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

By William Harbutt Dawson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
(1858-1863) THE PRUSSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL CONFLICT

WHILE the federal controversy still dragged on, there occurred in Prussia a constitutional struggle which for a time threw a shadow upon other domestic questions. Long before he became Regent the Prince of Prussia, a soldier by instinct and training, had been impressed by the need for a stronger and more efficient army and for a reform of the existing military organization. With true insight he had recognized that in the altered conditions of military science and technique the day of the old militia was over, and that Prussia's position would be strengthened and her capacity to meet future tasks be assured, only to the extent that she had at command a sufficient force of highly trained and highly disciplined men. He had seen with increasing anxiety the growing military strength of France, Russia, and even of Austria, and he feared that in the event of a clash with either of these Powers before Prussia had had time to adjust her military system to the altered situation the result might be disastrous. The memories of Olmütz and all the other humiliations which there found their climax were a constant warning that Prussia would never be able to assert her rightful position in Germany and Europe until she could depend altogether upon her own strong arm. Military defects which had come to his knowledge when engaged, as Prince of Prussia, in quelling the Baden insurrection of 1849 and the slowness of the mobilization of his forces in 1859, when Austria was eagerly waiting for Prussian help, had also convinced him that radical reforms in organization were necessary if the army was to become an absolutely reliable weapon in serious warfare.

His first act as Regent, therefore, had been to replace the stagnant Ministry of Manteuffel, which had neglected the army, by a Cabinet of more progressive men. In his first address to the new Ministry he had hinted at an early scheme of army re-

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