“How is This for High?”

January 7, 1871

Thomas Nast

“How is This for High?”

Colonialism/Imperialism; Wars, Franco-Prussian War;

Bismarck, Otto von; Kaiser Wilhelm;


No caption

This Harper's Weekly cartoon by Thomas Nast sketches the crowning of King Wilhelm I of Prussia as Emperor (Kaiser) of Germany, after the unification of the German states into a single nation in 1871.  Nast portrays Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian chancellor, as the (political) artist who has redrawn the map of Germany.  Wilhelm I looks vainly in a mirror, admiring his imperial crown, while his kingly (König) crown lies in the trash basket.  The mirror is held by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who joined the Prussian fight against France in July 1870, and that December, at Bismarck's urging, wrote a public letter proposing creation of a unified German empire. 

In 1866, Prussia's victory over Austria and her allies in the Seven Weeks' War secured Prussia's preeminence among the German states, and led to the formation of the Northern German Confederation the next year. The emergence of a powerful Prussia threatened France's dominance in Western Europe, and culminated in the Franco-Prussian War.  The specific event triggering the war was the attempt by Bismarck to place a German prince on the Spanish throne.  To resist France being bound on each side by the proposed German-Spanish coalition, Napoleon III declared war on the German Confederation on July 19, 1870.

In September 1870, with German troops besieging Paris, French patriots led by Leon Gambetta deposed Napoleon III and declared the Third Republic. In January 1871, Paris finally fell and negotiations for a settlement began, ending unhappily for France a few months later with the cession of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany.  At the same time, the four southern German states, led by Bavaria, joined the Northern German Confederation to establish the German Empire. Wilhelm was proclaimed German emperor in Versailles, France, the former estate of French monarchs.

Robert C. Kennedy

“How is This for High?”
March 4, 2024

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