The German Empire, 1867-1914, and the Unity Movement - Vol. 1

By William Harbutt Dawson | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER III
(1851-1861) BISMARCK -- THE FIRST PHASE

THE history of the Bund and its Diet for the remaining years of their existence is in the main the history of a more concentrated struggle for leadership in Germany between the two States whose rivalry had been suspended for a brief breathing- space at Olmütz, Prussia renewing her claims as before, Austria tenaciously resisting any change that would diminish her power, not perceiving that by her refusal to concede a little she was risking the loss of all, nor conscious as yet that the superiority of which she boasted was no longer a reality but a phantom. That harmony and understanding would be restored between the rivals already seemed hopeless. They were like members of a family who could be good friends in other people's houses, only not at home. For while their interests as European Powers, if not always identical, were at least as a rule reconcilable, their interests as German States had become permanently antagonistic. They could not both be in the first place, and each of them knew that it was in the other's way.1

In his memoirs of that time Count Beust, who entered the Austrian State service too late to influence the course of events, for the catastrophe of 1866 had already occurred, professes to regard the Olmütz agreement as a blunder on Austria's part, and criticizes Schwarzenberg for neglecting to require from Prussia guarantees that the Radowitz Union project should not be revived. He contends that the Austrian Minister failed to appreciate the gravity of the issue involved, viz. whether Austria should continue a member of the Federation, and holds that this question should have been decided when she was still at the height of her strength.2 All such argument ignores the really vital point, which was that the fundamental issue between

____________________
1
Cf. Friedjung, Der Kampf um die Vorherrschaft in Deutschland, vol. i., p. 35.
2
Memoirs, vol. i., p. 101.

-91-

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