The formation of Germany as a nation state was one of the most important event in the history of the world.
Napoleon Bonaparte first sowed the seeds of nationalism in Germany. He destroyed three hundred small states of the Holy Roman Empire and established the ‘Confederation of the Rhine’.
In the Congress of Vienna, the establishment of ‘German Confederation’ of thirty-nine states was declared.
In due course of time, the cultural unity among these states, the role of universities, rapid growth of industries etc. brought unity among the ‘German Confederation of the States’.
The rise of Ottovon Bismarck and his shrewd diplomacy gave a chance for the unification of Germany.
The Role of Intellectuals and Universities:
The system which was adopted in the Vienna Congress created hurdles in the unification of ‘German Confederation of States’, but the intellectuals who lived in different parts of Germany expressed their opinion of its unification. The ideas and writings of the German Philosophers like Hegel and Schopanheuer, Scientists like Hemholtz and Virchow and the historians like Sybel and Droysen influenced the people of different parts of Germany. The Gentian Universities like Jena, Leipzig, Munich and Berlin became centres for the dissemination of liberal national ideas and thoughts.
The Liberal Movement:
The liberal movement also helped in the formation of German National Stage. In 1817 a festival was organised at Wartburg in the memories of the Reformation Movement and the battle of Leipzig which was fought during the reign of Napoleon. It created national consciousness among the German people.
At the Wartburg festival, students made a bonfire and threw to the flame some of the books, such as the ‘German History’ of Kotzbue, a spy of Russia and various other books. Later on, Kotzbue was murdered. It created the sense of Patriotism among the people of Cennany.
Considering the murder of Kotzbue as a revolutionary activity, Metternich, the shrewd diplomat of Austria summoned a meeting of the ‘German Confederation of States’ at Carlsbad in 1819. There he took some reactionary measures. It was known as the ‘Carlsbad Decree’.
According to this Decree, restrictions were imposed upon the newspapers. The organisation of the students union was banned. The universities were under the direct guidance of the government. All these measures gave a serious setback to the German Confederation of States.
The Zollverein or Economic Union:
The national economy of Germany was controlled by the ‘Economic Union’ or ‘Zolleverein’. Accordingly, Prussia and other German States joined this Union and free trade was established among them. Austria did not join it. By 1850, almost all the German states joined the ‘Zolleverein’ and Prussia became the leader of German States. This economic importance of Prussia helped in its military and political growth in the later period.
In course of time, Prussia made rapid growth in the field of industries. The Prussian Finance Minister Massen abolished restrictions on tariff. Then rapid growth was made in the field of industries under the leadership of Prussia. The growth of railways, trade and commerce among the German States also helped in the growth of their economic life. Thus rapid industrialisation also helped in the unification of Germany.
The Parliament of Frankfort:
The February Revolution of 1848 had a great impact on the German States. The Revolutionists of Prussia demanded for the establishment of the Constitutional rule in Prussia. Fredrick William IV, the King of Prussia accepted the demands of the revolutionists and granted a liberal Constitution. He established a ‘National Parliament’ in 1848 on the basis of universal franchise. It was famous in the history as the ‘Frankfort Parliament’. It passed a proposal to establish a German Confederation of States excluding Austria.
After the success of the Parliament King Fredrick William IV, proposed to establish a German Confederation of states under the leadership of Prussia. But Austria opposed this proposal. So, in 1850 the Olmutz Treaty was signed between Austria and Prussia Accordingly, Prussia was forced to return its proposal. It was an insult to Prussia. To take average of this insult, Prussia prepared herself.
Role of Emperor William I:
A new era was started in Prussia with the accession of Kaiser William 1. After his accession he tried to make the Prussian army strong. He appointed Von Roon as the War Minister and Von Molte as the Commander. By making the Prussian army very strong and using the ‘Needle Gun’ in the army Roon increased the ability of the army.
He was a Shrewd man. He advised Emperor William 1 that only the Prussian ambassador Bismarck could play a leading role at this critical juncture. So, he called Bismarck to return Prussia.
Ottovon Bismarck was the chief hero of the formation of Germany as a nation state. He was born in 1815 in an orthodox family at Bradenburg. After receiving education in Berlin and Guttingen, he joined the Prussian judicial department. After serving in several posts, he was appointed as the Ambassador of Prussia in Paris.
By the call of Emperor William I, he returned to Prussia and appointed as the Prime Minister of Prussia in 1862. He followed the ‘Blood and Iron Policy’. Due to his leadership, the unification of Germany could be possible.
The Schleswig-Holstein Question:
The first diplomatic step of Bismarck was the intervention of the Schleswig-Holstein question. These two duchies were under the sway of Denmark in 1850 by the London Protocol. Most of the people of Schleswig were Danish while the people of Holstein were largely Prussians.
Christian IX, the King of Denmark wanted to keep these two duchies under his control. At this time the combined army of Austria and Prussia under the leadership of Bismarck attacked Denmark in 1864.
Denmark was defeated in this war and the Convention of Gastein was concluded in 1865. As per the convention, Prussia got Schleswig and Austria got Holstein. This was the first diplomatic step of Bismarck against Austria.
Isolation of Austria:
Bismarck adopted the policy to isolate Austria in the continent. In 1863, Bismarck helped Russia in the suppression of the revolt of Poland and got the friendship of Russia. He arranged an interview with Napoleon III, the King of France at Biarritz and promised to give Belgium or some portions of the Rhine Valley to him and got the assurance that France would remain neutral in the Austro-Prussian War. He also got the support of Italy. This policy of Bismarck made Austria isolated in the European Politics.
The Austro-Prussian War or the Battle of Sadowa:
Austria did not want to keep Holstein under her control because it was far away from the country. Austria also demanded that Schleswig should return to Denmark and also raised this question in the Parliament. Bismarck declared war against Austria in 1866 as Austria violated the Convention of Gastein.
This War which was continued for Seven Weeks between Austria and Prussia was famous as the Battle of Sadowa. At first it was difficult for Prussia to defeat Austria. But later it defeated the neighbouring States of Austria like Bavaria, Saxon, Brunsweak etc. and then defeated Austria.
The Treaty of Prague and formation of Germany:
After the Battle of Sadowa, the ‘Treaty of Prague’ was concluded between Austria and Prussia on August 23, 1866. According to this treaty Austria was expelled from Germany. Schleswig and Holstein were given to Prussia Austria ceded Venice to Prussia. Austria had to pay the War- indemnity of £ 30,000,00 to Prussia.
After the treaty of Prague the formation of Germany was started. The states of Schleswig, Holstein, Hanover, Nassaa and Frankfort were annexed to Prussia. The States north to May River were annexed to Prussia and the North Germany Confederation was formed.
Question of Spanish Succession and Ems Telegram:
By that time Queen Isabella of Spain fled away due to the outbreak of an army revolution. The Spanish crown was offered to Prince Leopold of the Prussian Hohenzollern House and the cousin of Emperor William L But he refused the offer. Napoleon III of France was afraid of Spanish-Prussian relationship which would bring much difficulty for him.
He also opposed the Hohenzollern candidature for Spanish throne. So he ordered his War Minister Piedmont to ask Count Beneditti, the French ambassador in Prussia to extract from the Prussian King William I a written guarantee that he was not interested in the Spanish candidature.
Beneditti met King William I at Ems and informed him about the fact. But William I refused to give such a written guarantee. He sent the description of his conversation with French ambassador by a telegram to Bismarck. It was famous as the ‘Ems Telegram’ which created a golden opportunity for Bismarck.
He edited the telegram and sent it for publication. The French people thought that their ambassador had been insulted by the Prussian king while the German people thought that their king had been humiliated by the French ambassador. In this way, the field was prepared for war between France and Prussia.
The Franco-Prussian War or the Battle of Sedan:
On July 14, 1870 France declared war against Prussia. At this critical juncture, the states of South Germany joined with Prussia. Prussia marched forward after defeating France in the battles of Wesnburg, Warth and Gravelet. Emperor Napoleon III of France was defeated in the famous ‘Battle of Sedan’ on September 2, 1870 and surrendered with his 83,000 soldiers before Prussia. Then the Prussian army marched towards France and occupied Paris.
The Treaty of Frankfort and Unification of Germany:
Emperor Napoleon III of France was defeated in the battle of Sedan. France signed the Treaty of Frankfort with Prussia on May 10, 1871. According to this Treaty, France ceded Belfort to Germany. France also ceded Alsace and Lorraine to Germany. France was also forced to pay Germany the reparation of war. Till the reparation was paid, the French army was remained in Germany.
When South Germany was united with Prussia during the battle of Sedan, the German Unification was completed. On January 18, 1871 in the ‘Hall of Mirrors’ at Versailles ‘Germany’ was declared as a new state of the world. In this Hall, Emperor William I declared himself as the Kaiser (Emperor) of United Germany. The nation state of Germany was created which was an important event in the history of the World.
The Unification of Germany created a cardinal epoch in the world history. In the Hall of Mirrors, a new state named Germany was inaugurated. The creation of Germany was a stigma (blunder) in international affairs, a heavy price which Germany paid almost after 50 years while signing the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 in the same Hall of Mirrors.