German Unification

Otto von Bismarck was a Prussian Statesman and a close adviser to the King of Prussia, Wilhelm I.  Upon further research, I discovered that he was born in a part of Germany under Prussian rule and would later attend the University of Berlin.  At the time this was written in , Prussia had just one a major battle over Austria in the war between the two countries.  In Bismarck’s Memoirs, he uses language that identifies with the emotions of panic and dread.  He writes certain phrases such as, “A painful illness from which I was suffering…”, and how he, “…begged the king…” ((Memoirs, Otto von Bismarck)) .  His audience for this piece would be for the king of Prussia, as well as the Prussian council deciding if Prussia should continue the war against Austria.  Bismarck’s intent of his memoir was to convince the King to stop his acquisition of new territory from Prussia, and to unify the German states under Prussian rule.  He suggests that Prussia cease fighting and create a peace treaty with Austria.  Bismarck adds that there is no value in acquiring land that would have a rebellious nature towards Prussian rule.  On the topic of the German states they had acquired,  Bismarck tells the King to not mutilate these newly gained territories but instead unite them as one country.  Under Prussian rule, Bismarck theorized that a unified Germany would be less inclined to rebel and would benefit both sides.  Under this policy, it seems that Prussian rule would become more popular in the former Austrian controlled German states.

How does Bismarck’s background affect his advice to the King of Prussia?

Would it have been more beneficial for Prussia to have strict control over the German states, or do you agree with Bismarck’s philosophy of having control over a more autonomous Germany?

The Beginnings of German Nationalism

The Romantic period following the Enlightenment and the French Revolution was characterized by a push back against the rational reasoning championed by many Enlightenment thinkers. Johann Gottlieb Fichte tried to inspire his fellow Germans with his “Addresses to the German Nation” in 1806. He wrote “those who speak the same language are joined to each other by a multitude of invisible bonds by nature herself” ((Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Thirteenth Address, Addresses to the German Nation, ed. George A. Kelly (New York: Harper Torch Books, 1968), pp. 190­91,193­94,197­98.)) which highlights his argument that the bonds of language and culture are stronger than political boundaries or forced occupation. This is a similar argument that Paul Halsall makes in his introduction to Johann Gottfried von Herder’s “Materials for the Philosophy of Mankind” where he states that most nations are developed around a single language and that new peoples are incorporated in by being forced to speak that central language as well ((Johann Gottfried von Herder, Materials for the Philosophy of Mankind, 1784.)).

Johann Gottlieb Fichte was a German philosopher who lived from 1762 until 1814, meaning that he lived through much of the Enlightenment thought and ideals being put into place in the American Revolution and the French Revolution. He wrote his “Addresses to the German Nation” in 1806 when the French, under Napoleon, occupied Germany. This event likely inspired him to write these nationalistic pieces and to go on to be considered one of the fathers of German nationalism. He criticized Napoleon’s use of religious conflict to divide the German nation-states and his use of German soldiers in his army. Fichte wrote in an inflammatory manner, intended to educate the German people about the tactics that the French were using to divide the nation-states and to inspire a sense of belonging to something larger than their individual village.

Fichte was able to use historical context and the feelings of people living in an occupied territory to make an emotional argument for nationalism and for uniting as a larger German people. Both Fichte and von Herder highlighted the importance of language to creating a cohesive nation-state, which was important as this is one of first times when a nation-state becomes a realistic concept, and is no longer separated into solely a political state or an ethnic or cultural nation.

In conclusion, did Napoleon’s conquest of these areas accelerate the unification of Germany? In other words, is being occupied the most effective method to get people to come together by uniting against a common enemy?

Nationalism’s Evolution

In the readings, I began to notice nationalism’s incredible power in speaking to the people and uniting the people. The nationalism practiced in the 18th century consisted of countries such as France and Germany caring about one common identity and language for communication purposes. Herder states: an empire made up of a hundred peoples and a 120 provinces which have been forced together is a monstrosity, not a state-body. ((Johann Gottfried von Herder:
Materials for the Philosophy of the History of Mankind, 1784)) However, there should always be some room left for accepting other languages, cultures, and ideas because these other languages can help provide important viewpoints and perspectives that the society can use to its advantage. What Herder is saying, though, is these foreign peoples should be integrated into society only if they do not pose a hindrance to society. States should let integration happen naturally. Both authors think natural societies are the most prosperous, as Herder writes: The best culture of a people cannot be expressed through a foreign language. ((Johann Gottfried von Herder:
Materials for the Philosophy of the History of Mankind, 1784)) This perspective is much different than the common one in the world today. Many politicians and progressives believe that a country that incorporates many different identities, viewpoints, cultures, and languages will be the most diversified and as a result the most successful.

In the second reading, Fichte depicts his anti-French attitude with his heavy nationalist tone and point of view. In the early nineteenth century Germany was struggling because of its past selfishness, and as a result many Germans as well as Fichte started to become less tolerant of other cultures in hopes of achieving success. In short, both authors admire the ideals of nationalism but view it in different ways. I must ask, though: what exactly is nationalism? Herder states that it has taken on many forms – calls for cultural pride, liberal-nationalist assertions of the right to self-government, and chauvinistic claims of national superiority. ((Johann Gottfried von Herder:
Materials for the Philosophy of the History of Mankind, 1784)) Is it the assertion that one common language and identity among the people leads to the most success? Or is it the assertion that the most successful country breeds diversity with an intersection of languages, identities, and cultures? Personally, I believe that the idea of nationalism today exists in the latter, as countries have become more accepting of other people who speak different languages and have different practices. It is interesting to see how countries have developed their goals and identities over the years. These identities are certainly different than identities from over two-hundred years ago.

Bismarck and a United German Nation

Author: Known as the “Iron Chancellor”, Otto von Bismarck lived from 1815 to 1898. Under his rule he established a modern German nation by uniting numerous German states. To establish his goals, “he manipulated European rivalries to make Germany a world power, but in doing so laid the groundwork for both World Wars.”[1]

Context: Written in 1866, he is witnessing first hand the need to united Austria and Prussia. In 1864, he led military campaigns in order to make Prussia an influential power in Europe. The Austro-Prussian War occurred in 1866 where the Austrian empire was defeated.

Language: His choices of words are meant to be powerful in describing the situation at hand.

Audience: His intended audience is the leaders of the numerous independent German states. He stresses the need of German national unity under the King of Prussia.

Intent: To provoke the need of unity under the leadership of the King of Prussia. He states, “Austria’s conflict and rivalry with us was no more culpable than ours with her; our task was the establishment or foundation of German national unity under the leadership of the King of Prussia.”[2]

Message: By avoiding the complete destruction of Austria, a friendship between Austria and Prussia needs to be established. If Austria were destroyed, the possibility of it becoming allies with France or any other enemy would be eminent. Prussia needs to unite with Austria to establish a powerful German nation.

Why: The various German states need to be united in order to fight against the other powers residing in Europe. It is a period of modern nationalism where the German states lacked an identity and needed one.