Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Spain, the Ems Dispatch and the unification of Germany

Ems Dispatch, Bismarck´s edited version, 13th July 1870

What did a telegram have to do with the beginning of the French- Prussian War? What was the role of Spain on that affair? This is the curious story behind the scenes of the process of German unification:

In September 1868 there was a revolution in Spain against Isabella II´s monarchy. This was the so called Glorious Revolution. Politicians and military men from different parties (progressives, democrats and members of the Liberal Union) conspired against Isabella II, there was a military uprising in Cádiz and some days later Isabella II exiled in France. A period of six years of democratic government started (Democratic Sexenio). The leaders of the revolution formed a Provisional Government and called Constituent Cortes. The Cortes wrote a new Constitution in 1869 and they decided that Spain would go on being a monarchy. The Provisional Government commissioned General Juan Prim to look for a new king for Spain. This search for a new king was not only a Spanish affair, because all the European powers wanted to have their say. The main European powers had their favourite candidate and refused the candidates they didn´t like. Here you have  three cartoons about the monarch´s search: 

Isabella II, her son Alphonse, her brother-in-law, the Duke of Montpensier and a carlist
observing in Paris an advertisement about the search for a king in Spain.
Revista La Flaca, 10th July 1869

Prim, Topete and Serrano selling the Spanish crown at auction
Revista La Flaca,  27th March 1869

Espartero and Montpensier trying to occupy the Spanish throne.
Revista La Flaca, 12th June 1870

These were the main candidates to the Spanish throne:

- Anthony of Orleans, Duke of Montpensier, a French candidate. He was Louis Philippe of Orleans´s son and was married to Luisa Fernanda, Isabella II´s sister. The Germans refused this candidate. He was involved on a duel in 1870, where he killed infant Enrique of Bourbon, and the Cortes rejected his candidacy. 

- Ferdinand of Coburg: he was married to Mary II, queen of Portugal. His candidacy was refused by all those who didn´t want an Iberian Union and he refused to be the king of Spain.

- General Baldomero Espartero, Duke of the Victory: he had had an important role in the 1st Carlist War, he had been regent between 1840 and 1843, the president of the governmet during the Progressive Biennium  and was one of the most respected figures of the Progressive Party. Espartero refused to become the king of Spain. 

- Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen: he was the Prussian candidate. The French didn´t like this option.

This last candidacy and the way the French opinion was communicated led to the war that completed the unification of Germany. This is what happened: 

Kaiser Wilhem of Prussia was spending some time at Ems Spa and he received the visit of the Count of Benedetti, French ambassador. The French ambassador politely communicated to Kaiser Wilhem that France wouldn´t like that Leopold of Hohenzollern became the king of Spain. Kaiser Wilhem I accepted this decision and sent a dispatch to Bismarck explaining the conversation. But Bismarck decided to manipulate the content of the dispatch and he changed the tone of the French ambassador´s words, sharpening the language and presenting the French position as unacceptable. The Ems Dispatch provoked an increase of tension between France and Prussia and France had no other option than declaring war to Prussia.

Kaiser Wilhem I of Prussia and the Count of Benedetti, walking at Bad Ems, 13th July 1870

All the German States united to fight against France. The French were defeated in the Battle of Sedan, Napoleon III was captured, the 2nd Empire disappeared and the 3rd Republic was proclaimed in France. France lost Alsace and Lorraine and the 2nd German Empire (Reich) was proclaimed in 1871 in the Hall of the Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles. Wilhem I became Emperor of Germany. 

And who became king of Spain in the end? Amadeus of Savoy. He was Victor Emmanuel II´s third son. His candidacy didn´t bother any important European country. On the 16th November 1870 the Cortes voted to elect the new king of Spain and Amadeus of Savoy got 191 votes. 60 deputies voted for a Federal Republic, 27 for the Duke of Montpensier, 8 for Espartero, 2 for Alphonse of Bourbon (Isabella II´s son), 2 for a Unitarian Republic, 1 for the Republic, 1 for the Duchess of Montpensier and there were 19 spoiled votes. 


Alejandro Torrillas said...

Hi Paqui!
I think it is curious how the succession to the Spanish throne affect indirectly to the war between the German empire and France. Bismarck was very intelligent but as many of the politician he didn't mind about how he will obtain his goals. That's unethical and his action could involved also Spain and more countries. I think Bismarck was so prepotent that he didn't thought carefully about the consequences of his actions.
By see you tomorrow.

Paqui Pérez Fons said...

Hello Alejandro,

You comment has reminded me to the quote you chose of Napoleon: "A leader is a dealer in hope". Bismarck´s objective was to unify all the German States and he believed that this would only happen through war. And yes, he did think of the consequences of war, but for him the unification of Germany was more important than the soldiers who would die at the battlefields. The manipulation of the dispatch was the casus belli he needed to increase tension with France and other wars have also started due to the manipulation of truth: World War 1 and more recently, the invasion of Irak. The USA and the United Kingdom manipulated the information about mass destruction weapons. They said that Irak had biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and this was a lie. I recommend yo to read the post I wrote about Eugene Debs and the speech he pronounced about WW1. He talked about the wars politicians decide and the soldiers and the civil people who suffer wars. Debs was accused of treason and sent to prison. The power of many nations or even nations have been built over many blood and corpses. Is this worth it?

Have a good night.