Free Conservative Party

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The free conservative fraction of the Prussian House of Representatives in 1907

The Free Conservative Party was a party of the German Reich that was predominantly active in Prussia until 1918. It stood politically between the more traditional German Conservative Party and the National Liberal Party . After the First World War , most of their supporters converted to the German National People's Party . A smaller part went to the German People's Party under Gustav Stresemann .


Politically, the Free Conservative Party demanded that the cultural and political interests of Prussian Protestantism and the economic interests of the East Elbe agrarians be safeguarded . She spoke out clearly against constitutionalism and the division of powers . Chancellor Bismarck was unreservedly supported, at the same time the Free Conservative Party represented a Prussian particularism and a typically Christian-patriarchal way of thinking.


The Free Conservative Party was founded in 1867. It originated in 1866 as a split from the Prussian Conservative Party , initially as a free conservative association under the leadership of Count Eduard Georg von Bethusy-Huc . It supported Otto von Bismarck's unification policy and consisted mainly of agrarian conservative and bureaucratic leadership elites . The best-known representatives of the free conservatives included the landowner Wilhelm von Kardorff , the industrialist Carl Ferdinand von Stumm-Halberg , the politician and law professor Heinrich von Achenbach , the agrarian Karl Rudolf Friedenthal , Prince Hermann von Hatzfeldt , and the London ambassador in 1914 Karl Max Fürst Lichnowsky , the diplomat Willibald von Dirksen , the first Reichsbank President Hermann von Dechend , the Governor of the Province of Saxony and President of the Evangelical Federation Wilko Levin Graf von Wintzingerode-Bodenstein , the lawyer and property representative Johann Viktor Bredt , the administrative lawyer and district president Robert Graf Hue de Grais , the Prussian generals Hans von Beseler and Eduard von Liebert and the historians Hans Delbrück and Otto Hoetzsch .

Reichstag election results (1871-1912)

German Reich Party (from 1871)

In the German Reich from 1871 the free conservatives called themselves the German Reich Party . Politically, she stood between the National Liberals and the German Conservative Party . As a decidedly pro-government party, the Free Conservatives supported the Kulturkampf and, as a party of the elites, supported Bismarck's socialist laws. In 1878 she was the driving force behind the turn to protective tariff policy under Wilhelm von Kardorff's leadership. During the years 1887 and 1890 it was one of the so-called cartel parties - an electoral alliance of the right-wing parties (German Conservative Party and Free Conservatives) and the National Liberals. The cartel was aimed at the support of Bismarck ("Bismarck sans phrase") and enforced the Septennat .


The party had strongholds, among others, in Silesia , where the Catholic aristocracy took to the party, including many lords , z. B. Hugo zu Hohenlohe-Öhringen, Duke of Ujest , Victor Duke of Ratibor and Hans Heinrich XI. von Hochberg, Prince of Pless . They practically embodied the "alliance of latifundia ownership and industrial magnates" ( Heinz Gollwitzer ).

Viktor Herzog von Ratibor, co-founder of the free conservatives

It was considered the party of the nobility, the ministers and the diplomats and hardly found voters in the lower social classes. The party was hardly organized internally, it essentially consisted of the parliamentary groups in the Reichstag and the Prussian state parliament. In order to establish the connection between these two factions, there was a state committee from 1870, which developed little activity and had an office in Berlin occupied by only one person. Before 1890 there was also no official party chairman, the first party congress did not take place in Wroclaw until 1906 , and from 1907 there was an electoral association as the official party structure, which was led by a general board and a committee. Regional associations were also set up in the later phase.

The party's traditional newspaper was Die Post , which in 1910 transferred to the pan - German camp that was critical of the government .

During the Wilhelmine era , the party advocated an active colonial policy , advocating the building of battle fleets and world politics. The main politicians after Stumm-Halberg and Kardorff were the Silesian Octavio von Zedlitz-Neukirch and the East Prussian landowner Karl von Gamp-Massaunen . Leading party representatives helped found the Reich Association against Social Democracy . In the years 1906–1909 the free conservatives belonged to the Bülow block . As a representative of reform conservatism , Adolf Grabowsky tried in 1912 to create a conservative people's party through the magazine Das neue Deutschland - weekly journal for conservative progress . This went without a response. During the First World War , the party advocated expansive war aims, rejected the peace resolution of 1917, fought against the parliamentarization of the imperial constitution and, with a few exceptions (Bredt), the reform of the Prussian three-class suffrage and in part supported the militaristic German Fatherland Party . Within the party, a governmental traditional-elitist wing and an Pan-German radicalized petty-bourgeois wing faced each other.

Weimar Republic

The majority of its members participated in the founding of the German National People's Party (DNVP) in 1918 . Another part of the supporters joined the national liberal German People's Party (DVP). General von Liebert joined the NSDAP in 1929 .


  • Matthias Alexander: The Free Conservative Party 1890-1918. Moderate conservatism in the constitutional monarchy. Droste, Düsseldorf 2000, ISBN 3-7700-5227-7 .
  • Bernd Haunfelder : The Conservative Members of the German Reichstag 1871-1918. A biographical manual . Aschendorff, Münster 2009
  • Thomas Nipperdey : The organization of the German parties before 1918 . Droste, Düsseldorf 1961, on the conservative parties see pp. 241–264
  • Volker Stalmann: Bismarck's party. The German Reich and Free Conservative Party 1866 to 1890. Droste, Düsseldorf 2000, ISBN 3-7700-5226-9 .

Web links

Commons : Free Conservative Party  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Volker Stalmann: The Conservative Parties (1867-1918). In: Lothar Gall (Ed.): Government, Parliament and the Public in the Age of Bismarck. Changing political styles. Schöningh, Paderborn et al. 2003, ISBN 3-506-79223-7 ( Otto von Bismarck Foundation Scientific Series 5), pp. 91–126.
  2. Horst founderLiebert, Eduard v .. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 14, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1985, ISBN 3-428-00195-8 , p. 487 f. ( Digitized version ).