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

They took the name of the Freisinnige Vereinigung


Military legislation.

In foreign affairs a good understanding with Great Britain was maintained, but the emperor failed at that time to preserve the friendship of Russia. The close understanding between France and Russia, and the constant increase in the armies of these states, made a still further increase of the German army desirable. In 1890, while the Septennate had still three more years to run, Caprivi had to ask for an additional 20,000 men. It was the first time that an increase of this kind had been necessary within the regular period. When, in 1893, the proposals for the new period were made, they formed a great change. Compulsory service was to be made a reality; no one except those absolutely unfit was to escape it. To make enlistment of so large an additional number of recruits possible, the period of service with the colours was reduced to two years. The parliamentary discussion was very confused; the government eventually accepted an amendment giving them 557,093 for five and a half years instead of the 570,877 asked for; this was rejected by 210 to 162, the greater part of the Centre and of the Radicals voting against it. Parliament was at once dissolved. Before the elections the Radical party broke up, as about twenty of them determined to accept the compromise. They took the name of the _Freisinnige Vereinigung_, the others who remained under the leadership of Richter forming the _Freisinnige Volkspartei_. The natural result

of this split was a great loss to the party. The Liberal opposition secured only twenty-three seats instead of the sixty-seven they had held before. It was, so far as now can be foreseen, the final collapse of the old Radical party. Notwithstanding this the bill was only carried by sixteen votes, and it would have been thrown out again had not the Poles for the first time voted for the government, since the whole of the Centre voted in opposition.

This vote was a sign of the increasing disorganization of parties and of growing parliamentary difficulties which were even more apparent in the Prussian Landtag. Miquel, as minister of finance, succeeded indeed in carrying a reform by which the proceeds of the tax on land and buildings were transferred to the local government authorities, and the loss to the state exchequer made up by increased taxation of larger incomes and industry. The series of measures which began in 1891, and were completed in 1895, won a more general approbation than is usual, and Miquel in this successfully carried out his policy of reconciling the growing jealousies arising from class interests.

Commercial treaties.

Caprivi's administration was further remarkable for the arrangement of commercial treaties. In 1892 treaties with Austria-Hungary, Italy, Belgium and Switzerland for twelve years bound together the greater part of the continent, and opened a wide market for German manufactures; the idea of this policy was to secure, by a more permanent union of the middle European states, a stable market for the goods which were being excluded owing to the great growth of Protection in France, Russia and America. These were followed by similar treaties with Rumania and Servia, and in 1894, after a period of sharp customs warfare, with Russia. In all these treaties the general principle was a reduction of the import duties on corn in return for advantages given to German manufactures, and it is this which brought about the struggle of the government with the Agrarians which after 1894 took the first place in party politics.


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