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  • GERMANIC MIGRATIONS AND
  • Bennigsen, Rudolf von

    lang=EN-US style='font-size:10.5pt;font-family:"Meridien-Medium","serif"; color:black'>(18241902)

    National-Liberal politician

    Throughout the first decade of the NATIONAL

    UNION (Nationalverein) and the first three

    decades of the NATIONAL LIBERAL PARTY, Rudolf

    von Bennigsen was its moderate liberal leader.

    Rudolf von Bennigsen was born at Lüneberg

    on July 10, 1824, into an old aristocratic family

    of HANOVER. He studied law at GÖTTINGEN and

    then became a judge. He was inspired by the liberalism

    and nationalism of the REVOLUTION OF

    1848 and during the 1850s became opposed to

    the reactionary government in Hanover. In 1856

    he was elected to the legislature and in 1859

    became a founder of the National Union. That

    August in the city of Eisenach there was a meeting

    of liberals from various German states. All

    the groups wanted to reform the constitution of

    the Confederation and advocated Prussian leadership

    to unify Germany. Emerging out of these

    discussions the National Union was formed in

    September 1859. Bennigsen was among its

    active leaders and was selected to be its head.

    During the next decade the National Liberals

    stirred up liberals and the middle class to support

    unification under Prussian leadership.

    Beginning in 1867, Bennigsen began a decade

    of cooperation with BISMARCK and helped create

    the institutions of the new German Empire. Bennigsen

    was a calm parliamentarian and was influenced

    by English political ideas. He was an

    effective speaker, was able to mediate disputes,

    but was indecisive and lacked the dynamism to

    hold the party together. Under his leadership,

    however, the National Liberals supported Bismarck

    on broad issues and opposed him only on

    minor ones. Strongly anticlerical, the party was

    Bismarcks main ally in the KULTURKAMPF. By

    1877 the Liberal agenda was nearly complete

    except for the issue of getting Bismarck to share

    some of his power. After a long discussion with

    Bennigsen, Bismarck offered him the post of the

    Prussian minister of the interior, trying to split the

    party. Bennigsen had also asked Bismarck to take

    two more liberals into the ministry in order to

    wield some influence in policy matters, which

    Bismarck had no interest in doing. The affair

    marked the end of the relationship between the

    liberals and the chancellor. Bismarck turned from

    Bennigsen and the liberals to look for new allies

    among the CONSERVATIVE and CENTER PARTIES.

    During the next several years the left wing

    oppositional faction in the party seceded. For

    two more years Bennigsen headed the rump

    party and then resigned, withdrawing from Parliament

    and returning to Hanover. In 1887 he

    returned to the REICHSTAG but had little influence.

    Retiring in 1898, he died not long after at

    his estate on August 7, 1902.

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