1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Puttkammer, Robert von

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PUTTKAMMER, ROBERT VON (1828-1900), Prussian statesman, was born at Frankfort-on-the-Oder on the 5th of May 1828. His father, Eugen von Puttkammer, Oberpräsident of Posen, belonged to a widely extended noble family, of which Bismarck's wife and Robert von Puttkammer's own wife were also members. Robert von Puttkammer, after a short course of law, began his official career in 1850 as Auskultator in the courts at Danzig, but in 1852 entered the civil service, receiving after his promotion to the rank of Assessor in 1854 a post in the railway department of the ministry for trade and industry. In 1859 he became a member of the presidial council (Oberpräsidialrat) at Coblenz, capital of the Prussian Rhine province, and from 1860 to 1866 was Landrat at Demmin in Pomerania. During the war with Austria he acted as civil commissary in Moravia. From 1867 to 1871 he was a councillor in the chancery of the North German Confederation. In 1871 he was appointed president of the governmental district of Gumbinnen in East Prussia, in 1875 district president (Bezirkspräsident) in Lorraine, and in 1877 Oberpräsident in Silesia. From 1874 onward he was frequently elected to the Reichstag and the Prussian Chamber of Deputies, in which he attached himself to the German Conservative party. Puttkammer was the chosen instrument of the Clerical Conservative policy initiated by Bismarck when the Socialist peril made it expedient to conciliate the Catholic Centre. As Oberpräsident of Silesia he had already done much to mitigate the rigour of the application of the “May Laws,” and as minister of public worship and of the interior he continued this policy. He is also remembered as the author of the ordinance of the 21st of January 1880 on the simplification of German orthography. This was at first vigorously opposed, not least by Bismarck himself; but its convenience soon became evident, it was increasingly put into practice, and was so well based that later reformers have only needed to follow the lines laid down by Puttkammer. As minister of the interior Puttkammer's activities were less commendable. His reactionary conservative temper was in complete harmony with the views of Bismarck and the emperor William, and with their powerful support he attempted, in defiance of modern democratic principles and even of the spirit of the constitution, to re-establish the old Prussian system of rigid discipline from above. He was above all concerned to nip in the bud any tendencies in the bureaucracy to revolt, and it was on his initiative that, on the 4th of January 1882, a royal ordinance laid it down as the duty of all officials to give the government their unconditional support at political elections. Similarly though he carried out many useful administrative reforms, in a effort to combat Social Democracy he seriously interfered with the liberty of public meeting and attempted the forcible suppression of strike movements. This “Puttkammer régime” was intensely unpopular; it was attacked in the Reichstag not only by Radicals like Richter and Rickert, but by National Liberals like Bennigsen, and when the emperor Frederick III., whose Liberal tendencies were notorious, succeeded to the throne, it was clear that it could not last. In spite of Bismarck's support Puttkammer was forced to resign on the 8th of June 1888. Under William II., however, whose principles were those of his grandfather, Puttkammer was largely rehabilitated. On the 1st of January 1889 he received the Order of the Black Eagle. He was appointed a secular canon (Domherr) of Merseburg, and in 1891 became Oberpräsident of Prussian Pomerania. In this office, which he held till 1899, he did very useful work in collaboration with the provincial estates. He died on his property at Karzin in Pomerania on the 15th of March 1900. (J. Hn.)