The wars of unification 1862–1870
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The wars of unification 1862–1870 book
The domestic political situation in Prussia that awaited Bismarck and that was indeed the reason for his appointment was intractable. The new prime minister could not give way to the chamber on the military budget without reneging on his promise to the king, on whom he was wholly dependent for his continuance in office. An obvious way out was to make progress in foreign affairs, to offer a way forward on the big pending questions of greater unity in Germany. On this Bismarck might find some common ground with the Liberals. They were almost to a man supporters of a kleindeutsch solution and were disillusioned with the lack of progress made by Bismarck’s predecessors. Appearing before the budget commission of the chamber on 30 September the new prime minister made it clear that he was unyielding on the constitutional conflict and was prepared if necessary to govern and tax without a budget voted by the chamber, but otherwise he sought to sound conciliatory. The ‘appalling frankness’, which was sometimes Bismarck’s way of talking, was, however, hardly likely to find favour with the deputies and many of his remarks were considered offensive. The passage which hit the headlines and has clung to Bismarck ever since was:
Germany does not look to Prussia’s liberalism, but to her power; Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden may indulge their liberalism, but they cannot play the role of Prussia; Prussia must gather her strength and preserve it for the favourable moment, which has already been missed several times; Prussia’s borders according to the treaties of Vienna are not conducive to the healthy existence of the state; the great questions of the time will not be decided by speeches and majority resolutions – that was the great mistake of 1848 and 1849 – but by iron and blood.