The ambassador in Paris, Bismarck was not long, he was soon recalled because of the acute government crisis in Prussia. In September 1862, Otto von Bismarck took over as head of government, and later became minister-president and head of Prussia’s foreign ministry. As a result, for eight years, Bismarck was the permanent head of the Prussian government. All this time he carried out the program, which he formulated in 1850-s and finally determined at the beginning of 1860-s.
Bismarck told the parliament, which was dominated by liberals, that the government would collect taxes, taking into account the old budget, because parliamentarians due to internal conflicts could not accept the budget. Bismarck carried out this policy in 1863-1866, which allowed him to carry out military reform, which seriously increased the combat capability of the Prussian army. She was also conceived by the regent Wilhelm, who was unhappy with the existence of the Landwehr - the territorial troops, which in the past had played an important role in the struggle against Napoleon’s army and were the backbone of the liberal public. At the suggestion of Minister of War Albrecht von Roon (it was by his patronage that Otto von Bismarck was appointed minister-president of Prussia) it was decided to increase the number of regular army, introduce 3-year active service in the army and 4-year in cavalry, take measures to accelerate mobilization activities And so on. However, these activities required a lot of money, it was necessary to increase the military budget by a quarter. It met with resistance from the liberal government, parliament and the public. Bismarck, on the other hand, formed his cabinet of conservative ministers and used a “hole in the constitution”, according to which the mechanism of the government’s actions during the constitutional crisis was not determined. Forcing parliament to comply, Bismarck also restricted the activities of the press and took measures to reduce the capacity of the opposition.
In a speech to the budget committee of parliament, Bismarck spoke famous words that were included in history: “Prussia must gather its strength and maintain them until an auspicious moment, which has already been missed several times. The borders of Prussia in accordance with the Vienna agreements are not conducive to the normal life of the state; not by speeches and decisions of the majority, important issues of our time are being resolved - it was a major mistake of 1848 and 1849, but with blood and iron. ” This program - "iron and blood", Bismarck consistently conducted in the unification of the German lands.
Bismarck's foreign policy was very successful. Great criticism of the liberals was caused by the support of Russia during the Polish uprising 1863. Russian Foreign Minister Prince A. Gorchakov and Adjutant General of the Prussian King Gustav von Alvensleben signed a St. Petersburg convention by which Russian troops could pursue gangs in Prussia, and Prussian Army - in Russia.
Victory over Denmark and Austria
In 1864, Prussia defeated Denmark. The war was caused by the status problem of the Duchy of Schleswig and Holstein - the southern provinces of Denmark. Schleswig and Holstein were in personal union with Denmark. At the same time, ethnic Germans prevailed in the population of the regions. Prussia was already at war with Denmark for the dukedoms in 1848 — 1850, but then retreated under the pressure of great powers — England, Russia, and France — which guaranteed the inviolability of the Danish monarchy. The reason for the new war was the childlessness of the Danish king Frederick VII. In Denmark, inheritance through the feminine line was allowed, and Prince Christian Glucksburg was recognized as the successor to Frederick VII. However, in Germany they inherited only through the male line, and Duke Frederick of Augustinburg made a pretender to the throne of the two duchies. In 1863, Denmark adopted a new constitution, which established the unity of Denmark and Schleswig. Then Prussia and Austria stood up for the interests of Germany.
The forces of the two powerful powers and small Denmark were incomparable, and it was defeated. The great powers this time did not show much interest in Denmark. As a result, Denmark waived its rights to Lauenburg, Schleswig and Holstein. Lauenburg for monetary compensation became the property of Prussia. The duchies were declared joint possessions of Prussia and Austria (Gastein Convention). Schleswig was ruled by Berlin, and Holstein by Vienna. This was an important step towards the unification of Germany.
The next step towards the unification of Germany under the rule of Prussia was the Austro-Prussian-Italian War (or German War) 1866. Bismarck originally planned to use the intricacies of controlling Schleswig and Holstein for a conflict with Austria. Holstein, who came to the "control" of Austria, was separated from the Austrian Empire by a number of German states and the territory of Prussia. Vienna offered Berlin both dukedoms in exchange for the most modest territory on the Prussian-Austrian border from Prussia. Bismarck refused. Then Bismarck accused Austria of violating the conditions of the Gastein Convention (the Austrians did not stop the anti-Prussian agitation in Holstein). Vienna put this question before the Allied Diet. Bismarck warned that this business is only Prussia and Austria. However, the Diet continued the discussion. Then 8 on April 1866 of Bismarck annulled the convention and proposed to transform the German Union, excluding Austria from it. On the same day, the Prussian-Italian alliance against the Austrian Empire was concluded.
Bismarck paid much attention to the situation in Germany. He put forward a program to create the North German Union with the creation of a single parliament (based on universal secret male suffrage), a single armed forces under the leadership of Prussia. On the whole, the program seriously limited the sovereignty of individual German states in favor of Prussia. It is clear that the majority of the German states opposed this plan. The Sejm rejected Bismarck’s proposals. 14 June 1866, the Bismarck declared the Diet "invalid." 13 of the German states, including Bavaria, Saxony, Hannover, Württemberg, opposed Prussia. However, Prussia was the first to mobilize and the Prussians began to push the Austrians from Holstein on June 7. The German Union Sejm decided to mobilize four corps - the contingent of the German Union, which Prussia accepted as a declaration of war. Of the states of the German Union, only Saxony managed to mobilize its corps on time.
On June 15, hostilities began between the mobilized Prussian army and the unmobilized allies of Austria. 16 June Prussians began the occupation of Hanover, Saxony and Hesse. 17 June Austria declared war to Prussia, so that it would be beneficial for Bismarck, who tried to create the most favorable political environment. Now Prussia did not look like an aggressor. 20 June Italy entered the war. Austria was forced to wage war on two fronts, which further worsened its position.
Bismarck managed to neutralize the two main external dangers - from Russia and France. Most of all, Bismarck feared Russia, which could by one expression of discontent stop the war. However, irritation of Austria, which prevailed in St. Petersburg, played into the hands of Bismarck. Alexander II remembered the behavior of Franz Joseph during the Crimean War and the rude insult inflicted by Buol of Russia at the Paris Congress. In Russia, they looked at it as a betrayal of Austria and did not forget it. Alexander decided not to hinder Prussia, to settle accounts with Austria. In addition, Alexander II highly appreciated the "service" provided by Prussia in 1863 during the Polish uprising. True, Gorchakov did not want to give in so easily to Bismarck. But in the end, the king's opinion took up.
With France, the situation was more complicated. The regime of Napoleon III, guarding his power, was guided by foreign policy adventures, which were supposed to distract people from internal problems. Among such “small and victorious wars” were the Eastern (Crimean) War, which led to heavy losses for the French army and did not bring any benefits to the French people. In addition, Bismarck’s plans to unite Germany around Prussia were a real threat to France. Paris was beneficial to a weak and fragmented Germany, where small states are involved in the orbit of the policies of the three great powers - Austria, Prussia and France. To prevent the strengthening of Prussia, the defeat of Austria and the unification of Germany around the Prussian kingdom was a necessity for Napoleon III, which was determined by the tasks of national security.
To solve the problem of France, Bismarck visited the courtyard of Napoleon III in 1865, and offered the emperor a deal. Bismarck made it clear to Napoleon that Prussia, in exchange for the neutrality of France, would not protest against the incorporation of Luxembourg into the French Empire. This was not enough for Napoleon. Napoleon III clearly hinted at Belgium. However, such a concession threatened Prussia with serious troubles in the future. On the other hand, outright rejection threatened war with Austria and France. Bismarck answered neither yes nor no, and Napoleon no longer raised this topic. Bismarck realized that Napoleon III decided to maintain neutrality at the beginning of the war. The clash of two first-class European powers, in the opinion of the French emperor, should have led to a protracted and bloody war that would weaken both Prussia and Austria. They did not believe in the “blitzkrieg” in Paris. As a result, France could receive all the fruits of the war. Her fresh army, perhaps even without any struggle, could have been obtained by Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Rhineland.
Bismarck realized that this was Prussia’s chance. At the beginning of the war, France will be neutral, the French will wait. Thus, the fast war could radically change the situation in favor of Prussia. The Prussian army will quickly crush Austria, will not suffer serious losses and will come to the Rhine before the French can bring the army to combat readiness and take retaliatory steps.
Bismarck understood that the Austrian campaign was lightning, it is necessary to solve three problems. Firstly, it was necessary to mobilize the army before the opponents, which was done. Secondly, to force Austria to fight on two fronts, to spray its forces. Thirdly, after the first victories, to put Vienna on the minimum, the most non-burdensome requirements. Bismarck was ready to confine himself to excluding Austria from the German Union, without presenting territorial or other requirements. He did not want to humiliate Austria, turning her into an implacable enemy who would fight to the last (in this case, the possibility of intervention by France and Russia increased sharply). Austria should not have prevented the transformation of the powerless German Union into a new union of German states under the leadership of Prussia. In the future, Bismarck saw an ally in Austria. In addition, Bismarck feared that a severe defeat could lead to the collapse and revolution in Austria. This Bismarck did not want.
Bismarck was able to ensure that Austria fought on two fronts. The newly created Italian kingdom wanted to get Venice, the Venetian region, Trieste and Trento, which belonged to Austria. Bismarck made an alliance with Italy, so that the Austrian army had to fight on two fronts: in the north - against the Prussians, in the south - against the Italians, storming Venice. True, the Italian monarch Victor Emmanuel II hesitated, realizing that the Italian troops were weak to resist the Austrian Empire. Indeed, during the war itself, the Austrians inflicted a heavy defeat on the Italians. However, the main theater of the fighting was in the north.
The Italian king and his entourage were interested in a war with Austria, but wanted guarantees. Bismarck gave them. He promised Victor Emmanuel II that Venice would be given to Italy in the general world anyway, regardless of the situation in the southern theater of operations. Victor Emmanuel still hesitated. Then Bismarck went to a non-standard step - blackmail. He promised that he would turn to the Italian people through the head of the monarch and call for help from popular Italian revolutionaries, national heroes - Mazzini and Garibaldi. Then the Italian monarch decided, and Italy became such a necessary Prussia ally in the war with Austria.
I must say that the French emperor divined the Italian map of Bismarck. His agents vigilantly observed all the diplomatic preparations and intrigues of the Prussian minister. Realizing that Bismarck and Victor Emmanuel had agreed, Napoleon III immediately informed the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph about this. He warned him about the danger of war on two fronts and offered to warn the war with Italy, voluntarily losing to Venice. The plan was reasonable and could deal a serious blow to Otto von Bismarck's plans. However, the Austrian emperor and the Austrian elite did not have the insight and willpower to take this step. The Austrian Empire refused to voluntarily cede Venice.
Napoleon III again nearly frustrated Bismarck’s plans when he decisively announced to Italy that he did not want to conclude a Prussian-Italian alliance directed against Austria. Victor Emmanuel could not disobey the French emperor. Then Bismarck again visited France. He argued that Vienna, having refused, at the suggestion of Paris, to cede Venice to Italy, proves its arrogance. Bismarck inspired Napoleon that the war would be heavy and protracted, that Austria would leave only a small barrier against Italy, moving all the main forces against Prussia. Bismarck spoke of his “dream” of connecting Prussia and France with “friendship.” In fact, Bismarck inspired the French emperor with the idea that Italy’s performance in the south against Austria would not help Prussia much, and the war would still be hard and hard, giving France the opportunity to be in the victor’s camp. As a result, the French emperor Napoleon III lifted his ban on Italy. Otto von Bismarck won a great diplomatic victory. 8 April 1866, Prussia and Italy make an alliance. At the same time, the Italians still bargained for 120 million francs from Bismarck.
The beginning of the war on the southern front was unsuccessful for Bismarck. The large Italian army was defeated by inferior Austrians in the Battle of Custoz (June 24 1866). At sea, the Austrian fleet defeated the Italian in the battle of Lisse (July 20 1866). It was the first ever naval battle of armored squadrons.
However, the outcome of the war was determined by the struggle between Austria and Prussia. The defeat of the Italian army threatened the failure of all hopes of Bismarck. The talented strategist General Helmut von Moltke, who led the Prussian army, saved the situation. The Austrians were late with the deployment of the army. Quickly and skillfully maneuvering, Moltke outstripped the enemy. 27 — 29 June under Langensalza, the Prussians defeated the allies of Austria, the Hanoverian army. On July 3, a decisive battle took place in the area of Sadov - Königgrätz (the battle of Sadov). Significant forces took part in the battle - 220, thousands of Prussians, 215, thousands of Austrians and Saxons. The Austrian army under the command of Benedek suffered a heavy defeat, losing about 44 thousand people (the Prussians lost about 9 thousand people).
Benedek withdrew his remaining troops to Olmutsu, covering the way to Hungary. Vienna was left without proper protection. The Prussians had the opportunity, with some losses, to take the Austrian capital. The Austrian command was forced to begin the transfer of troops from the Italian direction. This allowed the Italian army to counter-attack in the Venetian region and Tyrol.
The Prussian King William and the generals, intoxicated with a brilliant victory, demanded a further offensive and the capture of Vienna, which should have brought Austria to its knees. They were eager for a triumphal parade in Vienna. However, Bismarck spoke out against almost everyone. He had to endure a fierce verbal battle at the royal headquarters. Bismarck understood that Austria still has the ability to resist. Cornered and humiliated Austria will fight to the end. And the delay of the war threatens major troubles, in particular, from France. In addition, the crushing defeat of the Austrian Empire did not suit Bismarck. It could lead to the development of destructive tendencies in Austria and for a long time to make it an enemy of Prussia. Bismarck needed neutrality in the future conflict between Prussia and France, which he had already seen in the near future.
In the proposal for a truce, which followed from the Austrian side, Bismarck saw a chance to achieve the goals he set. In order to break the king’s resistance, Bismarck threatened to resign and said that he would not be held accountable for the pernicious path to which the military carried William. In the end, after several scandals, the king gave up.
Italy was also unhappy, wanting to continue the war and seize Trieste and Trento. Bismarck told the Italians that no one bothers them to continue to fight one-on-one with the Austrians. Victor Emmanuel, realizing that he would be broken alone, agreed only to Venice. Franz Joseph, fearing the fall of Hungary, also did not persist. July 22 began a truce, July 26 Nicolsburg signed a preliminary world. 23 August in Prague signed a peace treaty.
From top to bottom: the status quo before the war, military actions and the aftermath of the Austro-Prussian war 1866
Thus, Prussia won in the lightning campaign (the Seven-week war). The Austrian Empire has retained its integrity. Austria recognized the dissolution of the German Union and refused to interfere in the affairs of Germany. Austria recognized the new union of German states led by Prussia. Bismarck was able to create the North German Union led by Prussia. Vienna refused in favor of Berlin all rights to the duchy of Schleswig and Holstein. Prussia also annexed Hanover, the electors of Hesse, Nassau and the old city of Frankfurt am Main. Austria paid Prussian contribution to 20 million Prussian thalers. Vienna recognized the transfer of the Venetian region of Italy.
One of the most important consequences of the victory of Prussia over Austria was the formation of the North German Union, which included more than 20 states and cities. All of them, under the 1867 constitution, created a single territory with general laws and institutions (Reichstag, Federal Council, State High Court of Commerce). The foreign and military policy of the North German Union, in fact, was transferred to Berlin. The king of Prussia became the president of the union. The foreign chancellor of the union was in charge of the Federal Chancellor appointed by the King of Prussia. With the South German states were entered into military alliances and customs treaties. It was a big step towards the unification of Germany. It remains only to defeat France, which prevented the unification of Germany.
O. Bismarck and Prussian liberals on the cartoon of Wilhelm von Scholz
To be continued ...