A.J.P. Taylor on ‘Blood and Iron’

Taylor Bismarck

On 29 September he appeared in the budget commission and tried to brush aside the constitutional dispute. ‘Germany does not look to Prussia’s liberalism, but to her strength.’ And then, in his most famous sentence: ‘The great questions of the day will not be decided by speeches and the resolutions of majorities—that was the great mistake from 1848 to 1849—but by iron and blood.’1 This was a statement of fact, not of principle. The liberals dreamt of uniting Germany by ‘moral conquests’. Yet whoever has examined the Austrian records must recognize that the Habsburg statesmen would never have admitted the equality of Prussia except by blood and iron, though it might well have been the iron force of economic power rather than the bloody victory of war which forced the decision. All the great questions of our own day, from the defeat of Hitler to the checking of Soviet expansion, have been determined by blood and iron. It is the task of the idealist to put moral clothing on the victor.


1. Taylor, A. J. P. Bismarck, the Man and the Statesman. New York: Knopf, 1955. Print.



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