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Bismarck’s Aims

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Bismarck’s Aims. Unify the German-speaking states (excluding Austria). The unified state would be dominated by Prussia (ie Prussian king, Prussian- dominated army). The unified state would not be a democracy.

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bismarck s aims
Bismarck’s Aims
  • Unify the German-speaking states (excluding Austria).
  • The unified state would be dominated by Prussia (ie Prussian king, Prussian- dominated army).
  • The unified state would not be a democracy.
  • The Prussian military forces should be enlarged and strengthened for use as a tool in unification.
  • Challenge any opposition to unification from states such as Austria, France and Russia.
  • Use war and diplomacy to promote unification.
bismarck and the landtag
Bismarck and the Landtag

The Landtag was the Prussian Parliament, which was dominated by liberals who feared military expansion in case the army were used against those campaigning for democracy or social reform. They also felt that money spent on army improvements could be better spent. The Landtag were also unhappy at the great powers of the King at a time when parliamentary democracy was increasingly fashionable.

the army dispute
The Army Dispute
  • When William I became King of Prussia in 1861, he asked the two main figures in the military, von Roon and von Moltke, to suggest ways of reforming the armed forces. They made several recommendations

a) increase the size from 230,000 to 450,000 men

b) introduce new weapons

c) increase full time training of all men from two years to three

d) a huge increase in spending to fund changes.

The Landtag refused to pass the tax-raising bill put forward to finance the improvements wanted by the King and his generals. This refusal led to a CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS ie a very serious dispute about the rules by which the country was governed. The main issue was “Who controls Prussia, the King or the Landtag?”
otto von bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
  • Member of the Prussian Junker class ie non-noble landowner
  • Pro-monarchist
  • Anti-liberal
  • Anti-democrat
  • Pro-unification (kleindeutschland)
  • Experienced diplomat (had been Prussian representative in both Russia and France)
  • Militarist
  • “I will rather perish with the King than forsake your Majesty in the contest with parliamentary government”
  • “Germany looks not to Prussia’s liberalism but to her power…..Not by parliamentary speeches and majority votes are the great questions of the day determined – that was the great mistake of 1848 and 1849 –

but by iron and blood.”

Bismarck supported the King in the dispute and, by finding and using a loophole in the constitution, was able to obtain the money to fund the army improvements. He saved the King from abdication and in 1862 was appointed Minister-President of Prussia, becoming the King’s main advisor and the leading figure in the unification of Germany. Bismarck supported the King because
  • The King was divinely appointed and Bismarck completely accepted his authority as King
  • Bismarck believed that monarchy was the best form of government
  • Bismarck did not accept the right of an elected parliament to limit the power of the monarch or interfere with the army/budget
  • Bismarck believed that a strong army was a crucial tool in the unification process
  • Bismarck believed that liberals had held up the unification process in the past and that unification could not be achieved without strong political leadership and military force.
the aftermath
The Aftermath
  • The Landtag were furious with Bismarck, as he had defeated them over the dispute and had proved the King’s constitutional power was greater than theirs.
  • However, as Prussia grew richer and as the successful wars against Denmark and Austria unified most of the German states, the Landtag liberals, who were also German nationalists and pro-unification, forgave Bismarck and became increasingly cooperative with both Bismarck and William I.