- National Liberal Party (Germany)
National Liberal Party
Founded 1867 Dissolved 1918 Preceded by German Progress Party, German National Association Succeeded by German People's Party Ideology National liberalism
Political position Centre-right International affiliation none Politics of Germany
The National Liberal Party (Nationalliberale Partei) was a German political party which flourished between 1867 and 1918. It was formed by Prussian liberals who put aside their differences with Bismarck over domestic policy due to their support for his highly successful foreign policy, which resulted in the unification of Germany. Its first chairman was Rudolf von Bennigsen.
The National Liberals' period of great dominance was between 1871 and 1879, when they were Bismarck's chief allies in the Reichstag, and were avid supporters of the Kulturkampf. Bismarck broke with the Liberals in 1879, when he turned to protection, which violated the free trade principles of the National Liberals. However, the Liberals were the strongest support of von Tirpitz's various Fleet Acts starting in 1898, which pushed Great Britain into an arms race with Germany until World War I.
The National Liberals came to be closely associated with the interests of big business. Increasingly threatened by the growing strength of the Socialists, the party gradually became more conservative, although it was generally split between a more liberal wing that sought to strengthen ties with the dissident liberals to their left, and a right wing that came to support more protectionist policies and close relations with the Conservatives and the imperial government.
During World War I, most of the National Liberals, including such leaders of their left wing as Gustav Stresemann, avidly supported the expansionist goals of the imperial government, although they also called for reform at home. Following the war, the party broke up. Its left wing merged with the left-liberal Progressives to form the German Democratic Party (Deutsche Demokratische Partei). Most of the moderate and conservative elements of the party (including Stresemann) formed the more conservative liberal German People's Party (Deutsche Volkspartei). The extreme right wing of the National Liberals joined the German National People's Party.
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