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The German Reich that was founded in 1871 was nothing but a greater Prussia

The German Reich that was founded in 1871 was nothing but a greater Prussia

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Published by Martin O Regan

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Published by: Martin O Regan on Feb 08, 2011
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The German Reich that was founded in 1871 was nothing but a greater PrussiaThe German Reich of 1871 was a creation of Prussia for Prussian interests. Ottovon Bismarck a Prussian landowner was the politician who did most to createunited Germany. He was traditionalist who realised that the traditional orderwould not survive without reforms. He cynically used the language of Germannationalism to gain popular support for his unification of Germany underPrussia. Austria with its tradition of liberalism and its multi ethic Empire, waspushed out of Germany. The Austrian chancellor could be forced out by theparliament. This was not the practice in Prussia or in the united Germany. Thegovernment of the German Reich was autocratic with elements of liberalism. TheKeiser appointed the chancellor and the Reichstag could nothing about it. TheGerman Reich was mostly protestant because the Catholic German power,Austria, was pushed out. Bismarck underlined this when he engaged in a policyof Culture struggle
He wanted to minimise the political power of the Catholic Church. This had the added bonus of pleasing the liberals withwhom Bismarck was in a tactical alliance. But the 1871 settlement didnt satisfyBismarck. He set out in 1878 to set up independent income stream for the Reichby a tariff on grain imports.The German Reich was formed by Prussia. Bismarck took advantage of GermanNationalism to form the Empire under Prussian rule. German nationalism was amovement that wanted to unite all ethic Germans in state ruled by popularsovereignty. Reactionaries opposed German nationalism because it woulddestroy the tradition German social order. The Junkers, Prussian landowners,were firmly opposed to revolutions that would undermine their social status.Bismarck was a Junker who was firmly devoted to the tradition German order.But Bismarck believed that the best way to defend the traditional was tocompromise with nationalism and liberalism. In later life for example heintroduced social insurance in order to stop the development of the SocialDemocratic party. Bismarck made a similar deal with nationalism. He gave thema united Germany albeit a one that excluded Austria. Austria posed a problem toGerman nationalism. It had an empire that was made up of many nationalities.The Austrian emperors were against German unity. The best possibility of aunited Germany was one that excluded Austria. Bismarck had said in 1850s that the confederation was too small for the two of us
. Bismarck exploited the ideathat Prussia had a mission to unite Germany. [T]here is nothing more Germanthan Prussian particularism properly understood
he said. Weather Bismarck was a sincere nationalist is debatable. But we know he used German nationalismto further Prussian dominance of a united Germany.The German Reich was formed by Prussia defeating Austria. Prussia and Austriawere allied against Denmark. But Bismarck was still planning to unite Germanyand push out Austria. Austrias possible allies were not in a position to helpAustria. Russia had domestic troubles, France was occupied in Mexico and
Matthew S. Selgmann and Roderich R. McLean,
Germany from Reich to Republic,1871-1918
(London, Macmillian Press, 2000),4
Seligmann and Roderich, Germany, 4
Britain was committed to staying out of continental disputes. Prussian troopsmarched into Holstein in 1866. Austria rallied most of the German states against Prussia. But Prussia was able to defeat them all on the battlefield. Austria wasdefeated and was pushed out of Germany. Austria had advocated a thirdGermany. In a third Germany Austria and Prussia would share power. Thisoption was definitively closed with the defeat of Austria. Bismarck could nowsatisfy the liberals with universal male suffrage. The Prussians were happy to seePrussia increase in prestige. The nationalists had a united Germany. Austria wasmade sign mild peace treaties. For Bismarck the most important factor was that the European Balance of Power was maintained. Austria acted as a bufferbetween Germany and Turkey. Without Austria Russia would have a free hand inthe Balkans. This was a traditional Prussia position. The united Germany wasacting like Prussia in the realm of foreign policy.The governmental structure of the second German Reich clearly shows that it was greater Prussia. It was not a liberal constitution but they were elements of liberalism in it. The Chancellor was appointed by the King of Prussia. The King of Prussia was the German emperor. He was both royal and imperial. The Keiserhad control over foreign affairs, the army and he had the power to declaremartial law. The parliament the Reichstag was limited to scrutinising legislation.It was not a proper liberal regime. Bismarck ignored the law if it suited him. ThePrussian practice of passing budgets for seven years meant that any oneparliament might never see some important bills. So in theory the Reichstagcould veto budgets but might never see it during a parliamentary term. ThePrussian antipathy towards liberal constitutionalism continued in the GermanReich. Prussian dominance of the Reich was built also into the constitution itself.Constitutional amendments required a super majority in the Bundesrat. Prussiahad seventeen votes, enough to block any amendments.One of the factors that brings you to the conclusion that the 1871 German Reichwas nothing but a greater Prussia is the fact that Bismarck embarked on a policyof Kulturkampf, Culture struggle in German. It was in the words of Bismarck not a struggle between believers and unbelievers, it is a struggle betweenKingship and priesthood
. It was political struggle against the political power of Catholicism in the Prussian Germany. Religious order such as the Jesuits werebanned from the empire. Catholics had to have separate civil marriages anddiscriminated in the civil service. There was state oversight of ecclesiasticalappointments in Catholicism and catholic education. Bismarck was no liberal but he was in a tactical alliance with liberals in the German parliament. The liberalswere against the influence of political Catholicism. Catholicism was a powerfulforce of reaction in Europe. In the united Germany it suited Bismarck to placatethe liberals and move against political Catholicism. It also tapped into thecultural background of Northern Germany which was suspicious of Catholicismand especially Jesuits. August Reichenspecger said at the time weultramontanes are all to certain extent unclean
Catholics held loyalties to thePope over the mountains in Rome. This made Prussians nervous. In united
Seligmann and Roderich, Germany, 5
Germany Catholics were not totally respectable. The fact that Bismarck would tryto marginalize Catholicism illustrates the extent that united Germany was agreater Prussia. German Catholicism cut off from Austria was now a minorityreligion in a Protestant empire.Prussia was the dominant part of the Empire. Sixty per cent of the of thepopulation and land mass was Prussian. Even with this Bismarck was not content. His tariff reforms illustrate that he wanted even more influence forPrussia. Originally funds were raised for the imperial government from theindividual states. Bismarck was against this every year I have to play the role of mendicant he complained
. The Reich had no powers to raise taxes. The Reichwas not sufficiently under Prussian control for Bismarck. So he announced onthe 15 of December 1878 that he would place a levy of 1 mark per 100 kg of grain. What happened next shows that while the German Reich was dominatedby Prussia but the other states still had a degree of autonomy. The Reichstagrefused to accept Bismarcks measures as he presented them. He eventuallyaccepted a compromise, Frankstein clause. The Reich was guaranteed 130million marks raised by customs. Anything in excess of this was given over to theStates. This didnt provide for all the needs of the empire. This episode illustratesthat the Prussia was anxious to increase its power by increasing the power of theempire as a whole. But the states and Reichstag were able to resist Prussias willalbeit in very minor way. It is the exception that proves the rule because thereare no other case of the states and the Reichstag obstructing Bismarck.The German Reich founded in 1871 was creation of Prussia. Bismarck was areactionary who wanted to preserve the privilege of the Junkers in Prussia andthe Traditional Five power balance of power in Europe. But Bismarck wasextraordinarily astute politician. He would play the forces of nationalism andliberalism for his own ends. It created an united Germany with universalsuffrage. So doing he placated the liberals and the nationalists. His policies of Kulturkampf and tariff reform were naked examples of Prussian dominance.Kulturkampf was protestant Germany attacking Catholic Germany. Tariff reformwas a power grab for the imperial government. The imperial government waspseudonymous with the Prussian government. The 1871 Reich was formed out the defeat of Austria, her allies and the ideal of Germany that Austriarepresented. The German Reich acted in the interests of Prussia in the domesticsphere and the balance of Power in Europe.
Selgmann and McLean,

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