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Bismarck was perhaps the most capable politician of his day, although he was prone to make enemies because of intemperate speeches. His shrewdness in achieving his purposes could not be underestimated. His principle in uniting Germany was to do so under the leadership of Prussia and to exclude the other large German speaking state, Austria. Bismarck's policies were known as realpolitik, or practical politics. To Bismarck the end justified the means. If changing tactics would move him closer to his purpose, he did so without second thought. He also was not concerned about opinions of others. In a famous speech before the German Reichstag, he said:
Germany is not looking to Prussia's liberalism, but to its power; Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden may indulge liberalism, and for that reason no one will assign them Prussia's role; Prussia has to coalesce and concentrate its power for the opportune moment, which has already been missed several times; Prussia's borders according to the Vienna Treaties [of 1814-15] are not favorable for a healthy, vital state; it is not by speeches and majority resolutions that the great questions of the time are decided – that was the big mistake of 1848 and 1849 – but by blood and iron.
To accomplish his purpose, Bismarck provoked a war with Austria after first having secured France's neutrality. This was the Seven Weeks War which ended with Bismarck securing the provinces of Schleswig-Holstein for Prussia. He then was very lenient to Austria, as he needed its neutrality when he pursued his next target, which was France. He then provoked a war with France, the famous Franco-Prussian War in which France was soundly defeated and Napoleon III humiliated. From this effort, he secured the provinces of Alsace-Lorraine. In the meantime, by provoking the wars, he ignited a torrent of German nationalism centered around Prussia. He then was able to have Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia crowned as Kaiser Wilhelm I of the united Empire of Germany.
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