Bismarck: Master Planner or Opportunist?
Unification of Germany Example Essays. Bismarck Master Planner or Opportunist? | | | | |Bismarck later declared that he had carefully planned unification of Germany in 5 clear | | |steps from 1862. He said that he had planned: 1. To Obtain Russian Neutrality; 2.
To trick | | |Austria into declaring War; 3. To ensure French Neutrality; 4. To Treat Austria Leniently | | |after Defeat; 5. To Trick France into Declaring War. | |INTRODUCTION: |Other Historians have recently claimed that rather than plan unification, Bismarck was a | | |skilful diplomat who used events as opportunities to promote Prussian interests. | |Regardless of whether Bismarck planned unification or used events as opportunities he | | |definitely had a favourable ‘hand of cards’ which he inherited when he became | | |Minister-President in 1862 which allowed him to unify Germany by 1871. | | | | | |1. To obtain Russian Neutrality. | | | | |Evidence for Plan: | | |He obtained Russian neutrality for the later War with Austria through the Alvensleben | | |Convention of 1863. This meant Russian Poles who escaped over the border into Prussian | | |Poland would be returned to the Tsar. | | | | |Evidence against Plan: | | |It is unlikely that Bismarck knew the Poles would revolt in advance and it seems more likely| |STAGE 1 MASTER PLAN |that he helped the Tsar to prevent the Prussian Poles rebelling too. | | |The International condemnation at Alvensleben led Bismarck to play down the event’s | | |significance which outraged the Tsar. | |It almost led to him being sacked by William I. | | | | | |Analysis: | | |Despite gaining Russian neutrality in the following War against Austria Bismarck achieved it| | |through luck rather than planning.
The Tsar was angrier at Austria not supporting Russia in | | |the Crimean War than at Bismarck’s public back down over Alvensleben. He did achieve | | |neutrality but it seems unlikely that he would have planned such a dangerous route. | | | | | | | | |To trick Austria into declaring War. | | | | |Evidence for the Plan: | | |He created a situation where Austria and Prussia were becoming more hostile to one another. | | |This was created through War with Denmark 1864 when Bismarck persuaded Austria to join them | | |in War.
Once victorious The Gastein Convention gave Prussia administrative control of | | |Schleswig and Austria control of Holstein. | | |Prussia’s and Austria’s relationship now deteriorates rapidly and when Prussia proposes | | |plans to change the Constitution in Schleswig Austria appeals to the Diet which is forbidden| | |in the Convention and Austria mobilises troops in case of War. | |Prussia now accuses Austria of being the aggressor and starting War invades Holstein. | | | | | |Evidence Against Plan: | | |It is unlikely Bismarck could have foreseen the inheritance crisis in Schleswig and | |STAGE 2 MASTER PLAN |Holstein. | |Also there is strong evidence to suggest that Bismarck was only attempting to annex | | |Schleswig and Holstein and not force a War with Austria. | | |There are letters to his wife that explain he is open to a ‘diplomatic solution’ to the | | |crisis and was willing to prevent War with Austria through diplomacy. | | | | |Analysis: | | |Whilst not as clear as Stage 1, it still seems likely Bismarck was acting as a Prussian | | |expansionist rather than planning war with Austria as he was still trying to resolve tension| | |through diplomacy until Austria mobilised her troops in 1866. | | | | | | | |To gain France’s neutrality. | | | | |Evidence for Plan: | | |Bismarck meets Napoleon III in Biarritz in October 1865 to appeal for neutrality in War with| | |Austria. Napoleon verbally agrees and would persuade Italy to join the War with Prussia. | | |Once Austria was defeated Napoleon would gain Venetia which would be passed to Italy. |STAGE 3 MASTER PLAN | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |Evidence against Plan: | | |Bismarck could never be totally sure of Napoleon’s neutrality. Despite gaining a verbal | | |agreement details are very sketchy as to definite areas of agreement. Also Napoleon later | | |double-crossed Bismarck and made a secret agreement with the Austrians that for French | | |neutrality, if Austria won, Napoleon would be given some Prussian land as a reward. | | | | |Analysis: | | |Yes the Biarritz meeting was planned and yes the French remained neutral, but it seems | | |through more luck than detailed planning as Napoleon made agreements with both sides and | | |Bismarck could not guarantee French neutrality. | | | | | |Treat Austria Leniently after Defeat. | | | | | |Evidence for Plan: | |The Treaty of Prague 1866 was lenient on Austria and this was down to Bismarck. Both William| | |I and Von Moltke wanted to advance on to Vienna and press home defeat to humiliate Austria. | | |It took all of Bismarck’s persuasive abilities to prevent this from happening. | | |Austria had to agree to return to her Empire and leave German interests alone, disband the | | |Old Confederation and allow the formation of The North German Confederation under Prussian | |STAGE 4 MASTER PLAN |control. Secret military agreements were then made with the southern states. | | | | |Evidence against Plan: | | |Instead of deliberately planning to treat Austria leniently, it is more likely that Bismarck| | |wanted to consolidate gains and to prevent France or other European Powers from joining the | | |War in support of Austria which could have jeopardised gains made. | | | | | |Analysis: | | |Although Bismarck’s diplomatic skill in persuading William and von Moltke to go no further | | |after the Battle of Koningratz (Sadowa,) it seems more likely that he did it to prevent | | |French hostilities and to keep the gains made by Prussia during the War. | | | | | | | | | | |To trick France into declaring War. | | | | | |Evidence for Plan: | | |Bismarck goes against the French claim of Luxembourg by proposing a German prince instead, | | |which certainly angered Napoleon. | | |In 1868 when the revolutions in Spain forces out the Queen they offer the throne to Leopold | | |of Hohenzollern (related to Prussian Royal family) in 1870.
Bismarck could accept to gain | | |Spain as an ally but it would worry France (who would be encircled). | | |Finally 12th July 1870 it was decided to withdraw Leopold as a candidate. On the 13th July | | |French foreign Ambassador Benedetti meets William I at German town of Ems and William | | |accepted withdrawal of Leopold but refused to promise what the French were demanding; the | | |withdrawal of all future accession rights. William sent the telegram to Bismarck recalling | | |the events. |STAGE 5 MASTER PLAN |Bismarck’s genius comes into his own and releases his own version of the telegram to the | | |press which is so inflammatory that French declares War on Prussia on the 19th July 1870. | | | | | |Evidence Against the Plan: | | |Bismarck initially supported the French claim to Luxembourg but later changes his mind. | | |He also allows the withdrawal of Leopold as a candidate which doesn’t suggest he was trying | | |to provoke the French. | |Although the Ems telegram was deliberately doctored by him to cause the French to declare | | |War on Prussia it is more likely that he made the decision after he received the telegram | | |rather than planning the events in advance. | | |How could he have anticipated such aggressive French foreign policy in the demands Benedetti| | |made on William. | | |Analysis: | | |Although there is more evidence here to suggest Bismarck planned to get the French to | | |declare war; it is unlikely that he planned it prior to 1862 as he suggests.
There is more | | |evidence to suggest he decided to provoke France after receiving the Telegram, so therefore | | |taking events as opportunities when they arose. | | | | | | | | | | | |Bismarck was a skilful politician who was most probably a Prussian Supremacist who wanted | | |Prussian expansion at the expense of the Austrians.
It is most unlikely that he planned | | |unification from the start in 1862 and more likely that he used opportunities when they | | |presented themselves to benefit Prussia, initially and later, for Germany. | | |It is more likely that he first wanted to expand Prussian territory into Schleswig and | | |Holstein, but thwarted by the Austrians was forced into war with them in 1866. | | |Similarly in order to consolidate the North German Confederation under Prussian control, the| | |Treaty of Prague was lenient so not to provoke the French. |CONCLUSION |Finally once the military agreements were in place with the southern states, Bismarck used | | |the opportunities presented as a result of the Luxembourg Situation and the Hohenzollern | | |Candidature Crisis to re-write the Ems Telegram. This again was where he saw the opportunity| | |of expansion to include all German states under Prussian leadership. | | |The only people who believe the Master plan were Bismarck himself and early German | | |historians who were still in awe of the great statesman that had unified Germany. Most other| | |historians realise that he was more likely an incredibly skilful opportunist and able | | |politician. |