Summary of Bismarck’s domestic policy in Germany, 1871-90

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Summary of Bismarck’s domestic policy in Germany, 1871-90:

  1. Gaining control of the Reichstag and the political parties:

*With regard to the Reich constitution, Bismarck had many advantages:

-The Head of State was the King of Prussia, Wilhelm I, over whom Bismarck had always been able to exert a fair amount of personal influence.

-As Reich Chancellor, Bismarck was very much the Chief Minister. He was the only minister who appeared in front of the Reichstag to justify government actions and saw the other ministers (whom the King could hire and fire at will) as ‘senior clerks’ (Farmer and Stiles, p.111).

-Prussia (as it accounted for 60% of the Reich’s population) returned 235 of the 397 Reichstag Deputies (MPs) and the Prussian Minister for War was also automatically German Minister for war. Assuming Bismarck had the blessing of the Prussian deputies therefore, this helped him stamp his authority on both domestic and foreign policy.
*There were, however, limitations which forced him to make tactical alliances with political parties within the Reichstag in order to force through many of his policies:

-The German Reich was a FEDERAL state, meaning that its 25 constituent state governments maintained their own constitutions, parliaments and administrative systems and, therefore, over some aspects of their own state policy. Non-Prussian came to hold many important positions in the government both of the Reich and of Prussia itself.

-The Reichstag was elected on the remarkably democratic (for the time) basis of full manhood suffrage, meaning that Bismarck was subject to a fairly weighty tide of public opinion.

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