Bismarck and the Development of Germany: The Period of Unification, 1815-1871

By Otto Pflanze | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
THE CONQUEST OF NORTHERN GERMANY

1. ON THE RAZOR'S EDGE

ARRIVING in Berlin on February 15, 1866, Lord Loftus, the British ambassador, found the political atmosphere "loaded." "It smelled of powder."1 On the 28th a crown council assembled in the Wilhelmstrasse. The diplomatic corps noted uneasily that the list of participants was unusual. In addition to the king, crown prince, and cabinet ministers, Generals Moltke and Alvensleben were present, as were Ambassador Goltz, who had been summoned from Paris, and Edwin Manteuffel, who came from Schleswig. The diplomats had reason to be nervous. Behind the closed doors of the foreign office the subject of discussion was war.

William's opening remarks show bow well he had learned the lessons Bismarck had drilled into him. Since August, he charged, Austria had steadily sabotaged the Gastein agreement. She was playing the old game: "il faut avilir la Prusse, pour la détruire." Prussia's mission, Bismarck added, was to lead Germany. An envious Austria had consistently blocked this "natural and very justified" ambition. A decisive struggle was only a matter of time. At the moment conditions in Germany and Europe were favorable for Prussia. Out of the conflict would come the solution of the German question. Another result, Eulenburg pointed out, would be the conquest of the Prussian opposition. This could not be the motive for war, Bismarck replied, but only its by-product. Of those present only the crown prince spoke for the avoidance of hostilities.2

What William desired was not an immediate decision for military action, but preparation for its eventual necessity. Nor had

____________________
1
Lord Augustus Loftus, Diplomatic Reminiscences, 2nd series ( London, 1894), 1, 39.
2
APP, VI, 611-619; Friedrieb III, Tagebüeher 1848- 1866, pp. 541-544; Walter Reicble , Zwischen Staat und Kirche, Das Leben und Wirken des preussischen Kultusininisters Heinrich von Mühler ( Berlin, 1938), pp. 170-171.

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