Germany History - The Franco and Prussian War

Germany History – The Franco and Prussian War

Bismarck, speaking of the events of ’66, states in his Memoirs: “that the Austrian war would then have to follow a French war was in the logic of history, even when we could have compensated the emperor Napoleon, as he expected, for the expenses incurred for the preserved neutrality”. And, after ’66, he confirms: “I had no doubt that a war between Prussia and France would have to be fought before the unification of Germany took place.” With this certainty he aims, therefore, only to prolong the conflict, until Prussia is ready: “every year of delay in the war, our army increased by a hundred thousand educated soldiers”. On the other hand, the development of French politics constantly confirms Bismarck’s belief. Napoleon cannot renounce his aims of European hegemony. The vain and sensational attempts at mediation in the Austro-Italo-Prussian war and the claims on German territories prove this: the attempt to reach an agreement with the Netherlands for the sale or purchase of Luxembourg, and the to prevent ties between Prussia and the southern German states and thus hinder Germanic unity. The question of the candidacy of Prince Leopoldo Hohenzollern Sigmaringen, descendant of a side branch of the Prussian dynasty, to the throne of Spain, also hinges on the system of French politics under Napoleon III. This is the pretext for the war that the two powers now agree to be mature; the diplomatic skirmishes accompanying this question are just so many attempts, on both sides, to create the alibi of responsibility for the inevitable conflict.

At the French protest for the candidacy offered to Prince Leopold, Prussia had already replied that this question concerned the royal family and not Prussia or the Norddeutscher Bund ; however, the king causes the prince to renounce the candidacy. France, not satisfied with the success, asks for a declaration of renunciation, which is also binding for the future. The king refuses and, at the repeated insistence of the ambassador Benedetti, for the first time he interrupts the conversation on the Ems promenade, then he refuses to receive the ambassador again, sending him back for this matter to his minister of foreign affairs. On July 13, while Bismarck is with the Chief of Staff, Moltke, and the Minister of War, Roon, he receives an encrypted telegram from Ems with the report of what had happened between the king and the French ambassador. At the reading, Bismarck and the guests are dismayed. The telegram, in the end, however, leaves it to Bismarck’s will to “communicate both to our representatives at thebismarck ; ems). Bismarck, reporting, in the Memoirs, the two communications, affirms that he did not add or change a word to the text of the Ems telegram, merely deleting some of them; but the most exact judgment on the formal difference of the two communications remains that given immediately by Moltke: “So it has another sound, first it was that of a retreat, now that of a fanfare responding to a challenge”. Of course, Bismarck does not reject the war because, while Moltke assures him that, militarily, no advantage would now bring the postponement, he knows that a diplomatic retreat would shake the prestige of Prussia among the southern Germans and that nothing, on the other hand, could more than a new victory cementing all the German people. And France’s declaration of war came on July 19, 1870.

Now all of Germany is with the King of Prussia. According to microedu, the disagreement between north and south, despite some attempts between the Bavarian ultramontans, is, at the moment, healed and the spiritual unity of the German people has days of patriotic exaltation after the first lightning-fast and sensational victories. In six weeks the war is already lost for imperial France (Sedan: 10 September); another five months and republican France is also forced to capitulate (January 28, 1871). Also this time Bismarck wants to solicit peace to avoid the intervention of neutrals and on 10 May the peace of Frankfurt is signed with which France cedes Alsace and Lorraine with Metz and undertakes to pay an indemnity of five billions (see Franco – Prussian, war).

But the greatest result of the victory over France is that of the political unification of Gemiania and the constitution of the Empire. Baden, Württemberg and finally Bavaria are now joining the Confederation of Northern Germany, albeit after considerable difficulties and resistances. Thus Bavaria, while not obtaining the alternation of the title of emperor, retains some of its prerogatives, such as diplomatic representation abroad, the supreme command of its army in peacetime, the administration of the post office and railways. Another difficulty to overcome was the king’s reluctance to overshadow the title of emperor, that of king of Prussia (see William 1). The solution that triumphed was therefore that of Klein Deutschland. The Germanic Empire was, after all, as was soon noticed, that the ancient kingdom of Prussia, increased by the territories conquered by that king and by the states which had become part of the Prussian Zollverein. Dissatisfied foreign elements thus became part of the Empire, while the Germans of Austria remained outside: Poles in Posnania and Prussia, Danes in Schleswig and the peoples of Alsace and Lorraine. The latter were not directly annexed to Prussia, but governed with a particular regime as “territory of the Empire” (Reichsland). The Bund had thus become the Reich and he obeyed one of his sovereigns, strong for the dominion over two thirds of the total population, for the great military power and for the ascendant of the imperial dignity. And not primus inter pares was the emperor, because the other sovereigns were in the position of subordinates, not equals, with respect to him.

Germany History - The Franco and Prussian War

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