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Appeal of the Westphalian Secessionists (1893)

The confessional division between Catholics and Protestants also translated into political action. In Wilhelmine Germany, elections allowed Catholics to contest the Kulturkampf [“cultural struggle"], in which Otto von Bismarck and his parliamentary allies openly attacked Catholic institutions and practices. This struggle led to the growth of a Catholic political party, the Zentrum [Center Party]. The Center Party sought support from agrarian constituents, who, in the early 1890s, suffered the economic strain of competition from foreign grain imports. Protective tariffs for agriculture were one of the ways in which parties catered to economic interests in the countryside.

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To our fellow citizens!

The German Reichstag is dissolved; new elections will take place on June 15. For a long time now, a heavy pressure has weighed on domestic [heimathlich] agriculture, especially on the peasant estate [Bauernstand], but also on artisans and small tradesmen, with whom we feel a sense of solidarity, and through their circles courses a movement that has broken forth in the past few months with elemental force to set things right.

The trade treaties with their reduction of protective tariffs have damaged agriculture and been of little benefit to industry. The decline in prices, from which we suffer to the point of having been pushed below our own production costs, is exacerbated by the upholding of graduated tariffs for the importation of cheap grain from the East to the West, and it would become compulsory if there were also a trade treaty with Russia and customs reductions along its borders.

The dissolved Reichstag failed to give sufficient account to the legitimate wishes and interests of agriculture, which also extend to other areas; in particular, we Westphalian farmers lack a representation therein that is adequate in number and effectiveness. The upcoming new elections give us the duty and the right to demand redress and, as far as it is within our powers, to achieve it.

Until now, we have refrained from forming a separate party to achieve these goals, confident that our justified wishes and demands would find consideration within the existing parties, especially the Center Party. Therefore, at the meeting of the representatives [Vertrauensmänner] of the Center Party for Westphalia, held in Münster on May 24, we presented our complaints and wishes, and, in particular, demanded guarantees for an adequate representation for the predominantly agricultural electoral districts. To justify our demands, it is sufficient to point out that of the 9 Reichstag electoral districts of Westphalia that elected Center representatives [Centrumsabgeordnete], only 2 were represented by a farmer in the last Reichstag, and of the 4 Reichstag electoral districts of the Münsterland, in spite of an overwhelmingly agricultural population, none was represented by a farmer in the last Reichstag, whereas 7 or 8 of the 9 electoral districts used to have a professional farmer as representative.

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