National Liberal Party

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Leading politicians of early national liberalism top row from left to right: Wilhelm Wehrenpfennig , Eduard Lasker , Heinrich von Treitschke , Johannes Miquel , bottom row from left to right: Franz von Roggenbach , Karl Braun , Rudolf Gneist , Ludwig Bamberger

The National Liberal Party ( NLP ) was a liberal party during the North German Confederation and the German Empire , which emerged from a split of the right wing of the German Progressive Party in 1866/1867 and was absorbed into the German People's Party in 1918 .


The main points of the party program were the national unification, to the achievement of which party representatives also counted on Bismarck, a parliamentary and constitutional state and transformation of the German Empire into a modern industrial state .

The National Liberal Party mainly represented the interests of the nationally and / or liberally-minded Protestant educated and property classes as well as the industrial upper class .


The National Liberal Party went 1866/67 first as a spin-off from the German Progressive Party out, but then received surprising influx from the time of Prussia annexed territories such as Hanover or Kurhessen and the non-Prussian states of the newly established North German Confederation . The Congress of German Economists in Braunschweig in August 1866 also contributed to the formation of the National Liberal Party. The reason for the split was Otto von Bismarck's indemnity bill . After considerable sections of the liberal opposition had insisted on the parliamentary approval right, those liberals who subsequently wanted to grant Bismarck “ indemnity ” for governing without a proper budget were initially constituted on November 17, 1866 in the Prussian House of Representatives as “parliamentary group of the national party” 19 members, including Karl Twesten , Eduard Lasker and Friedrich Hammacher ; the latter sought a collaboration with Bismarck in order to complete the unity of Germany with as many liberal elements as possible. At the end of February 1867, over seventy members of the North German Reichstag came together to form the “Fraction of the National Liberal Party”. The official party formation program was adopted on June 12, 1867.

After the founding of the empire

After German unification , the National Liberal Party was in the general election in 1871 with 30.2 percent of the vote right away the strongest faction in the Reichstag . Until 1878 they remained the strongest party in parliament. As in the North German Confederation, the National Liberals, through their cooperation with Bismarck, became a “quasi-governing party” and were jointly responsible for the extensive legislative activity in the first German nation-state.

The National Liberals were seen as a dignitary party with few members that was based in local electoral associations. The main work was done in the Reichstag faction. Cooperation with interest groups such as the Central Association of German Industrialists from the 1880s and the Völkisch and imperialist Pan-German Association from 1890 was a compensation for a tight, Reich-wide organization . This was accompanied by an influence on the political work of the party.

During the Kulturkampf, Bismarck relied on the national liberal faction in the Reichstag. A majority of the National Liberal MPs voted in favor of the introduction of the Socialist Law (but no longer in the intended extension in 1890). Because of Bismarck's introduction of protective tariffs, which was rejected by most of the National Liberals, the party broke up in 1879/80. First 15 MPs from the right and later 28 well-known representatives from the center and left wing resigned (see Liberal Association ).

In 1884, with the Heidelberg program, the remaining party switched to a "bismarck-loyal, strictly national, statist and imperialism-friendly" (Wehler) policy. They worked more and more closely with the conservatives (see German Conservative Party ); this policy culminated in the formation of the cartel of the “state-supporting” parties in 1887 (see Kartellreichstag , cartel parties ). In the four subsequent Reichstag elections, the National Liberals suffered a significant loss of votes.

Early 20th century

From 1901 a cautious approach to the (left-) liberal parties ( Free People's Party / Free Union ) began. The unification hoped for by the young liberals into a large liberal party failed due to resistance from the party leadership.

After the turn of the century, the party modernized its organizational structure, but even after building a dense network of associations, the National Liberals were still dependent on the favor of the associations, which were also joined by the German Fleet Association . Nevertheless, the former dominant force in the Reichstag lost more and more importance and in the last Reichstag election in 1912 only received 13.6 percent of the votes.

First World War

During the war, the National Liberals supported an offensive orientation in military, naval and colonial policy, and in the First World War the unrestricted submarine warfare and extensive annexations by the Reich.

The party initially rejected the peace resolution of the SPD , the Center and the Progressive People's Party . The left wing later joined the resolution after the internal party antagonisms had re-emerged as a result of the negative development of the war.

After the November Revolution of 1918, the National Liberal Party disintegrated: its left wing joined the German Democratic Party (DDP), while some representatives of the right wing joined the German National People's Party (DNVP). The majority of the members founded the German People's Party (DVP) under the leadership of Gustav Stresemann , which during the Weimar Republic often helped to form the Reich government .

Known members

Leading representatives of the National Liberals were Rudolf von Bennigsen , Johannes von Miquel , Ludwig Bamberger , Eduard Lasker, Friedrich Hammacher, Gustav Haarmann , Arthur Johnson Hobrecht , August Metz , Karl Twesten and Hans Victor von Unruh as well as Friedrich Oetker in the Grand Duchy of Hesse and in the Prussian Province Hessen-Nassau in the 19th century , Ernst Bassermann , Robert Friedberg , Walter Lohmann and Gustav Stresemann until the party was dissolved.

See also

Web links

Commons : National Liberal Party  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files


  • Gerhard Eisfeld: The emergence of the liberal parties in Germany 1858-1870. Study on the organizations and programs of the Liberals and Democrats. Verlag für Literatur und Zeitgeschehen, Hannover 1969, DNB 456526994 , pp. 159–197.
  • Hans Fenske : German party history. From the beginning to the present. Schöningh, Paderborn 1994, ISBN 3-506-99464-6 , pp. 112-119.
  • Wolther von Kieseritzky : Liberalism and the welfare state. Liberal politics in Germany between the power state and the labor movement (1878–1883). Böhlau Verlag, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2002.
  • Ansgar Lauterbach: In the forecourt of power. The national liberal parliamentary group in the Reichstag when the Reich was founded (1866-1880). Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 3-631-36553-5 .
  • Dieter Langewiesche : Liberalism in Germany . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt a. M. 1988, ISBN 3-518-11286-4 , pp. 104-232.
  • Karl Heinrich Pohl : The National Liberals - an unknown party? In: Jahrbuch zur Liberalismus-Forschung , Vol. 3, 1991, pp. 82-112.
  • Klaus Erich Pollmann : Parliamentarism in the North German Confederation 1867-1870 (= manual of the history of German parliamentarism ). Droste, Düsseldorf 1985, ISBN 3-7700-5130-0 .
  • Gustav Schmidt: The National Liberals - a party capable of governing? On the problem of the establishment of the inner empire 1870–1878. In: Gerhard A. Ritter (Ed.): German parties before 1918. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 1973, ISBN 3-462-00958-3 , pp. 208–223.
  • Gustav Seeber , Claudia Hohberg: National Liberal Party (NLP) 1867-1918. In: Dieter Fricke et al. (Ed.): Lexicon for the history of parties. Vol. 3. Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig 1985, DNB 860360407 , pp. 403-436.
  • Ulrich Tjaden: Liberalism in Catholic Baden - History, Organization and Structure of the National Liberal Party of Baden 1869–1893 , Diss. Freiburg 2000. pdf .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler: German history of society. Volume 3: 1849-1914 , 2nd edition, Munich 2006, p. 340 ff.
  2. Universal Lexicon. URL: .
  3. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler: German history of society. Volume 3: 1849-1914 , 2nd edition, Munich 2006, p. 866 ff.
  4. ^ German Historical Museum: NLP. URL .