Waiting On Ceremony
THE VICTORY PARADE was led by the King on horseback. At his back rode the Crown Prince, bearded and erect, every inch the Teutonic hero. Bismarck had been made a general of Landwehr cavalry. Pale-faced beneath his helmet, he rode along the Unter den Linden, a garland of flowers round his neck. The strain of the past months brought about a nervous collapse immediately after the parade; he called it a softening of the brain.
It certainly led to a softening of his hard line at home and abroad. When he had recovered, he made his peace with the right wing of the Liberals. His years of governing unconstitutionally were forgiven by an Indemnity Bill, which was passed by a vote of three to one. The King was opposed to asking for absolution from the Chamber, but again the Crown Prince gave Bismarck his support; even among the liberals, Prussia's victory had tossed a halo over the spike of Bismarck's helmet. The angel of darkness, wrote Liebknecht, had become the angel of light. Before him, the people lay in the dust and adored.1
A further softening revealed itself in Bismarck's policy towards the smaller German states. With the assistance of the Crown Prince's former adviser, Max Duncker, he created a North German Confederation above the River Main. Its Reichstag had few powers. In it, the new National Liberal Party continued the compact with Bismarck, who became Chancellor. The National Liberals supported their old oppressor because they thought that a strong and united Germany should come first. Personal liberties could wait. There was no hurry to assimilate the whole of Germany. It would take years for Prussia to digest the petty northern