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Burghard Freiherr von Schorlemer-Alst
Social reformer, b. at Heringhausen, Westphalia, 21 Oct., 1825; d. at Alst, 17 March, 1895. He received his early education at home from the domestic chaplain and then studied as a cadet at the Royal Saxon Military College at Dresden. After this he was a Prussian officer in an Uhlan regiment, and in 1849 took part in the campaign in Baden. In 1852 he left the army, married the Countess Droste zu Vischering, whose maiden name was Baroness von Imbsen, and obtained possession of the manorial estate of Alst in the circle of Burgsteinfurt. In 1862 he published his celebrated pamphlet "Die Lage des Bauernstandes in Westfalen und was ihm not thut" (The condition of the peasant class in Westphalia and what it needs). In this pamphlet he proposed the founding of an independent peasant union. In the same year the first two societies were formed, and, following the example of these, peasant unions were formed in nearly all the districts of Westphalia, so that by the end of the sixties there were nearly 10,000 members. Schorlemer worked both by speech and in writing for the development of this great undertaking. In 1863 he was made a member of the Prussian agricultural board; in 1865 he was the temporary president of the central agricultural union, and in 1867 he was made the manager of the same. As such he founded the agricultural schools at Ludinghausen and Herford. In 1870 he was also the manager of the provincial agricultural union of Westphalia.
His parliamentary career began in 1870. In the years 1870-89 Schorlemer was a member of the lower house of the Prussian Diet; in 1870-89 and 1890 a member of the imperial Reichstag. He belonged to the Centre party, and during the Kulturkampf was an indefatigable champion of the Church. He was considered one of the best speakers and debaters in each of these parliaments; possessing both acuteness and racy humor, "ruthless but honorable", as Bismarck said; he fought unweariedly the opponents of the Church in the Kulturkampf. In 1893 he came into conflict with the Centre because he demanded a better presentation of agricultural interests.
His permanent reputation, however, rests upon his organization of the peasants. In 1871 the various peasant unions were dissolved, and on 30 Nov., 1871 one peasant union, the Westphalian Peasant Union, as it exists at present, was founded. Its purpose is the moral, intellectual, and economic improvement of the peasant class, on a foundation of Christian principles. In 1890 the union had 20,500 members, in 1895 25,000, and now has over 30,000. The activities of the association extend in all directions; among its branches are: loan and savings banks, testing stations for agricultural machinery and implements, department of building, department of forestry, insurance against liability, association for the purchase and sale of articles necessary in agriculture, boards of arbitration and amicable adjustment of difficulties, legal bureau, etc. The association is not only a blessing to Westphalia, but also for the whole of Germany, for it has been the model for the formation of a number of other peasant associations.
Many honors were conferred upon the founder of this organization. Among other marks of distinction he was made in 1884 a member of the council of state, and in 1891 a member for life of the upper house of the Prussian Diet. The Emperor William II had a very high regard for him. The pope appointed him privy chamberlain and commander of the orders of Gregory and Sylvester. In 1902 the peasant union of Westphalia erected a monument to him in front of the parliament building of the provincial diet at Munster.
Schorlemer, as even non-Catholic newspapers admitted, was a nobleman in the true sense of the word, a harmonious and thorough man; one who successfully combined an ideal conception of life with practical aims; his motto was "Love and justice".
SCHORLEMER-ALST Reden gehalten 1872-79 (Osnabruck, 1880); BUER Dr. Burghard Freiherr von Schorlemer-Alst (Munster 1902).