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Friedrich von Payer Edit Profile

Lawyer , politician

Friedrich von Payer was a German lawyer, liberal politician and vice-chancellor of Germany during the last year of World War I.


Friedrich von Payer was born in Tübingen on June 12, 1847, the son of the local university beadle.


After studying jurisprudence, Payer in 1871 practiced law in Stuttgart; however, politics proved to be his real love, and he served in the Reichstag as deputy for the German People's party in 1877/1878, 1880-1887, and 1890-1918.


Concurrently, Payer was a member of the Württemberg Lower House from 1894 to 1912, presiding as its president for all but his first year in the Stuttgart Parliament. Ennobled in 1906, Payer four years later was instrumental in bringing about the fusion of various left liberal splinter groups into the Progressive People's party, whose parliamentary delegation he headed in Berlin.

During the Great War Payer hoped to bring about constitutional reform in Prussia and to accord the Rechstag a greater voice in national affairs. His greatest hour came in July 1917. On July 6 he joined Matthias Erzberger and Friedrich Ebert to establish an interparty committee consisting of Centrists, Social Democrats, and Progressives the forerunner of the later Weimar Coalition. Two weeks later Payer refused to be seduced by General Erich Ludendorff's entreaties to join the plot to depose Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, and at the end of the month he worked hard on behalf of the Reichstag's peace resolution, calling for an end to the war on the basis of the status quo ante bellum. In fact, Payer gained a reputation for several speeches denouncing the vast annexationist schemes of the Pan-Germans and the Conservatives.

In October 1917, ably assisted by Ebert, Payer was appointed vice chancellor in the new government formed by Count Georg von Hertling. However, Payer failed to realize any of the reforms he had advocated over his long career. On almost every major issue suppression of the munitions strikes in January 1918, peace negotiations at Brest Litovsk, and Foreign Secretary Richard von Kiihlmann's dismissal Payer in the end bowed to the will of the "silent dictator" Ludendorff. One historian has, therefore, described the Hertling-Payer government as constituting "no more than a constitutional cloak thrown over Ludendorff's dictatorship."

During the final months of the war, Payer stayed in office under Chancellor Prince Max von Baden and accepted Ludendorff's verdict on September 29 that the western front could no longer be held. At a dramatic confrontation with the general during the chancellor's illness on October 23, Payer refused to accept Ludendorff's reversal and plea that the struggle be continued at least through the winter of 1918; Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria had, in fact, apprised the vice chancellor of the desperate plight of the front. Payer rebuffed Ludendorff's appeal to the honor of the army: "I know nothing of soldier's honor. I am a burgher and civilian pure and simple. I can see only starving people."

Payer retired on November 9, 1918. He served briefly as a member of the German Democratic party in 1919/1920 at the National Assembly at Weimar, but played no major role in postwar politics. Payer died in Stuttgart on July 14, 1931.


Von Payer was married to Alwine Schöninger.

Alwine Schöninger