Otto von Bismarck

Otto von Bismarck

In 1845, at the age of 31, Bismarck decided to leave Konarzewo, to do politics. He used to administrate Konarzewo between 1839 and 1846. During this time he met his beloved and devoted wife Joanna von Puttkamer, as well as brothers von Gerlach, what opened his way to career, which soon started to run fast. He becomes well-known as ultra-conservative royalist, witty speaker, dynamic and sometimes brutal politician.

  • In 1849 he becomes deputy in Prussian Landtag.
  • In 1851 king Wilhelm IV appoints him for deputy to Bundestag.
  • In years 1859-62 he is Prussian ambassador in Petersburg, later in Paris.
  • After telegram from the Minister of War, quickly comes back from Paris to Berlin. Making use of the moment of crisis and, thanks to support of his followers, speaks to king Wilhelm I, then on 22nd September 1862 is designated for Prime Minister of Prussia.
  • In years 1864-1871 Prussia, under leadership of Bismarck, engages in three consecutive triumphal wars. Thanks to that, unification of Germany is possible.
  • German Reich comes into being on 18th January 1871 in Palace of Versailles Hall of Mirrors, after military collapse of France. King Wilhelm I becomes Emperor and Bismarck becomes Chancellor of the Reich. For 28 years Bismarck holds the highest office in State.

For majority of Germans of that time, he became a legend, a symbol of strong Reich. Forced by Wilhelm II, resigns on 17th march 1890.

Youth in Konarzewo, looking for the way

Young Bismarck goes the way, his mother wanted for him. But his behaviour is far from her expectations. As a student he drinks a lot, meets women, and has fun. In letter to his colleague he writes: „I will become either the biggest bum or the biggest man in Prussia”. After studies, he begins law advisor application, which he aborts. He starts practice in state administration, from which he will be fired. He writes to his cousin: „Prussian official is like a musician in an orchestra. With no influence on the whole, he must play his part. I, however, want to make either my own music, or none". Start to career did not succeed. He returns to Konarzewo, which he successfully administrates in years 1839-1846. In this time he meets his future wife Joanna von Puttkamer and brothers von Gerlach, who promise to help him with his career.

In 1846, at the age o 31, he leases Konarzewo and Jarchlino, and moves to Schönhausen, closer to his protectors. Soon he gets first public office of levee manager (German Deichhauptmann) in Jerichow. He works very vigorously. Soon his political career starts running fast.

Conservative agitator

In 1847 he becomes Saxon deputy in Prussian United Parliament gathering re­pre­sen­ta­tives from Prussia (German Vereinigter Landtag, functioning with Prussian parliament – German Landtag and National Assembly – German Nationalversamlung). There, in May 1847 he delivers his first speech, in which he provokes liberals saying: "people do not deserve any constitution". He writes to Joanna: „politics moves me much more than I supposed”.

Revolution of 1848

In 1848 revolution breaks out, on 18th March army intervention and bloody fights in Berlin take place. Bismarck, together with his armed peasants, introduce order in Schönhausen. After getting information about success of the movement in Berlin, he proposes to set up with armed peasants to capital (commander-in-chief in Potsdam refuses). King Wilhelm IV decides to withdraw army from Berlin and picks up conciliatory policy towards revolutionists. On 23rd March, Bismarck gets to Princess Augusta, and persuades her about the necessity of counterrevolution. Princess recognises it as scandalous act of disloyalty towards king.

Beginning of career

The beginning of Bismarck's actual political career was January 1849, when he was elected to Prussian parliament (German Landtag). In this time, he decides to completely devote himself to politics and move to Berlin.

He becomes deputy in Erfurt Unification parliament, which works until 20th March 1850. The aim of this gathering is (supported by the king) trial of unification of Germany, carried out according to unification policy of Joseph von Radowitz. This policy seems impossible to Bismarck. This parliament seems too democratic and too parliamentary to him. Even though, his speeches are witty. He gets himself noticed as one of the greatest parliamentary speakers of those times. He becomes widely known as ultra-conservatist and royalist, dynamic and brutal. Unification project collapses, parliament gets dissolved in November 1850. German Confederation stays unchanged, with Austria as the strongest player.

On diplomatic duty

Even though he has no diplomatic experience, on 18th August 1851, king Wilhelm IV designates him for Prussian representative in frankfurter parliament (German Bundestag - highest political organ of German Confederation, German Deutsche Bund). He gets nomination thanks to protection of Leopold von Gerlach. Bismarck estimates, that it is the most important office of Prussian diplomacy. He moves with his family to Frankfurt. Frankfurt becomes his political school.

After eight years of work in Frankfurt, in January 1859 he takes office in Petersburg. He recognises it as a sidetrack. At this time, ultraconservatives lose their influence after liberal prince Wilhelm assumed power in 1857. Queen Augusta, who remembers his disloyalty in 1848, influences decisions on Bismarck’s lot. Bismarck suffers from this change in Petersburg, in the custody of Joanna, who persuades him, to give up politics.

In 1861 Wilhelm I becomes the ruler of Prussia. In Berlin, rises conflict around army reform. In March 1862, Bismarck is called back from Petersburg. Simultaneously parliament is dissolved, and new government is being formed. In the presence of these events, Bismarck hopes on taking the office of Prime Minister, but he is designated for ambassador in Paris. During holiday, he is having an affair with Katarina Orlova (wife of Russian envoy in Belgium). Joanna is very tolerant about it.

Gained his goal, Bismarck becomes Prime Minister

On 19th September, 10 days after holiday, Bismarck gets a telegram from Minister of War Albrecht von Roon, signalising the turning point and necessity of immediate return to capital. General sees Bismarck as an appropriate person to solve problems. King considers abdication, because liberal majority in parliament do not accept budget on army. Bismarck, like in 1848, feels called to "rescue monarchy and Prussia". He gets on the train and on 20th September meets general in Berlin. He stands in front of the king. He promises to restrain the parliament and solve the conflict successfully for the king. His determination is impressive. On 22nd September 1862 he is designated for Prime Minister of Prussia. At the age of 47 he stands in the front of Prussian government. Now he will be the "director leading the orchestra". He fulfills his dreams.

In one of two most important speeches, he says: „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.” Bismarck puts down press freedom, ignores parliament, realises tough policy, according to his promises to king.

Unification of Germany, Reich is born

Prussia, under leadership of Bismarck, engage in three consecutive triumphal wars:

The aim of these wars was to enable unification of Germany under the leadership of Prussia, thanks to elimination of Austria - dominating power in German Confederation. German Reich comes into being yet before formal French capitulation on 18 January 1871 in Palace of Versailles Hall of Mirrors. King Wilhelm becomes the Emperor and Bismarck the Chancellor of Reich.

After forming unified state, time of peace comes. Bismarck tries to enforce Reich's position in Europe, through diplomacy. With a heavy hand, he takes up home policy. His goal is to defend monarchy from social-democracy and revolution. Since he cannot come to an agreement with parliament, he dissolves it. He is urgent and rash, also in contacts with the monarch. He hits tables, throws cups, threatens with a suicide. Wilhelm I admitted "It is hard to by Emperor beneath Bismarck".

End of career, end of the road

Emperor Wilhelm I dies on 9th March 1888. Young Wilhelm II assumes power. Political switch takes place. New emperor wants to be loved by people, also by workers. In May 1890, social-democrats get majority in parliament. Bismarck wants the parliament to be dissolved and Wilhelm wants to get rid of old despot. In the morning on 17th March 1890, Emperor calls Bismarck to the palace and to resigns the same day. Dismissal comes the next day. Wilhelm shouts "Finally, I am the emperor!" After 28 years of governing the state, at the age of 75, Bismarck leaves Berlin. For majority of Germans of that time, he became a legend, a symbol of stron Reich. At the end of 1894, his beloved Joanna dies, he follows her on 30th June 1898.