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Kaiser Wilhelm II -||- Wilhelm's Chancellors -||- Admiral von Tirpitz and the Naval Race -||- Alliance with Austria-Hungary -||- Relations with Europe -||- Internal Discontent and new Social Orders -||- Industry and Economy -||- The Schlieffin Plan -||- World War I

~~~~~-To Wilhelm II's Germany-~~~~~

The Chancellors

There was a saying that ‘The Kaiser chooses his Chancellors as a man chooses his mistresses’.  No, this is not a reference to the suspicion of the former Kaiser being a repressed homosexual; rather it is a reference to the apparent randomness of his choices.  The first was an aged military general (Caprivi), the next was his uncle (Hohenlohee-Schillingsfurst), then the flatterer landowner (Bulow), and finally the former minister (Bethmann-Hollweg). 

 

LEON VON CAPRIVI – SERVED 1890 – 1894

 

Caprivi was selected for past administrative experience, his authority as a general and the belief that he would be malleable. 

The Kaiser was wrong when he chose Caprivi, for his new Chancellor started to act on his own will rather than Wilhelm’s.  He was conciliatory towards the Socialists (angering the Conservatives), and this gained him support in the population supported Reichstag (Parliament).  He introduced an income tax bill, another one of agriculture, reform, modernization, and increased social welfare through limiting the Sunday workday.  He increased the peacetime army, but reduced compulsory service by a year.  The Reichstag also had to debate the army grant every 5 instead of 7 years.

Caprivi finally resigned when he angered the Kaiser and lost this influence.

 

PRINCE VON HOHENLOHE-SCHILLINGSFURST – SERVED 1894-1900

 

            The man destined to be Caprivi’s successor would have to be his opposite.  The Kaiser felt that he needed someone he could trust and that he could control.  He asked his uncle- Hohenlohe-Schillingsfurst to be the next Chancellor.

            At first, the elderly Prince was unsure about the wisdom of the action.  Rumors about Bismarck and Caprivi had spread, and he knew that Wilhelm would be hard to control.  In the end he accepted, thinking that his role as ‘uncle’ would give him an extra edge. 

            Despite these concerns, Wilhelm got the Chancellor he wanted.  Hohenlohe- Schillingsfurst was never decisive, and his leadership was not firm.  What he did manage to do however, was to restrain Wilhelm from becoming a true autocrat (talking of removing the worker’s vote and weakening the constitution).  He stayed long enough for the Kaiser to dispose of the liberals and once that was done, he resigned.

 

BARON VON BULOW

 

            Under Bulow, more interesting things would happen.  It was he who had to deal with the Morocco Crisis, the Naval Race and many of the Kaiser’s diplomatic mistakes. 

            For his handling of the Moroccan Crisis, the Kaiser would make Bulow a Prince.  Bulow won his position through flattery.  His flattery was so false though that it was amazing anyone believed him.  Here’s an example “I place my faith increasingly in the Emperor.  He is so impressive! He is the most impressive Hohenzollern who has ever lived.  In a manner which I have never seen before, he combines genius- the most genuine and original genius- with the clearest good sense.”

His slippery flattery earned him the name ‘the eel’.

            He started to lose support from the people in 1903 when raised tariff’s lead to an increase in the Socialist popularity.  In 1907, he dissolved the Reichstag in the ‘interests of defense and national security’ and his greatest mistake was in 1908 when he let the Kaiser’s embarrassing Daily Telegraph interview to be published.  In the interview, the Kaiser insulted the British, calling them ‘mad as March hares’.  This led to great foreign relations problems for Germany. 

            The Kaiser wanted to see Bulow removed, and Bulow resigned in 1909.

 

BETHMANN-HOLLWEG- SERVED 1909-1917

 

            Bethmann-Hollweg was actually a recommendation of Bulow’s.  He was a man of government and eventually earned the Kaiser’s trust.  He was the Chancellor cursed with having to deal with Germany in the entrance of World War I. 

            While Hollweg was a great administrator, courageous and honorable, he had many faults.  He was ignorant of both foreign affairs and the military, which made him one of the least qualified men for this job at his time.  Hollweg was caught in the middle of everything.  On one hand, he knew that Germany needed reform, but he himself was too conservative to bring these reforms.  Still, Wilhelm loved him, and when Hollweg resigned, Wilhelm was reluctant to accept it.