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VOL. 4. JANUARY 1–MARCH 31, THE NEW NORK/
425968 BISMARCK. 1 ASTOR, LENOX AND
1 TILDEN FOUNDATIONS. PRINCE BISMARCK (KARL OTTO EDUABILEOPOLD
von BISMARCK SCHÖNHAUSEN), prince of the German empire and field marshal-general, German diplomatist and statesman, was born at Schönhausen, in Brandenburg, Prussia, April 1, 1815. His father was a Prussian noble, of a family ancient though not very wealthy, and which had some repute in diplomacy and war. His mother was a daughter of Ludwig Menken, one of the privy-councillors of Frederick the Great. During his infancy his father removed to his estate near Stettin in Pomerania. At the age of six the boy was placed in a boarding school in Berlin; and at the age of twelve in a gymnasium or preparatory school, where, among various studies, history and the French and English languages had his special attention.
His university course began with his entrance, at the age of seventeen, as a student of law at Göttingen in Hanover. One of his fellow-students was John Lothrop Motley, of Boston-afterward historian of the Dutch Republic, and United States minister at the court of Great Britain. With him young Bismarck formed a life-long friendship. In 1833 he went to study jurisprudence at the University of Berlin, where, though irregular in attendance on lectures, he readily passed the strict final examinations at the hands of state officials, and was assigned to serve in minor clerkships in government departments.
In his university course his chief repute was as a victor in those occasional drinking bouts which German students count almost as athletic contests, and as a mighty swordsman who in three semesters fought twenty-eight duels, drawing blood in all, and yielding blood in only one Vol. 4.-1.
Copyrighted 1894, by Garretson, Cox & Co.
-the one whose scar still shows on his face. The boy was furnishing the frontispiece illustration of the motto for a statesman which he uttered first in a speech in 1862, “Blood and Iron.” His place evidently was to be not in the still air of libraries, nor where are intricately tied or untied the technicalities of law, nor amid the gilded and perfumed puppet-show of life at court with its web of small diplomacies. Bismarck belonged out of doors. His colossal physical frame with his superb health and his overflowing animal spirits showed it; so did his intellectual massiveness, the robustness of his convictions when he had grown out of youth into convictions, and his swift, audacious, and tenacious will. So after about three years of the government clerkships, he found his out-door sphere first by enlisting for a year in the sharpshooters of the guards. He became a lieutenant in the Landwehr, a sort of militia. Having thus fulfilled his legal obligation of military service, he turned to the life of a country squire, literally out of doors in the fields and forests of his father's sandy Pomeranian estate, where for eight years he vigorously practiced the agriculture which he had studied in the university-with it practicing also all manner of country sports; not omitting the attendance at fairs, the drinking bouts in which-as he had been well trained in the university and was able (it is reported) to swallow his quart of beer or wine without removing his lips--he was the envy of all his rivals, nor the mad rides over the country in which this perfect horseman and his horse went as one, Bismarck being that one. Meanwhile his mind also took on activity, and he was deep in historical and philosophical reading
In 1847, the last year of this rural life, he was married to Johanna von Putkammer; and for her he has ever since kept unswerving love and admiration. This is not only a gracious contrast to the obtrusively stern and rough side of his character, but it is important as an illustration to us of one who might easily be deemed merely a bundle of uncontrollable impulses and gigantic forces. It reveals a deep fibre of moral strength, for there is always some spiritual strength where there is steadfast simplicity in the purpose of the heart: the man then is loyal to an ideal, he can control himself by a high sentiment, he is one of those whom Emerson classes as “capable of honesty.” Herr von Bismarck had a seat in the local diet during his last year on his estate, but was scarcely heard of beyond his vicinage. Except for the singular simplicity and directness of the lines in which his mind always moved, and for the signal of power in his massive, imperious, and impetuous will, never in those days could it have been imagined that he was to broaden his field of out-door exercise over all his fatherland, creating a new Germany-when, first having laid the mailed hand of war on the rival Austrian throne, and established at Berlin the new seat of German power, then brushing away the whole tangled mediæval undergrowth of petty local governments, and drawing discordant kingdoms and provinces into the grandeur of a national unity, he was to summon upon the field of European history that empire in full armor which Von Moltke hurled with resistless shock against the fortified mountain-barrier of France, and whose helmeted columns defiled beneath the Arc de
Triomphe and planted the German standards within the gates of Europe's proudest capital.
The year of Bismarck's birth was but a few years after the feeble and almost hopeless beginning in his country of the stir against Napoleon I. and against Prussia's humiliation, dismemberment, and impoverishment at his hands. In 1807, only eight years previously, Bismarck's dispirited and helpless countrymen, reduced to less than four millions, saw 150,000 French troops encam ped upon their soil, their king a fugitive from his capital, and themselves required to pay Napoleon a war indemnity of about $300,000,000. Baron von Stein, prime minister and virtual ruler of the kingdom, was assiduously prosecuting internal reforms and rekindling the few embers of patriotic hope. Stein, with Von Hardenberg (foreign minister) and Scharnhorst (war minister), were three great men who made Bismarck and his career possible. Stein's central idea-German nationality combining the German states for protection against foreign invasion and oppression-began in 1811, four years before Bismarck's birth, to gain some popular acceptance so far at least that Prussia, encouraged by the allied nations, rallied to it against Napoleon, though unaware of the grandeur of the epoch which this action was opening. Napoleon, like a baleful star, stili flaming, but slowly sinking, set at last below a horizon of blood at Waterloo, within three months after Bismarck's birth in 1815. In 1847, thirty-two years after Waterloo, Bismarck, coming from his family estate of Schönhausen, which had in that year been bequeathed to him from his father, appeared on the stage of national politics as a member of the Prussian house of burgesses. This diet had been convoked by a royal edict in response to an increasing demand for a more representative national assembly.
It was a time of great agitation. The popular mind was in a ferment throughout Europe. Political discussion had become universal. The whole inheritance of modern governments from feudal times was brought into question in the interest of the common people. All ancient privilege and prerogative was summoned to show its right to be. Thrones were shaking with premonitions of the revolutionary year of 1848. Nothing of all this tumult shook Bismarck. He both distrusted and scorned the whole popular movement. He was purely and simply an aristocrat as to his political principles, however unostentatious and plebeian in his tastes. Though always genial with his friends, and splendidly loyal to them, his general manner was haughty, distant, repelling, and severe. He viewed the nineteenth century through mediæval eyes. Amid the fine mechanism of modern theories as to the franchise and as to representative or constitutional government, he moved as one who had been, against his will, brought to inspect a great collection of mechanical toys none of which could do even its proper work as a toy.
In the new diet he kept his mouth shut for the first month-no difficult task for him; then opened it with a thin and feeble voice and hesitating words, with a lack of oratory so extreme as to be in a sense impressive, and with such audacious and sarcastic challenging of all the objects for which the assembly supposed itself to have been convoked, that, though at first regarded as a phenomenon left over from the middle ages, he was soon recognized as a force that must be reckoned with. He was the most ultra of royalists, at least as far as concerned his Germany; saw no place for democracy; and found little use even for constitutionalism except as an occasional expedient in the hands of the monarch for tiding his government over a crisis. When in 1849, at the Frankfort parliament, a scheme for a German empire was proposed, including the offer to the king of Prussia of the imperial crown, Bismarck was largely influential in its final failure-opposing it as conceding to the people in parliament the right to give a crown which could be given only by the various German sovereigns in their concurrent action. In all this is heard the key-note of Bismarck's whole public policy, for there is no evidence that he ever essentially