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Otto von Bismarck

Otto von Bismarck in August 1890

In office
21 March 1871 – 20 March 1890
Monarch Wilhelm I (1871–1888)
Frederick III (1888)
Wilhelm II (1888–1890)
Preceded by First Chancellor
Succeeded by Leo von Caprivi

In office
23 September 1862 – 1 January 1873
Monarch Wilhelm I
Preceded by Adolf of Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen
Succeeded by Albrecht von Roon

In office
9 November 1873 – 20 March 1890
Monarch Wilhelm I (1873–1888)
Frederick III (1888)
Wilhelm II (1888–1890)
Preceded by Albrecht von Roon
Succeeded by Leo von Caprivi

In office
1867–1871
President Wilhelm I
Preceded by Confederation established
Succeeded by German Empire

In office
1862–1890
Monarch Wilhelm I (1862–1888)
Frederick III (1888)
Wilhelm II (1888–1890)
Preceded by Albrecht von Bernstorff
Succeeded by Leo von Caprivi

Born 1 April 1815(1815-04-01)
Schönhausen, Prussia
Died 30 July 1898 (aged 83)
Friedrichsruh, German Empire
Political party None
Spouse(s) Johanna von Puttkamer
Religion Lutheranism
Signature

Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck (1 April 1815 – 30 July 1898) was a Prussian/German statesman of the late 19th century, and a dominant figure in world affairs. As Ministerpräsident, or Prime Minister, of Prussia from 1862–1890, he oversaw the unification of Germany. In 1867 he became Chancellor of the North German Confederation. He designed the German Empire in 1871, becoming its first Chancellor and dominating its affairs until his dismissal in 1890. His diplomacy of Realpolitik and powerful rule gained him the nickname "The Iron Chancellor".

After his death German nationalists made Bismarck their hero, building hundreds of monuments glorifying the symbol of powerful personal leadership. Historians praised him as a statesman of moderation and balance who was primarily responsible for the unification of the German states into a nation-state. He used balance-of-power diplomacy to keep Europe peaceful in the 1870s and 1880s. He created a new nation with a progressive social policy, a result that went beyond his initial goals as a practitioner of power politics in Prussia. Bismarck, a devout Lutheran who was obedient to his king, promoted government through a strong well-trained bureaucracy with a hereditary monarchy at the top.

Bismarck had recognized early in his political career that the opportunities for national unification would exist and he worked successfully to provide a Prussian structure to the nation as a whole.[1] On the other hand, his Reich of 1871 deliberately restricted democracy, and the anti-Catholic and anti-Socialist legislation that he introduced unsuccessfully in the 1870s and 1880s left a devastating legacy of distrust and fragmentation in German political culture.[2]

Contents

Early years

Bismarck at age eleven.
Otto von Bismarck as a young man in 1836

Bismarck was born in Schönhausen, the wealthy family estate situated west of Berlin in the Prussian Province of Saxony. His father, Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand von Bismarck (Schönhausen, 13 November 1771 – 22 November 1845), was a Junker estate owner and a former Prussian military officer; his mother, Wilhelmine Luise Mencken (Potsdam, 24 February 1789 – Berlin), the well-educated daughter of a senior government official in Berlin. A.J.P. Taylor later remarked on the importance of this dual heritage: although Bismarck physically resembled his father, and appeared as a Prussian Junker to the outside world—an image which he often encouraged by wearing military uniform, even though he was not a regular officer—he was also more cosmopolitan and highly educated than was normal for men of such background. He spoke and wrote English,[3] French,[3] and Russian[4] fluently. As a young man he would often quote Shakespeare or Byron in letters to his wife.

Bismarck was educated at the Friedrich-Wilhelm and Graues Kloster secondary schools. From 1832 to 1833 he studied law at the University of Göttingen where he was a member of the Corps Hannovera before enrolling at the University of Berlin (1833–35).

Whilst at Göttingen, Bismarck had become the lifelong friend of an American student John Lothrop Motley, who described Bismarck as Otto v. Rabenmark in his novel Morton's Hope, or the Memoirs of a Provincial (1839). Motley became an eminent historian and dipomat.

Although Bismarck hoped to become a diplomat, he started his practical training as a lawyer in Aachen and Potsdam, and soon resigned, having first placed his career in jeopardy by taking unauthorized leave to pursue two English girls, first Laura Russell, niece of the Duke of Cleveland, and then Isabella Loraine-Smith, daughter of a wealthy clergyman. He did not succeed in marrying either. He also served in the army for a year and became an officer in the Landwehr (reserve), before returning to run the family estates at Schönhausen on his mother's death in his mid-twenties.

Around the age of thirty Bismarck had an intense friendship with Marie von Thadden, newly-married to a friend of his. Under her influence, he became a Pietist Lutheran, and later recorded that at Marie's deathbed (from typhoid) he prayed for the first time since his childhood. Bismarck married Marie's cousin, the noblewoman Johanna von Puttkamer (Viartlum, 11 April 1824 – Varzin, 27 November 1894) at Alt-Kolziglow on 28 July 1847. Their long and happy marriage produced three children, Herbert (b. 1849), Wilhelm (b. 1852) and Marie (b. 1847). Johanna was a shy, retiring and deeply religious woman—although famed for her sharp tongue in later life—and in his public life Bismarck was sometimes accompanied by his sister Malwine ("Malle") von Arnim.

Whilst on holiday alone in Biarritz in the summer of 1862 (prior to becoming Prime Minister of Prussia), Bismarck would later have a romantic liaison with Kathy Orlov, the twenty-two year old wife of a Russian diplomat—it is not known whether or not their relationship was sexual. Bismarck kept his wife informed of his new friendship by letter, and in a subsequent year Kathy broke off plans to meet Bismarck on holiday again on learning that his wife and family would be accompanying him this time. They continued to write to one another until Kathy's premature death in 1874.

Early political career

In the year of his marriage, 1847, at age 32, Bismarck was chosen as a representative to the newly created Prussian legislature, the Vereinigter Landtag. There, he gained a reputation as a royalist and reactionary politician with a gift for stinging rhetoric; he openly advocated the idea that the monarch had a divine right to rule. His choosing was arranged by the Gerlach brothers, who were also Pietist Lutherans and whose ultra-conservative faction was known as the "Kreuzzeitung" after their newspaper, which featured an Iron Cross on its cover.

In March 1848, Prussia faced a revolution (one of the revolutions of 1848 in various European nations), which completely overwhelmed King Frederick William IV. The monarch, though initially inclined to use armed forces to suppress the rebellion, ultimately declined to leave Berlin for the safety of military headquarters at Potsdam (Bismarck later recorded that there had been a "rattling of sabres in their scabbards" from Prussian officers when they learned that the King would not suppress the revolution by force). He offered numerous concessions to the liberals: he wore the black-red-and-gold revolutionary colors (as seen on the flag of today's democratic Germany), promised to promulgate a constitution, agreed that Prussia and other states should merge into a single nation, and appointed a liberal, Ludolf Cam, as Minister-President.

Bismarck had at first tried to rouse the peasants of his estate into an army to march on Berlin in the King's name. He traveled to Berlin in disguise to offer his services, but was instead told to make himself useful by arranging food supplies for the Army from his estates in case they were needed. The King's brother Prince William (the future King and Emperor William I) had fled to England, and Bismarck intrigued with William's wife Augusta to place their teenage son (the future Frederick III) on the Prussian throne in King Frederick William IV's place—Augusta would have none of it, and detested Bismarck thereafter, although Bismarck did later help to restore a working relationship between the King and his brother, who were on poor terms. Bismarck was not a member of the Landtag elected that year. But the liberal victory perished by the end of the year. The movement became weak due to internal fighting, while the conservatives regrouped, formed an inner group of advisers—including the Gerlach brothers—known as the "Camarilla" around the King, and retook control of Berlin. Although a constitution was granted, its provisions fell far short of the demands of the revolutionaries.

In 1849, Bismarck was elected to the Landtag, the lower house of the new Prussian legislature. At this stage in his career, he opposed the unification of Germany, arguing that Prussia would lose its independence in the process. He accepted his appointment as one of Prussia's representatives at the Erfurt Parliament, an assembly of German states that met to discuss plans for union, but only in order to oppose that body's proposals more effectively. The Parliament failed to bring about unification, for it lacked the support of the two most important German states, Prussia and Austria. In 1850, after a dispute over Hesse, Prussia was humiliated and forced to back down by Austria (supported by Russia) in the so-called Punctation of Olmutz; a plan for the unification of Germany under Prussian leadership, proposed by Prussia's Prime Ministers Radowitz, was also abandoned.

In 1851, Frederick William appointed Bismarck as Prussia's envoy to the Diet of the German Confederation in Frankfurt. Bismarck gave up his elected seat in the Landtag, but was appointed to the Prussian House of Lords a few years later. In Frankfurt he engaged in a battle of wills with the Austrian representative Count Thun, insisting on being treated as an equal by petty tactics such as insisting on doing the same when Thun claimed the privileges of smoking and removing his jacket in meetings.

Bismarck's eight years in Frankfurt were marked by changes in his political opinions, detailed in the numerous lengthy memoranda which he sent to his ministerial superiors in Berlin. No longer under the influence of his ultraconservative Prussian friends, Bismarck became less reactionary and more pragmatic. He became convinced that in order to countervail Austria's newly-restored influence, Prussia would not only have to ally herself with other German states. As a result, he grew to be more accepting of the notion of a united German nation. Bismarck also worked to maintain the friendship of Russia and a working relationship with Napoleon III's France—the latter being anathema to his conservative friends the Gerlachs, but necessary both to threaten Austria and to prevent France allying herself to Russia. In a famous letter to Leopold von Gerlach, Bismarck wrote that it was foolish to play chess having first put 16 of the 64 squares out-of-bounds. This observation was ironic as after 1871 France would indeed become Germany's permanent enemy and would indeed eventually ally with Russia against Germany in the 1890s.

Bismarck was also horrified by Prussia's isolation during the Crimean War of the mid-1850s (in which Austria sided with Britain and France against Russia and Prussia was almost not invited to the peace talks in Paris). In the Eastern crisis of the 1870s, fear of a repetition of this turn of events would later be a factor in Bismarck's signing the Dual Alliance with Austria-Hungary in 1879. However, in the 1850s Bismarck correctly foresaw that by failing to support Russia (after Russian help in crushing the Hungarian Revolt in 1849, and at Olmutz in 1850, the Austrian leader Schwarzenberg had said that "Austria would astonish the world by the depth of her ingratitude") Austria could no longer count on Russian support in Italy and Germany, and had thus exposed herself to attack by France and Prussia.

In 1858, Frederick William IV suffered a stroke that paralyzed and mentally disabled him. His brother, William, took over the government of Prussia as regent. At first William was seen as a moderate ruler, whose friendship with liberal Britain was symbolised by the recent marriage of his son (the future Frederick III) to Queen Victoria's eldest daughter Vicky; their son (the future Wilhelm II) was born in 1859. As part of William's "New Course" he brought in new ministers, moderate conservatives known as the "Wochenblatt" party after their newspaper.

Soon the Regent replaced Bismarck as envoy in Frankfurt and made him Prussia's ambassador to the Russian Empire. In theory this was a promotion as Russia was one of the two most powerful neighbors of Prussia (the other was Austria). In reality Bismarck was sidelined from events in Germany, watching impotently as France drove Austria out of Lombardy during the Italian War of 1859. Bismarck proposed that Prussia should exploit Austria's weakness to move her frontiers "as far south as Lake Constance" on the Swiss border; instead Prussia mobilised troops in the Rhineland to deter further French advances into Venetia. As a further snub, the Regent, who scorned Bismarck as a "Landwehrleutnant" (reserve lieutenant), had declined to promote him to the rank of major-general, normal for the ambassador to Saint Petersburg (and important as Prussia and Russia were close military allies, whose heads of state often communicated through military contacts rather than diplomatic channels). Bismarck stayed in Saint Petersburg for four years, during which he almost lost his leg to botched medical treatment and once again met his future adversary, the Russian Prince Gorchakov, who had been the Russian representative in Frankfurt in the early 1850s. The Regent also appointed Helmuth von Moltke as the new Chief of Staff for the Prussian Army, and Albrecht von Roon as Prussian Minister of War and to the job of reorganizing the army. These three people over the next twelve years transformed Prussia.

Despite his lengthy stay abroad, Bismarck was not entirely detached from German domestic affairs. He remained well-informed due to his friendship with Roon, and they formed a lasting political alliance. In 1862 Bismarck was offered a place in the Russian diplomatic service after the Czar misunderstood a comment about his likelihood to miss Saint Petersburg. Bismarck courteously declined the offer.[5] In May 1862, he was sent to Paris, so that he could serve as ambassador to France. He also visited England that summer. These visits enabled him to meet and get the measure of his adversaries Napoleon III, and the British Prime Minister Palmerston and Foreign Secretary Earl Russell, and also of the British Conservative politician Disraeli, later to be Prime Minister in the 1870s—who later claimed to have said of Bismarck's visit "be careful of that man—he means what he says".

Ministerpräsident (Prime Minister) of Prussia

Otto von Bismarck as Minister-President of Prussia

The regent became King William I upon his brother's death in 1861. The new monarch was often in conflict with the increasingly liberal Prussian Diet. A crisis arose in 1862, when the Diet refused to authorise funding for a proposed re-organization of the army. The King's ministers could not convince legislators to pass the budget, and the King was unwilling to make concessions. Wilhelm threatened to abdicate (though his son was opposed to his abdication) and believed that Bismarck was the only politician capable of handling the crisis. However, Wilhelm was ambivalent about appointing a person who demanded unfettered control over foreign affairs. When, in September 1862, the Abgeordnetenhaus (House of Deputies) overwhelmingly rejected the proposed budget, Wilhelm was persuaded to recall Bismarck to Prussia on the advice of Roon. On 23 September 1862, Wilhelm appointed Bismarck Minister-President and Foreign Minister.

The change of Bismarck, Roon and Moltke occurred at a time when relations among the Great Powers—Great Britain, France, Austria and Russia—had been shattered by the Crimean War of 1854–55 and the Italian War of 1859. In the midst of this disarray, the European balance of power was restructured with the creation of the German Empire as the dominant power in Europe. This was achieved by Bismarck's diplomacy, by Roon's reorganization of the army, and by Moltke's military strategy.

Despite the initial distrust of the King and Crown Prince, and the loathing of Queen Augusta, Bismarck soon acquired a powerful hold over the King by force of personality and powers of persuasion. Bismarck was intent on maintaining royal supremacy by ending the budget deadlock in the King's favour, even if he had to use extralegal means to do so. He contended that, since the Constitution did not provide for cases in which legislators failed to approve a budget, he could merely apply the previous year's budget. Thus, on the basis of the budget of 1861, tax collection continued for four years.

Bismarck's conflict with the legislators grew more heated during the following years. Following the Alvensleben Convention of 1863, the House of Deputies passed a resolution declaring that it could no longer come to terms with Bismarck; in response, the King dissolved the Diet, accusing it of trying to obtain unconstitutional control over the ministry. Bismarck then issued an edict restricting the freedom of the press; this policy even gained the public opposition of the Crown Prince, Friedrich Wilhelm (the future Emperor Friedrich III). Despite attempts to silence critics, Bismarck remained a largely unpopular politician. His supporters fared poorly in the elections of October 1863, in which a liberal coalition (whose primary member was the Progress Party) won over two-thirds of the seats in the House. The House made repeated calls to the King to dismiss Bismarck, but the King supported him as he feared that if he dismissed Bismarck, a liberal ministry would follow.

German unification

Blood and Iron Speech

German unification had been one of the major objectives during the widespread revolutions of 1848–49, when representatives of the German states met in Frankfurt and drafted a constitution creating a federal union with a national parliament to be elected by universal male suffrage. In April 1849, the Frankfurt Parliament offered the title of Emperor to the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV. The Prussian king, fearing the opposition of the other German princes and the military intervention of Austria and Russia, refused to accept this popular mandate. Thus, the Frankfurt Parliament ended in failure for the German liberals. On September 30, 1862, Bismarck made a speech to the Budget Committee of the Prussian Chamber of Deputies, at the end of which occurred "[o]ne of Bismarck's most famous utterances ... also one of the most imperfectly recorded".[6]

Prussia must concentrate and maintain its power for the favorable moment which has already slipped by several times. Prussia's boundaries according to the Vienna treaties are not favorable to a healthy state life. The great questions of the time will not be resolved by speeches and majority decisions—that was the great mistake of 1848 and 1849—but by iron and blood.[7]

Defeat of Denmark and Austria-Hungary

Germany prior to the 1860s consisted of a multitude of principalities loosely bound together as members of the German Confederation. Bismarck used both diplomacy and the Prussian military to achieve unification, excluding Austria from unified Germany. Not only did he make Prussia the most powerful and dominant component of the new Germany, but he also ensured that Prussia would remain an authoritarian state, rather than a liberal parliamentary regime.

Bismarck, left, with Roon (center) and Moltke (right). The three leaders of Prussia in the 1860s

Bismarck faced a diplomatic crisis when Frederick VII of Denmark died in November 1863. Succession to the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein was disputed; they were claimed by Christian IX (Frederick VII's heir as King) and by Frederick von Augustenburg (a German duke). Prussian public opinion strongly favoured Augustenburg's claim, as Holstein and southern Schleswig were (and are) German-speaking. Bismarck took an unpopular step by insisting that the territories legally belonged to the Danish monarch under the London Protocol signed a decade earlier. Nonetheless, Bismarck did denounce Christian's decision to completely annex Schleswig to Denmark. With support from Austria, he issued an ultimatum for Christian IX to return Schleswig to its former status; when Denmark refused, Austria and Prussia invaded, commencing the Second war of Schleswig and Denmark was forced to cede both duchies. Britain under Prime Minister Palmerston and Foreign Secretary Earl Russell was humiliated and left impotent, as she was unwilling to commit ground troops to Denmark.

At first this seemed like a victory for Augustenberg, but Bismarck soon removed him from power by making a series of unworkable demands, namely that Prussia should have control over the army and navy of the Duchies. Originally, it was proposed that the Diet of the German Confederation (in which all the states of Germany were represented) should determine the fate of the duchies; but before this scheme could be effected, Bismarck induced Austria to agree to the Gastein Convention. Under this agreement signed 20 August 1865, Prussia received Schleswig, while Austria received Holstein. In that year he was made Graf (Count) von Bismarck-Schönhausen.

But in 1866, Austria reneged on the prior agreement by demanding that the Diet determine the Schleswig-Holstein issue. Bismarck used this as an excuse to start a war with Austria by charging that the Austrians had violated the Convention of Gastein. Bismarck sent Prussian troops to occupy Holstein. Provoked, Austria called for the aid of other German states, who quickly became involved in the Austro-Prussian War. With the aid of Albrecht von Roon's army reorganization, the Prussian army was nearly equal in numbers to the Austrian army. With the organizational genius of Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, the Prussian army fought battles it was able to win. Bismarck had also made a secret alliance with Italy, who desired Austrian-controlled Venetia. Italy's entry into the war forced the Austrians to divide their forces.

As the war began, a German radical named Ferdinand Cohen-Blind attempted to assassinate Bismarck in Berlin, shooting him five times at close range. Cohen-Blind was a democrat who hoped that killing Bismarck would prevent a war among the German states. Bismarck survived with only minor injuries despite having been shot five times; Cohen-Blind committed suicide while in custody.

To the surprise of the rest of Europe, Prussia quickly defeated Austria and its allies, at the Battle of Königgrätz (aka "Battle of Sadowa"). The King and his generals wanted to push on, conquer Bohemia and march to Vienna, but Bismarck, worried that Prussian military luck might change or that France might intervene on Austria's side, enlisted the help of the Crown Prince (who had opposed the war but had commanded one of the Prussian armies at Sadowa) to change his father's mind after stormy meetings.

As a result of the Peace of Prague (1866), the German Confederation was dissolved; Prussia annexed Schleswig, Holstein, Frankfurt, Hanover, Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel), and Nassau; and Austria promised not to intervene in German affairs. To solidify Prussian hegemony, Prussia and several other North German states joined the North German Confederation in 1867; King Wilhelm I served as its President, and Bismarck as its Chancellor. From this point on begins what historians refer to as "The Misery of Austria", in which Austria served as a mere vassal to the superior Germany, a relationship that was to shape history up to the two World Wars.

Bismarck, who by now held the rank of major in the Landwehr, wore this uniform during the campaign, and was at last promoted to the rank of major-general in the Landwehr cavalry after the war. Although he never personally commanded troops in the field, he usually wore a general's uniform in public for the rest of his life, as seen in numerous paintings and photographs. He was also given a cash grant by the Prussian Landtag, which he used to buy a new country estate, Varzin, larger than his existing estates combined.

Military success brought Bismarck tremendous political support in Prussia. In the elections to the House of Deputies in 1866, liberals suffered a major defeat, losing their large majority. The new, largely conservative House was on much better terms with Bismarck than previous bodies; at the Minister-President's request, it retroactively approved the budgets of the past four years, which had been implemented without parliamentary consent.

German Unification

Following the 1866 war, Prussia annexed the Kingdom of Hanover, which had been allied with Austria against Prussia. An agreement was reached whereby the deposed King George V of Hanover was allowed to keep about 50% of the crown assets. The rest were deemed to be state assets and were transferred to the national treasury. Subsequently Bismarck accused George of organizing a plot against the state and sequestered his share (16 million thalers) in early 1868. Bismarck used this money to set up a secret fund (the "Reptilienfonds" or Reptiles Fund), which he used to bribe journalists and to discredit his political enemies. In 1870 he used some of these funds to win the support of King Ludwig II of Bavaria for making William I German Emperor.

Bismarck also used these funds to place informers in the household of Crown Prince Frederick and his wife Victoria. Some of the bogus stories that Bismarck planted in newspapers accused the royal couple of acting as British agents by revealing state secrets to the British government. Frederick and Victoria were great admirers of her father Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, prince consort of Victoria of the United Kingdom. They planned to rule as consorts, like Albert and Victoria. Frederick "described the Imperial Constitution as ingeniously contrived chaos."[8] The office of Chancellor responsible to the Kaiser would be replaced with a cabinet based on the British style, with ministers responsible to the Reichstag. Government policy would be based on the consensus of the cabinet.

The Crown Prince and Princess shared the outlook of the Progressive Party, and Bismarck was haunted by the fear that should the old Emperor die—and he was now in his seventies—they would call on one of the Progressive leaders to become Chancellor. He sought to guard against such a turn by keeping the Crown Prince from a position of any influence and by using foul means as well as fair to make him unpopular.[9]

In order to undermine the royal couple, when the future Kaiser William II was still a teenager, Bismarck would separate him from his parents and would place him under his tutelage. Bismarck planned to use William as a weapon against his parents in order to retain his own power. Bismarck would drill William on his prerogatives and would teach him to be insubordinate to his parents. Consequently, William II developed a dysfunctional relationship with his father and especially with his English mother.[citation needed]

In 1892, after Bismarck's dismissal, Kaiser William II stopped the use of the fund by releasing the interest payments into the official budget.[10]

Establishment of the German Empire

Anton von Werner's depiction of William's proclamation as Emperor in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles; Wilhelm's son Friedrich (top step, with hand raised) leads the cheering. Bismarck can be seen in the centre-right wearing white.

Prussia's victory over Austria increased tensions with France. The French Emperor, Napoleon III, feared that a powerful Germany would change the balance of power in Europe (the French opposition politician Adolphe Thiers had correctly observed that it had really been France who had been defeated at Sadowa). Bismarck, at the same time, did not avoid war with France. He believed that if the German states perceived France as the aggressor, they would unite behind the King of Prussia. In order to achieve this Bismarck kept Napoleon III involved in various intrigues whereby France might gain territory from Luxembourg or Belgium - France never achieved any such gain, but was made to look greedy and untrustworthy.

A suitable premise for war arose in 1870, when the German Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was offered the Spanish throne, which had been vacant since a revolution in 1868. France blocked the candidacy and demanded assurances that no member of the House of Hohenzollern become King of Spain. 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 that its ambassador had been disrespected and ridiculed, thus inflaming popular sentiment on both sides in favor of war.

France mobilized and declared war on 19 July, five days after the dispatch was published in Paris. It was seen as the aggressor and German states, swept up by nationalism and patriotic zeal, rallied to Prussia's side and provided troops. After all, it came as a sort of deja vu: current french public musings of the river Rhine as "the natural french border" and the memory of the french revolutionary/Napoleonic wars 1790/1815 (many German territories were devastated serving as theatre of war, and sacking the old German empire by Napoleon) was still alive. Russia remained aloof and used the opportunity to remilitarise the Black Sea, demilitarised after the Crimean War of the 1850s. Both of Bismarck's sons served as officers in the Prussian cavalry. The Franco-Prussian War (1870) was a great success for Prussia. The German army, under nominal command of the King but controlled by Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, won victory after victory. The major battles were all fought in one month (7 August till 1 September), and both French armies were captured at Sedan and Metz, the latter after a siege of some weeks. (Napoleon III was taken prisoner at Sedan and kept in Germany for a while in case Bismarck had need of him to head a puppet regime; he later died in England in 1873.) The remainder of the war featured a siege of Paris, the city was ”ineffectually bombarded”;[11] the new French republican regime then tried, without success, to relieve Paris with various hastily assembled armies and increasingly bitter partisan warfare.

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; while the war was in its final phase King Wilhelm of Prussia was proclaimed 'German Emperor' on 18 January 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors in the Château de Versailles.[12] 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. But he held the presidency of the Bundesrat, which met to discuss policy presented from the Chancellor (whom the president appointed).

At the end, France had to surrender Alsace and part of Lorraine, because Moltke and his generals insisted that it was needed as a defensive barrier.[13] Bismarck opposed the annexation because he did not wish to make a permanent enemy of France.[14] France was also required to pay an indemnity.[15]

Chancellor of the German Empire

Otto von Bismarck in 1873.

In 1871, Otto von Bismarck was raised to the rank of Fürst (Prince) von Bismarck. He was also appointed Imperial Chancellor of the German Empire, but retained his Prussian offices (including those of Minister-President and Foreign Minister). He was also promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general, and given another country estate, Friedrichsruh, near Hamburg, which was larger than Varzin, making him a very wealthy landowner. Because of both the imperial and the Prussian offices that he held, Bismarck had near complete control over domestic and foreign policy. The office of Minister-President (M-P) of Prussia was temporarily separated from that of Chancellor in 1873, when Albrecht von Roon was appointed to the former office. But by the end of the year, Roon resigned due to ill health, and Bismarck again became M-P.

In the following years, one of Bismarck's primary political objectives was to reduce the influence of the Catholic Church in Germany. This may have been due to the anti-liberal message of Pope Pius IX in the Syllabus of Errors of 1864, and especially to the dogma of Papal infallibility (1870).[citation needed] Bismarck feared that Pope Pius IX and future popes would use the definition of the doctrine of their infallibility as a political weapon for creating instability by driving a wedge between Catholics and Protestants.[citation needed] To prevent this, Bismarck attempted, without success, to reach an understanding with other European governments, whereby future papal elections would be manipulated. The European governments would agree on unsuitable papal candidates, and then instruct their national cardinals to vote in the appropriate manner.[16] Prussia (except the Rhineland) and most other northern German states were predominantly Protestant, but many Catholics lived in the southern German states (especially Bavaria). In total, approximately one third of the population was Catholic. Bismarck believed that the Roman Catholic Church held too much political power; he was further concerned about the emergence of the Catholic Centre Party (organised in 1870).

Accordingly, he began an anti-Catholic campaign known as the Kulturkampf. In 1871, the Catholic Department of the Prussian Ministry of Culture was abolished. In 1872, the Jesuits were expelled from Germany. More severe anti-Roman Catholic laws of 1873 allowed the government to supervise the education of the Roman Catholic clergy, and curtailed the disciplinary powers of the Church. In 1875, civil ceremonies were required for weddings, which could hitherto be performed in churches. These efforts strengthened the Catholic Centre Party, and Bismarck abandoned the Kulturkampf in 1878 to preserve his remaining political capital. Pius died that same year, replaced by a more pragmatic Pope Leo XIII who would eventually establish a better relationship with Bismarck.[17][18]

Otto Fürst von Bismarck became Chancellor of Germany in 1871.

The Kulturkampf had won Bismarck a new supporter in the secular National Liberal Party, which had become Bismarck's chief ally in the Reichstag. But in 1873, Germany and much of Europe had entered the Long Depression beginning with the crash of the Vienna Stock Exchange in 1873, the Gründerkrise. A downturn hit the German economy for the first time since vast industrial development in the 1850s after the 1848–49 revolutions. To aid faltering industries, the Chancellor abandoned free trade and established protectionist tariffs, which alienated the National Liberals who supported free trade. The Kulturkampf and its effects also stirred up public opinion against the party that supported it, and Bismarck used this opportunity to distance himself from the National Liberals. This marked a rapid decline in the support of the National Liberals, and by 1879 their close ties with Bismarck had all but ended. Bismarck instead returned to conservative factions — including the Centre Party — for support. He helped foster support from the conservatives by enacting several tariffs protecting German agriculture and industry from foreign competitors in 1879.[19]

To prevent the Austro-Hungarian problems of different nationalities within one state, the government tried to Germanize the state's national minorities, situated mainly in the borders of the empire, such as the Danes in the North of Germany, the French of Alsace-Lorraine and the Poles in the East of Germany.

His policies concerning the Poles of Prussia were generally unfavourable to them,[20] furthering enmity between the German and Polish peoples. The policies were usually motivated by Bismarck's view that Polish existence was a threat to German state; Bismarck, who himself spoke Polish,[21] wrote about Poles: "One shoots the wolves if one can."[22] He also said: "Beat Poles until they lose faith in sense of living. Personally, I pity the situation they're in. However, if we want to survive -we've got only one option - to exterminate them.[23]

Bismarck worried about the growth of the socialist movement — in particular, that of the Social Democratic Party. In 1878, he instituted the Anti-Socialist Laws. Socialist organizations and meetings were forbidden, as was the circulation of socialist literature. Socialist leaders were arrested and tried by police courts. But despite these efforts, the movement steadily gained supporters and seats in the Reichstag. Socialists won seats in the Reichstag by running as independent candidates, unaffiliated with any party, which was allowed by the German Constitution.

Then the Chancellor tried to reduce the appeal of socialism to the public by trying to appease the working classes. He enacted a variety of social programs. Bismarck’s social insurance legislations were the first in the world and became the model for other countries.[24] The Health Insurance Act of 1883 entitled workers to health insurance. Accident insurance was provided in 1884, old age pensions and disability insurance in 1889, he even thought of insurance for unemployment.[25] Other laws restricted the employment of women and children. Irrespective of these progressive programs, the working classes largely remained unreconciled with Bismarck's conservative government.

Foreign policies

A main objective of Bismarck's was to prevent other major powers allying with France.

Bismarck had unified his nation and now he devoted himself to promoting peace in Europe with his skills in statesmanship. He was forced to contend with French revanchism — the desire to avenge the loss in the Franco-Prussian War. Bismarck therefore engaged in a policy of diplomatically isolating France while maintaining cordial relations with other nations in Europe. Bismarck had little interest in naval or colonial entanglements and thus avoided discord with the United Kingdom. In 1872, he offered friendship to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Russia, whose rulers joined Wilhelm I in the League of the Three Emperors, also known as the Dreikaiserbund.

Bismarck ca. 1875.

Also in 1872, a protracted quarrel began to fester between Bismarck and Count Harry von Arnim, a career diplomat and the imperial ambassador to France. Arnim was a member of a prominent Pomeranian family, related to Bismarck by marriage, and someone who saw himself as a rival and competitor for the chancellorship. The ambassador disagreed unsuccessfully with Bismarck over policy vis-à-vis France. As a penalty for this indiscretion, Bismarck intended to remove Arnim from Paris and reassign him as ambassador to the Ottoman Empire at Constantinople, which given the relative importance of France to Germany as compared with that of the Ottoman Empire, was seen by Arnim as a demotion. Arnim refused and continued to put forth his views in opposition to Bismarck, going so far as to remove sensitive records from embassy files at Paris to back up his attacks on Bismarck. The controversy lasted on for two years with Arnim being ‘protected’ by powerful friends before he was formally accused of misappropriating official documents, indicted, tried, and convicted. While his sentence was under appeal, he fled to Switzerland and died in exile. After this episode, no-one again openly challenged Bismarck in foreign policy matters until his resignation.[26]

France

By 1875 France had recovered from defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and a new government began to militarily expand and reassert itself again as a player in European politics. The German general staff under Moltke was alarmed and managed to have Bismarck ban a French procurement of ten thousand cavalry horses from Germany. There followed some informal debate of the necessity of preventive war. The printing by a prominent newspaper of an article entitled "Is War in Sight?" caused a crisis to develop that was not to Bismarck’s advantage. The British government dispatched a polite warning to Berlin. Russia’s Tsar Alexander II and his chancellor Prince Gorchakov, at the time on a state visit to Germany, seized the opportunity to inject themselves as European peace makers. This action initiated a lasting estrangement between Bismarck and Gorchakov over the latter’s ‘interference’ in a Franco-German spat.[27] Between 1873 and 1877 Germany repeatedly intervened in the internal affairs of France's neighbors. In Belgium, Spain, and Italy, Bismarck exerted strong and sustained political pressure to support the election or appointment of liberal, anticlerical governments. This was not merely a by-product of the Kulturkampf but part of an integrated strategy to promote republicanism in France by strategically and ideologically isolating the clerical-monarchist regime of President Marie Edme MacMahon (1808-93). It was hoped that by ringing France with a number of liberal states, French republicanism could defeat MacMahon and his reactionary supporters. The modern concept of containment provides a useful model for understanding the dynamics of this policy.[28]

Italy

Bismarck maintained good relations with Italy, although he had a personal dislike for Italians and their country.[29] He can be seen as marginal contributor to Italian Unification. Politics surrounding the 1866 war against Austria allowed Italy to annex Lombardy-Venetia, which had been a kingdom of the Austrian Empire since the 1815 Congress of Vienna. In addition, French mobilization for the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871 made it necessary for Napoleon III to withdraw his troops from Rome and The Papal States. Without these two events, Italian unification would have been a more prolonged process.

After Russia's victory over the Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878), Bismarck helped negotiate a settlement at the Congress of Berlin. The Treaty of Berlin, 1878, revised the earlier Treaty of San Stefano, reducing the size of newly-independent Bulgaria (a pro-Russian state at that time). Bismarck and other European leaders opposed the growth of Russian influence and tried to protect the potency of the Ottoman Empire (see Eastern Question). As a result, Russo-German relations further suffered, with the Russian chancellor Gorchakov denouncing Bismarck for compromising his nation's victory. The relationship was additionally strained due to Germany's protectionist trade policies.

Triple Alliance

The League of the Three Emperors having fallen apart, Bismarck negotiated the Dual Alliance (1879) with Austria-Hungary, in which each guaranteed the other against Russian attack. This became the Triple Alliance in 1882 with the addition of Italy, while Italy and Austria-Hungary soon reached the "Mediterranean Agreement" with Britain. Attempts to reconcile Germany and Russia did not have lasting effect: the Three Emperors' League was re-established in 1881, but quickly fell apart (the end of the Russian-Austrian-Prussian solidarity which had existed in various forms since 1813), and the Reinsurance Treaty of 1887 (in which both powers promised to remain neutral towards one another unless Russia attacked Austria-Hungary) was allowed to expire in 1890 after Bismarck’s departure.

Colonies

Bismarck all along opposed colonial acquisitions, arguing that the burden of obtaining, maintaining and defending such possessions would outweigh any potential benefit. But during the late 1870s and early 1880s public opinion shifted to favor colonies, and Bismarck converted to the colonial idea. "The pretext was economic."[30] Bismarck was influenced by Hamburg merchants and traders, his neighbors at Friedrichsruh, "and the creation of Germany’s colonial empire proceeded with the minimum of friction."[31] Other European nations, with Britain and France in the lead, had earlier and rapidly acquired colonies (see New Imperialism). During the 1880s, Germany joined the European powers in the Scramble for Africa. Among Germany's colonies were Togoland (now part of Ghana and Togo), Cameroon, German East Africa (now Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania), and German South-West Africa (now Namibia). The Berlin Conference (1884–1885) established regulations for the acquisition of African colonies; in particular, it protected free trade in certain parts of the Congo basin. Germany later also acquired colonies in the Pacific.

Avoiding war

In February 1888, during a Bulgarian crisis, Bismarck addressed the Reichstag on the dangers of a European war.

He warned of the imminent possibility that Germany will have to fight on two fronts; he spoke of the desire for peace; then he set forth the Balkan case for war and demonstrates its futility: "Bulgaria, that little country between the Danube and the Balkans, is far from being an object of adequate importance… for which to plunge Europe from Moscow to the Pyrenees, and from the North Sea to Palermo, into a war whose issue no man can foresee. At the end of the conflict we should scarcely know why we had fought."[32]

Bismarck also repeated his emphatic warning against any German military involvement in Balkan disputes. Bismarck had first made this famous comment to the Reichstag in December 1876, when the Balkan revolts against the Ottoman Empire threatened to extend to a war between Austria and Russia.

Only a year later [1876], he is faced by the alternative of espousing the cause of Russia or that of Austria. Immediately after the last crisis, in the summer of 1875, the mutual jealousies between Russia and Austria had been rendered acute by the fresh risings in the Balkans against the Turks. Now the issues hung upon Bismarck’s decision. Immediately after the peace, he had tried to paralyse the Balkan rivals by the formation of the Three Emperors’ League. "I have no thought of intervening," he said privately. "That might precipitate a European war. [...] If I were to espouse the cause of one of the parties, France would promptly strike a blow on the other side. [...] I am holding two powerful heraldic beasts by their collars, and am keeping them apart for two reasons: first of all, lest they should tear one another to pieces; and secondly, lest they should come to an understanding at our expense." In the Reichstag, he popularises the same idea in the words: "I am opposed to the notion of any sort of active participation of Germany in these matters, so long as I can see no reason to suppose that German interests are involved, no interests on behalf of which it is worth our risking — excuse my plain speaking — the healthy bones of one of our Pomeranian musketeers.[33]

According to Taylor, "The more familiar grenadier took the musketeer's place in a speech of 1888".[34]

Last years

A painting of Bismarck, late in his career.
Bismarck on his 80th birthday (1 April 1895)

In 1888, the German Emperor, Wilhelm I, died leaving the throne to his son, Friedrich III. The new monarch was already suffering from an incurable throat cancer and died after reigning for only three months. He was replaced by his son, Wilhelm II. The new Emperor opposed Bismarck's careful foreign policy, preferring vigorous and rapid expansion to protect Germany's "place in the sun".

Conflicts between Wilhelm II and his chancellor soon poisoned their relationship. Bismarck believed that he could dominate Wilhelm, and showed little respect for his policies in the late 1880s. Their final split occurred after Bismarck tried to implement far-reaching anti-Socialist laws in early 1890. Kartell majority in the Reichstag, of the amalgamated Conservative Party and the National Liberal Party, was willing to make most of the laws permanent. But it was split about the law allowing the police the power to expel socialist agitators from their homes, a power used excessively at times against political opponents. The National Liberals refused to make this law permanent, while the Conservatives supported only the entirety of the bill and threatened to and eventually vetoed the entire bill in session because Bismarck wouldn't agree to a modified bill.

As the debate continued, Wilhelm became increasingly interested in social problems, especially the treatment of mine workers who went on strike in 1889, and keeping with his active policy in government, routinely interrupted Bismarck in Council to make clear his social policy. Bismarck sharply disagreed with Wilhelm's policy and worked to circumvent it. Even though Wilhelm supported the altered anti-socialist bill, Bismarck pushed for his support to veto the bill in its entirety. But when his arguments couldn't convince Wilhelm, Bismarck became excited and agitated until uncharacteristically blurting out his motive to see the bill fail: to have the socialists agitate until a violent clash occurred that could be used as a pretext to crush them. Wilhelm replied that he was not willing to open his reign with a bloody campaign against his own subjects. The next day, after realizing his blunder, Bismarck attempted to reach a compromise with Wilhelm by agreeing to his social policy towards industrial workers, and even suggested a European council to discuss working conditions, presided by the German Emperor.

Despite this, a turn of events eventually led to his distancing from Wilhelm. Bismarck, feeling pressured and unappreciated by the Emperor and undermined by ambitious advisers, refused to sign a proclamation regarding the protection of workers along with Wilhelm, as was required by the German Constitution, to protest Wilhelm's ever increasing interference to Bismarck's previously unquestioned authority. Bismarck also worked behind the scenes to break the Continental labour council on which Wilhelm had set his heart.

The final break came as Bismarck searched for a new parliamentary majority, with his Kartell voted from power due to the anti-socialist bill fiasco. The remaining forces in the Reichstag were the Catholic Centre Party and the Conservative Party. Bismarck wished to form a new block with the Centre Party, and invited Ludwig Windthorst, the parliamentary leader to discuss an alliance. This would be Bismarck's last political manoeuvre. Wilhelm was furious to hear about Windthorst's visit. In a parliamentary state, the head of government depends on the confidence of the parliamentary majority, and certainly has the right to form coalitions to ensure his policies a majority. However, in Germany, the Chancellor depended on the confidence of the Emperor alone, and Wilhelm believed that the Emperor had the right to be informed before his minister's meeting. After a heated argument in Bismarck's office Wilhelm, whom Bismarck had allowed to see a letter from Tsar Alexander III describing him as a "badly brought-up boy", stormed out, after first ordering the rescinding of the Cabinet Order of 1851, which had forbidden Prussian Cabinet Ministers to report directly to the King of Prussia, requiring them instead to report via the Prime Minister. Bismarck, forced for the first time into a situation he could not use to his advantage, wrote a blistering letter of resignation, decrying Wilhelm's interference in foreign and domestic policy, which was only published after Bismarck's death. As it turned out, Bismarck became the first victim of his own creation, and when he realized that his dismissal was imminent:

All Bismarck’s resources were deployed; he even asked Empress Frederick to use her influence with her son on his behalf. But the wizard had lost his magic; his spells were powerless because they were exerted on people who did not respect them, and he who had so signally disregarded Kant’s command to use people as ends in themselves had too small a stock of loyalty to draw on. As Lord Salisbury told Queen Victoria: 'The very qualities which Bismarck fostered in the Emperor in order to strengthen himself when the Emperor Frederick should come to the throne have been the qualities by which he has been overthrown.' The Empress, with what must have been a mixture of pity and triumph, told him that her influence with her son could not save him for he himself had destroyed it.[35]

Bismarck resigned[36] at Wilhelm II's insistence on 18 March 1890, at age 75, to be succeeded as Chancellor of Germany and Minister-President of Prussia by Leo von Caprivi. Bismarck was discarded ("dropping the pilot" in the words of the famous Punch cartoon), promoted to the rank of "Colonel-General with the Dignity of Field Marshal" (so-called because the German Army did not appoint full Field Marshals in peacetime) and given a new title, Duke of Lauenburg, which he joked would be useful when travelling incognito. He was soon elected as a National Liberal to the Reichstag for Bennigsen's old and supposedly safe Hamburg seat, but was embarrassed by being forced to a second ballot by a Social Democrat rival, and never actually took up his seat. He entered into restless, resentful retirement to his estates at Varzin (in today's Poland). Within one month after his wife died on 27 November 1894, he moved to Friedrichsruh near Hamburg, waiting in vain to be petitioned for advice and counsel.

As soon as he had to leave his office, citizens started to praise him, collecting money to build monuments like the Bismarck Memorial or towers dedicated to him. Much honour was given to him in Germany, many buildings have his name, books about him were best-sellers, and he was often painted, e.g., by Franz von Lenbach and C.W. Allers.

Bismarck spent his final years gathering his memoirs (Gedanken und Erinnerungen, or Thoughts and Memories), which criticized and discredited the Emperor. He died in 1898 (at the age of 83) at Friedrichsruh, where he is entombed in the Bismarck-Mausoleum. He was succeeded as Fürst von Bismarck-Schönhausen by Herbert.

On his gravestone it is written "Loyal German Servant of Kaiser William I".

Last warning and prediction

Memorial statue in Bielefeld.

In December 1897, Wilhelm II visited Bismarck for the last time. Bismarck again warned the Kaiser about the dangers of improvising government policy based on the intrigues of courtiers and militarists. Bismarck’s last warning was:

Your Majesty, so long as you have this present officer corps, you can do as you please. But when this is no longer the case, it will be very different for you.[37]

Subsequently, Bismarck made these accurate predictions:

"Jena came twenty years after the death of Frederick the Great; the crash will come twenty years after my departure if things go on like this" ― a prophecy fulfilled almost to the month.[38]

One day the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans.[39]

Ironically, Bismarck had warned in February 1888 of a Balkan crisis turning into a world war (although when that war did come in 1914, the Balkan country was Serbia, not Bulgaria)[40]:

He warned of the imminent possibility that Germany will have to fight on two fronts; he spoke of the desire for peace; then he set forth the Balkan case for war and demonstrates its futility: Bulgaria, that little country between the Danube and the Balkans, is far from being an object of adequate importance... for which to plunge Europe from Moscow to the Pyrenees, and from the North Sea to Palermo, into a war whose issue no man can foresee. At the end of the conflict we should scarcely know why we had fought.

Bismarck's social legislation

Bismark, working closely with big industry and aiming to head off the Socialists, implemented the world's first welfare state in the 1880s. Bismark especially listened to Hermann Wagener and Theodor Lohmann, advisers who persuaded Bismarck to give workers a corporate status in the legal and political structures of the new German state.[41] On 20 March 1884, Bismarck declared:

[...]the actual complaint of the worker is the insecurity of his existence; he is unsure if he will always have work, he is unsure if he will always be healthy and he can predict that he will reach old age and be unable to work. If he falls into poverty, and be that only through prolonged illness, he will find himself totally helpless being on his own, and society currently does not accept any responsibility towards him beyond the usual provisions for the poor, even if he has been working all the time ever so diligently and faithfully. The ordinary provisions for the poor, however, leave a lot to be desired [...].[42]

The 1880s were a period when Germany started on its long road towards the welfare state it is today. The Social Democratic, National Liberal and Center parties were all involved in the beginnings of social legislation, but it was Bismarck who established the first practical aspects of this program. Bismarck’s idea was to implement welfare programs that were acceptable to the conservatives without any of the overtly socialistic aspects. He was dubious about laws protecting workers at the workplace, such as safe working conditions, limitation of work hours, and the regulation of women's and child labor, because he believed that such regulation would force workers and employers to reduce work and production, and thus harm the economy.

Bismarck opened debate on the subject on 17 November 1881 in the Imperial Message to the Reichstag, using the term practical Christianity[43] to describe his program. On 4 May 1881 Bismarck had also referred to this program as Staatssozialismus, when he made the following accurate prediction to Moritz Busch:

It is possible that our policy may be reversed at some future time when I am dead; but State Socialism will make its way.[44]

Another translation of this accurate prediction is:

It is possible that all our politics will come to nothing when I am dead but state socialism will push itself through. (Der Staatssozialismus paukt sich durch.)[45]

Bismarck’s program centered squarely on insurance programs designed to increase productivity, and focus the political attentions of German workers on supporting the Junker's government. The program included Health Insurance; Accident Insurance (Workman’s Compensation); Disability Insurance; and an Old-age Retirement Pension, none of which were then currently in existence to any great degree.

Based on Bismarck’s message, The Reichstag filed three bills designed to deal with the concept of Accident insurance, and one for Health Insurance. The subjects of Retirement pensions and Disability Insurance were placed on the back burner for the time being.[46] The social legislation implemented by Bismarck in the 1880's played a key role in the sharp rapid decline of German emigration to America. Young men considering emigration looked not only the gap between higher hourly 'direct wages' in the United States and Germany but also the differential in 'indirect wages,' that is, social benefits, which favored staying in Germany. The young men went to German industrial cities, so that Bismarck's insurance system partly offset low wage rates in Germany and furthered the fall of the emigration rate. [47]

Health Insurance Bill of 1883

The first bill that had success was the Health Insurance bill, which was passed in 1883. The program was considered the least important from Bismarck’s point of view, and the least politically troublesome. The program was established to provide health care for the largest segment of the German workers. The health service was established on a local basis, with the cost divided between employers and the employed. The employers contributed 1/3rd, while the workers contributed 2/3rds . The minimum payments for medical treatment and Sick Pay for up to 13 weeks were legally fixed. The individual local health bureaus were administered by a committee elected by the members of each bureau, and this move had the unintended effect of establishing a majority representation for the workers on account of their large financial contribution. This worked to the advantage of the Social Democrats who – through heavy Worker membership – achieved their first small foothold in public administration.[46]

Accident Insurance Bill of 1884

Bismarck’s government had to submit three draft bills before they could get one passed by the Reichstag in 1884. Bismarck had originally proposed that the Federal Government pay a portion of the Accident Insurance contribution. Bismarck’s motive was a demonstration of the willingness of the German government to lessen the hardship experienced by the German workers as a means of weaning them away from the various left-wing parties, most importantly the Social Democrats. The National Liberals took this program to be an expression of State Socialism, which they were dead set against. The Center party was afraid of the expansion of Federal Power at the expense of States Rights. As a result, the only way the program could be passed at all was for the entire expense to be underwritten by the Employers. To facilitate this, Bismarck arranged for the administration of this program to be placed in the hands of “Der Arbeitgeberverband in den beruflichen Korporationen”, which translates as “The organization of employers in occupational corporations”. This organization established central and bureaucratic insurance offices on the Federal, and in some cases the State level to perform the actual administration. The program kicked in to replace the health insurance program as of the 14th week. It paid for medical treatment and a Pension of up to 2/3rds of earned wages if the worker was fully disabled. This program was expanded in 1886 to include Agricultural workers.[46]

Old Age and Disability Insurance Bill of 1889

The Old Age Pension program, financed by a tax on workers, was designed to provide a pension annuity for workers who reached the age of 70 years. At the time, the life expectancy for the average Prussian was 45 years. Unlike the Accident Insurance and Health Insurance programs, this program covered Industrial, Agrarian, Artisans and Servants from the start. Also, unlike the other two programs, the principle that the Federal Government should contribute a portion of the underwriting cost, with the other two portions prorated accordingly, was accepted without question. The Disability Insurance program was intended to be used by those permanently disabled. This time, the State or Province supervised the programs directly.[46]

Legacy and memory

Memorial to Otto von Bismarck, Tiergarten, Berlin

Historians have reached a broad consensus on the content, function and importance of the image of Bismarck within Germany’s political culture over the past 125 years.[48][49]

Bismarck's most important legacy is the unification of Germany. Germany had existed as a collection of hundreds of separate principalities and Free Cities since the formation of the Holy Roman Empire. Over the next thousand years various kings and rulers had tried to unify the German states without success until Bismarck. Largely as a result of Bismarck's efforts, the various German kingdoms were united into a single country. Following unification, Germany became one of the most powerful nations in Europe. Bismarck's astute, cautious, and pragmatic foreign policies allowed Germany to retain peacefully the powerful position into which he had brought it; maintaining amiable diplomacy with almost all European nations. France, the main exception, was devastated by Bismarck's wars and his harsh subsequent policies towards it; France became one of Germany's most bitter enemies in Europe. Austria, too, was weakened by the creation of a German Empire, though to a much lesser extent than France. Bismarck believed that as long as Britain, Russia and Italy are assured of peaceful nature of German Empire, French belligerency could be contained; his diplomatic feats were undone, however, by Kaiser Wilhelm II, whose policies unified other European powers against Germany in time for World War I. Historians stress that Bismarck’s peace-oriented, ‘saturated continental diplomacy’ was increasingly unpopular, because it consciously reined in any expansionist drives. In dramatic contrast stands the ambition of Wilhelm II’s Weltpolitik to secure the Reich’s future through expansion, leading to World War I. Likewise Bismarck’s policy to deny the military a dominant voice in foreign political decisionmaking was overturned by 1914 as Germany became an armed state.

In British writing (e.g. the biographies by Taylor, Palmer or Crankshaw) Bismarck is often seen as an ambivalent figure, undoubtedly a man of great skill but who left no lasting system in place to guide successors less skilled than himself. Being a committed monarchist himself, Bismarck could not envision any effective constitutional check to the power of the Emperor, thus placing a time bomb in a foundation of the State he created.

During most of his nearly 30 year-long tenure, Bismarck held undisputed control over the government's policies. He was well supported by his friend Albrecht von Roon, the war minister, as well as the leader of the Prussian army Helmuth von Moltke. Bismarck's diplomatic moves relied on a victorious Prussian military, and these two people gave Bismarck the victories he needed to convince the smaller German states to join Prussia.

Memorial dedicated to Bismarck as a student at the Rudelsburg

Bismarck took steps to silence or restrain political opposition, as evidenced by laws restricting the freedom of the press, the Kulturkampf, and the anti-socialist laws. His king (later Emperor) Wilhelm I rarely challenged the Chancellor's decisions; on several occasions, Bismarck obtained his monarch's approval by threatening to resign. However, Wilhelm II intended to govern the country himself, making the ousting of Bismarck one of his first tasks as Kaiser. Bismarck's successors as Chancellor were much less influential, as power was concentrated in the Emperor's hands.

Memorials

Numerous statues and memorials dot the cities, towns, and countryside of Germany, including numerous Bismarck towers on four continents, and the famous Bismarck Memorial in Berlin. The only memorial showing him as a student at Göttingen University (together with his dog Tiran) and as a member of his Corps Hannovera was re-erected in 2006 at the Rudelsburg. The gleaming white The Bismarck-Denkmal (German for Bismarck monument) is a monument in the city of Hamburg. It stands in the centre of the St. Pauli district. Built in 1906, it is the largest and probably most well-known memorial to Bismarck worldwide. The statues depicted him as massive, monolithic, rigid and unambiguous.[50] Two ships of the German Imperial Navy (Kaiserliche Marine), and the Bismarck from the World War II–era, were named after him. He also was mentioned in Hogan's Heroes.

Bismarck Myth

Gerwarth (2005) shows the the Bismarck myth, built up predominantly during his years of retirement and even more stridently after his death, proved a powerful rhetorical and ideological tool. The myth made him out to be a dogmatic ideologue and ardent nationalist when, in fact, he was ideologically flexible. Gerwarth argues that the constructed memory of Bismarck played a central role as an anti-democratic myth in the highly ideological battle over the past which raged between 1918 and 1933. This myth proved to be a weapon against the Weimar Republic, and exercised a destructive influence on the political culture of the first German democracy. Frankel (2005) shows the Bismarck cult fostered and legitimized a new style of right-wing politics, and made possible the post-Bismarckian crisis of leadership, both real and perceived, that had Germans seeking the strongest possible leader and asking, ‘What Would Bismarck Do?’

For example, Hamburg's memorial, unveiled in 1906, which is considered one of the greatest expressions of imperial Germany's Bismarck cult and an important development in the history of German memorial art. It was a product of the desire of Hamburg's patrician classes to defend their political privileges in the face of dramatic social change and attendant demands for political reform. To those who presided over its construction, the monument was also a means of asserting Hamburg's cultural aspirations and of shrugging off a reputation as a city hostile to the arts. The memorial was greeted with widespread disapproval among the working classes and did not prevent their increasing support for the Social Democrats.[51]

Documentaries

  • Bismarck - Chancellor and Demon, a two-part German documentary from 2007 which sheds light on Bismarck's contradictory personality. Written and directed by Christoph Weinert.[52].[53]

Place names

Titles from birth to death

  • 1865–30 July 1898: High Born Count Otto of Bismarck-Schönhausen
  • 1871–30 July 1898: His Serene Highness The Prince of Bismarck
  • 1890–30 July 1898: His Serene Highness The Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg

Quotes

"Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made."[54]

"A statesman... must wait until he hears the steps of God sounding through events, then leap up and grasp the hem of His garment."[54]

"The Americans have contrived to be surrounded on two sides by weak neighbors and on two sides - by fish!"

"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war."[54]

“History is simply a piece of paper covered with print; the main thing is still to make history, not to write it.”

"I am bored, all of the great things have been done."

"The Balkans start in the slums of Vienna."

"The world spins around in circles. Germany remains stagnant."

"Politics is the art of the possible."

"Not by speeches and majority votes are the great questions of the day decided - that was the great error of 1848 and 1849 - but by blood and iron."

References in fiction

Otto von Bismarck appears as a character in the historical novel Royal Flash, part of the Flashman series of books by George MacDonald Fraser. In the novel, von Bismarck is portrayed as a very aggressive and ambitious character with excellent horsemanship skills. In the film version, he was portrayed by Oliver Reed.

After meeting Bismarck at the Congress of Berlin, Disraeli cast him as the Count of Ferroll in his 1880 novel Endymion.[citation needed]

In the 1941 film The Prime Minister, a biopic of Disraeli, Bismarck is shown ranting whilst his shadow falls across the map of Europe, implying that the 1870s Eastern crisis was caused by German desire to dominate the Balkans (a false implication,[citation needed] but the film was made in Britain during the Second World War).

Bismarck appears as a German leader in the video game series Civilization.

Footnotes

  1. ^ Gall (1986)
  2. ^ Gerwarth (2007)
  3. ^ a b Crankshaw, Bismarck, p. 13
  4. ^ Taylor, Bismarck, The Man and the Statesman, p. 44
  5. ^ Morgenthau, Hans J. (1949) Politics Among Nations, p. 186.
  6. ^ Hollyday, 1970, p. 16
  7. ^ Hollyday, 1970, pp. 16–18
  8. ^ Michael Balfour, The Kaiser and his Times, Houghton Mifflin (1964) p. 69
  9. ^ Michael Balfour, The Kaiser and his Times, Houghton Mifflin (1964) p. 70
  10. ^ Brockhaus-Enzyklopädie, (17th edition, 1966-74)
  11. ^ Taylor, Bismarck, p. 126
  12. ^ Crankshaw, Bismarck, p. 294-296
  13. ^ Tuchman, Barbara. The Guns of August. New York: Ballantine Books, 1962, p. 35
  14. ^ Massie, Robert K. Dreadnaught. New York: Ballantine Books, 1992, p. 62
  15. ^ Taylor, p. 133; the indemnity figure was calculated, on the basis of population, as the precise equivalent of the indemnity which Napoleon I imposed on Prussia in 1807
  16. ^ "Bismarck's confidential diplomatic circular to German representatives abroad, Berlin, 14 May 1872." In: Hollyday, (1970) pp 42–44
  17. ^ Ronald J. Ross, The Failure of Bismarck's Kulturkampf: Catholicism and State Power in Imperial Germany, 1871-1887 (2000)
  18. ^ Michael B. Gross, The War against Catholicism: Liberalism and the Anti-Catholic Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Germany (2005)
  19. ^ Hunt, Lynn, Thomas Martin, Barbara Rosenwein, R. Po-chia Hsia, Bonnie Smith "Power Politics in Central and Eastern Europe",page 755. The Making of the West:Peoples and Cultures, 2009.
  20. ^ BISMARCK, DHM.
  21. ^ Crankshaw, p. 150
  22. ^ von BISMARCK, Otto, Deutsche und Polen.
  23. ^ Christian Graf von Krockow,Bismarck. Eine Biographie, Stuttgart 1997
  24. ^ Taylor, p. 203
  25. ^ Taylor, p. 204
  26. ^ Crankshaw, p. 322
  27. ^ Taylor, p. 154
  28. ^ James Stone, "Bismarck and the Containment of France, 1873-1877," Canadian Journal of History 1994 29(2): 271-304
  29. ^ Taylor, p. 212
  30. ^ Crankshaw, p. 395
  31. ^ Crankshaw, p. 397
  32. ^ Ludwig, 1927a p. 73
  33. ^ Ludwig, 1927b p. 511
  34. ^ Taylor, 1969 p. 167
  35. ^ Michael Balfour, The Kaiser and his Times, Houghton Mifflin (1964) p. 132
  36. ^ Otto von Bismarck, Werke in Auswahl,Vol. 7, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft Darmstadt (1981) p. 758
  37. ^ Alan Palmer, Bismarck, Charles Scribner’s Sons (1976) p. 267
  38. ^ A.J.P. Taylor, Bismarck, Alfred A Knopf, New York (1969) p. 264
  39. ^ Reported by Winston Churchill, The World Crisis, C. Scribner's Sons (1923) p. 195, attributed to Bismarck by Albert Ballin
  40. ^ Reichstag speech on 6 February 1888 - Otto von Bismarck, Werke in Auswahl,Vol. 7, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft Darmstadt (1981) p. 612
  41. ^ E. P. Hennock, "Social Policy under the Empire: Myths and Evidence," German History 1998 16(1): 58-74; Herman Beck, The Origins of the Authoritarian Welfare State in Prussia. Conservatives, Bureaucracy, and the Social Question, 1815–70, (1995)
  42. ^ Reichstagsprotokolle, Bd. 082, 05.Legislaturperiode 04.Session 1884, 9. Sitzung am Donnerstag, 20.03.1884 (Sitzungsbeginn: page 133), speech of Otto von Bismarck: page 161 ff., page 165, Bavarian State Library, Münchener Digitalisierungszentrum (MDZ),
  43. ^ Moritz Busch, Bismarck: Some secret pages from his history, Macmillan, New York (1898) Vol. II, p. 282
  44. ^ Moritz Busch, Bismarck: Some secret pages from his history, Macmillan, New York (1898) Vol. II, p. 283
  45. ^ Werner Richter, Bismarck, G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York (1965) p. 275
  46. ^ a b c d Holborn, Hajo: A History of Modern Germany — 1840–1945: Princeton University Press; 1969; pp. 291–93.
  47. ^ David Khoudour-Castéras, Welfare State and Labor Mobility: the Impact of Bismarck's Social Legislation on German Emigration Before World War I. Journal of Economic History; 2008 68(1): 211-243
  48. ^ Müller (2008)
  49. ^ Urbach (1998)
  50. ^ Sieglinde Seele, Lexikon der Bismarck-Denkmäler. Türme, Standbilder, Büsten, Gedenksteine und andere Ehrungen, Michael Imhof Verlag: Petersberg, 2005; 480 pp.
  51. ^ Mark A.Russell, "The Building of Hamburg's Bismarck Memorial, 1898-1906," Historical Journal 2000 43(1): 133-156
  52. ^ phoenix.de - Bismarck - Kanzler und Dämon Part 1: Vom Landjunker zum Reichsgründer. (German)
  53. ^ phoenix.de - Bismarck - Kanzler und Dämon Part 2: Regierungsgewalt und Machtverlust.(German)
  54. ^ a b c brainyquote.com

See also

Bibliography

  • Busch, Moritz. Bismarck: Some secret pages from his history, 2 vols, (1898).
  • Crankshaw, Edward. Bismarck. The Viking Press. (1981).
  • Eyck, Erich. Bismarck and the German Empire. (1964). excerpt and text search
  • Feuchtwanger, Edgar. Bismarck (Routledge Historical Biographies) (2002) 276 pp, basic starting point
  • Frankel, Richard E. Bismarck’s Shadow. The Cult of Leadership and the Transformation of the German Right, 1898–1945 (2005); 222 pp. ISBN 1845200330,
  • Garr, Lothar. Bismark: The White Revolutionary (1986) 2 vol
  • Gerwarth, Robert. "Inventing the Iron Chancellor," History Today 2007 57(6): 43-49, in EBSCO
  • Gerwarth, Robert. The Bismarck Myth: Weimar Germany and the Legacy of the Iron Chancellor (2005) 216 pp.; 019928184X
  • Holborn, Hajo. "The Constitutional Conflict in Prussia and the Early Years of the Bismarck Ministry" pages 131–172, "The Founding of the New German Empire, 1865-71", pages 173–229, "Bismarck and the Consolidation of the German Empire, 1871-90", pages 233–297, from The History of Modern Germany 1840–1945. Alfred A Knopf (1969)
  • Hollyday, F. B. M. Bismarck (Great Lives Observed), Prentice-Hall, (1970).
  • Kent, George O. Bismarck and His Times 1978 online edition
  • Lerman, Katharine Anne. Bismarck: Profiles in Power. Longman, 2004. ISBN 0-582-03740-9; 312pp
  • Ludwig, Emil, Bismarck: The Story Of A Fighter, (1927)
  • Müller, Frank Lorenz. "Man, Myth and Monuments: The Legacy of Otto von Bismarck (1866–1998)," European History Quarterly 2008 v.38 pp 626+ DOI: 10.1177/0265691408094517
  • Paur, Philip. "The Corporatist Character of Bismarck's Social Policy," European History Quarterly, Oct 1981; vol. 11: pp. 427 - 460.
  • Pflanze, Otto. Bismarck and the Development of Germany. (3 vols. 1963–90).
  • Robinson, Janet, and Joe Robinson. Handbook of Imperial Germany (2009) excerpt and text search
  • Sheehan, James J. German History, 1770-1866 (1989), dense, thorough political history
  • Sheehan, James J. German liberalism in the nineteenth century 1978. online at ACLS e-books
  • Stern, Fritz. Gold and Iron: Bismarck, Bleichröder and the Building of the German Empire. Penguin. (1977).
  • Taylor, A. J. P. Bismarck: the Man and the Statesman. Alfred A Knopf, New York, (1969).
  • Urbach, Karina. "Between Saviour and Villain: 100 Years of Bismarck Biographies," Historical Journal 1998 41(4): 1141-1160
  • Waller, Bruce. Bismarck at the Crossroads. The Reorientation of German Foreign Policy after the Congress of Berlin 1878-1880 (1974)
  • Wehler, Hans-Ulrich "Bismarck's Imperialism 1862–1890" Past and Present, No. 48, August 1970. pages 119–155
  • Wetzel, David. A Duel of Giants: Bismarck, Napoleon III, and the Origins of the Franco-Prussian War (2003)

Primary sources

External links

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Political offices
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Adolf zu Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen
Prime Minister of Prussia
1862–1873
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Albrecht von Roon
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Albrecht von Bernstorff
Foreign Minister of Prussia
1862–1890
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Leo von Caprivi
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Herbert von Bismarck


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Politics is not an exact science... but an art.

Prince Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg (1 April 1815 - 30 July 1898) German aristocrat and statesman; Prime Minister of Prussia (1862 -1890), First Chancellor of Germany (1871 - 1890); he is nicknamed the Iron Chancellor and is noted for the laconicity of his statements.

Sourced

  • Nicht durch Reden und Majoritätsbeschlüsse werden die großen Fragen der Zeit entschieden — das ist der große Fehler von 1848 und 1849 gewesen — sondern durch Eisen und Blut.
    • Not by speeches and votes of the majority, are the great questions of the time decided — that was the error of 1848 and 1849 — but by iron and blood.
    • Speech to the Prussian Diet (30 September 1862). After some objections to his initial speech he returned to the podium and declared: "I must protest that I would never seek foreign conflicts just to go over domestic difficulties; that would be frivolous. I was speaking of conflicts that we could not avoid, even though we do not seek them."
    • Variant translations: The great questions of the time are not decided by speeches and majority decisions — that was the error of 1848 and 1849 — but by iron and blood.
      The great issues of the day are not decided through speeches and majority resolutions — that was the great error of 1848 and 1849 — but through blood and iron.
      The great questions of the day will not be decided by speeches and the resolutions of majorities — that was the great mistake from 1848 to 1849 — but by blood and iron.
      The great questions of the day will not be settled by means of speeches and majority decisions ... but by iron and blood.
  • So clobbeth the Poles so that they despair; they have my deepest sympathy for their situation, but, if we want to exist, we have no choice but to wipe them out ('ausrotten'); the wolf cannot help it that he was created by God the way he is, but one shoots him yet, if one can.
    • Letter to his sister Malwine (March 1861)
A conquering army on the border will not be stopped by eloquence.
  • A conquering army on the border will not be stopped by eloquence.
    • Speech to North German Reichstag (24 September 1867)
  • Die Politik ist keine exakte Wissenschaft.
    • Politics is not an exact science.
    • Speech to Prussian upper house (18 December 1863)
    • Variant: Die Politik ist keine Wissenschaft, wie viele der Herren Proffessoren sich einbilden, sondern eine Kunst.
      • Politics is not a science, as the professors are apt to suppose. It is an art.
        • Expression in the Reichstag (1884), as quoted in The Quote Verifier : Who Said What, Where, and When (2006) by Ralph Keyes.
  • Die Politik ist die Kunst des Möglichen.
    • Politics is the art of the possible.
    • Remark to Meyer von Waldeck, 11 August 1867. Quoted in Heinz Amelung, Bismarck-Worte, 1918; as reported in The Yale Book of Quotations, Yale University Press, 2006. This is widely attributed to Bismarck but there is no firsthand account of his exact words, as discussed in Ralph Keyes, The Quote Verifier, Macmillan, 2006.
  • Setzen wir Deutschland, so zu sagen, in den Sattel! Reiten wird es schon können.
    • Let us lift Germany, so to speak, into the saddle. It will certainly be able to ride.
    • Speech to Parliament of Confederation (1867)
  • He who has his thumb on the purse has the power.
    • Speech to North German Reichstag (21 May 1869)
  • Wir Deutschen fürchten Gott, sonst aber Nichts in der Welt; und diese Gottesfurcht ist es schon, die uns den Frieden lieben und pflegen lässt.
    • We Germans fear God, but nothing else in the world; and already that godliness is it, which let us love and foster peace.
    • Speech to the Reichstag (6 February 1888)
  • Your map of Africa is really quite nice. But my map of Africa lies in Europe. Here is Russia, and here... is France, and we're in the middle — that's my map of Africa.
    • Conversation with a colonial enthusiast revealing his disapproval of Colonialism. (1888)
  • Der alte Jude, das ist der Mann.
    • The old Jew, he is the man.
    • A conversation in 1879 on who was the centre of gravity at the Congress of Berlin, referring to Benjamin Disraeli, as quoted in Seven Great Statesmen in the Warfare of Humanity with Unreason (1912) by Andrew Dickson White, p. 482
  • With a gentleman I am always a gentleman and a half, and when I have to do with a pirate, I try to be a pirate and a half.
    • Survey Graphic (1939) by Paul Underwood Kellogg, p. 243
    • Variant: With a gentleman I am always a gentleman and a half, and with a fraud I try to be a fraud and a half.
      • This variant seems to have originated in 20,000 Quips & Quotes‎ (1968) by Evan Esar, p. 72

Misattributed

  • There is a special providence for drunkards, fools, and the United States of America.
    • This saying appears as early as 1849 in the form “the special providence over the United States and little children”, attributed to Abbé Correa. There is no good evidence that Bismarck ever repeated it. See talk page for more details.
  • Preventive war is like committing suicide for fear of death.
  • Complete version: Who start with enthusiasm a preventive war against giant Tsarist Empire from its frontiers, he puts itself in ridiculous position, because he chooses the simplest method of «suicide from fear of death».
  • German: Wer einen Präventivkrieg gegen das riesige Zarenreich vom Zaun breche, begehe, mokierte er sich, nur zu leicht «Selbstmord aus Furcht vor dem Tod».
  • Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.
    • Though similar remarks are often attributed to Bismarck, this is the earliest known quote regarding laws and sausages, and is attributed to John Godfrey Saxe in The Daily Cleveland Herald (29 March 1869) and "Quote... Misquote" by Fred R. Shapiro in The New York Times (21 July 2008); according to Shapiro's research, such remarks only began to be attributed to Bismarck in the 1930s.
    • Variants often attributed to Bismarck:
    • If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.
    • Laws are like sausages — it is best not to see them being made.
    • Laws are like sausages. It is better not to see them being made.
    • Laws are like sausages. You should never see them made.
    • Laws are like sausages. You should never watch them being made.
    • Law and sausage are two things you do not want to see being made.
    • No one should see how laws or sausages are made.
    • To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.
    • The making of laws like the making of sausages, is not a pretty sight.
    • Je weniger die Leute darüber wissen, wie Würste und Gesetze gemacht werden, desto besser schlafen sie nachts.
      • The less the people know about how sausages and laws are made, the better they sleep in the night.
        • (No citation exists for where this German phrase or this translation originated).

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