Otto von Bismarck or Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince von Bismarck,

Count von Bismarck-Schönhausen, Duke von Lauenburg--was a Prussian
statesman who in 1871 founded the German Empire and served as its
first chancellor for 19 years. Once the empire was established, he
actively and skillfully pursued pacific policies in foreign affairs,
succeeding in preserving the peace in Europe for about two decades.

But in domestic policies his patrimony was less benign, for he failed
to rise above the authoritarian proclivities of the landed squirearchy
to which he was born (Britannica, 1997).

Foreign policy

Until his resignation in 1890, Bismarck had a relatively free
hand in conduct of foreign policy. After three successful wars, he saw
his task as promoting peace and gaining time so that the powerful

German Empire would come to be accepted as natural. Bismarck\'s two
areas of concern were the Balkans, where the disintegration of the

Turkish empire could easily lead to conflict between the Habsburg
monarchy and Russia, and France, where the desire to avenge the defeat
at Sedan was strong. In each area a general European conflagration
could flare up and involve Germany. In 1873 he embraced a pacific
foreign policy when he negotiated the Dreikaiserbund (Three Emperors\'

League) with Russia and Austria-Hungary. But the alliance did not
survive the Russo-Turkish War of 1877. When the Austrians and British
threatened war over a Carthaginian peace imposed on Turkey by the

Russian victors, Bismarck called for a peace congress in Berlin. The

German chancellor succeeded in getting the Russians to moderate their
gains, and peace was preserved.

But a European conflagration had barely been averted. Soon
after the conference, Bismarck negotiated a defensive alliance with

Austria-Hungary, which remained in effect through World War I.

Although in the mid-1860s he had rejected such an alliance as harmful,
he now considered it advantageous. Because he feared that the
dissolution of the Habsburg monarchy would lead to Russian expansion
into central Europe, he sought the alliance to gain leverage in

Vienna. He steadfastly used it to prevent a war in the Balkans. In
addition, he did not want seven million Austro-German Catholics
seeking admission to the empire.

Having a solid ally, Bismarck demonstrated his virtuosity by
negotiating a revived Dreikaiserbund in 1881. He now had influence in

St. Petersburg as well as in Vienna to prevent a Balkan war. In 1882,

Italy, fearing French hostility, joined the Dual Alliance, making it
into the Triple Alliance. On the surface Bismarck had triumphed.

France had no allies for a war of revenge, and, for the moment, a

Balkan war seemed unlikely.

But the ephemeral nature of all these alliances soon became
apparent. A crisis in Bulgaria inflamed Russo-Austrian relations,
leading to a breakup the revived league. Once again a war was avoided
with Bismarck\'s intervention, but his efforts could not reconstitute
the league. He then negotiated a separate secret treaty with Russia,
while maintaining the 1879 accord with Austria-Hungary.

Between 1870 and 1890 Bismarck earned the respect of European
leaders for his earnest efforts in behalf of peace. Apart from a few
colonial acquisitions in the mid-1880s, Germany had acted as a satiate
power. All of Bismarck\'s considerable tactical skills had been
successful in creating a powerful German Empire in his first decade in
power. For the next two decades these same skills maintained the
peace.

Domestic Policy

From the defeat of Austria in 1866 until 1878 Bismarck was
allied primarily with the National Liberals. Together they created a
civil and criminal code for the new empire and accomplished Germany\'s
adoption of the gold standard and move toward free trade. Just as they
had earlier written off Bismarck as an archconservative, liberals now
viewed him as a comrade--a man who had rejected his conservative
roots. Many conservative leaders agreed with this assessment. Bismarck
had cashiered kings, gone to war against conservative regimes, and
adopted policies that promoted rapid industrialization. Their fears
were further enhanced when he joined liberals in a campaign against
political Catholicism (Kulturkampf) in 1873.

Bismarck had not counted on the emergence of new parties such
as the Catholic Centre or the Social Democrats, both of whom began
participating in imperial and Prussian elections in the early 1870s.

Along with the left liberal Progressive Party, he labeled them all
enemies of the empire (Reichsfeinde). Each in its own way rejected his
vision of a united Germany. The Progressives found the empire too
conservative and its elite essentially feudal; the socialists
questioned its capitalist character; and for the Centre the empire was

Protestant and too centralized.

Bismarck\'s aim was clearly to destroy the Catholic Centre

Party. He and the liberals feared the appeal of a clerical party to
the one-third of Germans who professed Roman Catholicism. In Prussia
the minister of public worship and