By David Wetzel
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Extra resources for A Duel of Nations: Germany, France, and the Diplomacy of the War of 1870-1871
Like many others, including his master, William I, he felt a profound sympathy for the tsarist autocracy as he knew it and a violent antipathy for the revolutionary movements just now making their appearance on the Russian political scene that sought to overthrow it. Throughout this whole period of his career, he would do nothing that could be construed as damaging to relations between Prussia and Russia—though the Russians, one may add, did not always see his actions this way. Still, Bismarck’s reasons for wanting good relations with Russia were logical and obvious ones.
37 There is no evidence that he was a man of bad character or sinister designs. But of his desire to promote better relations with France there could be no doubt, and in the years before the outbreak of war he threw himself into a campaign against Prussia. Particularly galling to him was the Russo-Prussian alliance of 1868, which Bismarck had worked so hard to achieve and to the destruction of which Hansen dedicated himself repeatedly. In the months following the outbreak of the war, he was constantly on the move, dashing from one place to another, seeing a most extraordinary variety of people.
This is not to suggest that Bismarck was immune from the baser emotions, for he was not. That he was ﬁlled with bursts of anger was well known, and he could admit that hatred had often deprived him of sleep for whole nights. To this heritage, however, Bismarck added markedly different characteristics—restraint, moderation, the ability to peer into the minds of others, and a readiness to risk his prestige for the sake of peace and moderation. Bismarck rarely allowed his emotions to interfere with, much less overcome, his conduct of foreign policy.