Bismarck's Three Wars
Despite his tough stand and show of confidence, Bismarck was unhappy about the constitutional conflict. He was mindful of public opinion and wanted popular support for government policies, not criticism and opposition. He particularly needed this support in foreign affairs, where, he believed, Prussian aims would have to be realized.
Two developments made his policies more difficult to pursue in 1863, at the height of the constitutional conflict: the Polish revolt against Russia, and Austria's attempt to join the Customs Union. The revolt in Poland in January 1863 provided Bismarck with an opportunity to establish closer ties with Russia, which he had contemplated since his stay as minister in St. Petersburg. When the Russians requested Prussian military assistance along the common border, the Prussian government, following the precedents of 1830-31 and 1848, mobilized half its army and closed its borders to Polish insurgents. General Alvensleben, the king's general adjutant, was sent to St. Petersburg to encourage further cooperation and "to strengthen the tsar's resistance to the pro-Polish party among his advisers."1 An agreement which became known as the Alvensleben Convention was concluded on February 8, 1863: it stipulated cooperation and mutual assistance by the Russian and Prussian military commanders and permission for each to cross the border in pursuit of Polish revolutionaries. Although meant to be secret, the terms of the agreement became known in the major European capitals and led to a serious diplomatic crisis.2 Napoleon III was particularly upset because he had pretended that the revolt was an internal Russian affair to avoid jeopardizing his country's friendly relations with Russia. Prussia's intervention made such an interpretation untenable. If a conservative power like Prussia could intervene to suppress the Poles, a liberal power like France should be able to assist them. Unwilling to challenge Russia directly, Napoleon put pressure on Prussia by suggesting that Bismarck's dismissal might ease the