This Day in History (4/1/22) The “Iron Chancellor is Born”

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Andrew Hargett, Feature Editor

This Day in History marks the day on which renowned German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck was Born. Otto von Bismarck was chancellor of the North German Confederation and the German Empire and would become famous for the actions he took to unite Germany into one country.

 

Otto von Bismarck was born on April 1st, 1815 in his family’s estate in  Schönhausen, Germany west of Berlin. Bismarck was born into a family of Nobility having his father hold land in the Kingdom of Prussia and serve as an officer in the Prussian army. From a young age, Bismarck had a gift for conversation and knew five other languages besides his own. While at the University at Gottingen Bismarck would befriend an American named John Lothrop Motley who would describe him as a gifted and charming man. Bismarck for a short time pursued a career in Law, even though he wanted to become a diplomat where he would eventually quit. Shortly after this, he would be conscripted into the army for a period of one year where he served in the reserves. After his mandatory service in the military, he would return to his family’s estate after his mother’s death. While at the estate he would meet a woman named Marie von Thadden who had just married one of his friends. They would become very good friends until her death, afterwards, he would write a letter asking to have her cousin Johanna von Puttkamer’s hand in marriage; they were married on July 28th, 1847. This would be Bismarck’s only wife with whom he had all three of his children. 

 

Bismarck’s early political career was rather unnoteworthy as he was just beginning. One of the first major responsibilities that Bismarck would have to deal with in his career was the Revolutions of 1848 which saw massive liberal movements rise up, these movements were generally anti-monarchist and wanted to challenge the status quo. In Germany, these revolts also included groups that wanted to see Germany Unified. Bismarck’s role in these revolts would see him elected to the Landtag which was a Prussian legislative body similar to that of the British Parliament. Bismarck was initially against German Unification as he thought it would strip Prussia of its independence. Later on, Bismarck would be appointed to the Diet of the German Confederation where he traveled to the German city of Frankfurt. During his time in Frankfurt Bismarck’s political beliefs changed as he was exposed to other beliefs in the city. One of the main beliefs that changed was his thoughts on German Unification. Bismarck realized that to counteract the Austian’s the Germans needed to ally with each other to oppose Austria. This change in thought would shape Bismarck’s actions and aspirations in time to come. After a few years as ambassador to the Russians, Wilhelm returned to Prussia and was appointed Prime minister by the new Prussian King Wilhelm. Bismarck took charge during a tumultuous time in Europe the balance of power was changing due to the Crimean War and the First Italian War of Independence, this change of power would see Germany becoming the dominant power in Europe. One of the first things Bismarck did was resolve the budget deadlock that was present in the Landtag, Bismarck resolved this deadlock and allowed for the re-organization of the Army. 

 

The thing that would mark Bismarck in the annals of history would be the famous Franco-Prussian war of 1870 this war would see the unification of Germany and the humiliation of France. This war would be started on July 19th, 1870 after the Ems Dispatch which was a carefully edited transcript of the conversation between the Prussian King and a French diplomat. This transcript was edited to make it seem as if the French had insulted the Prussian King. Bismarck’s subtle political maneuvering made the French seem like the aggressor in this war which would cause the southern German states to join the Prussian’s side against the French. The war went amazingly for the Prussians as all of the major battles of the war were fought only in one month and would see the surrender of both of the French armies at the Battle of Sedan and the Siege of Metz. During the Battle of Sedan, the Prussians captured Napoleon III which would shorten the war significantly, after a short siege of Paris the French surrendered and would cede the territories of Alsace and most of Lorraine, and the French government would be forced to pay the Germans large amounts of war reparations. Bismarck had used this war to successfully unite the German states into one singular nation and the German Empire was formed on January 18, 1871.

 

Bismarck would be known for his important role in the unification of Germany and his brilliant political maneuvering. Bismarck has become a unifying figure in German history and is well known in history for his important role in it. But it was on this day in 1815 that the “Iron Chancellor” was born