Metternich’s Projects for Reform in Austria

Kissinger, Metternich, and Realism
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The most significant alteration was the ability of the various French regimes to raise large armies of citizen-soldiers. Their European enemies raised large armies too in order to meet this threat, but the ease of the French conscription system, codified in with the Jourdan Law, could not be replicated in other monarchical states. The concept of popular conscription was fully rejected, even if isolated members of the Prussian or Habsburg governments and armies found the idea intriguing.

Moreover, the military reforms introduced in the French army had their origins in the pre Royal Army. The application of these reforms was felt primarily in the organization of the army into combat divisions and the improvement of the command system. The French army became more successful as its officers and soldiers gained greater experience on the battlefield. Also, many of the tactical reforms can be traced back to before in various European armies. The gradual elimination of the conservative leadership of the French army after enabled the application of reforms without resistance.

European armies did not experience significant tactical or organizational reforms until the Napoleonic era. Napoleon built his empire upon the foundation of historical French relationships. He extended dynastic possessions, cultivated princely clients and created satellite states. The scale of Napoleon's successes from meant that he lacked any historical framework in which to interpret the expansion of his power.

In short, after , he pursued an imperium sine fine , an Empire without end, and his inability to formulate a coherent political system to consolidate his position of European hegemony condemned him to rule over a Europe in constant strife with his regime. From the moment Napoleon became First Consul of France until his abdication, he played upon the individual interests and rivalries of European states to keep them apart.

Furthermore, French imperial ambitions translated into a cultural dominance over European populations, which fed tensions and ultimately fostered national reactions to French rule. French administration in regions of Europe annexed into Imperial France sought to bestow these peoples with the "benefits" of French intellectual and political culture. This was particularly the case in Piedmont , Tuscany and Umbria. In terms of the broader European response to Napoleon, coalition warfare remained essentially inefficient, and the lessons of defeats up to did not entirely alleviate difficulties.

They often "put the cart before the horse," each formulating their individual objectives before there was even any prospect of defeating the French. The settlements ending the war of the Second Coalition established France as the premier power in western Europe. It also laid the groundwork for the extension of the Republic into the Caribbean.

Metternich: A dandy, womanizer, pompous fop and great diplomat

Britain faced diplomatic isolation during the first years of Napoleon's reign, having alienated Russia, Prussia and Austria during the previous war. Napoleon's overtures to the United States , which ended the Quasi-War — and resulted in the sale of Louisiana in , further compounded matters. The reestablishment of French control of Haiti also threatened Britain's interests in the Caribbean. A lack of trust between Britain and France caused the collapse of the Peace of Amiens in the late-spring of The coalition's objectives essentially called for the restoration of European borders prior to Napoleon responded by building his own continental alliance, which included his satellites, the kingdoms of Italy and Holland, and the German princes of Baden , Wurttemberg and Bavaria.

The main French army on the Channel coast was redirected to Germany. Both Napoleon and the Third Coalition sought to bring Prussia into their alliance, but without success. Napoleon therefore endeavored to secure Prussian neutrality in the conflict. The military operations lasted merely three months, from the end of September to the end of December Lack of coordination doomed the Third Coalition to dramatic defeats at Ulm and Austerlitz , enabling Napoleon to dictate, rather than negotiate, a peace.

Austria relinquished Venice and the Trentino to the kingdom of Italy. Bavaria received the Tyrol and the elevation of its duchy to a German kingdom. The Austrians were completely excluded from Italy and Germany. A Franco-Italian army conquered Naples in February , giving Napoleon control of the entire peninsula. Only Britain managed to achieve a decisive victory with the destruction of the Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar in October Prussia entered a formal alliance with France in February, leading to a British declaration of war. Although French power dominated the alliance, the agreements were based upon mutual interests.

Prussia's isolation from Russia and Austria made it a tempting target and in October Napoleon overran the German kingdom having crushed its armies at Jena and Auerstedt on October 14, Napoleon departed from any historical or traditional framework in his strategic decisions.

The abolition of the Holy Roman Empire and its replacing with the Confederation of the Rhine is seen widely as the beginning of modern Germany. The transformation of Italy under Napoleonic rule is perceived as critical to the Risorgimento , the movement for Italian unification.

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Metternich's Projects for Reform in Austria. Authors: Radvany, E. Free Preview. Buy this book. eBook 53,54 €. price for Spain (gross). Buy eBook. Metternich's Projects for Reform in Austria. Reform Before Metternich. Radvany , Egon. Pages Preview Buy Chapter $ The Reichsrat of

Thus nationalism emerged in these parts of Europe, deliberately fostered by the French in the kingdom of Italy, and emerging in Germany as a reaction to French occupation and political domination. Nonetheless, the Napoleonic era was a pivotal period in the transformation of nationalism from an intellectual movement in the eighteenth century to its nineteenth-century manifestation. The creation of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw in amounted to the establishment of a Polish state carved largely from Prussian Poland. The duchy was placed under the technical rule of the King of Saxony , thereby establishing a link to eighteenth-century precedents.

The Poles remained the most steadfast supporters of Napoleon's empire against Russia, Prussia and Austria. This can be attributed both to the emergence of modern nationalism and to the historical relationship between France and Poland going back to the early-eighteenth century.

German and Italian nationalism appealed to a minority. The Napoleonic regime limited itself to fostering nationalism through propaganda and — more successfully — through the unifying national experience of military service. Indoctrination of conscripts and the daily life of soldiers during their time in the army remained the primary practical means of fostering nationalism.

This was somewhat successful in the kingdom of Italy, but in the German states of the Rheinbund, the princes retained control over their states and could limit Napoleonic influence. Much is made of the extension of French cultural influence into conquered Europe, but the full influence of Napoleonic rule was felt only in those regions of Europe incorporated directly into the French Empire. The satellite states ruled by Napoleon's family, and his allies and client states adopted the Code Napoleon and other elements of French Revolutionary traditions only to the extent that their societies and political systems could bear.

The German princes managed to limit the degree of French constitutional and legal influence throughout the period. In some cases, these states were already in the process of significant reforms prior to the arrival of the French. In general, however, Napoleon limited his interference in internal affairs as long as troops for his armies were forthcoming. Perhaps the most practical impact of French hegemony can be found in the influence on military institutions, organization and tactics.

Napoleon's satellite states and allies gradually adapted the French system. They reduced terms of military service, established French-style divisions and brigades, and the tactics that brought Napoleon's armies success on the battlefield. Only French satellite states, such as the kingdoms of Italy, Westphalia , Holland and Naples, adopted the French conscription system. Napoleon's allies and clients modified their recruitment systems, but did not fully accept the French conscription model, as it had implications for their social and political systems.

Austria, Prussia and Russia similarly introduced aspects of the French military system into their own, but rejected a complete overhaul on the French model. Of greater significance for the forging of a European identity was the economic impact of Napoleonic rule. Curiously, recent research indicates that although the Continental System, which prohibited the importation and exportation of goods to and from Britain, was very detrimental for merchant houses in port cities on the European continent, these trading houses moved their centers of operation to take advantage of the increasing flow of goods within the Grand Empire.

An intra-European trade began to take root and this certainly provided for greater international trade, even if it no longer took the form of overseas commerce. The Treaty of Tilsit established a formal political alliance between Russia and France. European states outside of this continental association were limited to Britain, Portugal , Sweden and the Ottoman Empire. Napoleon's distrust of his Spanish allies led to their overthrow in the spring of Napoleon replaced the Spanish Bourbons with his older brother Joseph — The invasion of Spain initiated a six-year war that drained Napoleon of vital manpower resources.

It provided Britain with a new continental ally and a base of operations to strike at France. The war in Spain — witnessed the widespread use of guerrilla warfare against French forces in tandem with conventional Anglo-Portuguese and Spanish armies. This new alliance was a formal military agreement between the powers. Certainly, the anti-clerical policies of Revolutionary France had served to rally the Spanish population against the French invasion in , but Napoleon was not anti-clerical and had made amends with the papacy in Recent arguments place the guerilla war in a traditional context, with soldiers rather than peasants forming the majority of Spanish guerilla forces.

Popular unrest and guerilla warfare did not first appear in Spain during the Napoleonic Wars, but in Naples in and again after French conquest in After the French returned in , a revolt in Calabria led to an insurgency that lasted five years. In , Andreas Hofer — led a popular revolt in the Tyrol, not against French, but Bavarian rule. Also in , there were significant attempts in Germany to raise popular revolt against French domination.

All but the Spanish insurgency failed. Napoleon's focus on Spain provided Austria with the opportunity to rearm and strike. The Austrians attempted to gain Prussian and Russian support for their war in , but failed on both accounts.

Klemens von Metternich

Britain provided monetary subsidies, but their military power remained in Iberia. Napoleon managed to secure Russia's commitment to his alliance, and a Russian army invaded Galicia Austrian Poland a month after hostilities began. Austria's inability to garner support from Prussia or Russia undermined its war effort and enabled Napoleon to outmaneuver Austria on the battlefield and in the political arena.

The war in was certainly the greatest test of the newly-structured Grand Empire , but Napoleon's allies held to their agreements despite the opportunity to undermine French hegemony. Austria's defeat in led the following year to the dynastic marriage of Marie Louise — , the daughter of Francis, to Napoleon. This Habsburg-Bonaparte union can be seen as a restoration of the Austro-French alliance of the eighteenth century.

From the Austrian perspective, it enabled the Habsburgs to establish themselves above the Prussians and Russians within the context of Napoleon's European empire. It was a way in which the Habsburg dynasty could reassert its influence in the "new Europe" after it was abandoned by Prussia and Russia in Anti-French coalitions were virtually impossible to establish between and Britain's commitments in Portugal and Spain, and later its war with the United States in stretched its military and financial resources to the limit.

Napoleon's demand that the Continental System be enforced and his increasingly unilateral actions in Europe, such as the integration of northwest Germany into the French Empire without Russian consultation or compensation placed Russia on a collision course with Napoleon. In the meantime, Russia was still at war with the Ottoman Empire, and from to fought with Sweden for control of Finland.

Furthermore, Napoleon had made several overtures to the Persians, seeking to improve relations and to compromise Russia's southern frontier. When Napoleon invaded Russia in , the armies of Imperial France included troops from every state in the Grand Empire. Austria and Prussia went to war with Russia as allies of France too. The nature of coalition warfare from to favored Napoleon. An Anglo-Russian alliance could do little as each held to the peripheries of Europe. Napoleon's defeat in offered the first opportunity in years for a new anti-French coalition.

The difference between the actions of the Sixth Coalition and those of its predecessors is that the European states acted with a unity of purpose, the defeat of Napoleon. All other matters, such as territorial interests, were subordinated to the military goal. This above all else enabled the Sixth Coalition to destroy Napoleon's empire within a year. The allied leaders agreed to combine their armies, thereby preventing any power from withdrawing from the conflict and threatening the entire coalition, as had happened in Furthermore, allied leaders agreed to coordinate operations and accept a unified command.

The extent of French influence on warfare was limited to army organization, command and control, and the emergence of a highly competent staff system for planning, coordination of movement, and logistics. Various allied leaders such as Archduke Charles of Austria — [ ] and General Gerhard von Scharnhorst — [ ] in Prussia understood that their defeat by Napoleon in and respectively necessitated significant and dramatic changes to their military systems. Archduke Charles vehemently rejected any notion of popular conscription, but he did work assiduously to improve the army's performance.

Between and he adopted the French organizational system.

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This involved the creation of permanent army corps' and a staff system capable of directing it. Tactical reforms too provided greater flexibility on the battlefield. Charles experienced enormous opposition from elements of the army and imperial government who believed that the adoption of anything French would corrupt the army. After Austria's defeat in , Charles was removed as head of the army, although there was little actual change to his revised system. Nonetheless, the creation of a conscription system on the French model was rejected, and traditional recruitment, supplemented by the expansion of the Landwehr a national militia of sorts , provided manpower from — The coalition achieved its victory over Napoleon by backing its firm alliance with armies that operated in unison to achieve a single goal, the destruction of the French army.

The view that the coalition achieved victory simply by copying the French military system — previously widely held among historians — is incorrect. It was the grafting of martial reforms considered acceptable by the conservative regimes and the rejection of those concepts, such as universal conscription, that posed a threat to monarchical rule. The extent of French influence on the armies of allied states depended on the nature of the relationship between that state and Napoleonic France. The satellite states of Westphalia, the kingdom of Italy and the kingdom of Holland fully adopted the French model.

Their armies were established by French decree, and revolutionary legions formed in earlier years were absorbed into the new organizations. French conscription systems and tactics were also copied. The agents of change came in the form of local supporters who received rank and position in the satellite regimes.

These men backed the French during the Revolutionary Wars and received reward after the creation of the satellite republics and later kingdoms. In states allied to France, such as Bavaria and Saxony , the military system was modified where possible. Conscription was introduced, but on a limited scale, and the term of military service was shortened in most cases to 8—10 years.

This was almost twice the French term. Thereafter, he withdrew behind the Rhine. Napoleon's defeat at Leipzig in October , followed by his abandonment of central Europe, led to disagreements in the Sixth Coalition. The allied leaders met in Frankfurt in November and discussed options. Prince Clemens von Metternich — wanted to offer Napoleon peace with reduced French borders. The allies rejected Metternich's plans, and Napoleon did not, in any event, respond to peace overtures.

The coalition crossed the Rhine and invaded France at the end of December and by March Napoleon abdicated the throne. In the course of and , the weight of Europe fell upon France. Napoleon's allies in Germany either actively defected to the coalition or passively withdrew their troops from the conflict. Of his satellite kingdoms, Westphalia in Germany was overrun, Napoleon's sister and brother-in-law in Naples defected in , and only the kingdom of Italy remained steadfast until the very end. Ideological opposition to Napoleon did appear in Germany during In nineteenth-century German literary and romantic circles, the period is referred to as the Befreiungskrieg or Freiheitskrieg , War of Liberation or War of Freedom.

Yet, the students and intellectuals who volunteered for military service in and who participated in the nationalist and liberal movements in the post-Napoleonic era did not represent the interests and the intentions of the monarchs who led the coalition. They had all made bargains with Napoleon during the previous fifteen years. French domination of Europe, however, threatened their dynastic survival. France, reduced to its "natural frontiers", would be acceptable.

The initial settlement at Vienna in January recognized the French borders of After Napoleon's brief return during the Hundred Days in , the coalition restored France to its frontiers of The Congress of Vienna addressed territorial issues that had been tabled during the campaigns of and In the end, the states reasserted — and, in some cases, asserted for the first time — their influence in regions of Europe that did not necessarily welcome the new order. It has been argued that the Congress of Vienna did not establish a "balance of power" in Europe, but a set of principles that enabled imperial powers to pursue their interests without disrupting the "political equilibrium" in Europe, as France had done from The specific agreements at Vienna clearly reflected traditional diplomatic concepts of territorial compensation, but were more than a simple nineteenth-century version of the eighteenth-century balance of power.

Their immediate aim was the containment of France, but competition among the powers in the aftermath of the war and the threat of revolution also caused concern. The fear of France and of revolution led to the creation of the Quadruple Alliance and the Holy Alliance. The former comprised the major European powers and was responsible for watching France.

The principles of the Holy Alliance determined the course of action by the powers for the next decade. The Vienna system established a general European peace upon traditional principles, but equally affirmed the illegality of revolutionary activity. Frederick C. Wilson eds. Davies, Huw: "'To defeat the French? Elliott, J. Schneid ed. Esdaile, Charles ed. Faverzani, Luciano ed. Gill, John H.

Leggiere, Michael V. Rothenberg, Gunther E. Schneid, Frederick C. Blanton eds. Scott, Samuel F. Thompson, Andrew C. Wilson ed. Wilson, Peter H. Frederik C. As travel became easier, faster, and less expensive, Germans started to see unity in factors other than language. The Brothers Grimm, who compiled a massive dictionary known as The Grimm, also assembled a compendium of folk tales and fables that highlighted the storytelling parallels between different regions.

Karl Baedeker wrote guidebooks to different cities and regions of Central Europe, indicating places to stay, sites to visit, and giving a short history of castles, battlefields, famous buildings, and famous people. His guides also included distances, roads to avoid, and hiking paths to follow. The words of August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben expressed not only the linguistic unity of the German people but also their geographic unity.

She is holding a shield with the coat of arms of the German Confederation. The shields on which she stands are the arms of the seven traditional Electors of the Holy Roman Empire. Growing discontent with the political and social order imposed by the Congress of Vienna led to the outbreak in of the March Revolution in the German states. The revolutions of in the German states, the opening phase of which was also called the March Revolution, were initially part of the Revolutions of that broke out in many European countries.

They were a series of loosely coordinated protests and rebellions in the states of the German Confederation, including the Austrian Empire. The revolutions, which stressed pan-Germanism, demonstrated popular discontent with the traditional, largely autocratic political structure of the 39 independent states of the Confederation that inherited the German territory of the former Holy Roman Empire. They demonstrated the popular desire for the Zollverein movement.


The middle-class elements were committed to liberal principles while the working class sought radical improvements to their working and living conditions. As the middle class and working class components of the Revolution split, the conservative aristocracy defeated it.

Liberals were forced into exile to escape political persecution, where they became known as Forty-Eighters. Many immigrated to the United States, settling from Wisconsin to Texas. The groundwork of the uprising in Germany was laid long beforehand. The Hambacher Fest of , for instance, reflected growing unrest in the face of heavy taxation and political censorship.

Activism for liberal reform spread through many of the German states, each of which had distinct revolutions. They were also inspired by street demonstrations of workers and artisans in Paris, France, from February , , which resulted in the abdication by King Louis Philippe of France and his exile in Britain. In France the revolution of became known as the February Revolution. The revolutions spread across Europe; they erupted in Austria and Germany, beginning with the large demonstrations on March 13, , in Vienna. This resulted in the resignation of Prince von Metternich as chief minister to Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria, and his exile in Britain.

Because of the date of the Vienna demonstrations, the revolutions in Germany are usually called the March Revolution. Fearing the fate of Louis-Philippe of France, some monarchs in Germany accepted some of the demands of the revolutionaries, at least temporarily. In the south and west, large popular assemblies and mass demonstrations took place. They demanded freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, written constitutions, arming of the people, and a parliament. In , Austria was the predominant German state. It was considered the successor to the Holy Roman Empire, which had been dissolved by Napoleon in , and was not resurrected by the Congress of Vienna in German Austrian chancellor Metternich had dominated Austrian politics from until On March 13, , university students mounted a large street demonstration in Vienna, and it was covered by the press across the German-speaking states.

Following the important but relatively minor demonstrations against Lola Montez in Bavaria on February 9, , the first major revolt of in German lands occurred in Vienna on March 13, The student demonstrators demanded a constitution and a constituent assembly elected by universal male suffrage. Emperor Ferdinand and his chief adviser Metternich directed troops to crush the demonstration. When demonstrators moved to the streets near the palace, the troops fired on the students, killing several.

The new working class of Vienna joined the student demonstrations, developing an armed insurrection. The former chancellor went into exile in London. On March 13, the army charged people returning from a meeting in the Tiergarten; they left one person dead and many injured. On March 18, a large demonstration occurred; when two shots were fired, the people feared that some of the 20, soldiers would be used against them. They erected barricades, fighting started, and a battle took place until troops were ordered 13 hours later to retreat, leaving hundreds dead.

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Afterwards, Frederick William attempted to reassure the public that he would proceed with reorganizing his government. The king also approved arming the citizens. Starting on May 18, , the Frankfurt Assembly worked to find ways to unite the various German states and write a constitution. The Assembly was unable to pass resolutions and dissolved into endless debate. After long and controversial discussions, the assembly produced the so-called Frankfurt Constitution, which proclaimed a German Empire based on the principles of parliamentary democracy. The parliament also proposed a constitutional monarchy headed by a hereditary emperor Kaiser.

King Frederick William IV of Prussia unilaterally imposed a monarchist constitution to undercut the democratic forces. This constitution took effect on December 5, On December 5, , the revolutionary Assembly was dissolved and replaced with the bicameral legislature allowed under the monarchist Constitution. Otto von Bismarck was elected to the first congress elected under the new monarchical constitution. By late , the Prussian aristocrats including Otto von Bismarck and generals had regained power in Berlin.

They were not defeated permanently during the incidents of March, but had only retreated temporarily. General von Wrangel led the troops who recaptured Berlin for the old powers, and King Frederick William IV of Prussia immediately rejoined the old forces. In November, the king dissolved the new Prussian parliament and put forth a constitution of his own based upon the work of the assembly, yet maintaining the ultimate authority of the king.

The achievements of the revolutionaries of March were reversed in all of the German states and by , the Basic Rights from the Frankfurt Assembly had also been abolished nearly everywhere. In the end, the revolution fizzled because of the divisions between the various factions in Frankfurt, the calculating caution of the liberals, the failure of the left to marshal popular support and the overwhelming superiority of the monarchist forces.

The Revolution of failed in its attempt to unify the German-speaking states because the Frankfurt Assembly reflected the many different interests of the German ruling classes. Its members were unable to form coalitions and push for specific goals. The first conflict arose over the goals of the assembly. The moderate liberals wanted to draft a constitution to present to the monarchs, whereas the smaller group of radical members wanted the assembly to declare itself as a law-giving parliament.

They were unable to overcome this fundamental division, and did not take any definitive action toward unification or the introduction of democratic rules. The assembly declined into debate. While the French revolution drew on an existing nation state, the democratic and liberal forces in Germany of were confronted with the need to build a nation state and a constitutional at the same time, which overtaxed them.

In the s, Otto von Bismarck, then Minister President of Prussia, provoked three short, decisive wars against Denmark, Austria, and France, aligning the smaller German states behind Prussia in its defeat of France. In he unified Germany into a nation-state, forming the German Empire. Otto von Bismarck was a conservative Prussian statesman who dominated German and European affairs from the s until In the s he engineered a series of wars that unified the German states, significantly and deliberately excluding Austria, into a powerful German Empire under Prussian leadership.

In , King Wilhelm I appointed Bismarck as Minister President of Prussia, a position he would hold until except for a short break in He provoked three short, decisive wars against Denmark, Austria, and France, aligning the smaller German states behind Prussia in its defeat of France.

In he formed the German Empire with himself as Chancellor while retaining control of Prussia. He disliked colonialism but reluctantly built an overseas empire when it was demanded by both elite and mass opinion. A master of complex politics at home, Bismarck created the first welfare state in the modern world, with the goal of gaining working-class support that might otherwise have gone to his Socialist enemies.

He lost that battle as the Catholics responded by forming a powerful Centre party and using universal male suffrage to gain a bloc of seats. Bismarck then reversed himself, ended the Kulturkampf , broke with the Liberals, imposed protective tariffs, and formed a political alliance with the Centre Party to fight the Socialists. Bismarck—a Junker himself—was strong-willed, outspoken, and sometimes judged overbearing, but he could also be polite, charming, and witty.

Occasionally he displayed a violent temper, and he kept his power by melodramatically threatening resignation time and again, which cowed Wilhelm I. He possessed not only a long-term national and international vision but also the short-term ability to juggle complex developments. Many historians praise him as a visionary who was instrumental in uniting Germany and, once that had been accomplished, kept the peace in Europe through adroit diplomacy.

The Emperor of France, Napoleon III, tried to gain territory for France in Belgium and on the left bank of the Rhine as compensation for not joining the war against Prussia and was disappointed by the surprisingly quick outcome of the war. The conflict was caused by Prussian ambitions to extend German unification and French fears of the shift in the European balance of power that would result if the Prussians succeeded. A suitable pretext for war arose in when the German Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was offered the Spanish throne, vacant since a revolution in France pressured Leopold into withdrawing his candidacy.

Metternich's Projects for Reform in Austria

Not content with this, Paris demanded that Wilhelm, as head of the House of Hohenzollern, assure that no Hohenzollern would ever seek the Spanish crown again. To provoke France into declaring war with Prussia, Bismarck published the Ems Dispatch, a carefully edited version of a conversation between King Wilhelm and the French ambassador to Prussia, Count Benedetti. This conversation had been edited so that each nation felt its ambassador had been slighted and ridiculed, thus inflaming popular sentiment on both sides in favor of war.

France mobilized and declared war on July A Government of National Defense declared the Third Republic in Paris on September 4 and continued the war for another five months; the German forces fought and defeated new French armies in northern France. Following the Siege of Paris, the capital fell on January 28, , and then a revolutionary uprising called the Paris Commune seized power in the capital and held it for two months until it was bloodily suppressed by the regular French army at the end of May Bismarck acted immediately to secure the unification of Germany.

He negotiated with representatives of the southern German states, offering special concessions if they agreed to unification. The negotiations succeeded; patriotic sentiment overwhelmed what opposition remained. The new German Empire was a federation; each of its 25 constituent states kingdoms, grand duchies, duchies, principalities, and free cities retained some autonomy.

The King of Prussia, as German Emperor, was not sovereign over the entirety of Germany; he was only primus inter pares , or first among equals. Victory in the Franco-Prussian War proved the capstone of the nationalist issue. In the first half of the s, Austria and Prussia both contended to speak for the German states; both maintained they could support German interests abroad and protect German interests at home. After the victory over Austria in , Prussia began internally asserting its authority to speak for the German states and defend German interests, while Austria began directing more of its attention to possessions in the Balkans.

The victory over France in expanded Prussian hegemony in the German states to the international level.

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Once again, Metternich proved true to his belief in the value of order and justice. From mid-August Melanie began to push for a move to Brussels , a city cheaper to live in and closer to continental affairs. Baroness Helena Isabella von Brabeck. The Tsar remained unaccommodating however, demanding a push into the centre of France; but he was too preoccupied to object to Metternich's other ideas, like a final peace conference in Vienna. Franz Ferdinand, Count von Metternich-Winneburg.

With the proclamation of Wilhelm as Kaiser, Prussia assumed the leadership of the new empire. Otto von Bismarck appears in white in the center. Painting by Anton von Werner. After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, the German princes proclaimed the founding of the German Empire in at Versailles, uniting all scattered parts of Germany except Austria. The German Empire officially Deutsches Reich was the historical German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in to the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in November , when Germany became a federal republic the Weimar Republic.

The German Empire consisted of 26 constituent territories, most ruled by royal families. This included four kingdoms, six grand duchies, five duchies six before , seven principalities, three free Hanseatic cities, and one imperial territory. As the French lacked the strength to defeat Germany by themselves, they sought an alliance with Russia that would trap Germany between the two in a war as would ultimately happen in Bismarck wanted to prevent this at all costs and maintain friendly relations with the Russians, and thereby formed an alliance with them and Austria-Hungary.

It stated that republicanism and socialism were common enemies and that the three powers would discuss any matters concerning foreign policy. His strategy was to grant social rights to enhance the integration of a hierarchical society, forge a bond between workers and the state to strengthen the latter, maintain traditional relations of authority between social and status groups, and provide a countervailing power against the modernist forces of liberalism and socialism.

He created the modern welfare state in Germany in the s, with an introduction of health care and social security, and enacted universal male suffrage in the new German Empire in He became a great hero to German conservatives, who erected many monuments to his memory and tried to emulate his policies. Germany grew rapidly in industrial and economic power, matching Britain by In , the young and ambitious Kaiser Wilhelm II became emperor. He could not abide advice, least of all from the most experienced politician and diplomat in Europe, so he fired Bismarck. The Kaiser promoted active colonization of Africa and Asia for those areas that were not already colonies of other European powers; his record was notoriously brutal and set the stage for genocide.

The Kaiser took a mostly unilateral approach in Europe with the Austro-Hungarian Empire as its main ally, and an arms race with Britain eventually led to the assassination of the Austrian-Hungarian crown prince sparked World War I. After four years of warfare in which approximately two million German soldiers were killed, a general armistice ended the fighting on November 11, and German troops returned home. Cartoon from The new constitution Constitution of the German Confederation and the title Emperor came into effect on January 1, The second German Constitution was adopted by the Reichstag on April 14, , and proclaimed by the Emperor on April The political system remained the same.

The empire had a parliament called the Reichstag , which was elected by universal male suffrage. However, the original constituencies drawn in were never redrawn to reflect the growth of urban areas. As a result, by the time of the great expansion of German cities in the s and first decade of the 20th century, rural areas were grossly over-represented. Legislation also required the consent of the Bundesrat , the federal council of deputies from the 27 states.

Executive power was vested in the emperor, or Kaiser , who was assisted by a chancellor responsible only to him. The emperor was given extensive powers by the constitution. He alone appointed and dismissed the chancellor which in practice was used by the emperor to rule the empire through him , was supreme commander-in-chief of the armed forces, final arbiter of all foreign affairs, and could disband the Reichstag to call for new elections.

Officially, the chancellor was a one-man cabinet and was responsible for the conduct of all state affairs; in practice, the State Secretaries bureaucratic top officials in charge of such fields as finance, war, foreign affairs, etc. The Reichstag had the power to pass, amend, or reject bills and initiate legislation.

However, as mentioned above, in practice the real power was vested in the emperor, who exercised it through his chancellor. Although nominally a federal empire and league of equals, in practice the empire was dominated by the largest and most powerful state, Prussia. It stretched across the northern two-thirds of the new Reich , and contained three-fifths of its population. The imperial crown was hereditary in the House of Hohenzollern, the ruling house of Prussia. With the exception of the years — and —, the chancellor was always simultaneously the prime minister of Prussia.

With 17 out of 58 votes in the Bundesrat , Berlin needed only a few votes from the small states to exercise effective control. The other states retained their own governments, but had only limited aspects of sovereignty. For example, both postage stamps and currency were issued for the empire as a whole. Skip to main content.