30 July 1898: Otto von Bismarck dies at age 83.
Okay so today I am going to cover more of Bismarck, most notably his later years and ‘fall from grace’.
If you don’t know much about him, you can read about his involvement in the Franco-Prussian war and how he unified the German states into an empire and became its first Chancellor.
So Germany was unified in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian war. After he became Chancellor, believe it or not, Bismarck was all for promoting peace within Europe. He had stirred up enough wars to get what he wanted (unification) and now it was time to just sit back and relax.
He joined forces with Russia and Austria-Hungary to create the League of Three Emperors, which sounds awfully like a bad Jackie Chan film sequel.
They had a secret clubhouse and a handshake and really they just wanted their cutie marks like everyone else.
However with that much power and ego floating around it was incredibly unstable. It’s like if the Triforce had finally come together and it was just three Ganondorfs who held each piece. It banded and disbanded like that annoying couple you know who won’t decide if they like each other or not.
So he got in a few snaffus with France, who was out for blood after recovering from the F-P War in 1875 and it resulted in the United Kingdom sending a telegram to Berlin to *politely* tell them to cut that shit out.
But more or less Bismarck was just like “let’s just stay where we are, we got a cozy empire, we’re legit, we’re big and strong and we got a bitchin’ presence, so we’re cool”
Domestically, Bismarck instituted the first social welfare state in 1880 as a means to improve the German economy through employee security, because workers can’t do shit if they’re like dead and stuff. He passed a Health Insurance bill in 1883, Accident Insurance Bill in 1884, and an Old Age & Disability Insurance Act in 1889. Of course they’re not nearly as comprehensive as today’s insurances (he didn’t believe in laws regarding child labor and safe working conditions since it would reduce productivity), however they were revolutionary for the time.
Okay so how did this cool dude get kicked out of office?
Well when his buddy Emperor Wilhelm I kicked it in 1888, his son Freidrich III was in charge. However this guy only lasted like 3 months before throat cancer KO’d the guy and HIS son Wilhelm II took charge.
While Bismarck was chill with Germany and pretty happy with where things were, Wilhelm was a bit stir-crazy and decided that they should JUST TAKE OVER EVERYTHING.
So Bismarck, who at this point was 72 years old and 16 years older than the new Emperor, was just like
He didn’t respect anything that Wilhelm wanted to do (most of it involved imperial expansion), and it soon became clear that Wilhelm wanted to do things for himself, and was constantly surrounded by people who told him “WELL YOU KNOW, Frederick the Great wouldn’t be great if he had a Bismarck around. You know. Just a hint. Maybe.”
So shit between Bismarck and the king weren’t going well, and there was a struggle in the Reichstag between what he wanted and what other political parties wanted, and what the King wanted, and it was actually a lot like how shit gets done today in government when it comes to “actually get things done vs. take down the other political party”
So basically nothing got done at all and the floor just looked like a bunch of old white guys complaining about everyone else in the room. Isn’t it nice to know that nothing has changed in over 100 years?
So to make a very, very long story short, after a long time of the two bickering and trying to sabotage the other person’s goals and laws and bills, Wilhelm led a very heated argument in Bismarck’s office over Bismarck inviting a politician to a meeting without his approval. Bismarck showed the king a letter from the Russian Tsar who described Wilhelm as a “very badly brought-up boy” stormed out and ordered a repealing of a law passed in 1851 that diverted Prussian cabinet members to report to the Prime Minister and not the King of Prussia.
So Bismarck realized that he was in deep shit and it was all his own doing and wrote a letter of resignation that was just a fancy way of saying “fuck you” to the King.
Finally on 18 March 1890 he resigned at his king’s insistence, middle fingers high in the air. Even worse, his wife died a year later. He spent the rest of his life writing his memoirs, probably lying about himself, basking in public support, and attacking the King for being a douchecanoe, probably.
He died on 30 July 1898, his tombstone reading, “Here lies a true servant of Emperor Wilhelm I.” Ouch.
And what about Wilhelm II, Bismarck’s arch-rival? While Bismarck got roughly 283947 memorials and shit named after him all around the world, Wilhelm II got the grand war he always wanted. We know it today as World War I. He abdicated in November of 1918 and fled to exile in the Netherlands. Guess who got the last laugh?