“The great questions of the day will not be settled by means of speeches and majority decisions but by iron and blood.”
- Otto von Bismarck
The man who would prove instrumental in the creation of the German Empire was be the Iron Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. He was possibly the greatest politician and diplomat of his age.
Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck was born on April 1, 1815, at his family’s estate in the Prussian heartland west of Berlin. His mother, Wilhelmine Luise Mencken, came from a family of government ministers. His father was a Prussian Junker (German elite). Otto Von Bismarck was the last Prussian Minister-President and the first German Chancellor.
He was absolutely instrumental in convincing all of the other German states that joining with Prussia would be beneficial, as well as to limit the influence of the Austrian Hapsburg's on their affairs.
The German Empire might not have come into existence without his guiding hand. Even though his dream was realized with the Prussian victory in the Franco-Prussian War, his work was not completed yet.
He undermined the power of socialists in his new German Empire, rendering them impotent and powerless. He absolutely abhorred Socialists and Communists, and allied with his enemies, the Catholics, as he created a powerful, central monarchy under the control of the Kaiser. The Kaiser was the German Emperor, and was from the Hohenzollern Dynasty.
The administrative practices and internal infrastructure he set up modernized all of Germany and brought the empire into the modern world. Education was instrumental in creating a literate and patriotic society. Bismarck was obsessed with nationalism.
He also had an obsession with the weakening of France, viewing them as the greatest threat to a united Germany. It should be noted that he was once the Prussian ambassador to France. He sought out an alliance with Russia and Great Britain, believing that Germany must always be allied with two of the five great European powers. There powers were Germany, Austria-Hungary, France, Russia, and Great Britain, and this mentality would shape many of his foreign diplomatic efforts.
Bismarck’s successors lacked his foresight and diplomatic skill. But it would have been harder to have a unified Germany without Prussia’s victory in the Franco-Prussian War.
But it all came to an end in 1901. The Kaiser Wilhelm II dismissed Bismarck (or rather, Bismarck knew he was going to be dismissed, and preferred to walk out the door with his dignity intact). He quit his job as chancellor. Bismarck correctly predicted that there would be a great war to 'match no other' soon. And he was correct. This war was known as World War I.
If the world was a novel, then Bismarck would be a dynamic character. Changing from ultraconservative views to a moderately anti-socialist view, from Prussophile to Germanophile, Bismarck makes many improvements. While Bismarck was a conservative, he implemented the first welfare programs in the world by including sickness insurance, accident insurance, disability insurance, and a retirement pension.
Imagine having an illness. In a world without Bismarck, you would be fired, even if the sickness lasted for 2 days. Bismarck has truly caused great benefit to our world.
- "Otto Von Bismarck." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.
- Pflanze, Otto, Bismarck and the Development of Germany; 3 vols., 1963–90. vol 1 online, Bismarck and the Development of Germany: The Period of Unification, 1815–1871
- Steinberg, Jonathan. Bismarck: A Life (Oxford University Press, 2011), 592 pp