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Liberal Secessionists’ Declaration (August 30, 1880)

Bismarck's attempts to restrict constitutional liberties and his turn from free trade to protectionism increased pressure on the National Liberal Party to defend liberal principles. However, the following declaration by liberal "Secessionists" illustrates that, in their opinion, the National Liberal Party had been unable to remain resolute in these areas. The 28 Reichstag and Prussian Landtag deputies who signed this declaration split off from the party to form the Liberal Union (also known as the "Secession"), which won 46 seats in the Reichstag elections of 1881 with about 8% of the popular vote. It eventually fused with the German Progressive Party in March 1884 to form the German Radical Party.

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The experiences of the past two years have increasingly forced upon us the conviction that, in light of fundamentally altered circumstances, the National Liberal Party is no longer sustained by the unity of political attitudes that was once its raison d’être and the exclusive source of its influence.

Based on this conviction, the undersigned declare their departure from the National Liberal Party.

A secure course for the smooth and progressive development of our national unity – which is rooted in the Kaiser and the imperial constitution – can only proceed from a truly constitutional system, which the German liberal party has pursued without deviation since its inception. The united cooperation of the liberal party in essential questions and the cessation of confusing and exhausting struggles between different liberal factions, however, appear to us as absolute prerequisites to reach the desired goal.

Firm resistance to the retrograde movement and adherence to our hard-won political liberties is the joint responsibility of the entire liberal party.

Closely connected to political liberty is economic freedom; only on the secure basis of economic freedom can the material welfare of the nation be guaranteed in the long run.

Only by preserving constitutional rights, only by rejecting all unnecessary burdens on the people and all indirect taxes and duties that shift the tax burden primarily to the disadvantage of the poorer classes, may the reform of imperial taxes go forward.

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