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

Any alteration of the franchise was


The

Agrarians still maintained their prominent position in Prussia. They opposed all bills which would appear directly or indirectly to injure agricultural interests. They looked with suspicion on the naval policy of the emperor, for they disliked all that helps industry and commerce. They would only give their support to the Navy Bills of 1897 and 1900 in return for large concessions limiting the importation of margarine and American preserved meat, and the removal of the _Indemnitats Nachweis_ acted as a kind of bounty on the export of corn. They successfully opposed the construction of the great canal from Westphalia to the Elbe, on the ground that it would facilitate the importation of foreign corn. They refused to accept all the compromises which Miquel, who was very sympathetic towards them, suggested, and thereby brought about his retirement in May 1901.

The opposition of the Agrarians was for many reasons peculiarly embarrassing. The franchise by which the Prussian parliament is elected gave the Conservatives whom they controlled a predominant position. Any alteration of the franchise was, however, out of the question, for that would admit the Socialists. It was, moreover, the tradition of the Prussian court and the Prussian government (and it must be remembered that the imperial government is inspired by Prussian traditions) that the nobility and peasants were in a peculiar way the support of the crown and the state. The old distrust of

the towns, of manufacturers and artisans, still continued. The preservation of a peasant class was considered necessary in the interests of the army. Besides, intellectual and social prejudices required a strong Conservative party. In the south and west of Germany, however, the Conservative party was practically non-existent. In these parts, owing to the changes introduced at the revolution, the nobility, who hold little land, are, comparatively speaking, without political importance. In the Catholic districts the Centre had become absolutely master, except so far as the Socialists threaten their position. Those of the great industrialists who belonged to the National Liberals or the Moderate Conservatives did not command that influence which men of their class generally hold in Great Britain, because the influence of Social Democracy banded together the whole of the working men in a solid phalanx of irreconcilable opposition, the very first principle of which was the hostility of classes. The government, therefore, were compelled to turn for support to the Centre and the Conservatives, the latter being almost completely under the influence of the old Prussian nobility from the north-east. But every attempt to carry out the policy supported by these parties aroused an opposition most embarrassing to the government.

Exchange regulations.

The Conservatives distrusted the financial activity which centred round the Exchanges of Berlin and other towns, and in this they had the sympathy of Agrarians and Anti-Semites, as well as of the Centre. The Agrarians believed that the Berlin Exchange was partly responsible for the fall of prices in corn; the Anti-Semites laid stress on the fact that many of the financiers were of Jewish extraction; the Centre feared the moral effects of speculation. This opposition was shown in the demand for additional duties on stamps (this was granted by Bismarck), in the opposition to the renewal of the Bank Charter, and especially in the new regulations for the Exchange which were carried in 1896. One clause in this forbade the dealing in "futures" in corn, and at the same time a special Prussian law required that there should be representatives of agriculture on the managing committee of the Exchange. The members of the Exchanges in Berlin and other towns refused to accept this law. When it came into effect they withdrew and tried to establish a private Exchange. This was prevented, and after two years they were compelled to submit and the Berlin Bourse was again opened.


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