German Conservative Party

Last updated
German Conservative Party

Deutschkonservative Partei
Founded7 June 1876
Dissolved9 November 1918
Preceded byPrussian Conservative Party
Merged into German National People's Party
Headquarters Berlin, Germany
Newspaper Neue Preußische Zeitung
Ideology German nationalism
National conservatism
Economic statism
Political position Right-wing
Colors     Blue
Reichstag (1887)
80 / 397

The German Conservative Party (German : Deutschkonservative Partei, DkP) was a right-wing political party of the German Empire founded in 1876. It largely represented the wealthy landowning elite Prussian Junkers.


The party was a response to German unification, universal and equal franchise in national elections and rapid industrialization. It changed from a diffuse party of broad ideology into an interest party in Bismarckian Germany. In the early 1870s, Otto von Bismarck formed his majority with the base in the National Liberal Party which emphasized free trade and anti-Catholicism. Bismarck broke with them in the late 1870s, by which time the German Conservative Party and the Free Conservative Party had brought together the landed Junkers in the East and the rapidly growing industrial leadership in the major cities. They now became the main base of Bismarck's support and successive Chancellors down to 1918. [1]

According to Robert M. Berdahl, this redirection illustrated "the slow and painful process by which the landed aristocracy adjusted to its new position in the capitalist 'class' system that had come to replace the precapitalist 'Estate' structure of Prussian society". [2]


The German Conservative Party was generally seen as representing the interests of the German nobility, the Junker landowners living east of the Elbe and the Evangelical Church of the Prussian Union and had its political stronghold in the Prussian Diet, where the three-class franchise gave rural elites disproportionate power. Predominantly Prussian traditionalists, the party members had been skeptical at first about the 1871 unification of Germany—unlike the Free Conservative Party, a national conservative split-off dominated by business magnates unrestrictedly supporting the policies of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.

Members of the German Conservative Party's Reichstag Caucus (left to right): Rudolph Wichmann, Otto von Seydewitz, Helmuth von Moltke, Count Konrad von Kleist-Schmenzin, Otto von Helldorff-Bedra and Karl Gustav Ackermann Reichstagsfraktion der Deutschkonservativen Partei 1889.jpg
Members of the German Conservative Party's Reichstag Caucus (left to right): Rudolph Wichmann, Otto von Seydewitz, Helmuth von Moltke, Count Konrad von Kleist-Schmenzin, Otto von Helldorff-Bedra and Karl Gustav Ackermann

The policies of Old Conservatives like Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke or Elard von Oldenburg-Januschau generally embraced support for the powers of the monarchy and opposition to economic liberalism and democratization, the introduction of electoral reform in Prussia, or true parliamentary government in Germany as a whole. Due to universal suffrage, on federal level the DKP had to face strikingly decreased significance. In the 1878 federal election, it gained 13.0% of the votes cast and entered the Reichstag parliament with 59 deputies. Afterwards, the party, which furthermore lost votes as Germans moved from rural areas to new industrial centers in the west ( Ostflucht ), forged an electoral alliance with the Christian Social Party under Adolf Stoecker, opportunistically embracing antisemitism. The 1892 party program denounced a "demoralizing Jewish influence", but when this attitude failed to halt the party's fall in the polls this element was de-emphasized. Stoecker finally revoked the alliance in 1896.

Though predominantly Protestant, the DKP opposed the Kulturkampf , but supported Bismarck when during the Long Depression he began to implement protectionist policies by restricting grain imports from Russia and the United States. Following this, the DKP strongly opposed the New Course of his successor Leo von Caprivi and it also withdrew its confidence in Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow, when he tried to implement an inheritance tax reform and finally had to resign in 1909 after The Daily Telegraph Affair. The party supported Kaiser Wilhelm II's naval policies and Germany's arms race with the United Kingdom, but initially kept its distance towards colonialism and the activists of the Pan-German League.

The party was dissolved following the fall of the monarchy in November 1918 and the German Revolution. Most of its supporters turned to the newly established German National People's Party. The Deutschkonservative Partei had no direct connection to the Deutsche Rechtspartei founded in 1946, which used the name Deutsche Konservative Partei (German Conservative Party) in parts of West Germany.

See also


  1. Ivo N. Lambi, "The Agrarian-Industrial Front in Bismarckian Politics, 1873—1879". Journal of Central European Affairs 20#4 (1961): 378–396.
  2. Robert M. Berdahl, "Conservative Politics and aristocratic landholders in Bismarckian Germany." Journal of Modern History 44#1 (1972): 2–20. in JSTOR.

Further reading

Related Research Articles

German Empire 1871–1918 empire in Central Europe

The German Empire, sometimes referred to as Imperial Germany was the German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Emperor Wilhelm II in 1918.

Otto von Bismarck 19th-century German statesman and Chancellor

Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg, known as Otto von Bismarck, was a conservative German statesman who masterminded the unification of Germany in 1871 and served as its first chancellor until 1890, in which capacity he dominated European affairs for two decades. He had previously been Minister President of Prussia (1862–1890) and Chancellor of the North German Confederation (1867–1871). He provoked three short, decisive wars against Denmark, Austria, and France. Following the victory against Austria, he abolished the supranational German Confederation and instead formed the North German Confederation as the first German national state, aligning the smaller North German states behind Prussia. Receiving the support of the independent South German states in the Confederation's defeat of France, he formed the German Empire and united Germany.

Leo von Caprivi German major general and statesman

Georg Leo Graf von Caprivi de Caprera de Montecuccoli, born Georg Leo von Caprivi, 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 the Russian Empire, and was unable to forge a close relationship with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. He successfully promoted the reorganization of the German military.

Junker (Prussia) Landed nobility of Prussia

The Junkers were members of the landed nobility in Prussia. They owned great estates that were maintained and worked by peasants with few rights. These estates often lay in the countryside outside of major cities or towns. They were an important factor in Prussia and, after 1871, in German military, political and diplomatic leadership. The most famous Junker was Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck held power in Germany from 1871 to 1890 as Chancellor of the German Empire. He was removed from power by Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Centre Party (Germany) Catholic political party in Germany

The German Centre Party is a lay Catholic political party in Germany, primarily influential during the Kaiserreich and the Weimar Republic. In English it is often called the Catholic Centre Party. Formed in 1870, it successfully battled the Kulturkampf which Chancellor Otto von Bismarck against the Catholic Church. It soon won a quarter of the seats in the Reichstag, and its middle position on most issues allowed it to play a decisive role in the formation of majorities.

The National Liberal Party was a liberal party of the North German Confederation and the German Empire which flourished between 1867 and 1918.

The Progressive People's Party was a social liberal party of the late German Empire.

The Free Conservative Party was a moderate right-wing political party in Prussia and the German Empire which emerged from the German Conservative Party in the Prussian Landtag in 1866. In the federal elections to the Reichstag parliament from 1871, it ran as the German Reich Party.

Adolf Stoecker German politician

Adolf Stoecker was a German court chaplain to Kaiser Wilhelm I, a politician, leading antisemite, and a Lutheran theologian who founded the Christian Social Party in order to lure members away from the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany.

The German Progress Party was the first modern political party in Germany, founded by liberal members of the Prussian House of Representatives in 1861 in opposition to Minister President Otto von Bismarck.

The German Free-minded Party or German Radical Party was a short-lived liberal party in the German Empire, founded on 5 March 1884 as a result of the merger of the German Progress Party and the Liberal Union, an 1880 split-off of the National Liberal Party.

The Christian Social Party was a right-wing political party in the German Empire founded in 1878 by Adolf Stoecker as the Christian Social Workers' Party.

Conservatism in Germany has encompassed a wide range of theories and ideologies in the last three hundred years, but most historical conservative theories supported the monarchical/hierarchical political structure.

Robert Max Berdahl is a retired American college and university administrator.

Navy League (Germany)

The Navy League or Fleet Association in Imperial Germany was an interest group formed on April 30, 1898 on initiative of Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz through the German Imperial Naval Office (Reichsmarineamt) which he headed (1897–1916) to support the expansion of the Imperial German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine). Specifically it was intended to develop popular pressure on the German parliament (Reichstag) to approve the Fleet Acts of 1898 and 1900, and the attendant expenses.

Marie von Schleinitz salonnière

Marie ("Mimi") Baronessvon Schleinitz was an influential salonnière of the early German Reich in Berlin and one of the most important supporters of Richard Wagner.

Wilhelminism Period between 1890 and 1918 in the history of German Empire

The Wilhelmine Period comprises the period of German history between 1890 and 1918, embracing the reign of Emperor Wilhelm II in the German Empire from the resignation of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck until the end of World War I and Wilhelm's abdication during the November Revolution. It had remarkable impact on the society, politics, culture, art and architecture of Germany and roughly coincided with the Belle Époque era of Western Europe.

Paternalistic conservatism, also referred to as conservative socialism or right-wing socialism, is a strand in conservatism which reflects the belief that societies exist and develop organically and that members within them have obligations towards each other. There is particular emphasis on the paternalistic obligation of those who are privileged and wealthy to the poorer parts of society. Since it is consistent with principles such as organicism, hierarchy and duty, it can be seen an outgrowth of traditionalist conservatism. Paternal conservatives support neither the individual nor the state in principle, but are instead prepared to support either or recommend a balance between the two depending on what is most practical.

German Agrarian League

The Bund der Landwirte (BDL) was a German advocacy group founded 18 February 1893 by farmers and agricultural interests in response to the farm crisis of the 1890s, and more specifically the result of the protests against the agrarian policies of Chancellor Leo von Caprivi, including his free trade policies.

Agrarian conservatism in Germany was a type of conservatism that began to wane in popularity prior to the rise of the Nazi Party.