Second Reich

Germany before World War One, Second Reich

The Second Reich: Key Areas of the Constitution

Federal State:

  • The new German Reich included 25 Federal States.
  • 4 Kingdoms - Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony and Wurttember.
  • Prussia was dominant
  • Included also the territory of Alsace Loraine
  • The States retained their own governments and had different internal constitutions.
  • The constituions granted fairly wide ranging powers - responsibility for eduaction, health care, police and justice.
  • 'Domestic affairs' were in the hands of the state government rather than the Federal government.

The Kaiser, gaurdian of the constitution:

  • The Kaiser held considerable power.
  • Kaiser was always to be the Prussian King.
  • He appointed and dismissed the Chancellor and had the power to dissolve the Reichstag.
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The Second Reich: Key Areas of the Constitution

The Chancellor:

  • Is directly responsible to the Kaiser as chief Minister of the Reich.
  • He is Chancellor of the Federal State and Minister-President of Prussia.
  • He could ignore resolutions passed by the Reichstag.

The Bundersrat:

  • The upper house of the Federal Parliment.
  • Consisted of 58 members nominated by the State assemblies.
  • Part of the law making process.
  • The dominance of Prussia was assured by the fact that it held 17 of the 58 seats in the Bundersrat - thus no legislation could be passed without the consent of the Prussian chamber of deputies.
  • The Prussian Chamber of Deputies was always dominated by the conservative elite.
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The Second Reich: Key Areas of the Constitution

The Reichstag:

  • It had inlfuence over financial affairs and was in control of the defense budget.
  • The Reichstag were elected by Universal Suffrage.
  • It did not have the power to propose new laws.
  • Resolutions passed could be ignored by the Chancellor and Kaiser.
  • Could be dissolved by the Kaiser.
  • Reichstag members could not become members of the government.
  • Members of the Reichstag would not be paid (this was introduced by Bismarck to ensure that only the conservative elite would be members)

The Army:

  • Were accountable directly to the Kaiser.
  • The Kaiser would appoint a military cabinet.
  • This Military cabinet advised and chose the general staff.
  • The General staff organised all military affairs.
  • The army swore an oath of alligence to the Kaiser and not, the State.
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The Second Reich: Key Areas of the Constitution


The Constitution created a political structure that was not clear, but fragmented!

The Constitution was dominated by the Conservative Elites!

Enshrined within the Constitution was the dominance of Prussia!

The Constitution was successful as long as Prussia and the Empire agreed to work together!

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Good knowledge

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