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(THE CENTRE PARTY).

This name is given to a political party in the German Reichstag and to a number of parties in the diets of the various states of the German Empire. The oldest party which bears this name is that in the Prussian Chamber of Deputies ( Abgeordnetenhaus ); the Centre Party of the German Reichstag was formed on 21 March, 1871. From the beginning both these parties have stood in close relation to each other, since both parliaments have their seats in Berlin and a number of the members usually belong to both assemblies, and finally because, Prussia being the leading state of the German Empire, the leading statesmen of the German Empire are also Prussian ministers and the governmental policies of both parliaments are in their fundamental principles the same. A predecessor of both parties is found in the Catholic Party in the Prussian Chamber of Deputies, which in 1859 had adopted the name of the "Party of the Centre". In view of the hostile attitude of the Prussian Government towards the Church (the Raumer Decrees ) this party was formed in 1852 for the defence of the freedom guaranteed in the Constitution and of the independence of the Church. Under the guidance of distinguished leaders (e.g. the brothers Reichensperger, August and Peter ; Hermann von Mallinckrodt ; Bishop von Ketteler ; etc.), the party proved of vast service to the Catholic cause, but the denominational principle on which it rested was found too narrow and unsuitable for a parliamentary party in a constitutional state. The Catholic Party, which at its height never numbered more than fifty members, voluntarily dissolved, and after 1867 its last members allied themselves with others of the regular political parties.

Meanwhile Liberalism had secured an outspoken parliamentary representation in Prussia and other German states. As a counterpoise to the anti-Catholic Liberals a new party was needed. The more immediate cause of the formation of the present Centre were the attacks on the monasteries at Moabite (Berlin, 1869), the anti-Catholic measures proposed in the Prussian Chamber of Deputies by the well-known professor of public law Gneist in connection with these attacks, and the fierce attacks made on the Church and the pope which followed the Vatican Council and the declaration of papal infallibility. On 11 June, 1870, Peter Reichensperger in the columns of the "Kölnische Volkszeitung" called upon Catholics to unite by drawing up a common programme for the elections then approaching. The cardinal point of this programme, Reichensperger maintained, was the maintenance of the independence of the Church in the arrangement and administration of its affairs (especially with regard to the formation and development of religious associations), which was guaranteed by the Prussian Constitution. A convention of the Catholic societies of the Rhine Provinces and Westphalia declared its entire adhesion to these proposals, but proposed that the societies should work simultaneously for the removal of social grievances and the promotion of all the interests of the labouring classes by sound Christian legislation. The Soester Programm of 28 October, 1870, sketched in clear and concise terms a comprehensive programme. On 13 December, 1870, the eve of the opening of the newly-elected Prussian Diet, at the suggestion of Peter Reichensperger , Karl Friedrich von Savigny, and Friedrich von Kehler the Centre Party of the Prussian Chamber of Deputies was formed ( Zentrumsfraktion des preussischen Abgeordnetenhauses ); this was immediately joined by forty-eight members. On 21 March, 1871, sixty-three of the newly-elected members of the first German Reichstag united and formed the Centre Party of the German Reichstag ( Zentrumsfraktion des deutschen Reichstags ).

The programmes of both Centres, which include men from every part of the empire and of the most different stations, are the same even today, more than forty years after the foundation of the parties. The statutes of both parties are identical (except for unessential differences), and both reject enforced party allegiance, that is the obligation of the member to vote according to the direction of the party as a whole. "Justitia fundamentum regnorum" and "Für Wahrheit, Recht, und Freiheit" (For truth, justice and liberty) are the mottoes which the Centre has always placed at the head of its programme. The programme declares the guiding-stars of its activity to be: (1) the preservation of the constitutional principle of the empire as a confederation of states, viz. unity only in essentials and in everything else the free decision by the individual states; (2) the promotion of the moral and material welfare of all classes of the population, the securing of constitutional guarantees for the civil and religious freedom of all subjects of the empire, and especially the defence of the rights of religious bodies against the attacks of the legislature.

From the first the Centre has been accused by its adversaries (who did not become extinct with Bismarck ) of furthering only religious and exclusively Catholic interests and with being an exclusively Catholic and not a political party; consequently it was claimed that its existence was not justified in a state founded on the principle of parity; that even in non-ecclesiastical questions the Centre received instructions from the papal Curia, etc. The programme of the Centre, the adherence of a large number of Protestant members, and its parliamentary activity throughout the last forty years refute these accusations. In 1909, when various disputes broke out concerning the character of the party, its leaders again declared: "The Centre is essentially a political, non-denominational party; it takes its stand on the constitution of the German Empire, which requires of the deputies that they regard themselves as the representatives of the whole German people." True however to its programme, the Centre has regarded as its first and most urgent task the defeat of all legislative measures directed against the Catholic section of the community; and, just as during the Kulturkampf, so also today the preservation of the civil equality of the Catholic minority is considered the chief duty of the party. Apart from its programme, the fact that almost all the deputies of the Centre and their electors belong to the Catholic Church furnishes a sufficient guarantee that the party will most strenuously represent the interests of German Catholics in every sphere of public life.

Soon after its foundation the Centre was compelled by Chancellor Bismarck to engage in a long and difficult struggle for the liberty and independence of the Church (see KULTURKAMPF). By this heroic defence of the flouted rights of the Church and of the Catholic population, by its struggle for the restoration of religion as the principle of both public and private life in legislation and administration, by its devotion to constitutional liberty, and by its respect for its own rights and the rights of others, the party performed the most valuable services. The era of the open Kulturkampf passed. Bismarck was reasonable enough to lay aside a policy which he saw had been wrecked by the unity of the Catholic people. The year 1879 brought the great development of the economic politics of the German Empire. The place of a Liberalism which refused co-operation was taken by the Centre, whose assistance had a decisive effect in initiating the new era of economic development based on protection. With the influential co- operation of the Centre the financial basis of the empire was simultaneously laid. Early in the eighties the Empire devoted its attention to great social measures. With the eager and encouraging assistance of the same party the great German scheme of social insurance, the comprehensive law for the protection of labourers (1890), and later the law for the protection of workmen were placed on the statute book. From 1895 to 1906 the Centre held the balance of power between the parties of the German Reichstag. During this period the uniform civil code for the German Empire was drawn up, the German colonial polity was guided into sounder channels, and foreign respect for the empire ensured by the creation of a strong fleet and by the development of military resources. Finally, a new law for the protection of home industries by the tariff was passed in 1902; the beneficial effect which this measured has exercised on agriculture, industry, and commerce is today beyond all doubt. Nevertheless, through hatred of the Catholics, the Liberals especially have not ceased their accusations against the Centre and its supporters of want of patriotism, of treachery towards their native land, and of showing allegiance to the pope to the detriment of Germany. When the Centre refused to meet an unimportant demand of the Government connected with the German war in South-West Africa, the Reichstag was dissolved (13 December, 1906), and a vindictive campaign against the Centre initiated. The adherents of the Centre did not waver in their allegiance to the party. The Liberal-Conservative Block, then formed and animated with hostility to the Centre, collapsed in 1909. With the help of the Centre the German Empire was then set on a sounder financial basis (Imperial Finance Reform of 1909). The great slanders of the united Liberals and Social Democrats did little damage to the Centre in the elections of 1912. Although it does not possess quite its old strength, it is still powerful and feared and hated by its adversaries. In 1912 it took a prominent part in the strengthening of the German army.

Especially important in the history of the Centre are the years 1887 and 1892. In both years the German Government sought to influence the Centre in favour of new military laws with the assistance of the Holy See. On both occasions, however, the Centre deprecated the intervention of the Vatican in purely political affairs, on the ground that its position would be prejudiced and that its adversaries (who are for the most part also the adversaries of the Catholic Church ) would seize the opportunity for reproaching the Centre with its dependence on foreign powers. In view of the peculiar nature of the German Constitution, the defence of the liberty and the legal position of the Catholic Church is the task less of the Centre in the Reichstag than of the corresponding parties in the state diets, since religious and educational questions are, fundamentally considered, not within the competence of the empire. Not alone in the Prussian Chamber of Deputies, however, but also in the German Reichstag, the Centre has always found it necessary to represent Catholic interests (even since the close of the Kulturkampf ). Even during the last few years this was again the case, when the Liberals in union with the Evangelical League ( Evangelischer Bund ) and the adherents of Monism sought to make the measures of the Vatican (the Borromeo Encyclical, the Oath against Modernism, etc.) a pretext for a war against German Catholics and the Holy See, and when a new secret Kulturkampf against Catholicism and against every positive view of life is gradually growing in strength. While the Kulturkampf legislation in Prussia, at least in so far as its most oppressive features are concerned, has been long repealed, the Jesuit Law still remains in force, forbidding the members of this order (even though they are subjects of the empire) to settle in Germany. So far the Centre has been able to secure a mitigation of this law (the removal of #2), but not its complete repeal. Vain have been its previous efforts to carry the so-called "Tolerance Law", which aims at securing full religious liberty for Catholics in all the states of the German Empire. The Centre has to wage a constant warfare against the slighting of Catholics in public life. Even today complete equality with the Protestant fellow-citizens is withheld from Catholics. This is especially seen in the exclusion of Catholics from the higher offices in the state, for only very rarely is a practical Catholic entrusted with such an office, although more than one-third of the population of Germany belongs to the Catholic Church. Since the end of the Kulturkampf an additional and most important task of the Centre Party in the Prussian Chamber of Deputies has been the defence of Christian and Catholic principles in public education, while it has also had to fight constantly against the difficulties placed in the way of the foundation of religious institutions, etc.

The chairmen of the Centre were: (a) in the Reichstag: Karl Friedrich von Savigny (1871-75); Freiherr von und zu Franckenstein (1875-90); Franz Graf von Ballestrem (1890-93); Alfred Graf von Hompesch (1893-1909); Freiherr von Hertling (1909-11); President of the High Court of Appeal, Dr. Spahn (1911-); (b) in the Prussian Chamber of Deputies: Karl Friedrich von Savigny (1870-75); Freiherr von Schorlemer-Alst (1875-89); Freiherr von Heeremann (1889-1901); Sheriff ( Landrat ) Fritzen (1901-03); Councillor of Justice Dr. Porsch (1904-). The most celebrated leaders of the Centre were Dr. Ludwig Windthorst and Dr. Ernst Maria Lieber. From 1879 to 1912 -- with the exception of the Cartel and the Block periods (1887-90; 1907-09) -- the Centre was always represented in the presidency of the Reichstag. In the Reichstag elected in 1912 the Centre renounced its claim to a presidential position on account of the alliance between the Liberals and Socialists. In 1879-87 the Centre secured the appointment of Freiherr von Franckenstein as first vice-president; in 1890-93 of Count Ballestrem; in 1893-95 of Freiherr von Buol-Berenberg. When in 1895 the Conservative president resigned because the majority of the Reichstag refused to vote for the official congratulation of Prince Bismarck on the occasion of his eightieth birthday, a member of the Centre (Freiherr von Buol-Berenberg) for the first time occupied the presidential chair. This honour remained with the Centre until the dissolution of the Reichstag in 1906, and the exceptional skill with which Count Bellestrem conducted the business of the Reichstag was universally recognized. In 1910-11 the leader of the Centre, Dr. Spahn, was first vice-president. In the Prussian Chamber of Deputies the Centre has appointed the first vice-presidents since 1882; since 1903 Dr. Porsch has filled this position. An "Imperial Committee of the German Centre Party" (15 members), to deal with all the interests of the party throughout the empire, was founded in 1911. Previous to that date there were only the still existing national committees for the different states. In important affairs representatives of the other states of the confederacy are invited to the sessions of the Prussian national committee. Of the 397 members of the German Reichstag, the Centre claimed 63 in 1871; 93 in 1877; 94 in 1878; 100 in 1881; 99 in 1884; 98 in 1887; 106 in 1890; 96 in 1893; 102 in 1898; 100 in 1903; 109 in 1907; 92 in 1912. Of the 433 (since 1906, 443) members of the Prussian Chamber of Deputies the Centre numbered 54 in 1870, 86 in 1873, and since that date always over 90 (since 1909, 104).

(a) BAVARIA

In 1869 the "Bavarian Patriotic Party" was founded in Bavaria. It was called into existence by the strong opposition to the surrender of the Bavarian claims to the sovereignty in favour of Prussia (i.e. of the North German Confederacy), and also for the purpose of opposing the anti-religious policy of Liberalism, which found expression especially in the Bavarian School Bill of 1868. The first leader of the Patriotic Party was Dr. Edmund Jörg (1819-1901), who performed such valuable service during his long occupancy of the editorial chair (1853-1901) of the Catholic periodical "Historisch-politische Blatter." Through their affection for and sympathy with neighbouring Austria, whose people were descended from the same stock and were kindred in their ideas, and through their dislike and suspicion of Prussia, which was little friendly towards Catholics, Jörg and a section of the Patriotic Party opposed the union of Germany under the leadership of Prussia in 1870-71. They voted against the war appropriation moved by the Bavarian Government on the outbreak of the Franco- German War, supported only the armed neutrality of Bavaria, and voted against the Treaty of Versailles. The Patriotic Party, however, later acquiesced in the reorganization of the relations of the German states, and did not refuse its consent to the extension of the competence of the German Empire.

From 1871 to 1875 the party waged a vigorous warfare against the Bavarian Government in view of the anti-Catholic legislation introduced after the Prussian model and of its extensive support of the Old Catholic movement. Even in 1875, when the party had the majority in the Chamber, the Government continued the Kulturkampf (Minister of Public Worship von Lutz), although now in an underhand manner. Only since 1890 have the Old Catholics no longer been officially considered as Catholics, and in that year was passed the vote for the recall of the Redemptorist Fathers (expelled in 1872). The attempt of Dr. Johann Sigl (editor of the extravagantly particularistic daily paper "Das bayrische Vaterland") to found a "Catholic Popular Party" in 1876, because in the minds of individuals the Patriotic Party had not been sufficiently energetic in ecclesiastical questions, proved unsuccessful. In 1887 the Patriotic Party adopted the name of the "Bavarian Centre Party". In 1890, owing to the growth of the Bavarian Peasants' League, the party lost its majority in the diet. The quarrel between Church and State having ceased, the Centre inserted in its programme a systematic policy in favour of agriculture and small industries (1893), and in the elections of 1899 again secured a majority. This they still (1912) retain in spite of the attacks of the united Liberal and Social Democratic parties. During this period the Party took the lead in the constitutional development of the Bavarian legislation and administration as regards both education and economics. In 1912 a member of the Centre was for the first time appointed president of the Bavarian Ministry (Freiherr von Hertling). The most celebrated leaders of the party, after the retirement of Jörg, were: Councillor of the High Court of Appeal Geiger (1833-1912) and Dr. von Daller, gymnasial rector and professor of theology (1835-1911). The most prominent leaders of today (1912) are Dr. von Orterer (b. 1849), gymnasial rector and councillor for higher studies, Dr. Pichler (b. 1852), provost of the cathedral of Passau, and Dr. Heim (b. 1865), leader of the Peasants. The leader of the Bavarian Centre in the German Reichstag is Dr. Schadler (b. 1852), cathedral dean of Bamberg. Of the 159 (since 1905, 163) members of the Bavarian Chamber the Patriotic Party (i.e. the Centre) claimed 80 in 1869; 79 in 1875; 68 (83) in 1881; 79 in 1887; 74 in 1893; 84 in 1889; 102 in 1905; 98 in 1907; and 87 in 1912.

(b) WÜRTEMBERG

The Centre Party of Wurtemberg was founded on 11 July, 1894, to contest the diet elections of 1895. In 1895 and 1900 the Centre secured 20 deputies; in 1906 they numbered 25 deputies (out of a total of 92 deputies). Before 1894 the Catholic deputies had been allied either with the regular "National Party" or with the so-called "Left". An alliance of all the deputies who defended the rights and liberties of the Catholic Church was less necessary during the seventies and eighties in Wurtemberg than in other German states, since Wurtemberg was spared a Kulturkampf , thanks to the good sense of the Government and the benevolence of the Protestant king. It was only in the last decades that denominational differences began to play a more prominent part in public life. The first leader of the Wurtemberg Centre and of the Catholics of Wurtemberg was Rudolf Probst (1817-99), Director of the Life Insurance Bank; the most prominent leaders of the present day (1912) are Adolf Grober, Provincial Court Director, Johann von Kiene, President of the Senate in the High Court of Appeal, and the brothers Alfred and Viktor Rembold (both barristers). The Centre of the German Reichstag received one deputy from Wurtemberg in 1871; since 1880 it has received always four deputies as members.

(c) BADEN

A fierce war between State and Church broke out in Baden in the early sixties. Although two-thirds of the population of Baden were Catholics, the Diet of Baden contained no champions of Catholic rights, partly owing to the unjust state of the franchise and partly because the majority of the Catholics, influenced by the anti-Roman theologian Ignaz von Wessenberg, inclined towards Liberal ideas and a national Church. The anti- religious attitude of the Government and of the Liberal Party, however, gradually awakened the Catholic conscience. In 1867 the "Catholic Popular Party" was formed, its first, and for some time its only, representative being the merchant Jacob Lindau (1833-98). In 1869, however, four Catholic deputies were elected. Although originally the Catholic Popular Party favoured union with Austria, it expressed in 1870-71 its entire adhesion to the treaties which laid the foundation of the German Empire. The deputies elected in Baden on the programme of the Catholic Popular Party for the German Reichstag joined the German Centre Party as early as 1871. In the seventies, while the Kulturkampf raged in Baden, the Party defended with great boldness, and not without some success, in the Diet of Baden the rights of the Church. In 1881, when the party had twenty-three mandates, it adopted a new constitution, and recognized in their entirety the principles of the Centre Party of the German Reichstag as its own. In the middle of the eighties a serious crisis within the party was occasioned by the question whether the policy of the party was to be friendly to the Government or strictly defensive of Catholic interests. The number of deputies of the Catholic Popular Party fell from 23 to 9. In 1888 the party was reorganized under the name of the Badische Zentrumspartei (Centre Party of Baden ). To terminate the swamping of the political life of Baden by the anti-religious policy of the National Liberals was declared to be its most important task. Since then the party has been almost unceasingly gaining ground, and has performed notable services in furthering the welfare of the country and in defending the rights of the Church. It is bitterly opposed by the Liberals and Social Democrats, who have been united in the Grossblock (Great Block) since 1905. Of the 73 members of the Chamber the party claimed 28 in 1905 and 26 in 1909. The reorganizer and able leader of the Centre of Baden is Theodor Wacker, pastor of Zähringen. He is assisted by Konstantin Fehrenbach, a barrister, and Johann Zehnter, President of the National Court.

(d) ALSACE-LORRAINE

The Centre Party of Alsace-Lorraine was formed in 1906 from the "Catholic National Party", which had in turn been formed in 1903 from the "Elsasser" and the "Lothringer" (the "Alsatians" and the "Lorrainians"). Although the Centre of Alsace-Lorraine joined the Centre in the Reichstag, various causes prevented a complete understanding being arrived at, especially because the Centre Party in the Reichstag was opposed to the particularistic and separationist ideals of a portion of the Centre of Alsace-Lorraine. The leader of the separationist division is Abbé Wetterlé. As the Centre in the Reichstag accepted the new Constitution for Alsace-Lorraine in a form unacceptable to the Centre of these states, all relations between these two bodies were broken off. Since 1912, however, attempts have been made to re- establish unity. The chairman of the Centre of Alsace-Lorraine is Karl Hauss, editor-in-chief of the "Elsässer Boten" (a daily paper). In the Diet of Alsace-Lorraine the Party had 27 deputies in 1911 (out of a total of 60); in the German Reichstag it numbered 7 out of the 397 members in 1912.

(e) HESSE

A Catholic Popular Party was formed in the Grand Duchy of Hesse as early as the forties. Shortly after the formation of the Centre in the Reichstag, this party also took the name "Centre". While the Kulturkampf raged in Hesse during the seventies, the party energetically championed the interests of the oppressed Catholics. In 1911 the party claimed 9 deputies out of a total of 50. Its leader is the counsel, Dr. Schmitt-Mainz. The Grand Duchy sends 9 deputies to the German Reichstag, but none of these belongs to the Centre Party.

(f) OLDENBURG

Until 1910 there was no organized Centre Party in the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg. The Catholics, who constitute about one-fifth of the population of Oldenburg, live to the south in the district known as the Münsterland, which until 1803 was under the rule of the Prince- Bishop of Münster. Since the introduction of the Constitution this Catholic section has chosen representatives of its own religion -- at first 6, but later, with the increase of the population, 8. From the beginning these representatives have stood for the principles of the Centre in the German Reichstag, and championed the Christian outlook in public life. The Catholic deputies have performed a specially useful service in recent years by their firm advocacy of a movement to introduce new school laws based on a Christian and denominational foundation, for the three divisions of Oldenburg. Until recently party politics did not play any prominent part in the Diet of Oldenburg, as such tactics did not appeal to even the non-Catholic deputies. Since about 1870 the Government has showed a benevolent attitude towards the Catholic ecclesiastical authorities, and the Kulturkampf obtained no footing in Oldenburg. The need of a definite party organization first arose when the Social Democrats captured some seats in the diet, and the direct franchise was introduced in 1909. The organization of the Centre was therefore adopted in 1910, and on this programme 9 deputies (out of a total of 45) were elected in 1911. The able leader of the Catholic deputies of Oldenburg and of the Centre is Dr. Franz Driver, counsel to the administrative high court. The grand duchy sends three deputies to the Reichstag; one of these, elected by the Catholic south, has been from the first a member of the Centre in the Reichstag.

(g) SAXE-WEIMAR-EISENACH

Among the twenty-three deputies elected to the Diet of this grand duchy the Centre has one deputy, elected by the Catholic section of the Oberland in Eisenach.

(h) The other diets of the German federal states have no Centre deputies, inasmuch as the states are almost entirely Protestant. In the Kingdom of Saxony, however, there is a well-organized Centre Party which devotes attention to the elections to the Reichstag and the national Diet. Owing to the relatively small number of its adherents in this almost purely Protestant state (95% Protestant ), the party cannot secure the election of any candidate of its own; still the votes of its members in individual constituencies are decisive in the case of second ballots.

In very recent times (since about 1910) alliances between the councillors of various municipalities and towns, who have been elected on the Centre programme (or who favour that programme), have developed or been formed immediately into "Communal Centre Parties". Almost everywhere in the cities and larger communities of the German federal states and provinces a great prejudice against the Catholic section of the community may be noticed. Apart from the inaction of the Catholics, the cause of this injustice may be traced to the plutocratic franchise, which almost everywhere places great power in the hands of the few wealthy people, who for the most part hold Liberal views. As the communal franchise gradually becomes more democratic, however, the representation of the Catholics who take their stand on the Centre programme also increases. This increase is indeed accompanied by a growth in the number of Social Democrats, with whom the Liberals in very frequent instances ally themselves in opposition to Catholics and the Centre. For the introduction of the principles of the Centre Party into communal administration, the formation of the communal representatives who favour the Centre into Communal Centre parties has been effected. Regular unions of the Centre members of the communal bodies in the larger areas (counties, provinces, states) have also been formed in many places, e.g. in Bavaria, the Rhine Provinces, Westphalia, and Upper Silesia; these unions bear the name of "Communal Conferences of the Centre". In Prussia attempts have also been made to elect adherents of the Centre to county and provincial diets to counteract the decisive influence of the higher state officials, whose views are mostly National Liberal or Free Conservative.


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