Threats to Bismarck’s Position
* Late 1880s were a difficult period for Bismarck
* William I was in his eighties and his advancing years cast a shadow over Bismarck’s plans. If he died, Crown Prince Frederick, a man of liberal views who was married to the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria, would ascend the throne. * It seemed likely that he would dismiss Bismarck and appoint a liberal chancellor. This would be welcome to the Reichstag where a majority was no longer in Bismarck’s pocket. * Friction between the Reichstag and Bismarck came to a head in 1887 over the renewal of the army grant or Septennates. The current Septennates were not due to expire until 1888 but the international situation alarmed the generals, who pressed for an early renewal. * In late 1886, Bismarck asked the Reichstag to agree to substantial military increases. The Reichstag agreed on the condition that in future it was allowed to review military expenditure every three years, not every seven. * ‘The German army is an institution which cannot be dependent on short-lived Reichstag majorities.’ * Dissolving the Reichstag, he created a picture of a revenge-seeking France, ready for war at any moment. * Germany would remain in danger until de Septennates were passed and only the Conservatives and National Liberals could be relied upon to pass them. * Bismarck’s electoral stratagem worked. The Conservatives and National Liberals won an absolute majority in 1887 and the Septennates were passed. William II and Bismarck
* While William I lived Bismarck’s hold on power was never in question because they understood each other. * ‘It is not easy to be Emperor under such a Chancellor’ * When William died in March 1888 he was succeed briefly by his son, Frederick. He died three months later from cancer. * Frederick’s son William II then became Emperor. He was convinced German nationalist and was totally committed to the belief that he ruled...