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The Public Mood in Bavaria and Other Federal States through British Eyes (December 3, 1866)

After Prussia’s victory in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the future lay open. Annexations in the north and the forced incorporation of the Kingdom of Saxony into the North German Confederation had vastly increased Prussia’s power and prestige; but still the southern German states remained independent. Since many Germans longed for a unified Germany, there was a great deal of speculation about where Bismarck’s expansionist plans would lead next. The following appraisal was written in December 1866 by Sir Henry Francis Howard (1809-1898), who served as the British envoy to Bavaria from 1866 to 1872. In this confidential report to the British Foreign Office, Howard sums up the mood in the annexed territories and in the southern states. Although it was in Britain’s interest for Prussia to provide a bulwark against possible French aggression in the future, other diplomatic complications clouded the overall picture. Domestically, Prussia’s hegemony was proving difficult to swallow by those who had fought on the losing side during the war. Howard accurately describes the bitterness felt towards Prussia in many parts of Germany at the time.

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Munich, 3 December 1866

My Lord,

The Prussian annexations have no doubt considerably advanced the unification of Germany, but the process of consolidation will be a slow one, because they were effected by conquest and contrary to the will of the population of the annexed countries, and the general state of Germany after the war is anything but settled or satisfactory.

In Prussia, the triumphs of the Army and a common feeling amongst all classes in favor of aggrandizement, have divided the opposition in the Chamber of Deputies and have procured for the Government Parliamentary successes hardly less remarkable than those they gained in the field: – But nevertheless the internal conflict in Prussia, though suspended in order not to frustrate Count Bismarck’s external policy, the results of which meet with such general approbation from all parties in the country, is not altogether terminated and may break out again at any time, the anti-liberal system of internal Government and the political prosecutions still continuing as before the war.

In Hanover, the people by no means view the incorporation of their country in the light in which it is represented by some political writers, either ignorant of the real state of the case, or regardless of the truth, namely in that of a blessing. On the contrary the Hanoverians, a people as highly educated as the Prussians, who would have been ready to make sacrifices in order to promote the public good and to strengthen the common action of Germany, are unable to reconcile themselves to the expulsion of their dynasty, to the total extinction of their separate existence and independence, and to the loss of their own institutions, more liberal than the Prussian and in many respects superior to the latter. The Prussians, as I am credibly informed, meet with ill will and opposition from all classes of the population, with the exception of a portion of that in the towns and in the provinces annexed to Hanover in 1815. On their part, therefore, it will, require much delicate handling, patience and time before they can succeed in moulding the Hanoverians to their shape and system, and however intelligent and able they may be, they notoriously do not possess the talent of making themselves easily beloved.

In Hesse Cassel, where the people had much ground of complaint against their Sovereign and Government, and in Nassau, where the Government were not popular, the case is no doubt different, but still there has been in both those States much more unwillingness to accept the new order of things than had been anticipated.

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