Explain why Prussia, and not Austria, could unify Germany in 1870.
In 1870, Germany was unified under the leadership of Prussia. Yet, in 1815, Prussian policy was still under the influence of Austria. She could not exert her influence among other German States in the German Confederation. Therefore, how could Prussia strengthen herself within these 55 years? On the other hand, under what circumstances did Austria lose her strong position in the German Confederation? These are the two interesting questions we are going to examine.
In 1815, Prussia was given Rhineland and 2/5 of Saxony. For containing France and balancing the power among the Powers, Prussia was given these two places. As a result, Prussia was territorially strengthened. It did pave a way for the further rise of Prussia in future.
Moreover, the establishment of Zollverein also strengthened the position of Prussia since the 1830s. In 1833, Prussia and most German states formed a custom union called Zollverein. Austria did not join in this union. There was duty-free trade among the member states. As a result, the economic unity led to an urge for political unity. Moreover, Prussia was informally regarded as a leader of the German States. In this way, Austria lost her chance in building up her leadership among German States.
In 1848, the Frankfurt Assembly further confirmed the leadership of Prussia. In the Frankfurt Assembly, the members decided to unify Germany. They asked Austria to give up her non-German territory. Yet Austria refused and walked out from the assembly. Therefore, the assembly decided the unification of Little Germany and wished to hand over the crown to Prussia. Although Prussia at last reject the offer, the decision of the Frankfurt Assembly did confirm the leadership of Prussia among the German States. Again, Austria lost her chance.
The military reforms of William I also strengthened Prussia. Since 1862, William I adopted military reforms. Military budget was increased and strategic railways were built. By the end of the 1860s, the fighting capability of the Prussian army was greatly improved. This enabled Prussia to work out the blood-and-iron policy of Bismarck who finally unified Germany under the leadership of Prussia.
Bismarck's policy finally materialized the German Unification by Prussia. Bismarck believed that the unification of Germany could not be done by 'majority vote and speech' but by 'blood-and-iron policy'. In 1864, Bismarck invited Austria to fight against Denmark for regaining Schleswig and Holstein. In fact, Bismarck used this to make an excuse for fighting Austria later.
Therefore, in 1866, By arguing on the administration over Schleswig-Holstein, Prussia provoked Austria who then declared war to Prussia. Before 1866, Bismarck had already isolated Austria by making deals with other Powers. To Russia, Bismarck agreed to revise the Black Sea Clause for her provided that Russia did not intervene in the conflict between Prussia and Austria. To France, Bismarck promised to give her territorial gains. He also invited Piedmont to fight against Austria. After the Seven Weeks' War, Prussia unified with most of the German States and formed the North German Confederation.
In 1870, Prussia defeated France and unified the whole Germany completely. After 1866, Prussia did not treat Austria too harsh in the Treaty of Prague. Moreover, she also make deals with other Powers like she did before 1866. So, who was the next enemy of Prussia? It was France. It was because France had strong influence among the southern German States. Therefore Bismarck needed an excuse to provoke a war against France by dividing France from those German States. The chance was provided in the Spanish Throne Problem. By rewriting the Ems Telegram, the Franco-Prussian War was broken out. Prussia won the war and finally unified Germany in 1870.
Why was Austria excluded from the leadership? The first reason was economic one. Since Austria was excluded from the Zollverein, she could not compete with Prussia in economic terms. It was because of this economic slow-down, the military power of Austria was also further weakened as compared with that of Prussia.
The second reason for the decline of Austria was her multi-racial empire. Since Austria did not want to give up her multi-racial empire, she was rejected by the nationalist. Besides, she was internally divided because of this reason. Her power was further weakened.
The third reason was the Metternich's policy. Metternich tried to suppress nationalism and liberalism among the German States. Therefore, the demand for national unification was not strong in Austria, at least from 1815 to 1848. Furthermore, Austria was further rejected by the nationalist in other German states.
The last reason was the isolation of Austria internationally. She was attacked by Prussia and Piedmont at the same time. Besides, Russia did not want to help Austria because Austria helped Britain and France against Russia in the Crimean War. Moreover, Britain was in her Splendid Isolation therefore she would not help Austria. In this way, Austria had no ally to turn to.
To conclude, Prussia could unify Germany because of her economic, political and diplomatic strength. From 1815 to 1870, Prussia was strengthened step by step.
On the other hand, Austria lost all chances in those areas. Therefore, she was finally defeated by Prussia and excluded from the German Unification.