What words drive liberals crazy


Confused by the parties favor and hatred / his character image fluctuates in history. "These verses from the prologue to Schiller's" Wallenstein's Camp "apply to hardly any other German statesman as they do to Otto von Bismarck. [1] During the long period of his Political activity, he was always controversial, the image that one made of him was exposed to violent fluctuations.Even after his dismissal as Chancellor in March 1890, the judgments about him ranged between cultic veneration and vehement rejection.

From conflict minister to founder of an empire

In the beginning, Bismarck was downright hated. When Wilhelm I appointed him Prime Minister of Prussia in September 1862, the liberal majority in the House of Representatives interpreted this as an open declaration of war. Since his first appearances in the United State Parliament in 1847 and even more since his counter-revolutionary activities in 1848/49, the Junker from Schönhausen had the reputation of a reactionary agitator. That he had matured during his diplomatic apprenticeship as a Prussian envoy in the Bundestag in Frankfurt am Main and then at the embassies of St. Petersburg and Paris and turned away from the views of his ultra-conservative mentors, the brothers Ludwig and Leopold von Gerlach - that was remained hidden from the public. Bismarck's appointment meant "saber regiment inside" and "war outside", prophesied one of the liberals' leaders, Max von Forckenbeck. [2]

In the early years of his government, it seemed as if Bismarck matched his image as an unscrupulous politician with violence. "The big questions of the time are not decided by speeches and majority decisions - that was the big mistake of 1848 and 1849 - but by iron and blood," [3] he remarked on September 30, 1862 in the budget commission of the House of Representatives and threw thus the gauntlet of the liberal opposition. "But when I hear such a shallow Junker as this Bismarck bragging about the 'iron and blood' with which he wants to subjugate Germany, the vulgarity seems to me only surpassed by the ridiculousness," said the young Leipzig private lecturer in history Heinrich von Treitschke, later, as an influential professor in Berlin, one of Bismarck's most ardent admirers. [4]

Since the autumn of 1862, the "conflict minister" ruled unconstitutionally, that is, without the statutory budget. Opposition officials were reprimanded and liberal newspapers were subjected to strict censorship. Gerson Bleichröder, Bismarck's banker, stated in February 1863 that the current ministry was "unpopular in a way that was rare in Prussia. [5] In the spring of 1866, Bismarck's reputation had hit rock bottom. It became increasingly clear that the Prussian Prime Minister was aiming to resolve the conflict with Austria for supremacy in Germany by force. Never before is a war "with such shamelessness, Such a terrible frivolity "complained of the Göttingen legal scholar Rudolf von Ihering. [6] Even Bismarck's highly conservative friends distanced themselves from him when, in early April 1866, in order to provoke Austria, he submitted a motion to convene a national parliament in the Frankfurt Bundestag In an editorial in the "Kreuzzeitung" on May 8, Ludwig von Gerlach broke the bar on the politics that led to war Prussia and Austria deeply wounded ". [7]

The victory of Prussia in the Battle of Königgrätz on July 3rd changed everything: Bismarck's risky game had worked out, with one blow he was "the hero of the day". [8] Even the most principled liberals were impressed by the triumph. The Berlin ancient historian Theodor Mommsen felt "a wonderful feeling to be there when world history turns the corner". [9] The moderate supporters of the Liberal Progressive Party, who formed the National Liberal Party, hurried to make their peace with Bismarck. And he, in turn, accommodated them by asking the state parliament for indemnity, that is, for the subsequent approval of his budget-free regiment. Bismarck's public appreciation reached a temporary high point after the victory over France and the establishment of the Empire in 1870/71. As far as German unity was concerned, the National Liberals saw themselves at the goal of their wishes. "How did one deserve the grace of God to be able to experience such great and so powerful things?" Enthused the Bonn historian Heinrich Sybel a few days after the imperial proclamation on January 18, 1871 in Versailles. "What was the content of all wishing and striving for twenty years has now been fulfilled in such an infinitely wonderful way!" [10]

Idolized pensioner

Soon, however, there was disillusionment. The stock market crash of autumn 1873 ended the boom in the era of the founding of the Empire; a prolonged economic downturn followed. The persecution of Catholics and Social Democrats, which Bismarck broke from the fence, heightened social tensions. After the change in domestic politics in 1878/79, through which the Chancellor ended his cooperation with the National Liberals, hopes for a further development of the Reich constitution in the direction of a parliamentary system vanished. Criticism of Bismarck's authoritarian style of government grew again, especially in left-wing liberal circles. Since the early 1880s, this has been accompanied by a feeling of crippling stagnation in both domestic and foreign policy. Among contemporaries, the impression grew that the recipes of the aging chancellor, who had been in charge of political affairs for so long, had been used up and that a breath of fresh air was needed to secure the future of the empire. So it is not surprising that Bismarck's dismissal by Wilhelm II in March 1890 was greeted with relief in large circles of the public. "Thank God he's gone," said the left-liberal Eugen Richter, Bismarck's most important parliamentary opponent alongside the central politician Ludwig Windthorst, expressing a widespread mood. [11]

Soon, however, another change in public opinion set in. Friedrichsruh, Bismarck's retirement home at the gates of Hamburg, became the target of a growing crowd of admirers. The fact that the resentful ex-chancellor barely missed an opportunity to portray his successor Leo von Caprivi as incapable did not harm his aura. On the contrary: as his opponents began to attack him, his popularity increased. The growing idolization of the "founder of the empire" was a political issue that increasingly worried the imperial entourage. Because unmistakably there was also resentment with the monarch, who had already robbed himself of a lot of reputation with his high-handed airs and his rhetorical derailments. Finally, Wilhelm II allowed his advisors to persuade him to meet with Bismarck in January 1894, which was staged as a great festival of reconciliation and met with enthusiastic public response. The spectacle did not change the slightest thing about Bismarck's disparaging judgment of the young emperor: even on his deathbed, he was supposed to call him a "stupid boy". [12]

Bismarck's eightieth birthday on April 1, 1895 turned into a gigantic event. Delegations traveled from all regions of the empire to pay homage to the "old man in the Sachsenwald". Hundreds of cities gave him honorary citizenship, thousands of telegrams and letters flooded the small Friedrichsruher post office. [13] In the Reichstag, however, a majority made up of left-wing liberals, the Catholic Center and Social Democrats declined a congratulatory address to the "Reich founder" - a sign that the wounds inflicted by Bismarck's internal political conflict had by no means healed. There was indignation among the national liberal bourgeoisie at the parliamentary decision, but it garnered widespread approval among the Social Democrats. Whether "the world has gone mad", people asked themselves in Hamburg's working-class pubs, so much fuss about "making a man who has conjured up enough misfortune". [14] The memory of the Socialist Law, which expired in 1890, was still very much alive in this milieu.