Liberal Union (Germany)

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Liberal Union
Liberale Vereinigung
Leader Eduard Lasker
Founded 1880
Dissolved 1884
Split from National Liberal Party
Merged into German Free-minded Party
Ideology Liberalism,
Classical liberalism,
Economic liberalism,
Free trade
Political position Centre-right

The Liberal Union (German: Liberale Vereinigung) was a short-lived liberal party in the German Empire. It was founded as a break-away from the National Liberal Party, therefore also called Secession, in 1880,[1] and merged with the left liberal German Progress Party to form the German Free-minded Party in 1884.

The leftist faction of the National Liberal Party were discontent with the party leadership's support for Otto von Bismarck's conservative government.[2] Most importantly, they supported free trade[1] whereas National liberal leaders Rudolf von Bennigsen and Johann von Miquel sustained, against classically liberal principles, Bismarck's prohibitive tariffs strategy ("Schutzzollpolitik"). Other contentious points were the Anti-Socialist Laws ("Sozialistengesetze"),[3] the "Kulturkampf" against the Catholic Church and the septennial military budget ("Septennat").

The Secession was led by Eduard Lasker.[2] Other notable members were Ludwig Bamberger, Berlin's mayor Max von Forckenbeck,[2] Nobel laureate historian Theodor Mommsen,[3] Friedrich Kapp, Theodor Barth, and Georg von Siemens.[3]

The Liberal Union was a notables' party ("Honoratiorenpartei"), having its electorate mainly amongst North and East German upper classes: wholesale merchants and intellectuals. The organisational structure was rather loose. Nevertheless, the new grouping was initially successful, gaining 46 seats of the Reichstag in the federal election 1881 - as many as the preceding National liberals.[3]

Ultimately the Secessionists planned to merge all German liberals to one, "whole" liberal party - hence the name Liberal Union, with classically liberal and parliamentary monarchist positions, modelled after the British Liberal Party and ideally to govern under a future Emperor Frederick III.[4] However, the National Liberals made clear they would not leave the majority loyal to Bismarck. Therefore Secessionist representative Franz von Stauffenberg negotiated with Eugen Richter, the leader of the left liberal German Progress Party in early 1884. As early as in March 1884 both parties' legislators formed a joint parliamentary group with together 100 seats. Timely to the federal election in October the German Free-minded Party was formed.[3] Subsequently the parliamentary representation was diminished to only 64 members of Reichstag.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Eley, Geoff (1992), "Bismarckian Germany", Modern Germany Reconsidered: 1870-1945, Routledge, p. 17 .
  2. ^ a b c Harris, James F. (1984), A Study in the Theory and Practice of German Liberalism: Eduard Lasker, 1829-1884, University Press of America, p. 38 .
  3. ^ a b c d e "Liberale Vereinigung, 1880-1884", LeMO: Lebendiges Museum Online, Deutsches Historisches Museum . Archived August 16, 2014, at the Wayback Machine..
  4. ^ Nipperdey, Thomas (1995), Deutsche Geschichte 1866-1918, II, C.H. Beck, p. 327 .
Preceded by
National Liberal Party (Germany)
liberal German parties
Succeeded by
German Free-minded Party