Conservative Party (Prussia)

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The Conservative Party developed in Prussia in 1848 from the relatively loose cooperation of conservative associations , groups and members of parliament. Among them were the association for the protection of the interests of the property, Friedrich Julius Stahl and the brothers Leopold von Gerlach and Ludwig von Gerlach , who published in the " Kreuzzeitung ". After this, the group was also called "Kreuzzeitungspartei" from 1851 onwards.

Their goals were to defend the monarchy and preserve the privileges of the nobility . They rejected economic liberalism and democratization . A basic Christian attitude played an important role for its members ; however, the Catholic members joined the center after it was founded.

Bismarck was an active member of this party, but after his appointment as Prussian Prime Minister it kept a certain distance from him, but became an important support for him in the course of the constitutional conflict. In 1866 the Free Conservative Party (called "German Reich Party" in the Reichstag from 1871) separated from the Conservatives, who were then called the Old Conservatives. In 1876 the Conservative Party was absorbed into the newly founded German Conservative Party . After 1918, its members formed the German National People's Party (DNVP) together with those of other conservative parties and those of the right wing of the National Liberals, while the German Reich Party also united with parts of the National Liberals to form the German People's Party .

Prehistory and beginnings until 1849

The political currents described as conservative emerged as a response to the French Revolution and the ideas of 1789 (e.g. by Edmund Burke in his work: Reflections on the Revolution in France , considerations on the revolutions in France of 1790). François-René de Chateaubriand first used this word in 1818 . But even before that, conservative ideas were found, for example in Prussia among the mostly aristocratic opponents of the Stein-Hardenberg reforms (such as von der Marwitz ), but also among romantics. Adam Heinrich Müller , who proclaimed the organic idea of ​​the state, and the Bernese patrician Karl Ludwig von Haller , from whom the word restoration comes from and who represented a rigid scheme of the patrimonial state, differed greatly in their views. For Prussia, Stahl's doctrine of the Christian state based on divine rights became decisive, with which he gained strong influence on Friedrich Wilhelm IV. And his circle and on the later conservative party in Prussia, which emerged for the first time in the revolutionary year 1848. Conservative movements were not yet represented in the national assemblies in Frankfurt and Berlin. They did not organize themselves until after the elections, mainly from circles of the large landed nobility (von Bülow-Cummerow and Otto von Bismarck).

After the Congress of Vienna also made in Prussia under King Friedrich Wilhelm III. the restoration period put an end to hopes for reform and royal constitutional promises. In eastern Elbe the strengthened landowners were faced with a rural proletariat that had emerged from small farmers and day laborers. Those orientated towards the old class saw what was then Prussia as a federation of provinces and by no means wanted a unitary state. Until 1828, instead of an all-Prussian “Reichstag”, only provincial parliaments were introduced; only with the right to advise and petition as well as municipal administrative powers. A Prussian Council of State , introduced in 1817 , consisting of princes, ministers, upper presidents, generals and 34 men appointed by the king, was only the head of the administration. In the absence of a constitution, the Prussian civil service was ultimately compelled to "always be more than just an administration, namely the politically trend-setting government representative representing society".

In the reaction to the July Revolution of Paris in 1830 and its offshoots in the states of the German Confederation and Poland , not only more conservative ideas spread in the Kingdom of Prussia, but also the newly emerged term "conservative". The three-volume major work by Friedrich Julius Stahl : The Philosophy of Law , published in 1830, 1833 and 1837, turned against all revolutionary efforts, not only the most radical of socialists and communists , but also the moderate ones of the bourgeois democrats , republicans and liberals . In his opinion, even constitutional monarchies should only be allowed to arise “organically” and in compliance with the monarchical principle , which at least represented a step forward compared to old-class paternalistic conservative thinking, which rejected every written constitution. The Berliner Politische Wochenblatt , published by Carl Ernst Jarcke in 1831 to promote a Christian corporate state that was to conform to the monarchical principle and the ideas of Joseph de Maistres and Karl Ludwig von Haller , was able to do so despite the support of Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm and the Gerlach brothers and other Catholic and Orthodox- Lutheran conservatives had little influence and had died in 1841.

Up until 1848 there was no conservative party in Prussia , only a few people who were in loose correspondence with one another and who did not hold a uniform view. Victor Aimé Huber's Janus magazine, founded in 1845, ceased publication in March 1848; Only by Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg published Protestant church newspaper continued to appear. Hengstenberg himself, the law professor Friedrich Julius Stahl and other conservative personalities had fled Berlin in March 1848. The dissolution of the conservative movement in Prussia seemed to have begun.

But Ernst Ludwig von Gerlach , who came up with the plan for a new conservative newspaper , soon called Hengstenberg back, and circles oriented towards the monarchy began to organize. Huber, Otto von Gerlach , Stahl (since 1840 professor of legal philosophy, constitutional and canon law in Berlin) and others founded an "Association for Christian Order and Freedom", which, however, was based on the differences between Huber, who denied any "pseudomonarcho-aristocratic constitutionalism" refused, and steel broke, which held the participation of the estates in the legislation necessary in the long run. On the other hand, the conservatives in Berlin rallied around the Gerlach brothers , Ernst Ludwig and Leopold von Gerlach to found a newspaper that would become the organ of a new party and formulate conservative political demands.

After Huber had already unsuccessfully demanded the establishment of a conservative party in 1841, a circle around the brothers Gerlach, Count Voss-Buch , Baron Senfft von Pilsach and Count von der Goltz as well as the members of the government was found under the impression of a threat from monarchist-aristocratic Prussia Bindewald und Schrede prepared to do so and founded the Neue Preußische Zeitung , also known as the “ Kreuzzeitung ” for short after a vignette of the “ Iron Cross ” in the head of the title page . It appeared from the beginning of July 1848. The conservative counter-movement rallied around it. Editor-in-chief was Hermann Wagener , who from November 1848 also founded the Neue Preussische Wochenblatt in order to reach a wider group of people, also outside of Berlin.

The association founded on July 24, 1848 to protect the interests of property and to promote the prosperity of all classes met on August 18 to 20 under the chairmanship of Kleist-Retzows . A few hundred mostly noble rural residents decided to rename it to the Association for the Protection of Property . Ludwig von Gerlach called for social conservatism. A hard core stayed together and met permanently, the so-called " Junker Parliament ". The "Association for King and Fatherland", whose board members were Stahl, Moritz August von Bethmann-Hollweg , Karl Friedrich von Savigny , Otto von Bismarck and Hermann Wagener, played an even more important role in gathering the conservative forces. Above all, however, the camarilla exerted a very direct influence on the monarch and, through him, on the ministry. At the instigation of Ludwig von Gerlach, General Count Brandenburg was appointed Prime Minister on November 2nd , and on November 15th he sent troops to Berlin under General Friedrich von Wrangel , who imposed martial law on the city. On December 5th, the Prussian National Assembly was dissolved, and the king " imposed " a constitution that represented a compromise between the king, camarilla and ministry. With this counter-revolutionary coup the power of the king was consolidated again.

In the meantime the Conservative Party had also formed. Among other things, Stahl had published the programmatic article Das Banner der Conservatives , a short version of his work Das monarchische Princip , published in 1845 in the Kreuzzeitung , and from September concentrated on the organization of the party and then on the election campaign. The elections were to take place in January and February 1849, initially " primary elections " in which electors were determined who then had to nominate members of parliament. The “ First Chamber ” was elected according to the “Interim Election Law” by only a tenth of those entitled to vote for the “ Second Chamber ”; these according to the three-class suffrage , which also favored the richer. A conservative “Central Election Comité” was supposed to bring about a uniform approach among the numerous conservative associations and prepare the elections. The rejection of the revolution and the recognition of the imposed constitution, but also its revision, were propagated in pamphlets appealing to the people's monarchical sentiments. Conservative press organs were also set up in the provinces.

Wagener, Bethmann-Hollweg and Stahl, who had also worked on the constitution, worked closely together in the election campaign. The “Kreuzpartei” set the ideology for the conservatives, with Stahl developing into a pioneering thinker with programmatic articles and his writing The Revolution and the Constitutional Monarchy , who won the old class circles around the Gerlachs for acceptance of the constitution. Suitable electors and candidates for the elections were now to be found. Influential conservative personalities exerted pressure (there was still a state of emergency in Berlin) on the electorate (when voting publicly) to vote conservatively; The Conservatives did not shy away from buying votes either. All of this and the census suffrage ensured a victory for the conservatives.

In order to preserve the unity of the conservatives, which had been won in the election campaign, also in the chambers, the leading personalities soon set about forming functional parliamentary groups. On February 7th, 1849, Leopold von Gerlach had already planned to form a "contre-opposition", that is above all against the democratic members of the Chamber, in uncompromising loyalty to principles but if necessary also against the government. The formation of the faction was delayed, however, because of differences of opinion. Stahl strove for a rights that was as closed as possible and finally achieved that a program was adopted that provided for the recognition in principle of the imposed constitution, the king's absolute right of veto and the solidarity of the conservative groups. The Conservatives also worked out the rules of procedure and enforced them with a majority. In addition, Stahl was commissioned to work out a "draft for a conservative party", which was accepted as the party program after several revisions and comprised seven points. According to this, the Conservative Party wanted to be the “gathering point” for the many who “go into the redesign of our public condition yet at the same time want to preserve the old unchangeable foundations in belief, custom and institutions for the same ... whose policy is at the same time the policy of preservation and progress is. "Not only the permanent revolution should be fought, but also reactionary endeavors should be warded off:" ... against the will of the people as before against the will of the prince ". "III. We want ... the king ... as the highest authority, as the sovereign ”of Prussia. "IV. We want structured relationships in all classes of the people ”, whereby also the working“ will have a materially and morally satisfactory existence, ... but in a fair balance of all interests, and without prejudice to ... property, inheritance law, and free personal gainful activity. VI. We want the unity of Germany ... for the previous parent states, namely Prussia, a sufficient area of ​​political independence ... VII. We want the same political authorization for those who profess all religions ...; but we demand for the Christian Church ... the assured protection of the state ... "

With his program, Stahl succeeded in winning the extreme right around Gerlach for the constitutional monarchy, but not the unity of the entire Conservative Party, whose moderate majority was not prepared to “want to define monarchical rights just as clearly when revising the constitution like the competences of the parliament ”.

The first split and the reaction time (1849–1857)

Friedrich Wilhelm IV had made fifteen requests for revision a condition for the adoption of the revised constitution. His propositions were too conservative for the liberals; if they refused, the king threatened to refuse to take the oath on the constitution. Only when his excess weight over the chambers was secured did he agree to do so.

The rejection of the German imperial crown by Friedrich Wilhelm IV. On April 3, 1849 was fully supported by the Kreuzzeitungs party, but not by the Wochenblatt party. In order to win the necessary independent MPs for the election of the chamber presidia in the second chamber, the majority of the conservatives distanced themselves from the extreme right around Kleist-Retzow and Bismarck or Gerlach and Stahl (in the first chamber). These “highly conservatives” now pursued the revision of the constitution. As a “small but powerful party”, in cooperation with the “ Kamarilla ”, after the first chamber was adjourned and the second chamber was dissolved and re-elected (the disappointed Democrats largely boycotted the elections), the members with the constitution of January 31, 1850 The First Chamber was only partially elected, but mainly appointed by the King and, from 1853, by the King alone. With the electoral law of May 30, 1849, the three-tier suffrage was introduced: the six percent of the eligible population with the largest property holdings had to determine a third of all MPs, the 77% of the poorest eligible voters also a third; and the remaining seventeen percent the remaining third. In 1855 the chambers were renamed the Manor House and the House of Representatives, and that was the case.

The camarilla with Leopold von Gerlach, Rauch, Massow, Keller, Stollberg and Niebuhr advised the king as a kind of secret cabinet against the constitutional cabinet. It was the product of the Pietist revival movement of the 1820s, inspired by Haller's theory of legitimacy. Interior Minister von Westphalen and Culture Minister von Raumer were close to her; Prime Minister Otto Theodor von Manteuffel was more government-oriented. Bismarck initially included himself, but parted with the rigid fixation on the existing: the primacy of Austria and the pluralism of individual German states. The ultra-conservatives were with the camarilla against absolutism, for a classically structured, conservative and monarchical constitutional state.

While the actual liberals, especially the democratically minded, either emigrated or had withdrawn from politics during the reaction time, their place in parliament was taken by the liberal conservatives of the left wing of conservatism, who opposed the conflict over reactivation in 1851 the provincial estates had split off from the highly conservative and were also called the “ Wochenblattpartei ” after their organ, the “Prussian Weekly Journal for Discussing Political Issues of the Day” . While the Kreuzzeitung party or "Fraktion Gerlach / Stahl" represented the East Elbe Junkers and Protestant Pietism, these represented moderate conservatives bourgeoisie and industry in the western provinces and the national (small German) camp. Among its leading figures were Moritz August von Bethmann-Hollweg, Count Robert von der Goltz, the diplomat Pourtalès, Minister of War von Bonin and Karl Josias von Bunsen; Crown Prince Wilhelm and his wife were close to them.

After the failure of the Frankfurt National Assembly, Joseph von Radowitz tried to find a small German solution to the national question with the help of the Erfurt Union : Based on the Three Kings Alliance of Prussia with Saxony and Hanover, the German small and medium-sized states were to unite to form a federal state under the leadership of Prussia , which should then form a further federation together with Austria. In Erfurt from March 20 to April 29, 1850 parliamentarians gathered for the Erfurt Union Parliament to discuss this in two chambers, the Volkshaus and the State House. The Liberals and the Center supported the project and had a majority; the conservatives around Gerlach (in the Volkshaus) and Kleist-Retzow (in the state house) were against it, and the governments were skeptical and wait-and-see. Finally, with the support of the Tsar, Austria managed to have Prussia finally give up the Union ( Olomouc punctuation ). The highly conservatives welcomed this because the "important hand in hand with Austria in agreement with Russia" had been restored. Until the Crimean War, they had a decisive influence on Prussian foreign policy.

For the liberal conservatives, joining the Western powers against Russia was an ideological demand. Prime Minister Manteuffel , eager to break away from the "small but powerful party", joined them. Albert von Pourtalès and Christian Karl Josias von Bunsen put the king under pressure. The Kreuzzeitung party was by no means one-sided Russophile , but rejected an alliance with the tsar. In the end, the king had no choice but to get out of this war, which he regarded as "hideous", and to keep the promise of peace in his inaugural address. In his chamber speech of April 25, 1854, Stahl gave detailed reasons for this decision he helped bring about and drew the “conclusion of a policy based on a higher principle”.

After Friedrich Wilhelm IV suffered a stroke, his brother Wilhelm took over the reign in 1858 ; Manteuffel was replaced by Prince Karl Anton von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen . In 1861, after the king, Leopold von Gerlach, Stahl and Friedrich Carl von Savigny - the principally arch-conservatives - also died. In the same year the conservatives began to rally again and formed an organization in the Prussian People's Association that existed until 1872.

The Bismarck era and the second split

The “ New Era ” began under King Wilhelm I , a moderately liberal interlude, which in the autumn of 1862 put an end to a pragmatic conservative, Otto von Bismarck.

After the election victory of the liberal German Progressive Party in December 1861, Prince Adolf zu Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen first became Prime Minister in March 1862 . Albrecht von Roon , Minister of War since 1859 , pushed for army reform; he wanted to increase the strength of the Prussian army by a third. The liberal majority of the chamber refused to pay more for it. Bismarck won the king's trust for his intransigent policy and was appointed. He wanted to enforce the monarchical prerogative against the parliamentary system at all costs and let it come down to a constitutional conflict: After his " blood and iron speech" of September 30th: "The big questions of the time are not decided by speeches and majority decisions ... but through iron and blood ”, the session of the House of Representatives was closed on October 13th. According to the “ gap theory ”, in the event of disagreement among the highest constitutional organs, the monarch should have the say.

Only four years later, after the victories over Denmark in 1864 and Austria and the southern German states in 1866, and a victory by the conservatives in the elections to the House of Representatives, did Bismarck seek reconciliation in 1867. With the indemnity bill , he wanted relief for the unconstitutional governance and subsequent approval for the budget-free period. The National Liberal Party put “the power stand above all constitutional concerns”. This displeased the conservatives who were oriented towards legal ideas; On September 18, 1864, Ludwig von Gerlach accused Bismarck of “greed for the country” and hypocrisy. In 1866 he (after all, co-founder) even resigned from the party, Finance Minister Carl von Bodelschwingh resigned from his position, and the former Ministers Manteuffel and Westphalen and others were outraged by the “breach of law” and the “sinful fratricidal war”. But the majority of the conservatives, like Hermann Wagener, cheered Bismarck's success and founded the Free Conservative Party of Prussia in 1866 , which then called itself in the Reichstag "German Reich Party" and was supported by industry and the nobility. The stricter, so-called “old conservatives” founded the German Conservative Party in 1876 , which only accepted the establishment of an empire with its founding program, represented the interests of the East Elbe landowners and dominated the Prussian state parliament due to the right to vote. Social aspects played a role for Stahl, Huber and Wagener, but not for the conservatives as a whole. After the Reichstag election of 1878, the Christian Social Party of court preacher Adolf Stoecker joined the German Conservative Party and brought along an anti-Semitic tendency.

General, equal and direct suffrage was introduced for the Reichstag of the North German Confederation in 1867, as well as for that of the German Empire from 1871, which no longer favored the conservatives, in contrast to the three-class suffrage that continued to apply in Prussia . Both conservative parties were represented in the Reichstag until 1918 (together with only 20 percent) and in the Prussian state parliament, which they dominated. They had become more and more of a representation of interests: Behind the Conservative Party stood the Federation of Farmers since 1893, behind the Free Conservative Party the heavy industry (von Stumm).

After 1918, leading members and a large part of the German Conservative Party, together with other conservative parties and the right wing of the National Liberals, formed the German National People's Party (DNVP), while the German Reich Party also united with the rights of the National Liberals to form the German People's Party (DVP).

Literature and Sources

The Gerlach archive at the University of Erlangen , which includes the estate of Ernst Ludwig von Gerlach , forms an important source of resources for the founding process of the Conservative Party.

  • Victor Aimé Huber : On the elements, the possibility or the necessity of a conservative party in Germany , Marburg 1841.
  • Friedrich Julius Stahl : The monarchical principle , Heidelberg 1845.
  • Friedrich Julius Stahl: The Revolution and the Constitutional Monarchy. A series of interlocking treatises. , Berlin 1848.
  • Friedrich Julius Stahl: The current parties in state and church. Twenty-nine academic lectures , Berlin Verlag von Wilhelm Hertz, 1863.
  • Oscar Stillich : The Conservatives. A scientific exposition of their principles and their historical development. , Leipzig: Verlag Werner Klinkhardt, 1908 (The political parties in Germany, vol. 1)
  • Wilhelm Füßl : Professor in Politics: Friedrich Julius Stahl. The monarchical principle and its implementation in parliamentary practice. , Göttingen 1988.
  • Wolfgang Schwentker : Conservative associations and revolution in Prussia, 1848/49 , contributions to the history of parliamentarism and political parties, vol. 85, Droste Verlag Düsseldorf, 1988.
  • Hans-Joachim Schoeps : Prussia. History of a State , Berlin 2004.
  • Christopher Clark : Prussia. Rise and fall. 1600–1947 , Pantheon, Munich 2008.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ "Association for the protection of the interests of property and for the maintenance of the prosperity of all classes", founded in 1848, cf. also Junker Parliament .
  2. a b Wilhelm Mommsen: German party programs . Munich 1951, p. 7.
  3. Reinhart Koselleck : Prussia between reform and revolution . Stuttgart 1967. p. 111.
  4. Hellmut Diwald (Ed.): From the Revolution to the North German Confederation. Politics and ideas of the Prussian highly conservative 1848–1866 . II, p. 495
  5. Füßl, FJ Stahl, p. 121 ff.
  6. ^ Hans-Joachim Schoeps: Prussia. History of a State , Berlin 2004, p. 178.
  7. Julius Stahl, The Revolution and the Constitutional Monarchy. Pp. 14-19.
  8. ^ Friedrich Julius Stahl, The monarchical principle. Berlin 1845
  9. ^ Wilhelm Füßl: Professor in Politics: Friedrich Julius Stahl. The monarchical principle and its implementation in parliamentary practice. , Göttingen 1988, p. 181.
  10. Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel, Cod.Guelf. Stahl / Wilkens, 6, No. 7, cited above. after Wilhelm Füßl: Professor in Politics: Friedrich Julius Stahl. The monarchical principle and its implementation in parliamentary practice. , Göttingen 1988, p. 183 ff.
  11. ^ Wilhelm Füßl: Professor in Politics: Friedrich Julius Stahl. The monarchical principle and its implementation in parliamentary practice. , Göttingen 1988, p. 191.
  12. ^ Hans-Joachim Schoeps: Prussia. History of a State , Berlin 2004, p. 188.
  13. Friedrich Julius Stahl: Seventeen parliamentary speeches and three lectures ... Berlin 1862 (16th The Oriental War, pp. 200–219)
  14. ^ Hans-Joachim Schoeps: Prussia. History of a State , Berlin 2004, p. 206.
  15. ^ Hans-Joachim Schoeps: Prussia. History of a State , Berlin 2004, p. 214.
  16. Bismarck, GW II, 140. cit. n. Hans-Joachim Schoeps: Prussia. History of a State , Berlin 2004, p. 214.
  17. ^ Hans-Joachim Schoeps: Prussia. History of a State , Berlin 2004, p. 228.
  18. a b Wilhelm Mommsen: German party programs. Munich 1951, p. 8.
  19. ^ Wilhelm Füßl: Professor in Politics: Friedrich Julius Stahl. The monarchical principle and its implementation in parliamentary practice. , Göttingen 1988, p. 185.
  20. ^ Hans-Joachim Schoeps: Prussia. History of a State , Berlin 2004, p. 199.
  21. ^ Meyers Grosses Taschenlexikon. Mannheim, 1981
  22. ^ Brockhaus Handbook of Knowledge. Leipzig, 1921