Rudolf von Bennigsen
Rudolf von Bennigsen was a German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 politician descended from an old Hanover
Kingdom of Hanover
The Kingdom of Hanover was established in October 1814 by the Congress of Vienna, with the restoration of George III to his Hanoverian territories after the Napoleonic era. It succeeded the former Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg , and joined with 38 other sovereign states in the German...

ian 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. The anthropologist Moritz von Leonhardi
Moritz von Leonhardi
Moritz Freiherr von Leonhardi was a German anthropologist.-Life and work:Leonhardi was the son of the Minister Plenipotentiary Ludwig Freiherr von Leonhardi and Luise, née Bennigsen. He grew up in Karben and Darmstadt. He studied law in Heidelberg until he had to cancel due to sickness. Since...

 was his nephew.

After studying at the University of Göttingen, where he became member of the Corps Hannovera
Corps Hannovera Göttingen
thumb|Bismarck 1836The Corps Hannovera Göttingen is one of the oldest German Student Corps, a Studentenverbindung or student corporation founded 18 January 1809 at the Georg August University of Göttingen by students like Georg Kloss. The name was chosen because the founders had their home...

, Bennigsen entered the Hanoverian civil service. In 1855, he was elected a member of the second chamber, and because the government refused to allow him leave of absence from his official duties, he resigned his post in the public service. He at once became the recognized leader of the 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,...

 opposition to the reactionary government, but must be distinguished from Alexander Levin, Count of Bennigsen, a member of the same family and son of the distinguished Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n General Bennigsen
Levin August, Count von Bennigsen
Levin August Gottlieb Theophil , Count von Bennigsen was a German general in the service of the Russian Empire....

, who was also one of the parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

ary leaders at the time, serving as Hanover's minister-president
A minister-president is the head of government in a number of European countries or subnational governments, in which a parliamentary or semi-presidential system of government prevails, who presides over the council of ministers...

 between 1848 and 1850 and afterwards as president first of the first chamber, then of the second chamber of the Estates Assembly of the Kingdom of Hanover (parliament).

What gave Bennigsen his importance not only in Hanover, but throughout the whole of Germany, was the foundation of the German National Association
German National Association
The German National Association was a liberal political organisation, precursor of a party, in the German Confederation that existed from 1859 to 1867...

, which was due to him, and of which he was president. This society, which arose out of the public excitement created by the Austro-Sardinian War, had for its object the formation of a national party which should strive for the unity and the constitutional liberty of the whole Fatherland. It united the moderate Liberals throughout Germany, and at once became a great political power, notwithstanding all the efforts of the governments, and especially of King George V of Hanover
George V of Hanover
George V was King of Hanover, the only child of Ernest Augustus I, and a grandchild of King George III of the United Kingdom. In the peerage of Great Britain, he was 2nd Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, 2nd Earl of Armagh...

 to suppress it. Bennigsen was also one of the founders of the Protestantenverein
The Protestantenverein was a society in Germany the general object of which was to promote the union and progress of the various Protestant established Churches of the country in harmony with the advance of culture and on the basis of Christianity.It was founded at Frankfurt am Main in 1863 by a...

 in 1863.

In 1866 Bennigsen, then leader of the liberal opposition in the second chamber of the Estates Assembly, used all his influence to keep Hanover neutral in the Austro-Prussian War
Austro-Prussian War
The Austro-Prussian War was a war fought in 1866 between the German Confederation under the leadership of the Austrian Empire and its German allies on one side and the Kingdom of Prussia with its German allies and Italy on the...

, but in vain. He took no part in the war, but his brother, who was an officer in the Prussian army
Prussian Army
The Royal Prussian Army was the army of the Kingdom of Prussia. It was vital to the development of Brandenburg-Prussia as a European power.The Prussian Army had its roots in the meager mercenary forces of Brandenburg during the Thirty Years' War...

, was killed in Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

. In May of this year he had an important interview with 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...

, who wished to secure his support for the reform of the German Confederation
German Confederation
The German Confederation was the loose association of Central European states created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to coordinate the economies of separate German-speaking countries. It acted as a buffer between the powerful states of Austria and Prussia...

, and after the war was over at once accepted the position of a Prussian subject, taking his seat in the diet
Diet (assembly)
In politics, a diet is a formal deliberative assembly. The term is mainly used historically for the Imperial Diet, the general assembly of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire, and for the legislative bodies of certain countries.-Etymology:...

 of the North German Confederation
North German Confederation
The North German Confederation 1866–71, was a federation of 22 independent states of northern Germany. It was formed by a constitution accepted by the member states in 1867 and controlled military and foreign policy. It included the new Reichstag, a parliament elected by universal manhood...

 and in the Prussian House of Representatives. He used his influence to procure as much autonomy as possible for the province of Hanover
Province of Hanover
The Province of Hanover was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Free State of Prussia from 1868 to 1946.During the Austro-Prussian War, the Kingdom of Hanover had attempted to maintain a neutral position, along with some other member states of the German Confederation...

, but was a strong opponent of the Guelph Party. He was one of the three Hanoverians, Ludwig Windthorst
Ludwig Windthorst
Ludwig Windthorst , was a German politician.-Biography:Windthorst was born at Kaldenhof, a country house near Osnabrück in the Kingdom of Hanover. He was raised by a Roman Catholic family, which for some generations had held important posts in the Hanoverian civil service...

 and Johannes von Miquel being the other two, who at once won for the representatives of the conquered province the lead in both the Prussian and North German parliaments. The Nationalverein, its work being done, was now dissolved; but Bennigsen was chiefly instrumental in founding a new political party, the National Liberal
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...

s, who, while they supported Bismarck's national policy, hoped to secure the constitutional development of the country.

For the next thirty years Bennigsen was president of the party, and was the most influential of the parliamentary leaders. It was chiefly owing to him that the building up of the internal institutions of the empire was carried on without the open breach between Bismarck and the parliament, which was often imminent. Many amendments suggested by him were introduced in the debates on the constitution; in 1870 he undertook a mission to Southern Germany
Southern Germany
The term Southern Germany is used to describe a region in the south of Germany. There is no specific boundary to the region, but it usually includes all of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, and the southern part of Hesse...

 to strengthen the national party there, and was consulted by Bismarck while at Versailles
Versailles , a city renowned for its château, the Palace of Versailles, was the de facto capital of the kingdom of France for over a century, from 1682 to 1789. It is now a wealthy suburb of Paris and remains an important administrative and judicial centre...

. It was he who brought about the compromise on the military bill in 1874. In 1877 he was offered the post of vice-chancellor with a seat in the Prussian ministry, but refused it because Bismarck or the king would not agree to his conditions. From this time his relations with the government were less friendly, and in 1878 he brought about the rejection of the first Socialist Bill
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...


In 1883 he resigned his seat in parliament owing to the reactionary measures of the government, which made it impossible for him to continue his former co-operation with Bismarck, but returned in 1887 to support the coalition of national parties. One of the first acts of the Emperor Wilhelm II was to appoint him upper president of the Province of Hanover
Province of Hanover
The Province of Hanover was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Free State of Prussia from 1868 to 1946.During the Austro-Prussian War, the Kingdom of Hanover had attempted to maintain a neutral position, along with some other member states of the German Confederation...

. In 1897 he resigned this post and retired from public life. He died on the 7th of August 1902.
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