Does the Kaiser have personal rule in Germany? Kaiser Wilhelm II had personal rule to an extent, however most historians generally believe that in fact, he did not. Wilhelm had an enormous influence over the chancellor’s he chose. Mainly because he believed that they would do as he told and abide by what he said. This control over his chancellor’s allowed him to set the agenda and manipulate them into doing exactly what he wanted. In 1892, Caprivi proposed legislation that would restore some of the church’s privileges over education, effectively reversing an important aspect of the Kulturkampf.
However, Wilhelm had no intention of relying on the Centre Party to pass the bill therefore forced the withdrawal of the proposed legislation. The fact Wilhelm had such control over his chancellor’s shows that he had personal rule to an extent as he could basically propose what policies he wanted. If they failed in doing so, they could be easily replaced. The constitution gave Wilhelm the right to conduct foreign policy and personally deal with military affairs. By controlling foreign policy, the Kaiser had the right to declare and conclude war, make treaties and form alliances.
This essentially, ensured that the Kaiser always had 50% of rule. Wilhelm, having a passion for militarism used this to his advantage and in the process used his chancellor’s as well. The Zabern affair in 1913 defined the divide between the Kaiser and the Reichstag. The immediate cause of the clash occurred when German soldiers insulted national feelings of the people of Alsace. In response to repressive measures taken by the military authorities against the angry citizens of Zabern, protest demonstrations were held in Alsace.
Regardless of a national outcry against militarism, Wilhelm condoned the action. The Reichstag was furious but Hollweg refused to side with them and supported the Kaiser and the military. This shows that the Kaiser did have personal rule as he controlled his chancellor into doing what he wanted. Wilhelm ignored the national outcry and the Reichstag, in doing so he didn’t give the people what they wanted. In order for the Kaiser to pass bills, the Reichstag had to give consent to the proposed legislation.
Within the time Wilhelm was in power the Reichstag increased in strength and gradually became more liberal. Essentially being the key component in the limit to the Kaiser’s power. In 1893 the chancellor compromised with the Reichstag in order to gain support for the army bill that increased the size of the military forces. This compromise was a sign of weakness and surrender in the Kaiser’s eyes as it meant reducing the military’s power. Two bills were attempted to introduce to curb socialist ‘subversion’ in 1894 and 1899.
These proposed stiffer penalties for subversion and trade union activity; however they were immediately thrown out by the Reichstag as the Conservatives no longer commanded a majority in the Reichstag. The Reichstag wasn’t prepared to accept the Kaiser and Chancellor’s proposed legislation therefore this shows that the Kaiser did not have personal rule. During the 19th century, industrialisation swept across Europe. In particular, it affected Germany. The increase in the amount of factories and working class workers lead to the rise of socialism.
In 1903 the Reichstag saw the highest amount of seats for the Social Democratic Party. Bulow chose to reverse the tariff reductions arranged by Caprivi in order to create the alliance of ‘steel and rye’. This decision remained unpopular with the Social Democrats as it potentially increased the price of foodstuffs. The Reichstag was increasingly becoming more and more left wing. This shows that the Kaiser did not have personal rule as the socialists were stronger than him. The Conservative government he desired was being pushed out by the majority.
As much as the Kaiser had the ability to appoint his chancellors, he did not however have the ability to control their free will. With many of the chancellor’s appointed, Wilhelm would merely dismiss them as they became too independent minded and involved in policy making. In 1908 an article was published in the Daily Telegraph, detailing conversations the Kaiser had. Wilhelm suggested that whilst he himself was pro-British the German public opinion was not. This caused great controversy and severe criticism.
In order to stop the Kaiser from intervening and creating a ‘personal government’, Wilhelm was forced to issue a statement, promising to respect the constitution. This shows that the Kaiser did not have personal rule as he couldn’t control his chancellor and had no control of the Reichstag. Kaiser Wilhelm II did not have personal rule as he didn’t have the ability to control his chancellors. Wilhelm wanted too much from his chancellors, he desired someone who would do exactly what he said, yet was able to control the Reichstag. In other words, he wanted a Bismarck.