"EISEN UND BLUT" (IRON AND BLOOD) THE WAY TO A GERMAN NATION-STATE
The successes of the Italian Risorgimento (resurrection) gave new impetus to the German national movement as well. In July 1859 democrats and liberals founded the German National Association (National-Verein), which they modeled after the Società Nazionale. The German organization stood under the protectorate of Duke Ernest II of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and at times had more than 30,000 members. Coburg, the seat of the National Association, became the main center for gatherings of patriotically motivated individuals and groups envisioning a nation-state built on parliamentary foundations. The territorial scope that this future Germany was intended to have remained an open question. In the northern German states people were inclined to favor a united Germany without Austria (Kleindeutschland); in the southern German states, a Germany that excluded Austria seemed utterly unimaginable. In November 1859 the centennial celebrations commemorating the birth of Friedrich Schiller, whose works were forbidden in all Prussian teachers colleges under the government headed by Otto von Manteuffel, showed just how widespread the desire for unity in freedom was. The national movement was spurred further by the imminent change of sovereign in Prussia, which the liberals hoped would also bring about a change in the system, a "New Era." On 26 October 1858 Prince Regent William swore the oath to the constitution against the express will of his brother, King Frederick William IV, who was no longer able to govern. Shortly thereafter, he appointed a new cabinet consisting of moderate conservatives and Old Liberals. William won the trust of national and liberal circles with his widely noted statement: "In Germany Prussia must make moral conquests through wise laws within her own realm, improvement of all ethical elements, and pursuit of unifying elements like the Customs Union." Deprived of the hitherto regular electoral backing of the government, the conservatives lost heavily in the elections for the House of Deputies, ending up with only 91 of 352 seats.
In his inaugural address to his cabinet on 8 November 1858, William announced a "strengthening of the army in keeping with the times" and requested War Minister Eduard von Bonin to draw up appropriate plans. Because Bonin advised that cooperation on the army reforms be sought with the liberal majority in the diet the Prussian House of Deputies he was dismissed by William, who appointed General Albrecht von Roon as minister of war on 5 December 1859. The heart of the intended reform was to augment the size of the army from 150,000 to 220,000 men, institute a three-year term of military service for recruits, and reduce the civilian militia (Landwehr) by integrating parts of it into the regular army. The civilian militia - which had its own units and its own officers, most of whom were non-nobles, and which stood as a symbol of democratic nationalism - was to be reorganized and assigned fortress and garrison duty only. Since the Wars of Liberation, the liberal bourgeoisie had embraced "its" civilian militia as an "army of the people," whereas William had experienced it in 1848-49 as "a battalion for teaching revolution." Although the diet approved of the enlargement of the army in principle, the idea of downgrading the civilian militia was rejected by the liberals just as unconditionally as that of accepting a three-year term of military service. Even the generals conceded that two years of service was sufficient for military training, but William insisted that the "trained civilian" was able to become a "true soldier" only in the third year.
The diet's claim to having a say in a military issue was repudiated by William and his advisors. As far as William was concerned, the decision on the organization and strength of the army came under the royal power of military command, so he felt that the deputies basically had no business trying to interfere. He maintained that the only prerogative of the House of Deputies was to approve the financing within the scope of its budgetary rights. Without thoroughly clarifying the differences of opinion, the liberal deputies approved a provisional budget law on 15May 1860, assuming that the final decision was still to be reached on the reorganization of the army. In effect, however, the issue was decided by a royal fait accompli. The Prince Regent reorganized the first regiments of the civilian militia into regular regiments of the line. After the death of his brother, the Prince Regent ascended the throne as William I on 2 January 1861 and had the flags of the new regiments ceremoniously dedicated two weeks later, thereby documenting that he considered the decision final. Just how much William I was wedded to a traditional image of a sovereign was shown also by his elaborate coronation in the palace church in Königsberg: On 18 October 1861, the anniversary of Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of the Nations, he solemnly placed the crown on his head "by the grace of God." It was the first Prussian coronation since 1701 and the only German royal coronation in the nineteenth century. To make his point, William had the commanders of the old and the new regiments parade with their flags and standards.
The dissension between the liberal deputies and the government intensified when liberal bills and a draft law to establish ministerial accountability were blocked by the king and the highly conservative upper house, the Prussian House of Peers. In the elections for the Prussian diet in December 1861, the conservatives won only 14 seats, wkereas the left-of-center German Progressive Party (Deutsche Fortschrittspartei), which had not been founded until June 1861, won 109 seats. Joining forces with the 91 Old Liberals and the 50 deputies of the Left Center, it commanded a two-thirds majority. Although William declared at the inaugural session of the diet on 14 January 1862 that he would not countenance a parliamentary challenge to "Prussia's power and security," the diet rejected the budget. One of the deputies, Adolf Hagen, moved that it be made mandatory for every single budget item to be listed in detail so that no funds could be hidden for the reorganization of the army. Because the fronts had hardened, the king dissolved the diet, dismissed the ministry of the "New Era," and replaced it with a conservative cabinet. In the new elections held on 6 May, the conservatives won only eleven seats. The conflict climaxed with the budget debate in September 1862. Once again the Prussian House of Deputies rejected the budget. Even the conservative cabinet urged the king not to govern without a budget. Roon shared this view, too, and indicated willingness to compromise. But when William declared that he would rather abdicate than concede to parliament a voice in military matters, the ministry acquiesced to royal will.
In the midst of this political tangle, William I resorted to a plan suggested by Roon and permitted Bismarck to come to Berlin from southern France, where he had been waiting. Bismarck convinced the king of his determination to defend royal rule against all aspirations of parliament, and on 23 September 1862 William I appointed Bismarck, whom he had hitherto called a "conservative hotspur," as prime minister. As the Weekly National-Verein put it, "the reactionary forces by the grace of God have just shot their sharpest and last bolt." On the day Bismarck was appointed, the liberal deputies struck from the budget all expenditures earmarked for the army reform. The government withdrew the draft budget and governed without budget approval until 1866. The army conflict ultimately escalated into a constitutional conflict. In the budget commission one week after taking office, Bismarck tried to move liberal opposition to cooperation on foreign policy. However, he nurtured the deputies' distrust of him by asserting that "the great issues of the day will not be decided by speeches and the resolutions of majorities - that was the great mistake from 1848 to 1849 but by iron and blood." His initial attempt to approach the opposition by pursuing a resolute policy on the "national question" thus failed.
Shortly thereafter, he fanned the smoldering conflict with his Polish policy. When the Poles rebelled against Russian repression in January 1863, Bismarck had the so-called Alvensleben Convention signed in St. Petersburg, by which Prussia helped put down the uprising in order to commit Russia in the future and to prevent the uprising from spreading to the Polish territories gained by Prussia through the three partitions of Poland. This arrangement led to impassioned clashes in the Prussian House of Deputies. When the president of the parliament interrupted the prime minister during a dispute over the Polish policy, Bismarck stated that he answered only to the king and was not subject to the disciplinary authority vested in the president of the parliament. Thus, the power struggle between the crown and the diet continued unabated on this issue as well. Before long, the members of the government ceased appearing at any parliamentary sessions, absences that induced the diet to send a sharp note to the king on 22 May 1863: "The House of Deputies has no further means of coming to terms with this ministry.... Every further negotiation only streng thens our conviction that a chasm separates the advisors to the crown and the country." Accusing the deputies of seeking "unconstitutional dictatorial rule," the king dissolved the diet again. Once more, the military bills were left unattended to.
Still politically stymied, Bismarck tread new paths. To suppress all criticism of the government in the press, an edict that even Crown Prince Friedrich William disavowed was decreed on 1 June 1863. In discussions with the president of the General German Workers' Association (Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein), Ferdinand Lassalle, Bismarck probed the possibility of political cooperation with the burgeoning workers' movement. Convinced that the rural population would remain loyal to the king in elections, he even played for a time with the idea of imposing universal and equal manhood suffrage. Bismarck had the political backing of the king, who in the run-up to the scheduled elections for the diet declared publicly that he regarded the election of opposition deputies as irreconcilable with loyalty to the monarchy. The conservatives won 24 additional seats - albeit with undue influencing of the voters by the government - but still found themselves up against a liberal two-thirds majority. Immediately after convening for its first session in November 1863, the new House of Deputies defeated the press edict, a substantial blow to Bismarck's prestige. Because there was no way to reconcile the government and the House of Deputies, the king closed the diet on 25 January 1864 for nearly a year.
At the beginning of his tenure, Bismarck faced a barrage of condemnation for his foreign policy as well. The Schleswig-Holstein question had become acute again upon the death of the Danish king, Frederick VII, on 15 November 1863. Three days later his successor, Christian IX signed an "Eider-Dane constitution," which incorporated the Duchy of Schleswig into the Danish state. On the same day, 18 November 1863, Frederick von Augustenburg raised rival claims to the title of Duke of Schleswig and Holstein that had not been recognized in the London Protocols of 1852. Although the vast majority of the Prussian deputies and the entire national movement supported Duke of Augustenburg, Bismarck stressed that the London Protocols recognized Christian IX as the rightful successor to the throne and entitled him to the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. By taking this legal stance, Bismarck was able to keep England, France, and Russia from intervening on Denmark's behalf. At the same time, he managed to bring Austria over to his side. At Christmas 1863, he proudly wrote that "Vienna's policy has never been directed in all its facets to this extent from Berlin before." As signatories of the London Protocols, Prussia and Austria issued the Danish king an ultimatum on 16 January 1864 demanding the repeal of the Eider-Daneconstitution, which violated the legally guaranteed indivisibility of the two duchies. Hoping for British assistance, Denmark allowed the ultimatum's deadline to pass, and Prussian and Austrian troops marched into the Duchy of Schleswig. The storming of the Danish trenches at Düppel (Düppeler Schanzen) on 18 April 1864 decided the war militarily.
Negotiations commenced in London a week later to end the conflict politically as well. The talks collapsed, however, because Denmark insisted on retaining her entire state, France and Prussia advocated a plebiscite to be held in the Duchy of Schleswig (see room 3c), Russia would not allow Denmark to be stripped of the entire duchy, Austria vehemently argued against a plebiscite, and England preferred to have a neutral power separate the nationalities. After Prussian and Austrian troops had occupied Jutland and Alsen, the Danish king had to sign the Peace of Vienna on 30 October 1864, ceding all rights to Schleswig, Holstein, and Lauenburg to the Prussian king and the Austrian emperor. Bismarck's hope of breaking up the solid front of his opposition by successful power politics was fulfilled. The number of Prussian liberals calling for the annexation of the conquered duchies increased, and Bismarck's solution ofthe "German Question" took shape. When Austria showed an inclination to leave the future of the duchies up to the Diet of the German Confederation, Bismarck emphasized that Prussia and Austria were obliged to prevent any action by the Diet that would violate the London Protocols and that Prussia was even willing to use military force to uphold that responsibility. Impending war was averted because Austria signed the Convention of Gastein on 14 August 1865, according to which Prussia assumed the administration of Schleswig; Austria, the administration of Holstein. In the duchies, the major public outcry against the Gastein "rape by German allies of the Confederation" was just as futile as the protests of the German National Association, which had supported Augustenburg.
In an effort to move toward reform of the German Confederation and alienate Austria from the southern German states, Prussia proposed on 9 April 1866 that a democratically elected German parliament be created. Coming from Bismarck, that unpopular minister of conflict who held the rights of the Prussian parliament in such little regard, this move encountered resistance in the Diet of the Confederation and elsewhere. From spring 1866 on, friction between Austria and Prussia increased, with arms build-ups on both sides heightening the tensions. Then Austria insisted on having the German Confederation decide on the final settlement of the Schleswig-Holstein issue. Thus confronted with the risk of being outvoted by Austria and the anti-Prussian states, Bismarck accused Austria of breaking the Gastein Convention. "To protect Prussian rights," Prussian troops marched into Holstein on 7 June, while Austria withdrew without a fight. Austria's subsequent request for the mobilization of all non-Prussian armies of the German Confederation was granted by the larger German states. Prussia responded by declaring the charter of the German Confederation null and void and on 15 June issued Saxony, Hanover, and the Electorate of Hesse an ultimatum to demobilize all troops, ally themselves with Prussia, and vote for the creation of a German parliament. Because the three states rejected the demands, Prussian troops marched into them on 16 June. Bismarck suggested to the other nineteen north German members of the Confederation that they, too, ally themselves with Prussia. Eight states immediately accepted this "offer of an alliance"; another nine followed suit after Austria and Saxony were defeated in the Battle of Königgrätz on 3 July 1866. The German Confederation vanished - Austria had been excluded from Germany. Prussia "consolidated" her territory and annexed Hanover, Hesse-Kassel, Nassau, Frankfurt, and as well as Schleswig and Holstein.
The military successes were not lost on the Prussian House of Deputies, either. On the day the Battle of Königgrätz was fought, a new Prussian diet was elected. Although nothing was known of the Prussian victory during the elections, the conservatives increased the number of their seats from 35 to 136, and the liberal opposition lost its majority. In the run-up to the elections, the leaders of the National Association had already shown a willingness to compromise. In August Bismarck requested that the state budgets of the previous years be approved ex post facto. On 3 September the deputies did just that by voting 230 to 75 for the Indemnity Act sought by the government.
Heidemarie Anderlik, Burkhard Asmuss, and Hartwin Spenkuch