8
Bismarck's Dismissal

The colonial enthusiasm of the early 1880s gave way to disillusionment at the end of the decade. The exaggerated hopes and promises had not been fulfilled; disappointment in colonial affairs was thus added to the discontent caused by the Kulturkampf and the anti-Socialist campaign. On March 9, 1888, Emperor Wilhelm I died and his son, Friedrich III, who succeeded him, died three months later ( June 15) of cancer of the throat. Wilhelm II became emperor at age twenty-nine; he was unlike his father or grandfather in behavior or outlook. Wilhelm II was of medium height, fair complexion, and restless temperament. He was sensitive all his life about his withered left arm, which had been crippled at birth. His main interest was the army, but instead of concentrating on military affairs, he occupied himself with the trappings and trivia of military life and wore a uniform at all times. (He is said to have appeared in the full dress uniform of an admiral at a performance of The Flying Dutchman.) He admired and tried to emulate his grandfather, Wilhelm I, but he was closer to his granduncle, Fried- rich Wilhelm IV, in his indecision, bombastic and deceptive oratory, and narrow view of royal prerogatives.1

Apart from these characteristics, the difference in age between the new emperor and the chancellor, now seventy-three, would have made it difficult even under the most favorable conditions to continue the close cooperation that had existed between Bismarck and Wilhelm I. For Bismarck such cooperation was crucial because his office and power were based exclusively on the confidence of the emperor. Inasmuch as the Reichstag in Germany (and the Parliament in Prussia) lacked the power to choose a government, the Reich chancellor and Prussian prime minister were appointed by the German emperor and king of Prussia (combined in the person of Wilhelm II) and served at his pleasure. It is well to remember that it was Bismarck himself who, during his entire term in office, vigorously opposed all attempts to

-124-

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Bismarck and His Times
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - Bismarck's Youth 1
  • 2 - Bismarck And The Revolution Of 1848 11
  • 3 - Frankfurt St. Petersburg Paris 1851-1862 23
  • 4 - Bismarck's Appointment And The Constitutional Conflict In Prussia 34
  • 5 - Bismarck's Three Wars 45
  • 6 - The New Reich 77
  • 7 - Bismarck's Foreign Policy 104
  • 8 - Bismarck's Dismissal 124
  • 9 - Bismarck Reassessed 130
  • Notes 135
  • Bibliographical Essay 165
  • Index 175
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