Wilhelm, Bismarck, and Fichte on Austria

Fichte, Wilhelm and Bismark all had similar ideas regarding the unification of Germany; their ideas of why and how to do that varied, however. Fichte wrote about how Germany was divided by foreign imperialists who failed to see and value the unity of the German people under one state. He believed that the primary reason to seek German unification was to unify the German people, not to bolster the power of the German Empire or that of Prussia. He simply wanted to unify the German people. He wrote,“it is not because men dwell between certain mountains and rivers that they are a people, but, on the contrary, men dwell together-and, if their luck has so arranged it, are protected by rivers and mountains-because they were a people already by a law of nature which is much higher.” The German people had been divided and needed to be reunited according to a higher power.

Wilhelm had different reasoning for why he wanted to go to war with Austria and reunite Germany. He wanted to wage war in order to unite Austria with the German Empire, to the dismay of Bismarck. Wilhelm initially wanted to unite the German people under his crown by peaceful means: “And may God grant that We and our successors on the imperial throne may at all times increase the wealth of the German Empire, not by military conquests, but by the blessings and the gifts of peace, in the realm of national prosperity, liberty, and morality.” Once he began to gain power, however, he sought a less peaceful means to an end. The acquisition of land was not even the primary motive; Wilhelm and his generals primarily wanted Austria to submit to German hegemony. Bismarck feared “that the king and his advisors would be intoxicated by the brilliant victory over Austria and would wish to press on, and perhaps lose much in the end.”

2 thoughts on “Wilhelm, Bismarck, and Fichte on Austria

  1. I like that you clearly distinguish the differences between Bismarck’s, Fichte’s, and Wilhelm’s ideas on how German unification should take place. With Bismarck, I find it interesting that he knew a hostile war on Austria would be counterproductive for unification of the German state. He observed a systematic outcome of what would happen if Austria was invaded. Bismarck wanted to regard Austria simply as another piece on the European chess board and focus on the foundation of the German national unity under his Prussian king.

  2. I also see a commonality between Fichte and Wilhelm in that Wilhelm wanted to unite Germany willingly under a rule so that it would be wholly accepted and Fichte attempted to evoke nationalism through a common identity between the people. Their harsh rejection of Austria translated into a mentality of acceptance towards all German people- the more unified in their nationalism the more likely it was to succeed.

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