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Prussian Electoral Reform (1909)
Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg (1856-1921) replaced Bernhard von Bülow (1849-1929) as minister president of Prussia (and federal chancellor) in 1909. He promised to be more open to reform than his predecessor, thus arousing suspicion and scorn among conservative members of the Prussian nobility who saw their privileges endangered by the new chancellor’s project to expand the franchise in Prussia. This cartoon by Thomas Theodor Heine (1867-1948) appeared in Simplicissimus in October 1909. It represents a liberal take on the Prussian gentry and their hostility toward electoral reform. The rotund gentleman in the front points Bethmann Hollweg in the direction of the ballot box [Wahlurne] and challenges him, “Come on, Bethmann, we dare you!” Nobles threaten Bethmann Hollweg with pitchforks should he move any closer to the box – and thus closer to reform.