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

By William Harbutt Dawson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
(1870-1874) THE NEW EMPIRE

THE remark of Thiers to Bismarck, as he laid down his pen after signing the Preliminaries of Peace, that France had given to Germany unity, spoken though it was in bitterness of spirit, was true. The German Empire was literally created on the battlefield, for not only was it the natural outcome of a war in which all the German tribes fought together against a hereditary foe, but the treaties which brought the States of the South into federal relationship with those of the North were concluded at Versailles, within sight of the ring of German steel which enveloped Paris. It was significant of Bismarck's determination to run no risks, now that the last stage of the struggle for unity had been reached, that he opened negotiations with the Soverèigns and Governments of the still outstanding States immediately the French had shown the first signs of wavering and had asked the price of peace. To those who suggested that this was lightning diplomacy the Chancellor replied that it was necessary to secure the adhesion of the South before there was time for the prevailing enthusiasm to evaporate. Because the treaties which followed were concluded hurriedly, they were faulty, and he admitted it, but now as ever he followed the principle of accepting something less than he wished and being contented with that.

No one doubted any longer that unity would now be completed, yet the acceptance of unity as a foregone conclusion did not diminish the difficulties still in the way -- the old sentiment of particularism, nowhere so strong as in the South, unwillingness to surrender any of the substance of political independence, and, above all, jealousy of Prussia and fear of Prussian domination, a sentiment which may have been exaggerated yet which was very real and not altogether without justification. To the removal of these difficulties not merely a resolute will but unfailing tact and resource, and above all an

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