Bismarck’s Conservatism

Taylor Bismarck

Bismarck was to establish himself in history as a great conservative statesman, but he was conservative in an unusual way. Though he admired traditional beliefs and institutions, he had no faith in their strength. The revolutions of 1848 gave him a shock from which he never recovered; and he always supposed, like any radical, that fresh, more violent revolutions were only a matter of time. In so far as he had any vision of the future, he held that Europe would not be at peace until her peoples had been sorted out into nationalities or, as he preferred to put it, into ‘tribes’. The difference of words is not a triviality. The advocates of nationalism claimed to be preaching a high moral principle—Mazzini equating nationalism and Christianity merely carried this to its extreme. Bismarck did not regard nationalism as high or moral; he merely accepted it as inevitable and wished to be on the winning side. His calculations have proved correct. The ‘tribes’ have won all over Europe; the sorting-out has even been completed artificially by the compulsory moving of populations; yet politics are no more moral than they were before.


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


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