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king, having refused the imperial title, longed for the power;
The Emperor of Austria was restored to his power by the
representatives of the King of Prussia receive the orders of the Czar, and the Hohenzollern king lies prostrate at the feet of the Hapsburg emperor. The humiliation was so great that the Count of Brandenburg, an illegitimate offspring of the royal house of Hohenzollern, died of a broken heart.
In the following year, the downfall of Prussia and the tri
umph of Austria were shown to the world by another event. Prussia was obliged to march with an Austrian army to the subjugation of Schleswig-Holstein, which was surrendered to Denmark. Since the Thirty-years' War, no Austrian army had been seen in Northern Germany, which, especially since the creation of the Kingdom of Prussia, was considered a kind of domain of that power. Such were the humiliation and the punishment of the House of Hohenzollern in 1857, for having refused to unite its destiny with the regenerated Germany. The world knows that the guilty king died an idiot.
When he had become incapable of holding the reins of the government, his brother, the present king, then regent, found Prussia hated in Germany, despised abroad, and ruled by a faction composed of narrow-minded nobles and fanatical bigots,- a kind of Protestant Jesuits. The immense majority of the Prussian people were disgusted with that meanest of all despotisms. As Prince of Prussia, as heir apparent, the present king had been himself an object of hatred and fear to the ruling faction. For several years he had been living in a kind of exile. Cursed by the people in 1848 as the upholder of absolutism, and the instigator of the massacres at Berlin in the month of March of that year, he was for a while obliged to seek an asylum in England. Now his assumption of the government and his first acts were hailed as the opening of a new era. This jubilation was the fruit of a half-conscious delusion, which filled the minds of both leaders and people. The regent, now King William I., would have liked to be a gracious master to his people, but would not condescend to become a constitutional king, accepting the law from the representatives of the nation. He was willing to rule according to the constitution, if his interpretation of it were acknowledged as the supreme law of the land. At his coronation, he solemnly declared that he had received his crown from God, and that he would maintain the royal power intact. His convictions are military, aristocratic, and monarchical; his character is marked by an obstinate will and a narrow understanding. The Liberals hoped to coax, to cheat him into the passive rule of a constitutional monarch..
During the Italian war of 1859, the flame of discontent, and political and national aspirations, blazed up with new violence in Prussia and in the whole of Germany. All over the country a national association was formed for the realization of German unity. That association represented especially the intelligent and wealthy middle classes: the masses approved of its aim, but desired more energy of action and fuller profession of democratic principles. The government of Prussia, then in the hands of the moderate Liberals, favored the general tendency of the National Association, whose majority sought a united Germany with the King of Prussia as emperor, and with the exclusion of Austria; while the radical party, principally consisting of representatives of the Southwest, were more or less opposed to the predominance of Prussia. Austria, trying to recover herself after the disas-trous campaign in Italy, and finding that the idea of German unity was the most powerful means of success, endeavored to snatch it from the outstretched hands of Prussia. The em. peror Francis Joseph called on the German sovereigns to convene at Frankfort, where he submitted to them a plan for the reconstruction of Germany. The King of Prussia refused to take part in the proceedings; declaring that the regeneration of Germany could not be undertaken by the sovereigns alone, but ought to be the common work of the princes, together with a National Parliament. Although this important declaration was made by the advice of the Liberal ministry, and scarcely expressed the convictions and real intentions of the king, it nevertheless proved that the Prussian monarch had learned to know the spirit and the controlling exigencies of the time. The chief of the Hohenzollern understood, that, to defeat the Hapsburg, he now needed more than diplomacy or his army; that he had to ally himself with the national idea of unity.
But, in 1860, things had not yet come to their maturity. The king's personal feelings were too much engaged in the defence of his absolute monarchical power, against the efforts of the people and their leaders, to enact positive constitutional rights. To accept the lead of the regeneration of Ger
many from the hands of the Liberals, would have obliged him to accept also their principles in the government of Prussia; to become a constitutional ruler at home, in order to become Emperor of Germany by the will of the people. Against this idea, his Hohenzollern pride and his monarchical nature revolted. The conflict between him and his Liberal ministers grew more serious, although these men, in their condescension, had almost entirely divested themselves of their political principles. The Liberals in the House of Representatives became impatient; the people bolder, more pressing, more radical. A crisis was inevitable. The king
dismissed the ministry, composed of moderate liberals, and — . took BISMARK.
And now began a long and violent struggle between the royal power and the popular claims. To-day we should fully understand the real cause and aim of this combat, even if we had not the confessions of the bold and energetic man, whose name, admired or hated, will stand on the titlepage of a great chapter of German history.
Bismark undertook to keep the royal power, the majesty of the House of Hohenzollern, above the threatening flood of democracy: he labored to show to the world the King of Prussia surrounded with the laurels of a royal conqueror at home, before he should enter the field as a conqueror for the aggrandizement of Prussian monarchy, and by it of German unity. Bismark is the Richelieu of Germany: better would it be were he her Cavour.
Let us succinctly consider the events which preceded and prepared the present culmination of Bismark's policy. When he took the direction of affairs, he found the great majority of the Prussian people and their representatives firmly resolved not to yield to the king's pretensions. The contest raged about the right of the House of Representatives to vote, or to refuse the budget. The king interpreted the constitution so as to allow the Government to continue the collection of the existing taxes, as long as the Government and the legislature had not come to an agreement about a new budget. Besides the defence of the absolute royal power, there
lay at the bottom of this quarrel another question, whose real bearings were perhaps unknown to the king himself, until Bismark brought them in full light before his eyes. The king had in its fullest measure the Hohenzollern passion for a strong, well-disciplined, and brilliant army: he believed that its efficiency would be increased by keeping the men three years, instead of two, in the regular army; and by modifying the system of the militia, the essentially democratic part of the Prussian military system. He had put his plan into execution; and used, without a law, the public treasure to carry it out, and to maintain it. Bismark wanted the largest army possible for the execution of his plans. The nation and her representatives protested against the violation of the consti. tution, and fought against the new organization of the army, both on political and economical grounds. Bismark treated the representatives of the people with the most insulting, aristocratic contempt. The House was repeatedly dissolved; and each time the people sent back an increased and more incensed majority against the Government. A crisis was imminent. A popular revolution was considered impossible by the leaders of the Liberal party, who were too timid to think of a revolution. The complete abolition of the constitution, or at least its radical modification, was quite generally expected. The Prussian people groaned under the most brutal régime of ministerial tyranny and arrogance.
The Germans outside of Prussia looked with hatred and abomination on her Government; and the idea of accepting Prussia as the head of re-organized Germany became loathsome to thousands who formerly cherished it, or at least accepted it as a rational necessity.
Such was the situation of Prussia just before the present war broke out. Bismark had again dissolved the Chamber, and the immense majority of the people pronounced violently against him. During all that time, the patriotic speeches of the Prussian Liberals in the House of Representatives about the unity of Germany were sneered at by Bismark. Once only he threw at them these words, “Such questions are not solved by speeches, but by steel and blood.” Ridi