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GERMANY: The Second Reich



Christopher Jones says "I agree with Cameron Sawyer's remarks about the Second Reich. Journalist and historian, Sebastian Haffner has written extensively on the difficult birth of the Kaiserreich (as it is known in Germany, ("Second Reich" is never used and almost unknown.) He points out that it was indeed Bismarck who completely miscalculated the long term effects of Napoleon III's defeat. Haffner blames Bismarck for a policy/war that backfired (albeit long term) -- fanning France's desire for revenge and the recovery of its lost territories.

In the immediate aftermath of the battle of Sedan, when the French Emperor was captured, Bismarck wanted free Napoleon immediately so he could return to the throne in Paris. As in his earlier victories against Denmark and Austria, Bismarck wanted Napoleon to remain on the French throne, and continue to govern a weakened France, beholden to Prussian/German military might. But in defeat, Louis Napoléon le Grand, defeated him. He wanted nothing of it and preferred to be treated as a simple soldier, putting France above his own ambitions.

I believe that monarchy is a viable institution if it is in tune with its times. I have stated before that Prinz Claus was a model monarch in Holland. A sort of hybrid "crowned republic" idea, similar to the Dutch model, has been advanced for France by Charles Louis, le Prince Napoléon. Given the shenanigans to elect a President (in order to stop a street brawler [Le Pen] from becoming President, 80% had to vote (in many cases against their will) for a politician [Chirac] who in all probability would have landed in jail), I think the Prince Napoléon's idea should be taken seriously".

RH: Napoleon III, whom Christopher calls "le grand", is better known by Victor Hugo's epithet "Napoleon le Petit", However, he ended up with the general sympathy of the French, who thought that Bismarck had tricked him with the Ems telegram. Defeated at Sedan (1870), he was taken prisoner and released in 1871. He took refuge in England (just as his arch critic Victor Hugo had taken refuge in the Channel Islands), and he died there in 1873. I vividly remember French bitterness over all this even after the German defeat in World War I. Christopher's allusion to France's lost territories refers to Alsace-Lorraine. The best literary expression of French sorrow is "La dernière classe" by Alphonse Daudet. I agree with Christopher that the crude lust for power evident in the last French election, as in most presidential elections, including US political conventions, gives democracy a bad name. The monarchy has given Spain a stability the republic did not have. However, the idea that a monarchy would be restored in France seems to me to be a dream with no basis in reality. There are three claimants to the French throne, and I do not think any of them has a chance.

Ronald Hilton - 1/24/03


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