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

By Otto Pflanze | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIXTEEN
BRIDGES OVER THE MAIN

1. THE MILITARY ALLIANCES

O MANY German nationalists the peace settlement with Austria was a keen disappointment. The triumph of Königgrätz had reconciled them to the idea of a national union under conservative leadership. But now they read in Article II of the preliminary peace signed at Nikolsburg on July 26 that Germany was to be divided into two spheres along the river Main. The south, like the north, was to be allowed to federate. The "national bond" between them was to be the subject of a "closer understanding." The settlement appeared to create for Germany a new dualism, which would again frustrate the demand for national self-determination.1

The reasons for this decision have long been a subject of quandary and dispute. Nationalistic writers have found it difficult to believe that Bismarck willingly accepted such a limitation upon German unity. The original Prussian reform plan, it is pointed out, included the whole of small-Germany. One view has it that the "outline" of June 10 was sheer propaganda, another that the halt at the Main was dictated by the danger of French intervention. Recently Otto Becker even maintained that the Main line was "created" by the refusal of German liberals to cooperate in summoning the "pre-parliament" proposed to them by Bismarck through Eulenburg. In the crown council of February 26, however, King William had already given as Prussia's objective the establishment of a "decisive political preponderance" in northern Germany.2

Certainly a major reason for this limitation was diplomatic. From the beginning Napoleon's encouragement of Prussian ex-pansion

____________________
1
Otto Scheel, Bismarcks Wille zu Deutschland in den Friedenschlüssen 1866, Veröffentlichungen der Schleswig-Holsteinischen Univérsitätsgesellschaft, Vol. 44 ( Breslau, 1934), pp. 1-7, 76. For the text of the treaty see Staatsarchiv, XI ( 1866), 166-168.
2
Becker, Bismarcks Ringen, p. 180; APP, VI, 613. For a review of the older literature on this controversy see Bruno Gebhardt, Handbuch der deutschen Geschichte ( 7th ed., 1 Stuttgart, 1931), II, 415-416.

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