Bismarck's Domestic Policy

Topics: German Empire, Germany, Prussia Pages: 18 (11523 words) Published: May 27, 2014
Bismarck's Domestic Policy 1871-1890.
Along with getting an IB Paper 3 question about Biz's foreign policy, you might also (instead?) encounter a question about the domestic policy that Biz pursued as Chancellor of the German Empire from 1871-1890. So let's deal with that now. OK? It is likely that you'll get a question about Biz's aims and accomplishments. In other words, what did he want to achieve in German domestic policy, and, given what he wanted, did he succeed or fail? Of course, these notes are also useful in addressing the question of the rise of Hitler. For what we are arguing here is that Biz has a very important impact on the history of democracy in Germany. Specifically, these notes should help us understand why potential opponents of Hitler—during Germany’s post-WW1 Weimar period—failed to prevent the Nazi dictatorship. ******************** In our attempt to understand Biz's domestic policy aims and accomplishments 1871-1890, we should consider how it was that Biz came to be in a position to determine domestic policy in Germany in the first place. The first key to understanding Biz's domestic policy is determining how he came to power in Prussia in 1862. According to the Prussian constitution, the parliament had neither the power to initiate legislation (unlike Canada's parliament which does have this power), nor reject legislation brought forth by the king or his ministers (the executive). Furthermore, the parliament had no power to vote to approve annual taxes; they were laid down permanently in the constitution. (Pretty powerless parliament, eh alliteration face?) However, the parliament could veto the funds the government wished to allocate to the various ministries. Withholding money was the only weapon the parliament had. In 1860, the Prussian minister of war wished for more money in order to increase the size of the Prussian army. Liberal parliamentarians had no problem with the idea of making the Prussian army bigger, however, as liberals, they hoped that the Prussian officer corps would eventually come to be dominated by the men of the Prussian middle class, rather than by the class of noble Junker land owners who traditionally made up the body of Prussian officers. King Wilhelm I and his minister of war rejected this liberal attempt to change the class composition of the Prussian officer corps, and the parliament threatened to veto the military budget. Along with parliament's attempt to open the leadership of the Prussian army to the middle class, what was taking place in Prussia at this time was essentially an attempt by the parliament to assert itself against the power of the monarchy and the army, and gather more power for itself. Later in 1860, Wilhelm called upon Biz, who had a reputation as a conservative with courage, to stand firm against the parliament. He wanted Biz to become prime minister and defy parliament; spend the money the government requested (despite the unconstitutional nature of such an act) and break the liberal opposition. Biz—with a very limited knowledge of economics, no experience in social policy making, and caring nothing for this military dispute—would agree to become Prussian Prime Minister so long as Wilhelm gave him what he really wanted: unfettered control of Prussian foreign policy making. Wilhelm refused. Wilhelm held out until 1862, at the moment when his ministers were willing to give in to parliament's demand to open the officer corps to the middle class. Unwilling to surrender to parliament, Wilhelm handed the reigns of domestic policy making to Biz when Biz suggested that he would bring royal government to victory over the supremacy of parliament. Two weeks after being appointed prime minister, Biz was made foreign minister as well. Biz now held incredible power in his hands; he could not be turfed in a popular election, he could only be dismissed by the king. His position was...
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