Franco-German Relations, 1878-1885

By Robert H. Wienefeld | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
CONCLUSION

The fall of the second French Empire marked the end of French predominance in Europe, and witnessed the beginning of German hegemony. Having succeeded in unifying Germany and obtaining the boundaries he desired, Prince Bismarck set about securing the results achieved by the war. His primary object was to have the new order of things acknowledged by the European powers, and to keep France in a state of isolation. France, on the other hand, virtually withdrew from European affairs. Under the leadership of Thiers her entire energy was devoted to paying the war indemnity as rapidly as possible, but no sooner was this accomplished than she was plunged into party strife. Bourbon, Orleanist, and Bonapartist claimants struggled to regain the throne of France, while Thiers and his supporters endeavored to establish a conservative republic. In this contest the German government desired the latter to prevail, for it was generally believed that a "red republic" would be less capable of contracting a European alliance than a monarchy, and that internal dissension would be a source of weakness.

With the overthrow of Thiers and the subsequent election of MacMahon the German government feared that its own position was endangered, believing that the advent of a conservative Catholic government was but the first step towards a monarchical restoration. Such a change might, indeed, have made the success of German policy problematical. Bismarck was of the opinion that such a government would ally itself with the Holy See--endangering the Kulturkampf-- and then seek alliances with the Catholic states of Europe or with Russia. In order to prevent this the German chancellor made it his policy to cultivate friendly relations with Russia, Austria, and Italy. Although he succeeded in doing this, he still remained suspicious of the conservative ministry in France. The affair of 1875 and the eastern question served

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