The population of the annexed lands, with the exception of the Danish-speaking inhabitants of northern Schleswig, loyally perceived the annexation of Prussia by their states. Deprived of their possessions, the monarchs received rich incomes as compensation, unless they tried to fight for the restoration. On retaining the independence of the small monarchs of northern Germany, Prussia pressed to create a military-political North German union.
August 4, 1866 Bismarck invited the states of Northern Germany to conclude an alliance with Prussia for a year, during which the principles of unification must be worked out. The Berlin Conference (December 13, 1866 – January 9, 1867) approved the hegemony of Prussia in the North German Union, built on a federative principle.
The head of the union was the Prussian king, who is also the supreme commander-in-chief of the armed forces of all the states that make up the union. The Prussian king was entitled, on behalf of the Union, to declare war, negotiate and conclude peace. Under the authority of the allied bodies, transport communications, monetary matters, criminal cases, and taxes were transferred. All the troops were rebuilt under the Prussian model. The Union Parliament (Reichstag) was elected by direct vote, but received limited powers. Great influence on state affairs enjoyed the Union Council (Bundesrat), which consisted of representatives of sovereigns. Prussia, despite the prevailing number of its subjects in the union, had in the council only 17 votes out of 43.
Causes for the War
The North German Union counted 24 million Prussians and 6 million other Germans in it’s population. Another 6 million Germans from the South German states were connected with the union by contractual obligations. France received nothing as compensation from the creation of a powerful German state, in terms of the number of inhabitants comparable to the population of France (36 million French). This was imposed on the internal political difficulties of the Emperor Napoleon III and the interest of Prussia in joining the South German kingdoms. Both powers sought to resolve their internal problems by victorious war with each other.
By the summer of 1870 Napoleon III felt the instability of his situation inside France. His influential wife, Empress Eugene, said, pointing to her son: “War is necessary for this child to reign.” Attempts to reach an agreement with Bismarck on the annexation of Luxembourg and even more so Belgium ended in nothing, the expansion of the French Empire in Europe could only take place militarily.
The cause for the conflict arose on July 1, 1870, when the Spaniards invited Prince Leopold from the side branch of the ruling Prussian dynasty Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen to the royal throne. The French, not without reason, saw a threat in the reign of the Hohenzollern dynasty simultaneously in Germany and Spain. On July 6, French Foreign Minister Duke Gramont declared in parliament that the French empire would not hesitate to start a war against Prussia if she “dared resurrect the empire of Charles V”.
Bismarck viewed the pressure of France as a convenient excuse for a war in which Prussia would have been the victim of an aggressive neighbor, but Prussian King William I forced his relative Leopold to officially abandon the Spanish throne. Nevertheless, Napoleon III, under the influence of his closest entourage and a false impression of the state of the French army, decided to accelerate the events. July 13, Paris demanded a written statement from Wilhelm with a commitment not to harm the interests of France in the future. The demand contained deliberate insolence, and the Prussian king refused to give such guarantees, promising to continue negotiations. Bismarck, after consulting with the chief of staff and the minister of war, arbitrarily changed the text on the negotiations for publication in the press in such a way that William refused to discuss the matter with the French ambassador at all. The French perceived it exactly as Bismarck had hoped.
The dynastic dispute turned into a cause for war, the cause of which was in the struggle for political domination in Western Europe. On July 15, the deputies of the French Parliament voted in favor of declaring war by 245 votes to 10. July 19, 1870 at a meeting of the North German Reichstag Bismarck announced the beginning of the war of France against Prussia.
War With France
July 28, 1870 Napoleon III arrived in Metz to lead the French army to Prussia. However, he found complete unwillingness of the troops to wage war and was forced to stay on the border, waiting for the end of the mobilization. The initiative passed to the Prussians, who quickly concentrated 3 armies (330 thousand soldiers) and moved them on August 4 to France. The French troops in the border areas were considerably inferior to the enemy in numbers (200,000 soldiers), tactical training and artillery.
The main French group (180 thousand) under the command of Marshal Bazin was blocked in Metz, another army (140 thousand) under the command of Marshal McMahon along with Napoleon III was moving to its proceeds. This army was surrounded by Sedan. On September 1 a battle was fought, and the next day after failed attempts to breakthrough, Emperor Napoleon III surrendered together with more than 100 thousand of his soldiers. The army of Bazin capitulated later, on October 27, 1870.
After receiving news of the capture of Napoleon on September 4 in Paris a republic was declared and was organized by the government of national defense. Prussia increased the number of troops in France to 700 thousand soldiers, in October, Paris was blocked. January 28, 1871 Paris capitulated, and then in France elections were held by the National Assembly, which approved the Frankfurt Peace treaty with Prussia on May 10, 1871.