August 17th in German History: The Grand Duchy of Baden Allies with Prussia

Friedrich I of Baden.jpg
Grand Duke Frederick of Baden, who signed the treaty.

The unification of Germany into one nation was a long and complicated process. The final declaration in 1871 was the product of decades of political maneuvering and increased political and economic unity which broke down the barriers between the different German states. One important step was the treaty of alliance signed between Prussia and the Duchy of Baden on August 17, 1866.

Before the Austro-Prussian War, most German states were allied with the Empire of Austria, who opposed Prussia. However, Prussia quickly defeated Austria and her German allies. Helmuth von Moltke crushed the Austrian Army at the Battle of Sadowa and invaded several of the smaller German states. One of these states was the Grand Duchy of Baden, one of the smaller south German territories which historically had been allied with Austria. Baden was a member of the German Confederation, and Austrian-dominated league of German states meant to maintain the Emperor’s hegemony over Germany. Grand Duke Frederick succeeded his father in 1852 and had continued his pro-Austrian policy. However, the defeat of his armies forced him to withdraw from the war. His ministers resigned and on August 17th, 1866, the country signed a treaty of peace and alliance with Prussia.

Baden would quickly become a faithful ally of Prussia. Her troops fought well during the Franco-Prussian War and Duke Frederick was the first of the German leaders to hail Kaiser Wilhelm I when he was crowned Emperor of Germany. Baden remained a semi-sovereign state within the German Empire until 1918, and Frederick was its ruler until his death in 1907. Baden’s alliance with Prussia is a good example of a leader recognizing a shift in power and taking actions to preserve his own power and the safety and autonomy of his people.

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