In 1862 Bismarck said, 'The great question of the day will not be settled by speeches and majority decisions...' What were 'the great questions of the day' for Bismarck, and how did he settle them up to 1871?
The significance of Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck-Schönhausen for world history is indisputable. Bismarck, a German Junker who was born on April 1st 1815 and died on July 30st 1898, is often referred to as the first modern politician of world history and it is very important to know what kind of man he was to understand his motives and what his 'great questions of the day' were. While his father was from an old noble family his mother was only from a common one with no special background and history. She always told him that he needed to burst out of the status his family was in. He wanted to make history and wanted to be considered as one of the best politicians in history and not an underpart. It is not clear if his national feelings were for Germany or Prussia.
The experience he gained for his later political career came from his early times as politician which he spend in Frankfurt, Russia and France, partially as ambassador for Germany. The most significant step in his political career was maybe when he was made chief minister of Prussia under Wilhelm I. His relation to the King and later the Kaiser was so good that he was much trusted by Wilhelm I. In the later years of his career, during the unification, Bismarck really ruled the country.
Even though many Germans wanted a nation and something that was secure and powerful they did not see Bismarck as somebody who did want to unite Germany but as somebody who wanted to increase the power and influence of Prussia. But that is the reason why the answer for the first part of the question in the heading is very clear. The quote about 'the great questions of the day' was taken from Bismarck's famous 'Iron and Blood' speech (also 'Blood and Iron speech) and represented most certainly the unification of Germany. In either case it would have made no big difference, only the motives might have been a little different. There are no real alternatives for meaning and the context of the speech allows only little doubts.
A German term was established which describes the way of Bismarck very well. His way was called Realpolitik and it really was what it meant. Realpolitik can be translated into realistic policies and was a direction in politics that was not shaped by ideals and national feelings but was really just the way to reach a goal and do the things necessary for that. He was considering that his actions and the actions of the Kaiser and Prussia will have consequences. For example; That Kaiser Wilhelm I. Took no land from Austria was due to Bismarck's influence on the Kaiser. If the Kaiser would have taken land a Reconciliation with Austria would have been unlikely to occur.
The unification of Germany was Bismarck's main achievement in live. 3 wars were necessary to establish the German Reich under the control of one Kaiser. Bismarck was not a war loving person but these 3 were part of his Realpolitik. Following quote shows his point of view: "Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war."
-Otto Von Bismarck
For the 3 wars to happen and to solve all the other little problems he faced it was necessary to take advantage of opportunities and without a huge portion of luck the project would have failed.
He was already chief minister of Prussia when a crisis occurred. Denmark and Friedrich von Augustenburg, who was supported by the German national movement, were at issue if Schleswig and Holstein should become a German country or a part of Denmark. Bismarck was expected to support the German national movement but against all expectations he did not. Bismarck tried to bring the territory under Prussian control but it became clear soon enough that this was not realizable...
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