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

By William Harbutt Dawson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
(1865-1866) THE EXTRUSION OF AUSTRIA

IN the lives of nations, as of individuals, there are climacterical periods, times of crisis, of fateful endings and new beginnings. For Germany such periods were marked by the year 843, when by the Treaty of Verdun the Carlovingian empire was divided into three parts; the year 1250, when with the death of Frederick II the glory of the Hohenstaufens entered eclipse; and the year 1648, when the Peace of Westphalia asserted the independence of the territorial Sovereigns, and so prepared the way for the ultimate paralysis of the imperial power. The year 1866, in which Austria and Prussia fought out the struggle for supremacy which had long been inevitable, similarly marked a turning-point in German history.

The arrangement confirmed by the convention of Gastein was an unnatural and impracticable one; all it did was to enable the contracting Powers to defer for a short time the disagreeable duty of looking facts clearly in the face. Ostensibly intended to repair a broken friendship, it did no more than, in Bismarck's words, "plaster over the cracks." As so often happens in international disputes submitted to the arbitrament of force, the political problem created by the war of 1864 proved more difficult than the military problem had been. It soon became evident that the convention pleased no one. The duchies themselves were incensed at an arrangement which repeated in another form the very offence for committing which Denmark had paid so severe a penalty. The Holstein Estates at once appealed to the Federal Diet for help, but inasmuch as the Powers in possession had made peace, there was no longer hope of relief in that quarter.1

In Germany the convention made the States unfriendly to

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1
Three years later ( 1868) Moltke wrote: "In Holstein I have never heard a word of gratitude that the country has been emancipated from Danish rule, though beforetimes it was not possible to picture it black and tyrannical enough."

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