Caprivi, Hohenlohe, Bülow and Bethmann-Hollweg (1890-1914)

  • Created by: OriC13
  • Created on: 05-01-19 21:47

Caprivi (1890-1894) and His Policies

Caprivi's New Course/Deal:

  • Taking a more consultative approach to government and a conilitary attitude to previously hostile forces
  • In his first few weeks of power Caprivi went our of his way to make concessions to the Poles, Socialists and Catholics/Centralists
  • He lowered tariffs to improve export trade
  • He gave ministers more influence over policy making

Social Reforms:

  • July 1890, Industrial courts set up to adjudicate in wage disputes and restrict women to working only 11 hours a day
  • Workers were given the right to form comittees
  • Welcomen by the SPD, working class and Zentrum
  • Opposed by the Conservatives
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Caprivi's Policies (Cont.)

Tariff Reform:

  • Caprivi lowered the duties on imported wheat and rye
  • This reduced the protection of agriculture
  • Also reduced the tariffs on imported German manufactured goods
  • Grain producers were angry so formed the Agrarian League in 1893, by 1894 membership was at 250,000
  • The League also formed the basis of a Conservative movement

Prussian School BIll 1892:

  • A bill to restore some of the Church's privileges taken away by the Kulturkampf
  • Would have given them more say in education and more funds
  • Was never passed 
  • Faced large opposition from the NLs, many Conservatives and some Socialists
  • Caprivi had alienated most political allies via this so depite backing down was forced to resign as Prussian PM
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Caprivi's Policies (Cont.)

Army Bill 1892-93:

  • Caprivi was worried France and Russia would encircle the Empire so planned to increase the army budget to strengthen it by up to 84,000 men
  • He planned to bargain with a reduce in conscription from 3 years to 2 and let the Reichstag review the budget every 5 years
  • Became law in 1893
  • Upset the national right including the Camerilla (Kaiser's upper class)

Resignation 1894:

  • Caprivi found the Kaiser difficult to work with
  • Kaiser interfered with Caprivi's policy on the Church and the Socialists
  • Caprivi resigned in 1894
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Prince Zu Hohenlohe (1894-1900) and His Policies

Anti-Subversive Bill:

  • Meant to curb Socialism by introducing higher penalties for socialist activities
  • 1895 it was thrown out by the Reichstag
  • SPD and NLs opposed the bill

Navy Law and Flottenpolitik 1898:

  • Flottenpolitik= the thought that Germany had to build a navy to rival that of Britains if they were to gain world power status
  • Navy Law set out plans for the expansion of the Navy to match Britains
  • Would give them 19 battleships and 42 cruisers
  • Public sentiment was in line with the navy law
  • Supported by the Reichstag majority (inc. Zentrum)
  • Supported by the Kaiser
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Hohenlohe's Policies (Cont.)

Sammlungspolitik (Concentration):

  • The rallying together of the population to raise nationalism and bring together landowners and industrialists to fight socialism
  • Tried to unite landowners and industrialists through an "alliance of steel and rye"
  • His Minister of Interior also tried to introduce an 1899 bill that would impose prison sentences for strike action, which was rejected by the Reichstag
  • Supported by right wing nationalists
  • Polarised Germnay into two hostile groups- forces of law, order and respectability and of radicalism and socialism


  • Imperial expansion and global military dominance to ensure world status
  • Policy was dominated by the Kaiser and influenced by Admiral von Tirpitz. who was Navy Secretary from 1897
  • Supported by right wing nationalists
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Hohenlohe's Resignation 1900


  • Resigned in 1900 over colonial policy with the Kaiser
  • The Kaiser called him a "straw doll"
  • Kaiser also removed his key ministers in 1896 and 97
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Why Bülow (1900-1909) Was Chosen As Chancellor

Why He Was Appointed:

  • He was groomed for office by the Kaiser's inner circle
  • He was an aristocratic Junker, civil servant and diplomat
  • In 1887 he advocated for the ethnic cleansing of all Poles in Germany
  • He was the Foreign Minister from 1897 to 1900 and favoured an adventurous foreign policy and wanted colonial expansion
  • He went out of his way to flatter the Emperor, visiting him every morning, and earning the nickname "the eel"
  • He was the first Chancellor that Kaiser Wilhelm II trusted
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Bülow's Policies

Weltpolitk and Navy Law 1900:

  • Weltpolitik= colonial expansion, developing the German fleet and promoting the Kaiser as the Emperor throughout the colonies
  • Navy Law 1900= funded a 17 year building programme for a sea fleet

1892 Tariff Reform:

  • Reversal of Caprivi's tariff reduction
  • Reinstatement of the previous tariffs (1892) on agricultural products, including Russian grain, as well as the reinstatement on some manufacturers
  • Created an "alliance of steel and rye" with the Junkers 
  • Was unpopular with the SPD who preferred cheap Russian grain
  • Led to a growth in SPD voted from 2-3million in 1903
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Bülow's Policies (Cont.)

Social Reforms:

  • 1900= the length of time in which workers could clain accident insurance was increased
  • 1901= industrial arbitration courts became compulsory in towns of more than 20,000
  • 1903= health insurance was extended and rules on child labour tightened


  • Germany became the only teaching language in Prussian schools
  • 1908= an expropriation law made it possible for Polish property could be given to German workers in Prussia
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Bülow's Opposition

Start of His Chancellorship:

  • Tariff reform inroduced to please Conservatives
  • Reforms highly unpopular as belived they would increase the price of food
  • 1903 SPD won 25 more seats in the Reichstag
  • 1903 onwards Bülow struggled to keep together a coalition of Conservatives, National Liberals and Zentrum
  • Active foreign policy (Weltpolitik and Navy Law) stretched gov finances, but attempts at tax reform were blocked by agrarian interests
  • 1905 Centre joined with the SPD to vote against increased expenditure on the cavalry, to fund military operations and stop an uprising in German South-West Africa
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Bülow Bloc (1907 Election)

1907 Reichstag Election:

  • Bülow used the criticisms of the SPD and Catholics to increase his majority
  • He painted his opponents as unpatriotic, as they did not support Weltpolitik
  • Bülow Bloc= a coalition of the Progressives to join the Conservatives and National Liberals based on supporting Weltpolitik 
  • Bülow Bloc won 216 seats
  • Centre Party won 105 seats
  • SPD won only 36 seats

Effects of the Bülow Bloc:

  • Did not give Bülow security
  • Centre Party deeply resented its treatment and was determined to oppose everything Bülow did
  • Progressives (part of the Bloc) demanded electoral reform
  • By 1908 the Navy and Army were costing 1200 million RM a year, and the Tories (who would be hit the hardest by taxes) and Agrarian League opposed tax increase, with the Zentrum supporting the opposition as well
  • The Progressives thought it was necessary to increase property tax 
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The Eulenburg Affair (1907-1909)

The Eulenburg Affair:

  • A series of court martials and 5 trials regarding accusations of homosexuality and the following libel trials, which surrounded prominent members of Wilhelm II's cabinet from 1907 to 1909
  • The Kaiser's friend, Prince Philipp of Eulenburg-Hetefield was blackmailed into retiring from his ambassadorship in Vienna in 1902 by political enemy Holstein and journalist Harden
  • Holstein then challenged Eulenburg to a duel-to-the-death, which Eulenburg declined, so Harden outed him as homosexual on April 27th 1907
  • Between 1906 and 1907, 6 military officers committed suicide after being blackmailed regarding their sexuality
  • 1907-1910, around 20 officers were convicted via court-martials for homosexual activity, including an elite officer who was commanded by a relative to the Kaiser
  • Wilhelm II ordered the resignation of 3 out of 15 prominent aristocrats- Hohenau, Lynar and Moltke, who were all listed as homosexual by the Berlin police, despite the actual list, which was not shown to the Kaiser, containing several hundred names
  • Bülow was also accused as homosexual, and on November 6th 1907, Adolf Brand, printed a pamphlet which described the Chancellor as having been blackmailed for his homosexuality and kissing and embracing Scheefer at a gathering hosted by Eulenburg
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The Daily Telegraph Affair and Bülow's Resignation

The Daily Telegraph Affair:

  • Kaiser visited England in 1907 and stayed with Stuart-Wortley
  • S-W wrote about Wilhelm's stay, where the Kaiser suggested that German opinion was against the British, and this article was sent to Bülow to check by the Kaiser
  • Bülow did not check the article and it was published in October 1908
  • The British saw Wilhelm II as arrogant and the Germans demanded constitutional reform in order to limit the Kaisers "meddling"
  • Bülow joined in on the attacks on the Kaisers "personal government"
  • In 1909 Bülow had lost the confidence of the Kaiser and resigned
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Bethmann-Hollweg Parliamentary Reform

Prussian Parliamentary Reform 1910:

  • B-H tried to reform the Prussian Parliament
  • This is because whilst it gave everyone a vote, Junkers' votes were worth more than the middle/lower class'
  • 1908= SPD got 25% of the vote but only 7 seats
  • 1908= Conservatives had 16% of the vote but 212 seats
  • He introduced the Bill in 1910, and it would have increased the importance of votes from those with educational or vocational qualifications
  • The bill was dropped due to hostility
  • It was too radical for the Conservatives and Zentrum
  • Not radical enough for the Progressives or SPD
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Prussian Parliament 1912 Election

The 1912 Election:

  • 1 in 3 voted for the SPD
  • 34.8% voted for the SPD
  • SPD and Progressive Liberals had a left wing majority
  • Majority increased indirect taxes, brought in higher tariffs and lowered the cost of living

Effect the Rise of the SPD Had On German Politics:

  • Chancellor could not win a majority for his policies and was essentially useless
  • B-H was forced to lobby with parties on a case-by-case basis rather than relying on a fixed alliance in the Reichstag
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The Erfurt Programme

Erfurt Programme 1891:

  • The SPD manifesto that they would implement if they won a Reichstag majority and constitutional reform
  • Would fight for the abolishment of class rule and of the classes themselves and for equal rights for all
  • Demanded the vote for all men and women over 21
  • New laws and the appointment of high officials (inc. Chancellor) to be controlled by the people
  • Decisions for war and peace to be made by representatives of the people rather than the Kaiser
  • All taxes on goods to be abolished as they are an unfair burden on the poor
  • The cost of govt. to be paid by income tax, property tax and inheritance tax to ensure the rich pay the most
  • 8 hour max working day
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Bethann-Hollweg and Military Spending

Military Spending under Bethmann-Hollweg:

  • Had to balance a budget deficit whilst facing increasing demands to build up the military
  • 1912 there were increased international tensions that made these demands worsen, as every country was increasing their military as it became apparent that war would break out
  • July 1913 Reichstag increased the army which cost an extra 435million RM
  • This faced opposition from the SPD
  • To fund this increase B-H introduced a "defence tax" based on the value of property
  • This was supported by the left but opposed by Conservatives and the Junker who would be hit the hardest
  • 1913 Army Bill led to national debt reaching 490billion RM and B-H alienating both the left and the right (increasing the army and defence tax)
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The Zabern Affair and Vote of No-Confidence 1913

The Zabern Affair 1913:

  • Zabern was a town in Alsace which was garrisoned by German soldiers with the help of local Alsatian recruits
  • 1913, a 20yr old German soldier called Alsation recruites "Wackes" aka Square-heads, after they teased him
  • Officer admitted to this and was punished with several days confinement in a military prison
  • A report of the incident was published in a local newspaper
  • 29th November a group of locals assembled in front of the barracks to demonstrate against German arrogance
  • German soldiers ordered to disperse the demonstration and they charged wildly at the crowds
  • 15 people were arrested, including the President, two judges and the State Attorney of the Zabern Supreme Court who were caught up in the chaos
  • Outrage from the liberal press at the police brutality, especially when Wilhelm II condoned the military action
  • There was also outrage against militarism
  • Army said it was only answerable to the Kaiser and not the Reichsta
  • B-H backed the army and made the Reichstag furious
  • Reichstag passed a vote of no confidence against B-H, who lost 293 to 54 votes
  • This was then ignored by B-H and the Kaiser
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