Canadians in Russia, 1918-1919 by Roy MacLaren

By Roy MacLaren

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He clearly did not anticipate that a strong Catholic party would emerge in 1870–71—the German Centre Party, which rapidly sought to mobilize support from all those who resented their inclusion in a new Germany dominated by Protestant Prussia. Nor was he impressed in 1870–71 by the activities of the handful of popularly elected socialist deputies in the Reichstag. He was incensed when their leader, August Bebel, 34 kathar ine anne ler man condemned the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, opposed further credits for the Franco-Prussian war, and extolled the virtues of the revolutionary Paris Commune.

Indeed, compared to the alternative of a resurgent France, Prussia’s consolidation of its influence over the south German states appeared to Britain and Russia to be a limited and acceptable aim in 1870. Russia ultimately rejected proposals for international mediation in the crisis, preferring to exploit the war to revise unilaterally the peace terms imposed after its defeat in the Crimean War in 1856. Britain, too, was not inclined to aid Napoleon III, especially after Bismarck publicized the French emperor’s plans to occupy Belgium.

But Kaiser Wilhelm I remained steeped in Prussian traditions throughout his life. Only his grandson, Wilhelm II, attempted after 1888 to elaborate and expand his role as an imperial monarch and national figurehead. There was also no provision for a national German government in 1871. The only man charged with responsibility for coordinating the affairs of the diverse empire was the imperial chancellor. Over time Bismarck developed a growing staff of subordinates to help him: their position was formalized in the late 1870s when a series of imperial offices were created, each headed by a state secretary.

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