Page:1902 Encyclopædia Britannica - Volume 26 - AUS-CHI.pdf/300

This page needs to be proofread.


266

BISMARCK

Bismarck discussed, but did not conclude the treaty; he kept, however, a copy of the draft in Benedetti’s handwriting, and published it in the Tinvis in the summer of 1870 so as to injure the credit of Napoleon in England. The failure of the scheme made a contest with France inevitable, at least unless the Germans were willing to forgo the purpose of completing the work of German unity, and during the next four years the two nations were each preparing for the struggle, and each watching to take the other at a disadvantage. It is necessary, then, to keep in mind the general situation in considering Bismarck’s conduct in the months immediately preceding the war of 1870. In 1867 there was a dispute regarding the right to garrison Luxemburg. Bismarck then produced the secret treaties with the southern states, an act which was, as it were, a challenge to France by the whole of Germany. During the next three years the Ultramontane party hoped to bring about an anti-Prussian revolution, and Napoleon was working for an alliance with Austria, where Beust, an old opponent of Bismarck’s, was chancellor. Bismarck was doubtless well informed as to the progress of the negotiations, for he had established intimate relations with the Hungarians. The pressure at home for completing the work of German unity was so strong that he could with difficulty resist it, and in 1870 he was much embarrassed by a request from Baden to be admitted to the confederation, which he had to refuse. It is therefore not surprising that he eagerly welcomed the opportunity of gaining the goodwill of Spain, and supported by all the means in his power the offer made by Marshal Prim that Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern should be chosen king of that country. It was only by his urgent and repeated representations that the prince was persuaded against his will to accept. The negotiations were carried out with the greatest secrecy, but as soon as the acceptance was made known the French Government intervened and declared that the project was inadmissible. Bismarck was away at Yarzin, but on his instructions the Prussian Foreign Office in answer to inquiries denied all knowledge or responsibility. This was necessary, because it would have caused a bad impression in Germany had he gone to war with France in support of the prince’s candidature. The king, by receiving Benedetti at Ems, departed from the policy of reserve Bismarck himself adopted, and Bismarck (who had now gone to Berlin) found himself in a position of such difficulty that he contemplated resignation. The French, however, by changing and extending their demands enabled him to find a cause of war of such a nature that the whole of Germany would be united against French aggression. France asked for a letter of apology, and Benedetti personally requested from the king a promise that he would never allow the candidature to be resumed. Bismarck published the telegram in which this information and the refusal of the king were conveyed, • but by omitting part of the telegram made it appear that the request and refusal had both been conveyed in a more abrupt form than had really been the case. But even apart from this, the publication of the French demand, which could not be complied with, must have brought about a war. It was not till many years later that our knowledge of these events (which is still incomplete)was established; in 1894 the publication of the memoirs of the king of Rumania showed, what had hitherto been denied, that Bismarck had taken a leading part in urging the election of the prince of Hohenzollern. It was in 1892 that the language used by Bismarck himself made it necessary for the German Government to publish the original form of the Ems telegram. In the campaign of 1870-71 Bismarck accompanied the headquarters of the army, as he had done in 1866. He was present at the battle of Gravelotte and at the surrender of

Sedan, and it was on the morning of 2nd September that he had his famous meeting with Napoleon after the surrender of the emperor. He accompanied the king to Paris, and spent many months at Versailles. Here he was occupied chiefly with the arrangements for admitting the southern states to the confederation, and the establishment of the empire. He also underwent much anxiety lest the efforts of Thiers to bring about an interference by the neutral powers might be successful. He had to carry on the negotiations with the French preliminary to the surrender of Paris, and to enforce upon them the German terms of peace. For Bismarck’s political career after 1870 we must refer to the article on Germany, for he was thenceforward entirely absorbed in the affairs of his country. to_n The foreign policy he controlled absolutely. As chancellor he was responsible for the whole internal policy of the empire, and his influence is to be seen in every department of state, especially, however, in the great change of policy after 1878. During the earlier period the estrangement from the Conservatives, which had begun in 1866, became very marked, and brought about a violent quarrel with many of his old friends, which culminated in the celebrated Arnim trial. He incurred much criticism during the struggle with the Roman Catholic Church, and in 1873 he was shot at and slightly wounded by a youth called Rullmann, who professed to be an adherent of the Clerical party. Once before, in 1866, just before the outbreak of war, his life had been attempted by a young man called Cohen, a native of Wurtemburg, who wished to save Germany from a fratricidal war. In 1872 he retired from the presidency of the Prussian ministry, but returned after a few months. On several occasions he offered to retire, but the emperor always refused his consent, on the last time with the word “Never.” In 1877 he took a long leave of absence for ten months. His health at this time was very bad. In 1878 he presided over the Congress of Berlin. The following years were chiefly occupied, besides foreign affairs, which were always his first care, with important commercial reforms, and he held at this time also the office of Prussian Minister of Trade in addition to his other posts. During this period his relations with the Reichstag were often very unsatisfactory, and at no time did he resort so freely to prosecutions in the law-courts in order to injure his opponents, so that the expression Bismarck-Beleidigung was invented. He was engaged at this time in a great struggle with the SocialDemocrats, whom he tried to crush by exceptional penal laws. The death of the Emperor William in 1889 made a serious difference in his position. He had been bound to him by a long term of loyal service, which had been rewarded with equal loyalty. For his relations to the Emperor Frederick and William II., and for the events connected with his dismissal from office in March 1890, we must refer to the articles under those names. After his retirement he resided at Friedrichsruh, near Hamburg, a house on his Lauenburg estates. His criticisms of the Government, given sometimes in conversation, sometimes in the columns of the Hamburger Nachrichten, caused an open breach between him and the emperor; and Caprivi, in a circular despatch which was afterwards published, warned all German envoys that no real importance must be attached to what he said. When he visited Vienna for his son’s wedding the German ambassador, Prince Reuss, was forbidden to take any notice of him. A reconciliation was effected in 1893. In 1895 his eightieth birthday was celebrated with great enthusiasm : the Reichstag alone, owing to the opposition of the Clericals and the Socialists, refused to vote an address. In 1891 he had been elected a member of the Reichstag,