Role of Kaiser in German Domestic and Foreign Policy

Topics: German Empire, Prussia, Germany Pages: 5 (1736 words) Published: October 6, 2011
History Assess the role of Kiaser Wilhelm II in the direction of German domestic and foreign policy between the years 1900-1914.

Between 1871 and 1890 Otto Von Bismarck had worked hard and skillfully to secure Germany's position in the European hierachy. Alliances formed between Germany and other nations such as Russia and Austria cemented peace within Europe during the 1870's and 1880's, and Germany's isolation of France (whom Prussia had defeated in 1871) could continue. The use of realpolitik showed a government that was progressive and willing to compromise. What Germany needed after Bismarck had served his time, was a leader who could maintain alliances but still take Germany forward. However decisions such as ousting Bismarck from his position as Chancellor, served only to highlight Kaiser Wilhelm II's intention to actively seek a personal rule based on his 'divine right of kings' , that would disgruntle the percariously balanced situation in Europe. Since the Kaiser had the power to appoint members of government, the Reichstag had very little power as officials were responsible to the Kaiser. Wilhelm II determined the parameters of what was and was not possiblein terms of policy. His power over the chancellor and government officials effectively gave him supreme ruling power within the 'sham democracy'. The kaiser persued the policy of 'weltpolitik' as was his desire to transform Germany into a world super power, whether or not it alienated Britain, something Bismarck had aimed to prevent. Soon stemmed the implementation of plans to expand the navy to give the German Empire parity with Britain in naval warfare. The Navy League set up by Tirpitz in 1898 was designed to garner massive support of the plans to expand the navy. The bill of 1898 provided for a fleet of 19 battleships, 12 large cruisers, 30 small cruisers, and assorted smaller ships. Two years later, the Navy Law of 1900 authorized the further expansion of the Imperial Navy, to be organized around two flagships and four squadrons of 8 battleships. With thanks from work of the navl league along with the support of the centre party, the bills were both passed with large majorities. However, the Second Naval Law, with its rapid expansion of the German fleet, began to gravely worry the island nation. As Lord Selborne, the First Lord of the Admiralty, informed Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister, on November 15, 1901: The naval policy of Germany is definite and persistent. The Emperor seems determined that the power of Germany shall be used all over the world to push German commerce, possessions and interests. Of necessity it follows that German naval strength must be raised so as to compare more advantageously than at present with ours. 

In 1900, Hohenlohe, tired of being ignored resigned to be replaced by Bulow. He aimed to reduce the conflicting interests on the domestic front by rallying support for the Weltpolitik. Bulows main interest was foreign policy. Illustrated by the comments ‘I am putting the main emphasis on foreign policy... Only a successful foreign policy can help to reconcile, pacify, rally, unite.' However he did make some big changes at home. Some of the measures include; an extension of accident insurance in 1900 and a law making industrial courts compulsary in towns with a population above 20,000 people. The 1902 Tariff Law restored a higher duty on imported agricultural goods which resulted in higher food prices. The social democrats , who had oppossed the tariffs saw their popular vote go up significantly. Their number of seats raised from 56 to 81. With the ever increasing support of the socialist party it eventually became harder to introduce reforms that would have a negative effect on the middle and lower classes. All of which became very apparent in 1905, when in order to continue the funding of weltpolitik, chancellor Bulow saw that increases on indirect tax and inheritance tax had to...
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