Caprivi's new course

Caprivi?s new course
The Kaiser had been so taken by the success of tariff reform that Caprivi had been given the noble title of count. However, powerful voices quickly and effectively raised doubts: Court conservatives. To start with, Wilhelm 11 himself backed Caprivi?s social policy in the belief that the improvements would discourage people from supporting the socialists. Yet, Wilhelm 11 sympathy began to wane and many of Wilhelm?s advisers at court disagreed with caprivi?s socialist policies. Some encouraged the Kaiser to ditch him and to assume a more authoritarian personal rule. Moving on and the landowners were deeply upset by the commercial treaties since they threatened to reduce their profits. In 1893 the Agrarian league was formed to put pressure on parliament and to win support and privileges for landowners. It quickly grew into an effective and well organised lobby of a third of a million members that acted as a powerful pressure group on behalf of the conservative parties. Finally in 1893 there had been resentment in military circles when Caprivi made concessions over the army Bill in the Reichstag by reducing the length of conscription for national service from three years to two. The army bill was actually rejected, resulting in the Reichstag being dissolved and the following election brought things to a head. There were conservative concerns about anarchist outrages across Europe and the increase in the total number of social democrat seats to 44. Opponents of Caprivi now reinforced Wilhelm11 own doubts about his chancellor?s suitability for office and Wilhelm11 pressed Caprivi to draw up an anti-socialist subversion bill. The chancellor refused and this led to an extraordinary plan by Wilhelm11 and his supporter Eulenburg. Their plan was to set aside the powers of the Reichstag, crush socialism and establish a more authoritarian system centred on the Kaiser himself. This was the final straw for caprivi. He successfully talked the Kaiser out of such a course of action, but he had lost the will to carry on. In October 1894 caprivi resigned and gladly retired from the political scene.

Caprivi?s four years as chancellor neatly illustrate the difficulties of trying to cope with the pressures of the various political forces in imperial Germany. In his attempt to create a genuine base of parliamentary support for the government, Caprivi showed his understanding of the need, in a modern industrial society, for a political approach that recognised the concerns and aspirations of the mass of the population. However, Caprivi?s new course foundered because it was opposed to established forces of power and influence. He was subjected to considerable abuse from the conservative press and he was the focus of opposition intrigue at court. In the end, he could not rely on the consistent support of the Kaiser whose delusions of greatness were now taken up with thoughts of personal rule and weltpolitik.