1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Miquel, Johann von

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MIQUEL, JOHANN VON (1829-1901), German statesman, was born at Neuenhaus, Hanover, on the 19th of February 1829, being descended from a French family which had emigrated during the Revolution. He learnt law at the universities of Heidelberg and Göttingen. Studying the writings of Karl Marx he became a convert to an extreme revolutionary, socialistic and atheistic creed; but though he entered into correspondence with Marx, with the object of starting a revolutionary movement, he does not appear to have taken any overt part in the events of 1848-1849. Further study of political economy soon enabled him to pass out of this phase, and in 1850 he settled down to practise as an advocate at Göttingen. He acquired repute as an able lawyer and a rising politician, and especially for his knowledge of financial questions. He was one of the founders of the German Nationaltierein, and in 1864 he was elected a member of the Hanoverian parliament as a Liberal and an opponent of the government. He accepted the annexation of Hanover by Prussia without regret, and was one of the Hanoverians whose parliamentary abilities at once won a commanding position in the Prussian parliament, which he entered in 1867. For some reason — perhaps because Bismarck did not entirely trust him — he did not at this time attain quite so influential a position as might have been anticipated; nevertheless he was chairman of the parliamentary committee which in 1876 drafted the new rules of legal procedure, and he found scope for his great administrative abilities in the post of burgomaster of Osnabrück. He held this position from 1865 to 1870, and again from 1876 to 1879, being in the meantime (1870-1873) a director of the Discontogesellschaft. In 1879 he was elected burgomaster of Frankfort-on-Main, where he gained a great reputation for the energy with which he dealt with social questions, especially that of the housing of the poor. Probably owing to his early study of socialism, he was very ready to support the new state socialism of Bismarck. He was the chief agent in the reorganization of the National Liberal party in 1887, in which year he entered the imperial Reichstag. After Bismarck's fall in 1890 he was chosen Prussian minister of finance, and held this post for ten years. He distinguished himself by his reform of the Prussian system of taxation, the one really successful measure of the new reign in internal affairs. An attempt, however, to reform the system of imperial finance in 1893-1894 failed, and much injured his reputation. Miquel had entirely given up his Liberalism, and aimed at practical measures for improving the condition of the people irrespective of the party programmes; yet some of his measures such as that for taxing “Waarenhäuser” (stores) — were of a very injudicious nature. He professed to aim at a union of parties on the basis of the satisfaction of material interests, a policy to which the name of Sammlung was given; but his enemies accused him of constantly intriguing against the three chancellors under whom he served, and of himself attempting to secure the first place in the state. The sympathy which he expressed for the Agrarians increased his unpopularity among Liberals and industrials; but he pointed out that the state, which for half a century had done everything to help manufactures, might now attempt to support the failing industry of agriculture. In June 1901 the rejection of the canal bill led to a crisis, and he was obliged to send in his resignation. His health was already failing, and he died on the 8th of September of the same year at his house in Frankfort.