Otto von Bismarck - The
Iron Chancellor of Germany
Under the "Iron Chancellor", Otto von Bismarck, Germany grew
from a loose confederation of weak states to a unified powerful empire.
His smart and dashing way of making politics (winning three wars in eight
years!) led to the extension of German borders and the rapid growth of
Bismarck at the age of 11
Bismarck was born on April 1, 1815, in the aristocratic family of estate
owners at Schoenhausen in Prussia. He went to the prestige school in Berlin,
and then studied law in Hanover. Bismarck was not an outstanding student,
and spent much of his time drinking with his fellows in an aristocratic
fraternity. After the university he enrolled into the Prussian civil service
where he did not stay long because of the boredom inevitably cast by the
bureaucracy. He didn't appear in the politics till 1847. Meanwhile, he
spent 8 comfortable years helping his father manage the estate. He also
married Johanna von Puttkamer in these years. His wife came from a conservative
aristocratic family, which was greatly to Bismarck's liking, who later
entered German politics as an archconservative. The
marriage was a very happy one.
Johanna von Bismarck geb. von Puttkamer
Bismarck's political views in the beginning of his career were those
of a typical country squire. He soon joined the conservative Gerlach group
who stood for the noble estate and defended it from the bureaucratic centralization.
When the democratic revolutions swept across Europe and reached Berlin
in 1848, his first impulse was to arm the peasants of his estate in defense
of King and the country. However in a very short time he realized that
being principled and tradition-bound like the reactionary Gerlach group
was not enough. At that time Bismarck's ideas became very pragmatic, and
concrete interests plus the power to defend them were his chief care. In
1849 he was elected to the Prussian Chamber of Deputies. When the democratic
revolution in the central Europe was defeated, Bismarck, despite his archconservative
ideas, was not willing to maintain the status quo according to which Austria
preserved its hegemony in the German Confederation. Bismarck's goal was
to make Prussia the dominating power in Germany and the northern Europe.
To achieve this, he was ready to start a war with Austria.
After having served as a Prussian ambassador in Russia and France for
11 years, Bismarck was appointed the prime minister and minister of foreign
affairs of Prussia in 1862. During next 4 years in the office Bismarck
implemented serious military reforms and announced that Prussia could
use its military force for achieving national unification. In 1865 a quick
and successful war between Prussia and Denmark solved the old conflict
over the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. According to the Convention
of Gastein, Schleswig from then on was to be administered by Prussia,
and Holstein - by Austria. Next half the year Bismarck dedicated to the
negotiations with Austria about giving up the dominance in Germany. As
before, Bismarck's main goal was to make Prussia dominate in Germany.
His peaceful efforts to solve the problem failed, and there was the last
way remaining: not by speeches and resolutions, but by
blood and iron.
In the middle of 1866 Prussian army entered Holstein, Austria sent
its own troops to fight with the Prussians, and within a few weeks Austria
was defeated. The whole Europe kept wondering
how Prussia managed to put Austria off the German throne in such a short
time! As a result, according to the Peace of Nikolsburg, Hanover, Hesse-Kassel,
Nassau, and Frankfurt were annexed to German confederation.