Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck, 1815 - 1898
Portrait by Jacques Pilartz, 31 August 1890
Born: 1 April 1815, Sch
Died: 30 July 1898, Friedrichsruh, Schleswig-Holstein, German Empire
Bismarck was born into the aristocratic class known as Junker, his father had a military background and his mother was the educated daughter of a politician. From 1832 he studied law the University of Göttingen where he excelled only at beer drinking and dueling, then transferred to the University of Berlin. He briefly pursued both military and legal careers but bridled at authority and soon was back on the family estate reading. After pursuing a number of women, chiefly English (Bismarck was fluent in English, French, and Russian), he married Johanna von Puttkamer in 1847; they were together until her death in 1894. He entered politics in 1847 and his extremely conservative positions alienated many but his support of the king earned him a seat in the Diet, the parliament of the German federation. By his political understanding and ability to manipulate King Wilhelm (later Kaiser, with Bismarck's help), he drove Austria out of the federation, wrested Schleswig-Holstein from Danish control, and created the German nation out of Prussia and 17 smaller kingdoms, earning him the sobriquet Founder of Germany. He developed the single currency, a single legal code, and the first social security programs. He got a health insurance bill through the Reichstag in 1883, workers compensation the next year, and the first government-sponsored pension and disability program in 1889. When Kaiser Wilhelm died in 1888 he was replaced by his son Friedrich III, when Friedrich died three months later, his son became Wilhelm II, whom Bismarck was not able to manage. He retired in 1890 to write his memoirs.
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Otto von Bismarck quotes:
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- A Bavarian is half-way between an Austrian and a human being. permalink
- A conquering army on the border will not be stopped by eloquence. permalink
Speech to North German Reichstag (24 September 1867)
- A generation that has taken a beating is always followed by a generation that deals one. permalink
- A government must not waver once it has chosen it's course. It must not look to the left or right but go forward. permalink
- A little caution outflanks a large cavalry. permalink
- A really great man is known by three signs: generosity in the design, humanity in the execution, moderation in success. permalink
- A statesman cannot create anything himself. He must wait and listen until he hears the steps of God sounding through events; then leap up and grasp the hem of his garment. permalink
quoted by by Alan John Percivale Taylor in Bismarck: The Man and the Statesman (1955), p. 115
- All treaties between great states cease to be binding when they come in conflict with the struggle for existence. permalink
- An appeal to fear never finds an echo in German hearts. permalink
- Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war. permalink
- Be polite; write diplomatically; even in a declaration of war one observes the rules of politeness. permalink
- Better pointed bullets than pointed speeches. permalink
- Beware of sentimental alliances where the consciousness of good deeds is the only compensation for noble sacrifices. permalink
- Faust complained about having two souls in his breast, but I harbor a whole crowd of them and they quarrel. It is like being in a republic. permalink
- He who has his thumb on the purse has the power. permalink
speech to North German Reichstag (21 May 1869)
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