North German Confederation

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North German Confederation

Norddeutscher Bund
1867–1871
North German Confederation 1870.svg
The North German Confederation
Map-NDB.svg
The North German Confederation (red). The southern German states that joined in 1870 to form the German Empire are in orange. Alsace-Lorraine, the territory annexed following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, is in tan. The red territory in the South marks the original princedom of the House of Hohenzollern, rulers of the Kingdom of Prussia.
CapitalBerlin
Common languages German, Danish, Low German, East Frisian, North Frisian, Czech, Lithuanian, Polish, Sorbian
Religion
Majority:
Protestant (Lutheran, Reformed, United)
Minorities:
Government Confederal
constitutional monarchy
President  
 1867–1871
Wilhelm I
Chancellor  
 1867–1871
Otto von Bismarck
Legislature Reichstag
 Federal Council
Bundesrat
Historical era New Imperialism
18 August 1866
16 April 1867
19 July 1870
18 January 1871
Currency Vereinsthaler
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Wappen Deutscher Bund.svg German Confederation
Schleswig Arms.svg Duchy of Schleswig
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Province of Prussia
Flagge Preußen - Provinz Posen.svg Province of Posen
German Empire Flag of the German Empire.svg
Today part of
The North German Confederation (Kingdom of Prussia with its provinces shown in blue) NB 1866-1871.99.svg
The North German Confederation (Kingdom of Prussia with its provinces shown in blue)

The North German Confederation (German : Norddeutscher Bund) [1] was the German federal state which existed from July 1867 to December 1870. Some historians also use the name for the alliance of 22 German states formed on 18 August 1866 ( Augustbündnis ). In 1870–1871, the south German states of Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt, Württemberg and Bavaria joined the country. On 1 January 1871, the country adopted a new constitution, which was written under the title of a new "German Confederation" but already gave it the name "German Empire" in the preamble and article 11. As the state system largely remained the same in the German Empire, the North German Confederation continues as the German nation state which still exists. [2]

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Germans citizens or native-born people of Germany; or people of descent to the ethnic and ethnolinguistic group associated with the German language

Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe, who share a common German ancestry, culture and history. German is the shared mother tongue of a substantial majority of ethnic Germans.

The North German Confederation Treaty was the treaty between the Kingdom of Prussia and other northern and central German states that initially created the North German Confederation, which was the forerunner to the German Empire. This treaty, and others that followed in September and October, are often described as the August treaties, although not all of them were concluded in August 1866.

Contents

The federal constitution established a constitutional monarchy with the Prussian king as the bearer of the Bundespräsidium , or head of state. Laws could only be enabled with the consent of the Reichstag (a parliament based on universal male suffrage) and the Federal Council (a representation of the states). During the four years of the North German Confederation, a conservative-liberal cooperation undertook important steps to unify (Northern) Germany with regard to law and infrastructure. The political system (and the political parties) remained essentially the same in the years after 1870.

Bundespräsidium German head of state 1867-1918

Präsidium des Bundes or Bundespräsidium was a title under the German Confederation whereby the Austrian delegate held the chair of the Federal Assembly. Austria was thus called the presidential power. This did not give Austria extra power: its delegate simply led the proceedings of the Federal Assembly.

The North German Confederation had nearly 30 million inhabitants, of whom eighty percent lived in Prussia. Three quarters of the people of the 1871 Empire had already been "North German"'.

Prussia state in Central Europe between 1525–1947

Prussia was a historically prominent German state that originated in 1525 with a duchy centred on the region of Prussia on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. It was de facto dissolved by an emergency decree transferring powers of the Prussian government to German Chancellor Franz von Papen in 1932 and de jure by an Allied decree in 1947. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organised and effective army. Prussia, with its capital in Königsberg and from 1701 in Berlin, decisively shaped the history of Germany.

Creation of the North German Confederation

Prussia's plans to unify Germany

For the most of 1815–1848, Austria and Prussia worked together and used the German Confederation as a tool to suppress liberal and national ambitions in the German population. In 1849, the National Assembly in Frankfurt elected the Prussian king as the Emperor of a Lesser Germany (a Germany without Austria). The king refused and tried to unite Germany with the Erfurt Union of 1849–1850. When the union parliament met in early 1850 to discuss the constitution, the participating states were mainly only those in Northern and Central Germany. Austria and the southern German states Württemberg and Bavaria forced Prussia to give up its union plans in late 1850. [3]

German Confederation association of 39 German states in Central Europe from 1815 to 1866

The German Confederation was an association of 39 German-speaking states in Central Europe, created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to coordinate the economies of separate German-speaking countries and to replace the former Holy Roman Empire, which had been dissolved in 1806. The German Confederation excluded German-speaking lands in the eastern portion of the Kingdom of Prussia, the German cantons of Switzerland, and Alsace within France which was majority German speaking.

Erfurt Union Prussian initiative to unify Germany, 1849/1850

The Erfurt Union was a short-lived union of German states under a federation, proposed by the Kingdom of Prussia at Erfurt, for which the Erfurt Union Parliament, lasting from March 20 to April 29, 1850, was opened at the former Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. The union never came into effect, and was seriously undermined in the Punctation of Olmütz under immense pressure from the Austrian Empire.

In April and June 1866, Prussia proposed a Lesser Germany again. Corner stone of the proposal was the election of a German parliament based on universal male suffrage. [4] The proposal even explicitly mentioned the Frankfurt election law of 1849. Otto von Bismarck, the minister-president of Prussia, wanted to gain sympathy within the national and liberal movement of the time. Austria and its allies refused the proposal. In summer 1866 Austria and Prussia fought with their respective allies in the Austro-Prussian War.

Otto von Bismarck 19th-century German statesman and Chancellor

Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg, known as Otto von Bismarck, was a conservative Prussian statesman who dominated German and European affairs from the 1860s until 1890 and was the first Chancellor of the German Empire between 1871 and 1890.

Aftermath of the 1866 war

Prussia and Austria signed a Nikolsburg preliminary (26 July) and a final peace treaty of Prague (23 August). Austria affirmed the Prussian view that the German Confederation was dissolved. Prussia was allowed to create a "closer federation" (einen engeren Bund) in Germany north of the river Main. Bismarck had already agreed on this limitation with the French emperor Napoleon III prior to the peace talks. [5]

The Peace of Prague was a peace treaty signed between the Kingdom of Prussia and the Austrian Empire at Prague on 23 August 1866, ending the Austro-Prussian War.

The liberals in the Prussian parliament favored a wholesale annexation of all North German territories by Prussia. In a similar way, Sardinia-Piemont had created the kingdom of Italy. But Bismarck chose a different approach. Prussia did only incorporate (in October 1866) the former military opponents Hannover, Hesse-Kassel, Hesse-Nassau, and the free city of Frankfurt. Schleswig and Holstein became a Prussian province, too. [6]

On 18 August 1866, Prussia and a larger number of North and Central German states signed a Bündniß (alliance). The treaty created a military alliance for one year. It also affirmed that the states wanted to form a federal state based on the Prussian proposals of June 1866. They agreed to have a parliament elected to discuss a draft constitution. Later in 1866, other states joined the treaty. Saxony and Hesse-Darmstadt, former enemies in the war of 1866, had to agree their accession to the new federation in their respective peace treaties (Hesse-Darmstadt only joined with its northern province, Upper Hesse). [7]

Towards a federal constitution

Bismarck sought advice from conservative and democratic politicians and finally presented a draft constitution to the other state governments. It was his intention to make the new federal state look like a confederation in the tradition of the German Confederation. This explains the name of the country and several provisions in the draft constitution. Bismarck wanted to make the federal state more attractive (or less repulsive) to southern German states which might later join. [8]

At the same time, in late 1866, Prussia and the other states prepared the election of a North German parliament. This konstituierender Reichstag was elected in February 1867 based on state laws. The konstituierender Reichstag gathered from February to April. In close talks with Bismarck it altered the draft constitution in some significant points. The konstituierender Reichstag was not a parliament but only an organ to discuss and accept the draft constitution. After that, the state parliaments (June 1867) ratified it so that on 1 July the constitution was enabled. In August, the first Reichstag of the new federal state was elected.

Four years of legislation

During the roughly four years of the North German Confederation its major action existed in legislation unifying Northern Germany. The Reichstag decided on laws concerning, for example:

The North German Confederation also became a member of the Zollverein , the German customs union of 1834.

Political system

First session of the (then still provisional) Reichstag on the 24 February 1867 KonstsitNDBT.jpg
First session of the (then still provisional) Reichstag on the 24 February 1867

The North German Constitution of 16 April 1867 created a national parliament with universal suffrage (for men above the age of 25), the Reichstag. Another important organ was the Bundesrat, the 'federal council' of the representatives of the allied governments. To adopt a law, a majority in the Reichstag and in the Bundesrat was necessary. This gave the allied governments, meaning the states and their princes, an important veto.

Executive power was vested in a president, a hereditary office of the House of Hohenzollern, the ruling family of Prussia. He was assisted by a chancellor responsible only to him — an office that Bismarck designed with himself in mind. There was no formal cabinet; the heads of the departments were not called ministers but secretaries. Those were installed and dismissed by the chancellor.

For all intents and purposes, the confederation was dominated by Prussia. It had four-fifths of the confederation's territory and population — more than the other 21 members combined. The presidency was a hereditary office of the Prussian crown. Bismarck was also foreign minister of Prussia, a post he held for virtually his entire career. In that role he instructed the Prussian deputies to the Bundesrat. Prussia had 17 of 43 votes in the Bundesrat despite being by far the largest state, but could easily get a majority by making alliances with the smaller states.

Customs Union

In June 1867 a conference took place between Prussia and the south German states, who were not members of the North German Confederation. After pressure from Prussia, new Customs Union (Zollverein) treaties were signed the following month. Henceforth, the governing bodies of the Customs Union were the Bundesrat and Reichstag of the North German Confederation, augmented by representatives of the south German governments in the former and members from these states elected in the same way as the others in the latter. When augmented thus for customs matters, the institutions were known as the Federal Customs Council and the Customs Parliament (Zollparlament). [9] On 1 January 1868 the new institutions came into force. Bismarck hoped that the Zollverein might become the vehicle of German unification. But in the 1868 Zollparlament election the South Germans voted mainly for anti-Prussian parties.

On the other hand, the two Mecklenburg duchies and three Hanseatic cities were initially not members of the Customs Union. The Mecklenburgs and Lubeck joined soon after the North German Confederation was formed. Eventually, after heavy Prussian pressure, Hamburg acceded to the Customs Union in 1888. Bremen joined at the same time. Despite this, all these states fully participated in the federal institutions, even while outside the Customs Union and not directly affected by their decisions in that regard.

Transition to the German Empire (1870–71)

In mid-1870, a diplomatic crisis concerning the Spanish throne led eventually to the Franco-Prussian War. [10] During the war, in November 1870, the North German Confederation and the south German states of Bavaria, Württemberg, and Baden (together with parts of the Hesse-Darmstadt which had not originally joined the confederation) united to form a new nation state. It was originally called Deutscher Bund (German Confederation), but on 10 December 1870 the Reichstag of the North German Confederation adopted the name Deutsches Reich (German Realm or German Empire) and granted the title of German Emperor to the King of Prussia as Bundespräsidium of the Confederation. [11] On 1 January 1871 the new constitution gave the country the name 'German Empire' and the title of Emperor to King William. He accepted the title on 18 January 1871. This latter date was later regarded as the creation of the Empire, although it had no constitutional meaning.

A new Reichstag was elected on 3 March 1871. The constitutions of 1 January and 16 April 1871 constitution of the Empire were nearly identical to that of the North German Confederation, and the Empire adopted the North German Confederation's flag.

North German 7-kreuzer stamp, 1868 Stamp of North German Confederation.jpg
North German 7-kreuzer stamp, 1868

Postage stamps

One of the functions of the confederation was to handle mail and issue postage stamps.

List of member states

StateCapital
Kingdoms (Königreiche)
Flag of Prussia (1892-1918).svg Prussia (Preußen)
(including Lauenburg)
Berlin
Flagge Königreich Sachsen (1815-1918).svg Saxony (Sachsen) Dresden
Grand Duchies (Großherzogtümer)
Flagge Großherzogtum Hessen ohne Wappen.svg Hesse (Hessen)
(Only Upper Hesse, the province north of the River Main)
Giessen
Flagge Großherzogtümer Mecklenburg.svg Mecklenburg-Schwerin Schwerin
Flagge Großherzogtümer Mecklenburg.svg Mecklenburg-Strelitz Neustrelitz
Civil flag of Oldenburg.svg Oldenburg Oldenburg
Flagge Großherzogtum Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (1897-1920).svg Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach) Weimar
Duchies (Herzogtümer)
Flagge Herzogtum Anhalt.svg Anhalt Dessau
Flagge Herzogtum Braunschweig.svg Brunswick (Braunschweig) Braunschweig
Flagge Herzogtum Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha (1826-1911).svg Saxe-Altenburg (Sachsen-Altenburg) Altenburg
Flagge Herzogtum Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha (1911-1920).svg Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha) Coburg
Flagge Herzogtum Sachsen-Meiningen.svg Saxe-Meiningen (Sachsen-Meiningen) Meiningen
Principalities (Fürstentümer)
Flagge Fürstentum Lippe.svg Lippe Detmold
Flagge Fürstentum Reuß jüngere Linie.svg Reuss-Gera (Junior Line) Gera
Flagge Fürstentum Reuß ältere Linie.svg Reuss-Greiz (Elder Line) Greiz
Flagge Fürstentum Schaumburg-Lippe.svg Schaumburg-Lippe Bückeburg
Flagge Fürstentümer Schwarzburg.svg Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt Rudolstadt
Flagge Fürstentümer Schwarzburg.svg Schwarzburg-Sondershausen Sondershausen
Flag of Germany (3-2 aspect ratio).svg Waldeck and Pyrmont (Waldeck und Pyrmont) Arolsen
Free and Hanseatic Cities (Freie und Hansestädte)
Flag of Bremen.svg Bremen
Flag of Hamburg.svg Hamburg
Flag of the Free City of Lübeck.svg Lübeck

See also

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November Treaties

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The Imperial Plan of 1870 was a diplomatic initiative set out by the Prussian Minister President and Federal Chancellor of the North German Confederation, Otto von Bismarck. Accordingly, the Prussian King was able to assume the title of Emperor.

The accession of the city state of Hamburg to the Customs Union in 1888 was the culmination of a project for the economic and monetary union of Germany, stretching back to 1819. In that year Schwarzburg-Sondershausen joined Prussia’s internal customs union, the first other state to do so and the first of many to follow.

References

  1. An alternative translation is "North German Federation."
  2. Michael Kotulla: Deutsches Verfassungsrecht 1806–1918. Eine Dokumentensammlung nebst Einführungen. Vol. 1: Gesamtdeutschland, Anhaltische Staaten und Baden, Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg 2005, p. 246.
  3. David E. Barclay: Preußen und die Unionspolitik 1849/1850. In: Gunther Mai (ed.): Die Erfurter Union und das Erfurter Unionsparlament 1850. 2000, pp. 53–80, here pp. 78–80.
  4. Ernst Rudolf Huber: Deutsche Verfassungsgeschichte seit 1789. Vol. III: Bismarck und das Reich. 3rd edition, W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart et al. 1988, pp. 536/537.
  5. Ernst Rudolf Huber: Deutsche Verfassungsgeschichte seit 1789. Vol. III: Bismarck und das Reich. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [et al.] 1963, p. 570.
  6. Ernst Rudolf Huber: Deutsche Verfassungsgeschichte seit 1789. Vol. III: Bismarck und das Reich. 3rd edition, W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart (et al.) 1988, pp. 580-583.
  7. Michael Kotulla: Deutsche Verfassungsgeschichte. Vom Alten Reich bis Weimar (1495–1934). Springer, Berlin 2008, pp. 491/492.
  8. Christoph Vondenhoff: Hegemonie und Gleichgewicht im Bundesstaat. Preußen 1867–1933: Geschichte eines hegemonialen Gliedstaates. Diss. Bonn 2000, Shaker Verlag, Aachen 2001, pp. 31–33.
  9. Henderson, William. The Zollverein. Publ Cambridge University Press, 1939; p.314
  10. Görtemaker, Manfred (1983). Deutschland im 19. Jahrhundert: Entwicklungslinien. Opladen. p. 244.
  11. Case, Nelson (1902). European Constitutional History. Cincinnati: Jennings & Pye. pp. 139–140. OCLC   608806061.

Further reading

Coordinates: 52°31′N13°24′E / 52.517°N 13.400°E / 52.517; 13.400