THE GAMBLER (1863-1869)
That we would do We should do when we would, for this 'would' changes,
And hath abatements and delays as many
As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents:
And then this 'should' is like a spendthrift sigh,
That hurts by easing.
Hamlet, IV, vii
THE change in the home policy of the Empire marked by the elections of 1863 was already complicated by the first of a series of crises in European affairs which were to lead inexorably from Sebastopol to Sedan. The death of Cavour in June 1861 and of the Prince Consort at the end of the same year removed the two men whose suspicions of Louis' policy might have kept his adventures within bounds; but the problem of Rome was as perplexing as ever, and the friendship of England as precarious. Meanwhile the accession of William I as King of Prussia and his appointment of Bismarck as Minister-President was a warning -- a warning which the Powers were too slow to appreciate -- that a new centre of energy and initiative had to be reckoned with in European affairs. The king was a soldier, set on strengthening the army: Bismarck was a patriot, determined to federate Germany, apart from Austria, under Prussian political, military, and economic predominance. The refusal of the Prussian Diet to sanction army reform made the crisis in which Bismarck was recalled from his ambassadorship in Paris, and began weaving a spider's web of diplomacy which, stretching from Poland in 1863 to Denmark in 1864, Austria in 1866, Luxembourg in 1867, and Spain in 1868, finally entangled and destroyed the French Empire.
Born a few weeks before Waterloo, Otto, Count von Bismarck, spent his youth on his father's country estate, at a Berlin school, and at Göttingen University, under the authoritarian and nationalist influences common at that period, sharing both the barbarous taste for duelling and the aspirations for liberal reform which were so strangely combined in University life in the 'thirties; then took a Doctor's degree in Law, served in the army, and settled down in the