The Course of German History: A Survey of the Development of German History since 1815

By A. J. P. Taylor | Go to book overview

6

THE CONQUEST OF GERMANY BY PRUSSIA, 1862-71

The issue which brought Bismarck to power was not the survival of Prussia in Germany, but the survival in Prussia of the military monarchy and the military caste. William I was by upbringing and taste a soldier, anxious to redeem the army from the failure of 1850 and to repair the defects shown by the mobilization of 1859. In particular, he wished to provide for the increase in the size of the annual classes of conscripts. Since 1815 the population of Prussia had increased from ten and a half to eighteen million, the yearly intake of the army not at all, so that one out of every three Prussians escaped military service. Roon, the Minister of War, therefore planned to increase the military establishment by creating new regiments and providing new barracks. But he had a further object. The only conservative in the liberal ministry, he was determined to make the army at least a stronghold of conservatism. Therefore he planned also to remove from the army the few scraps of liberalism remaining from the days of Stein and Scharnhorst and the war of Liberation. The serving army was not only to be increased; it was to become the only army. The reserve, with its middle-class officers and its connections with civilian life, was to be reduced and later eliminated. Roon had the typical barrack-room

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