Bismarck knew that a successful war with France, where France would be seen to attack Prussia, would unite the German nation. Thus he needed to force France into declaring war on Prussia. He did this by carefully editing a report of the Prussian king, Wilhelm I, meeting with the French ambassador. Bismarck succeeded in giving the published telegram the impression to the Germans people that Wilhelm I had been insulted by the French ambassador -- and to Frenchmen that their ambassador had been similarly insulted by the Prussian king.
|Memorial stone to the Ems Dispatch in Bad Ems (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Bismarck would later write that using the royal authorisation communicated to him to publish the contents of the Ems telegram; “I reduced the telegram by striking out words, but without adding or altering, to the following form: "After the news of the reunification of the hereditary Prince of Hollenzollern had been officially communicated to the imperial government of France by the royal government of Spain, the French ambassador at Ems further demanded of his majesty the King that he would authorize him to telegraph to Paris that his Majesty the King bound himself for all future time never again to give his consent if the Hollenzollerns should renew their candidature. His Majesty the King thereupon decided not to receive the French ambassador again, and sent to tell him through the aide-de-camp on duty that his Majesty had nothing further to communicate to the ambassador."
|Engraving of Otto von Bismarck (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Bismarck further commented;” After I had read out the concentrated edition to my two guests, Moltke remarked: "Now it has a different ring; it sounded before like a parley now it is like a flourish in answer to a challenge." I went on to explain: "If in execution of his Majesty's order I at once communicate this text, which contains no alteration in or addition to the telegram, not only to the newspapers, but also telegraph to all our embassies, it will be known in Paris before midnight, and not only on account of its contents, but also on account of the manner of its distribution, will have the effect of a red rag upon the Gallic bull. Fight we must if we do not want to act the part of the vanquished without a battle. Success, however, essentially depends upon the impression which the origination of the war makes upon us and others; it is important that we should be the party attacked.”
French national pride was so outraged that the government of Napoleon III declared war on Prussia within two days. As Bismarck had hoped, the southern German states joined to defend Prussia against the French, thus uniting Germany and a war that saw Prussia victorious in just six weeks.
|Napoleon III having a conversation with Fürst Otto von Bismarck after his defeat and capture at Sedan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The results of the Franco-Prussian war would eventually cause devastation and suffering on a scale as the world had never seen.