The regions with similar culture and language created by

The 19th
century, a wave of nationalism termed as the ‘Age Of Nationalism’ proliferated
through Europe. Small regions with similar culture and language created by the
Congress of Vienna began to consolidate into a single entity of state. The
period of Napoleonic hegemony initiated the politicism of the prevalent view of
state and society in Central Europe (Hamerow 1972:4 ). It led to series of Republican
uprising of 1847 against the monarchies of Sicily, Italy, Germany and the
Austrian empire. All of had failed respectively and all had ended in failure
and repression. However, the effects of 1848 was the ‘twilight of legitimism’.

It became the final hours of liberalism seeking to justify hierarchal form
(Hamerow 1972:7) .By 1871, this failure, paved way to the unification of Italy
and Germany .Both were motivated by the same historical trends .In addition there
was a change in the philosophy shifting from romanticism to realism and its
political outgrowth of ‘realpolitik’ of
which leaders such as Camillo Cavour and Otto von Bismarck used as a foundation
to lead the way for unification process of Italy and Germany .The age of Risorgimento in Italy and Reichsgründung (Binkley 1963:14)  in Germany
demonstrated that strong idealism was not enough to accomplish revolutionary
goal but rather the gathering of power and alliance was necessary .This essay
will focus on the similarities and differences of the role of ‘Realpolitik’ in
the unification process of Italy and Germany and it will aim to explore the
reasons of such patterns.

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Realpolitik or
realistic politics (Bew 2014:71) is an ideology conceptualised by Ludwig son von
Rochau, rooting from ideas of Machiavelli in his book the Prince. Realpolitik
is ‘politics or diplomacy based primarily on power and on practical and
material factors and considerations rather than ideological notions or
moralistic or ethical premises’ (Bew 2014). It is the prioritisation of the
advancement of national interest above idealistic or ethical views in the form
of acquiring power mainly though smart alliances and war. Bismarck and Cavour
have greatly demonstrated this thinking as a strategy to unify their respected
countries. From here, differences can be seen between Bismarck and Cavour in
their way of thinking. Bismarck being a man with the preference of direct
warfare whereas Cavour with his likeness to diplomacy to unify Italy.

Money is Power is
Realpolitik. In order for a unitary state to be a protagonist of unification. Bismarck
and Cavour realised that economic stability and reform must be ensured in order
to create a foundation for a strong military power. In Piedmont, like many
states in peninsula was poor and backward. Agriculture dominated the region and
its little manufacturing sector used traditional, quasi artisanal techniques
shielded from foreign competition behind high duties (Frederico et jungidico:4 )
Therefore ,Cavour initiated a reform under the British model of economic
development. He aimed to bring his country into mainstream Europe by adapting a
free trade policy and investment in infrastructures such as railways and in
manufacturing industry. Furthermore, he instigated reforms in military and
judiciary sectors (Absalom 1995:24). After the failure of the battle between
Austrian in July 1848 ,Cavour realised that ‘no nation state could be created
without the capacity to win its independence by force of arms and defend it’  (Absalom 1995:24) thus it was absolute that
Piedmont must be economically stable to continually fund its army in order to
ease the unification of Italy. In the case of Bismarck, Prussia benefitted
greatly from the Zollverrein in ensuring its constant economic supremacy
against other states within the region (Williamson 1986:4) including Austria,
who felt the most severe economic loss. As mentioned, money is power therefore
the economic losses within Austria weakened the state as a whole and was
reflected on its military power in its defeat in the Austro-Prussian War in
1866.In addition, Prussia was geographically situated within the Rhineland with
rich mineral resources. Its position meant it had control over western and
eastern territories over tariffs. The combination of such factors meant the
value of the Prussian economy was worth more than Piedmonts thus explained Bismarck’s
confidence to pursue a more competitive military stance for unification and its
lack of reliance from external parties unlike Italy.

The
main feature of realpolitik of which Bismarck and Cavour employed in their aim
to unify their country was the use of smart alliances to provoke war in order
to gain power, regain land and to reiterate the sense of nationalism. This is
the process where Italy and Germany diverge. Otto von Bismarck was a true
advocate of realpolitik and began the unification process with the use of
diplomacy accompanied by direct warfare. In his ‘Blood and Iron’ speech on 30th
September 1862 as a Prime Minister. Bismarck highlighted his strategy to unify
Germany ‘Great questions of time will not be resolved by speeches and majority
decisions…but by iron and blood’ (Smith 2015 :291). Bismarck bluntly stated that
war was necessary for Germanys unification in the connotation of ‘blood’ with
the use of ‘iron’, a material produced in masses by
many German states such as Prussia which can be manufactured for weaponries.

Unlike Cavour, Bismarck was able to achieve German
unification without foreign assistance but rather, a combination of foreign
manipulation and war. This is reflected greatly on its involvement in the
Danish War of (1862), Austria-Prussian War in (1866) and the Franco-Prussian
War (1870-71). Bismarck engineered a war against Austria to ensure Prussia
dominance over the region. The victory in the Austria-Prussian War was
extremely significant in the unification process of Germany. Austria was
excluded from any decision-making process regarding the national question
(Smith 2015:292). Hanover, the Electorate of Hessen Kassel, Nassau and Frankfurt,
were annexed by Prussia therefore allowing western territories to dissolve with
the East. In the Franco-Prussian War, Bismarck
sought to provoke a war with France in order to unify Germany with Alsace and
Lorraine. He felt that he could win the support of the Southerners if an
external threat was imminent. Tactically, Bismarck intentionally boasted   his
expulsion of the French diplomat who was sent to prevent William I to not
interfere with the succession to the Spanish Throne furthermore an altered
version of the diplomatic telegraph (Ems telegraph) was published to further
provoke France. France took the bait and declared war with Prussia, of which it
had loss due to France disorganised and weaker army against the economically
backed, organised and well-equipped Prussian army. On January 18,1871 a new
German Empire was proclaimed.

 

Along with the external
manipulation, Bismarck ensured that the unification process of Germany was not
hampered internally. He offered peace to the Prussian liberals by proposing a
bill to legalise unconstitutional financing and other liberal policies such as
state pension and employee insurance (Binkley 1963). Bismarck in this way
prevented a change in public opinion by using small changes from the top down
to avoid a major change from the bottom up.

 

Camilio Benso di Cavour,
a cross of Sir Robert Peel and Machiavelli (Smith 1995:3) was a man who
utilised realpolitik in the form of war in order to pursue national interest.

However, unlike Bismarck, Cavour avoided the means of direct warfare. His
assessment of the practical situation had led him to favour diplomacy as a
platform to manipulate external powers into alliances for military engagement.

His policies and Piedmonts current economic situation prevented him to be
directly involved in war. Cavour aimed to insert Piedmont into the European
balance of power not to cause instability but to be the embodiment of a unified
state of peaceful, orderly and above all non-revolutionary (Absalom 1995:36). It
is important to stress the word aimed at
previous statement as Piedmonts successfully participated in the Crimean War 1855
alongside the British and France. From there, he gained France and Britain as his
ally. Moreover, despite not having any quarrel with Russia, he used the Crimean
exposure as a platform to show the international community the Italian agenda. In
1859, the Plombieres Agreement was signed between Piedmont and the French
arranging a joint military alliance against Austria, Italy’s main obstacle for
unification. Cavour’s goal was the expulsion of Austria from the peninsula with
the help of France and in return, cede Savoy and Nice. Such agreement angered
the Austrians resulting in an ultimatum being issued to the Piedmontese to demobilise
its troops (Wells 2012:56). The ultimatum was deemed as ‘one of those lucky
turns of the lottery that arrive only once a century’ (Binkley 1963:211) as it
provoked war at Austria’s expense thus it allowed Cavour to call upon the
French for help, not as a conspirator but as victim. From there, the
Franco-Austrian War ensued and Italy was able to unite Piedmont with Lombardy. The
Kingdom of Italy became officially unified in 1871.

 Bismarck and Cavour used realpolitik in a similar
strategic manner .Both leaders assessment of the current situation meant manipulation
of the external players was the practical solution to gain power. They established
smart and key alliances and used them when necessary. Although, Italy was too
reliant on such alliances to carry out its work whereas Germany was more
willing to take part.

 

Another point of
difference between Germany and Italy’s unification was the lack of common  institution for the representation of people
in Italy (Sperber 1994:91).Germany had Zollverin, a tariff union established in
1834 to which most German states belonged and which Prussia had direct control
by 1860.The Zollverein allowed Bismarck to have direct control of the smaller
states on Eastern and Western territories therefore preventing any opponents or
from causing a stagnation to Germanys unification. What Germany had from the
start was Prussia, an organised, economically and politically dominant centre
(Smith 2015:282). On the other hand, Italy lacked an initial protagonist
institution thus making it difficult for the unification to take place. They
were too many larger states with strong monarchy holdings: Papal States,
Tuscany, Naples, to name a few. Piedmont was not the first choice. The states
that are more capable of becoming the unitary state like the most populous Kingdom
of the Two Sicilies was the most economically backward. It had the manpower but
lacked the economic power hindered by the extremely conservative monarchy which
controls it. Similarly, the most advanced peninsula of Lombardy and Venetia with
the most prosperous, urbanised and best educated people were directly under the
rule of the Austrian Empire. Italian liberal nationalist was stuck with
Piedmont for the lack of anything better (Sperber 1994:93)

To
Conclude, Otto von Bismarck and Camilo Benso de Cavour used realpolitik as a
strategy for the unification process of Italy and Germany. Both prioritised and
pursued national interest through the combination of alliances and war. Alliance
was an efficient way to gain socio, economic and political power. Undeterred by
the ethical and idealistic consequences, both leaders persevered for the
unification of their states. Bismarck and Cavour utilised wars like the
Crimean, Austria-Prussian, and the Franco-Prussian, as a platform to gain alliances.

Once such relationship was established, they encouraged and aided but never declared
wars between external powers. With the intention of accumulating territories
for the advancement of unification, both leaders ensured that an agreement was always
made prior to any conflict. Nevertheless, Germanys unification was more
straightforward and efficient than Italy as despite creating alliances it was
prepared for any direct engagement in war. Germanys unitary state of Prussia
was strong economically and politically. It gave Bismarck the confidence to
pursue war in order to produce a quicker result. Whereas Cavour had to meticulous
in his actions. He knew that Piedmont with its weaker economic power was
incapable on winning wars and he was more likely to lose of his territories in
this process. Cavour had to be dependent to the alliances he had created and
his skill to manipulate external powers. This process was inefficient as it
required certain conditions at perfect times to pursue an agenda. Italian
unification was obtained more by smart alliances through diplomacy as well
astute timing rather than reliance to military power like Germany.