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His personal feelings towards the House of Austria were as warm as those of his brother, but he desired the absolute equality of the two great German Powers in the Confederation. In a conversation with Sir Andrew Buchanan in January 1863, he said:
'I have never asserted that either I, or my son, or my grandson, will see the unity of Germany; on the contrary, I have declared that in all probability I shall not live long enough to witness it. But I hope at all events that the unity will be accomplished in the lifetime either of my son or my grandson.'
His indefatigable energy was characterized by his dying words, I have no time to feel weary.' He did his best to qualify himself for the duties of his office and to supply the defects of his education. At the age of seventy he made a systematic study of jurisprudence, in order that he might better understand the law reforms which were then in contemplation. He had no natural taste for art, but it was due to his personal decision, against the opinion of his ministers, that the excavations at Olympia were continued. He was true in his friendships and generous in his enmities. He was for more than thirty years the working head of the Prussian State. The window of his study looked on the busiest part of the Unter den Linden at Berlin. Thither each Prussian turned as to the mainspring of the machine of government, or waited with deep respect till the grey head appeared in conference with a minister or in acknowledgment of the salute of a passing regiment.
The position of affairs at this time was very serious. The questions left in dispute by the Crimean war divided Europe into two camps. Austria and England were on one side, France, Russia, and Prussia, upon the other. The Triple Alliance of the Eastern Powers, which had subsisted since 1815, was broken. The designs of Napoleon III. were inscrutable, but Bismarck had good reason to believe that his next move would be against Austria in favour of Italy. Cavour was at BadenBaden in the summer of 1858, and had spoken to some Prussian statesmen of his interview with the French Emperor at Plombières. He said that, if war broke out between Sardinia and Austria, France would take the side of Sardinia. He believed that a step of this nature would awaken the sympathy both of Russia and Prussia. On the other hand the views of England, which had just entered into a close connection with Prussia by the marriage of the Princess Royal, and those of the smaller German States were favourable to Austria. The thunder-cloud which was lowering over Europe broke into
flame by the declaration of Napoleon III. on New Year's Day, 1859. When war between France and Austria was imminent, Bismarck was sent to St. Petersburg, and found the Russian Court in joyful expectation of the humiliation of their haughty rival. When the war broke out Prussia remained neutral, but offered her mediation. Austria would be contented with nothing less than the deposition of the French usurper and the restoration of Henry V. When the victory of the French became certain and danger appeared to threaten the Rhine, the Regent declared to the Cabinets of London and Petersburg his determination to inaugurate an armed intervention. At the same time he ordered the mobilization of the Prussian army, and would have placed in a few weeks a force of 400,000 men upon the Rhine. The sudden conclusion of the Peace of Villafranca prevented this from being carried out, and the feeling between Austria and Prussia was bitterer than ever. Austria felt that she had been deserted in her hour of need by her natural ally, and that the tardy measure of assistance had been rendered rather in the interests of Prussia than of herself. The spectacle of Italian unity inspired a meeting of German patriots at Eisenach with a view of procuring a similar benefit for their Fatherland. But the problem in the two countries was different. Bavarians, Saxons, Swabians, wished to be German, but not to be either Austrian or Prussian. The ruling houses in the Italian provinces were of foreign blood ; the Papal government was notorious for its badness and incapacity. In Germany, on the contrary, the princes sprang from the same stock as their subjects; bad government was an exception. It is not surprising, therefore, if the German people as a whole regarded unity as a beautiful theory, but preferred self-government and particularism in practice.
Bismarck said at a later period that he was convinced from the very first that the rivalry between Prussia and Austria could only be settled by war. For success in the struggle it was necessary that the Prussian army should be able to meet all the demands which might be made upon it. At the accession of the Prince Regent this was far from being the case. By the laws of 1814 and 1815 every Prussian subject was bound to military service. He had to serve three years in a line regiment, then two years more in the reserve, and after that seven years in the first and seven years in the second division of the Landwehr; which only performed garrison duty. In 1815 the population was a little over ten millions, which was calculated to give a yearly supply of 40,000 soldiers. In 1855 the population had increased to eighteen millions, which should
have afforded a yearly contingent of 65,000 men. But the regiments remained on their old footing, and at least 25,000 capable young men escaped military service altogether. Besides this, the Landwehr had lost all military spirit and was scarcely available for any useful purpose. The Prince Regent, who was every inch a soldier, set himself to remedy these defects. He determined to add thirty-nine infantry and ten cavalry regiments to the force of the line, and to reform the landwehr so that the younger members of it might be available for active service. This would require an additional expenditure of 9,500,000 thalers. Public opinion was strongly opposed to these changes. What was the good of this increased number of regiments only to make a better show on parade and to provide commissions for impecunious younger sons? Parliament represented the feeling of the country. General von Bonin, although he entirely approved of the reform, was not strong enough to withstand the opposition which it called forth. His place was taken by General Albert von Roon, who declared himself willing to carry out the designs of his sovereign in the face of all difficulties. The discussion of the scheme occupied the session of 1860. The Government Bill was withdrawn, but a provisional credit of nine million thalers was voted for the improvement of the army. Before the end of the year the reform was accomplished and 117 battalions were added to the Prussian army. The Opposition declared that they would resist every additional expense, year by year, and step by step. On January 2, 1861, King Frederick William IV. died, and at the opening of the Landtag on January 14 the new sovereign could declare that the reformed army was an accomplished fact, and that he trusted his Parliament would not refuse to maintain and to foster the new creation. The propositions of the Government were violently opposed in the Lower House, but the necessary supplies were again provisionally voted.
The Landtag was now dissolved and new elections were at hand. The extreme left of the Lower House constituted itself as the 'party of progress' (Fortschrittspartei) and strained every nerve to secure a victory. Its programme was war against the Upper House, rejection of army reform unless the landwehr was maintained in its present state, and the time of service limited to two years, with a corresponding diminution of expense. It also looked forward to the summoning of a German Parliament, and the establishment of Prussia as the central power in Germany. Its objects were the same as those of Bismarck and the King, but it believed that they could be attained without a war with Austria. The result of the elections which took place at the
close of 1861 was a crushing defeat for the Conservatives, and a corresponding triumph for the Progress-party and the moderate Liberals, who were their close friends. The conflict was not long in coming. The proposition of the Government was rejected. General von Roon declared that a system of twoyears' service was entirely inadmissible, and that he determined to maintain the present state of things. The only resource of the Lower House was to refuse the supplies. A motion in this direction was carried by a majority of thirtyfour. This declaration of open war was received with enthusiasm throughout the country. The Cabinet had no course left to them but to resign. The struggle, however, went on with increasing severity. New elections in May gave an accession of strength to the Opposition. At last, on September 13, 1862, the additional supplies for the army were positively refused. This was nothing less than an order to the Government to disband the 117 battalions which it had recently called into existence.
On the following day Bismarck was nominated Prime Minister. No one had an idea that his appointment was the beginning of a new era for Prussia, for Germany, and for Europe. The new minister was looked upon as the champion of the Feudal party, as a servile aristocrat, who had opposed the Constitution, sacrificed German unity, and defended the policy of Olmütz. His first step, however, was one of conciliation. He summoned the leaders of the old Liberal party, expounded his views to them, and offered them some seats in the Cabinet. They were astonished at this proceeding, but declined to desert their associates. The conflict went on. The Budget as altered by the Lower was introduced into the Upper House. It was rejected there by a large majority, and the propositions of the Government accepted in its place. The differences between Prussian and English ideas of parliamentary government need scarcely be pointed out. It was admitted on all hands that the sovereign had the right to fix the number of the army. In England the number is determined every year by the Mutiny Act. It was claimed, however, that it was within the province of Parliament to approve or to disapprove of the expense of the military establishment. This power the Lower House had exercised in rejecting the supplementary supplies. This rejection was now overruled by the Upper House. In the language of our constitution, the House of Lords had rejected a Money Bill sent up to them by the House of Commons, and had substituted for it a Money Bill which had been previously rejected by the Lower House. The Chamber
Chamber of Deputies declared this step to be unconstitutional, upon which Bismarck closed the Session, and announced in the speech from the Throne his determination to uphold the army in its present strength, and to provide for its payment in the best way he could. In other words, Bismarck determined to govern without a Parliament, or more correctly, without reference to the adverse votes of Parliament. The struggle thus begun was only terminated by the victory of Sadowa in 1866.
The views of Bismarck on the constitutional question appear to have been as follows. In England the control of the purse is given to the House of Commons; but we are living in Prussia and not in England. In Prussia there is no difference between a Money Bill and any other Bill, they must all be passed by the three constituents of Parliament-King, Lords, and Commons. If the Budget Bill does not pass in the regular way, no taxes can be collected and no supplies will be forthcoming. But if this is done, how is the Government to be carried on? Some provisional course is necessary for this purpose. The duty of the Government in such a crisis is to do all it can to bring about an understanding between the three factors of the State, but in the meantime it will pay all possible respect to any previous decisions which the three factors may have come to in common. Bismarck, therefore, was able with a certain show of reason to maintain the previous provisional arrangements as permanent, until they were superseded by some measure on which all three factors of Parliament should be agreed.
After the close of the Session, Bismarck assumed the portfolio of foreign affairs, and sent Count Bernstoff to London, von Roon still remaining Minister of War. Bismarck remained firm in the opinion that the present position of Prussia in the German Confederation was intolerable, that in the last resort the strife must be decided by 'sword and fire.' He held that all German questions depended on the relations in which the two great German Powers stood to each other. It was extremely unlikely that the final decision could be peaceful, but for Prussia to engage in any war before the inevitable war with Austria would be a culpable expenditure of powder and shot. These considerations guided his policy in the revolution which now broke out in Poland, stimulated by the desire of Napoleon to liberate that country as he had liberated Italy. It is difficult to determine whether the success of the Polish insurrection, or the establishment of an autonomous Poland under Russian and French protection, would have been most fatal to the interests of Prussia or to the views of Bismarck. He had therefore