Bennigsen, Rudolf von (rōˈdôlf fən bĕnˈĭksən) [key], 1824–1902, German political leader. A liberal nationalist from Hanover, he favored German unification under a democratic Prussian state. After Bismarck's initial successes in unifying Germany, however, he supported the chancellor and helped found (1867) the National Liberal party, dominant in the Reichstag during the 1870s. Refused a cabinet post by Bismarck because of the party's demands for additional ministerial posts, relations further cooled in 1879 when Bennigsen rejected Bismarck's protectionist policies. As a result, the party's right wing split off (1879); the departure of the radical wing followed (1880), destroying the party's power.
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