Liberal Union (Germany)
The Liberal Union was a short-lived liberal
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

 party in the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

. It was founded as a break-away from the National Liberal Party
National Liberal Party (Germany)
The National Liberal Party 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...

, therefore also called Secession, in 1880, and merged with the left liberal
Social liberalism
Social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include social justice. It differs from classical liberalism in that it believes the legitimate role of the state includes addressing economic and social issues such as unemployment, health care, and education while simultaneously expanding...

 German Progress Party
German Progress Party
The German Progress Party was the first modern political party with a program in Germany, founded by the liberal members of the Prussian Lower House in 6 June, 1861....

 to form the German Free-minded Party in 1884.

The leftist faction of the National Liberal Party were discontent with the party leadership's support for Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg , simply known as Otto von Bismarck, was a Prussian-German statesman whose actions unified Germany, made it a major player in world affairs, and created a balance of power that kept Europe at peace after 1871.As Minister President of...

's conservative government. Most importantly, they supported free trade
Free trade
Under a free trade policy, prices emerge from supply and demand, and are the sole determinant of resource allocation. 'Free' trade differs from other forms of trade policy where the allocation of goods and services among trading countries are determined by price strategies that may differ from...

 whereas National liberal leaders Rudolf von Bennigsen
Rudolf von Bennigsen
Rudolf von Bennigsen was a German politician descended from an old Hanoverian family. His father, Karl von Bennigsen, was an officer in the Hanoverian army who rose to the rank of general and also held diplomatic appointments...

 and Johann von Miquel
Johann von Miquel
Johann von Miquel was a German statesman.Born at Neuenhaus, Kingdom of Hanover in 1829 as a descendant from a French family that had emigrated during the French Revolution, Miquel learnt law at the universities of Heidelberg and Göttingen...

 sustained, against classically liberal
Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

 principles, Bismarck's prohibitive tariff
A tariff may be either tax on imports or exports , or a list or schedule of prices for such things as rail service, bus routes, and electrical usage ....

s strategy ("Schutzzollpolitik"). Other contentious points were the Anti-Socialist Laws
Anti-Socialist Laws
The Anti-Socialist Laws or Socialist Laws were a series of acts, the first of which was passed on October 19, 1878 by the German Reichstag lasting till March 31, 1881, and extended 4 times...

 ("Sozialistengesetze"), the "Kulturkampf
The German term refers to German policies in relation to secularity and the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, enacted from 1871 to 1878 by the Prime Minister of Prussia, Otto von Bismarck. The Kulturkampf did not extend to the other German states such as Bavaria...

against the Catholic church and the septennial military budget ("Septennat").

The Secession was led by Eduard Lasker
Eduard Lasker
Eduard Lasker was a German politician and jurist.-Biography:He was born at Jarotschin, a village in Posen, being the son of a Jewish tradesman. He attended the gymnasium, and afterwards the University of Breslau...

. Other notable members were Ludwig Bamberger
Ludwig Bamberger
Ludwig Bamberger was a German economist, politician and writer.-Early life:Bamberger was born in a Jewish family in Mainz.After studying at Gießen, Heidelberg and Göttingen, he entered law.-Career:...

, Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

's mayor Max von Forckenbeck
Max von Forckenbeck
Maximilian Franz August von Forckenbeck was a German lawyer and politician and served as mayor of Berlin from 1878 to 1892. His is considered one of the most important Mayors of Berlin because of his prudent management style.-Life:Max Forckenbeck was born in Münster on October 23, 1821...

, Nobel laureate historian Theodor Mommsen
Theodor Mommsen
Christian Matthias Theodor Mommsen was a German classical scholar, historian, jurist, journalist, politician, archaeologist, and writer generally regarded as the greatest classicist of the 19th century. His work regarding Roman history is still of fundamental importance for contemporary research...

, Friedrich Kapp
Friedrich Kapp
Friedrich Kapp was a German-American lawyer, writer, and politician. He was an outspoken opponent of Germany's colonization fervor during his time as a National Liberal Reichstag deputy. This was exemplified in his speech to the annual Congress of German Economists...

, Theodor Barth
Theodor Barth
Theodor Barth was a German liberal politician and publicist. He was a member of the Reichstag between 1881 and 1884, between 1885 and 1898, and between 1901 and 1903.-Career:...

, and Georg von Siemens
Georg von Siemens
Georg von Siemens was a German banker and liberal politician.He was born on 21 October 1839 in Berlin. Georg von Siemens is a nephew of the inventors and industrialists Werner, William, and Carl von Siemens...


The Liberal Union was a notables' party ("Honoratiorenpartei"), having its electorate mainly amongst North and East German upper classes: wholesale merchants and intellectuals. The organisational structure was rather loose. Nevertheless, the new grouping was initially successful, gaining 46 seats of the Reichstag
Reichstag (German Empire)
The Reichstag was the parliament of the North German Confederation , and of the German Reich ....

 in the federal election 1881 - as many as the preceding National liberals.

Ultimately the Secessionists planned to merge all German liberals to one, "whole" liberal party - hence the name Liberal Union, with classically liberal and parliamentary monarchist positions, modelled after the British Liberal Party
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 and ideally to govern under a future Emperor Frederick III
Frederick III, German Emperor
Frederick III was German Emperor and King of Prussia for 99 days in 1888, the Year of the Three Emperors. Friedrich Wilhelm Nikolaus Karl known informally as Fritz, was the only son of Emperor William I and was raised in his family's tradition of military service...

. However, the National liberals made clear they would not leave the majority loyal to Bismarck. Therefore Secessionist representative Franz von Stauffenberg negotiated with Eugen Richter
Eugen Richter
Eugen Richter was a German politician and journalist.-Career:Born as the son of a combat medic, Richter attended the Gymnasium in his home town of Düsseldorf. Since 1856, he studied Law and Economics at the Universities of Bonn, Berlin and Heidelberg, that he finished with a law degree in 1859...

, the leader of the left liberal German Progress Party
German Progress Party
The German Progress Party was the first modern political party with a program in Germany, founded by the liberal members of the Prussian Lower House in 6 June, 1861....

 in early 1884. As early as in March 1884 both parties' legislators formed a joint parliamentary group with together 100 seats. Timely to the federal election in October the German Free-minded Party was formed. Subsequently the parliamentary representation was diminished to only 64 members of Reichstag.

See also

  • Liberalism in Germany
    Liberalism in Germany
    This article aims to give an historical overview of liberalism in Germany. The liberal parties dealt with in the timeline below are, largely, those which received sufficient support at one time or another to have been represented in parliament. Not all parties so included, however, necessarily...

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