Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Ebert, Friedrich

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EBERT, FRIEDRICH, President of the German Republic. During his youth he worked first as a harness maker and then as a tailor. He made sufficient money by these trades to purchase a printing establishment in Bremen, where he also wrote for the Socialist papers. In 1908 he became a member of the Reichstag, elected there by the Social Democrats. His service as a member of that body was featured by his criticisms of the military budgets and by his conservatism in restraining revolutionary methods. When the war of 1914 came, he with the majority of his party, supported the Government, and even defended the unlimited submarine warfare. In 1916 he was chosen leader of the Socialist group in the Reichstag called the Majority Socialists, as distinguished from the Minority Socialists who opposed the war. He was officially chosen as the national head of the Majority Socialists at the Congress of that party which was held in Würzburg in 1917. Although supporting the Government, Ebert and his group did not fail to criticize it severely and on July 19, 1917, they sponsored the resolution of the Reichstag declaring for peace without annexations and indemnities. Ebert was one of the few prominent Germans who before November, 1918, realized the imminent defeat of the German arms. As early as July of that year he had demanded that the war cease. It was this foresight which caused Prince Max, the Imperial German Chancellor, to turn over his office to him, and when after a few days the office was suppressed, Ebert remained as the directing head of the Government in Berlin. The Independent Socialists and the Communists refused, however, to support his government and during 1919 Berlin and many other German cities were the scenes of considerable street fighting. Ebert's government succeeded in quelling the revolt and also in securing the election of a National Assembly to form a constitution for Germany. In March of 1919 he was elected by that body President of the German Republic. Hardly had the Assembly adjourned when the new Government was overthrown in 1920 by a coup d'état engineered by some ex-army officers. Ebert and the other members of his government escaped from Berlin and succeeded in calling a general strike which in a few days compelled the militarists to capitulate. Ebert and the Republican Government resumed sway in Berlin.

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