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CHAPTER FIVE mn n 1 ae meee Two Revolutionaries: Napolcon II and Bismarck The collapse of the Metternich system in the wake of the Crimean War produced nearly two decades of conflict: the war of Piedmont and France against Austria of 1859, the war over Schleswig-Holstein of 1864, the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Out of this turmoil, a new balance of power emerged in Europe. France, which had participated in three of the wars and encouraged the others, lost its, position of predominance to Germany. Even more importantly, the moral restraints of the Metternich system disappeared. This upheaval became symbolized by the use of a new term for unrestrained balance-of-power policy: the German word Realpolitik replaced the French term raison @ at without, however, changing its meaning, The new European order was the handiwork of two rather unlikely collaborators who eventually became arch-adversaries—Emperor Napo- 103 Diplomacy leon III and Otto von Bismarck. These two men ignored Metternich's old pieties: that in the interest of stability the legitimate crowned heads of the states of Europe had to be preserved, that national and liberal movements had to be suppressed, and that, above all, relations among states had to be determined by consensus among like-minded rulers. They based their policy on Realpolitik—the notion that relations among states are deter- mined by raw power and that the mighty will prevail. The nephew of the great Bonaparte who had ravaged Europe, Napo- Jeon III had been in his youth a member of Italian secret societies fighting against Austrian dominance in Italy. Elected President in 1848, Napoleon, a result of a coup, had himself declared Emperor in 1852. Ouo von. Bismarck was the scion of an eminent Prussian family and a passionate opponent of the liberal Revolution of 1848 in Prussia. Bismarck became Ministerprésident (Prime Minister) in 1862 only because the reluctant King saw no other recourse to overcome a deadlock with a fractious Parliament over military appropriations. Between them, Napoleon III and Bismarck managed to overturn the Vienna settlement, most significantly the sense of self-restraint which em- anated from a shared belief in conservative values. No two more disparate personalities than Bismarck and Napoleon III could be imagined. The Iron Chancellor and the Sphinx of the Tuileries were united in their aversion to the Vienna system. Both felt that the order established by Metternich at Vienna in 1815 was an albatross. Napoleon Ill hated the Vienna system because it had been expressly designed to contain France. Though Napoleon III did not have the megalomanic ambitions of his uncle, this enigmatic leader felt that France was entitled to an occasional territorial gain and did not want a united Europe standing in his way. He furthermore thought that nationalism and liberalism were values that the world identified with France, and that the Vienna system, by repressing them, put a rein on his ambitions. Bismarck resented Metternich’s handi- work because it locked Prussia into being Austria's junior partner in the German Confederation, and he was convinced that the Confederation preserved so many tiny German sovereigns that it shackled Prussia. If Prussia were going to realize its destiny and unify Germany, the Vienna system had to be destroyed. While sharing a mutual disdain for the established order, the two revo- lutionaries ended up at diametrically opposite poles in terms of their achievements. Napoleon brought about the reverse of what he set out to accomplish. Fancying himself the destroyer of the Vienna settlement and the inspiration of European nationalism, he threw European diplomacy into a state of turmoil from which France gained nothing in the long run and other nations benefited. Napoleon made possible the unification of 104 Two REVOLUTIONARIES: NAPOLEON IIT AND BISMARCK Italy and unintentionally abetted the unification of Germany, two events which weakened France geopolitically and destroyed the historical basis, for the dominant French influence in Central Europe. Thwarting either event would have been beyond France's capabilities, yet Napoleon's er- atic policy did much to accelerate the process while simultaneously dissipating France’s capacity to shape the new international order ac- cording to its long-term interests. Napoleon tried to wreck the Vienna sem because he thought it isolated France—which to some extent was true—yet by the time his rule had ended in 1870, France was more isolated than it had been during the Metternich period. Bismarck’s legacy was quite the opposite. Kew statesmen have so al- tered the course of history. Before Bismarck took office, German unity was expected to occur through the kind of parliamentary, constitutional government which had been the thrust of the Revolution of 1848. Five years later, Bismarck was well on his way to solving the problem of German unification, which had confounded three gencrations of Ger- mans, but he did so on the basis of the pre-eminence of Prussian power, not through a process of democratic constitutionalism. Bismarck's solu- tion had never been advocated by any significant constituency. Too democratic for conservatives, too authoritarian for liberals, too power- oriented for legitimists, the new Germany was tailored to a genius who proposed to direct the forces he had unleashed, both foreign and domes- tic, by manipulating their antagonisms—a task he mastered but which proved beyond the capacity of his succ During his lifetime, Napoleon Il was called the “Sphinx of the Tuileries” because he was believed to be hatching vast and brilliant designs, the nature of which no one could discern until they gradually unfolded. He was deemed to be enigmatically clever for having ended France's diplo- matic isolation under the Vienna system and for having triggered the disintegration of the Holy Alliance by means of the Crimean War. Only one European leader, Otto von Bismarck, saw through him from the beginning, In the 1850s, his sardonic description of Napoleon had been: “His intelligence is overrated at the expense of his sentimentality.” Like his uncle, Napoleon III was obsessed by his lack of legitimate credentials. Though he considered himself a revolutionary, he yearned to be accepted by the legitimate kings of Europe. Of course, had the Holy Alliance still had its original convictions, it would have tried to overthrow the republican institutions which had replaced French royal rule in 1848. The bloody excesses of the French Revolution were still within living memory but so, too, was the fact that foreign intervention in France had 105