National Liberal Party (Germany)
|National Liberal Party
|Split from||German Progress Party, German National Association|
|Succeeded by||German People's Party|
A first national liberal parliamentary group was formed on 17 November 1866 by several right-wing deputies of the German Progress Party in the Prussian Landtag around Eduard Lasker and Hans Victor von Unruh. They put aside their differences with Minister President Otto von Bismarck over domestic policy due to their support for his highly successful foreign policy, which resulted in the unification of Germany as a constitutional monarchy. The National Liberal Party was founded in 1867, it advocated the interests of the Grand Burghers (German Großbürger) and business magnates. Its first chairman was Rudolf von Bennigsen. In the 1871 election the party reached 30.1% of the votes, becoming the strongest group in the Reichstag parliament with 119 seats.
The National Liberals' period of great dominance was between 1871 and 1879, when they were Bismarck's chief allies in the Reichstag, and were avid supporters of the Kulturkampf measures and the Anti-Socialist Laws. Bismarck broke with the National Liberals in 1879, when he turned to protectionist policies, which violated the free trade principles of the party. One year later the left-wing Liberal Union split off, which merged with the Progress Party into the German Free-minded Party in 1884. The remaining partisans approached to the Conservatives, being the strongest supporters of von Tirpitz's various Fleet Acts starting in 1898, which pushed Great Britain into an arms race with Germany until World War I.
The National Liberals came to be closely associated with the interests of big business. Increasingly threatened by the growing strength of the Socialists, the party gradually became more conservative, although it was generally split between a more liberal wing that sought to strengthen ties with the dissident liberals to their left, and a right wing that came to support more protectionist policies and close relations with the Conservatives and the imperial government.
During World War I, most of the National Liberals, including such leaders of their left wing as Gustav Stresemann, avidly supported the expansionist goals of the imperial government, although they also called for reform at home. Following the war, the party broke up. Its left wing merged with the left-liberal Progressives to form the German Democratic Party (Deutsche Demokratische Partei). Most of the moderate and conservative elements of the party (including Stresemann) formed the more conservative liberal German People's Party (Deutsche Volkspartei). The extreme right wing of the National Liberals joined the German National People's Party.
 Further reading
- Mork, Gordon R. "Bismarck and the 'Capitulation' of German Liberalism," Journal of Modern History Vol. 43, No. 1 (March 1971), pp. 59–75 in JSTOR
 See also
- Contributions to liberal theory
- Liberalism worldwide
- List of liberal parties
- Liberal democracy
- Liberalism in Germany
German Progress Party
|German liberal parties
German People's Party
German National Association