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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.