Johann von Miquel

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Johannes von Miquel (1829-1901)
grave at Frankfurter Hauptfriedhof

Johann von Miquel (19 February 1828 – 8 September 1901) was a German statesman.

Biography[edit]

Born Johannes Miquel at Neuenhaus, Kingdom of Hanover, in 1829 as a descendant from a French family that had emigrated during the French Revolution, Miquel learnt law at the universities of Heidelberg and Göttingen. Studying the writings of Karl Marx he became a convert to an extreme revolutionary, socialistic and atheistic creed; but though he entered into correspondence with Marx with the object of starting a revolutionary movement, he does not appear to have taken any overt part in the Revolutions of 1848–1849.

Further study of political economy soon enabled him to pass out of this phase, and in 1850 he settled down to practise as an advocate at Göttingen. He acquired a reputation as an able lawyer and rising politician, especially for his knowledge of financial questions. He was one of the founders of the German National Association, and in 1864 he was elected a member of the Hanoverian parliament as a Liberal and an opponent of the government. He accepted the annexation of Hanover by Prussia without regret, and was one of the Hanoverians whose parliamentary abilities at once won a commanding position in the Prussian parliament, which he entered in 1867.

For some reason, perhaps because Bismarck did not entirely trust him, he did not at this time attain quite so influential a position as might have been anticipated; nevertheless he was chairman of the parliamentary committee which in 1876 drafted the new rules of legal procedure, and he found scope for his great administrative abilities in the post of mayor of Osnabrück. He held this position from 1865 to 1870, and again from 1876 to 1879, having in the meantime moved to Berlin, where he was first a director of the Discontogesellschaft (1870–1873), and then a member of its advisory board (1873-1876).[1]

In 1879, he was elected Lord Mayor of Frankfurt am Main, where he gained a great reputation for the energy with which he dealt with social questions, especially that of the housing of the poor. This office also made him a member of the Prussian House of Lords.[1] Probably owing to his early study of socialism, he was very ready to support the new social reforms of Bismarck. He was the chief agent in the reorganization of the National Liberal Party in 1887, in which year he entered the imperial Reichstag.

After Bismarck's fall in 1890, he was chosen Prussian minister of finance, and held this post for ten years. He distinguished himself by his reform of the Prussian system of taxation, the one really successful measure of the new reign in internal affairs. An attempt, however, to reform the system of imperial finance in 1893-1894 failed, and much injured his reputation. Miquel had entirely given up his Liberalism, and aimed at practical measures for improving the condition of the people irrespective of the party programmes; yet some of his measures, such as that for taxing Warenhäuser ("stores"), were of a very injudicious nature. He professed to aim at a union of parties on the basis of the satisfaction of material interests, a policy to which the name of Sammlung ("Collective") was given; but his enemies accused him of constantly intriguing against the three chancellors under whom he served, and of himself attempting to secure the chancellorship.

The sympathy that he expressed for the Agrarians increased his unpopularity among Liberals and industrials; but he pointed out that the state, which for half a century had done everything to help manufactures, might now attempt to support the failing industry of agriculture. By playing somewhat into the hands of the Agrarians, he secured the adoption of a new tax system, which greatly benefited the working classes and at the same time tremendously increased the revenue.[1] In June 1901, the rejection of a canal bill led to a crisis, and he was obliged to send in his resignation. His health was already failing, and he died on 8 September of the same year at his house in Frankfurt.

The German Emperor conferred upon him the patent of nobility (enabling him to adopt the von in front of his last name) in 1897, and conferred upon him the Order of the Black Eagle.

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