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during the conversation of May 31st the Prince had said that he had
never asked the Prussians for help, and that he could have got on very
well without them. It was just the sort of thing which would strongly
prejudice the King against him, and Bismarck was very anxious to destroy
the influence which the Prince still had with the King and with many
other Prussians. At that time, and always later, the Prince denied that
he had said anything of the kind. Even if, in the course of a long
conversation, he had said anything which might have been interpreted to
mean this, it was a great breach of confidence to publish these words
from a private discussion taken out of their context. The Prussian Press
received the word, and for years to come did not cease to pour out its
venom against the Prince. This action of Bismarck's seemed quite to
justify the apprehension with which the Prince had gone to Berlin.

It is not necessary to look for any far-fetched explanation of
Bismarck's action; the simplest is the most probable. He had not
arranged the interview with any intention of entrapping Augustenburg; he
had really been doubtful whether, after all, it might not be wiser to
accept the Prince and make a separate treaty with him. All depended on
his personal character and the attitude he adopted towards Prussia.
Bismarck, who had great confidence in his own judgment of mankind,
regarded a personal interview as the best means of coming to a
conclusion; the result of it was that he felt it impossible to rely on
the Prince, who, instead of being open, positive, and ready to do
business, was reserved, hesitating, distrustful, and critical. Bismarck
had given him his chance; he had failed to seize it. Instead of being a
grateful client he was a mere obstacle in the road of Prussian
greatness, and had to be swept away. Against him all the resources of
diplomacy were now directed. His influence must be destroyed, but not by
force, for his strength came from his very weakness; the task was to
undermine the regard which the German people had for him and their
enthusiasm for his cause - work to be properly assigned to the Prussian

The Conference in London separated at the end of June without coming to
any conclusion; it had, however, enabled Bismarck formally to dissociate
himself from the former Treaty of London, and henceforward he had a free
hand in his dealings with Denmark.

Another brilliant feat of arms, the transference of the Prussian troops
across the sea to the island of Alsen, completed the war. Denmark had to
capitulate, and the terms of peace, which were ultimately decided at
Vienna, were that Schleswig, Holstein, and also Lauenburg should be
given up. Christian transferred to the Emperor of Austria and the King
of Prussia all the rights which he possessed. As to Lauenburg the matter
was simple - the authority of the King of Denmark over this Duchy was
undisputed; as to Schleswig-Holstein all the old questions still
continued; the King had transferred his rights, but what were his
rights? He could only grant that which belonged to him; if the Prince of
Augustenburg was Duke, then the King of Denmark could not confer another
man's throne. There was, however, this difference: hitherto the question
had been a European one, but since the London Congress no other State
had any claim to interfere. The disputed succession of the Duchies must
be settled between Austria and Prussia. It was a special clause in the
terms of peace that it should be decided by agreement between them and
not referred to the Diet.




Bismarck always looked back with peculiar pleasure on the negotiations
which were concluded by the Peace of Vienna. His conduct of the affair
had in fact been masterly; he had succeeded in permanently severing the
Duchies from Denmark; he had done this without allowing foreign nations
the opportunity for interfering; he had maintained a close alliance with
Austria; he had pleased and flattered the Emperors of Russia and France.
What perhaps gave him most satisfaction was that, though the result had
been what the whole of the German nation desired, he had brought it
about by means which were universally condemned, and the rescue of the
Duchies had been a severe defeat to the Democratic and National party.

With the Peace a new stage begins; the Duchies had been transferred to
the Allied Powers; how were they now to be disposed of? We have seen
that Bismarck desired to acquire them for Prussia; if it were absolutely
necessary, he would accept an arrangement which would leave them to be
ruled by another Prince, provided very extensive rights were given to
Prussia. He would acquiesce in this arrangement if annexation would
involve a war with one of the European Powers. If, however, a Duke of
Schleswig-Holstein was to be created he was determined that it should
not be the Prince of Augustenburg, whom he distrusted and disliked. The
real object of his diplomacy must be to get the Duchies offered to
Prussia; it was, however, very improbable, as the Czar once said to him,
that this would happen.

He wished for annexation, but he wished to have it peacefully; he had
not forgotten his own resolution to have a war with Austria, but he did
not wish to make the Duchies the occasion of a war. Austria, however,
refused to assent to annexation unless the King of Prussia would give
her a corresponding increase of territory; this the King positively
refused. It was an unchangeable principle with him that he would not
surrender a single village from the Prussian Monarchy; his pride
revolted from the idea of bartering old provinces for new. If Austria
would not offer the Duchies to Prussia, neither would the Diet; the
majority remained loyal to Augustenburg. The people of the Duchies were
equally determined in their opposition to the scheme; attempts were made
by Bismarck's friends and agents to get up a petition to incorporate
them with Prussia, but they always failed. Even the Prussian people were
not really very anxious for this acquisition, and it required two years
of constant writing in the inspired Press to bring them into such a
state of mind that they would believe that it was, I will not say the
most honourable, but the most desirable solution. The King himself
hesitated. It was true that ever since the taking of the Düppel the lust
of conquest had been aroused in his mind; he had visited the place where
so many Prussian soldiers had laid down their lives; and it was a
natural feeling if he wished that the country they had conquered should
belong to their own State. On the other hand, he still felt that the
rights of Augustenburg could not be neglected; when he discussed the
matter with the Emperor of Austria and the subject of annexation was
raised, he remained silent and was ill at ease.

If Bismarck was to get his way, he must first of all convince the King;
this done, an opportunity might be found. There was one man who was
prepared to offer him the Duchies, and that man was Napoleon. It is
instructive to notice that as soon as the negotiations at Vienna had
been concluded, Bismarck went to spend a few weeks at his old holiday
resort of Biarritz. He took the opportunity of having some conversation
with both the Emperor and his Ministers.

He required rest and change after the prolonged anxieties of the two
years; at no place did he find it so well as in the south of France:

"It seems like a dream to be here again," he writes to his wife.
"I am already quite well, and would be quite cheerful if I only
knew that all was well with you. The life I lead at Berlin is a
kind of penal servitude, when I think of my independent life
abroad." Seabathing, expeditions across the frontier, and sport
passed three weeks. "I have not for a long time found myself in
such comfortable conditions, and yet the evil habit of work has
rooted itself so deeply in my nature, that I feel some disquiet
of conscience at my laziness. I almost long for the
Wilhelmstrasse, at least if my dear ones were there."

On the 25th he left "dear Biarritz" for Paris, where he found plenty of
politics awaiting him; here he had another of those interviews with
Napoleon and his Ministers on which so much depended, and then he went
back to his labours at Berlin.

At that time he was not prepared to break with Austria, and he still
hoped that some peaceful means of acquisition might be found, as he
wrote some months later to Goltz, "We have not got all the good we can
from the Austrian alliance." Prussia had the distinct advantage that she
was more truly in possession of the Duchies than Austria. This
possession would more and more guarantee its own continuance; it was
improbable that any Power would undertake an offensive war to expel her.
On the whole, therefore, Bismarck seems to have wished for the present
to leave things as they were; gradually to increase the hold of Prussia
on the Duchies, and wait until they fell of themselves into his hands.
In pursuit of this policy it was necessary, however, to expel all other
claimants, and this could not be done without the consent of Austria;
this produced a cause of friction between the two great Powers which
made it impossible to maintain the co-dominium.

There were in Holstein the Confederate troops who had gone there a year
ago and had never been withdrawn; Augustenburg was still living at Kiel
with his phantom Court; and then there were the Austrian soldiers,
Prussia's own allies. One after another they had to be removed. Bismarck
dealt first with the Confederate troops.

He had, as indeed he always was careful to have, the strict letter of
the law on his side; he pointed out that as the execution had been
directed against the government of Christian, and Christian had ceased
to have any authority, the execution itself must _ipso facto_ cease; he
therefore wrote asking Austria to join in a demand to Saxony and
Hanover; he was prepared, if the States refused, to expel their troops
by force. Hanover - for the King strongly disliked Augustenburg - at once
acquiesced; Saxony refused. Bismarck began to make military
preparations; the Saxons began to arm; the Crown treasures were taken
from Dresden to Königstein. Would Austria support Saxony or Prussia? For
some days the question was in debate; at last Austria determined to
support a motion at the Diet declaring the execution ended. It was
carried by eight votes to seven, and the Saxons had to obey. The troops
on their return home refused to march across Prussian territory; and
from this time Beust and the King of Saxony must be reckoned among the
determined and irreconcilable enemies of Bismarck.

The first of the rivals was removed; there remained Austria and the

Just at this time a change of Ministry had taken place in Austria;
Rechberg, who had kept up the alliance, was removed, and the
anti-Prussian party came to the front. It was, therefore, no longer so
easy to deal with the Prince, for he had a new and vigorous ally in
Austria. Mensdorf, the new Minister, proposed in a series of lengthy
despatches his solution of the question; it was that the rights of the
two Powers should be transferred to Augustenburg, and that
Schleswig-Holstein should be established as an independent Confederate
State. The Austrian position was from this time clearly defined, and it
was in favour of that policy to which Bismarck would never consent. It
remained for him to propose an alternative. Prussia, he said, could only
allow the new State to be created on condition that large rights were
given to Prussia; what these were would require consideration; he must
consult the different departments. This took time, and every month's
delay was so much gain for Prussia; it was not till February, 1865, that
Bismarck was able to present his demands, which were, that Kiel should
be a Prussian port, Rendsburg a Prussian fortress; that the canal was to
be made by Prussia and belong to Prussia, the management of the post and
telegraph service to be Prussian and also the railways; the army was to
be not only organised on the Prussian system but actually incorporated
with the Prussian army, so that the soldiers would take the oath of
allegiance not to their own Duke but to the King of Prussia. The Duchies
were to join the Prussian Customs' Union and assimilate their system of
finance with that of Prussia. The proposals were so drawn up that it
would be impossible for Austria to support, or for the Prince of
Augustenburg to accept them. They were, in fact, as Bismarck himself
told the Crown Prince, not meant to be accepted. "I would rather dig
potatoes than be a reigning Prince under such conditions," said one of
the Austrian Ministers. When they were officially presented, Karolyi was
instructed to meet them with an unhesitating negative, and all
discussion on them ceased.

Prussia and Austria had both proposed their solution; each State even
refused to consider the suggestion made by the other. Meanwhile, since
the departure of the Confederate troops the administration of the
Duchies was in their hands; each Power attempted so to manage affairs as
to prepare the way for the final settlement it desired, Prussia for
annexation, Austria for Augustenburg. Prince Frederick was still living
at Kiel. His position was very anomalous: he assumed the style and title
of a reigning Prince, he was attended by something like a Court and by
Ministers; throughout Holstein, almost without exception, and to a great
extent also in Schleswig, he was looked upon and treated by the
population as their lawful sovereign; his birthday was celebrated as a
public holiday; he was often prayed for in church. All this the
Austrians regarded with equanimity and indirectly supported; Bismarck
wished to expel him from the country, but could not do so without the
consent of Austria. At the end of March the matter again came up in the
Diet; Bavaria and Saxony brought in a motion that they expected that
Austria and Prussia would transfer the administration to Frederick. The
Prussian Envoy rose and explained that they might expect it, but that
Prussia would not fulfil their expectations; he moved that the claims of
all candidates should be considered by the Diet, not only those of
Augustenburg and of the Duke of Oldenburg, but also of Brandenburg.

The claims of Brandenburg were a new weapon of which Bismarck was glad
to avail himself. No one supposed that they had really any foundation;
they were not seriously put forward; but if the motion was carried, the
Diet would be involved in the solution of a very complicated and
necessarily very lengthy legal discussion. What the result was would be
known from the beginning, but the Diet and its committees always worked
slowly, and Bismarck could with much force maintain that, until they had
come to a decision, there was no reason for handing over the
administration to Augustenburg; it was at least decent not to do this
till the claims of the rivals had been duly weighed. In the months that
must elapse many things might happen. In the meantime the Diet would be
helpless. When it had come to a decision he would then be able to point
out, as he had already done, that they had no legal power for
determining who was the ruler of any State, and that their decision
therefore was quite valueless, and everything would have been again
exactly as it was before. Austria supported the motion of Saxony, which
was carried by nine votes to six. Prussia answered by sending her fleet
from Danzig to Kiel, and occupying the harbour; the Government asked
for a vote for the erection of fortifications and docks and for the
building of a fleet; the Chamber refused the money, but Roon declared
publicly in the House that Prussia would retain Kiel, - they had gone
there and did not intend to leave. The occupation of Kiel was an open
defiance to Austria; that it was intended to be so is shewn by the fact
that a few days later Bismarck wrote to Usedom, the Prussian Minister at
Florence, instructing him to sound the Italian Government as to whether
they would be willing to join Prussia in war against Austria. At the
same time he wrote to Goltz to find out in Paris whether there was any
alliance between Austria and France. It would be some time before
foreign relations could be sufficiently cleared up for him to determine
whether or not war would be safe. He occupied the intervening period by
continuing the negotiations as to the principles on which the joint
administration should be conducted. He came forward with a new proposal
and one which was extremely surprising, that the Estates of the Duchies
should be summoned, and negotiations entered into with them. It is one
of the most obscure of all his actions; he did it contrary to the advice
of those on the spot. Everyone warned him that if the Estates were
summoned their first action would be to proclaim Augustenburg as Duke.
Some suppose that the King insisted on his taking this step; that is,
however, very improbable; others that he proposed it in order that it
might be rejected by Austria, so that Austria might lose the great
influence which by her support of Augustenburg she was gaining in
Germany. Austria, however, accepted the proposal, and then negotiations
began as to the form in which the Estates should be called together;
what should be the relations to them of the two Powers? This gave rise
to a minute controversy, which could not be settled, and no doubt
Bismarck did not wish that it should be settled. One of his conditions,
however, was that, before the Estates were summoned, Augustenburg should
be compelled to leave Holstein. Of course the Prince refused, for he
well knew that, if he once went away, he would never be allowed to
return. The Duke of Oldenburg, who was always ready to come forward when
Bismarck wished it, himself demanded the expulsion of the Prince. The
King of Prussia wrote a severe letter to Augustenburg, intimating his
displeasure at his conduct and warning him to leave the country. The
Prince answered, as he always did to the King, expressing his gratitude
and his constant loyalty to Prussia, but refused, and his refusal was
published in the papers. It was still impossible to remove him except by
force, but before he ventured on that Bismarck had to make secure the
position of Prussia.

At the beginning of July events began to move towards a crisis. Bismarck
had appointed a commission of Prussian lawyers to report on the legal
claim of the different candidates for the Ducal throne; their report was
now published. They came to the conclusion, as we might anticipate that
they would, that Augustenburg had absolutely no claim, and that legally
the full authority was possessed by the two Powers who had the _de
facto_ government. Their opinion did not carry much weight even in
Prussia itself, but they seem to have succeeded in convincing the King.
Hitherto he had always been haunted by the fear lest, in dispossessing
Augustenburg, he would be keeping a German Prince from the throne which
was his right, and that to him was a very serious consideration. Now his
conscience was set at rest. From this time the last support which
Augustenburg had in Prussia was taken from him, for the Crown Prince,
who always remained faithful to him, was almost without influence.
Bismarck was henceforward able to move more rapidly. On the 5th of July
the Prince's birthday was celebrated throughout the Duchy with great
enthusiasm; this gave bitter offence to the King; shortly afterwards
Bismarck left Berlin and joined the King, who was taking his annual cure
at Carlsbad, and for July 28th a Council of State was summoned to meet
at Regensburg. Probably this is the only instance of a King coming to so
important a decision outside his own territories. The Council was
attended not only by the Ministers, but also by some of the generals and
by Goltz, who was summoned from Paris for the purpose. It was determined
to send an ultimatum to Austria; the chief demand was that Austria
should withdraw all support from Augustenburg, and agree immediately to
eject him from the Duchies. If Austria refused to agree, Prussia would
do so herself; he was to be seized, put on board a ship, and carried off
to East Prussia. To shew that they were in earnest, a beginning was made
by seizing in Holstein Prussian subjects who had written in the
newspapers in a sense opposed to the wishes of the Prussian Government,
and carrying them off to be tried at Berlin. In order to be prepared for
all possibilities, an official request was sent to Italy to ask for her
assistance in case of an outbreak of war. After these decisions were
arrived at, the King continued his journey to Gastein to complete his
cure; there, on Austrian territory in company with Bismarck, he awaited
the answer.

In Austria opinions were divided; the feeling of annoyance with Prussia
had been steadily growing during the last year. The military party was
gaining ground; many would have been only too glad to take up the
challenge. It would indeed have been their wisest plan to do so - openly
to support the claim of Augustenburg, to demand that the Estates of
Holstein should be at once summoned, and if Bismarck carried out his
threats, to put herself at the head of Germany and in the name of the
outraged right of a German Prince and a German State to take up the
Prussian challenge.

There were, however, serious reasons against this. The Emperor was very
reluctant to go to war, and, as so often, the personal feelings of the
rulers had much to do with the policy of the Government. Then the
internal condition of Austria both politically and financially was very
unsatisfactory; it would have been necessary to raise a loan and this
could not be easily done. There was also the constant danger from Italy,
for Austria knew that, even if there were no alliance, as soon as she
was attacked on one side by Prussia, the Italians on the other side
would invade Venetia. Count Metternich was instructed to ask Napoleon,
but received as an answer that they could not hope for a French
alliance; the Austrians feared that he might already be engaged on the
side of Prussia. For all these reasons it was determined to attempt to
bring about a compromise. A change of Ministry took place, and Count
Blome, one of the new Ministers, was sent to Gastein. He found both the
King and Bismarck not disinclined to some compromise. The reports both
from Florence and Paris did not seem to Bismarck to be entirely
satisfactory: he did not find such readiness as he had hoped for; he
feared that some secret understanding might be arrived at between
Austria and Napoleon; and then, as we have seen, he was really anxious
to avoid war for the sake of the Duchies; he had not given up his
intention of war with Austria some day, but it would be impossible to
find a less agreeable excuse for it.

"Halbuber and Augustenburg are acting so that we shall soon have
to apply force; this will cause bad blood in Vienna; it is not
what I wish, but Austria gives us no choice,"

he had written a few days before. After a few days of indecision a
compromise therefore was agreed upon. The joint administration of the
Duchies was to be given up; Austria was to administer Holstein, Prussia,
Schleswig; they both undertook not to bring the question before the
Diet; the Duchy of Lauenburg was to be handed over absolutely to the
King of Prussia, the Emperor of Austria receiving two million thalers
for his share. Lauenburg was the first new possession which Bismarck
was able to offer to the King; the grateful monarch conferred on him the
title of Count, and in later years presented to him large estates out of
the very valuable royal domains. It was from Lauenburg that in later
years the young German Emperor took the title which he wished to confer
on the retiring Chancellor.





The arrangement made at Gastein could not be permanent; it was only a
temporary expedient to put off the conflict which henceforward was
inevitable - inevitable, that is, if the Emperor of Austria still refused
to sell Holstein to Prussia. It was, however, so far as it went, a great
gain to Prussia, because it deprived Austria of the esteem of the other
German States. Her strength had hitherto lain in her strict adhesion to
popular feeling and to what the majority of the Germans, Princes and
people alike, believed was justice; by coming to a separate agreement
with Prussia, she had shaken their confidence. Bavaria especially was

Online LibraryJames Wycliffe HeadlamBismarck and the Foundation of the German Empire → online text (page 15 of 30)