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What were the obstacles to the Unification of Germany by the beginning of 1848 Essay

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Germany in 1848 was an almost unrecognisable place compared with Germany of today and even by the Germany of 1890, the main reason for this is not geographical, because its borders are not that different from 1848, or economically but political, Germany was not a Federal Republic but a group of 39 separate autocratic states ruled by Princes, Kings and even other countries unwilling to lose power and so unification was not even considered as an option at this time.It was not just rulers of the states that opposed German unification, there were a great many other obstacles, which I will discuss, therefore the forces against Unification greatly outweighed the forces of nationalism driving it. So you cannot simply describe Germany as a nation but more of a group of countries grouped by language and geography.Also the political sway of Austria and Prussia prevented even the publication of statements calling for unification, many modern historians consider the Vorm�rz period as a time when nationalism and liberalism in Germany were suppressed by the German rulers, most notably Austria. With the suppression of Nationalism and Liberalism, the cause for a united Germany could never be expressed publicly and gain support, exactly as people like Prince Metternich wanted.Germany in the period prior to Vorm�rz had been decimated by the forces of post revolutionary France, only a coalition of Britain, Prussia and Russia could defeat arguably one of the greatest historical figures of all time. Due to this life in Germany changed dramatically, the people of southern Germany for example were united under the Confederation of the Rhine, the French legal and social system were completely different to the feudal laws imposed by previous overloads also Austria and Prussia lost power when Napoleon was Emperor of France, they did not want to lose that power again so they repressed calls for unification by people who had been ruled by France and saw the power of a united state.I have outlined some points to consider but there are a many more to understand what were the obstacles to German unification at the beginning of 1848.One of the main obstacles towards German unification by the beginning of 1848 was Prince Clemens von Metternich, Metternich was a Rhinelander who came from a noble family but he devoted his services to the Austrian crown and excelled at what he did with no hint of modesty. He believed he could secure the control of Austria over the Confederacy and maintain the Status Quo. He made every step to crush nationalism he said to Tsar Alexander I of Russia, “It is true that I do not like democracies. Democracy is in every case a principle of dissolution, of decomposition.” This demonstrates that the foreign minister of Austria, one of the most powerful positions in central Europe, condones democracy and therefore one of the fundamental drives for unification, if a unified Germany could not elect its own rulers it would be no better than being controlled by France like in the early 19th century, therefore Metternich because of his opinion of democracy and his position was one of the major obstacles to German Unification, this also shows that Metternich was strictly against liberalism which gave people more rights, a proposal that would directly threaten Austria’s position, if people had the choice they would obviously choose to elect representatives to govern because many states had tyrannical autocrats as leaders who had treated them badly, again as liberalism is a fundamental part of unification it could not be expressed while Metternich was in power.Also Metternich knew if there was going to be a revolt for a unified Germany it would come from the educated middle classes e.g. students, lawyers, teachers like it did in France in the 1780’s. In order to stop the cause of unification developing he exaggerated the importance of students and the murder of Kotzebue this enabled him to take action against Nationalism, this actions consisted of the Carlsbad Degrees which enforced strict censor rules on the press and prevented groups of students from forming political societies as well as this he arrested Nationalist leaders. This again shows that he was an obstacle to unification at the beginning of 1848 after what he had ratified in the Carlsbad decree’s.Also Metternich distrusted the German Confederation making any constitutional changes because it could threaten the status quo Metternich so wholeheartedly believed in. Each state in the German Confederation were not represented in person by the monarch but by ambassadors who were essentially educated middle class men. Metternich knew that any constitutional changes could give the Confederation more power therefore essentially creating a united German Assembly and therefore taking power from the Autocratic state governments, which Austria was one. Through the Assembly prominent middle class people would gain power, again similar to revolutionary France, and the status quo would be dissolving fast. To combat this Metternich publicly condoned constitutional reform of any sort. This meant that the Confederacy could not enact these constitutional chances because its president, Austria was against them. Without a single German government Unification was not viable and by stopping this Metternich was again putting another obstacle in the way of Unification at this time.Metternich’s actions could be interpreted as the thoughts of the Habsburg Empire because Metternich was appointed by the Habsburg monarchy and if his views had been different from the king than he wouldn’t have been foreign minister for as long as he was. This shows that if the largest and most powerful country in the Confederation did not want unification than it would use its influence to prevent it which it did through Metternich because what Metternich did was not to promote his own self interests but to secure the power of the Habsburg dynasty.Metternich was clearly one of the biggest obstacles preventing unification at the beginning of 1848 because of the policies he had enacted and the influence he had due to his position. It could be said that as long as Metternich was foreign minister than unification would be nearly impossible because Metternich would block any movement towards it, this shows how intelligent Metternich was and how unswerving the desire of the Habsburgs was to maintain power.Another obstacle to the unification of Germany at the beginning of 1848 was the concept of Particularism. Most people who lived in the area we know as Germany today held more loyalty to their individual states rather than the concept of a greater Germany. For example the people of the Rhineland- Westphalia, held a strong sense of identity towards the region they inhabited and they were proud to be called Rhinelander’s. There was no such nationality as German, you could be a Rhinelander or a Prussian but never a German.Also the culture and history of each state varied although ethically they were all Germanic and spoke German there were differences some considerable e.g. Religion, most of south and west Germany were Catholic and the North was mainly Protestant. Also some areas were richer than others, the Rhineland and Saarland regions were quite rich because of natural resources and others were poorer because they did have not have as many resources.Finally, Liberalism varied from state to state some states such as W�rttemberg and Baden gave their peoples constitutions and even a limited parliament but Austria and Prussia refused to even consider a constitution let alone a parliament.Germany could be divided by the lines of the river Maine, West-East, and Elbe, North-South, these were rough dividing lines between each region. You could clearly see the regional differences in 1848, they are still visible today but not as clearly. Also, Germany is the 2nd largest country in Europe so it would have been difficult to traverse in 1848 so for example an average man from Danzig, Prussia, would not easily be able to see Aachen in the Rhineland, this emphasized the social and cultural differences because when a person from another reason visited they would have seemed foreign to most of the populous.It was not just the Princes and Kings of these 39 states that wished to preserve their independence, it was almost everybody in that state. Remember that independence doesn’t have to just mean political independence; many people in these states would wish to preserve their cultural and social independence from chance. Even if the ruler of the state was a tyrant the population would still maintain loyalty to him because it was expected and traditional, it was rare that a ruler of German state would have to make concessions to the people at this time.The majority of German speaking people were uneducated peasants who cared about their village, their crop and their overload and not really considering the internal politics of the German Confederation, it would be naive to conclude that peasants did not understand the political climate of the time, but they would care to preserve their village, family and cultural identity. On a grand scale the majority of Germans wished to preserve the status quo at this time, this benefited Austria and Prussia because their power was not threatened as long as the status quo was preserved.Particularism was an obstacle to German unification because if Germany was unified many regional identities would be replaced with a national identity, this is not what the majority of people wanted because many peasants were bound by traditional and not educated in the benefits of a unified society. Furthermore, Germany was only critically linked by the German language, and only similar in terms of culture and social policies, so it would be difficult to unite a nation based on a single common bond.Up until the Congress of Vienna in 1815 there were over 300 German states each with their own princes or rulers, autocrats, now in the Vorm�rz period (1815-48) there were now 39. The number of autocrats were getting smaller and with revolutions in France and other places, autocracy was becoming more difficult to maintain. The rulers of the 39 states were reluctant to lose any power what so ever, the quote ” the only threat to those in power, is losing it” this epitomised these princes position in 1848. They had seen increased liberal and national movements and it worried them because these forces had already overthrown a powerful monarchy, France, and now it threatened them. There are many examples to prove this assumption. Firstly, the Habsburgs rule a large area of Europe almost completely autocratically and they did not want to lose any power to the middle classes, Metternich’s actions demonstrated this because he represented the Austrian crown, also Austria was one of the Great Powers of the 19th century, they were one of the signatories of the Congress of Troppau, which aimed to depose governments which had usurped a monarch. This demonstrates that the Austrian monarch was determined to preserve autocracy in not just Austria but in Europe.The Hohenzollens, rulers of Prussia, worked with Austria in “peaceful dualism” and they had the same approach to Nationalism as Austria. The Hohenzollens had built up a powerful power base, economically and militarily, Prussia controlled the Rhineland and Silesia and next to Britain and France had one of the finest and disciplined military force in Europe because they copied the French military system and then Von Blucher and Wellington defeated Napoleon once and for all at Waterloo (1815). Through this, Prussia was now almost equal with Austria in terms of influence and power, the Hohenzollens had ruled Prussia through its rise and they would not want to be overthrown by a revolutionary government after their achievements, so like Austria they signed the Congress of Troppau also unlike Austria they relaxed their feudal system a bit in order to beat Napoleon but the side effect of this was to give peasants more freedom which made them more loyal to the Hohenzollens.Princes and Rulers were an obstacle to unification in 1848 because they were reluctant to lose power, they had lost it when Napoleon conquered them but they regained it and they did not want to lose it again. This made unification extremely difficult because in order to unify Germany 38 rulers out of 39 would lose the majority of their power because they would have to yield to one king instead of answering to no-one. This was not a concept any of the rulers wanted because who would rule Germany? if it was Prussia, then Austria would not be pleased, if it was Austria, then Prussia would not be happy and if it were neither both would be unhappy, this is a clear reason why Germany could not unite in 1848 because no ruler was willing to lose power.I have mentioned the Carlsbad Decree and the Congress of Troppau in contexts of how they were used but by just existing they were obstacles to German Unification in 1848. The Carlsbad Decree’s were signed by many German state under pressure from Austria, these decree’s were an obstacle because no media could support unification and without the press the cause would not grow also students are known for being politically active and in history it is seen many times this group dictating internal politics, France 1780’s and the failed counter-revolution of the 1830’s, what the Carlsbad decree’s did was to stop these political groups from meeting and forming there own movements, which would eventually call for unification of Germany. Also these decree’s imprisoned key leaders of the unification movement, this stopped more people being convinced that unification was a good idea because if the leaders were imprisoned they could not spread their ideas.The Congress of Troppau stopped unification more critically because any group that threatened a kings authority would be under threat from Austria, Prussia and Russia. Ultimately for Germany to unify it would need to take power from kings and princes and therefore would risk attack to restore a monarchs power. So just existing the Congress of Troppau stopped nationalism dramatically because it threatened to overthrow any group that gained power over a monarchy. This made a Germanic monarchs power almost untouchable and made a nationalist revolt pointless because if it succeeded in overthrowing a king it would be crushed and the king restored.The Diet and the Confederation (Bund) were created to link the German states into a loose alliance but thy also were an obstacle to German Unification at the beginning of 1848.The main reason I believe this is firstly because the Bund was set up as a military alliance and no where in its creation did it aim to unify German. It was meant to keep the individual German states secure against foreign invaders, mainly France, also the Bund was headed by Austria and because of this Austria would make the Bund oppose to unification because of her influence. It would be easily to say that because every state was part of the Bund, Germany was partially united, this is simply not true because the Bund made Austria the guardian of the German states and it was not an assembly to govern Germany. The Diet was an obstacle to unification in 1848 because its name “diet” refers to a council of nobles in Frankish this had not changed in 19th century Germany, the Diet was indeed a council of nobles all unwilling to lose power so would oppose any move for a unified Germany.The Confederation the successor of the Holy Roman Empire, Voltaire once described the Holy Roman Empire as, “it was neither Holy, Roman or an Empire.” This is partly true its actions and policies did not directly help the church and religion in the Empire was divided between Catholicism and Protestantism, in no way was the Holy Roman Empire Roman because Rome had never been part of it or any of its Emperors Roman and it wasn’t an Empire because it did not directly control any of the states in it, but besides this it did benefit the Habsburgs who gained massive influence because of it, the Habsburgs were always elected Emperors so the Holy Roman Empire secured Austria’s position as the head of the German States, the Confederation was the Holy Roman Empire in all but name, Austria still headed it under a presidency and all German states were part of it. It was an obstacle because it reminded the German States that Austria was the leader of the states and it was still powerful, with Austria oppose to unification every other power in the Confederation would follow Austria’s lead, not just because they disagreed with unification but because they would be foolish to come into conflict with the Habsburgs, so while Austria was oppose to unification was impossible.Another obstacle to German Unification in the beginning of 1848 was the power of Austria and Prussia, I have already said why they were so powerful, these two states worked in a state of ‘peaceful dualism’ but there cannot be ‘dualism’ in a united Germany because then it wouldn’t be united so for Germany to unite one or both would have to yield. This was not likely because Austria believed she had the God given right to dominate the German States and Prussia had become almost as powerful as Austria so it would refuse to yield to a equal power due to these attitudes Germany would never unify unless something changed, the Seven Weeks War is the changing force, but in 1848 there was no changing force, no driving force for either to unite no common enemy except unification, no similarities except language. In my opinion this is the main reason why unification did not occur in the Vorm�rz period, because if they had united then many other German States would follow their lead and join them, but because they were so powerful it was never going to happen.To conclude, the obstacles to German unification at the beginning of 1848 were Metternich’s thoughts, actions and views as one of the most powerful men inGermany he could have encouraged unification but he resisted it wholeheartedly therefore he was an obstacle. Also regional Particularism was another reason why German could not unite in 1848, most German were loyal to their individual states rather than the idea of a German nation also they were very proud of their regions and would not easily give up their identities and regional differences prevented unification because many regions were completely different from others. The ruling classes of Germany prevented unification because neither the aristocracy or the rulers were willing to lose power and hand it to another king they did not appoint. The Carlsbad Decrees and the Congress of Troppau were obstacles because they silenced nationalist an liberalist movements in public therefore preventing them to gain enough support for a German unification.The Confederation prevented German Unification because it secured Austria’s position and did not promote unification, but the main obstacle to German unification was the rivalry between Austria and Prussia, neither would yield to the other and neither wished to unite because they could lose power. If you asked an ordinary German in 1848 he would say that he could not see a unified Germany in the near future because of the obstacles but unknown to him it was closer than he thought just 30 years off, so with all these obstacles what changed in 30 years?

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This sample essay is completed by Harper, a Social Sciences student. She studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. All the content of this paper is just her opinion on What were the obstacles to the Unification of Germany by the beginning of 1848 and should not be seen as the way of presenting the arguments.

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