Prussia is not yet ripe for German unification. – According to itypemba, the Dresden meetings, chaired by the Austrian Chancellor F. v. Schwarzenberg, characterized by a reactionary intransigence to which Prussia also gives its support, do not arrive at any concrete solution of the planned reform of the Bund constitution ; on the contrary, the unitary national problem runs the risk of being further compromised by Austria’s request to join the Bund as well as the Zollverein with the weight of his entire empire, that is, to create a predominant position within the Confederation. The attempt fails, reaching the sole purpose of sharpening the open disagreement between Austria and Prussia; but on the other hand, the two powers are too linked by the bond of a common conservative policy, for it to be possible now to think of an energetic gesture by Prussia to free itself from Vienna in favor of German unity. So even in the economic field, he refuses to let Austria join the Zollverein, but two years later Berlin and Vienna conclude a trade treaty for twelve years. A more decisive Prussian attitude will occur against the will of the king, only as a consequence of external events: the Crimean war and the Austro-Franco-Piedmontese war. Austria does not miss the opportunity to participate in the first alongside the Western powers against its powerful rival and in vain tries to drag Prussia into the fight, whose policy is already supervised by the genius of Bismarck, Prussian representative to the Bund. Meanwhile, after the Peace of Paris (1856), two major political currents dominated events in Europe: on the one hand, the rivalry between Austria and France for European dominance, exacerbated by Napoleon III’s need to consolidate the throne and by the reborn imperialist ambitions on the other hand, the accentuation of the efforts of the German and Italian peoples for the conquest of national unity. The two streams do not remain without a link. Napoleon III believes that he is using the German and Italian unitary aspirations to achieve his goal: in French imperialism it is therefore the possibility and the danger of the restoration, albeit under different forms and gravities, of a foreign domination both for Germany and for Germany. Italy. Faced with Napoleon III’s policy and national aspirations, even the Bund in the struggle which it itself considers inevitable and to conquer, with victory, the dominance in Europe. But he gets his calculations wrong. Prussia and the Bund they are not bound by treaties to defend Austria in its Italian possessions; however, if the Italian aspirations find deep echoes of sympathy in the German people, a possible increase in French power arouses the most lively concerns in Prussia. Driven more by a spirit of reactionary solidarity and by the influence of his wife than not advised by such concerns, the prince of Prussia, Guglielmo, who in 1957 took over the regency due to the incurable illness of his brother, Frederick William IV, believes he is cutting off the Italian ambitions, supporting Austria. On the other hand, in the event of an intervention, he asked the supreme command of the non-Austrian troops, a concrete and solemn reaffirmation of considering himself at the head of Germany. He then adds that he is ready, always under this condition, to enter the war in the event that the Franco-Piedmontese troops cross the Mincio. Prussia emerges diminished in its prestige by the events of ’59; it has displeased Austria, and has made its relations with France more tense, and has appeared, in the eyes of the world, hesitant and worried about fighting, while Austria retains its prestige, especially among the southern Germans.
The ” Deutscher Nationalverein ” and the defeat of the conservatives at the Prussian ” Landtag “. – However, all patriots now recognize that only Prussia can unify Germany and already in 1959, with the meetings of the democrats in Eisenach and the liberals in Hanover, that unitary movement is being organized among the people which soon leads to the creation of the Deutscher Nationalverein. His program is clear. Since the dangers that threaten German unity originate in the constitution, it is first of all necessary to change that constitution and replace the Bundesiag with a firm and stable central government of Germany. And since only Prussia is able to take an initiative in this direction, pending the establishment of the central government, she must be entrusted with the command of the German military forces. The organization of the Nationalverein rapidly expands in all German states, meeting the opposition of governments and arousing among the people enthusiasm and hopes that are renewed a hundredfold for the celebration of the Schillerian centenary, in which for the first time all of Germany feels united in one spiritual power (1859).
But what is the attitude of Prussia? Prince William, shortly after assuming the regency, replaced the reactionary Manteuffel, with Prince KA Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a constitutional liberal, and the gesture was hailed as the beginning of a “new era”, which seems to be confirmed by the same words of the regent: “Prussia must make moral conquests in Germany and everywhere it is ready to defend the right”; while the formation of the Chamber of Deputies, made up mostly of moderate liberals, serves in a certain way as a counterweight to the Upper Chamber which still remains the stronghold of the reaction. Also in the Bund moderate proposals are made by Prussia for the new constitution of the army, among which the division of the supreme command between Prussia and Austria; but they fail above all because of the opposition of the middle states, firm in the idea and the trialistic program. So it now seems to the regent himself that the military reform no longer needs to be extended; and a clear sign of his decision is given by the appointment of General von Roon as Minister of War.
It is on this question that the conflict between government and parliament arises. In essence, the struggle for power in the state takes shape: Prussia, and therefore Germany, are at a decisive point in their history. Until 1861 – the year of the death of Frederick William IV and the coronation of his successor, William I – various compromises followed one another. The struggle intensifies with the founding by a group of liberals of the German progressive party (Deutsche Fortschrittspartei), which in agreement with the Nationalverein argues that ministers are accountable to the people’s representatives. The new king, who also nourished justified hopes during his regency, reaffirms, in assuming the crown, his kingship of divine right. In the elections that take place immediately thereafter, the progressive party wins over a third of the seats, while the old liberal party still splits up and the conservatives manage to retain an insignificant minority. It is an open challenge. The king accepts it, replaces the liberals in the ministry with the conservatives and dissolves the Chamber. The new elections still strengthen the position of the progressive party, and the expenses for military reform are rejected with 308 votes against 11. One can speak of abdication, so much by now the king is engaged in the struggle.