Napoleon; or, the Man of the World from Representative Men (1850)
The German Confederation German : Deutscher Bund was founded, a loose union of 39 states 35 ruling princes and 4 free cities under Austrian leadership, with a Federal Diet German : Bundestag meeting in Frankfurt am Main. It was a loose coalition that failed to satisfy most nationalists. The member states largely went their own way, and Austria had its own interests. In a student radical assassinated the reactionary playwright August von Kotzebue , who had scoffed at liberal student organisations.
In one of the few major actions of the German Confederation, Prince Metternich called a conference that issued the repressive Carlsbad Decrees , designed to suppress liberal agitation against the conservative governments of the German states. The decrees began the "persecution of the demagogues", which was directed against individuals who were accused of spreading revolutionary and nationalist ideas. In the Zollverein was established, a customs union between Prussia and most other German states, but excluding Austria.
As industrialisation developed, the need for a unified German state with a uniform currency, legal system, and government became more and more obvious.
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Growing discontent with the political and social order imposed by the Congress of Vienna led to the outbreak, in , of the March Revolution in the German states. But the revolution turned out to be unsuccessful: King Frederick William IV of Prussia refused the imperial crown, the Frankfurt parliament was dissolved, the ruling princes repressed the risings by military force, and the German Confederation was re-established by Many leaders went into exile, including a number who went to the United States and became a political force there.
The s were a period of extreme political reaction. Dissent was vigorously suppressed, and many Germans emigrated to America following the collapse of the uprisings. Frederick William IV became extremely depressed and melancholic during this period, and was surrounded by men who advocated clericalism and absolute divine monarchy.
The Prussian people once again lost interest in politics. Prussia not only expanded its territory but began to industrialize rapidly, while maintaining a strong agricultural base. Although conservative, William was very pragmatic. His most significant accomplishment was the naming of Otto von Bismarck as Prussian minister president in In —64, disputes between Prussia and Denmark over Schleswig escalated, which was not part of the German Confederation, and which Danish nationalists wanted to incorporate into the Danish kingdom.
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The conflict led to the Second War of Schleswig in Prussia, joined by Austria, easily defeated Denmark and occupied Jutland. The subsequent management of the two duchies led to tensions between Austria and Prussia. Austria wanted the duchies to become an independent entity within the German Confederation, while Prussia intended to annex them. The disagreement served as a pretext for the Seven Weeks War between Austria and Prussia, that broke out in June Prussian superior logistics and the modern breech-loading needle guns superioity over the slow muzzle-loading rifles of the Austrians, proved to be elementary for Prussia's victory.
The battle had also decided the struggle for hegemony in Germany and Bismarck was deliberately lenient with defeated Austria, that was to play only a subordinate role in future German affairs. Austria was excluded and its immense influence over Germany finally came to an end. The North German Federation was a transitional organisation that existed from to , between the dissolution of the German Confederation and the founding of the German Empire.
Chancellor Otto von Bismarck determined the political course of the German Empire until He fostered alliances in Europe to contain France on the one hand and aspired to consolidate Germany's influence in Europe on the other. His principal domestic policies focused on the suppression of socialism and the reduction of the strong influence of the Roman Catholic Church on its adherents.
He issued a series of anti-socialist laws in accord with a set of social laws, that included universal health care, pension plans and other social security programs. His Kulturkampf policies were vehemently resisted by Catholics, who organized political opposition in the Center Zentrum Party.
German industrial and economic power had grown to match Britain by In , the young and ambitious Kaiser Wilhelm II became emperor. He rejected advice from experienced politicians and ordered Bismarck's resignation in He opposed Bismarck's careful and delicate foreign policy and was determined to pursue colonialist policies, as Britain and France had been doing for centuries.
The Kaiser promoted the active colonization of Africa and Asia for the lands that were not already colonies of other European powers. The Kaiser took a mostly unilateral approach in Europe only allied with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and embarked on a dangerous naval arms race with Britain. His aggressive and erroneous policies greatly contributed to the situation in which the assassination of the Austrian-Hungarian crown prince would spark off World War I.
When Prussia suggested the Hohenzollern candidate, Prince Leopold as successor, France vehemently objected. The matter evolved into a diplomatic scandal and in July , France resolved to end it in a full-scale war. The conflict was quickly decided as Prussia, joined by forces of a pan-German alliance never gave up the tactical initiative. A series of victories in north-eastern France followed and another French army group was simultaneously encircled at Metz.
A few weeks later, the French army contingent under Emperor Napoleon III 's personal command was finally forced to capitulate in the fortress of Sedan. The new government resolved to fight on and tried to reorganize the remaining armies while the Germans settled down to besiege Paris. The starving city surrendered in January and Jules Favre signed the surrender at Versailles.
This conclusion left the French national psyche deeply humiliated and further aggravated the French—German enmity. The act unified all ethnic German states with the exception of Austria in the Little German solution of a federal economic, political and administrative unit. Bismarck, was appointed to serve as Chancellor.
The new empire was a federal union of 25 states that varied considerably in size, demography, constitution, economy, culture, religion and socio-political development. However, even Prussia itself, which accounted for two-thirds of the territory as well as of the population, had emerged from the empire's periphery as a newcomer. It also faced colossal cultural and economic internal divisions. The Prussian provinces of Westphalia and the Rhineland for example had been under French control during the previous decades. The local people, who had benefited from the liberal, civil reforms, that were derived from the ideas of the French Revolution, had only little in common with predominantly rural communities in authoritarian and disjointed Junker estates of Pommerania.
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As advocates of free trade, they objected Prussian ideas of economic integration and refused to sign the renewed Zollverein Custom Union treaties until The citizen of Hamburg, whom Bismark characterized as extremely irritating and the German ambassador in London as the worst Germans we have , were particularly appalled by Prussian militarism and its unopposed growing influence. Historians increasingly argue, that the nation-state was forged through empire.
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Bismarck's domestic policies as Chancellor of Germany were based on his effort to universally adopt the idea of the Protestant Prussian state and achieve the clear separation of church and state in all imperial principalities. In the Kulturkampf lit. The Kulturkampf antagonised many Protestants as well as Catholics and was eventually abandoned. The millions of non-German imperial subjects, like the Polish, Danish and French minorities, were left with no choice but to endure discrimination or accept   the policies of Germanisation.
The new Empire provided attractive top level career opportunities for the national nobility in the various branches of the consular and civil services and the army. As a consequence the aristocratic near total control of the civil sector guaranteed a dominant voice in the decision making in the universities and the churches.
The German diplomatic corps consisted of 8 princes, 29 counts, 20 barons, 54 representants of the lower nobility and a mere 11 commoners.
These commoners were indiscriminately recruited from elite industrialist and banking families. The consular corps employed numerous commoners, that however, occupied positions of little to no executive power. Power increasingly was centralized among the aristocrats, who resided in the national capital of Berlin and neighboring Potsdam. Berlin's rapidly increasing rich middle-class copied the aristocracy and tried to marry into it. A peerage could permanently boost a rich industrial family into the upper reaches of the establishment. For example, of the mines in Silesia were owned by nobles or by the King of Prussia himself.
The middle class in the cities grew exponentially, although it never acquired the powerful parliamentary representation and legislative rights as in France, Britain or the United States. The Association of German Women's Organizations or BDF was established in to encompass the proliferating women's organizations that had emerged since the s.
From the beginning the BDF was a bourgeois organization, its members working toward equality with men in such areas as education, financial opportunities, and political life. Working-class women were not welcome and were organized by the Socialists. The rise of the Socialist Workers' Party later known as the Social Democratic Party of Germany , SPD , aimed to peacefully establish a socialist order through the transformation of the existing political and social conditions.
From , Bismarck tried to oppose the growing social democratic movement by outlawing the party's organisation , its assemblies and most of its newspapers. Nonetheless, the Social Democrats grew stronger and Bismarck initiated his social welfare program in in order to appease the working class.
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Bismarck built on a tradition of welfare programs in Prussia and Saxony that began as early as the s. In the s he introduced old age pensions, accident insurance, medical care, and unemployment insurance that formed the basis of the modern European welfare state. His paternalistic programs won the support of German industry because its goals were to win the support of the working classes for the Empire and reduce the outflow of immigrants to America, where wages were higher but welfare did not exist.
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