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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

In 1886 the time approached for a new military budget


About

this time the colonial question also caused a clashing of parties. To open new channels of commerce and enterprise, certain mercantile houses had acquired large tracts of land on foreign continents, and now asked the protection of the Empire for their efforts. Germany, now a first-class power and in possession of a growing navy, needed coaling-stations in foreign waters, new lines of steamers to connect directly with Africa and eastern Asia, and an outlet for her rapidly multiplying population, which she would rather colonize under her own flag than lose by emigration to other countries. The Federal Government therefore took up this matter in its own interest, and asked Parliament for appropriations and subsidies to carry out those enlarged plans. The demand was received on the part of the Liberals and Radicals with violent opposition; but, in the end, the decision, with the assistance of the Centre party, was in favor of the Government.

[Sidenote: 1882. THE TRIPLE ALLIANCE.]

In the meantime fresh war-clouds were gathering on the political horizon, on account of the accumulation of Russian troops on the frontiers of Germany and Austria. The violent death of Alexander II. of Russia had deprived Germany of a friend whom his successor, Alexander III., did not mean to replace. His sympathies were with the growing Pan-slavistic party, which through its press was exciting hatred against all that was German. Thus France

felt herself drawn towards Russia, and both the Republic and the semi-barbarian Empire stood ready at any moment to make common cause for the ruin of Germany. This constant menace and its attendant rivalry in armament could not but be a misfortune, not merely for Germany but for all the powers concerned. To avert the danger of war as long as possible, the deep insight of the great man at the helm of the Federal Government of Germany had led him to take an important step in good time. As early as 1879 he had created a counterpoise to the threatening attitude of France and Russia by concluding an alliance for defensive purposes between Germany and Austria, which a few years later was joined by Italy, and, as the "Triple Alliance," has been the wedge to keep apart the hostile powers in the East and the West, securing peace thereby.

In 1886 the time approached for a new military budget. The armaments of both Russia and France had reached such enormous dimensions that the German Government could not but know the military forces of the Empire to be no longer on an equal footing with the hostile powers. Consequently, it now asked Parliament not only for a new septennial budget for military purposes, as twice before since 1874, but also for appropriations to raise a larger contingent of soldiers (one per cent. of the whole population, which, according to the last census, made 41,000 men more than at that time), and additional sums for fortifications, barracks, arms, etc. Thereupon ensued another parliamentary contest. The opposition proved themselves not sufficiently patriotic to take a large view, and, in concert with the Centre, the Liberals demanded that the contingent of soldiers should be diminished and the budget granted for three years only. After much passionate debate, and in spite of Bismarck's weighty eloquence, the motion of the Government was carried in a crippled condition and by only a small majority. Then Parliament was once more dissolved, and new elections took place about a month afterwards (21st of February, 1887), which made evident the temper of the people, since the Liberals and Social-Democrats were heavy losers. Only half of their former number was returned to Parliament. The military bill was now carried by a large majority of Conservatives and Nationals, and financial as well as other matters of importance were brought to a quick issue.


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