Prince Maximilian Alexander Friedrich Wilhelm of Baden, Chancellor of the German Empire, also known as Max von Baden, was a German prince and politician. He was heir to the Grand Duchy of Baden and in October and November 1918 briefly served as Chancellor of the German Empire. He sued for peace on Germany's behalf at the end of World War I based on U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, which included immediately transforming the government into a parliamentary system and proclaiming the abdication of Emperor Wilhelm II.
Born in Baden-Baden on 10 July 1867, Prince Maximilian was a member of the House of Baden, the son of Prince Wilhelm Max (1829–1897), third son of Grand Duke Leopold (1790–1852) and Princess Maria Maximilianovna of Leuchtenberg (1841–1914), a granddaughter of Eugène de Beauharnais. He was named after his maternal grandfather, Maximilian de Beauharnais, and bore a resemblance to his cousin, Emperor Napoleon III.
He received a humanistic education at a Gymnasium secondary school and studied law and cameralism at the Leipzig University.
After finishing his studies, he trained as an officer of the Prussian Army.
Upon the order of Queen Victoria, Prince Maximilian of Baden was brought to Darmstadt in the Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine as a suitor for Victoria's granddaughter, Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt. Alix was the daughter of Victoria's late daughter, Princess Alice, and Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse. Alix quickly rejected Prince Max as she was in love with Nicholas II, the future Tsar of Russia, whom she later married.
In 1900, he married Princess Marie Louise of Hanover (1879–1948) at Gmunden, Austria.
Following the death of his uncle Grand Duke Frederick I of Baden in 1907, he became heir to the grand-ducal throne of his cousin Frederick II, whose marriage remained childless. He also became president of the Erste Badische Kammer (the upper house of the parliament of Baden).
In 1911 he applied for a military discharge with the rank of Major General.
Upon the outbreak of World War I in 1914 Baden served as a general staff officer at the XIV Corps of the German Army as the representative of the Grand Duke (XIV Corps included the troops from Baden). Shortly afterwards, however, he retired from his position (General der Kavallerie à la suite) as he was dissatisfied with his role in the military and was suffering from ill health.
In October 1914, he became honorary president of the Baden section of the German Red Cross, thus beginning his work for prisoners-of-war in- and outside of Germany in which he made use of his family connections to the Russian and Swedish courts as well as his connections to Switzerland.
In 1916 he became honorary president of the German-American support union for prisoners-of-war within the YMCA world alliance. Due to his liberal stance he came into conflict with the policies of the Oberste Heeresleitung (OHL - Supreme Army Command) supreme command under Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff. He openly spoke against the resumption of the unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917, which provoked the declaration of war by the United States Congress on 6 April. His activity in the interests of prisoners-of-war, as well as his tolerant, easy-going character gave him a reputation as an urbane personality who kept his distance from the extremes of nationalism and official war enthusiasm in evidence elsewhere at the time.
Since Baden was almost unknown to the public, it was mainly due to Kurt Hahn, who served since spring 1917 in the military office of the Foreign Ministry, that he was later considered for the position of Chancellor. Hahn maintained close links with Secretary of State Wilhelm Solf and several Reichstag deputies like Eduard David (SPD) and Conrad Haußmann (de) (FVP). David pushed for Baden to be appointed Chancellor in July 1917, after the fall of Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg. Baden then put himself forward for the position in early September 1918, pointing out his links to the social democrats, but Emperor Wilhelm II turned him down.
After the Oberste Heeresleitung told the government in late September 1918 that the German front was about to collapse and asked for immediate negotiation of an armistice, the cabinet of Chancellor Georg von Hertling resigned on 30 September 1918.
Hertling, after consulting Vice-Chancellor Friedrich von Payer (FVP), suggested Prince Max of Baden as his successor to the Emperor. However, it took the additional support of Haußmann, Oberst Hans von Haeften (de) (the liaison between OHL and Foreign Office) and Ludendorff himself, to have Wilhelm II appoint Baden as Chancellor of Germany and Minister President of Prussia.
Baden was to head a new government based on the majority parties of the Reichstag (SPD, Centre Party and FVP). When he arrived in Berlin on 1 October he had no idea that he would be asked to approach the Allies about an armistice. He was horrified and fought against the plan. Moreover, he also admitted openly that he was no politician and that he did not think additional steps towards "parliamentarisation" and democratisation feasible as long as the war continued. Consequently, he did not favour a liberal reform of the constitution. However, Emperor Wilhelm II convinced him to take the post and appointed him on 3 October 1918. The message asking for an armistice went out only on 4 October, not as originally planned on 1 October, hopefully to be accepted by US President Woodrow Wilson.
Although Baden had serious reservations about the conditions under which the OHL was willing to conduct negotiations and tried to interpret Wilson's Fourteen Points in a way most favourable to the German position, he accepted the charge. He appointed a government that for the first time included representatives of the largest party in the Reichstag, the Social Democratic Party of Germany, as state secretaries: Philipp Scheidemann and Gustav Bauer. This was following up on an idea of Ludendorff's and former Foreign Secretary Paul von Hintze's (as the representative of the Hertling cabinet) who had agreed on 29 September that the request for an armistice must not come from the old regime, but from one based on the majority parties. The official reason for appointing a government that was based on a parliamentary majority was to make it harder for the American president to refuse a peace offer. The need to convince Wilson was also the driving factor behind the move towards "parliamentarisation" that was to make the Chancellor and his government answerable to the Reichstag, as they had not been under the Empire so far. Ludendorff, however, was interested in shifting the blame for the lost war to the politicians and to the Reichstag parties. The Allies were cautious, distrusting Baden as a member of a ruling family of Germany. These doubts were intensified by the publication of a personal letter he had written to Prince Alexander zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst in early 1918, in which he had expressed criticism of "parliamentarisation" and his opposition to the Friedensresolution of the Reichstag of July 1917, when a majority had demanded a negotiated peace rather than a peace by victory. President Wilson reacted with reserve to the German initiative and took his time to agree to the request for an armistice, sending three diplomatic notes between 8 October and 23 October. When Ludendorff changed his mind about the armistice and suddenly advocated continued fighting, Baden opposed him in a cabinet meeting on 17 October. On 24 October, Ludendorff issued an army order that called Wilson's third note "unacceptable" and called on the troops to fight on. On 25 October, Hindenburg and Ludendorff then ignored explicit instructions by the Chancellor and travelled to Berlin. Baden asked for Ludendorff to be dismissed and Wilhelm II agreed. On 26 October, the Emperor told Ludendorff that he had lost his trust. Ludendorff offered his resignation and Wilhelm II accepted.
Whilst trying to move towards an armistice, Max von Baden, advised closely by Hahn (who also wrote his speeches), Haußmann and Walter Simons worked with the representatives of the majority parties in his cabinet (Scheidemann and Bauer for the SPD, Matthias Erzberger, Karl Trimborn (de) and Adolf Gröber (de) for the Centre Party, von Payer and, after 14 October, Haußmann for the FVP). Although some of the initiatives were a result of the notes sent by Wilson, they were also in line with the parties' manifestoes: making the Chancellor, his government and the Prussian Minister of War answerable to parliament (Reichstag and Preußischer Landtag), introducing a more democratic voting system in the place of the Dreiklassenwahlrecht (Three-class franchise) in Prussia, the replacement of the Governor of Alsace-Lorraine with the Mayor of Straßburg, appointing a local deputy from the Centre Party as Secretary of State for Alsace-Lorraine and some other adjustments in government personnel. Pushed by the social democrats, the government passed a widespread amnesty, under which political prisoners like Karl Liebknecht were released.
Under Max von Baden, the bureaucracy, military and political leadership of the old Reich began a cooperation with the leaders of the majority parties and with the individual States of the Reich. This cooperation would have a significant impact on later events during the revolution.
In late October, the Imperial constitution was changed, turning the German Empire into a parliamentary system. However, Wilson's third note seemed to imply that negotiations of an armistice would be dependent on the abdication of Wilhelm II. The government of Chancellor Max von Baden now feared that a military collapse and a socialist revolution at home were becoming likelier with every day that went by. In fact, the government's efforts to secure an armistice were interrupted by the Kiel mutiny which began with events at Wilhelmshaven on 30 October and the outbreak of revolution in Germany in early November.
On 1 November, Baden wrote to all the ruling Princes of Germany, asking them whether they would approve of an abdication by the Emperor. On 6 November, the Chancellor sent Erzberger to conduct the negotiations with the Allies.
Baden, seriously ill with Spanish influenza, urged Wilhelm II to abdicate. The Kaiser, who had fled from revolutionary Berlin to the Spa headquarters of the OHL, despite similar advice by Hindenburg and Ludendorff's successor Wilhelm Groener of the OHL was willing to consider abdication only as Emperor, not as King of Prussia.
On 7 November, Baden met with Friedrich Ebert, leader of the SPD and discussed his plan to go to Spa and convince Wilhelm II to abdicate. He was thinking about setting up Wilhelm's second son as regent. However, the outbreak of the revolution in Berlin prevented Baden from implementing his plan. Ebert decided that to keep control of the socialist uprising the Emperor must resign quickly and a new government was required.
As the masses gathered in Berlin, at noon on 9 November 1918, Baden went ahead and unilaterally announced the abdication, as well as the renunciation of Crown Prince Wilhelm. Shortly thereafter, Ebert appeared in the Reich Reichskanzlei and demanded that the office of government be handed over to him and the SPD, as that was the only way to keep up law and order. In an unconstitutional move, Baden resigned and appointed Ebert as his successor. On the same day, Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed Germany a republic. When Baden later visited Ebert to say goodbye before leaving Berlin, Ebert asked him to stay on as regent (Reichsverweser). Baden refused and, turning his back on politics for good, departed for Baden.
Maximilian spent the rest of his life in retirement. He rejected a mandate to the 1919 Weimar National Assembly, offered to him by the German Democratic politician Max Weber. In 1920, together with Kurt Hahn, he established the Schule Schloss Salem boarding school, which was intended to help educate a new German intellectual elite. He also published a number of books, assisted by Hahn: Völkerbund und Rechtsfriede (1919), Die moralische Offensive (1921) and Erinnerungen und Dokumente (1927).
In 1928, following the death of Grand Duke Frederick II, who had been deposed in November 1918 when the German monarchies were abolished, Prince Maximilian of Baden became head of the House of Baden, assuming the dynasty's historical title of "margrave".
He died at Salem on 6 November 1929.
Although events had overtaken him during his tenure at the Reichskanzlei and he was not considered a strong Chancellor, Baden is seen today as having played a vital role in enabling the transition from the old regime to a democratic government based on the majority parties and the Reichstag. This made the government of Ebert that emerged from the November revolution acceptable to some conservative forces in the bureaucracy and military. They were thus willing to ally themselves with him against the more radical demands by the revolutionaries on the far-left.
Wikipedia, Prince Maximilian of Baden.
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