German Unification

German unification remained an elusive dream until Prussia appointed the "Iron Chancellor", Otto von Bismarck in 1862.  After only eighteen years, he had unified Germany.  Conflicts arising in the constitution of the German Confederation created the need for change in the Prussian empire. Under the German Confederation, which was created at the Congress of Vienna, a Diet was created to rule Germany.  Austria was given the power to appoint the President of this new government. Bismarck recognized that the path to attaining control over Prussia and to achieving German unification lied, not in speeches and resolutions as the Revolutions of 1848 had employed, but in military strength and diplomacy. This policy became known as Realpolitik, which was based on the idea of strength through "blood and iron". Bismarck managed to complete German unification in three short wars beginning in 1864.

     Bismarck's first step in unifying Germany was to regain the Prussian states of Schleswig and Holstein from Denmark. Germany recognized that an aggressive war to defeat Denmark would likely incure the wrath of Britain.  So Bismarck employed the help of Austria, and provoked a war on Denmark in the Danish War of 1864. With Austria's help, Prussia succeeded in defeating the Danes and annexing Schleswig. Holstein was given to Austria. Bismarck's plan to unify Germany had commenced.

     Bismarck's next step was to rid Prussia of Austrian influence and dissolve the powerless government under the German Confederation. Austria declared war on Prussia in 1866, beginning the Seven Week's War. With Austrian defeat, the unification of Germany came within reach as Prussia annexed Holstein, Hanover, and other German territory at the same time dissolving the German Confederation and regaining control over the German state. The Northern German Confederation was then established under the control of Prussia and a new constitution was created

     Bismarck's final step to complete unification was to challenge the power of France on the southern border. Since Richilieu and Louis XIV, France had made a divided Germany a prime component in French foreign policy.  Bimarck would have to tread carefully if he were to unify the scattered Germans. 

     The Franco- Prussian War began when Bismarck encouraged a Hohenzollern prince to take Spanish throne. This threatened French power in Europe and incited war in 1871. Bismarck again led Germany to victory and German unification was complete. All of Germany was consumed with nationalism and Northern Germany finally became united to Southern Germany. Wilhelm I was crowned the first Kaiser of the German Empire in Versailles on January 18, 1871.  So was born the second reich in German history.

     German unification was made possible by the diplomacy and foreign policies of Otto von Bismarck. His "blood and iron" strategies incited German nationalism and made independence possible. Although, many attempts were made before Bismarck, he alone was bold enough to bring Prussian states together and turn Germany into one powerful country.