In the Opinion Pages of the New York Times, Kenneth Weisbrode describes how the international conflicts during the American Civil War lead to closer ties between the US and the newly unified Germany. While many European nations were still bent on expansion, the US and Germany were focused on internal unification which helped them become the dominate nations in the coming century. I was a little put off of Weisbrode’s article at first as he tried to simplify the American Civil War as a war against slavery. With that aside, Weisbrode offers a good explanation of how the American Civil War was important internationally and not just for the US.
We usually think of the Civil War as a uniquely American event, a war unlike any other fought in the Western world during the 19th century. And of course that’s true, strictly speaking: no other country saw itself split in two over slavery. But that’s not the only way to think of the war. Put a different way, the Civil War was just one of several wars for national unification — including fighting in Italy and Germany — on both sides of the Atlantic during the mid-19th century.
While countries like Britain and France were concentrating on expansion through colonization, the United States, Germany and others were focused inward, developing — intentionally or not — the centralizing powers that have defined the modern state ever since. What seems like a particularly American event was really part of a much larger, and much more significant, historical trend.
As a war of national unification, the Civil War represented a sharp historical break, a moment of crisis that would define the country’s course for decades to come. Beforehand, the notions of national unification and expansion had been indivisible: just 15 years prior, the United States defeated Mexico in a bloody war that brought vast territories under occupation and destroyed the delicate balance between slave and free states. Some people predicted the worst. “The United States will conquer Mexico,” claimed Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1846, “but it will be as the man swallows the arsenic which brings him down in turn. Mexico will poison us.” Ulysses S. Grant went so far as to declare the Civil War divine punishment for the Mexican conflict.
Read the rest of the article at Why Bismarck Loved Lincoln – NYTimes.com.
WE should all thank Herr Otto Von Bismark. Why we should thank this great German general will emerge further down in the article. He was a formidable figure, famous in his day and is still an historical figure to reckon with. The history of Germany cannot be understood without some knowledge of the ‘Iron Chancellor’, as he was called.
Every fortnight former civil servants should thank this imposing figure from the nineteenth century. In old age he was impressive, with his walrus moustache and bushy eyebrows. He is as quotable as Churchill and his utterances make more sense.
Read More at Danke schön Herr Otto Von Bismark.
Story by Michael Mullen – The Connaught Telegraph
FEW STATESMEN in modern history have had a more profound impact on European politics than the founder of the German nation state, Otto von Bismarck. As German chancellor between 1871 and 1890 Bismarck established the previously fragmented German Empire as the dominant economic and political power on the European continent.
In the field of domestic politics he was far less cohesive: by persecuting the socialists and the Catholic Centre Party in the 1870s and 1880s he left a legacy of bitterness among those he sought to destroy. Loathed by the political left and venerated by conservatives, Bismarck has remained a controversial and divisive historical figure ever since.
Jonathan Steinberg’s new biography of the Iron Chancellor – the first to appear in more than 20 years – is set to renew the controversy over Bismarck and his political legacies. As Steinberg makes clear from the start, he finds the subject of his well-written book both repulsive and fascinating – a judgment shared by many of Bismarck’s contemporaries.
Unlike Bismarck’s previous biographers, Steinberg is less concerned with the historical events and social structures that shaped his subject’s life than with how a person as unpleasant as Bismarck came to dominate German politics more totally than anyone before or since Hitler.
Born in 1815, the year the Congress of Vienna reordered the war-torn continent after the fall of Napoleon, Bismarck was in many ways an unlikely candidate to play a prominent role in international politics. A rural aristocrat with a reputation for outrageously undiplomatic statements, reactionary views and a dissolute lifestyle, he nonetheless possessed several talents that marked him out, combining an enormous self-confidence with a rare rhetorical skill that even his bitterest opponents had to acknowledge. But his genius had a darker side, too: a deep-rooted urge to dominate his fellow human beings at any cost and a ruthless determination to achieve his ambitious political objectives.
When, for example, in June 1862, Bismarck visited London he astonished his listeners at a reception also attended by the Austrian ambassador and the future British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli with a blunt statement outlining his plans for Europe’s future: “As soon as the army has been brought into such a condition as to inspire respect I shall seize the first best pretext to declare war against Austria, dissolve the German Diet, subdue the minor states and give national unity to Germany under Prussian leadership.” Disraeli was taken aback by such an impudent statement and warned the Austrian ambassador: “Take care of that man; he means what he says.”
Read More at Man of iron – The Irish Times – Sat, Mar 19, 2011.