Germany History - The Prussian and Danish War

Germany History – The Prussian and Danish War

Up to now Germany has not yet achieved its national unity, because three main obstacles have prevented the solution of the greatest German problem: the spirit and will of the king of Prussia, legitimist and conservative, and his attitude towards other principles ; the particularisms of the individual states, nourished and sharpened by historical, political and religious reasons, and the tenacious resistance of the principles themselves to renounce even a part of their sovereign prerogatives; finally, the decisive and tenacious opposition of Austria. The new prime minister (see bismarck) already has a very clear vision of the indispensable means to arrive at the solution of the unitary problem. It is not the help of the parties, much less that of the individual principles, as necessary as the power of the German people. Bismarck is determined to defend the Prussian state against liberalism and democracy, but at the same time to use all the revolutionary forces. It could be said that he is a conservative for Prussia and a liberal for Germany. Because for him the state is either strong or it doesn’t exist; constitutional issues are also issues of force. Thus, in full coherence of ideas and action, while promising, in the act of assuming power, to govern even against the majority, a few days later he affirms before the Budget Commission that “the great problems of Bund, Bismarck, fully aware of the political program announced by Schwarzenberg “Prussia must first be humiliated, then overthrown”, and already realized, in the first part, in Olmütz, he affirms, in Thoughts and Memories, having been very clear to him since 1862 that “the Gordian knot of German conditions could not dualistically untie with love, but had to be severed with the sword”. And faced with the perplexities of the king of Prussia, he adds: “it was a question of gaining the king, conscious or unconscious, and with it the army in the service of the national cause; from the Prussian point of view, the hegemony of Prussia, or, from the national point of view, the unification of Germany, the two purposes coincided “. Evidently, therefore, Bismarck’s program means, for the king, a radical renunciation of the policy of the so-called “moral conquests” it also means a hidden or open dictatorship within,faced with the problem of German unity, the imposition of the united will of the people on the rights of principles and the particularities of the individual states, the struggle against the intrusive Danish ambitions, against Austrian rivalry and hostility, against French imperialism. Hence, from this moment on, the history of Prussia becomes, in a certain sense, the history of Germany itself.

Already during the first year of Bismarck’s government, the strength of the statesman is felt, determined to carry out his program of national unification. The dispensation from the service of officials and Landwehr officers amazes, arouses discontent and protests, but remains. The parliamentary opposition does not dare to rise up. Equally decisive is Bismarck’s attitude in the face of Austria’s new attempt to reassert its dominance in the Bund: because when the emperor Franz Joseph, having a draft of a new constitution prepared, invites all the confederate princes to Frankfurt to approve it, the meeting fails entirely due to the absence of Prussia. The tension thus intensifies, but the general attention is immediately turned elsewhere, when the death of Frederick VII of Denmark (1863) raises the serious and complex question of the duchies of Schleswig-Holstein (see).

In fact, according to the Landesrecht, on the death of Frederick VII, the last male descendant of the Danish house, the Elban duchies should have separated from Denmark and passed to the Duke of Augustenburg. But in anticipation of this eventuality, as early as 1852, an agreement stipulated between Austria and Prussia and the other great powers (London Protocol) established that “for the general interest of European equilibrium” the prince of Glücksburg would succeed the throne of Denmark and in the duchies. Evidently, Russia and England, above all, had thus sought to prevent the breakdown of Danish unity, in order to secure themselves against German maritime development. However, two days before the death of Frederick VII the Danish nationalists had obtained a new constitution, under which Schleswig was to be incorporated into Denmark, Bund. Here, then, is the new king Christian IX, the so-called “Protokollprinz”, faced with this dilemma: either to accept the new constitution or to run the risk of being overthrown by the Danish nationalist party. The king signs the constitution, but thus stands against the will of the duchies, who have solemnly declared that as a result of the death of Frederick VII all their relationship of dependence on Denmark has ceased and that they recognize only Prince Frederick of Augustenburg as lord., with all the greater right as this prince did not recognize the renunciation made earlier by his father. And Bismarck naturally supports this deliberation.

But this time he needs the support of Austria, and he obtains it skillfully, since Austria has the illusion of being in a clearly advantageous position towards Prussia, as at the time of the events which led to Olmütz. Thus, while the Bund, which had not signed the London Protocol, occupies the Duchy of Holstein with Saxon troops and including the Duchy of Holstein, Prussia and Austria, bound by a pact of alliance, categorically ask the King of Denmark to withdraw the new constitution., as it is against the rights of the Bund in respect of Schleswig. Denmark, deceptively sure of itself and of the support of the great Powers interested in the question, rejects the ultimatum ; but France, disappointed by English politics and committed to the Mexican adventure, and Russia, eager not to create obstacles to Prussia, its collaborator against the Polish insurrection, remain spectators, while England is surprised by the speed of events. The war, now inevitable, is in fact very short (see Prussian – Danish, Guerra). The Austro-Prussian troops occupy Schleswig and, having failed the English attempt at a conference to avert the worst, defeated Denmark is forced with the peace of Vienna to abandon Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg to the victorious powers.

Evidently, the duchies have immense economic, commercial and military value for Prussia; for Austria they represent only a burden; the expenses of the occupation did not fail to raise protests on the part of those who had opposed Austria’s throwing itself into the Danish adventure. But Vienna cannot and will not give a free hand to its rival in the duchies. There is talk of compensation; mention is also made of a Prussian guarantee for Venice. Finally, Austria proposes Augustenburg to Prussia as Duke of Schleswig-Holstein. Bismarck tries to buy time; it does not oppose a solution with the choice of one of the suitors, but in this case it reserves the right to ask for compensation. Austria threatens to break the alliance and meanwhile the agitation in the duchies is accentuated,

According to topmbadirectory, the alliance between the two powers has not attenuated, indeed it has contributed to sharpening, their rivalry, on the other hand, an Austro-Prussian war not from this moment is considered by Bismarck as inevitable. But the propitious hour has not yet arrived; Prussia’s position must first be consolidated. The negotiations for an alliance with Italy, which began in the summer of 1865 – already in ’61 Cavour had thought of an Italian-Prussian alliance and the first Prussian approaches date back to 1962 -, and those for a rapprochement with the France go on for a long time, on the one hand because Bismarck does not intend to commit fully, on the other because Alfonso La Marmora, questioned in July ’65 by KG von Usedom what would have been the behavior of Italy in the event of an Austrian war. Prussian, he wants to consult with Napoleon III and the latter, while permitting, does not hide the intention of taking advantage in every way of the possible Austro-Prussian conflict to take advantage of it. In this situation, Bismarck does not hesitate to hasten the solution for the duchies, to the surprise of Italy, which happens, evidently provisionally, with the Treaty of Gastein (August 14, 1865).

Germany History - The Prussian and Danish War

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