GERMANY: STRUGGLE TO UNIFY


Many Germans hoped to turn Germany into a liberal society, but they had no nation- state as an essential pre-condition to liberalism. In the end Germany sacrificed liberalism in order to achieve nationhood.

Chronology

1806Holy Roman Empire abolished -- minor German states organized as the Rheinbund [Confederation of the Rhine] with Napoleon as "Protector."
1813War of Liberation -- the spontaneous uprising of Germans against Napoleon led many to believe that the German nation was about to be born, but these hopes were dashed.
1814Germanic Confederation [Deutsche Bund]-- established at the Congress of Vienna to replace the old Holy Roman Empire. Germany reduced to several dozens states; the Austrian Emperor [Franz II until 1835] is ex officio President of the Confederation. Franz II's government was run by his Chancellor, Clemens von Metternich. The second strongest ruler is King Friedrich Wilhelm III [ruled 1797-1840] of Prussia.
1819Zollverein [Customs Union] founded to encourage trade, but "the Germanies" remain an area where feudal traditions are strong. Nonetheless, recurrent economic problems are caused by bad harvests, culminhating in the hardtimes of ther 1840's.
1848Revolutions -- in nearly every German state, rebels force rulers to accept Constitutions, and allow elections to a German National Assembly in Frankfurt. In Austria, Metternich flees from Vienna, Emperor Ferdinand [ruled 1835-1848] abdicates, and the new Emperor Franz Josef, a teenager, granted Constitution [he will rule until 1916]. Austria sends delegates to Frankfurt, but Hungary declares independence from Austria, [and Germany] creating a Republic under "Governor" Lajos Kossuth. The National Assembly in Frankfurt cannot agree on a Constitution, and its dithering allows the rulers to recover their nerve and organize their forces, commanded ed by still loyal nobles and officers.
1849King Friedrich Wilhelm IV [1840-1861] of Prussia marches on Frankfurt. When the National Assembly tries to offer him an Imperial crown, Friedrich Wilhem refuses with the remark that he will not "pick up a crown from the gutter." He occupied Frankfurt and disperses the Assembly. The Germanic Confederation is restored; the liberal Constitutions of the German states are revoked. Under the aegis of the Holy Alliance, Russian forces of Emperor Nicholas I crush the Hungarian Republic and return Hungary to Austria. Many refugees from these failed revolutions fled to Britain and America, including the German Socialist Karl Marx, who goes to London and writes the "Communist Manifesto.".
1850'sKing Friedrich William IV makes himself the rallying point for German nationalism, even seducing Liberals to support him as the only hope of German nationhood. Friedrich Wilhelm's Minister of Interior, Von Westphalen, even offers a job to his brother-in-law Karl Marx, but Marx declines. After the King became incapacitated in 1858, his brother Wilhelm acted as Regent. Friedrich Wilhelm IV died in 1861.
1861King Wilhelm I of Prussia comes to the throne.
1862Otto von Bismark appointed Prussian Prime Minister by Wilhelm I
1863The throne of Denmark was inherited by a German prince, the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg, who became King Christian IX of Denmark.
1864After accusations that King Christian IX is attempting to "deGermanize" Schleswig-Holstein, Bismark's Prussia goes to war with Denmark, with Austria and other German states as allies. After Denmark's defeats, Schleswig-Holstein becomes a common territory of the Deutsche Bund.
1866Seven Weeks' War -- after a dispute relating to the administration of Schleswig-Holstein, Prussia and Austria go to war. Austria is quickly defeated; the Germanic confederation is dissolved, and Austria faces secession by Hungary. Prussia creates a new North German Confederation [Norddeutsche Bund], from which Austria and other Catholic states [e.g. Bavaria] are excluded.
1867Austria conceded autonomy to Hungary, and Austria-Hungary [alias the Dual Monarchy] is born.
1868The throne of Spain falls vacant, and Bismark urges the candidacy of Leopold von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a cousin of King Wilhelm I. French Emperor Napoleon III's opposition is egged on by Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismark until war is declared.
1870-1871Franco-Prussian War -- Prussian armes organized by Helmuth von Moltke invaded France with lesser German states rallying to the cause [except Austria]. Napoleon III captured at the Battle of Sedan. Paris besieged by the Germans. At Versailles near Paris, the new German Empire [Deutsche Kaiserreich or Zweiten Reich] is proclaimed with Wilhelm I as German Emperor [Deutsche Kaiser] and Bismark as Chancellor [Reichskanzler]. France signs a humiliating treaty ceding Alsace-Lorraine to the German Empire.
1871In the new German Constitution, a universal male suffrage Reichstag [Parliament] is instituted with other trappings of liberalism, but real power remains in the hands of the Emperor, Chancellor, aristocracy and military. Bismark has exploited the nationalist feelings of German liberals, while never ceasing to view himself in feudal terms as a retainer of the House of Hohenzollern.