Eugen Richter - Encyclopedia

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EUGEN RICHTER (1839-1906), German politician, was born on the 30th of July 1839 at Dusseldorf. After attending the universities of Bonn, Heidelberg and Berlin, he entered the government service, being stationed in his native town. In 1864 he was chosen burgomaster of Neuwied; but he was already known for his Liberal opinions, and the government refused to confirm the appointment. He was hereupon transferred to Bromberg, in East Prussia, which to an inhabitant of the Rhineland was the worst form of exile, and in consequence he resigned his place in the public service. He now went to Berlin, where he earned his living as a journalist. He was the most consistent advocate of those doctrines of laissez faire and individual liberty which the Germans call Manchestertum. He was also keenly interested in the attempts made at that period to create cooperative societies among the working men, and wrote a work on co-operative stores. It was not long before he came into conflict with the government; an electioneering pamphlet published in 1867 was confiscated; he was put on his trial but acquitted. In 1867 he was elected a member of the newly formed Reichstag, and in 1869 of the Prussian parliament. He soon became one of the most influential politicians in Germany.. A member of the Progressive party, in 1880 one of the founders, and eventually the leader, of the Freisinnige, he was always in opposition. Next to Windthorst he was Bismarck's most dangerous opponent. After the great change of policy in 1878, for a time his influence was a great impediment to the government; as a consistent adherent to free trade, he was the leader of the opposition to the introduction of protection, to the new colonial policy, and to State Socialism. It was after 1880 that he raised the cry Bismarck muss fort. He always took a great part in debates on the military and naval establishments, in vain opposing the constant increase of army and navy. It was his refusal to support the government proposals in 1893 for an increase of the army which led to the break up of his party: he was left with only eleven followers; and, except among the middle class of Berlin and some other Prussian cities, the old Radical party, of which he was the chief representative, from that time had little influence in the country. In 1885 he founded the Freisinnige Zeitung, which he edited himself; of his numerous brochures the most successful was his attack on Socialism, entitled Sozialdemokratische Zukunftsbilder (Berlin, 1891), a clever and successful satire on the Socialist state of the future. This has been translated into the English. He also wrote much on Prussian finance, and under the title Das politische A, B, C Buck compiled a very useful political handbook for Radical voters. He also published in 1892 reminiscences of his youth (Jugenderinnerungen), and two volumes of parliamentary reminiscences (Im alten Reichstag, 1894-1896).

He died at Jena on the 26th of January 1906.

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