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Modernism: The Creation of Nation-States

Ahmet Ersoy
Maciej Górny
Vangelis Kechriotis

Chapter III. “National projects” and their regional framework

The struggle for supremacy in Germany, 1859-1866

Heinrich Fried Jung
Traduction de A. J. P. Taylor et W. L. McElwee

Texte intégral

1Title: Der Kampf um die Vorherrschaft in Deutschland 1859 bis 1866 (The struggle for supremacy in Germany, 1859–1866)

2Originally published: Stuttgart-Berlin, J. G. Cotta’sche Buchhandlung, vol. I in 1897, vol. II in 1898

3Language: German
The excerpts used are from the English edition: Heinrich Friedjung, The Struggle for Supremacy in Germany, 1859–1866, translated by A. J. P. Taylor and W. L. McElwee, (London: Macmillan and Co. limited, 1935), pp. 302–312.

About the author

4Heinrich Friedjung [1851, Roschtin (Cz. Roštín, Moravia) – 1920, Vienna]: historian and politician. Friedjung was the son of a Jewish tradesman. After studying history and German language in Prague, Vienna and Berlin he became a teacher at the Viennese Handelsakademie (academy of commerce) (1873–1879). He was subsequently relegated for his criticism towards the Austro-Hungarian Ausgleich and pro-German sympathies. At the end of the 1870s, he entered the German national movement and worked together with Georg Schönerer. He was one of the authors of the ‘Linz Program’, the political program of the German National Party (Deutschna-tionale Partei) of Schönerer drafted in 1882. From 1883 to 1886 Friedjung edited the Deutsche Wochenschrift (German weekly), and between 1886 and 1887 the Deutsche Zeitung (German gazette), the newspapers of the German National Party. The increase of antisemitism in Schönerer’s nationalism led to the exclusion of Friedjung from the party. His attempts to create his own nationalist Deutsche Volkspartei (German People’s Party) failed. From 1891 to 1895 he was a member of the Viennese city council. Starting in 1895, Friedjung worked predominantly as a historian, winning considerable reputation for his studies in recent history. Friedjung based his research on interviews with important political and military figures, and used his connections with the Austrian foreign ministry. He was closely affiliated with the foreign minister of Austria-Hungary between the years 1906 and 1912, Baron Aloys Lexa von Aehrenthal, whose ‘aggressive’ foreign policy resulted in the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908. In 1909 Aerenthal offered Friedjung some Serbian documents, supposedly submitted to the Austro-Hungarian ambassador in Belgrade by a Serbian ministerial official, so that he could write about the ‘Greater Serbia’ movement. Purportedly, the dangers invoked in the text supported the argument for an Austrian aggression against Serbia, which was to be realized in a matter of weeks. Friedjung’s text (Aktenstücke zur grofiserbischen Bewegung in österreich-Ungam) was an attack on the Serbian representatives of Austria-Hungary and the Serbian government in the first place. Because of this text, some leaders of the Serbian national movement, represented by Tomáš G. Masaryk and Josef Maria Baernreither, sued Friedjung in 1909, and were able to prove that the documents he used were forged. This process, and mostly the accusation of using false documents, destroyed Friedjung’s reputation. He began publishing again during the First World War, advocating the close cooperation of German Austria with the German Reich. However, his impact on Austrian politics was never as strong as in the late 1870s. His Jewish origin formally excluded him from the dominant group of Austrian-German nationalists, and heavily handicapped his later reception.

5Main works: Der Ausgleich mit Ungarn, Politische Studie tiber das Verhaltnifi Oesterreichs zu Ungarn und Deutschland [Compromise with Hungary. Political studies on the Austrian attitude towards Hungary and Germany] (1877); Der Kampf um die Vorherrschaft in Deutschland 1859–1866 [The struggle for supremacy in Germany, 18591866] (18971898); Der Krimkrieg und die österreichische Politik [The Crimean war and Austrian politics] (1907); Osterreich von 1848–1860 [Austria, 18481860] (19081912); Aktenstucke zur groβiserbischen Bewegung in Ösierreich-Ungarn [Documents on the Greater Serbian movement in Austria-Hungary] (1909); Das Zeitalter des Imperialismus 1884–1914 [Age of imperialism, 18841914] (19191922).


6During the 1860s, Austria was continuously modifying its political system. The liberal reforms were competing with the conservative stance, and centralism clashed with federalist tendencies. After the defeat at Königgrätz (Cz. Hradec Kralové), the weakened monarchy finally established the constitutional framework that remained valid till the end of its existence. The Austro-Hungarian compromise of 1867 was followed by the liberal constitution in the December of the same year. The Parliament (Reichsrat) ratified the budget and controlled the governments of the non-Hungarian subordinates of the Monarchy. Further liberal reforms were accompanied by an economical growth that was unprecedented in the history of Austria. However, in 1873, Austria was hit by the international crisis of the early 1870s which, in effect, weakened the position of the Liberals. In 1879, with the beginning of Czech political activism, the German liberal majority was broken. After the resignation of prime-minister Adolf Auersperg in 1879 and the emergence of a new government headed by Eduard Taaffe, the political situation in Austria was completely transformed. The new conservative government was supported by the clerical, Czech and Polish members of the Parliament.

7The main preoccupation of Taafee and the subsequent conservative government of Kazimierz Badeni was to reach a compromise between the Czechs and Germans in Bohemia. Recent developments had situated the Slavic nationalities in a privileged position, due to their higher birth rates and increasing migration to the predominantly German-speaking cities and regions. The government’s policy addressed these facts. By giving some rights to the Slavic nations—such as the division of the German university of Prague into German and Czech parts—the Germans were gradually losing their dominant position. This process culminated in 1897, when Badeni issued his language decrees, which acknowledged the Czech language as one of the official languages in Bohemia and Moravia. The decree demanded that the state officials of the province were to be given three years to master both German and Czech. The Germans of the monarchy considered themselves in danger, and Badeni was forced to resign under the violent manifestations of the Viennese mob.

8On a more intellectual level, two alternative programs were envisaged by the Austrian Germans in order to ameliorate their loss of status. The first was to renew German supremacy in Austria. The second was to unify, in a more or less formal manner, the German regions of the monarchy with the German Empire. One of the most influential, though rather elitist, groups within this debate was the Pan-Germanic movement, which promoted a clearly anti-Austrian political program. Already in 1882, some of its most prominent members formulated the ‘Linz Program’ which postulated a closer union with Germany, and the separation of the most non-German provinces (Galicia and Bukovina) from the Cisleithania. Friedjung was among the authors of the ‘Linz Program’ and propagated its main arguments in numerous historical works. In Der Kampf um die Vorherrschaft in Deutschland 1859 bis 1866, Friedjung did not support the dissolution of the monarchy openly, but pointed at the necessity of satisfying the political needs of Austrian Germans, who—unlike the other Austrian nationalities—could choose from among two loyalties: to the Habsburg monarchy or to the German state.

9The first volume of Friedjung’s account on the political conflicts of recent history deals with the unsuccessful attempt of the Austrian monarchy to strengthen its position in Germany between 1859 and 1866. Step by step, Prussia replaced Austria’s dominant position in Germany. The short Austro-Prussian war of 1866 is the subject of the second volume. Friedjung describes Austria’s political and military defeat and her separation from Germany. His criticism is directed on the backwardness of the Austrian state, unable to act and committing the mistake of underestimating the nationality question, which, on the other hand, was used by Bismarck in his German policy. Friedjung militantly defends Ludwig von Benedek, the commander of the Austrian army, and points, rather, at the more general sources of the defeat, without sparing criticism for the members of the Habsburg dynasty. In the end, both in his résumé and in his interviews with the political and military leaders of 1866, Friedjung suggests that the separation of Austria and Germany was not eternal. Prussia’s idea in the 1860s (and thereafter) to conceive of Germany in the form of a smaller and a bigger union, which had been rejected by Austria, was still a possibility in the 1890s. Friedjung interpreted the dual alliance between Austria and Germany in 1879 as the first step to a larger union with Germany.

10Although Friedjung himself was probably the most influential Austrian historian of the late nineteenth century, his accounts of recent history did not initiate any new political debates. The book received positive reactions from the German readers (it was published in Germany), and was proclaimed by the Peter-Wilhelm-Muller-Stiftung in 1903 to be one of the most formidable works in recent history. In ideological terms, Friedjung reproduced the main tenets of the nationalists, stance. His book purported that the support of the Austrian Germans for the monarchy was not be taken for granted; that it was the Germans who paid the price for the survival and stabilization of Austria after 1866; and that the ruling cadres of the state had to be more sympathetic towards Germans, as they still bore the main burden of the state’s expenses and contributed to its nourishment. Understandably, Friedjung’s historical works were not translated into the other languages of the monarchy. However, Friedjung became an object of harsh criticism from non-German politicians in the Cisleithania after the publication of his report on the high treason of Serb and Croat politicians in Austria in 1909—even if the statements by Masaryk were directed against the Austrian foreign ministry, rather than against Friedjung personally. As a co-founder of the program of German nationalism in Austria, and as an agent of aggressive Austrian foreign policy against Serbia, Friedjungs role was solely the formulation of political ideas, while he lacked the pragmatic perspective of a leader.

11Ironically, the democratization of the Habsburg monarchy abruptly destroyed Friedjung’s political hopes. The first democratic elections in 1907 were a disaster for the German nationalists. The main political actors of the new Parliament were the Christian-Social and the Social-Democratic parties, both vehemently supporting the existing Austrian state. Moreover, the national compromises in Moravia (1905), Bukovina (1910), and Galicia (1914) seemed to initiate a new political atmosphere whereby the restoration of German domination in the monarchy would not be possible. German irreden-tism was thus not as big a threat for the future of Austria as it was perceived by Friedjung and other German nationalists. In the end it was not the Czech-German conflict that led to the dissolution of the monarchy.

12Friedjung’s legacy was shaped by the growing antisemitism of the pan-German movement. During the First World War he was a fervent supporter of the German Mitteleuropa-project, and in the following years he publicized the ideas he propagated in ‘The struggle for supremacy in Germany’, aiming at a closer union between Austria and Germany. Due to his Jewish origin (among other reasons) he was never acknowledged as an intellectual supporter of the Anschluss. His main works ceased to be published in the early 1920s. However, as a historian, Friedjung is respected for his innovative mode of integrating personal interviews into his rendition of contemporary events.


The struggle for supremacy in Germany 18591866

14The verdict of history had been delivered and Austria had been defeated in the struggle with Prussia for supremacy in Germany. Austria had to pay for the suppression of all independence of thought ever since the Counter-Reformation. The system of Metternich and Francis had sapped the will and energy of the people and had produced a pleasure-loving generation which shrank from any great effort. By the time of the Revolution of 1848 all energy had departed from the very system of government. [...]

15The leading men of 1866 had all grown up in the ideas of Metternich and the Restoration. They disputed the right of the peoples to control their own destinies; they underestimated the forces of nationality; they regarded treaties and legitimate rights not only as the sources of positive law, but even as the bases of historic development. They supported the system of the Holy Alliance and so committed themselves to a sinking cause. [...]

16It is understandable that the War of 1866 left a feeling of bitterness in Austria and a desire for revenge. It seemed inconceivable that the long line of German Emperors of the House of Habsburg was at an end for ever; [...]

17The great majority of the German Austrians greeted the German victories of 1870 with enthusiasm; the most embittered Austrian patriots were silenced after the battles of Wörth and Metz, and the Emperor wisely determined that the cry of revenge should never be revived.

  • 1 Julian Dunajewski (1821-1907): in the years 1880–1891 the Austrian minister of finance responsible (...)

18The freedom from prejudice with which Francis Joseph concluded the alliance with Prussia and Italy, with the very powers who had robbed him of his dynastic inheritance, is without a parallel in history. He broke further with the traditions of the old Austria by terminating the Concordat with the Pope and establishing liberal institutions in both Austria and Hungary. The rising generation may have already forgotten what progress the empire owes to these changes; but their elders still remember with what contempt Austrian learning and education was regarded by cultured Europe. The army benefited most of all from this revival of intellectual activities. [...] Equally beneficial was the effect of the change on the Austrian finances. Those who experienced the three national bankruptcies of 1811, 1815, and 1867, never dreamt that the budget would be completely balanced scarcely a generation later.1 This was partly due to the changed position of Austria in Germany and Italy. She had no longer to defend the Rhine against France, guard her northern frontier against a jealous neighbor, and at the same time keep army ready in Italy. The compromise with Hungary, although disadvantageous to Austria in its financial provisions, greatly strengthened her foreign policy; for the proud and patriotic Hungarians, who had served the empire unwillingly in 1859 and 1866, now became the chief supporters of its position as a great power. The division of forces, which had previously crippled the empire, was replaced by a concentration of policy directed towards the east, and as a result the empire was not really weakened by the defeats of 1859 and 1866.

19But someone had to pay the price and the real sufferers by the defeat of 1866 were the Germans of Austria; they lost their political centre of gravity and have never recovered it. Once their gaze, when they wished to comprehend the policy of the empire, was limited only by the far horizon of Frankfort, Milan, Constantinople, and Buda-Pest, the loss of their predominance in Germany, Italy, and Hungary confined their interests to petty questions of domestic policy, and the Government confidently assumed that their power was broken. But when Badeni acted as if the rights of Germans had been already partitioned among the other races of the Monarchy, the Germany Aus-trians forcibly reminded the Government that they were in a different position from the Slavs and Magyars, who must of necessity regard Austria as their home. The Germans, as partners in a great national culture, have another alternative open to them, as soon as they cease to be attached to Austria by their free choice and by the loyalty they have manifested for hundreds of years. Nothing could have been more foolish than to provoke such a train of thought in a people which has no desire to probe anew into the foundations of its political and national existence, but is anxious only to live and die in its hereditary connection with the dynasty and the Monarchy.

20Taafee had already set out to increase the power of the Crown by encouraging the divisions among the German Austrians and the conflict between the nationalities, and for years this policy seemed to be successful; but it was destroyed by the mobs which swept through the streets of Vienna, Prague, and Graz, immediately before and after the fall of Badeni. It was made manifest that a policy which endangered the internal peace of the empire would in the end shake the very foundations of monarchical authority.

21Austria-Hungary is, however, an empire whose destiny will always be determined by its foreign policy; and this depends primarily on relations with Germany, relations which can hardly be finally settled by the alliance of 1879: history points to a closer connection between the two countries and Bismarck himself said that the exclusion of Austria from Germany would only be the prelude to a closer union of the German race. Bismarck engineered the War of 1866 because he wanted to deprive the old Imperial House of the Imperial throne, but he sternly rejected the suggestion of seizing any part of the Austrian Empire. [...]

  • 2 Gyula Andrássy (1823-1890), the first constitutional Hungarian premier and minister of foreign aff (...)

22In July 1866, immediately after the battle of Königgrätz, Bismarck considered whether he should not offer Austria peace on the basis of the creation of a German Confederation, comprehending the Northern Federation, Austria, and the southern states. Circumstances were unfavorable to such an ambitious plan and Bismarck decided to content himself with uniting North Germany. But the idea was always present in his mind and in 1879 he proposed to Andrassy2 that the alliance should be made a fundamental law by submitting it to the Parliaments of the two countries and incorporating it in their Constitutions. What he proposed was “a constitutional alliance against a coalition” which “should be brought into existence by the co-operation of all the constitutional elements, and be dissoluble only by the same co-operation, that is, with the consent of the Emperor, The Federal Council, and the Parliament in Germany, and of the Monarch and the two representative assemblies in Austria. An alliance so guaranteed would have been the logical conclusion of the movement for German unification, but the leading statesmen of Austria. Hungary were not yet ready for a revival of the old national connection, and the idea will still need many years to mature. Bismarck gave one last glimpse of his hopes for the German people in the first speech from the throne which he drafted for William II and which was delivered on June 25, 1888: “I am loyal to the alliance with Austria with German fidelity, not merely because it is in existence, but because I regard this defensive alliance as a pillar of the European balance of power and, what is more, as a legacy of German history, welcomed to-day by the public opinion of the entire German race, and in consonance with the traditions of international law, which were of uncontested validity until 1866.”

23Until 1888 the Prussian statesmen had carefully avoided reviving the memory of the times before 1866, when they spoke of Austria-Hungary. But William II had not fought at Königgrätz like his father and grandfather: he could refer to the old German Confederation without reopening the wounds of 1866.

24When the generation of the German civil war has been gathered to its fathers, the day will come for their heirs to realize the legacy of German history.

25Translated by A. J. P. Taylor and W. L. McElwee in Heinrich Friedjung, The Struggle for Supremacy in Germany, 1859-1866, (London, Macmillan and Co. limited, 1935), pp. 302–312.


1 Julian Dunajewski (1821-1907): in the years 1880–1891 the Austrian minister of finance responsible for reforming the Austrian taxation system and balancing the state budget.

2 Gyula Andrássy (1823-1890), the first constitutional Hungarian premier and minister of foreign affairs of the Monarchy between 1871 and 1879.


A. J. P. Taylor (Traducteur)
W. L. McElwee (Traducteur)

© Central European University Press, 2010

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