Chancellor Caprivi 1890

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Caprivi's 'New Course' 1890-1894

Who was Caprivi:

  • Caprivi was a middle aged soldier who had a good administrative record, but had little experience in politics. 
  • He became Chancellor in 1890, hoping to stand above parties and particular interests. 
  • He had been chosen by Wilhelm because the Kaiser believed that he was an amenable character, who would do what he was told.


  • Caprivi soon presented a will of his own through his first speech, where he declared that he was ready to steer a 'new course.'
  • This would involve a more consultative approach to govt and a conciliatory attitude to previously hostile forces. 
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Social Reform under Caprivi

In Caprivi's first few weeks as Chancellor, he went out of his way to make concessions to Socialists, Poles and Centrists:

  • For example, the anti-Socialist laws were allowed to lapse.
  • Schools populated by the Polish in Prussian areas, were now allowed to use the Polish language for teaching purposes. 
  • Conciliation proved successful, enabling Caprivi to rely on the Reichstag support to push through a no. of social measures in 1891:
    • Sunday work was prohibited. 
    • Children under the age of 13 were forbidden to be employed. 
    • Women were also forbidden to work more than 11 hours a week. 
    • Courts, with representatives from both sides of industry, were set up to arbitrate in industrial disputes. 
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Tariff Reform

Caprivi's most important single measure put before the Reichstag, was a bill to reform the 1879 Tariff Act:

  • As a result of wheat shortages leading to a rise in food prices, Caprivi negotiated a series of commerical treaties with Austria, Italy, russia and some of the smaller states between 1891 and 1894. 
  • Germany agreed to reduce tariffs on agricultural imports, if they would get favourable rates for German manufactured goods in return. 
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The Agrarian League

The Agrarian League was formed in 1893:

  • It soon had 300,000 members so it became an effective and well organised PG.
  • It opposed the tariff reform, along with the Conservatives, that Caprivi introduced.
  • It was an anit-Semitic, rablle rousing movement which won widespread support in eastern Prussia. 
  • It mounted an extreme anti-Caprivi propaganda campaign which denounces him as a socialist bent on ruining wheat producers. 
  • The campaign also agitated for subsidies, import controls and minimum prices to protect German farmers. 
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The Army Bill

The Army Bill:

  • Caprivi reduced the period of military service from 3 to 2 years, which angered the right even further. 
  • He introduced an army bill that increased the peacetime army strength by 84,000, which alienated the left. 
  • However, this bill was defeated. 
  • Therefore, Caprivi dissolved the Reichstag. 
  • The Conservatives and National Liberals improved their position in the 1893 election. 
  • As a result, the new Reichstag passed the army bill. 
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Caprivi's Fall

Caprivi was dismissed as Chancellor because:

  • Wilhelm's growing doubts about Caprivi's political suitability was reinforced by the Conservative opposition to the 'new course.'
  • Wilhelm pressed him to draw up new anti-Socialist measures because he was worried by the SPD's growing success in 1893 across Europe. 
  • However, Caprivi refused as he knew that the Reichstag woudn't tolerate such a step.
  • Therefore, the Kaiser's power was increased at the expense of the Reichstag and to crush socialism, by Wilhelm and Prussian Minister-President Count Eulenburg devising a plan to change the constitution.
  • However, Caprivi managed to talk Wilhelm out of such a course of action, which lost the Kaiser's confidence in him. 
  • As a result, in October 1894, Caprivi resigned. 
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