Courtesy Reuters

Bismarck's Legacy

MAKERS of history from Julius Caesar to Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill have felt an urge to write about themselves, to explain to posterity what they have done and tried to do, to justify the use they have made of their power, to cast the blame on others for what went wrong. Bismarck's apologia stands at the top of the list of political autobiographies, not merely because he is the greatest man who ever wrote a full-length narrative of his public career, and not merely owing to the earth-shaking events it describes, but because its utility as a manual of statesmanship is unsurpassed. It produces an almost overwhelming sense of power. So long as rulers desire guidance on the discharge of their perilous duties, and so long as students seek to unravel the tangled skein of European diplomacy, his volumes are likely to be read. Compared with their dynamic force and their majestic sweep, the lengthy narratives of Guizot and Bülow seem commonplace enough. Is it an exaggeration to describe the Iron Chancellor's political testament as the most authoritative treatise on the art of government since the "Prince" of Machiavelli? As a factual record and interpretation of events it is as open to criticism as any other work of its class. Its unique significance lies not only in the visualization of the greatest figure of the nineteenth century except Napoleon, but in the maxims it enunciates and the warnings it suggests.

Some of the most celebrated books in the world owe their origin to the accident of their authors' fall from power. It is unusual for a superman such as Frederick the Great to compile a large-scale record of his achievements amid the turmoil of the daily task. Clarendon's two masterpieces were the fruits of his earlier and later exile. Napoleon needed the boredom of St. Helena to dictate his fragmentary reminiscences. Émile Ollivier compiled the 16 volumes of "L'Empire Libéral" when the débâcle of 1870 terminated his brief

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