Why was Bismarck dismissed?

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Political developments 1880s

Bismarck was dismissed because of the political developments in the 1880s:

  • 1881: Liberals gained seats from the Conservatives which meant that Bismarck could no longer depend on Reichstag support.
  • 1884: To win support back from the Conservatives, he introduced the Colonial policy which helped win some seats back.
  • 1887: Liberals put pressure on Bismarck as they disagreed over the army budget, and the Reichstag didn't like the fact that they only had a say every 7 years.
  • Bismarck dissolved the Reichstag which allowed him to get his own way and protect the army. He also produced a war scare.

Dissolving the Reichstag failed as it took the element of democracy away and it was only covering Bismarck's tracks. It also showed that his constitution was ineffective.

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Personality of the new Kaiser

Bismarck was dismissed partly because of the new Kaiser's personality:

  • Wilhelm was committed to the belief that he ruled by the divine right of Kings.
  • 'I'll let the boy potter along for another 6 months... Then I'll rule myself!' This shows that Kaiser fully intended to rule on his own and would eventually dismiss Bismarck despite what would happen.
  • He was very complex, intelligent and energetic.
  • He was a nationalist.
  • He was overbearing, arrogant and erratic.
  • There was a big age difference between the Kaiser and Bismarck: Wilhelm was 29 and Bismarck was in his 70s. So they were raised in two completely different generations. 
  • As a result, Wilhelm was more modern than Bismarck, who was very traditional. 
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Policy differences

Bismarck was dismissed because of the policy differences between him and the Kaiser:

  • Wilhelm questioned the need to maintain the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia.
  • They disagreed over social policy: Wilhelm was confident that he could win over the working class by a modest extension of the welfare system, but Bismarck was not confident in this.
  • Bismarck favoured repression and proposed anti socialist laws, but Wilhelm wanted it to be watered down. Bismarck refused. 
  • The 1890 election was a disaster.
  • Bismarck was entrapped and his desperation increased. 
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