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Main Features of the Constitution
A Federal State
The new German Reich included 25 states - 4 kingdoms, 6 grand duchies,
12 duchies and principalities, 3 free cities, plus the territory seized from
France in 1871.
The states retained their own governments and had different
constitutions. Some allowed universal suffrage whilst other retained a
17th century style constitutions with absolute rulers.
The constitutions granted the states fairly wide ranging powers which
included responsibility for education, police, justice and health care.
Domestic affair were mostly in the hands of the state rather than the
The Kaiser held considerable powers, which made the personality of the
Kaiser of paramount importance
The Kaiser was always to be the Prussian King which made Prussia the
The Kaiser held full control over foreign and diplomatic policy, therefore
he had power to make alliances, sign treaties, wage war etc
The Kaiser's influence over the government of the country was
considerable; he could appoint and dismiss the chancellor and had power
to dissolve the Reichstag.
It was the Kaisers responsibility to publish and oversee the implantation
of federal law
The Kaiser was the guardian of the constitution.
Kaiser Wilhelm II
Wilhelm came to the throne at age 29, he believed that it was the Kaisers
responsibility to rule rather than share power with the Reichstag. He
suggested "there is only one man in charge of the Reich and I will not
The only problem is that Wilhelm was a poor decision maker, and he had
a short attention span and didn't like hard word. He was only happy with
the military that he turned to for advice.
He had a poor opinion of democracy and the Reichstag.
The Chancellor was directly responsible to the Kaiser as chief minister of
the Reich; he was in charge of the appointment and dismissal of the state
secretaries who oversaw the running of government.
He was also minister-president of Prussia.
The chancellor could ignore the resolutions passed by the Reichstag.
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Bismarck gave the position of chancellor considerable powers to
manipulate both the Kaiser and the Reichstag. Yet the success of the
chancellor depended on his political ability, the character of the Kaiser
and the composition the Reichstag.
The role of chancellor worked well for Bismarck because he had the
necessary political skills, he worked well with Wilhelm I, and the
Reichstag was for the most part, docile and obedient. His successors
were not so lucky.…read more
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Members would not be paid, to ensure the class of members.
The army lay outside the formal constitution because Bismarck did not
want to tie its hands by defining its role.
Bismarck did not make the army accountable in law to the Reichstag;
instead he made it directly responsible to the Kaiser, as Germany was
formed of the back of military victories.…read more