German Conservative Party

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Members of the Reichstag parliamentary group of the German Conservative Party (from left to right): Rudolph Wichmann, Otto von Seydewitz , Helmuth von Moltke , Count Konrad von Kleist-Schmenzin, Otto von Helldorff , Karl Gustav Ackermann .

The German Conservative Party was a political party in the German Empire .


The party was constituted on June 7, 1876 from very different groups: nobles, large landowners, supporters of the Bismarck government such as Moltke , tradition-oriented Protestants and Christian socialists. It recognized the constitution of the German Empire and advocated the preservation of monarchical privileges, strengthening of religion, against centralism and parliamentarism, as well as fighting against social democracy . The German Conservative Party was the successor party to the Prussian old conservatives , but in contrast to them also gained importance in some federal states outside of Prussia. The first chairman of the party was the squire and member of the Reichstag, Otto von Helldorff-Bedra . The party's program was discussed in detail with Bismarck.


Reichstag election results (1871-1912)

At first the party clearly distanced itself from Bismarck and the Free Conservative Party that supported him , but from 1877 onwards it approached his policy again - especially when he switched to protective tariffs. The party had its strongholds in East Prussia , Pomerania , Mecklenburg and the province of Saxony . In the Prussian House of Representatives, she was the strongest force , benefiting from the three-class suffrage . In the mansion, their position was even stronger. It had a significant influence on officer corps, civil servants and clergy and, through the Federal Council , on Reich policy.

The party was partly anti - Semitic , for example in the Reichstag election campaign of 1881 anti-Semitic propaganda was used on a large scale.

In the protective tariff policy, it worked with the free conservatives, the center and with parts of the National Liberal Party . But she turned against Bismarck's Kulturkampf .In 1890, the German Conservative MPs, together with the Center and Liberals , voted against the government's demand for an extension of the Socialist Law . After Bismarck's dismissal, the German Conservatives went into opposition to the economically liberal policies of the new Chancellor Leo von Caprivi . The party program adopted in 1892 (the so-called Tivoli program, named after the Berlin Tivoli brewery , in whose ballroom the party congress met), influenced by Adolf Stoecker , turned against the corrosive Jewish influence and against social democracy . From 1892 onwards, there were also wing fights between the previous party leadership, which mostly came from the landed aristocracy, and Stoecker's more bourgeois-urban Christian socialists. With the emergence of the Federation of Farmers , the initially inferior agricultural wing was strengthened again, and in February 1896 Stoecker caused the Christian Social Party to split up due to differences in social policy . In 1898 and 1899, the German Conservatives voted unanimously for naval and military drafts and showed themselves in the Prussian state parliament as opponents of the Mittelland Canal (" Canal Rebels ").

Under Reich Chancellor Prince Bernhard von Bülow , the party again approached the Reich government because of his agricultural protectionist policy, but it continued to reject all attempts at liberal reforms in domestic, economic and financial policy and thus contributed to the overthrow of the von Bülows government in 1909 . The German Conservatives opposed any strengthening of the Reich at the expense of the individual federal states, because they feared that otherwise their influence would lose weight in Prussia, which dominates federal politics. In contrast, they agreed to all military and naval bills, while reluctantly supporting colonial policy. Therefore there was also a distance to the Pan-German program.

In the July crisis , which led to World War I , most of the German Conservative MPs were on vacation, so the party did not have a cohesive, strategic approach. Sporadic speeches were given and articles were written. A contribution by Graefe deserves special mention , who warned the government to initiate immediate mobilization in order to avert strategic damage. In a letter he urged Westarp to make this demand on behalf of the Reichstag parliamentary group. Westarp followed suit without first involving Fraktin or Heydebrand .

As a party without a mass base, it was looking for a replacement in the Bund der Landwirte (BdL), in which Prussian large agrarians set the tone. In many questions it became a pure interest party for agriculture. Many Prussian district administrators gave her support.

Well-known representatives of the party were u. a. Wilhelm von Rauchhaupt , Otto von Manteuffel , Ernst von Heydebrand and the Lasa , Kuno von Westarp , Hans Hugo von Kleist-Retzow , Philipp von Nathusius-Ludom , Elard von Oldenburg-Januschau , Hans von Kanitz , Heinrich von Salisch , Dr. Georg Oertel , Gustav von Goßler or Wilhelm Joachim von Hammerstein .

Most of the members of the German Conservative Party took part in the founding of the German National People's Party (DNVP) in 1918 . The party did not formally dissolve, however, but existed until 1933.

Party structure

Under the chairmanship of Helldorf, the party was a “conglomerate of independent politicians of honor” (Volker Stalmann) with only a few fixed structures until 1890. East of the Elbe, the party's supporters only took action before elections to put up their candidates and lead the election campaign, while in larger towns in West Germany there were often large conservative local associations, some of which became regional associations (in Baden, Saxony and Bavaria) were united. It was not until 1902 that the “Main Association of German Conservatives” became a superordinate party structure at the Reich level. The party was led less by its chairman (until 1892 Otto von Helldorff, 1892–1911 Otto von Manteuffel, 1912–1918 Ernst von Heydebrand and the Lasa ) than by a collective body. This function was fulfilled by the party executive until 1889, then a committee of eleven or, from 1902, a committee of twelve made up of members of the Reichstag as well as Prussian and Saxon state parliament members. The committee decided on the basic lines of party policy and was responsible for organizing the election campaigns. Party congresses took place regularly in 1876, 1892 and only from 1912 onwards. The party did not raise a membership fee, it was dependent on donations for financing, the main source of money was the east Elbe landowners ( Junker ).

Regional distribution

From a regional perspective, the party had its strongholds in Prussia east of the Elbe. In 1887 the German Conservative Party represented 74 constituencies in the German Reichstag, 61 (82%) of which were Prussian constituencies, 49 of the 61 Prussian constituencies (= 80%) were east of the Elbe. This regional delimitation of the strongholds increased in the further course of the empire: of the 43 constituencies won by the party in the Reichstag election in 1912, 39 (91%) were on Prussian territory. An examination of the regional distribution of the German Conservative seats in the elections to the Prussian House of Representatives confirms the party's East Elbe focus: In the elections to the Prussian House of Representatives in 1913, the party won 143 seats, 125 (87%) of these electoral districts were located east of the Elbe.


The German Conservatives' daily publication was Die Post , which was also the official organ of the Bismarck government. Other press products of the party were Der Reichsbote , the conservative monthly and the German Adelsblatt .


  • Booms, Hans: The German Conservative Party. Prussian character, conception of the empire, concept of nationality . Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag, 1954 (contributions to the history of parliamentarism and political parties 3)
  • Haunfelder, Bernd : The Conservative Members of the German Reichstag 1871-1918. A biographical manual . Münster: Aschendorff Verlag 2009
  • Nipperdey, Thomas: The organization of the German parties before 1918 . Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag, 1961, on the conservative parties see pp. 241–264
  • Stylish, Oscar: The Conservatives. A scientific exposition of their principles and their historical development . Leipzig: Verlag Werner Klinkhardt, 1908 (The political parties in Germany, Vol. 1); History of the party s. Pp. 208-256

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Cf. the call for the foundation of June 7, 1876, printed in: Collection of sources for the history of German social policy 1867 to 1914 , Division I: From the time when the Empire was founded to the Imperial Social Message (1867–1881) , Volume 8: Basic questions of social policy in the public discussion: churches, parties, clubs and associations , edited by Ralf Stremmel, Florian Tennstedt and Gisela Fleckenstein, Darmstadt 2006, No. 134.
  2. ^ Stalmann, Volker: From dignitaries to professional politicians - The conservative parties (1867-1918). In: Gall, Lothar (ed.): Government, parliament and the public in the age of Bismarck. Paderborn 2003, p. 99.
  3. Hopp, Andrea: Catching votes with prejudice - anti-Semitism in the election campaign , in: Gall, Lothar (ed.): Government, parliament and the public in the age of Bismarck. Paderborn 2003.
  4. § 1: We fight against the Jewish influence on our people's life, which is often pushing forward and decomposing. Literature for the party congress: Dagmar Bussiek: “With God for King and Fatherland!” Die Neue Preußische Zeitung (Kreuzzeitung) 1848-1892. Lit, Münster 2002. According to August Klasing's speech there was a “mortal hostility” between conservatives and Jews.
  5. Stalmann 2003, p. 104.
  6. ^ Joachim Bohlmann: The German Conservative Party at the end of the Empire: Standstill and change in a declining organization . Greifswald 2011, p. 198 .
  7. ^ Joachim Bohlmann: The German Conservative Party at the end of the Empire: Standstill and change in a declining organization . Dissertation Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald, 2011. (Chapter 10: The German Conservative Party in the Weimar Republic, pp. 250–260)
  8. Stalmann 2003, p. 99ff.
  9. ^ Booms, Hans: The German Conservative Party. Prussian character, conception of the empire, concept of nationality . Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag, 1954, p. 6f (contributions to the history of parliamentarism and political parties 3).
  10. Stalmann 2003, p. 101.