Leo von Caprivi

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Leo von Caprivi
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R09316, Leo Graf von Caprivi.jpg
Chancellor of Germany
In office
20 March 1890 – 26 October 1894
Monarch Wilhelm II
Deputy Karl Heinrich von Boetticher
Preceded by Otto von Bismarck
Succeeded by Chlodwig von Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst
Prime Minister of Prussia
In office
20 March 1890 – 22 March 1892
Monarch Wilhelm II
Preceded by Otto von Bismarck
Succeeded by Botho zu Eulenburg
Personal details
Born 24 February 1831
Berlin, Prussia
(Now Germany)
Died 6 February 1899
Skórzyn, Germany
(Now Poland)
Political party Independent
Signature
Military service
Allegiance  Prussia
Years of service 1849 – 1888
Rank General der Infanterie
Vize Admiral
Battles/wars Second Schleswig War
Austro-Prussian War
Awards Pour le Mérite

Georg Leo Graf von Caprivi de Caprera de Montecuccoli (English: Count George Leo of Caprivi, Caprera, and Montecuccoli, born Georg Leo von Caprivi; 24 February 1831 – 6 February 1899) was a German general and statesman who succeeded Otto von Bismarck as Chancellor of Germany. Caprivi served as German Chancellor from March 1890 to October 1894. Caprivi promoted industrial and commercial development, and concluded numerous bilateral treaties for reduction of tariff barriers. However, this movement toward free trade angered the conservative agrarian interests, especially the Junkers. He promised the Catholic Center party educational reforms that would increase their influence, but failed to deliver. As part of Kaiser Wilhelm's "new course" in foreign policy, Caprivi abandoned Bismarck's military, economic, and ideological cooperation with Russia, and was unable to forge a close relationship with Britain. He successfully promoted the reorganization of the German military.[1]

Biography[edit]

He was born in Charlottenburg (then a town in the Prussian Province of Brandenburg, today a district of Berlin) the son of jurist Julius Leopold von Caprivi (1797–1865), who later became a judge at the Prussian supreme court and member of the Prussian House of Lords. His father's family was of Italian and possibly Slovene origin; it has been claimed that their original surname was Kopriva and they originated from Koprivnik (Nesseltal) near Kočevje in the Kočevje Rog (Hornwald) region of Lower Carniola (present-day Slovenia).[2][3][4] However, other research states that this cannot be confirmed.[5] The Caprivis were ennobled during the 17th century Ottoman–Habsburg wars, they later moved to Landau in Silesia. His mother was Emilie Köpke, daughter of Gustav Köpke, headmaster of the Berlinisches Gymnasium zum Grauen Kloster and teacher of Caprivi's predecessor Otto von Bismarck.

Military career[edit]

Caprivi entered the Prussian Army in 1849 and served in the Second Schleswig War of 1864, the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 as a major in the staff of Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia, and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71, the latter as Chief of Staff of the X Army Corps.[6] Backed by the Chief of the general staff Helmuth von Moltke, Caprivi achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and distinguished himself at the Battle of Mars-la-Tour, the Siege of Metz and the Battle of Beaune-la-Rolande, receiving the military order Pour le Mérite.

After the war he served at the Prussian War Ministry. In 1882, he became commander of the 30th Infantry Division at Metz.[6] In 1883, he succeeded Albrecht von Stosch, a fierce opponent of Chancellor Bismarck, as Chief of the Imperial Navy. The appointment was made by Bismarck and caused great dissatisfaction among the officers of the navy. However, Caprivi showed significant administrative talent in the position.[6]

Caprivi's dissents with the naval policy of Emperor Wilhelm II led to his resignation in 1888. He was briefly appointed to the command of his old army corps, the X Army Corps stationed in Hanover, before being summoned to Berlin by Emperor Wilhelm II in February 1890. Caprivi was informed that he was the Kaiser's intended choice if Bismarck was resistant to Wilhelm's proposed changes to the government, and upon Bismarck's dismissal on 18 March, Caprivi became Chancellor.

Chancellor of Germany[edit]

Caprivi's administration was marked by what is known to historians as the Neuer Kurs ("New Course")[7] in both foreign and domestic policy, with moves towards conciliation of the Social Democrats on the domestic front, and towards a pro-British foreign policy, exemplified by the Anglo-German Agreement of July 1890, in which the British ceded the island of Heligoland to Germany in exchange for control of Zanzibar. This led to animosity from the colonialist pressure-groups like the Alldeutscher Verband, while Caprivi's free trading policies led to opposition from conservative agrarian protectionists. The treaty also gave Germany the Caprivi Strip, which was added to German South West Africa, thus linking that territory with the Zambezi River, which he had hoped to use for trade and communications with eastern Africa (the river proved to be unnavigable). He opposed the ideas of a preventive war against Russia developed by General Alfred von Waldersee, nevertheless he conformed to the decision of Emperor Wilhelm and the like-minded officials of the Foreign Office around Friedrich von Holstein not to renew the Reinsurance Treaty, whereafter Russia forged the Alliance with France.[8]

The rejection by the Conservatives intensified, accompanied with constant public attacks by retired Bismarck. Caprivi also lost the support of the National Liberals and Progressives in a legislative defeat of 1892 on an educational bill providing denominational board schools, a failed attempt to re-integrate the Catholic Centre Party after the Kulturkampf. Caprivi, although himself a Protestant, needed the 100 votes of the Catholic Centre Party but that alarmed the Protestant politicians.[9] Caprivi had to resign as Prussian Minister President and was replaced by Count Botho zu Eulenburg, leading to an untenable division of powers between the Chancellor and the Prussian premier, ultimately leading to the dismissal of both in 1894 and their succession by Prince Chlodwig von Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst.

A number of progressive reforms were carried out during Caprivi's time as Chancellor. The employment of children under the age of 13 was forbidden and 13-18 year olds restricted to a maximum 10-hour day, in 1891 Sunday working was forbidden and a guaranteed minimum wage introduced, and working hours for women were reduced to a maximum of 11. Industrial tribunals were established in 1890 to arbitrate in industrial disputes, and Caprivi invited representatives of trade unions to sit on these tribunals. In addition, duties on imported timber, cattle, rye, and wheat were lowered and a finance bill introduced progressive income tax under which the more one earned, the tax that person paid.[10] Other achievements included the army bills of 1892 and 1893, and the commercial treaty with Russia in 1894.[6]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ John C. G. Röhl (1967). Germany Without Bismarck: The Crisis of Government in the Second Reich, 1890-1900. University of California Press. pp. 77–90. 
  2. ^ "Rodbina † grofa Caprivija." 1899. Slovenec: političen list za slovenski narod 27(31) (8 Feb.): 4. (Slovene)
  3. ^ "Ministri slovenskega rodu, a nemškega mišljenja." 1918. Tedenske slike 5(14): 154. (Slovene)
  4. ^ Žužek, Aleš. 2013. "Nemški kancler, ki je bil slovenske gore list." SIOL (8 Dec.). (Slovene)
  5. ^ Petschauer, Erich. 1984. "Das Jahrhundertbuch": Gottschee and Its People Through the Centuries. New York: Gottscheer Relief Association, p. 205.
  6. ^ a b c d Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Caprivi, Georg Leo, Graf von". Encyclopedia Americana. 
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ Raymond James Sontag, Germany and England: Background of Conflict, 1848-1894 (1938) ch 9
  9. ^ John C. G. Röhl (1967). Germany Without Bismarck: The Crisis of Government in the Second Reich, 1890-1900. pp. 77–90. 
  10. ^ AQA History: The Development of Germany, 1871-1925 by Sally Waller

Further reading[edit]


Political offices
Preceded by
Otto von Bismarck
Prime Minister of Prussia
1890 – 1892
Succeeded by
Count Eulenburg
Chancellor of Germany
1890 – 1894
Succeeded by
Prince Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst