours later the assent of the
King was given to this alteration in the conditions. Before this the
indemnity had been reduced to five thousand million francs; below that
all the efforts of the French were not able to bring it. There were many
other exciting scenes during the progress of the negotiations; on one
occasion Thiers threatened Bismarck with interposition of the neutral
Powers; "If you speak to me of Europe, I will speak of the Emperor," was
Bismarck's answer. He threatened to open negotiations with him and to
send him back to France at the head of Bazaine's army. On another
occasion--it was during the discussion of finance--another scene took
place which Favre describes:

  "As the discussion continued, he grew animated, he interrupted
  Thiers at every word, accused him of wishing to spoil everything;
  he said that he was ill, at the end of his powers, he was
  incapable of going further, in a work that we were pleased to
  make of no use. Then, allowing his feelings to break out, walking
  up and down the little room in which we were deliberating with
  great strides, he cried, 'It is very kind of me to take the
  trouble to which you condemn me; our conditions are
  ultimatums--you must accept or reject them. I will not take part
  in it any longer; bring an interpreter to-morrow, henceforward I
  will not speak French any longer.'"

And he began forthwith to talk German at a great rate, a language which
of course neither of the Frenchmen understood.

It is interesting to compare with this Bismarck's own account of the
same scene:

  "When I addressed a definite demand to Thiers, although he
  generally could command himself, he sprang up and cried, 'Mais
  c'est un indignité.' I took no notice but began to talk German.
  For a time he listened, but obviously did not know what to think
  of it. Then in a plaintive voice he said, 'But, Count, you know
  that I do not understand German.' I answered him now in French.
  'When just now you spoke of _indignité_, I found that I did not
  understand French enough and preferred to speak German, here I
  know what I say and hear.' He understood what I meant and at once
  agreed to that which he had just refused as an indignité."

Bismarck's part in these negotiations was not altogether an easy one,
for it is probable that, in part at least, he secretly sympathised with
the arguments and protests of the French. He was far too loyal to his
master and his country not to defend and adopt the policy which had been
accepted; but there is much reason to believe that, had he been
completely master, Germany would not have insisted on having Metz, but
would have made the demand only to withdraw it. The arguments for the
annexation of Alsace were indeed unanswerable, and again and again
Bismarck had pointed out that Germany could never be safe so long as
France held Strasburg, and a French army supported on the strong basis
of the Vosges could use Strasburg as a gate whence to sally forth into
Germany. No one indeed who has ever stood on the slopes of the Black
Forest and looked across the magnificent valley, sheltered by the hills
on either side, through which the Rhine flows, can doubt that this is
all one country, and that the frontier must be sought, not in the river,
which is not a separation, but the chief means of communication, but on
the top of the hills on the further side. Every argument, however, which
is used to support German claims to Strasburg may be used with equal
force to support French claims to Metz. If Strasburg in French hands is
the gate of Germany, Metz in German hands is, and always will remain, a
military post on the soil of France. No one who reads Bismarck's
arguments on this point can fail to notice how they are all nearly
conclusive as to Strasburg, but that he scarcely takes the trouble to
make it even appear as though they applied to Metz. Even in the speech
before the Reichstag in which he explains and justifies the terms of
peace, he speaks again and again of Strasburg but hardly a word of Metz.
He told how fourteen years before, the old King of Würtemberg had said
to him, at the time of the Crimean troubles, that Prussia might count on
his voice in the Diet as against the Western Powers, but only till war
broke out.

  "Then the matter takes another form. I am determined as well as
  any other to maintain the engagements I have entered into. But do
  not judge me unjustly; give us Strasburg and we shall be ready
  for all eventualities, but so long as Strasburg is a sally-port
  for a Power which is always armed, I must fear that my country
  will be overrun by foreign troops before my confederates can come
  to my help."

The King was right; Germany would never be secure so long as Strasburg
was French; but can France ever be secure so long as Metz is German?

The demand for Metz was based purely on military considerations; it was
supported on the theory, which we have already learnt, that Germany
could never take the offensive in a war with France, and that the
possession of Metz would make it impossible, as indeed is the case, for
France to attack Germany. It was not, however, Bismarck's practice to
subordinate political considerations to military. It may be said that
France would never acquiesce in the loss of either province, but while
we can imagine a generation of Frenchmen arising who would learn to
recognise the watershed of the Vosges as a permanent boundary between
the two nations, it is difficult to believe that the time will ever come
when a single Frenchman will regard with contentment the presence of the
Germans on the Upper Moselle.

Even after the preliminaries of peace were settled fresh difficulties
arose; the outbreak of the Commune in Paris made it impossible for the
French to fulfil all the arrangements; Bismarck, who did not trust the
French, treated them with much severity, and more than once he
threatened again to begin hostilities. At last Favre asked for a fresh
interview; the two statesmen met at Frankfort, and then the final treaty
of peace was signed.




WITH the peace of Frankfort, Bismarck's work was completed. Not nine
years had passed since he had become Minister; in that short time he
completed the work which so many statesmen before him had in vain
attempted. Nine years ago he had found the King ready to retire from the
throne; now he had made him the most powerful ruler in Europe. Prussia,
which then had been divided in itself and without influence in the
councils of Europe, was the undisputed leader in a United Germany.

Fate, which always was so kind to Bismarck, was not to snatch him away,
as it did Cavour, in the hour of his triumph; twenty years longer he was
to preside over the State which he had created and to guide the course
of the ship which he had built. A weaker or more timid man would quickly
have retired from public life; he would have considered that nothing
that he could do could add to his fame, and that he was always risking
the loss of some of the reputation he had attained. Bismarck was not
influenced by such motives. The exercise of power had become to him a
pleasure; he was prepared if his King required it to continue in office
to the end of his days, and he never feared to hazard fame and
popularity if he could thereby add to the prosperity of the State.

These latter years of Bismarck's life we cannot narrate in detail; space
alone would forbid it. It would be to write the history of the German
Empire, and though events are not so dramatic they are no less numerous
than in the earlier period. Moreover, we have not the material for a
complete biographical narrative; there is indeed a great abundance of
public records; but as to the secret reasons of State by which in the
last resource the policy of the Government was determined, we have
little knowledge. From time to time indeed some illicit disclosure, the
publication of some confidential document, throws an unexpected light on
a situation which is obscure; but these disclosures, so hazardous to the
good repute of the men who are responsible and the country in which they
are possible, must be treated with great reserve. Prompted by motives of
private revenge or public ambition, they disclose only half the truth,
and a portion of the truth is often more misleading than complete

In foreign policy he was henceforward sole, undisputed master; in
Parliament and in the Press scarcely a voice was raised to challenge his
pre-eminence; he enjoyed the complete confidence of the allied
sovereigns and the enthusiastic affection of the nation; even those
parties which often opposed and criticised his internal policy supported
him always on foreign affairs. Those only opposed him who were hostile
to the Empire itself, those whose ideals or interests were injured by
this great military monarchy--Poles and Ultramontanes, Guelphs and
Socialists; in opposing Bismarck they seemed to be traitors to their
country, and he and his supporters were not slow to divide the nation
into the loyal and the _Reichsfeindlich_.

He deserved the confidence which was placed in him. He succeeded in
preserving to the newly founded Empire all the prestige it had gained;
he was enabled to soothe the jealousy of the neutral Powers. He did so
by his policy of peace. Now he pursued peace with the same decision with
which but two years before he had brought about a war. He was guided by
the same motive; as war had then been for the benefit of Germany, so now
was peace. He had never loved war for the sake of war; he was too good a
diplomatist for this; war is the negation of diplomacy, and the
statesman who has recourse to it must for the time give over the control
to other hands. It is always a clumsy method. The love of war for the
sake of war will be found more commonly among autocratic sovereigns who
are their own generals than among skilled and practised ministers, and
generally war is the last resource by which a weak diplomatist attempts
to conceal his blunders and to regain what he has lost.

There had been much anxiety in Europe how the new Empire would deport
itself; would it use this power which had been so irresistible for
fresh conflicts? The excuse might easily have been found; Bismarck might
have put on his banner, "The Union of All Germans in One State"; he
might have recalled and reawakened the enthusiasm of fifty years ago; he
might have reminded the people that there were still in Holland and in
Switzerland, in Austria and in Russia, Germans who were separated from
their country, and languishing under a foreign rule. Had he been an
idealist he would have done so, and raised in Germany a cry like that of
the Italian Irredentists. Or he might have claimed for his country its
natural boundaries; after freeing the upper waters of the Rhine from
foreign dominion he might have claimed that the great river should flow
to the sea, German. This is what Frenchmen had done under similar
circumstances, but he was not the man to repeat the crimes and blunders
of Louis and Napoleon.

He knew that Germany desired peace; a new generation must grow up in the
new order of things; the old wounds must be healed by time, the old
divisions forgotten; long years of common work must cement the alliances
that he had made, till the jealousy of the defeated was appeased and the
new Empire had become as firm and indissoluble as any other State in

The chief danger came from France; in that unhappy country the cry for
revenge seemed the only link with the pride which had been so rudely
overthrown. The defeat and the disgrace could not be forgotten; the
recovery of the lost provinces was the desire of the nation, and the
programme of every party. As we have seen, the German statesmen had
foreseen the danger and deliberately defied it. They cared not for the
hostility of France, now that they need not fear her power. _Oderint dum
metuant._ Against French demands for restitution they presented a firm
and unchangeable negative; it was kinder so and juster, to allow no
opening for hope, no loophole for negotiation, no intervention by other
Powers. Alsace-Lorraine were German by the right of the hundred thousand
German soldiers who had perished to conquer them. Any appearance of
weakness would have led to hopes which could never be realised,
discussions which could have had no result. The answer to all
suggestions was to be found in the strength of Germany; the only
diplomacy was to make the army so strong that no French statesman, not
even the mob of Paris, could dream of undertaking single-handed a war of

This was not enough; it was necessary besides to isolate France. There
were many men in Europe who would have wished to bring about a new
coalition of the armies by whose defeat Germany had been built
up--France and Austria, Denmark and the Poles; then it was always to be
expected that Russia, who had done so much for Germany in the past,
would cease to regard with complacency the success of her protégé; after
all, the influence of the Czar in Europe had depended upon the divisions
of Germany as much as had that of France. How soon would the Russian
nation wake up, as the French had done, to the fact that the sympathies
of their Emperor had created a great barrier to Russian ambition and
Russian diplomacy? It was especially the Clerical party who wished to
bring about some coalition; for them the chief object was the overthrow
of Italy, and the world still seemed to centre in Rome; they could not
gain the assistance of Germany in this work, and they therefore looked
on the great Protestant Empire as an enemy. They would have liked by
monarchical reaction to gain control of France; by the success of the
Carlist movement to obtain that of Spain, and then, assisted by Austria,
to overthrow the new order in Europe. Against this Bismarck's chief
energies were directed; we shall see how he fought the Ultramontanes at
home. With regard to France, he was inclined to support the Republic,
and refused all attempts which were made by some German statesmen, and
especially by Count Arnim, the Ambassador at Paris, to win German
sympathy and support to the monarchical party. In Spain his support and
sympathy were given to the Government, which with difficulty maintained
itself against the Carlists; a visit of Victor Emmanuel to Berlin
confirmed the friendship with Italy, over which the action of Garibaldi
in 1870 had thrown a cloud. The greatest triumph of Bismarck's policy
was, however, the reconciliation with Austria. One of the most intimate
of his councillors, when asked which of Bismarck's actions he admired
most, specified this. It was peculiarly his own; he had long worked for
it; even while the war of 1866 was still being waged, he had foreseen
that a day would come when Germany and Austria, now that they were
separated, might become, as they never had been when joined by an
unnatural union, honest allies. It was probably to a great extent
brought about by the strong regard and confidence which the Austrian
Emperor reposed in the German Chancellor. The beginnings of an
approximation were laid by the dismissal of Beust, who himself now was
to become a personal friend of the statesman against whom he had for so
long and with such ingenuity waged an unequal conflict. The union was
sealed when, in December, 1872, the Czar of Russia and Francis Joseph
came to Berlin as guests of the Emperor. There was no signed contract,
no written alliance, but the old union of the Eastern monarchies under
which a generation before Europe had groaned, was now restored, and on
the Continent there was no place to which France could look for help or

The years that followed were those in which foreign affairs gave
Bismarck least anxiety or occupation. He even began to complain that he
was dull; after all these years of conflict and intrigue he found the
security which he now enjoyed uninteresting. Now and again the shadow of
war passed over Europe, but it was soon dispelled. The most serious was
in 1875.

It appears that the French reforms of the army and some movements of
French troops had caused alarm at Berlin; I say alarm, though it is
difficult to believe that any serious concern could have been felt.
There was, however, a party who believed that war must come sooner or
later, and it was better, they said, not to wait till France was again
powerful and had won allies; surely the wisest thing was while she was
still weak and friendless to take some excuse (and how easy would it be
to find the excuse!), fall upon her, and crush her--crush and destroy,
so that she could never again raise her head; treat her as she had in
old days treated Germany. How far this plan was deliberately adopted we
do not know, but in the spring of this year the signs became so alarming
that both the Russian and the English Governments were seriously
disturbed, and interfered. So sober a statesman as Lord Derby believed
that the danger was real. The Czar, who visited Berlin at the beginning
of April, dealt with the matter personally; the Queen of England wrote a
letter to the German Emperor, in which she said that the information she
had could leave no doubt that an aggressive war on France was meditated,
and used her personal influence with the sovereign to prevent it. The
Emperor himself had not sympathised with the idea of war, and it is said
did not even know of the approaching danger. It did not require the
intervention of other sovereigns to induce him to refuse his assent to a
wanton war, but this advice from foreign Powers of course caused great
indignation in Bismarck; it was just the kind of thing which always
angered him beyond everything. He maintained that he had had no warlike
intentions, that the reports were untrue. The whole story had its
origin, he said, in the intrigues of the Ultramontanes and the vanity of
Gortschakoff; the object was to make it appear that France owed her
security and preservation to the friendly interference of Russia, and
thereby prepare the way for an alliance between the two Powers. It is
almost impossible to believe that Bismarck had seriously intended to
bring about a war; he must have known that the other Powers of Europe
would not allow a second and unprovoked attack on France; he would not
be likely to risk all he had achieved and bring about a European
coalition against him. On the other hand his explanation is probably not
the whole truth; even German writers confess that the plan of attacking
France was meditated, and it was a plan of a nature to recommend itself
to the military party in Prussia.

Yet this may have been the beginning of a divergence with Russia. The
union had depended more on the personal feelings of the Czar than on the
wishes of the people or their real interests. The rising Pan-Slavonic
party was anti-German; their leader was General Ignatieff, but
Gortschakoff, partly perhaps from personal hostility to Bismarck, partly
from a just consideration of Russian interests, sympathised with their
anti-Teutonic policy. The outbreak of disturbances in the East roused
that national feeling which had slept for twenty years; in truth the
strong patriotism of modern Germany naturally created a similar feeling
in the neighbouring countries; just as the Germans were proud to free
themselves from the dominant culture of France, so the Russians began to
look with jealousy on the Teutonic influence which since the days of
Peter the Great had been so powerful among them.

In internal matters the situation was very different; here Bismarck
could not rule in the same undisputed manner; he had rivals, critics,
and colleagues. The power of the Prussian Parliament and the Reichstag
was indeed limited, but without their assent no new law could be passed;
each year their assent must be obtained to the Budget. Though they had
waived all claim to control the foreign policy, the parties still
criticised and often rejected the laws proposed by the Government. Then
in Prussian affairs he could not act without the good-will of his
colleagues; in finance, in legal reform, the management of Church and
schools, the initiative belonged to the Ministers responsible for each
department. Some of the difficulties of government would have been met
had Bismarck identified himself with a single party, formed a party
Ministry and carried out their programme. This he always refused to do;
he did not wish in his old age to become a Parliamentary Minister, for
had he depended for his support on a party, then if he lost their
confidence, or they lost the confidence of the country, he would have
had to retire from office. The whole work of his earlier years would
have been undone. What he wished to secure was a Government party, a
Bismarck party _sans phrase_, who would always support all his measures
in internal as well as external policy. In this, however, he did not
succeed. He was therefore reduced to another course: in order to get the
measures of the Government passed, he executed a series of alliances,
now with one, now with another party. In these, however, he had to give
as well as to receive, and it is curious to see how easily his pride
was offended and his anger roused by any attempt of the party with which
at the time he was allied to control and influence his policy. No one of
the alliances lasted long, and he seems to have taken peculiar pleasure
in breaking away from each of them in turn when the time came.

The alliance with the Conservatives which he had inherited from the
older days had begun to break directly after 1866. Many of them had been
disappointed by his policy in that year. The grant of universal suffrage
had alarmed them; they had wished that he would use his power to check
and punish the Parliament for its opposition; instead of that he asked
for an indemnity. They felt that they had borne with him the struggle
for the integrity of the Prussian Monarchy; no sooner was the victory
won than he held out his hand to the Liberals and it was to them that the
prize went. They were hurt and disappointed, and this personal feeling
was increased by Bismarck's want of consideration, his brusqueness of
manner, his refusal to consider complaints and remonstrances. Even the
success of 1870 had not altogether reconciled them; these Prussian
nobles, the men to whom in earlier days he himself had belonged, saw
with regret the name of King of Prussia hidden behind the newer glory
of the German Emperor; it is curious to read how even Roon speaks with
something of contempt and disgust of this new title: "I hope," he
writes, "Bismarck will be in a better temper now that the Kaiser egg
has been safely hatched." It was, however, the struggle with the
Catholic Church which achieved the separation; the complete subjection
of the Church to the State, the new laws for school inspection, the
introduction of compulsory civil marriage, were all opposed to the
strongest and the healthiest feelings of the Prussian Conservatives.
These did not seem to be matters in which the safety of the Empire
was concerned; Bismarck had simply gone over to, and adopted the
programme of, the Liberals; he was supporting that all-pervading power
of the Prussian bureaucracy which he, in his earlier days, had so
bitterly attacked. Then came a proposal for change in the local
government which would diminish the influence of the landed proprietors.
The Conservatives refused to support these measures; the Conservative
majority in the House of Lords threw them out. Bismarck's own brother,
all his old friends and comrades, were now ranged against him. He
accepted opposition from them as little as from anyone else; the consent
of the King was obtained to the creation of new peers, and by this means
the obnoxious measures were forced through the unwilling House. Bismarck
by his speeches intensified the bitterness; he came down himself to make
an attack on the Conservatives. "The Government is disappointed," he
said; "we had looked for confidence from the Conservative party;
confidence is a delicate plant; if it is once destroyed it does not grow
again. We shall have to look elsewhere for support."

A crisis in his relations to the party came at the end of 1872; up to
this time Roon had still remained in the Government; now, in
consequence of the manner in which the creation of peers had been
decided upon, he requested permission to resign. The King, who could not
bear to part with him, and who really in many matters of internal policy
had more sympathy with him than with Bismarck, refused to accept the
resignation. The crisis which arose had an unexpected ending: Bismarck
himself resigned the office of Minister-President of Prussia, which was
transferred to Roon, keeping only that of Foreign Minister and
Chancellor of the Empire.

A letter to Roon shews the deep depression under which he laboured at
this time, chiefly the result of ill-health. "It was," he said, "an
unheard-of anomaly that the Foreign Minister of a great Empire should be
responsible also for internal affairs." And yet he himself had arranged
that it should be so. The desertion of the Conservative party had, he
said, deprived him of his footing; he was dispirited by the loss of his
old friends and the illness of his wife; he spoke of his advancing years
and his conviction that he had not much longer to live; "the King
scarcely knows how he is riding a good horse to death." He would
continue to do what he could in foreign affairs, but he would no longer
be responsible for colleagues over whom he had no influence except by
requests, and for the wishes of the Emperor which he did not share. The
arrangement lasted for a year, and then Roon had again to request, and
this time received, permission to retire into private life; his health
would no longer allow him to endure the constant anxiety of office. His
retirement occasioned genuine grief to the King; and of all the
severances which he had to undergo, this was probably that which
affected Bismarck most. For none of his colleagues could he ever have
the same affection he had had for Roon; he it was who had brought him
into the Ministry, and had gone through with him all the days of storm
and trouble. "It will be lonely for me," he writes, "in my work; ever
more so, the old friends become enemies and one makes no new ones. As
God will." In 1873 he again assumed the Presidency. The resignation of
Roon was followed by a complete breach with the party of the _Kreuz
Zeitung_; the more moderate of the Conservatives split off from it and
continued to support the Government; the remainder entered on a campaign
of factious opposition.

The quarrel was inevitable, for quite apart from the question of
religion it would indeed have been impossible to govern Germany
according to their principles. We may, however, regret that the quarrel
was not conducted with more amenity. These Prussian nobles were of the
same race as Bismarck himself; they resembled him in character if not in
ability; they believed that they had been betrayed, and they did not
easily forgive. They were not scrupulous in the weapons they adopted;
the Press was used for anonymous attacks on his person and his
character; they accused him of using his public position for making
money by speculation, and of sacrificing to that the alliance with
Russia. More than once he had recourse to the law of libel to defend
himself against these unworthy insults. When he publicly in the
Reichstag protested against the language of the _Kreuz Zeitung_, the
dishonourable attacks and the scandalous lies it spread abroad, a large
number of the leading men among the Prussian nobility signed a
declaration formally defending the management of the paper, as true
adherents of the monarchical and Conservative banner. These
_Declaranten_, as they were called, were henceforward enemies whom he
could never forgive. At the bottom of the list we read, not without
emotion, the words, "Signed with deep regret, A. von Thadden"; so far
apart were now the two knight-errants of the Christian Monarchy. It was
in reality the end of the old Conservative party; it had done its work;
Bismarck was now thrown on the support of the National Liberals.

Since 1866 they had grown in numbers and in weight. They represented at
this time the general sense of the German people; it was with their help
that during the years down to 1878 the new institutions for the Empire
were built up. In the elections of 1871 they numbered 120; in 1874 their
numbers rose to 152; they had not an absolute majority, but in all
questions regarding the defence of the Empire, foreign policy, and the
army they were supported by the moderate Conservatives; in the conflict
with the Catholics and internal matters they could generally depend on
the support of the Progressives; so that as long as they maintained
their authority they gave the Government the required majority in both
the Prussian and the German Parliament. There were differences in the
party which afterwards were to lead to a secession, but during this
time, which they looked upon as the golden era of the Empire, they
succeeded in maintaining their unity. They numbered many of the ablest
leaders, the lawyers and men of learning who had opposed Bismarck at the
time of the conflict. Their leader was Bennigsen; himself a Hanoverian,
he had brought no feelings of hostility from the older days of conflict.
Moderate, tactful, restrained, patriotic, he was the only man who, when
difficulties arose, was always able to approach the Chancellor, sure of
finding some tenable compromise. Different was it with Lasker, the
ablest of Parliamentary orators, whose subordination to the decisions of
the party was often doubtful, and whose criticism, friendly as it often
was, always aroused Bismarck's anger.

As a matter of fact the alliance was, however, never complete; it was
always felt that at any moment some question might arise on which it
would be wrecked. This was shewn by Bismarck's language as early as
1871; in a debate on the army he explained that what he demanded was
full support; members, he said, were expressly elected to support him;
they had no right to make conditions or withdraw their support; if they
did so he would resign. The party, which was very loyal to him,
constantly gave up its own views when he made it a question of
confidence, but the strain was there and was always felt. The great
question now as before was that of the organisation of the army. It will
be remembered that, under the North German Confederation, a provisional
arrangement was made by which the numbers of the army in peace were to
be fixed at one per cent. of the population. This terminated at the end
of 1871; the Government, however, did not then consider it safe to alter
the arrangement, and with some misgiving the Reichstag accepted the
proposal that this system should be applied to the whole Empire for
three years. If, however, the numbers of the army were absolutely fixed
in this way, the Reichstag would cease to have any control over the
expenses; all other important taxes and expenses came before the
individual States. In 1874, the Government had to make their proposal
for the future. This was that the system which had hitherto been
provisionally accepted should become permanent, and that the army should
henceforward in time of peace always consist of the same number of men.
To agree to this would be permanently to give up all possibility of
exercising any control over the finance. It was impossible for the
National Liberal party to accept the proposal without giving up at the
same time all hope of constitutional development; Bismarck was ill and
could take no part in defending the law; they voted against it, it was
thrown out, and it seemed as though a new conflict was going to arise.

When the Reichstag adjourned in April for the Easter holidays the
agitation spread over the country, but the country was determined not
again to have a conflict on the Budget. "There was a regular fanaticism
for unconditional acceptance of the law; those even on the Left refused
to hear anything of constitutional considerations," writes one member
of the National Liberty party after meeting his constituents. If the
Reichstag persisted in their refusal and a dissolution took place, there
was no doubt that there would be a great majority for the Government. It
was the first time since 1870 that the question of constitutional
privileges was raised, and now it was found, as ever afterwards was the
case, that, for the German people, whatever might be the opinion of
their elected representatives, the name of Bismarck alone outweighed all
else. Bennigsen arranged a compromise and the required number of men was
agreed to, not indeed permanently, but for seven years. For four years
more the alliance was continued.

At this time all other questions were thrown into the shade by the great
conflict with the Roman Catholic Church on which the Government had
embarked. Looking back now, it is still difficult to judge or even to
understand the causes which brought it about. Both sides claim that they
were acting in self-defence. Bismarck has often explained his motives,
but we cannot be sure that those he puts forward were the only
considerations by which he was moved. He, however, insisted that the
struggle was not religious but political; he was not moved by Protestant
animosity to the Catholic Church, but by his alarm lest in the
organisation of the Roman hierarchy a power might arise within the
Empire which would be hostile to the State. But even if the Chancellor
himself was at first free from Protestant hatred to Catholicism,--and
this is not quite clear,--he was forced into alliance with a large party
who appealed at once to the memories of the Reformation, who stirred up
all that latent hatred of Rome which is as strong a force in North
Germany as in England; and with others who saw in this an opportunity
for more completely subduing all, Protestant and Catholic alike, to the
triumphant power of the State, and making one more step towards the
dissociation of the State from any religious body.

The immediate cause of the struggle was the proclamation of the
infallibility of the Pope. It might be thought that this change or
development in the Constitution of the Roman Church was one which
concerned chiefly Roman Catholics. This is the view which Bismarck seems
to have taken during the meetings of the Vatican Council. The opposition
to the decrees was strongest among the German Bishops, and Prince
Hohenlohe, the Prime Minister of Bavaria, supported by his brother the
Cardinal, was anxious to persuade the Governments of Europe to
interfere, and, as they could have done, to prevent the Council from
coming to any conclusion. Bismarck refused on behalf of the Prussian
Government to take any steps in this direction. The conclusion of the
Council and the proclamation of the decrees took place just at the time
of the outbreak of war with France. For some months Bismarck, occupied
as he was with other matters, was unable to consider the changes which
might be caused; it was moreover very important for him during the
negotiations with Bavaria, which lasted all through the autumn, not to
do anything which would arouse the fears of the Ultramontanes or
intensify their reluctance to enter the Empire.

In the winter of 1870 the first sign of the dangers ahead was to be
seen. They arose from the occupation of Rome by the Italians. The
inevitable result of this was that the Roman Catholics of all countries
in Europe were at once given a common cause of political endeavour; they
were bound each of them in his own State to use his full influence to
procure interference either by diplomacy or by arms, and to work for the
rescue of the prisoner of the Vatican. The German Catholics felt this as
strongly as their co-religionists, and, while he was still at
Versailles, a cardinal and bishop of the Church addressed a memorial to
the King of Prussia on this matter. This attempt to influence the
foreign policy of the new Empire, and to use it for a purpose alien to
the direct interest of Germany, was very repugnant to Bismarck and was
quite sufficient to arouse feelings of hostility towards the Roman
Catholics. These were increased when he heard that the Roman Catholic
leaders were combining to form a new political party; in the elections
for the first Reichstag this movement was very successful and fifty
members were returned whose sole bond of union was religion. This he
looked upon as "a mobilisation of the Church against the State"; the
formation of a political party founded simply on unity of confession
was, he said, an unheard-of innovation in political life. His distrust
increased when he found that their leader was Windthorst, a former
Minister of the King of Hanover, and, as a patriotic Hanoverian, one of
the chief opponents of a powerful and centralised Government. The
influence the Church had in the Polish provinces was a further cause of
hostility, and seemed to justify him in condemning them as anti-German.
During the first session the new party prominently appeared on two
occasions. In the debate on the address to the Crown they asked for the
interference of Germany on behalf of the Pope; in this they stood alone
and on a division found no supporters. Then they demanded that in the
Constitution of the Empire certain clauses from the Prussian
Constitution should be introduced which would ensure freedom to all
religious denominations. Here they gained considerable support from some
other parties.

An impartial observer will find it difficult to justify from these acts
the charge of disloyalty to the Empire, but a storm of indignation arose
in the Press, especially in the organs of the National Liberal party,
and it was supported by those of the Government.

The desire for conflict was awakened; meetings were held in the autumn
of 1871 to defend the Protestant faith, which hardly seemed to have been
attacked, and a clearer cause for dispute soon occurred. It was required
by the authorities of the Church that all bishops and priests should
declare their assent to the new Vatican decrees; the majority did so,
but a certain number refused; they were of course excommunicated; a
secession from the Roman Catholic Church took place, and a new communion
formed to which the name of Old Catholics was given. The bishops
required that all the priests and religious teachers at the universities
and schools who had refused to obey the orders of the Pope should be
dismissed from their office; the Prussian Government refused their
assent. The legal question involved was a difficult one. The Government
held that as the Roman Catholic Church had changed its teachings, those
who maintained the old doctrine must be supported in the offices
conferred on them. The Church authorities denied there had been any
essential change. On the whole we may say that they were right; a priest
of the Catholic Church held his position not only in virtue of his
assent to the actual doctrines taught, but was also bound by his vow of
obedience to accept any fresh teaching which, in accordance with the
Constitution of the Church and by the recognised organ of Government,
should in the future also be declared to be of faith. The duty of every
man to obey the laws applies not only to the laws existing at any
moment, but to any future laws which may be passed by the proper agent
of legislation. Even though the doctrine of infallibility were a new
doctrine, which is very doubtful, it had been passed at a Council; and
the proceedings of the Council, even if, in some details, they were
irregular, were not more so than those of any other Council in the past.

The action of the Government in supporting the Old Catholics may,
however, be attributed to another motive. The Catholics maintained that
Bismarck desired to take this opportunity of creating a national German
Church, and reunite Protestants and Catholics. To have done so, had it
been possible, would have been indeed to confer on the country the
greatest of all blessings. We cannot doubt that the thought had often
come into Bismarck's mind; it would be the proper and fitting conclusion
to the work of creating a nation. It was, however, impossible; under no
circumstances could it have been done by a Protestant statesman; the
impulse must have come from Bavaria, and the opposition of the Bavarian
bishops to the Vatican decrees had been easily overcome. Twice an
opportunity had presented itself of making a national German Church:
once at the Reformation, once after the Revolution. On both occasions it
was lost and it will never recur.

The result, however, was that a bitter feeling of opposition was created
between Church and State. The secessionist priests were maintained in
their positions by the Government, they were excommunicated by the
bishops; students were forbidden to attend their lectures and the people
to worship in the churches where they ministered. It spread even to the
army, when the Minister of War required the army chaplain at Cologne to
celebrate Mass in a church which was used also by the Old Catholics. He
was forbidden to do so by his bishop, and the bishop was in consequence
deprived of his salary and threatened with arrest.

The conflict having once begun soon spread; a new Minister of Culture
was appointed; in the Reichstag a law was proposed expelling the Jesuits
from Germany; and a number of important laws, the so-called May laws,
were introduced into the Prussian Parliament, giving to the State great
powers with regard to the education and appointment of priests; it was,
for instance, ordered that no one should be appointed to a cure of
souls who was not a German, and had not been brought up and educated in
the State schools and universities of Prussia. Then other laws were
introduced, to which we have already referred, making civil marriage
compulsory, so as to cripple the very strong power which the Roman
Catholic priests could exercise, not only by refusing their consent to
mixed marriages, but also by refusing to marry Old Catholics; a law was
introduced taking the inspection of elementary schools out of the hands
of the clergy, and finally a change was made in those articles of the
Prussian Constitution which ensured to each denomination the management
of its own affairs. Bismarck was probably not responsible for the
drafting of all these laws; he only occasionally took part in the
discussion and was often away from Berlin.

The contrast between these proposals and the principles he had
maintained in his earlier years was very marked; his old friend Kleist
recalled the eloquent speech which in former years he had made against
civil marriage. Bismarck did not attempt to defend himself against the
charge of inconsistency; he did not even avow that he had changed his
personal opinions; he had, however, he said, learnt to submit his
personal convictions to the requirements of the State; he had only done
so unwillingly and by a great struggle. This was to be the end of the
doctrine of the Christian State. With Gneist, Lasker, Virchow, he was
subduing the Church to this new idol of the State; he was doing that
against which in the old days he had struggled with the greatest
resolution and spoken with the greatest eloquence. Not many years were
to go by before he began to repent of what he had done, for, as he saw
the new danger from Social Democracy, he like many other Germans
believed that the true means of defeating it was to be found in
increased intensity of religious conviction. It was, however, then too

He, however, especially in the Prussian Upper House, threw all the
weight of his authority into the conflict. It was, he said, not a
religious conflict but a political one; they were not actuated by hatred
of Catholicism, but they were protecting the rights of the State.

  "The question at issue," he said, "is not a struggle of an
  Evangelical dynasty against the Catholic Church; it is the old
  struggle ... a struggle for power as old as the human race ...
  between king and priest ... a struggle which is much older than
  the appearance of our Redeemer in this world.... a struggle which
  has filled German history of the Middle Ages till the destruction
  of the German Empire, and which found its conclusion when the
  last representative of the glorious Swabian dynasty died on the
  scaffold, under the axe of a French conqueror who stood in
  alliance with the Pope.[12] We are not far from an analogous
  solution of the situation, always translated into the customs of
  our time."

He assured the House that now, as always, he would defend the Empire
against internal and external enemies. "Rest assured we will not go to
Canossa," he said.

In undertaking this struggle with the Church he had two enemies to
contend with--the Pope and the government of the Church on the one side,
on the other the Catholic population of Germany. He tried to come to
some agreement with the Pope and to separate the two; it seemed in fact
as if the real enemy to be contended against was not the foreign
priesthood, but the Catholic Democracy in Germany. All Bismarck's
efforts to separate the two and to procure the assistance of the Pope
against the party of the Centre were to be unavailing; for some years
all official communication between the German Government and the Papal
See was broken off. It was not till the death of Pius IX. and the
accession of a more liberal-minded Pope that communication was restored;
then we are surprised to find Bismarck appealing to the Pope to use his
influence on the Centre in order to persuade them to vote for a proposed
increase in the German army. This is a curious comment on the boast, "We
will not go to Canossa."

The truth is that in undertaking the conflict and associating himself
with the anti-Clerical party Bismarck had stirred up an enemy whom he
was not able to overcome. He soon found that the priests and the
Catholics were men of a different calibre to the Liberals. They dared to
do what none of the Progressives had ventured on--they disobeyed the
law. With them it was not likely that the conflict would be confined to
Parliamentary debates. The Government attempted to meet this resistance,
but in vain. The priests were deprived of their cures, bishops were
thrown into prison, nearly half the Catholic parishes in Prussia were
deprived of their spiritual shepherds, the churches were closed, there
was no one to celebrate baptisms or weddings. Against this resistance
what could the Government do? The people supported the leaders of the
party, and a united body of one hundred members under Windhorst, ablest
of Parliamentary leaders, was committed to absolute opposition to every
Government measure so long as the conflict continued. Can we be
surprised that as the years went on Bismarck looked with some concern on
the result of the struggle he had brought about?

He attempted to conceal the failure: "The result will be," he said,
"that we shall have two great parties--one which supports and maintains
the State, and another which attacks it. The former will be the great
majority and it will be formed in the school of conflict." These words
are the strongest condemnation of his policy. It could not be wise for
any statesman to arrange that party conflict should take the form of
loyalty and disloyalty to the Empire.

There can be little doubt that his sense of failure helped to bring
about a feeling of enmity towards the National Liberals. Suddenly in the
spring of 1877 he sent in his resignation. There were, however, other
reasons for doing this. He had become aware that the financial policy of
the Empire had not been successful; on every side it seemed that new
blood and new methods were required. In financial matters he had little
experience or authority; he had to depend on his colleagues and he
complained of their unfruitfulness. Influenced perhaps by his perception
of this, under the pretext--a genuine pretext--of ill-health, he asked
the Emperor to relieve him of his offices. The Emperor refused. "Never,"
he wrote on the side of the minute. Instead he granted to Bismarck
unlimited leave of absence. In the month of April the Chancellor retired
to Varzin; for ten months he was absent from Berlin, and when he
returned, recruited in health, in February, 1878, it was soon apparent
that a new period in his career and in the history of the Empire was to




The year 1878 forms a turning-point both in internal and in external
politics. Up to this year Prussia has been allied with the two Eastern
monarchies; the Empire has been governed by the help of the National
Liberal party; the chief enemy has been the Clericals. The traditions of
the time before the war are still maintained. After this year the
understanding with Russia breaks down; instead of it the peace of Europe
is preserved by the Triple Alliance with Austria and Italy. In internal
affairs the change is even more marked; the rising power of the
Socialists is the enemy to be fought against; for this conflict, peace
has to be made with the Catholics--the May laws are modified or
repealed. The alliance with Liberalism breaks down, and the efforts of
the Government are devoted to a far-reaching scheme of financial reform
and social legislation.

When, in April, 1877, the Emperor refused to accept Bismarck's
resignation, the whole country applauded the decision. In the Reichstag
a great demonstration was made of confidence in the Chancellor. Everyone
felt that he could not be spared at a time when the complications in the
East were bringing new dangers upon Europe, and in the seclusion of
Varzin he did not cease during the next months to direct the foreign
policy of the Empire. He was able with the other Governments of Europe
to prevent the spread of hostilities from Turkey to the rest of Europe,
and when the next year the English Government refused its assent to the
provisional peace of San Stefano, it was the unanimous desire of all the
other States that the settlement of Turkey should be submitted to a
Congress at Berlin over which he should preside. It was the culmination
of his public career; it was the recognition by Europe in the most
impressive way of his primacy among living statesmen. In his management
of the Congress he answered to the expectations formed of him. "We do
not wish to go," he had said, "the way of Napoleon; we do not desire to
be the arbitrators or schoolmasters of Europe. We do not wish to force
our policy on other States by appealing to the strength of our army. I
look on our task as a more useful though a humbler one; it is enough if
we can be an honest broker." He succeeded in the task he had set before
himself, and in reconciling the apparently incompatible desires of
England and Russia. Again and again when the Congress seemed about to
break up without result he made himself the spokesman of Russian wishes,
and conveyed them to Lord Beaconsfield, the English plenipotentiary.
None the less the friendship of Russia, which had before wavered, now
broke down. A bitter attack on Germany and Bismarck was begun in the
Russian Press; the new German fiscal policy led to misunderstandings;
the Czar in private letters to the Emperor demanded in the negotiations
that were still going on the absolute and unconditional support of
Germany to all Russian demands as the condition of Russian friendship.
In the autumn of the next year matters came near to war; it was in these
circumstances that Bismarck brought about that alliance which ever since
then has governed European politics. He hastily arranged a meeting with
Count Andrassy, the Austrian Minister, and in a few days the two
statesmen agreed on a defensive alliance between the two Empires. Many
years later, in 1886, the instrument of alliance was published. It was
agreed that if either of the German States was attacked by Russia the
other would join to defend it; if either was attacked by France the
other would observe neutrality; but if the French were supported by
Russia then the first clause would come into force. The Emperor of
Austria willingly gave his assent; it was only after a prolonged
struggle that Bismarck was able to gain the assent of his own sovereign.
This alliance, which in the next year was joined by Italy, again gave
Germany the ruling position in Europe.

During this crisis in foreign affairs Bismarck was occupied by another,
which threatened to be equally serious, in home politics. In the spring
of 1878 an attempt was made on the life of the Emperor; a young man,
named Hobel, a shoemaker's apprentice, shot at him in the streets of
Berlin, fortunately without result. The attempt naturally created
intense indignation throughout the country. This was increased when it
became known that he had been to some extent connected with the
Socialist party, and it seemed as though the motives of the crime were
supplied by the violent speeches made at Socialist gatherings. Bismarck
had long regarded the growth of Socialism with concern. He determined to
use this opportunity to crush it. He at once brought into the Bundesrath
a very severe law, forbidding all Socialist agitation and propaganda. He
succeeded in passing it through the Council, but it was thrown out in
the Reichstag by a very large majority. No one voted for it except the
Conservatives. The law indeed was so drawn up that one does not see how
anyone could have voted for it; the first clause began, "Printed
writings and unions which follow the aims of Social Democracy may be
forbidden by the Federal Council," but, as was pointed out, among the
aims of Social Democracy were many which were good in themselves, and
many others which, though they might be considered harmful by other
parties, were at least legitimate. Directly afterwards the Reichstag was
prorogued. Ten days later, another attempt was made on the Emperor's
life; this time a man of the name of Nobeling (an educated man who had
studied at the University) shot at him while driving in the Unter den
Linden, and wounded him severely in the head and arms with large shot.
The Emperor was driven home to his palace almost unconscious, and for
some time his life was in danger. This second attempt in so short a time
on the life of a man almost eighty years of age, so universally loved
and respected, who had conferred such benefits on his country, naturally
aroused a storm of indignation. When Bismarck received the news his
first words were, "Now the Reichstag must be dissolved." This was done;
the general elections took place while the excitement was still hot, and
of course resulted in a great loss to those parties--especially the
National Liberals--who had voted against the Socialist law; the Centre
alone retained its numbers. Before this new Parliament a fresh law was
laid, drafted with much more skill. It absolutely forbade all speeches
or writing in favour of plans for overthrowing the order of society, or
directed against marriage and property. It enabled the Government to
proclaim in all large towns a state of siege, and to expel from them by
the mere decree of the police anyone suspected of Socialist agitation.
The law, which was easily carried, was enforced with great severity; a
state of siege was proclaimed in Berlin and many other places. Socialist
papers, and even books, for instance the writings of Lassalle, were
forbidden; they might not even be read in public libraries; and for the
next twelve years the Socialist party had to carry on their propaganda
by secret means.

This Socialist law is very disappointing; we find the Government again
having recourse to the same means for checking and guiding opinion which
Metternich had used fifty years before. Not indeed that the Socialists
themselves had any ground for complaint; their avowed end was the
overthrow of government and society; they professed to be at war with
all established institutions; if they confined their efforts to legal
measures and did not use violence, it was only because the time had not
yet come. The men who avowed admiration for the Paris Commune, who were
openly preparing for a revolution more complete than any which Europe
had hitherto seen, could not complain if the Government, while there was
yet time, used every means for crushing them. The mistake was in
supposing that this measure would be successful. Bismarck would, indeed,
had he been able, have made it far more severe; his own idea was that
anyone who had been legally convicted of holding Socialist opinions
should be deprived of the franchise and excluded from the Parliament.
What a misunderstanding does this shew of the whole object and nature of
representative institutions! It had been decided that in Germany
Parliament was not to govern; what then was its function except to
display the opinions of the people? If, as was the case, so large a
proportion of the German nation belonged to a party of discontent, then
it was above all desirable that their wishes and desires should have
open expression, and be discussed where they could be overthrown. The
Government had enormous means of influencing opinion. In the old days
the men of letters had been on principle in opposition; now Germany was
flooded by papers, books, and pamphlets; all devoted to the most
extravagant praise of the new institutions. The excuse which was made
for these laws was not a sufficient one. It is seldom necessary to meet
political assassination by repressive measures, for they must always
create a danger which they intend to avert. There was not the slightest
ground for supposing that either Hobel or Nobeling had any confederates;
there was no plot; it was but the wild and wicked action of an
individual. It was as absurd to put a large party under police control
for this reason as it was to punish Liberals for the action of Sand. And
it was ineffective, as the events of the next years shewed; for the
Socialist law did not spare Germany from the infection of outrage which
in these years overran Europe.

The Socialist laws were soon followed by other proposals of a more
useful kind, and now we come to one of the most remarkable episodes in
Bismarck's career. He was over sixty years of age; his health was
uncertain; he had long complained of the extreme toil and the constant
annoyance which his public duties brought upon him. It might appear that
he had finished his work, and, if he could not retire altogether, would
give over the management of all internal affairs to others. That he
would now take upon himself a whole new department of public duties,
that he would after his prolonged absence appear again as leader and
innovator in Parliamentary strife--this no one anticipated.

Up to the year 1876 he had taken little active part in finance; his
energies had been entirely absorbed by foreign affairs and he had been
content to adopt and support the measures recommended by his technical
advisers. When he had interfered at all it had only been on those
occasions when, as with regard to commercial treaties, the policy of his
colleagues had impeded his own political objects. In 1864 he had been
much annoyed because difference on commercial matters had interfered
with the good understanding with Austria, which at that time he was
trying to maintain. Since the foundation of the Empire almost the
complete control over the commercial policy of the Empire had been
entrusted to Delbrück, who held the very important post of President of
the Imperial Chancery, and was treated by Bismarck with a deference and
consideration which no other of his fellow-workers received, except
Moltke and Roon. Delbrück was a confirmed Free-Trader, and the result
was that, partly by commercial treaties, and partly by the abolition of
customs dues, the tariff had been reduced and simplified. The years
following the war had, however, not been altogether prosperous; a great
outbreak of speculation was followed in 1873 by a serious commercial
crisis. And since that year there had been a permanent decrease in the
Imperial receipts. This was, for political reasons, a serious
inconvenience. By the arrangement made in 1866 the proceeds of the
customs and of the indirect taxation (with some exceptions) were paid
into the Exchequer of the Federation, and afterwards of the Empire. If
the receipts from these sources were not sufficient to meet the Imperial
requirements, the deficit had to be made up by contributions paid (in
proportion to their population) by the separate States. During later
years these contributions had annually increased, and it is needless to
point out that this was sufficient to make the relations of the State
Governments to the central authorities disagreeable, and to cause some
discontent with the new Constitution. This meant also an increase of the
amount which had to be raised by direct taxation. Now Bismarck had
always much disliked direct taxes; he had again and again pointed out
that they were paid with great reluctance, and often fell with peculiar
hardship on that very large class which could only just, by constant and
assiduous labour, make an income sufficient for their needs. Worst of
all was it when they were unable to pay even the few shillings required;
they then had to undergo the hardship and disgrace of distraint, and see
their furniture seized and sold by the tax-collectors. He had therefore
always wished that the income derived from customs and indirect taxation
should be increased so as by degrees to do away with the necessity for
direct taxation, and if this could be done, then, instead of the States
paying an annual contribution to the Empire, they would receive from the
central Government pecuniary assistance.

The dislike of direct taxation is an essential part of Bismarck's
reform; he especially disapproved of the Prussian system, the barbarous
system, as he called it, according to which every man had to pay a small
portion, it might be even a few _groschen_, in direct taxes.

  "I ascribe," he said, "the large part of our emigration
  to the fact that the emigrant wishes to escape the
  direct pressure of the taxes and execution, and to go to
  a land where the _klassensteuer_ does not exist, and where
  he will also have the pleasure of knowing that the produce
  of his labours will be protected against foreign

His opinion cannot be called exaggerated if it is true that, as he
stated, there were every year over a million executions involving the
seizure and sale of household goods on account of arrears of taxation.
It was not only the State taxes to which he objected; the local rates
for municipal expenses, and especially for education, fell very heavily
on the inhabitants of large cities such as Berlin. He intended to devote
part of the money which was raised by indirect taxation to relieving the

His first proposals for raising the money were of a very sweeping
nature. He wished to introduce a State monopoly for the sale of tobacco,
brandy, and beer. He entered into calculations by which he proved that
were his policy adopted all direct taxation might be repealed, and he
would have a large surplus for an object which he had very much at
heart--the provision of old-age pensions. It was a method of legislation
copied from that which prevails in France and Italy. He pointed out with
perfect justice that the revenue raised in Germany from the consumption
of tobacco was much smaller than it ought to be. The total sum gained by
the State was not a tenth of that which was produced in England by the
taxing of tobacco, but no one could maintain that smoking was more
common in England than in Germany. In fact tobacco was less heavily
taxed in Germany than in any other country in Europe.

In introducing a monopoly Bismarck intended and hoped not only to
relieve the pressure of direct taxation,--though this would have been a
change sufficient in its magnitude and importance for most men,--but
proposed to use the very large sum which the Government would have at
its disposal for the direct relief of the working classes. The Socialist
law was not to go alone; he intended absolutely to stamp out this
obnoxious agitation, but it was not from any indifference as to the
condition of the working classes. From his earliest days he had been
opposed to the Liberal doctrine of _laissez-faire_; it will be
remembered how much he had disliked the _bourgeois_ domination of the
July Monarchy; as a young man he had tried to prevent the abolition of
guilds. He considered that much of the distress and discontent arose
from the unrestricted influence of capital. He was only acting in
accordance with the oldest and best traditions of the Prussian Monarchy
when he called in the power of the State to protect the poor. His plan
was a very bold one; he wished to institute a fund from which there
should be paid to every working man who was incapacitated by sickness,
accident, or old age, a pension from the State. In his original plan he
intended the working men should not be required to make any contribution
themselves towards this fund. It was not to be made to appear to them as
a new burden imposed on them by the State. The tobacco monopoly, he
said, he looked on as "the patrimony of the disinherited."

He did not fear the charge of Socialism which might be brought against
him; he defended himself by the provisions of the Prussian law. The Code
of Frederick the Great contained the words:

  "It is the duty of the State to provide for the sustenance and support
  of those of its citizens who cannot procure sustenance themselves"; and
  again, "work adapted to their strength and capacity shall be supplied to
  those who lack means and opportunity of earning a livelihood for
  themselves and those dependent on them."

In the most public way the new policy was introduced by an Imperial
message, on November 17, 1881, in which the Emperor expressed his
conviction that the social difficulties could not be healed simply by
the repression of the exaggerations of Social Democracy, but at the same
time the welfare of the workmen must be advanced. This new policy had
the warm approval of both the Emperor and the Crown Prince; no one
greeted more heartily the change than Windthorst.

  "Allow me," he once said to Bismarck, "to speak
  openly: you have done me much evil in my life, but, as
  a German patriot, I must confess to you my gratitude
  that after all his political deeds you have persuaded our
  Imperial Master to turn to this path of Social Reform."

There were, he said, difficulties to be met; he approved of the end, but
not of all the details,

  "and," he continued, "something of the difficulty, if I
  may say so, you cause yourself. You are often too stormy
  for us; you are always coming with something new and
  we cannot always follow you in it, but you must not
  take that amiss. We are both old men and the Emperor
  is much older than we are, but we should like ourselves
  in our lifetime to see some of these reforms established.
  That I wish for all of us and for our German country,
  and we will do our best to help in it."

Opinions may differ as to the wisdom of Bismarck's social and financial
policy; nobody can deny their admiration for the energy and patriotism
which he displayed. It was no small thing for him, at his age, to come
out of his comparative retirement to bring forward proposals which would
be sure to excite the bitterest opposition of the men with whom he had
been working, to embark again on a Parliamentary conflict as keen as any
of those which had so taxed his energies in his younger years. Not
content with inaugurating and suggesting these plans, he himself
undertook the immediate execution of them. In addition to his other
offices, in 1880 he undertook that of Minister of Trade in Prussia, for
he found no one whom he could entirely trust to carry out his proposals.
During the next years he again took a prominent part in the
Parliamentary debates; day after day he attended to answer objections
and to defend his measures in some of his ablest and longest speeches.
By his proposals for a duty on corn he regained the support of most of
the Conservatives, but in the Reichstag which was elected in 1884 he
found himself opposed by a majority consisting of the Centre,
Socialists, and Progressives. Many of the laws were rejected or
amended, and it was not until 1890 that, in a modified form, the whole
of the social legislation had been carried through.

For the monopoly he gained no support; scarcely a voice was raised in
its favour, nor can we be surprised at this. It was a proposal very
characteristic of his internal policy; he had a definite aim in view and
at once took the shortest, boldest, and most direct road towards it,
putting aside the thought of all further consequences. In this others
could not follow him; quite apart from the difficulties of organisation
and the unknown effect of the law on all those who gained their
livelihood by the growth, preparation, and sale of tobacco, there was a
deep feeling that it was not safe to entrust the Government with so
enormous a power. Men did not wish to see so many thousands enrolled in
the army of officials, already too great; they did not desire a new
check on the freedom of life and occupation, nor that the Government
should have the uncontrolled use of so great a sum of money. And then
the use he proposed to make of the proceeds: if the calculations were
correct, if the results were what he foretold, if from this monopoly
they would be able to pay not only the chief expenses of the Government
but also assign an old-age pension to every German workman who reached
the age of seventy--what would this be except to make the great majority
of the nation prospective pensioners of the State? With compulsory
attendance at the State schools; with the State universities as the only
entrance to public life and professions; when everyone for three years
had to serve in the army; when so large a proportion of the population
earned their livelihood in the railways, the post-office, the customs,
the administration--the State had already a power and influence which
many besides the Liberals regarded with alarm. What would it be when
every working man looked forward to receiving, after his working days
were over, a free gift from the Government? Could not this power be used
for political measures also; could not it become a means for checking
the freedom of opinions and even for interfering in the liberty of

He had to raise the money he wanted in another way, and, in 1879, he
began the great financial change that he had been meditating for three
years; he threw all his vigour into overthrowing Free Trade and
introducing a general system of Protection.

In this he was only doing what a large number of his countrymen desired.
The results of Free Trade had not been satisfactory. In 1876 there was a
great crisis in the iron trade; owing to overproduction there was a
great fall of prices in England, and Germany was being flooded with
English goods sold below cost price. Many factories had to be closed,
owners were ruined, and men thrown out of work; it happened that, by a
law passed in 1873, the last duty on imported iron would cease on the
31st of December, 1876. Many of the manufacturers and a large party in
the Reichstag petitioned that the action of the law might at any rate be
suspended. Free-Traders, however, still had a majority, for the greater
portion of the National Liberals belonged to that school, and the law
was carried out. It was, however, apparent that not only the iron but
other industries were threatened. The building of railways in Russia
would bring about an increased importation of Russian corn and
threatened the prosperity, not only of the large proprietors, but also
of the peasants. It had always been the wise policy of the Prussian
Government to maintain and protect by legislation the peasants, who were
considered the most important class in the State. Then the trade in
Swedish wood threatened to interfere with the profits from the German
forests, an industry so useful to the health of the country and the
prosperity of the Government. But if Free Trade would injure the market
for the natural products of the soil, it did not bring any compensating
advantages by helping industry. Germany was flooded with English
manufactures, so that even the home market was endangered, and every
year it became more apparent that foreign markets were being closed. The
sanguine expectations of the Free-Traders had not been realised;
America, France, Russia, had high tariffs; German manufactured goods
were excluded from these countries. What could they look forward to in
the future but a ruined peasantry and the crippling of the iron and
weaving industries? "I had the impression," said Bismarck, "that under
Free Trade we were gradually bleeding to death."

He was probably much influenced in his new policy by Lothar Bucher, one
of his private secretaries, who was constantly with him at Varzin.
Bucher, who had been an extreme Radical, had, in 1849, been compelled
to fly from the country and had lived many years in England. In 1865 he
had entered Bismarck's service. He had acquired a peculiar enmity to the
Cobden Club, and looked on that institution as the subtle instrument of
a deep-laid plot to persuade other nations to adopt a policy which was
entirely for the benefit of England. He drew attention to Cobden's
words--"All we desire is the prosperity and greatness of England." We
may in fact look on the Cobden Club and the principles it advocated from
two points of view. Either they are, as Bucher maintained, simply
English and their only result will be the prosperity of England, or they
are merely one expression of a general form of thought which we know as
Liberalism; it was an attempt to create cosmopolitan institutions and to
induce German politicians to take their economic doctrines from England,
just as a few years before they had taken their political theories. In
either case these doctrines would be very distasteful to Bismarck, who
disliked internationalism in finance as much as he did in constitutional
law or Socialist propaganda.

Bismarck in adopting Protection was influenced, not by economic theory,
but by the observation of facts. "All nations," he said, "which have
Protective duties enjoy a certain prosperity; what great advantages has
America reached since it threatened to reduce duties twice, five times,
ten times as high as ours!" England alone clung to Free Trade, and why?
Because she had grown so strong under the old system of Protection that
she could now as a Hercules step down into the arena and challenge
everyone to come into the lists. In the arena of commerce England was
the strongest. This was why she advocated Free Trade, for Free Trade was
really the right of the most powerful. English interests were furthered
under the veil of the magic word Freedom, and by it German enthusiasts
for liberty were enticed to bring about the ruin and exploitation of
their own country.

If we look at the matter purely from the economic point of view, it is
indeed difficult to see what benefits Germany would gain from a policy
of Free Trade. It was a poor country; if it was to maintain itself in
the modern rivalry of nations, it must become rich. It could only become
rich through manufactures, and manufactures had no opportunity of
growing unless they had some moderate protection from foreign

The effect of Bismarck's attention to finance was not limited to these
great reforms; he directed the whole power of the Government to the
support of all forms of commercial enterprise and to the removal of all
hindrances to the prosperity of the nation. To this task he devoted
himself with the same courage and determination which he had formerly
shewn in his diplomatic work.

One essential element in the commercial reform was the improvement of
the railways. Bismarck's attention had long been directed to the
inconveniences which arose from the number of private companies, whose
duty it was to regard the dividends of the shareholders rather than the
interests of the public. The existence of a monopoly of this kind in
private hands seemed to him indefensible. His attention was especially
directed to the injury done to trade by the differential rate imposed on
goods traffic; on many lines it was the custom to charge lower rates on
imported than on exported goods, and this naturally had a very bad
effect on German manufactures. He would have liked to remedy all these
deficiencies by making all railways the property of the Empire (we see
again his masterful mind, which dislikes all compromise); in this,
however, he was prevented by the opposition of the other States, who
would not surrender the control of their own lines. In Prussia he was
able to carry out this policy of purchase of all private lines by the
State; by the time he laid down the Ministry of Commerce hardly any
private companies remained. The acquisition of all the lines enabled the
Government greatly to improve the communication, to lower fares, and to
introduce through communications; all this of course greatly added to
the commercial enterprise and therefore the wealth of the country.

He was now also able to give degrees his encouragement and support to
those Germans who for many years in countries beyond the sea had been
attempting to lay the foundations for German commerce and even to
acquire German colonies. Bismarck's attitude in this matter deserves
careful attention. As early as 1874 he had been approached by German
travellers to ask for the support of the Government in a plan for
acquiring German colonies in South Africa. They pointed out that here
was a country fitted by its climate for European occupation; the
present inhabitants of a large portion of it, the Boers, were anxious to
establish their independence of England and would welcome German
support. It was only necessary to acquire a port, either at Santa Lucia
or at Delagoa Bay, to receive a small subsidy from the Government, and
then private enterprise would divert the stream of German emigration
from North America to South Africa. Bismarck, though he gave a courteous
hearing to this proposal, could not promise them assistance, for, as he
said, the political situation was not favourable. He must foresee that
an attempt to carry out this or similar plans would inevitably bring
about very serious difficulties with England, and he had always been
accustomed to attach much importance to his good understanding with the
English Government. During the following years, however, the situation
was much altered. First of all, great enterprise had been shewn by the
German merchants and adventurers in different parts of the world,
especially in Africa and in the Pacific. They, in those difficulties
which will always occur when white traders settle in half-civilised
lands, applied for support to the German Government. Bismarck, as he
himself said, did not dare to refuse them this support.

  "I approached the matter with some reluctance; I
  asked myself, how could I justify it, if I said to these
  enterprising men, over whose courage, enthusiasm, and
  vigour I have been heartily pleased: 'That is all very
  well, but the German Empire is not strong enough, it
  would attract the ill-will of other States.' I had not the
  courage as Chancellor to declare to them this bankruptcy
  of the German nation for transmarine enterprises."

It must, however, happen that wherever these German settlers went, they
would be in the neighbourhood of some English colony, and however
friendly were the relations of the Governments of the two Powers,
disputes must occur in the outlying parts of the earth. In the first
years of the Empire Bismarck had hoped that German traders would find
sufficient protection from the English authorities, and anticipated
their taking advantage of the full freedom of trade allowed in the
British colonies; they would get all the advantages which would arise
from establishing their own colonies, while the Government would be
spared any additional responsibility. He professed, however, to have
learnt by experience from the difficulties which came after the
annexation of the Fiji Islands by Great Britain that this hope would not
be fulfilled; he acknowledged the great friendliness of the Foreign
Office, but complained that the Colonial Office regarded exclusively
British interests. As a complaint coming from his mouth this arouses
some amusement; the Colonial Office expressed itself satisfied to have
received from so high an authority a testimonial to its efficiency which
it had rarely gained from Englishmen.

The real change in the policy of the Empire must, however, be attributed
not to any imaginary shortcomings of the English authorities; it was an
inevitable result of the abandonment of the policy of Free Trade, and
of the active support which the Government was now giving to all forms
of commercial enterprise. It was shewn, first of all, in the grant of
subsidies to mail steamers, which enabled German trade and German
travellers henceforward to be carried by German ships; before they had
depended entirely on English and French lines. It was not till 1884 that
the Government saw its way to undertake protection of German colonists.
They were enabled to do so by the great change which had taken place in
the political situation. Up to this time Germany was powerless to help
or to injure England, but, on the other hand, required English support.
All this was changed by the occupation of Egypt. Here England required a
support on the Continent against the indignation of France and the
jealousy of Russia. This could only be found in Germany, and therefore a
close approximation between the two countries was natural. Bismarck let
it be known that England would find no support, but rather opposition,
if she, on her side, attempted, as she so easily could have done, to
impede German colonial enterprise.

In his colonial policy Bismarck refused to take the initiative; he
refused, also, to undertake the direct responsibility for the government
of their new possessions. He imitated the older English plan, and left
the government in the hands of private companies, who received a charter
of incorporation; he avowedly was imitating the East India Company and
the Hudson's Bay Company. The responsibilities of the German Government
were limited to a protection of the companies against the attack or
interference by any other Power, and a general control over their
actions. In this way it was possible to avoid calling on the Reichstag
for any large sum, or undertaking the responsibility of an extensive
colonial establishment, for which at the time they had neither men nor
experience. Another reason against the direct annexation of foreign
countries lay in the Constitution of the Empire; it would have been
easier to annex fresh land to Prussia; this could have been done by the
authority of the King; there was, however, no provision by which the
Bundesrath could undertake this responsibility, and it probably could
not be done even with the assent of the Reichstag unless some change
were made in the Constitution. It was, however, essential that the new
acquisitions should be German and not Prussian.

All these changes were not introduced without much opposition; the
Progressives especially distinguished themselves by their prolonged
refusal to assent even to the subsidies for German lines of steamers. In
the Parliament of 1884 they were enabled often to throw out the
Government proposals. It was at this time that the conflict between
Bismarck and Richter reached its height. He complained, and justly
complained, that the policy of the Progressives was then, as always,
negative. It is indeed strange to notice how we find reproduced in
Germany that same feeling which a few years before had in England nearly
led to the loss of the colonies and the destruction of the Empire.

It is too soon even now to consider fully the result of this new
policy; the introduction of Protection has indeed, if we are to judge by
appearances, brought about a great increase in the prosperity of the
country; whether the scheme for old-age pensions will appease the
discontent of the working man seems very doubtful. One thing, however,
we must notice: the influence of the new policy is far greater than the
immediate results of the actual laws passed. It has taught the Germans
to look to the Government not only as a means of protecting them against
the attacks of other States, but to see in it a thoughtful, and I think
we may say kindly, guardian of their interests. They know that every
attempt of each individual to gain wealth or power for his country will
be supported and protected by the Government; they know that there is
constant watchfulness as to the dangers to life and health which arise
from the conditions of modern civilisation. In these laws, in fact,
Bismarck, who deeply offended and irretrievably alienated the survivors
of his own generation, won over and secured for himself and also for the
Government the complete loyalty of the rising generation. It might be
supposed that this powerful action on the part of the State would
interfere with private enterprise; the result shews that this is not the
case. A watchful and provident Government really acts as an incentive to
each individual. Let us also recognise that Bismarck was acting exactly
as in the old days every English Government acted, when the foreign
policy was dictated by the interests of British trade and the home
policy aimed at preserving, protecting, and assisting the different
classes in the community.

Bismarck has often been called a reactionary, and yet we find that by
the social legislation he was the first statesman deliberately to apply
himself to the problem which had been created by the alteration in the
structure of society. Even if the solutions which he proposed do not
prove in every case to have been the best, he undoubtedly foresaw what
would be the chief occupation for the statesmen of the future. In these
reforms he had, however, little help from the Reichstag; the Liberals
were bitterly opposed, the Socialists sceptical and suspicious, the
Catholics cool and unstable allies; during these years the chronic
quarrel between himself and Parliament broke out with renewed vigour.
How bitterly did he deplore party spirit, the bane of German life, which
seemed each year to gain ground!

"It has," he said, "transferred itself to our modern public life and the
Parliaments; the Governments, indeed, stand together, but in the German
Reichstag I do not find that guardian of liberty for which I had hoped.
Party spirit has overrun us. This it is which I accuse before God and
history, if the great work of our people achieved between 1866 and 1870
fall into decay, and in this House we destroy by the pen what has been
created by the sword."

In future years it will perhaps be regarded as one of his chief claims
that he refused to become a party leader. He saved Germany from a
serious danger to which almost every other country in Europe which has
attempted to adopt English institutions has fallen a victim--the
sacrifice of national welfare to the integrity and power of a
Parliamentary fraction. His desire was a strong and determined
Government, zealously working for the benefit of all classes, quick to
see and foresee present and future evil; he regarded not the personal
wishes of individuals, but looked only in each matter he undertook to
its effect on the nation as a whole. "I will accept help," he said,
"wherever I may get it. I care not to what party any man belongs. I have
no intention of following a party policy; I used to do so when I was a
young and angry member of a party, but it is impossible for a Prussian
or German Minister." Though the Constitution had been granted, he did
not wish to surrender the oldest and best traditions of the Prussian
Monarchy; and even if the power of the King and Emperor was limited and
checked by two Parliaments it was still his duty, standing above all
parties, to watch over the country as a hundred years before his
ancestors had done.

His power, however, was checked by the Parliaments. Bismarck often
sighed for a free hand; he longed to be able to carry out his reforms
complete and rounded as they lay clear before him in his own brain; how
often did he groan under all the delay, the compromise, the surrender,
which was imposed upon him when, conscious as he was that he was only
striving for the welfare of his country, he had to win over not only the
King, not only his colleagues in the Prussian Ministry, his
subordinates, who had much power to check and impede his actions, but,
above all, the Parliaments. It was inevitable that his relation to them
should often be one of conflict; it was their duty to submit to a
searching criticism the proposals of the Government and to amend or
reject them, and let us confess that it was better they were there. The
modifications they introduced in the bills he proposed were often
improvements; those they rejected were not always wise. The drafting of
Government bills was often badly done; the first proposals for the
Socialistic law, the original drafts of many of his economic reforms,
were all the better when they had been once rejected and were again
brought forward in a modified form. More than this, we must confess that
Bismarck did not possess that temperament which would make it wise to
entrust him with absolute dictatorial power in internal matters. He
attempted to apply to legislation habits he had learnt in diplomacy. And
it is curious to notice Bismarck's extreme caution in diplomacy, where
he was a recognised master, and his rashness in legislation, where the
ground was often new to him. In foreign affairs a false move may easily
be withdrawn, a change of alliance quickly made; it often happens that
speed is more important than wisdom. In internal affairs it is
different; there, delay is in itself of value; moreover, false
legislation cannot be imposed with impunity, laws cannot be imposed and

Bismarck often complained of the conduct of the Reichstag. There were in
it two parties, the Socialists and the Centre, closely organised,
admirably disciplined, obedient to leaders who were in opposition by
principle; they looked on the Parliamentary campaign as a struggle for
power, and they maintained the struggle with a persistency and success
which had not been surpassed by any Parliamentary Opposition in any
other country. Apart from them the attitude of all the parties was
normally that of moderate criticism directed to the matter of the
Government proposals. There were, of course, often angry scenes;
Bismarck himself did not spare his enemies, but we find no events which
shew violence beyond what is, if not legitimate, at least inevitable in
all Parliamentary assemblies. The main objects of the Government were
always attained; the military Budgets were always passed, though once
not until after a dissolution. In the contest with the Clerical party
and the Socialists the Government had the full support of a large
majority. Even in the hostile Reichstag of 1884, in which the
Socialists, Clericals, and Progressives together commanded a majority, a
series of important laws were passed. Once, indeed, the majority in
opposition to the Government went beyond the limits of reason and honour
when they refused a vote of £1000 for an additional director in the
Foreign Office. It was the expression of a jealousy which had no
justification in facts; at the time the German Foreign Office was the
best managed department in Europe; the labour imposed on the secretaries
was excessive, and the nation could not help contrasting this vote with
the fact that shortly before a large number of the members had voted
that payments should be made to themselves. The nation could not help
asking whether it would not gain more benefit from another £1000 a year
expended on the Foreign Office than from £50,000 a year for payment of
members. Even this unfortunate action was remedied a few months later,
when the vote was passed in the same Parliament by a majority of twenty.

Notwithstanding all their internal differences and the extreme party
spirit which often prevailed, the Reichstag always shewed determination
in defending its own privileges. More than once Bismarck attacked them
in the most tender points. At one time it was on the privileges of
members and their freedom from arrest; both during the struggle with the
Clericals and with the Socialists the claim was made to arrest members
during the session for political utterances. When Berlin was subject to
a state of siege, the President of the Police claimed the right of
expelling from the capital obnoxious Socialist members. On these
occasions the Government found itself confronted by the unanimous
opposition of the whole House. In 1884, Bismarck proposed that the
meetings of the Reichstag should be biennial and the Budget voted for
two years; the proposal was supported on the reasonable grounds that
thereby inconvenience and press of work would be averted, which arose
from the meeting of the Prussian and German Parliaments every winter.
Few votes, however, could be obtained for a suggestion which seemed to
cut away the most important privileges of Parliament.

Another of the great causes of friction between Bismarck and the
Parliament arose from the question as to freedom of debate. Both before
1866, and since that year, he made several attempts to introduce laws
that members should be to some extent held responsible, and under
certain circumstances be brought before a court of law, in consequence
of what they had said from their places in Parliament. This was
represented as an interference with freedom of speech, and was bitterly
resented. Bismarck, however, always professed, and I think truly, that
he did not wish to control the members in their opposition to the
Government, but to place some check on their personal attacks on
individuals. A letter to one of his colleagues, written in 1883, is

  "I have," he says, "long learned the difficulties which educated
  people, who have been well brought up, have to overcome in order
  to meet the coarseness of our Parliamentary _Klopfechter_
  [pugilists] with the necessary amount of indifference, and to
  refuse them in one's own consciousness the undeserved honour of
  moral equality. The repeated and bitter struggles in which you
  have had to fight alone will have strengthened you in your
  feeling of contempt for opponents who are neither honourable
  enough nor deserve sufficient respect to be able to injure you."

There was indeed a serious evil arising from the want of the feeling of
responsibility in a Parliamentary assembly which had no great and
honourable traditions. He attempted to meet it by strengthening the
authority of the House over its own members; the Chairman did not
possess any power of punishing breaches of decorum. Bismarck often
contrasted this with the very great powers over their own members
possessed by the British Houses of Parliament. He drew attention to the
procedure by which, for instance, Mr. Plimsoll could be compelled to
apologise for hasty words spoken in a moment of passion. It is strange
that neither the Prussian nor the German Parliament consented to adopt
rules which are really the necessary complement for the privileges of

The Germans were much disappointed by the constant quarrels and disputes
which were so frequent in public life; they had hoped that with the
unity of their country a new period would begin; they found that, as
before, the management of public affairs was disfigured by constant
personal enmities and the struggle of parties. We must not, however,
look on this as a bad sign; it is rather more profitable to observe that
the new institutions were not affected or weakened by this friction. It
was a good sign for the future that the new State held together as
firmly as any old-established monarchy, and that the most important
questions of policy could be discussed and decided without even raising
any point which might be a danger to the permanence of the Empire.

Bismarck himself did much to put his relations with the Parliament on a
new and better footing. Acting according to his general principle, he
felt that the first thing to be done was to induce mutual confidence by
unrestrained personal intercourse. The fact that he himself was not a
member of the Parliament deprived him of those opportunities which an
English Minister enjoys. He therefore instituted, in 1868, a
Parliamentary reception. During the session, generally one day each
week, his house was opened to all members of the House. The invitations
were largely accepted, especially by the members of the National Liberal
and Conservative parties. Those who were opponents on principle, the
Centre, the Progressives, and the Socialists, generally stayed away.
These receptions became the most marked feature in the political life of
the capital, and they enabled many members to come under the personal
charm of the Chancellor. What an event was it in the life of the young
and unknown Deputy from some obscure provincial town, when he found
himself sitting, perhaps, at the same table as the Chancellor, drinking
the beer which Bismarck had brought into honour at Berlin, and for which
his house was celebrated, and listening while, with complete freedom
from all arrogance or pomposity, his host talked as only he could!

The weakest side of his administration lay in the readiness with which
he had recourse to the criminal law to defend himself against political
adversaries. He was, indeed, constantly subjected to attacks in the
Press, which were often unjust and sometimes unmeasured, but no man who
takes part in public life is exempt from calumny. He was himself never
slow to attack his opponents, both personally in the Parliament, and
still more by the hired writers of the Press. None the less, to defend
himself from attacks, he too often brought his opponents into the police
court, and _Bismarckbeleidigung_ became a common offence. Even the
editor of _Kladderadatsch_ was once imprisoned. He must be held
personally responsible, for no action could be instituted without his
own signature to the charge. We see the same want of generosity in the
use which he made of attempts, or reputed attempts, at assassination. In
1875, while he was at Kissingen, a young man shot at him; he stated that
he had been led to do so owing to the attacks made on the Chancellor by
the Catholic party. No attempt, however, was made to prove that he had
any accomplices; it was not even suggested that he was carrying out the
wishes of the party. It was one of those cases which will always occur
in political struggles, when a young and inexperienced man will be
excited by political speeches to actions which no one would foresee, and
which would not be the natural result of the words to which he had
listened. Nevertheless, Bismarck was not ashamed publicly in the
Reichstag to taunt his opponents with the action, and to declare that
whether they would or not their party was Kuhlmann's party; "he clings
to your coat-tails," he said. A similar event had happened a few years
before, when a young man had been arrested on the charge that he
intended to assassinate the Chancellor. No evidence in support of the
charge was forthcoming, but the excuse was taken by the police for
searching the house of one of the Catholic leaders with whom the accused
had lived. No incriminating documents of any kind were found, but among
the private papers was the correspondence between the leaders in the
party of the Centre dealing with questions of party organisation and
political tactics. The Government used these private papers for
political purposes, and published one of them. The constant use of the
police in political warfare belonged, of course, to the system he had
inherited, but none the less it was to have been hoped that he would
have been strong enough to put it aside. The Government was now firmly
established; it could afford to be generous. Had he definitely cut
himself off from these bad traditions he would have conferred on his
country a blessing scarcely less than all the others.

The opposition of the parties in the Reichstag to his policy and person
did not represent the feelings of the country. As the years passed by
and the new generation grew up, the admiration for his past achievements
and for his character only increased. His seventieth birthday, which he
celebrated in 1885, was made the occasion for a great demonstration of
regard, in which the whole nation joined. A national subscription was
opened and a present of two million marks was made to him. More than
half of this was devoted to repurchasing that part of the estate at
Schoenhausen which had been sold when he was a young man. The rest he
devoted to forming an institution for the help of teachers in higher
schools. A few years before, the Emperor had presented to him the
Sachsen Wald, a large portion of the royal domains in the Duchy of
Lauenburg. He now purchased the neighbouring estate of Friedrichsruh, so
that he had a third country residence to which he could retire. It had a
double advantage: its proximity to the great forest in which he loved
to wander, and also to a railway, making it little more than an hour
distant from Berlin. He was able, therefore, at Friedrichsruh, to
continue his management of affairs more easily than he could at Varzin.




Well was it for Germany that Bismarck had not allowed her to fall into
the weak and vacillating hands of a Parliamentary government. Peace has
its dangers as well as war, and the rivalry of nations lays upon them a
burden beneath which all but the strongest must succumb. The future was
dark; threatening clouds were gathering in the East and West; the
hostility of Russia increased, and in France the Republic was wavering;
a military adventurer had appeared, who threatened to use the desire for
revenge as a means for his personal advancement. Germany could no longer
disregard French threats; year by year the French army had been
increased, and in 1886 General Boulanger introduced a new law by which
in time of peace over 500,000 men would be under arms. Russia had nearly
550,000 soldiers on her peace establishment, and, against this, Germany
only 430,000. They were no longer safe; the duty of the Government was
clear; in December, 1886, they brought forward a law to raise the army
to 470,000 men and keep it at that figure for seven years. "We have no
desire for war," said Bismarck, in defending the proposal; "we belong
(to use an expression of Prince Metternich's) to the States whose
appetite is satisfied; under no circumstances shall we attack France;
the stronger we are, the more improbable is war; but if France has any
reason to believe that she is more powerful than we, then war is
certain." It was, he said, no good for the House to assure the
Government of their patriotism and their readiness for sacrifice when
the hour of danger arrived; they must be prepared beforehand. "Words are
not soldiers and speeches not battalions."

The House (there was a majority of Catholics, Socialists, and
Progressives) threw out the bill, the Government dissolved, and the
country showed its confidence in Bismarck and Moltke; Conservatives and
National Liberals made a coalition, the Pope himself ordered the
Catholics not to oppose the Government (his support had been purchased
by the partial repeal of a law expelling religious orders from Prussia),
and the Emperor could celebrate his ninetieth birthday, which fell in
March, 1887, hopeful that the beneficent work of peaceful reform would
continue. And yet never was Bismarck's resource so needed as during the
last year in which he was to serve his old master.

First, a French spy was arrested on German soil; the French demanded his
release, maintaining that German officers had violated the frontier.
Unless one side gave way, war was inevitable; the French Government,
insecure as it was, could not venture to do so; Bismarck was strong
enough to be lenient: the spy was released and peace was preserved.
Then, on the other side, the passionate enmity of Russia burst out in
language of unaccustomed violence; the national Press demanded the
dismissal of Bismarck or war; the Czar passed through Germany on his way
to Copenhagen, but ostentatiously avoided meeting the Emperor; the
slight was so open that the worst predictions were justified. In
November, on his return, he spent a few hours in Berlin. Bismarck asked
for an audience, and then he found that despatches had been laid before
the Czar which seemed to shew that he, while avowedly supporting Russia
in Bulgarian affairs, had really been undermining her influence. The
despatches were forged; we do not yet know who it was that hoped to
profit by stirring up a war between the two great nations. We can well
believe that Bismarck, in the excitement of the moment, spoke with an
openness to which the Czar was not accustomed; he succeeded, however, in
bringing about a tolerable understanding. The Czar assured him that he
had no intention of going to war, he only desired peace; Bismarck did
all that human ingenuity could to preserve it. By the Triple Alliance he
had secured Germany against the attack of Russia. He now entered into a
fresh and secret agreement with Russia by which Germany agreed to
protect her against an attack from Austria; he thereby hoped to be able
to prevent the Czar from looking to France for support against the
Triple Alliance. It was a policy of singular daring to enter into a
defensive alliance with Russia against Austria, at the same time that he
had another defensive alliance with Austria against Russia.[13] To shew
that he had no intention of deserting his older ally, he caused the text
of the treaty with Austria to be published. This need no longer be
interpreted as a threat to Russia. Then, that Germany, if all else
failed, might be able to stand on her own resources, another increase of
the army was asked for. By the reorganisation of the reserve, 500,000
men could be added to the army in time of war. This proposal was brought
before the Reichstag, together with one for a loan of twenty-eight
million marks to purchase the munitions of war which would be required,
and in defence of this, Bismarck made the last of his great speeches.

It was not necessary to plead for the bill. He was confident of the
patriotism of the House; his duty was to curb the nervous anxiety which
recent events had produced. These proposals were not for war, but for
peace; but they must indeed be prepared for war, for that was a danger
that was never absent, and by a review of the last forty years he shewed
that scarcely a single year had gone by in which there had not been the
probability of a great European conflict, a war of coalitions in which
all the great States of Europe would be ranged on one side or the other.
This danger was still present, it would never cease; Germany, now, as
before, must always be prepared; for the strength of Germany was the
security of Europe.

   "We must make greater exertions than other Powers on account of
  our geographical position. We lie in the middle of Europe; we can
  be attacked on all sides. God has put us in a situation in which
  our neighbours will not allow us to fall into indolence or
  apathy. The pike in the European fish-pond prevent us from
  becoming carp."

It was not their fault if the old alliance with Russia had broken down;
the alliance with Austria still continued. But, above all, Germany must
depend on her army, and then they could look boldly into the future. "It
will calm our citizens if they think that if we are attacked on two
sides we can put a million good soldiers on the frontier, and in a few
weeks support them by another million." But let them not think that this
terrible engine of war was a danger to the peace of Europe. In words
which represent a profound truth he said: "It is just the strength at
which we aim that makes us peaceful. That sounds paradoxical, but it is
so. With the powerful engine into which we are forming the German army
one undertakes no offensive war." In truth, when the army was the
nation, what statesman was there who would venture on war unless he were
attacked? "If I were to say to you, 'We are threatened by France and
Russia; it is better for us to fight at once; an offensive war is more
advantageous for us,' and ask for a credit of a hundred millions, I do
not know whether you would grant it,--I hope not." And he concluded: "It
is not fear which makes us lovers of peace, but the consciousness of our
own strength. We can be won by love and good-will, but by them alone;
_we Germans fear God and nothing else in the world, and it is the fear
of God which makes us seek peace and ensue it_."

These are words which will not be forgotten so long as the German tongue
is spoken. Well will it be if they are remembered in their entirety.
They were the last message of the older generation to the new Germany
which had arisen since the war; for already the shadow of death lay over
the city; in the far South the Crown Prince was sinking to his grave,
and but a few weeks were to pass before Bismarck stood at the bedside of
the dying Emperor. He died on March 9, 1888, a few days before his
ninety-first birthday, and with him passed the support on which
Bismarck's power rested.

He was not a great man, but he was an honourable, loyal, and courteous
gentleman; he had not always understood the course of Bismarck's policy
or approved the views which his Minister adopted. The restraint he had
imposed had often been inconvenient, and Bismarck had found much
difficulty in overcoming the prejudices of his master; but it had none
the less been a gain for Bismarck that he was compelled to explain and
justify his action to a man whom he never ceased to love and respect.
How beneficial had been the controlling influence of his presence the
world was to learn by the events which followed his death.

That had happened to which for five and twenty years all Bismarck's
enemies had looked forward. The foundation on which his power rested was
taken away; men at once began to speculate on his fall. The noble
presence of the Crown Prince, his cheerful and kindly manners, his known
attachment to liberal ideas, his strong national feeling, the success
with which he had borne himself on the uncongenial field of battle, all
had made him the hope of the generation to which he belonged. Who was so
well suited to solve the difficulties of internal policy with which
Bismarck had struggled so long? Hopes never to be fulfilled! Absent from
his father's deathbed, he returned to Berlin a crippled and dying man,
and when a few weeks later his body was lowered into the grave, there
were buried with him the hopes and aspirations of a whole generation.

His early death was indeed a great misfortune for his country. Not that
he would have fulfilled all the hopes of the party that would have made
him their leader. It is never wise to depend on the liberalism of a
Crown Prince. When young and inexperienced he had been in opposition to
his father's government--but his father before him had, while heir to
the throne, also held a similar position to his own brother. As Crown
Prince, he had desired and had won popularity; he had been even too
sensitive to public opinion. His, however, was a character that required
only responsibility to strengthen it; with the burden of sovereignty he
would, we may suppose, have shewn a fixity of purpose which many of his
admirers would hardly have expected of him, nor would he have been
deficient in those qualities of a ruler which are the traditions of his
family. He was not a man to surrender any of the prerogatives or
authority of the Crown. He had a stronger will than his father, and he
would have made his will felt. His old enmity to Bismarck had almost
ceased. It is not probable that with the new Emperor the Chancellor
would long have held his position, but he would have been able to
transfer the Crown to a man who had learnt wisdom by prolonged
disappointment. How he would have governed is shewn by the only act of
authority which he had time to carry out. He would have done what was
more important than giving a little more power to the Parliament: he
would at once have stopped that old and bad system by which the Prussian
Government has always attempted to schoolmaster the people. During his
short reign he dismissed Herr von Puttkammer, the Minister of the
Interior, a relative of Bismarck's wife, for interfering with the
freedom of election; we may be sure that he would have allowed full
freedom of speech; and that he would not have consented to govern by aid
of the police. Under him there would not have been constant trials for
_Majestätsbeleidigung_ or _Bismarckbeleidigung_. This he could have done
without weakening the power of the Crown or the authority of the
Government; those who know Germany will believe that it was the one
reform which was still required.

The illness of the Emperor made it desirable to avoid points of
conflict; both he and Bismarck knew that it was impossible, during the
few weeks that his life would be spared, to execute so important a
change as the resignation of the Chancellor would have been. On many
points there was a difference of opinion, but Bismarck did not unduly
express his view, nor did he threaten to resign if his advice were not
adopted. When, for instance, the Emperor hesitated to give his assent to
a law prolonging the period of Parliament, Bismarck did not attempt to
control his decision. When Herr Puttkammer was dismissed, Bismarck did
not remonstrate against an act which was almost of the nature of a
personal reprimand to himself. It was, however, different when the
foreign policy of the Empire was affected, for here Bismarck, as before,
considered himself the trustee and guarantor for the security of
Germany. An old project was now revived for bringing about a marriage
between the Princess Victoria of Prussia and Prince Alexander of
Battenberg. This had been suggested some years before, while the Prince
was still ruler of Bulgaria; at Bismarck's advice, the Emperor William
had refused his consent to the marriage, partly for the reason that
according to the family law of the Hohenzollerns a marriage with the
Battenberger family would be a mésalliance. He was, however, even more
strongly influenced by the effect this would have on the political
situation of Europe.

The foundation of Bismarck's policy was the maintenance of friendship
with Russia; this old-established alliance depended, however, on the
personal good-will of the Czar, and not on the wishes of the Russian
nation or any identity of interests between the two Empires. A marriage
between a Prussian princess and a man who was so bitterly hated by the
Czar as was Prince Alexander must have seriously injured the friendly
relations which had existed between the two families since the year
1814. Bismarck believed that the happiness of the Princess must be
sacrificed to the interests of Germany, and the Emperor William, who,
when a young man, had for similar reasons been required by his father to
renounce the hand of the lady to whom he had been devotedly attached,
agreed with him. Now, after the Emperor's death the project was revived;
the Emperor Frederick wavered between his feelings as a father and his
duty as a king. Bismarck suspected that the strong interest which the
Empress displayed in the project was due, not only to maternal
affection, but also to the desire, which in her would be natural enough,
to bring over the German Empire to the side of England in the Eastern
Question, so that England might have a stronger support in her perennial
conflict with Russia. The matter, therefore, appeared to him as a
conflict between the true interests of Germany and those old Court
influences which he so often had had to oppose, by which the family
relationships of the reigning sovereign were made to divert his
attention from the single interests of his own country. He made it a
question of confidence; he threatened to resign, as he so often did
under similar circumstances; he let it be known through the Press what
was the cause, and, in his opinion, the true interpretation, of the
conflict which influenced the Court. In order to support his view, he
called in the help of the Grand Duke of Baden, who, as the Emperor's
brother-in-law, and one of the most experienced of the reigning Princes,
was the proper person to interfere in a matter which concerned both the
private and the public life of the sovereign. The struggle, which
threatened to become serious, was, however, allayed by the visit of the
Queen of England to Germany. She, acting in German affairs with that
strict regard to constitutional principle and that dislike of Court
intrigue that she had always observed in dealings with her own
Ministers, gave her support to Bismarck. The marriage did not take

Frederick's reign lasted but ninety days, and his son ruled in his
place. The new Emperor belonged to the generation which had grown up
since the war; he could not remember the old days of conflict; like all
of his generation, from his earliest years he had been accustomed to
look on Bismarck with gratitude and admiration. In him, warm personal
friendship was added to the general feeling of public regard; he had
himself learnt from Bismarck's own lips the principles of policy and the
lessons of history. It might well seem that he would continue to lean
for support on the old statesman. So he himself believed, but careful
observers who saw his power of will and his restless activity foretold
that he would not allow to Bismarck that complete freedom of action and
almost absolute power which he had obtained during the later years of
the old Emperor. They foretold also that Bismarck would not be content
with a position of less power, and there were many ready to watch for
and foment the differences which must arise.

In the first months of the new reign, some of Bismarck's old enemies
attempted to undermine his influence by spreading reports of his
differences with the Emperor Frederick, and Professor Geffken even went
so far as to publish from the manuscript some of the most confidential
portions of the Emperor's diary in order to shew that but for him
Bismarck would not have created the new Empire. The attempt failed, for,
rightly read, the passages which were to injure Bismarck's reputation
only served to shew how much greater than men thought had been the
difficulties with which he had had to contend and the wisdom with which
he had dealt with them.

From the very beginning there were differences of opinion; the old and
the new did not think or feel alike. Bismarck looked with disapproval on
the constant journeys of the Emperor; he feared that he was compromising
his dignity. Moltke and others of the older generation retired from the
posts they filled; Bismarck, with growing misgivings, stayed on. His
promises to his old master, his love of power, his distrust of the
capacity of others, all made it hard for him to withdraw when he still
might have done so with dignity. We cannot doubt that his presence was
irksome to his master; his influence and authority were too great;
before them, even the majesty of the Throne was dimmed; the Minister was
a greater man than the Sovereign.

If we are to understand what happened we must remember how exceptional
was the position which Bismarck now occupied. He had repeatedly defied
the power of Parliament and shewn that he was superior to the Reichstag;
there were none among his colleagues who could approach him in age or
experience; the Prussian Ministers were as much his nominees as were the
officials of the Empire. He himself was Chancellor, Minister-President,
Foreign Minister, and Minister of Trade; his son was at the head of the
Foreign Office and was used for the more important diplomatic missions;
his cousin was Minister, of the Interior; in the management of the most
critical affairs, he depended upon the assistance of his own family and
secretaries. He had twice been able against the will of his colleagues
to reverse the whole policy of the State. The Government was in his
hands and men had learnt to look to him rather than to the Emperor. Was
it to be expected that a young man, ambitious, full of spirit and
self-confidence, who had learnt from Bismarck himself a high regard for
his monarchical duties, would acquiesce in this system? Nay, more; was
it right that he should?

It was a fitting conclusion to his career that the man who had restored
the monarchical character of the Prussian State should himself shew that
before the will of the King he, as every other subject, must bow.

Bismarck had spent the winter of 1889 at Friedrichsruh. When he returned
to Berlin at the end of January, he found that his influence and
authority had been undermined; not only was the Emperor influenced by
other advisers, but even the Ministry shewed an independence to which he
was not accustomed. The chief causes of difference arose regarding the
prolongation of the law against the Socialists. This expired in 1890,
and it was proposed to bring in a bill making it permanent. Bismarck
wished even more than this to intensify the stringency of its provisions.
Apparently the Emperor did not believe that this was necessary. He hoped
that it would be possible to remove the disaffection of the working men
by remedial measures, and, in order to discuss these, he summoned a
European Congress which would meet in Berlin.

Here, then, there was a fundamental difference of opinion between the
King of Prussia and his Minister; the result was that Bismarck did not
consider himself able to defend the Socialist law before the Reichstag,
for he could not any longer give full expression to his own views; the
Parliament was left without direction from the Government, and
eventually a coalition between the extreme Conservatives, the Radicals,
and the Socialists rejected the bill altogether. A bitterly contested
general election followed in which the name and the new policy of the
Emperor were freely used, and it resulted in a majority opposed to the
parties who were accustomed to support Bismarck. These events made it
obvious that on matters of internal policy a permanent agreement between
the Emperor and the Chancellor was impossible. It seems that Bismarck
therefore offered to resign his post as Minister President, maintaining
only the general control of foreign affairs. But this proposition did
not meet with the approval of the Emperor. There were, however, other
grounds of difference connected even with foreign affairs; the Emperor
was drawing closer to England and thereby separating from Russia.

By the middle of March, matters had come to a crisis. The actual cause
for the final difference was an important matter of constitutional
principle. Bismarck found that the Emperor had on several occasions
discussed questions of administration with some of his colleagues
without informing him; moreover, important projects of law had been
devised without his knowledge. He therefore drew the attention of the
Emperor to the principle of the German and Prussian Constitutions. By
the German Constitution, as we have seen, the Chancellor was responsible
for all acts of the Ministers and Secretaries of State, who held office
as his deputies and subordinates. He therefore claimed that he could
require to be consulted on every matter of any importance which
concerned any of these departments. The same right as regards Prussian
affairs had been explicitly secured to the Minister-President by a
Cabinet order of 1852, which was passed in order to give to the
President that complete control which was necessary if he was to be
responsible for the whole policy of the Government. The Emperor answered
by a command that he should draw up a new order reversing this decree.
This Bismarck refused to do; the Emperor repeated his instructions. It
was a fundamental point on which no compromise was possible; the
Emperor proposed to take away from the Chancellor that supreme position
he had so long enjoyed; to recall into his own hands that immediate
control over all departments which in old days the Kings of Prussia had
exercised and, as Bismarck said, to be his own Prime Minister. In this
degradation of his position Bismarck would not acquiesce; he had no
alternative but to resign.

The final separation between these two men, each so self-willed and
confident in his own strength, was not to be completed by ceremonious
discussions on constitutional forms. It was during an audience at the
castle, that the Emperor had explained his views, Bismarck his
objections; the Emperor insisted that his will must be carried out, if
not by Bismarck, then by another. "Then I am to understand, your
Majesty," said Bismarck, speaking in English; "that I am in your way?"
"Yes," was the answer. This was enough; he took his leave and returned
home to draw up the formal document in which he tendered his
resignation. This, which was to be the conclusion of his public life,
had to be composed with care; he did not intend to be hurried; but the
Emperor was impatient, and his impatience was increased when he was
informed that Windthorst, the leader of the Centre, had called on
Bismarck at his residence. He feared lest there was some intrigue, and
that Bismarck proposed to secure his position by an alliance with the
Parliamentary opposition. He sent an urgent verbal message requiring the
resignation immediately, a command with which Bismarck was not likely
to comply. Early next morning, the Emperor drove round himself to his
house, and Bismarck was summoned from his bed to meet the angry
sovereign. The Emperor asked what had taken place at the interview with
Windthorst, and stated that Ministers were not to enter on political
discussions with Parliamentary leaders without his permission. Bismarck
denied that there had been any political discussion, and answered that
he could not allow any supervision over the guests he chose to receive
in his private house.

"Not if I order it as your sovereign?" asked the Emperor.

"No. The commands of my King cease in my wife's drawing-room," answered
Bismarck. The Emperor had forgotten that Bismarck was a gentleman before
he was a Minister, and that a Prussian nobleman could not be treated
like a Russian _boyar_.[14]

No reconciliation or accommodation was now possible. The Emperor did all
he could to make it appear that the resignation was voluntary and
friendly. He conferred on the retiring Chancellor the highest honours:
he raised him to the rank of Field Marshal and created him Duke of
Lauenburg, and publicly stated his intention of presenting him with a
copy of his own portrait. As a soldier, Bismarck obediently accepted the
military honour; the new title he requested to be allowed not to use; he
had never been asked whether he desired it.

 No outward honours could recompense him for the affront he had
received. What profited it him that the Princes and people of Germany
joined in unanimous expression of affection and esteem, that he could
scarcely set foot outside his house for the enthusiastic crowd who
cheered and followed him through the streets of Berlin? For twenty-four
years he had been Prussian Minister and now he was told he was in the
way. His successor was already in office; he was himself driven in haste
from the house which so long had been his home. A final visit to the
Princes of the Royal House, a last audience with the Emperor, a hasty
leave-taking from his friends and colleagues, and then the last
farewell, when in the early morning he drove to Charlottenburg and alone
went down into the mausoleum where his old master slept, to lay a rose
upon his tomb.

The rest he had so often longed for had come, but it was too late. Forty
years he had passed in public life and he could not now take up again
the interests and occupations of his youth. Agriculture had no more
charms for him; he was too infirm for sport; he could not, like his
father, pass his old age in the busy indolence of a country gentleman's
life, nor could he, as some statesmen have done, soothe his declining
years by harmless and amiable literary dilettanteism. His religion was
not of that complexion that he could find in contemplation, and in
preparation for another life, consolation for the trials of this one. At
seventy-five years of age, his intellect was as vigorous and his energy
as unexhausted as they had been twenty years before; his health was
improved, for he had found in Dr. Schweninger a physician who was not
only able to treat his complaints, but could also compel his patient to
obey his orders. He still felt within himself full power to continue his
public work, and now he was relegated to impotence and obscurity.
Whether in Varzin or Friedrichsruh, his eyes were always fixed on
Berlin. He saw the State which he had made, and which he loved as a
father, subjected to the experiment of young and inexperienced control.
He saw overthrown that carefully planned system by which the peace of
Europe was made to depend upon the prosperity of Germany. Changes were
made in the working of that Constitution which it seemed presumption for
anyone but him to touch. His policy was deserted, his old enemies were
taken into favour. Can we wonder that he could not restrain his
impatience? He felt like a man who sees his heir ruling in his own house
during his lifetime, cutting down his woods and dismissing his old
servants, or as if he saw a careless and clumsy rider mounted on his
favourite horse.

From all parts of Germany deputations from towns and newspaper writers
came to visit him. He received them with his customary courtesy, and
spoke with his usual frankness. He did not disguise his chagrin; he had,
he said, not been treated with the consideration which he deserved. He
had never been accustomed to hide his feelings or to disguise his
opinions. Nothing that his successors did seemed to him good. They made
a treaty with England for the arrangement of conflicting questions in
Africa; men looked to Bismarck to hear what he would say before they
formed their opinion; "I would never have signed the treaty," he
declared. He quickly drifted into formal opposition to the Government;
he even made arrangements with one of the Hamburg papers that it should
represent his opinions. He seemed, to have forgotten his own principle
that, in foreign affairs at least, an opposition to the policy of the
Government should not be permitted. He claimed a privilege which as
Minister he would never have allowed to another. He defied the
Government. "They shall not silence me," he said. It seemed as though he
was determined to undo the work of his life. Under the pretext that he
was attacking the policy of the Ministers, he was undermining the
loyalty of the people, for few could doubt that it was the Emperor at
whom the criticisms were aimed.

In his isolation and retirement, the old uncompromising spirit of his
ancestors once more awoke in him. He had been loyal to the Crown--who
more so?--but his loyalty had limits. His long service had been one of
personal and voluntary affection; he was not a valet, that his service
could be handed on from generation to generation among the assets of the
Crown. "After all," he would ask, "who are these Hohenzollerns? My
family is as good as theirs. We have been here longer than they have."
Like his ancestors who stood out against the rule of the Great Elector,
he was putting personal feeling above public duty. Even if the action of
the new Government was not always wise, he himself had made Germany
strong enough to support for a few years a weak Ministry.

More than this, he was attempting to destroy the confidence of the
people in the moral justice and necessity of the measures by which he
had founded the Empire. They had always been taught that in 1870 their
country had been the object of a treacherous and unprovoked attack.
Bismarck, who was always living over again the great scenes in which he
had been the leading actor, boasted that but for him there would never
have been a war with France. He referred to the alteration in the Ems
telegram, which we have already narrated, and the Government was forced
to publish the original documents. The conclusions drawn from these
disclosures and others which followed were exaggerated, but the naïve
and simple belief of the people was irretrievably destroyed. Where they
had been taught to see the will of God, they found only the machinations
of the Minister. In a country where patriotism had already taken the
place of religion, the last illusion had been dispelled; almost the last
barrier was broken down which stood between the nation and moral

Bismarck's criticism was very embarrassing to the Government; by
injuring the reputation of the Ministry he impaired the influence of the
nation. It was difficult to keep silence and ignore the attack, but the
attempts at defence were awkward and unwise. General Caprivi attempted
to defend the treaty with England by reading out confidential minutes,
addressed by Bismarck to the Secretary of the Minister for Foreign
Affairs, in which he had written that the friendship of England and the
support of Lord Salisbury were more important than Zanzibar or the whole
of Africa. He addressed a circular despatch to Prussian envoys to inform
them that the utterances of Prince Bismarck were without any actual
importance, as he was now only a private man. This only made matters
worse; for the substance of the despatch quickly became known (another
instance of the lax control over important State documents which we so
often notice in dealing with German affairs), and only increased the
bitterness of Bismarck, which was shared by his friends and supporters.

For more than two years the miserable quarrel continued; Bismarck was
now the public and avowed enemy of the Court and the Ministry. Moltke
died, and he alone of the great men of the country was absent from the
funeral ceremony, but in his very absence he overshadowed all who were
there. His public popularity only increased. In 1892, he travelled
across Germany to visit Vienna for his son's wedding. His journey was a
triumphal progress, and the welcome was warmest in the States of the
South, in Saxony and Bavaria. The German Government, however, found it
necessary to instruct their ambassador not to be present at the wedding
and to take no notice of the Prince; he was not even granted an audience
by the Austrian Emperor. It was held necessary also to publish the
circular to which I have already referred, and thereby officially to
recognise the enmity.

The scandal of the quarrel became a grave injury to the Government of
the country. A serious illness of Bismarck caused apprehension that he
might die while still unreconciled. The Emperor took the opportunity,
and by a kindly message opened the way to an apparent reconciliation.
Then a change of Ministry took place: General Caprivi was made the
scapegoat for the failures of the new administration, and retired into
private life, too loyal even to attempt to justify or defend the acts
for which he had been made responsible. The new Chancellor, Prince
Hohenlohe, was a friend and former colleague of Bismarck, and had in old
days been leader of the National party in Bavaria. When Bismarck's
eightieth birthday was celebrated, the Emperor was present, and once
more Bismarck went to Berlin to visit his sovereign. We may be allowed
to believe that the reconciliation was not deep. We know that he did not
cease to contrast the new marks of Royal favour with the kindly courtesy
of his old master, who had known so well how to allow the King to be
forgotten in the friend.

As the years went on, he became ever more lonely. His wife was dead, and
his brother. Solitude, the curse of greatness, had fallen on him. He had
no friends, for we cannot call by that name the men, so inferior to
himself, by whom he was surrounded--men who did not scruple to betray
his confidence and make a market of his infirmities. With difficulty
could he bring himself even to systematic work on the memoirs he
proposed to leave. Old age set its mark on him: his beard had become
white; he could no longer, as in former days, ride and walk through the
woods near his house. His interest in public affairs never flagged, and
especially he watched with unceasing vigilance every move in the
diplomatic world; his mind and spirit were still unbroken when a sudden
return of his old malady overtook him, and on the last day of July,
1898, he died at Friedrichsruh.

He lies buried, not among his ancestors and kinsfolk near the old house
at Schoenhausen, nor in the Imperial city where his work had been done;
but in a solitary tomb at Friedrichsruh to which, with scanty state and
hasty ceremony, his body had been borne.


[Footnote 1: There seems no authority for the statement that the
Bismarcks had sprung from a noble Bohemian family.]

[Footnote 2: It is to this visit that a well-known anecdote refers;
having landed at Hull one Sunday morning, he was walking along the
streets whistling, when a chance acquaintance of the voyage asked him to
desist. Disgusted, he left the town. The story, as generally told, says
that he went to Edinburgh; we can have no doubt that Scarborough was

[Footnote 3: _Life of Herr v. Thadden-Triglaff_, by Eleanor, Princess of

[Footnote 4: This trait is confirmed by Busch, who in his record of the
conversations of Bismarck observes that with one or two exceptions he
seldom had a good word to say for his colleagues.]

[Footnote 5: I take the metaphor from Gerlach, but the English language
does not allow me to adopt the whole.]

[Footnote 6: Kohl prints a memorandum of this year (1861) which probably
is that sent to Herr von Below; in it the ideas of the letter are
developed at greater length and the language is more cautious; Bismarck
recommends in it a representation of the people at the Diet, but points
out that under present circumstances the consent of the Diet could not
be attained; the plan to which he seems to incline is that of a separate
union between some of the States; exactly the plan which Radowitz had
followed and Bismarck had ten years before so bitterly opposed.]

[Footnote 7: Speech of January 28, 1886.]

[Footnote 8: The complication of offices became most remarkable when
Bismarck in later years undertook the immediate direction of trade. He
became Minister of Finance for Prussia; and we have a long
correspondence which he carries on with himself in his various
capacities of Prussian Minister, Prussian representative in the Council,
and Chancellor of the Empire.]

[Footnote 9: Sybel states that this was not the case.]

[Footnote 10: Some of the more exaggerated statements were contradicted
at the time, apparently by Prince Radziwill, but in the excitement of
the moment no one paid attention to this.]

[Footnote 11: Comte Hérisson d'Hérisson, _Journal d'un officier

[Footnote 12: The Ghibellines were expelled from Italy in 1267, when
Conradin of Hohenstaufen was beheaded by Charles of Anjou.]

[Footnote 13: Our knowledge of this treaty is still very incomplete;
even the date is not certain, but it seems most probable that it was
executed at this time. Neither Bismarck's own memoirs nor Busch's book
throw any light upon it.]

[Footnote 14: It must be remembered that our knowledge of these events
is imperfect and probably inaccurate; it is at least one-sided. It comes
entirely from the published statements of those who gained their
information directly or indirectly from Bismarck.]



  Alexander, Prince, of Battenberg,

  Army, 295

  Arnim, Count, 19-21, 46

  Arnim, Oscar von, marries Malvina
    von Bismarck, 25

  Augustenburg, Frederick, Prince
    of, 202-209, 213-224, 227,
    228, 230-237, 246


  Bazaine, Marshal, 361, 373

  Benedetti, Count Vincent, 270-272,
    275, 277-282, 322, 330-333,
    336-338, 340-342

  Bennigsen, 392, 394

  Berlin, its condition after the
    Revolution, 47, 50, 51

  Bismarck, the family of, its
    origin and history, 1-12

  Bismarck, August von, 5

  Bismarck, August von, the
    Landrath, 8

  Bismarck, August Friedrich
    von, 9

  Bismarck, Bernhard von, 11, 22,

  Bismarck, Carl Alexander von, 9

  Bismarck, Friedrich von, the
    "Permutator," 5

  Bismarck, Friedrich Wilhelm
    von, 9

  Bismarck, Herbert von, 347

  Bismarck, Herbort von, 2

  Bismarck, Karl Wilhelm Friedrich
    von, 10; his marriage,
    10; moves to Pomerania, 11,
    21; to Schoenhausen, 22, 25,

  Bismarck, Malvina von, 11, 22;
    marries Oscar von Arnim, 25

  Bismarck, Nicolas (or Claus)
    von, 3

  Bismarck, Otto Eduard Leopold
    von, his birth, 1; ancestry, 1-12;
    destined for Diplomatic
    Service, 14; at school in Berlin,
    14, 15; enters at Göttingen,
    15; his personal appearance
    and character, 16; enters Corps
    of Hanoverians, 16; his university
    career, 16-18; leaves
    Göttingen, 18; enters at Berlin,
    18; takes degree of Doctor
    of Law, 19; early official life,
    19; appointed Auscultator at
    Berlin, 19; transferred to administrative
    side and to Aix-la-Chapelle,
    19; his life at
    Aix, 20; transferred to Potsdam,
    21; begins army service
    in Jaeger at Potsdam, 21;
    transferred to Jaeger at Stettin,
    21; settles in Pomerania,
    22; his attendance at lectures
    in agricultural college near
    Greifswald, 22; his successful
    management of the Pomeranian
    estates, 22, 23; takes
    Kniephof on division of estates,
    23; his wildness, 23; enters
    as lieutenant of Landwehr in
    cavalry, 23; saves groom from
    drowning, 23; his restlessness
    and discontent, 24; travels, to
    Paris, London, Hull, Scarborough,
    York, Manchester, 24;
    his letters from Schoenhausen,
    25-27; member of Diets of
    Pomerania and of province
    containing Schoenhausen, 27;
    Referendar at Potsdam, resigns,
    28; his hatred of
    Prussian bureaucracy, 28, 61;
    his interest in his duties as
    landed proprietor, 28; Inspector
    of Dykes for Jerichow,
    29; his intimacy with the religious
    coterie at Triglaff, 29,
    30; his religious convictions
    and their effect on his monarchical
    feeling, 31, 32; his
    engagement, 32; summoned to
    attend meeting of Estates General
    in Berlin, 33; enters on
    his Parliamentary duties, 38;
    opposes action of Liberals,
    38-40; his remarks on Prussia
    and England, 41; on the Jews
    and the Christian State, 41,
    42; returns to Pomerania, 43;
    his marriage, 43; his wedding
    journey, meets the King of
    Prussia, returns to Schoenhausen,
    43, 44; his sentiments
    on the Revolution, writes to
    the King, hurries to Berlin,
    45, 46; collects signatures for
    address of loyalty, 46; at meeting
    of Estates General, 46,
    47; writes articles, takes part
    in calling meeting, and in
    founding the _Kreuz Zeitung_,
    48, 49; his counsels and aid
    to the King, 50, 51; takes
    seat in new Assembly, 52;
    opposes amnesty, 51, 52; in
    new Parliament, opposes Parliamentary
    control of taxes,
    54, 55; opposes reference to
    foreign customs, 55-59; believes
    in Parliament for
    Prussia, 60-62; his hatred of
    Liberalism, 60; on civil marriage
    and Christianity, 63, 64;
    on the Prussian nobility, 64;
    his geniality, 65; his Parliamentary
    speeches, 66, 67; his
    partial knowledge of the people,
    68; sustains the King's
    refusal of the German crown,
    73, 74; advocates independence
    of Prussia, 74-78; in
    Parliament of Erfurt, 79, 80;
    advises peace with Austria, 81;
    defends the Ministry, 82-84;
    Ambassador at Frankfort, 84,
    85; his characteristics, 86; at
    Frankfort, 86; letters to his
    wife, 88-91; his opinions of
    the diplomatists, 89-91;
    entrusted with management
    of the Press, 92; his idea
    of newspapers, 94; smoking in
    the military commission, 95,
    96; his defence of Prussian interests,
    96, 97; home and social
    life in Frankfort, 98; his distaste
    for Parliamentary life,
    99; duel with Vincke, 99, 100;
    member of House of Lords,
    100; his power of work, his
    despatches, 100, 101; on
    special mission to Vienna, 101;
    his policy of seeking allies for
    Prussia against Austria, 102,
    103; his policy as to Russia
    and the Western Powers, 104-110;
    his policy toward France,
    113-120; sent to Paris, meets
    Napoleon, 118; his ideal of
    foreign policy, 121-125; loss
    of popularity at Court, 125,
    126; his attitude toward the
    new Ministry, 128; recalled
    from Frankfort, 129; appointed
    Minister to St. Petersburg,
    132; his advice as to
    Austria, 133, 134; his journeys,
    his prolonged illness, and
    its effect, 135; supports the
    Government, 136; his sentiments
    as to France, 137, 138;
    returns to Russia, 138; interview
    with Prince Regent, 139;
    his friendship with Roon, 143;
    sent for by Roon, his reply,
    145-147; arrives in Berlin, interview
    with the King, 147;
    his memorandum and letter
    on German affairs, 148, 149;
    returns to St. Petersburg, 150;
    goes to Berlin, 153; offered
    post of Minister-President,
    appointed Minister to Paris,
    154; in Paris, 155; visits London,
    meets Disraeli, 156, 157;
    his advice to Roon, 158; leave
    of absence, 159; summoned to
    Berlin, 160; appointed Minister-President,
    161; conversation
    with the King, 163; his
    House speeches on the Budget,
    their effect, 163-167; on the
    House address to the King,
    169; his course on the Polish
    question, 171-177; difficulties
    of his position, 177-179; conflict
    with Chairman of House,
    180; disliked by the Crown
    Prince, 184, 185; not responsible
    for conflict, 190; his
    foreign policy, 192; with the
    King at Gastein, 193; dissuades
    the King from attending
    Congress at Frankfort, 193-195;
    his course as to Schleswig-Holstein,
    195, 199-201, 203,
    206-224, 226-238; his satisfaction
    with Peace of Vienna,
    226; concludes treaty of Gastein,
    238; created Count, 239;
    visits France, 241; interview
    with Napoleon, 241-243; returns
    to Berlin, 243; concludes
    commercial treaty with Italy,
    245; adopts hostile attitude
    toward Austria, 246; prepares
    for war, 247, 248; fails in
    health, 249; concludes treaty
    with Italy, 250; influences the
    King toward war, 251; desires
    war in order to reform German
    Confederation, 252-256; attempt
    on his life, 257; takes
    no part in management of
    army, 259; leaves Berlin to
    join army, 259; at battle of
    Königgrätz, 260, 261; his life
    during the campaign, 261, 262;
    advises acceptance of French
    offer of mediation, 262, 263;
    considers terms of peace, 264;
    desires control of North Germany,
    266; his policy and motives,
    267-273; his interview
    with Benedetti, 270-272; his
    terms of peace, 273-275; his
    management of peace preliminaries,
    his persuasion of
    the King, 275, 276; his treatment
    of demands of France,
    his interviews with Benedetti,
    277-286; his course toward
    Russia, 283, 284; has laid
    foundation for German union,
    284-286; begins to think and
    act as a German, 286; secures
    Parliamentary majority, 287;
    his moderation, 288; voted
    donation of money, 289, 290;
    his rôle of creative statesman,
    291; dictates outlines of new
    Federal Constitution, 292; his
    plan of Constitution, 293-307;
    supports Constitution before
    Assembly, 308-212; defends
    withholding of money from
    King of Hanover, 313, 314;
    summons Parliament to consider
    tariff, 316; refuses to
    admit Grand Duke of Baden
    into Federation, 317; refuses
    to support Napoleon's acquirement
    of Luxemburg, 318; preserves
    the peace, visits Paris,
    319; interview with Benedetti
    as to the Spanish Succession,
    322; his efforts to secure acceptance
    of Spanish throne by
    Prince Leopold of Hohenzolhen,
    322-327; his motives,
    328, 329; retires to Varzin,
    330; goes to Berlin, 333; his
    policy, 334; orders Werther
    from Paris, sees Lord Loftus,
    336; receives telegram from
    the King announcing the Benedetti
    incident, 338; prepares
    statement and causes its publication,
    339; his purpose, 340;
    meets the King at Brandenburg,
    342; announces to Parliament
    France's declaration of
    war, 343; pardons the Hanoverian
    Legion, 345; leaves for
    seat of war, 346; his health
    during the campaign, 346; at
    Gravelotte, 347; at Sedan,
    348; refuses to modify terms
    of surrender, 349; defers renewal
    of hostilities, 350; meets
    Napoleon, their interview,
    351; accompanies Napoleon
    to Belle Vue, 352; willing to
    make peace, 352; his circular
    notes explaining the German
    view, 353, 554; demands territory,
    354; his attitude toward
    the Provisional Government,
    355; his interviews with Jules
    Favre, 356-360; his personality,
    357, 358; his offer of
    terms, 358-361; at Versailles,
    362; upholds Germany through
    the Press, 362, 363; indignant
    at France's use of irregular
    troops, 364; affected by delay
    before Paris, 364; his tact in
    German unification, 366; his
    interview with the Crown
    Prince, 366; proposes treaties
    with southern German States,
    367; his agreement with Bavaria,
    367, 368; drafts letter
    by which King of Bavaria requests
    King of Prussia to assume
    title of Emperor, 370;
    raised to rank of Prince, 370;
    interview with Favre on capitulation
    of Paris, 370, 371; interview
    with Thiers, 371-374;
    his part in the negotiations,
    374; his views as to Strasburg
    and Metz, 374-376; at signature
    of Peace of Frankfort,
    376; continues in power, 377;
    sole master in foreign policy,
    378; his success in peace, 379;
    refuses support to French monarchical
    party, 382; brings
    about reconciliation with
    Austria, 382, 383; indignant
    at report of warlike intentions
    toward France, 384; his position
    as to internal matters,
    385, 386; his party alliances,
    386-388; resigns as Minister-President,
    389; his depression,
    389; his affection for Roon,
    390; resumes the Presidency,
    390; opposition to him, 390,
    391; his dependence on the
    National Liberals, 391-394;
    supported on army organisation,
    393, 394; his part in conflict
    with Roman Catholic
    Church, 394-403; his resignation
    refused by the Emperor,
    granted leave of absence, retires
    to Varzin, 404; presides
    over Congress of Berlin, 406;
    effects Triple Alliance, 407; his
    efforts against Socialism, 407-411;
    his scheme of economic
    reform, 411-429; his dislike of
    direct taxation, 413, 414; his
    proposals for State monopolies,
    414-419; introduces system of
    Protection, 419-423; his colonial
    policy, 423-427; effects
    of his measures, 428; refuses
    to become a party
    leader, 429; his power
    checked by Parliament, 430;
    complains of conduct of Reichstag.
    431; friction with Parliament
    as to freedom of debate,
    434; his Parliamentary receptions,
    435, 436; his recourse
    to criminal law against
    his adversaries, 436; his lack
    of generosity in political struggles,
    437; celebration of his
    seventieth birthday, 438; presented
    with two million marks,
    purchases Friedrichsruh, 438;
    defends bill for army increase,
    441; his release of French spy,
    441, 442; his interview with
    the Czar, 442; enters into
    secret agreement with Russia,
    442, 443; proposes army increase,
    443; his speech, 443-445;
    foundation of his power
    removed by death of Emperor
    William, 445, 446; his prospects
    with Emperor Frederick,
    447; opposes marriage of
    Princess Victoria of Prussia
    to Prince Alexander of Battenberg,
    448-450; his differences
    with Emperor William II.,
    450, 451; his power, 452;
    finds his influence and authority
    undermined, 452, 453;
    chief causes of his differences
    with the Emperor, 453, 454;
    refuses to acquiesce in degradation
    of his position, 455; his
    first separation from the Emperor,
    455; declines to justify
    interview with Windhorst,
    456; resigns, created Field
    Marshal and Duke of Lauenburg,
    456; his leave-takings,
    457; his restlessness in leisure,
    his energy, 457, 458; receives
    deputations, 458; opposes and
    defies the Government, 459;
    his disclosures, 460; the
    avowed enemy of Court and
    Ministry, 461; absents himself
    from Moltke's funeral, 461; his
    triumphal journey to Vienna,
    461; his reconciliations with
    the Emperor, 462; celebration
    of his eighty-fifth birthday,
    462; his loneliness and infirmities,
    462; his interest in public
    affairs, his unbroken mind
    and spirit, 463; his death, his
    burial at Friedrichsruh, 463

  Bismarck, Rudolph von, 5

  Bismarck-Bohlen, 9, 19

  Blankenburg, Moritz von, 30, 144

  Bonin, 109, 140, 141

  Boulanger, General, 440

  Brandenburg, Count, 51, 81

  Brandenburg, the nobility of, 6-8

  Bucher, Lothar, 56, 325, 420, 421

  Bundesrath, 296

  Burnside, General, 361


  Caprivi, General, 460, 462

  Castelnau, General, 349

  Cavour, 22, 129-132

  Charles Frederick, Prince, 60

  Crevisse, 5, 8


  Delbrück, 365, 412

  Diebwitz, Fräulein von, 9

  Disraeli, 156, 157


  Erfurt, Parliament of, 79, 80


  Favre, Jules, 356-360, 370, 373,

  Frankfort, 87

  Frankfort, Peace of, 376, 377

  Frederick, Crown Prince, afterward

  Frederick III., 183, 184,
  207, 219, 220, 236, 260, 276,
  324, 325, 336, 342, 343, 366,
  369, 416, 445-450

  Frederick William, Elector of
  Brandenburg, 6

  Frederick William III., 36, 37

  Frederick William IV., 29, 30,
    37, 38, 44, 50-52, 54, 60, 72,
    73, 107-110, 127, 138

  Friedrichsruh, 438, 439, 463


  Gagern, Heinrich von, 72

  Gambetta, 364

  Garibaldi, 365

  Gastein, Treaty of, 238, 240

  Gerlach, Leopold von, 30, 49, 50

  Gortschakoff, 384, 385

  Grammont, Duc de, 275, 330,
    331, 335

  Gravelotte, battle of, 347

  Greifswald, 22

  Guizot, 335


  Hérisson, Comte, 357, 358

  Hobel, 408, 411

  Hohenzollern, Leopold, Prince
    of, 321-326, 331-337

  Holstein, 195-238, 240, 246, 258,


  Katte, Fräulein von, 8

  Kleist, Hans von, 30, 43, 48, 400

  Königgrätz, battle of, 260, 261

  _Kreuz Zeitung_, 49, 107, 115,
    119, 126, 390, 391


  Lasker, 392

  Lauenburg, 238, 239

  Lhuys, Drouyn de, 277, 278

  Loftus, Lord Augustus, 336, 342


  MacMahon, 348

  Manteuffel, Otto von, 51

  Mars-la-Tour, 347, 348

  Mencken, Fräulein, afterward
    wife of Karl von Bismarck,
    10, 14, 21, 22

  Metternich, Prince, 36

  Metz, 354 360, 374-476

  Moltke, Helmuth Karl Bernard
    von, 247-249, 257, 259-261,
    338, 339. 348-352, 373, 441,
    451, 461

  Motley, John Lothop, 17,19, 98,


  Napoleon III., 113-119, 125,
    129, 137, 138, 175, 176, 213,
    214, 228, 238, 241-245, 248,
    254. 257, 262-264, 270-274,
    277-286, 294, 315, 318, 319,
    343, 344, 348-353, 361

  Navy, 295
  _New Prussian Gazette_, 49
  Nobeling, 408, 411


  Oldenburg, Duke of, 200, 222

  Olmütz, Convention of, 81, 82


  Pfortden, Baron von der, 284-286

  Poland, 171-177

  Pomerania, 11-13, 21-24, 29

  Press, the, 182, 183, 185

  Prim, General, 320, 322, 326,

  Prokesch-Osten, Herr von, 93,

  Puttkammer, Fräulein von, afterward
    wife of Otto von Bismarck,
    32; Herr v., 447


  Radowitz, Herr von, 74, 75, 81

  Reichstag, 296, 298

  Richter, 427

  Roon, Albrecht Theodor Emil
  von, 31, 140, 141, 143-145,
  156, 158-161, 180, 181, 234,
  252, 256, 260, 261, 287, 304,
  324, 338, 339, 369, 387-390


  Schleinitz, Herr von, 133, 207

  Schleswig, 195-238, 246, 265

  Schoenhausen, 1, 5, 8-11, 22,
  25-27, 29, 44, 46, 438, 463

  Schweninger, Doctor, 458

  Sedan, 348-352

  Sheridan, General, 347

  Sourds, M. de, 330

  Stahl, 30, 49

  Strasburg, 360, 361, 374-376

  Sybel, Heinrich von, 172, 323


  Thadden, Herr von, 29, 43, 47,

  Thiele, Herr von, 330

  Thiers, M., 353, 362, 371

  Thun, 89, 91, 95-97

  Toul, 360

  Triglaff, 29, 30

  Triple Alliance, 405, 407, 443,


  Versailles, 362, 365

  Victor Emmanuel, 245, 248, 382

  Victoria, Princess, of Prussia,
  124, 206, 448-450

  Vienna, Congress of, 34-36

  Vienna, Peace of, 224-226

  Vincke, George von, 40, 47, 207


  Welfenfond, 313

  Werther, Herr von, 323, 336

  William, Prince Regent, afterward

  William I., 127, 131, 139-141,
  145, 152-156, 160-163,
  169, 170, 177, 181, 184, 187-189,
  192-194, 206, 207, 227,
  228, 234-239, 246, 248-251,
  258-263, 275, 276, 279, 324-326
  331-334, 336-343, 346-349,
  352, 369, 370, 384. 388-390,
  404, 407-409, 416, 441,
  445, 446, 449

  William II., 450-462

  Wimpffen, 348, 350, 351, 353

  Windthorst, 396, 416, 455, 456

Heroes of the Nations

A series of biographical studies of the lives and work of a number of
representative historical characters about whom have gathered the great
traditions of the Nations to which they belonged, and who have been
accepted, in many instances, as types of the several National ideals.
With the life of each typical character is presented a picture of the
National conditions surrounding him during his career.

The narratives are the work of writers who are recognized authorities on
their several subjects, and while thoroughly trustworthy as history,
present picturesque and dramatic "stories" of the Men and of the events
connected with them.

To the Life of each "Hero" is given one duodecimo volume, handsomely
printed in large type, provided with maps and adequately illustrated
according to the special requirements of the several subjects.

_For full list of volumes see next page_.


NELSON. By W. Clark Russell.


PERICLES. By Evelyn Abbott.

THEODORIC THE GOTH. By Thomas Hodgkin.


JULIUS CAESAR. By W. Ward Fowler.

WYCLIF. By Lewis Sargeant.

NAPOLEON. By W. O'Connor Morris.


CICERO. By J.L. Strachan-Davidson.




LOUIS XIV. By Arthur Hassall.

CHARLES XII. By R. Nisbet Bain.

LORENZO DE' MEDICI. By Edward Armstrong.

JEANNE D'ARC. By Mrs. Oliphant.


ROBERT THE BRUCE. By Sir Herbert Maxwell.

HANNIBAL. By. W. O'Connor Morris.

ULYSSES S. GRANT. By William Conant Church.

ROBERT E. LEE. By Henry Alexander White.

THE CID CAMPEADOR. By H. Butler Clarke.

SALADIN. By Stanley Lane-Poole.

BISMARCK. By J.W. Headlam.

ALEXANDER THE GREAT. By Benjamin I. Wheeler.


OLIVER CROMWELL. By Charles Firth.

RICHELIEU. By James B. Perkins.

DANIEL O'CONNELL. By Robert Dunlap.

SAINT LOUIS (Louis IX. of France). By Frederick Perry.

LORD CHATHAM. By Walford David Green.

OWEN GLYNDWR. By Arthur G. Bradley.

HENRY V. By Charles L. Kingsford.

EDWARD I. By Edward Jenks.



WELLINGTON. By W. O'Connor Morris.


MOHAMMED. D.S. Margoliouth.






BLÜCHER. By E.F. Henderson.



CAVOUR. By Pietro Orsi.

DEMOSTHENES. By A.W. Pickard-Cambridge.

The Story of the Nations

In the story form the current of each National life is distinctly
indicated, and its picturesque and noteworthy periods and episodes are
presented for the reader in their philosophical relation to each other
as well as to universal history.

It is the plan of the writers of the different volumes to enter into the
real life of the peoples, and to bring them before the reader as they
actually lived, labored, and struggled--as they studied and wrote, and
as they amused themselves. In carrying out this plan, the myths, with
which the history of all lands begins, will not be overlooked, though
these will be carefully distinguished from the actual history, so far as
the labors of the accepted historical authorities have resulted in
definite conclusions.

The subjects of the different volumes have been planned to cover
connecting and, as far as possible, consecutive epochs or periods, so
that the set when completed will present in a comprehensive narrative
the chief events in the great STORY OF THE NATIONS; but it is, of
course, not always practicable to issue the several volumes in their
chronological order.

_For list of volumes see next page_.


       *       *       *       *       *

GREECE. Prof. Jas. A. Harrison.

ROME. Arthur Gilman.

THE JEWS. Prof. James K. Hosmer.

CHALDEA. Z.A. Ragozin.

GERMANY. S. Baring-Gould.

NORWAY. Hjalmar H. Boyesen.

SPAIN. Rev. E.E. and Susan Hale.

HUNGARY. Prof. A. Vámbéry.

CARTHAGE. Prof. Alfred J. Church.

THE SARACENS. Arthur Gilman.

THE MOORS IN SPAIN. Stanley Lane-Poole.

THE NORMANS. Sarah Orne Jewett.

PERSIA. S.G.W. Benjamin.

ANCIENT EGYPT. Prof. Geo. Rawlinson.


ASSYRIA. Z.A. Ragozin.

THE GOTHS. Henry Bradley.

IRELAND. Hon. Emily Lawless.

TURKEY. Stanley Lane-Poole.


MEDIEVAL FRANCE. Prof. Gustave Masson.

HOLLAND. Prof. J. Thorold Rogers.

MEXICO. Susan Hale.

PHOENICIA. George Rawlinson.

THE HANSA TOWNS. Helen Zimmern.

EARLY BRITAIN. Prof. Alfred J. Church.


RUSSIA. W.R. Morfill.


SCOTLAND. John Mackintosh.

SWITZERLAND. R. Stead and Mrs. A. Hug.

PORTUGAL. H. Morse-Stephens.


SICILY. E.A. Freeman.


POLAND. W.R. Morfill.

PARTHIA. Geo. Rawlinson.

JAPAN. David Murray.


AUSTRALASIA. Greville Treganthen.


VENICE. Alethea Wiel.

THE CRUSADES. T.S. Archer and C.L. Kingsford.

VEDIC INDIA. Z.A. Ragozin.

BOHEMIA. C.E. Maurice.

CANADA. J.G. Bourinot.

THE BALKAN STATES. William Miller.



THE BRITISH EMPIRE. Alfred T. Story. Two vols.

THE FRANKS. Lewis Sergeant.


THE PEOPLE OF ENGLAND. Justin McCarthy, M.P. Two vols.

AUSTRIA. Sidney Whitman.

CHINA. Robt. K. Douglass.

MODERN SPAIN. Major Martin A.S. Hume.

MODERN ITALY. Pietro Orsi.

THE THIRTEEN COLONIES. Helen A. Smith. Two vols.




MEDIÆVAL INDIA. Stanley Lane-Poole.





THE UNITED STATES. Edward Earle Sparks. Two vols.


GREECE TO A.D. 14. E.S. Shuckburgh.

ROMAN EMPIRE. Stuart Jones.


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