To What Extent Was Bismarck a Good Statesman

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It can be argued that Bismarck was a successful statesman given his notable ability to change his affiliations with the political parties so that the most significant force within the Reichstag was supportive of him, ensuring his policies were pushed through; and when the political feeling of the nation changed, Bismarck was able to quickly switch sides, ensuring he remained Chancellor. The first years of Bismarck’s reign as Chancellor can be seen as his ‘Liberal Years’. This is because the National Liberal party were the dominant political party in the Reichstag. And as Bismarck did not have a party of his own, he needed to secure an alliance with them. This was relatively simple as they both shared similar aims; the Liberals, like Bismarck, had a main aim of national unity, and also shared some short term goals with him, such as centralisation of administrative power and the opposition to the Catholics and the Centre Party. This is evidence of Bismarck as a good statesman as he is able to identify the key forces within the Parliament and ally with them until the situation changes and he has to switch parties. Bismarck seemed to dictate the terms of the relationship, as he ensured that the Liberals gained no real political power. This acts as further evidence of him being a good statesman as it shows that he is able to effectively exploit a political group while ensuring that he remains firmly in control while appearing to concede to them. Bismarck himself was supportive of the view that he was a master manipulator of the political system, as he writes ‘everything depends on chance and conjecture. One has to reckon with a series of probabilities and improbabilities and base one’s plans upon this reckoning’. The economic depression that followed the Liberal Years resulted in a call for economic protectionism as opposed to free trade, which resulted in the National
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