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

of 1871 was a creation of Prussia for Prussian interests. Otto von Bismarck a Prussian landowner was the politician who did most to create united Germany. He was traditionalist who realised that the traditional order would not survive without reforms. He cynically used the language of German nationalism to gain popular support for his unification of Germany under Prussia. Austria with its tradition of liberalism and its multi ethic Empire, was pushed out of Germany. The Austrian chancellor could be forced out by the parliament. This was not the practice in Prussia or in the united Germany. The government of the German Reich was autocratic with elements of liberalism. The Keiser appointed the chancellor and the Reichstag could nothing about it. The German Reich was mostly protestant because the Catholic German power, Austria, was pushed out. Bismarck underlined this when he engaged in a policy of Culture struggle Kulturkampf. He wanted to minimise the political power of the Catholic Church. This had the added bonus of pleasing the liberals with whom Bismarck was in a tactical alliance. But the 1871 settlement didnt satisfy Bismarck. He set out in 1878 to set up independent income stream for the Reich by a tariff on grain imports. The formation of the German Reich and the characteristics of that Reich once formed show that it was dominated by Prussia. Bismarck took advantage of German Nationalism to form the Empire under Prussian rule. German nationalism was a movement that wanted to unite all ethic Germans in state ruled by popular sovereignty. Reactionaries opposed German nationalism because it would destroy 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 to compromise with nationalism and liberalism. In later life for example he introduced social insurance in order to stop the development of the Social Democratic party. Bismarck made a similar deal with nationalism. He gave them a united Germany albeit a one that excluded Austria. Austria posed a problem to German nationalism. It had an empire that was made up of many nationalities. The Austrian emperors were against German unity. The best possibility of a united Germany was one that excluded Austria. Nationalist could have a compromise national state if they supported Bismarck. Bismarck had said in 1850s that the confederation was too small for the two of us 1. Bismarck exploited the idea that Prussia had a mission to unite Germany. [T]here is nothing more German than Prussian particularism properly understood 2 he said. Weather Bismarck was a sincere nationalist is debatable. But we know he used German nationalism to further Prussian dominance of a united Germany. The German Reich was formed by Prussia defeating Austria and pushing her out of the German confederation. Prussia and Austria were allied against Denmark. But Bismarck was still planning to unite Germany and push out Austria. Austrias

Matthew S. Selgmann and Roderich R. McLean, Germany from Reich to Republic, 1871-1918 (London, Macmillian Press, 2000),4 2 Seligmann and Roderich, Germany, 4

possible allies were not in a position to help Austria. Russia had domestic troubles, France was occupied in Mexico and Britain was committed to staying out of continental disputes. Prussian troops marched 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 was defeated and was pushed out of Germany. Austria had advocated a third Germany. In a third Germany Austria and Prussia would share power. This option was definitively closed with the defeat of Austria. Bismarck could now satisfy the liberals with universal male suffrage. The Prussians were happy to see Prussia increase in prestige. The nationalists had a united Germany. Austria was made sign mild peace treaties. For Bismarck the most important factor was that the European Balance of Power was maintained. Austria acted as a buffer between Germany and Turkey. Without Austria Russia would have a free hand in the Balkans. This was a traditional Prussia position. The united Germany was acting 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 there were elements of liberalism in it. The Chancellor was appointed by the King of Prussi a. The King of Prussia was the German emperor. The Prussian chancellor was the imperial chancellor. The Keiser was both royal and imperial. The Keiser had control over foreign affairs, the army and he had the power to declare martial 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. The Prussian practice of passing budgets for seven years meant that any one parliament might never see some important bills. So in theory the Reichstag could veto budgets but might never see it during a parliamentary term. The Prussian antipathy towards liberal constitutionalism continued in the German Reich. Prussian dominance of the Reich was built also into the constitution itself. Constitutional amendments required a super majority in the Bundesrat. Prussia had seventeen votes, enough to block any amendments. Prussia had firm control over the levers of power in Imperial Germany. Another of the factors that brings you to th e conclusion that the 1871 German Reich was nothing but a greater Prussia is the fact that Bismarck embarked on a policy of Kulturkampf, Culture struggle in German. It was in the words of Bismarck not a struggle between believers and unbelievers, it is a struggle between Kingship and priesthood 3. It was struggle against the political power of Catholicism in the Prussian Germany. Religious order such as the Jesuits were banned from the empire. Catholics had to have separate civil marriages and discriminated in the civil service. There was state oversight of ecclesiastical appointments in Catholicism and catholic education. Bismarck was no liberal but he was in a tactical alliance with liberals in the German parliament. The liberals were against the influence of political Catholicism. Catholicism was a powerful force of reaction in Europe. In the united Germany it suited Bismarck to placate the liberals and move against political Catholicism. It also tapped into the cultural background of Northern Germany where there was a suspicion of

Catholicism and especially Jesuits. August Reichenspecger said at the time we ultramontanes are all to certain extent unclean4 Catholics held loyalties to the Pope over the mountains in Rome. This made Prussians nervous. In united Germany Catholics were not totally respectable. The fact that Bismarck would try to marginalize Catholicism illustrates the extent that united Germany was a greater Prussia. German Catholicism cut off from Austria was now a minority religion in a Protestant empire. Prussia was the dominant part of the Empire. Sixty per cent of the of the population and land mass was Prussian. Even with this Bismarck was not content. His tariff reforms illustrate that he wanted even more influence for Prussia. Originally funds were raised for the imperial government from the individual states. Bismarck was against this every year I have to play the role of mendicant he complained 5. The Reich had no powers to raise taxes. The Reich was not sufficiently under Prussian control for Bismarck. So he announced on the 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 dominated by Prussia but the other states still had a degree of autonomy. The Reichstag refused to accept Bismarcks measures as he presented them. He eventually accepted a compromise, the Frankstein clause. The Reich was guaranteed 130 million marks raised by customs. Anything in excess of this was given over to the States. This didnt provide for all the needs of the empire. This episode illustrates that the Prussia was anxious to increase its power by increasing the power of the empire as a whole. But the states and Reichstag were able to resist Prussias will albeit in very minor way. It is the exception that proves the rule because there are no other case of the states and the Reichstag obstructing Bismarck. The German Reich founded in 1871 was creation of Prussia. Bismarck was a reactionary who wanted to preserve the privilege of the Junkers in Prussia and the traditional balance of power in Europe. But Bismarck was extraordinarily astute politician. He would play the forces of nationalism and liberalism for his own ends. It created a united Germany with universal suffrage. 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 reform was a power grab for the imperial government. The imperial government was pseudonymous with the Prussian government. The 1871 Reich was formed out the defeat of Austria, her allies and the ideal of Germany that Austria represented. The German Reich acted in the interests of Prussia in the domestic sphere and foreign spheres.

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Seligmann and Roderich, Germany, 5 Selgmann and McLean, Germany, 129

Bibliography David Blackbourn, Fontana History of Germany: The long Ninetenth Century, (London, Fontana Press, 1997) Otto Pfanze, Bismarck and German Nationalism, The American Historical Review 60 (1955): 548 Matthew S. Seligmann and Roderick R. McLean, Germany from Reich to Republic: 1871-1918, (London, Macmillian, 2000) A.J.P. Taylor, The Course of German History, (New York, Routledge Classics, 2010) (HIS,P) Bismarck on the purpose of the Kulturkampf, Speech in the Prussian House of Lords accessed on the February 7, 2011 Lecture notes by Raffael Scheck The road to National Unification accessed February 7, 2011