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Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 11, Slice 8 "Germany" to "Gibson, William"

And the Reichstag was dissolved


the Russian press indulged,

a further increase in the German army seemed desirable. The Septennate would expire in 1888. In the autumn of 1886 a proposal was laid before the Reichstag to increase the peace establishment for the next seven years to 468,409 men. The Reichstag would not assent to this, but the opposition parties offered to vote the required increase for three years. Bismarck refused to accept this compromise, and the Reichstag was dissolved. Under his influence the Conservatives and National Liberals formed a coalition or _Cartel_ by which each agreed to support the candidates of the other. The elections caused greater excitement than any which had taken place since 1870. The numbers who went to the poll were much larger, and all the opposition parties, except the Catholics, including even the Socialists, suffered severe loss. Bismarck, in order to win the support of the Centre, appealed directly to the pope, but Windthorst took the responsibility of refusing to obey the pope's request on a matter purely political. The National Liberals again became a government party, but their position was much changed. They were no longer, as in the old days, the leading factor. They had to take the second place. They were subordinate to the Conservatives. They could no longer impose their will upon the government. In the new parliament the government proposals were accepted by a majority of 223 to 48 (seven members of the Centre voted for it, the others abstained). The opposition consisted chiefly of Socialists
and Radicals (_Freisinnigen_).

Relations with Russia.

The fall of Boulanger removed the immediate danger from France, but for the rest of the year the relations with Russia caused serious apprehensions. Anti-German articles appeared in Russian newspapers. The growth of the Nationalist party in Russia led to measures injurious to German trade and German settlers in Russia. German vessels were forbidden to trade on the Niemen. The increase of the duties on iron injured German trade. Stringent measures were taken to stamp out German nationality in the Baltic provinces, similar to those used by the Germans against the Poles. Foreigners were forbidden to hold land in Russia. The German government retaliated by a decree of the Reichsbank refusing to deal with Russian paper. Large accumulations of troops on the western frontier excited alarm in Germany and Austria. During a short visit paid by the emperor of Russia to Berlin in November Bismarck discovered that forged despatches misrepresenting the policy of Germany in the Eastern Question had been communicated to him. This did not seem to remove all danger, and in February 1888 the government introduced an amendment to the imperial Military Law extending the obligation for service from twelve to eighteen years. In this way it was possible to increase the war establishment, excluding the Landsturm, by about half a million men without adding to the burden in time of peace. Another law authorized a loan of L14,000,000 for military equipment. At the same time the text of the Triple Alliance was published. The two laws were adopted without opposition. Under the effect of one of Bismarck's speeches, the Military Bill was unanimously passed almost without debate.

Secret treaty with Russia.

It was probably at the meeting of 1884 that a secret treaty, the existence of which was not known for many years, was arranged between Germany and Russia. The full text has never been published, and the exact date is uncertain. Either state pledged itself to observe benevolent neutrality in case the other were attacked by a third power. Apparently the case of an attack by France on Germany, or by Austria on Russia, was expressly mentioned. The treaty lapsed in 1890, and owing to Bismarck's dismissal was not renewed. Caprivi refused to renew it because it was doubtful whether by increasing the number of treaties the value of them was not diminished. Under this system it was to be apprehended that if war broke out between Austria and Russia, Austria would claim the support of Germany under the Triple Alliance, Russia neutrality under this treaty. The decision of Germany would theoretically have to depend on the question which party was the aggressor--a question which notoriously is hardly ever capable of an answer. (For this treaty see the debate in the Reichstag of the 16th of November 1896; the _Hamburger Nachrichten_ of 24th October in the same year; and Schulthess, _Europaisches Geschichtskalendar_, 1896.)


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